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Foreword: This was originally written in 2017, but I have updated it to be in line with new entries into the market. These opinions are based off my own experiences with my own rifles as a long range, non-competitive shooter. These opinions should be largely uncontroversial to the folks who shoot long range, but this is an attempt to codify it rather than having to repeat on every ask. The guide is targeted for the uninitiated wanted to purchase their first 'long range' rifle and get their feet wet. If you are a competitive shooter, you know more about your sport than I do, and this guide really isn't for you. Prices and ballistics are current as of July 5, 2020. Additional Reading /r/longrange /r/SmallGroups /r/ar15 /r/6arc Trollygag's Stats on Barrel Length Trollygag's Opinion on Picking a Barrel Length On-Paper Cartridge Comparison Borescope comparison of barrels Trollygag's Youtube Channel with some parts review and shooting Glamour Shots Super Grendel Gator Grendel Savage in F/TR dress Buddy I want to buy/build a long range AR-15 5.56 NATO vs 6.5G 223 Rem/5.56 NATO Good 1000 yard ballistics are hard to get in an AR-15. Even harder if you want it semi-auto as well and want it in a dinky cartridge. You know when you sneeze in a stream of sunlight and dust goes swirling through the air? That's what shooting 223 Rem is like. Semi-auto is worse as you can't use a lot of the 80gr+ class bullets that beat the wind better than the common 77gr SMK. I shoot on a 20" Rock Creek barreled LMT SLK8 at 1000 yards every once in awhile, and it is tough to see impacts, tough to make wind calls, tough to hear hits, just tough in general. The round goes subsonic at about 850 yards. It has to contend with 11 feet of windage for every 10mph of wind/gust. That is brutal. Cost-wise, yea, there are some cheap options out there for brass case plinking ammo, but box match ammo costs over $1/round and isn't any cheaper than other options. Handloading can save money as bullets and powder charges are typically cheap, but to save money with handloading, the 77 SMKs that are super popular in box ammo are out of the running due to cost. Fortunately, you can make up some ground with the cheaper 22 cal ELD-Ms or HPBTs if you can get the seating depth right. I think the newer Hornady bullet options are going to make the 223 Rem/5.56 shine as good as it ever will semi-auto. Then if you want to do some careful load development and shoot single-shot (turn off gas system, for example), then you can really get some decent ballistics. 6.5 Grendel There are box ammo options like Federal Gold Medal Berger and the Hornady Black that will get you to 1000 yards pretty easily and stay supersonic out to 1150 yards. These cost $1 to $1.25/round depending on how much wind beating you want. Best case, 7.5 feet of windage for every 10 mph of wind/gust. Except for some of the top heavyweight bullets (think ammo at $2.50/round) out there for 308 Win, those 6.5G box options will beat just about any other 308 Win match ammo options. Pretty good. There is also $0.22-0.24/round cheap steel case, steel jacket plinking ammo. There are also $0.70/round brass case ammo options. Unfortunately, there is nothing in-between. There is no FMJ brass case options at $0.35-0.50/round like there are in 308 Win or 5.56. 6.5G is becoming more common in stores, which is great. The box ammo is also really good. However, it has a reputation for being a finicky cartridge for a handloader as the bullets are often longer ogive than the bullets for longer throat cartridges like 6.5x47L or 6.5CM. That longer ogive makes them harder to get seated right and can be sensitive to how the chamber is cut. I believe this is changing, as the new 130 Bergers and ELD-Ms seem to be much more chamber/throat friendly, with a ogive that is shorter but more compound and curved than the previous generation of 120s that spawned the finicky 123s. To make a 6.5G AR, you need a different barrel, different bolt (but not bolt carrier), and different magazines. That's it. Companies like Grendel Hunter have made good shooting Grendels much more accessible. It is also legal for hunting while some of the other options, like the .224 Valk, are not in many states. In short, I think 6.5G is good to go. .224 Valkyrie This is a new entry on the list from the last guide update. The Valk is a 6.8 SPC-like case necked down to 22 cal. It can push the 90gr SMK to 2700 FPS from a 24” barrel with impressive ballistics, with the trade to the Grendel being in less barrel life and less drop for less recoil. Valk had some growing pains with ammo quality control and throat reamers, but now seems to be pretty well sorted out. However, it is harder to find a well built Valkyrie upper, so you may be rolling your own build. 