Choosing the Correct Ammo for a Hunting Rifle

Black Hills Ammunition Box is preferred by more experienced shooters and qualified gunsmiths
Ammo table of information

Since the release of the 6.5 Creedmoor, Hornady Match has been the gold standard for factory ammunition. If you own a 6.5 Creedmoor, you have likely shot the Hornady Match 140 or the 147 ELDM. This hunting season appears to have brought in a new competitor to town that is showing to be an excellent option for factory ammunition!

*Safety Notice* correctly matching ammunition to a rifle is crucial. You must ensure you have the proper ammunition for your rifle's chambering. Using the wrong ammunition can lead to an explosion, injuring or possibly killing yourself and others nearby.

Black Hills Gold 143-grain ELDX and 130-grain Dual Performance have both proven to be very comparable in performance to the Hornady 147 ELDM. This is the first time I have shot any Black Hills ammo, and I was impressed with the numbers produced. I shot two different five-shot groups and two additional five-shot strings over the chronograph for two days. These tests were also performed with the Hornady Match 147 ELDM because they provided a good baseline for comparing the different ammunitions.

The 143 ELDX is a popular hunting bullet for this specific caliber because of its excellent expansion throughout a wide range of velocities. The heat shield tip allows the bullet to achieve best-in-class BC that carries energy to further distances. At lower velocities, the heat shield drives into the bullet to initiate expansion. This allows the bullet to perform in any situation you face in the field, making it a fantastic bullet for ethically harvesting animals at extended distances.

The 130 Grain Dual Performance is a new bullet for me. Although I have researched copper solids extensively, I have never tested them. This 130-grain bullet is CNC machined and designed to penetrate the thickest skin and expand to create a massive wound cavity (hence the dual performance). Since the bullets are all one piece, they retain a claimed 80-90% of bullet weight once expanded on impact. The copper solids are excellent for shooting larger animals like elk, moose, or mountain goats.

Which ammo is right for you?

A good place to start when choosing your ammunition and rifle cartridge is to consider what animals you are hunting and the effective range in which you will engage them. This will give you a window into the energy requirements for that animal. Animals like Deer or Antelope require less energy than elk or moose, so choose the bullet based on the required energy at your comfortable shooting range. You can find energy requirement suggestions for different animals in your state wildlife hunting guide. You can use common ballistic apps to find at what ranges the energy thresholds occur. The chart below shows the maximum distance I could shoot the Black Hills ammunition based on the energy requirements for elk (1500 ft-lbs.).

Ammo table with velocity and maximum distance

Once I find a bullet that will perform well at my required distance and suit the animal I am hunting, I will confirm that my rifle has the correct twist rate. Manufacturers will list the minimum twist rate for a particular bullet. It is important to be at that twist rate or faster to properly stabilize the bullet. For example, the 147 ELDM recommends a minimum twist rate of 1:8. In that case, you will want to be shooting a rifle with a 1:8 twist or even 1:7.5 twist rate. Over-twisting a bullet slightly will still allow it to perform well, whereas under-twisting might not stabilize the bullet properly.

I like to check all the above information before even searching for ammunition. This way, you do not waste any time or money on ammunition that will not work for you or your rifle. In most cases, you can find both the velocity and required twist rate on the manufacturer's website. If, for some reason, it is not listed, you can search the Internet and find a relatively close velocity and required twist rate.

The next and perhaps more fun step is to shoot the ammunition to ensure its performance before your hunt. You are not only shooting for groups but also checking your velocity variables. I pay more attention to my ES (extreme spread) than SD (standard deviation) when checking velocity because I like to ensure that even the rounds outside the norm will be on target. An ES of 20 will have 2 inches of elevation difference at 500 yards. It is important to note that the elevation differential deviates exponentially as you extend your distance.

Once I find the ammunition that fits these needs, my final confirmation is to shoot the round at a distance. This proves that the bullet I have chosen is flying stable and holding a good group down range. This is also a great time to true your data if needed (reference our data trueing article here). When you are shooting long-range shooting, you should be shooting at paper or freshly painted steel to see your impact so you can properly verify the required accuracy of the bullet.


Hunting rifle cartridges for hunting mule deer and smaller animals.


Get Expert Guidance on Choosing Ammunition

At times it may seem like a daunting task to choose new ammunition for your rifle; however, these steps will simplify the process for you by outlining the steps you should consider. Do not be afraid to try new options in your rifle because you might find a pleasant surprise. Black Hills Gold has proven a fantastic option for me this hunting season, so I will continue to test their other caliber options! If you have any questions about choosing ammunition, feel free to reach out to info@xlrindustries.com or give us a call at 970-241-1807 at XLR Industries.

Jaden Miller

XLR Industries