Commercial Ammunition for Popular Centerfire Rifles
Compiled by Gary Zinn
One of my favorite articles on Guns and Shooting Online is The 10 Best Selling Centerfire Rifle Cartridges in the USA. Compiled by Chuck Hawks, with periodic updates, this article provides a listing of just what the title says. As Chuck explains, "The list was compiled from various online and print sources, including the major ammo manufacturers' sales lists and the sales of RCBS reloading dies."
It occurred to me that an indicative tally of the leading makers of ammunition for these popular rifle calibers would be an interesting spinoff of the top 10 rifle cartridges article. I am not into self abuse, so I did not seriously consider doing an exhaustive Internet search of a double digit number of ammo manufacturers and their offerings. Rather, I felt that an indicative survey, based on the cartridges and loads cataloged on the MidwayUSA website, would give a pretty good picture of who are the leading makers of popular cartridge loads, and of how many loads they offer for each cartridge. (MidwayUSA lists over 2200 loads, in 195 centerfire rifle calibers. In addition, the site has excellent filters that made the research easy.)
The calibers are listed in order of their position on the top 10 list, from .223 Remington (first) through .22-250 Remington (tenth), plus the three cartridges that are noted as honorable mentions in the top 10 list article.
I noted the total number of loads cataloged by MidwayUSA for each cartridge, along with the names of the leading makers of ammo in each caliber and number of loads offered. Overall, most of the loads feature hunting bullets for game animals or varmints, but there are some FMJ and target/match bullets mixed in. Target/match and FMJ loads are most prominent in the .223 Rem. and .308 Win. calibers.
Here are the results, with number of loads by each maker noted in parentheses:
.223 Remington: 158 loads total - Black Hills (25), Hornady (22), Federal Premium (16), Winchester (16), Nosler (12), Remington (7)
(Note: MidwayUSA also lists 57 loads in 5.56x45mm NATO caliber, the military equivalent of the .223 Remington, which are not included in this survey. Everyone except the Boom-Boom Ammo Co. makes .223 Rem. cartridges; I only listed the major US manufacturers and Black Hills.)
.308 Winchester: 158 loads total - Federal Premium (24), Hornady (24), Nosler (14), Winchester (13), Black Hills (12), Remington (7)
(Again, I listed only the major companies and Black Hills.)
.30-06 Springfield: 126 loads total - Federal Premium (25), Hornady (17), Winchester (17), Remington (10), Nosler (9)
.30-30 Winchester: 38 loads total - Federal Premium (9), Winchester (8), Hornady (5), Remington (4), Nosler (1)
.270 Winchester: 65 loads total - Federal Premium (15), Hornady (11), Winchester (11), Nosler (5), Remington (4)
.243 Winchester: 60 loads total - Federal Premium (12), Winchester (9), Hornady (8), Nosler (7), Remington (3)
7mm Remington Magnum: 70 loads total - Federal Premium (14), Hornady (12), Winchester (10), Nosler (6), Remington (5)
.300 Winchester Magnum: 96 loads total - Federal Premium (16), Hornady (16), Winchester (10), Nosler (7), Remington (2)
7.62x39mm Soviet: 25 loads total - TulAmmo (6), Winchester (4), Federal Premium (3), Hornady (2), Doubletap (2)
(I presume that the 7.62x39mm made the top 10 list due to its popularity for recreational and tactical shooting. It has severe limitations as a hunting cartridge and only a few hunting loads are offered. See Are AR-15 Type Cartridges Good for Hunting Deer?)
.300 Winchester Short Magnum: 45 loads total - Federal Premium (13), Winchester (11), Norma (4), Nosler (4), Remington (1)
7mm-08 Remington: 33 loads total - Federal Premium (7), Hornady (6), Winchester (5), Nosler (4), Remington (1)(Should be in the top 10, from a hunting cartridge perspective, in lieu of the 7.62x39mm.)
.338 Winchester Magnum: 32 loads total - Nosler (8), Federal Premium (6), Hornady (5), Winchester (3), Remington (2)
The total tally is 944 loads, distributed among 13 calibers. Federal Premium boasts 165 loads of all calibers, followed by Hornady (133 loads) and Winchester (124 loads). Perhaps the surprise is Nosler. The company that is famous for its Partition and Ballistic Tip bullet lines is also a premium cartridge maker of note, with 84 loads in this tally, compared to 48 for Remington.
One company, Black Hills Ammunition, merits an honorable mention. Black Hills does not offer loads in an extensive range of calibers, but is strong in the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO (25 loads in .223 Remington, 7 loads in 5.56mm NATO) and .308 Winchester (12 loads) calibers.
Together, the brands just mentioned account for 591 loads, 62.6 percent of the total tally of 944 loads in all calibers surveyed.
Good loads for popular calibers are where you find them. The offerings of the ammo makers that showed up in this survey are a good place to start the search.
Note: The survey on which this article is based was conducted in November, 2017.
Copyright 2017 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.