6 ARC This is a brand new cartridge from Hornady that you can read about on r/6ARC . It is essentially the same cartridge of the now 15+ year old 6AR – 6.5 Grendel necked down to 6mm. One change is that 6ARC has the shoulder pushed back every so slightly vs 6AR, ostensibly for ‘reliability’ (though it isn’t clear how), but more likely so that Hornady can get some claims to inventiveness and to keep you from chambering a Grendel in a 6AR barrel. One shady aspect is that Hornady did their marketing and advertising with promo videos comparing it to the 6.5 Grendel with the 123gr load. That load is what Hornady has chosen to offer the Grendel in, but which is inferior to the 130gr loads used in handloads and offered by some other companies in box ammo. Why Hornady willfully ignored the popular 130gr loadings and doesn’t offer Grendel ammo with their own 130gr ELD-M is anyone’s guess. The ballistics are already very well understood for this cartridge, and it will likely offer performance [somewhere inbetween Grendel and Valk](www.shooterscalculator.com/ballistic-trajectory-chart.php?t=730383ff), with velocities and barrel life to match. In short, they’re all basically the same for external ballistics. We don’t yet know who will be producing brass or what options there will be for ammo, or who will be offering barrels or rifles or uppers for sale, but Odin and CMMG are. 6AR and 6ARC has an advantage over Grendel in that you can buy flat based BR style bullets in 6mm that you can’t find in 6.5mm. 300 BLK/6.8 SPC These are not long range rounds. Okay, so maybe they perform similarly to the 77 SMK 5.56 on paper or sometimes in practice. But they cost a lot. Ammo that does that is $1.65/pop for 300 BLK and $1.15/pop for 6.8 SPC. Okay, and 6.8 SPC isn't that much more expensive than the 77 SMK BHA ammo. And it's hunting ammo so it probably is pretty effective. But, as you can see, both of those options cost about the same as 6.5G and get crushed. It's going to be tough to get the other logistics worked out. What barrel are you going to use? I like long, high accuracy barrels. Not many of those in either 300 BLK or 6.8. I would not recommend this option, but it would be a fun YOLO build. Wildcats There are a lot of these. Some based on the 6.8 case, some based on the PPC case, some in 22 cal for 90gr bullets, some in 6mm... Most of these claim great ballistics but only because they haven't gone through pressure testing and SAAMI hasn't made them figure out bolt thrust numbers. 6.5G went through the same phases, with early data being outrageously hot and good looking on paper, and later data being 'neutered'. You can still get hot loads out of it, but it needs to be in a bolt gun because the AR-15 bolt can't handle that kind of force over and over again. In that way, some of these are better suited for AKs or the newer AR-10 bolt, AR-15 body hybrids. Or just ignore the wildcats. Most of them don't offer much over 6.5G anyways, and the load data and ammo availability is scarce. Parts Guide A long range gun needs sufficient barrel length to get the ballistics you want and barrel quality good enough that you can focus on wind and wind calls and not the inaccuracy of your rifle. In the same vein, you want to eliminate the ammo and human mechanics as much as possible, so typically LR shooters use match ammo and guns that are ergonomic, stable, and easy to shoot accurately. Budget Long range shooting can be expensive. A 'cheap' entry level build in 5.56 will likely run about $1000. I typically spend ~40% of the cost of the rifle on an optic, and with mount, that may total closer to $1500 for the complete rifle. Gator Grendel started off as a 'budget' 6.5G build before parts were quite so cheap and with a nice Shilen barrel, and was about $2500. Super Grendel was a more indulgent build and is coming pretty close to $4000. An off the shelf LMT SLK8 with a 20" Rock Creek cut rifled barrel set up for long range and with a monolithic upper will cost you around $2800. So get familiar with those kinds of numbers and pick your budget. Typically alternate cartridge LR builds will be a little more expensive (by $100-300) more than the equivalent 5.56 because the barrels tend to be more expensive and often the bolts alone cost as much as a 5.56 BCG. Barrel A few names to be familiar with: LaRue, Liberty, Criterion, Bartlein. There are other makes out there, but I feel these present the best rounding out of the