Even with the best of loads, an AR-15 will never match the long-range capability of even common bolt-action hunting rifles. Some, such as the 6.5 Grendel
, come close but still can't close the gap. And don't start the argument that an AR-10-size rifle does, either. I'll grant you that a few specialty ARs — such as NEMO's .300 Win. Mag.
— achieve true distance capability, but they cost. A lot.
Consider an AR super-load such as Black Hill's
5.56 NATO round topped with Sierra's
77-grain MatchKing. About the most aerodynamic bullet that will still feed reliably from a standard STANAG magazine, it exits at about 2,800 fps — and that's from the 20-inch barrel of a match-grade service rifle. At 600 yards — the farthest distance that competitive shooters use it — it's traveling about 1,560 fps, carries 416 foot-pounds of energy and drifts 38.6 inches in a 10-mph crosswind. Sighted in at 200 yards, it drops 86 inches at 600.
Contrast that to the common, relatively pedestrian .30-06 cartridge in a bolt action: Loaded with a good — but by no means the most aerodynamic possible, as we showcased in the AR example — bullet such as Nosler's
180-grain Accubond, which exits the muzzle of a typical hunting rifle at around 2,700 fps, it offers far more impressive ballistics. At 600 yards it's still got 1,799 fps of velocity, carries almost 1,300 foot-pounds of energy and drifts only 26.6 inches in the same wind. Sighted at 200 yards, it drops 79 inches at 600.
Don't make me bring up highly capable bolt-action cartridges such as the 6.5-284 loaded with super-aerodynamic match bullets. I don't want to humiliate you. Typical AR-15 rifles are great to about 300 yards or a bit farther in the hands of a good rifleman, but for practical use beyond there, you're far better off with a good bolt-action in a caliber capable of going the distance.