There are many questions concerning match grade ammunition. Of course, the first question is price. The price may give you heartburn, however, it’s all relative. You may fire quantities of burner ammunition at reaction targets where pinpoint accuracy is not vital. However, you’d likely fire match grade ammunition more sparingly at long-range varmints or targets. I haven’t seen anyone unleash a full magazine rapid-fire at the national matches. So, it is about quality not quantity.
Match grade ammunition compliments a great rifle. A chamber in a competition rifle may be reamed to closer tolerances. It must be precise. Most factory loads are very good within a certain plus and minus specification. However, they simply will not do for precision work.
I learned a lot about match grade ammunition and bullets when loading my own. Brass preparation is vital. Concentricity tools and flash hole reamers become part and parcel of the loading experience—it isn’t volume work. I am certain the major makers have come up with a means of securing similar results with factory ammunition because the match-grade loads are just that, match grade.
Once the tools are set up, the day goes more smoothly. There are additional steps in loading match-grade handloads, and it is more expensive. You can crank up the progressive press and turn out plenty of good burner loads. Precision takes time.
Bullet selection is critical. When you consider the bullet, heavy for the caliber projectiles are often superior. Keep in mind it isn’t bullet weight that means the most in stabilizing the bullet—it is length. When you consider bullet length and barrel twist most of us look at the turns in the barrel—one turn in 7, 9 or 12 inches—and it is a spiral as well as a function of length. Rotational velocity degrades much slower, which is why the bullet remains stabilized at as long a range as you care to shoot.
Once the bullet goes subsonic, accuracy will degrade but that is a long, long way. Outside forces, such as wind drift, may be accounted for by the shooter. Some bullets have differing ogive geometry. One may have a shorter tangent in the nose profile. This may promote feeding in self-loading rifles. Another may feature a secant ogive that lengthens the nose profile to produce fine accuracy.
Among the best choices across the board in .223 is the Sierra 69-grain MatchKing. Why? I could state that this bullet has given excellent service in every rifle, from a 16-inch barrel carbine to a heavy-barrel bolt gun. The Sierra bullet also wins matches, and more than any other bullet in the class—at least to my knowledge. Sierra is known for high quality and precision, and precision is what match grade is all about.
The bottom line on match grade ammunition is the cost difference in the bullets, brass and powder selection. Combined, each of these elements make the ammunition more expensive. Production quantity is less. Cartridge case selection, seating depth, and other parameters demand closer inspection.
This also means the standard deviation between velocities in each cartridge is much less, and the differences in shot-to-shot performance are less. This means precision—precision manufacturing, high accuracy. For recreational shooting at moderate range, inexpensive loadings work fine. When the stakes are higher—hunting, rifle match or personal defense—match grade is the way to go.
Are there other advantages? In my experience, due to the care taken in loading, match-grade loads are often the most reliable and the most consistent across a wide extreme of temperature.