options and that are widely available. For any 5.56 build, the LaRue Stealth has a consistent high performer. ARFCOM has a running competition and it seems LaRues beat out Kriegers, Bartleins, and other high end makes and yet cost 1/2 to 1/3rd as much. Pretty remarkable. This will run you around $260 with options. They don’t claim to be lapped, but if you look at the borescope comparison posted in the intro, you can see the LaRues have very smooth bores. Maybe that is a clue to their secret sauce. They also seem to have some fancy chamber design to aide in extraction and parts longevity. Criterion also makes Hybrid stainless and chrome lined barrels, and HBARs, which are hand-lapped and come in a variety of lengths and configurations. These give you more flexibility than what the LaRues do. White Oak Armory and Compass Lake both offer reasonably priced .223 Wylde chambered Krieger and Bartlein barrels. For 6.5G, there are a few options people like, but 6.5G is pretty finicky in terms of chambers, throats, and what it likes to eat. I am a super big fan of Criterion. They are known as the 'button rifled Kriegers', and I have three of them on my bolt guns that shoot like a house on fire. I have a Hybrid on my Grendel hunting rifle and it is a very good performer. Lots of people tinkering with accuracy have them on ARs and on bolt guns with consistently good results. $325 before options. An alternative is to go with a cut rifled Satern. Satern is who AA (originator of the cartridge) uses for their high end guns. Downside to Satern is the lead time, and they have had a good record in the AMAX age, and a mixed record in the ELD age. They're also $150 more expensive and I suspect a Criterion will shoot at least as good. Another option is the Liberty barrel – a button rifled Satern that doesn’t appear to be hand lapped, but is what many well reviewed nicer Grendel uppers use as the base for their uppers like Atheris and Grendel Hunter. Another option is Odin Works – which have been in the Grendel game for a while and offer hand-lapped barrels that might be similar in quality to the Criterions. Criterion also makes .224 Valkyrie barrels, and Odin makes 6ARC barrels. For 6.5G, Bartlein and Krieger are the premier cut rifled makes, and Lilja is available as a button rifled make. Prepare for sticker shock. The Bartlein I bought to replace the Shilen I had and didn't like... by the time I added a gas tube, block, painting, threading, and a brake... it was over $800. It rocks my world, but boy is it expensive. Precision Firearms also now offers .224 Valk and 6ARC Bartleins, Kriegers, Liljas, and Criterions. Triggers Geissele SSA-E - $250 with LPK and stock included, or $230-240 normally. Sometimes you can get them on sale as cheap as $180 like around Black Friday. This is one of the best triggers in the industry. It's 2 stage, reasonably light, breaks sharp, and is dead reliable. You look at Geissele's product lineup and see an even more expensive, even more trick trigger... the HS NM trigger... and think 'if I'm going to splurge, I should get the best'. Don't. The HS NM is adjustable and can really ruin your day if you fuck it up. Too little engagement, it will double fire. Too much engagement, it will suck. Move it to another receiver, it double fires again and has an inconsistent pull and fucks your shots up.... just don't. It's an expert level trigger. LaRue MBT-2S - $80. Since the last iteration of this guide, I replaced both my HS NM and my SSA-E with MBT-2S triggers. They’re reliable, feel great, and you don’t feel guilty about them. I have both the straight shoe and the curved shoe versions, and between them, the curved shoe is the way to go. It isn’t a super strong curve – just a slight curve – and just enough to keep the pull weight down and the finger contact good. Optic Choices There are lots of good optics on the market. All of these are FFP, and have christmas tree reticles. Keep an eye on the optic sales thread $400 price point – Liberty Optics has Vortex Diamondback Tactical 4-16x ($315) and 6-24x ($350) optics. FFP, reasonably good tracking, good entry level glass, side focus, backed by Vortex. $400 – Athlon Argos BTR II 6-24x. Refresh of the Argos BTR but with better turrets and a zero stop. $500 price point – Athlon Helos BTR 6-24x, upgrade in glass over the Argos. Under $1000 – Athlon Midas TAC 6-24x, head and shoulders upgrade over the Diamondback Tactical glass and the original PST I. Vortex Strike Eagle 5-25x56mm – This is a tactical refresh of the PST II 5-25x and has some feature advantages over the PST II, but the glass is the same as the Diamondback Tactical