Getting right to business – is match grade ammunition worth it?

3 06 2011

To Hell with the usual nonsense of describing what I want to do with this blog.  I’m just going to dive right in and start doing it.

First – some background.  In October the stars aligned – my firearm fund had built up, and the number I refer to as my age incremented.  In celebration I purchased a Springfield Armory M1A National Match with traditional blued barrel and walnut stock.  After familiarizing myself with the firearm and getting through a break-in period of about 300 rounds without incident I purchased some NRA SR-1 targets and got to work refining my skills.

A question that comes up rather quickly when you start caring – and I mean *really* caring – about the precision and accuracy of your shots is “what is match grade ammunition and is it worth the price?”

I won’t lie – I completed the entire break-in period on this new rifle using Winchester “White Box” Q3130 7.62x61mm NATO, 147 Grain.  This was *before* I got official word back from Springfield Armory that, contrary to their manual and numerous other pieces of included literature, the rifle was in fact chambered and designed to shoot .308 as well as 7.62×51.  I digress – with the White Box ammo I was perfectly able to get 20 shots onto a dinner plate at 100 yards from a bench rest.  At the time I thought that was pretty good!

Well – it wasn’t.

This past weekend I finally received my first boxes of Federal Gold Match .308 168 Grain, and I went to the range to compare it to the aforementioned White Box, as well as some American Eagle .308 that I picked up *cheap* at Fin Feather Fur in Ashland, OH.

Slight side track – if you buy any of this stuff, I suggest you check the primers as you load.  First box of this I tried I did NOT do this (I know, I know…) and hit a reverse primer which dirtied up my pretty rifle.  I contacted Federal but have not heard anything back, despite my offer to ship the round to them for QA purposes.

Before I get to the results – general notes.  All ammunition in this test cycled without incident.  I used three separate 20-round magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds of each type.  One type of ammunition per target.  All targets were punched at 100 yards from a bean-bag bench rest.  Weather was 80 degrees, 5 MPH wind breeze approximately 45 degrees to the path of the bullets downrange and to the right.

First fired was my old standard, Winchester White Box…

Winchester White Box Q3130 Results

Next up came the el-cheapo American Eagle AE308D…

American Eagle AE308D Results

And finally, the new kid on the block – Federal Gold Match .308…

Federal Gold Match GM308M Results

Notice a difference!?  I did too – but I felt the need to quantify the results.  I love science, math, and numbers – they help us measure the world, and someone once said you can’t control what you can’t measure!

The following shows how I did this.  I measured the X and Y values of each shot independently.  I then averaged all the X values for a given target, then likewise averaged all the Y values.  This gives me the average center of the group.  I then calculated, in the bottom row of a given ammunition type, the distance each shot was from the center of the group I just calculated.  I then did an average distance from center and the standard deviation of the shots from that calculated center.  The lower the standard deviation is, the more “precise” the round can be considered.

Excel Results

So there you have it!  The Federal Gold Match ammunition was statistically twice as accurate as anything else.

Of course there were a lot of variables with this shoot, but they remained relatively constant through all three volleys.  Because of this I’m pretty confident that while I may be able to change the results above, the relative results are going to be very similar.


Now is it worth the price differential?  Only you can decide for yourself, but I’m going to start looking for sales on Gold Match…

EDIT – MidwayUSA has the aforementioned GM308M on sale for $220/200 rounds until the end of June 2011.




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