With the uptick in popularity of long-range shooting and advancements in long-range rifles, there are numerous match grade cartridges to choose from. But are any of them suitable or designed for hunting at longer ranges? Hornady, a 60+ year old company famous for match grade ammunition, has filled that void with their new Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X ammunition. ELD-X stands for Extremely Low Drag-eXpanding. Through extensive testing, Hornady discovered that conventional bullet tips will melt and deform at higher velocities which adversely affected the ballistic coefficient thus decreasing accuracy at extended ranges.
Hornady found a heat resistant polymer and in turn, developed the Heat Shield tip. This tip will keep it’s shape throughout the bullets supersonic flight maintaining an extremely efficient BC of .315 (G7) or .625 (G1) for those keeping score at home. The Heat Shield tip also serves a purpose when impacting a target. Beyond 400 yards, the tip drives back into the nose cavity which initiates the expansion with devastating results throughout the wound cavity.
I had the pleasure of attending some long-range shooting classes at the Marksmanship Training Center and was able to test the performance of this new hunting cartridge alone side several purpose-built hand loaded match grade cartridges. I own a Ruger Precision Rifle chambered in 6.5mm Creedmoor and utilized both the 140 grain ELD Match as well as the new 143 grain ELD-X Precision Hunter from Hornady. Both rounds exceeded expectations in the challenging wind conditions we were experiencing. In the video, you might hear one of the instructors over the wind marvel in how much more efficient the Hornady ammunition was shooting compared to an identical rifle with a competitors 140 grain bullet. Almost .5Mil more efficient to be exact
The quality of the Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X and ELD cartridges really became apparent when we started to compile ballistic data. Using a MagnetoSpeed Chronometer, we collected several 5 shot groups from both cartridges and found that the largest standard deviation was 9.2 or 23 feet per second which is comparable to hand loaded ammunition. This over the counter Match Grade and Precision Hunter Ammunition just saved me the expensive and time-consuming task of learning how to hand load cartridges. Nothing against those that hand load, I just need another hobby like I need a hole in my head.
Initial zeroing of our rifles proved right away that .5 MOA accuracy was achievable with the stock barrel and Hornady factory match ammunition. Not that it matters, but I was probably the limiting factor in not achieving an even tighter shot group. However, my plan from the beginning of this long range mission was to be a practical long range shooter, not an F Class competitor or someone going oversees to give members of ISIS a dirt nap.
Throughout the training at MTC, we experienced winds in the 20-30 MPH range and from all directions. One day was a direct headwind and didn’t affect the left to right wind holds but put the bullets ballistic coefficient to the test. Other days we had a crosswind that required some aggressive wind holds. The predictability of the Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X and ELD Match rounds were achieved through the meticulous construction of each and every load as proven by the chronometer data we collected. We hit steel silhouettes out to 989 yards with predictable and repeatable elevation and wind holds which was a real confidence booster for me. Several students with much more hard earned cash into their custom rifles and shooting hand loaded ammunition were struggling to keep up with my RPR shooting factory Hornady ammunition.
Final thoughts: If you’re looking at getting into long range shooting for sport or hunting, no need to worry about purchasing all the tools needed for hand loading. Hornady Precision Hunter and ELD Match ammunition is more than sufficient for practical shooting out to 1000 yards and beyond. At about $1.75 per cartridge, you can buy a lot of ammunition before hand loading would be worth looking into. This winter I plan to join some friends that hunt deer in Iowa. I’ve heard them speak of the coyote they see at ranges that are unreachable. I plan to redefine for them whats reachable with the Ruger Precision Rifle and Hornady Precision Hunter cartridges. Happy shooting!
– Erik Meisner for LoadoutRoom.com