A frequent question on forums or that people ask me at a match is, what ammo should I run in my 3Gun rifle? As in my previous articles, this post will focus on .223, since that is the ammo used in the divisions I primarily shoot.
When I started out in 3Gun, everything was about affordability, and to some extent, it still is. When I say affordability, I mean I spent as little money as possible on pretty much everything. From ordering the cheapest steel cased ammo I could find to shooting an old beat up Mossberg pump shotgun. It was all about being able to go shoot. At some point, I realized I was pretty good at the game and wanted to try and move up the ranks. That meant spending more money on higher end gear and coming up with money for practice ammo.
I didn’t really have an issue spending money on gear. I always felt like it was a pretty good investment. Most higher end firearms hold about 75% of their value and I planned on getting well more than a 25% value of use from each one. Buying nicer gear had me contemplating buying better ammo. I got away from the steel cased ammo pretty quick after having my fair share of malfunctions and reading several studies about how bad steel cased ammo was for rifles (something people will still argue, but that is a completely different topic). So, what was the next logical step from steel cased ammo?- Bulk 5.56mm ammo; Specifically XM193.
For me, XM193 ran pretty good, but it was dirty, shot a giant fireball out the end of my gun and the accuracy past 100 yards was questionable. After a year, or so, of running XM193 for pretty much everything 3Gun, I decided that I wanted to find something a little more accurate. After trying several other brands of bulk ammo, I found a good price on some 55 grain PMC Bronze. The PMC was priced close to XM193, but shot cleaner, softer and was more accurate.
I shot PMC for about a year when the giant cluster that was the 2012-13 ammo craze hit. During that time period, I bought up thousands of rounds of whatever I could find. I also noticed that the quality of ammo seemed to drop during that time period. It may have just been in my head, but I suspect bulk manufacturers were trying to crank out so much ammo, that their QC suffered.
About mid 2013 I had developed my 3Gun game to the Semi Pro level. I could hang with some of the top shooters on everything, but always seemed to lose when it came to long range stages. That was when I decided to make a pretty significant change to my rifle game. I decided that I was going to find a long range bullet that my gun would shoot sub half minute, no matter what the cost. I bought a few boxes of different premium ammo and went out to the range. It didn’t take long to figure out that my gun really liked Federal Gold Medal Match 69’s. It was a little hard to swallow, but I bought a case of Gold Medal for about $1400.
After spending $1400 on a case of ammo, you figure out really quick when you need to shoot it and when you can get away with a little less expensive alternative. I would typically shoot 55 grain bulk ammo at anything inside 100 yards, and then load up some of the high end stuff for long range stages. I would even go as far as staggering the load in my magazine to save a few dollars. Doing this allowed me to shoot accurately out to 600 yards on a stage and stick right there with some of the best on the long range targets. My process of switching back and forth between ammo actually allowed me to stretch that case of ammo for the rest of 2013. In 2014 I continued to improve on long range stages and it actually became one of the best parts of my game; something that I could not have done without improving my ammo selection. There are a couple of reasons to shoot a heavier, higher end bullet at long range. The wind doesn’t effect a heavy bullet as much, the high end part of the equation means it is going to be more accurate and it actually makes it easier for your spotter to call hits, because the heavier bullet actually rings the steel better.
Even though it had helped take my game to the Pro level, the price of Gold Medal was still a concern for me, so I continued my ammo search. Late in 2014 I discovered Gorilla Ammunition. Gorilla is a moderate size premium rifle ammo manufacturer in Florida. They don’t crank out tens of millions of rounds a month, so their QC is much better than a bulk manufacturer. I tested some of their 69 grain loads and found them to be just as good as the Gold Medal I was shooting. The best part was, a case of their premium ammo was (and still is) about $450 less than a case of Gold Medal!
Since discovering Gorilla Ammo, I have been fortunate enough to work with them on a sponsorship. The company produces an excellent product at a reasonable price. I currently shoot their 55 grain load at anything under 300 yards and the 69 grain load at anything beyond 300. The 55 grain shoots soft and clean, while the 69’s are like lasers on the long shots (still clean shooting). If you are looking to take your 3Gun game to the next level, think about spending a little extra money on your rifle ammo. There is no better feeling than running 10 long range targets under 10 seconds, when 75% of the field is leaving targets or taking 30-40 seconds to shoot the same array. If you are interested in trying out some of the best ammo in the industry, check out Gorilla Ammunition.