glass. Athlon Ares BTR II – Refresh of the BTR, feature competitor to the PST II but with a wider magnification range and maybe even better glass. Vortex PST II 5-25x – Great and very popular scope scope, which you can read the reviews of compared to the SIII 6-24x and Bushnell Forge down this review tree. And the new S-TAC 4-20x. $1500 price point – There is a new king here – it is the Athlon Ares ETR. This is the scope to buy if you are shopping around $1000 or just a little north. Typical street price is $1100-1200 and it is well worth it. Excellent optics, tracking, and features. $2000 price point – Athlon Cronus BTR – the Athlon flagship optic with similar glass to the Razor HD II and similar features. Street price is around $1600. Vortex Razor HD II 4.5-27x. This is the go-to optic for many competitors. Excellent everything. Used to be around $2700, but nowadays you can pick them up new for around $1700-2000 and used for around $1500-1600. $2000+ - Kahles K525i, ZCO ZC527, S&B PM II, you should have already been doing homework. Optic Mounts You want a single piece cantilever mount. The AR-15 receiver typically does not have enough rail to give good eye relief, so a 1"+ extension is usually good for getting the scope into a usable position. Cheap: SWFA SSALT Burris AR PEPR The SSALT uses sleeves, the PEPR does not and looks like a chunk of aluminum. SSALT is my preference, though both have worked well for me. Not Cheap: Warne 20 MOA Skeletonized AD Recon 20 MOA Q/D - American Made, excellent fit/finish, comes canted, good QD. Vortex Precision 20MOA cantilever mount LaRue SPR mounts Spuhr Furniture I have played with a few options: Magpul PRS - This is an okay choice and very popular. It is heavy and a bit pricey, but the cheek riser and the LOP is easy to set. It has an angled toe for adjustability in a bag. Has m-lok slots on the bottom. LMT DMR – This is very similar to the Magpul PRS Gen II, but more expensive, QD cups, very slightly different ergos, and a wide cheekpiece. It has a flat toe for straight back tracking. Has a shrouded pic-rail on the bottom. LuthAR MBA-1 – This is a bit different to the other stocks in that it doesn’t have adjustment wheels for LOP and cheek height, but has thumb screws that clamp the adjustments in place. Does not have a pic rail segment for a monopod but some other makers have pic rail segments that attach to the rear and are very effective for holding a monopod. A2 stock – This is the traditional M16 stock and it is highly effective as a LR rifle stock. To maximize for that usage, you can get a sling-stud rather than a sling loop so that it rides bags better. Building I'm not going to go over building an AR. There are lots of resources for this. I will, however, give you some tips. Putting together the AR is pretty cheap and easy... except for the barrel and muzzle device. Both of these have pitfalls. To mount a muzzle device, you should put the torque on the barrel and only on the barrel. That means a Geissele reaction rod, Magpul BEV block, or barrel vise. People often do this by clamping the receiver. I do it too. It's not a great idea. People end up breaking pins and bending receivers and unscrewing the barrel from the extension. To mount a barrel, this is the step that requires the most care, forethought, and tools. It requires a vice, nut compatible wrench depending on your nut design, careful application of specially chosen grease, careful alignment, special action block (or reaction rod from above), knowledge of how torque works, and ideally, headspace gauges. If you aren't careful, you can fuck up the nut, receiver, or barrel (if you're very, very special). That can add up to a good bit of money. You may consider paying a gunsmith to correctly install the barrel and muzzle device. It shouldn't cost much and should be a lot cheaper than doing it yourself, unless your gunsmith is gouging. Good receiver to barrel extension fit is crucial to avoid stringing. This can be achieved by freeze fit a tight extension, shim fitting, or epoxy bedding. It is common for, at a minimum, high temp blue loctite to be used for this purpose. It is also important to improve rigidity of the whole system. Because of the slower lock time on the triggers, ARs can be more difficult to shoot accurately. Rigid handguards, rigid fit to the receiver, and tight fit to the lower are all things that help reduce stringing off a bipod or inconsistent shooting position/pressure. End If you want clarification or expansion on a topic, I can add it in post. submitted by /u/Trollygag [link] [comments]

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