Earlier in the year at SHOT Show 2019 I reported of the newly announced SK Ammunition Long Range Match offering. This new round was designed for the growing trend of shooters stretching out .22LR rimfire beyond 100 yards thanks in part to the National Rifle League 22 (NRL22) competition which is NRL or PRS style competition, but with rimfire rifles (as opposed to centerfire).
Rimfire training is becoming more popular because of range limitations in most of the country, where ranges with distances beyond 200 yards are difficult to come by, much less a 1000 yard range.
I have been shooting more rimfire as of late because of the convenience. My primary range facility has a rimfire only firing area which is separate from the main firing line. This provides a great place to practice shooting without being disturbed. This range amenity along with the fact that shooting centerfire at 100 yards can be a waste of ammunition (and barrel life) once you have a load figured out for a particular rifle has resulted in my increased rimfire shooting cadence.
My one rimfire trainer bolt rifle is a CZ 455 Varmint Tacticool Suppressor-Ready with a 16″ barrel. I acquired it back in late 2017 and have configured it into a chassis system.
Anyway, I received an email from Creedmoor Sports in late March 2019 indicating that they received a shipment of SK Long Range Match. I ended up ordering a couple bricks from Creedmoor Sports because I wanted to try them out.
My CZ 455 is still running a factory barrel, but even if my groups are not as good as higher tier rimfire rifles, I figure testing SK Long Range Match against other SK ammo ‘models’ will give folks an idea of how Long Range Match might perform.
I decided to pit four different SK ammo labels against each other. All retailers have varying prices, but I will refer to Bruno Shooters Supply who carries all of the SK rimfire ammo line. As of April 2019, the prices for the four ammunition labels I tested are:
- SK Standard Plus – $54.90 / 500-round or 11 cents / round
- SK Rifle Match – $68.00 / 500-round or 13.6 cents / round
- SK Biathlon Sport – $69.00 / 500-round or 13.8 cents / round
- SK Long Range Match – $72.00 / 500-round 14.4 cents / round
SK Standard Plus is one of the most commonly shot rimfire ammunition out there due to the decent performance for a lower cost than other match 22LR ammo types. SK Standard Plus has historically been the same as Wolf Match Target in terms of them being made in the same manufacturing facility on the same line (just different branding).
SK RIfle Match is a step up from SK Standard Plus. This has also been assumed to be the same as Wolf Match Extra, for the same reason outlined above regarding SK Standard Plus and Wolf Match Target. SK Rifle Match has the same muzzle velocity specification as SK Standard Plus.
SK Biathlon Sport is a lesser seen ammunition label seen in the wild. The naming convention would insinuate it is designed for Biathlon shooters, but I acquired a few boxes of SK Biathlon Sport because it has the same exact muzzle velocity specification as SK Long Range Match. Given they are the same muzzle velocity with the same bullet but at different costs (Biathlon Sport is slightly cheaper than Long Range Match), it seemed worthwhile to bring this into comparison testing with Long Range Match.
Speaking of bullets, SK indicates that all of their rimfire ammunition with round-nose bullets have a G1 ballistic coefficient of 0.172. That being said, the differences between SK Standard Plus vs SK Rifle Match and SK Biathlon Sport vs SK Long Range Match is going to be consistency of the lots. Basically, Standard Plus and Rifle Match are most likely coming off the same machinery with the same load specification, but after lot tested are sorted and designated Standard Plus or Rifle Match depending on the lot performance results.
According to factory specification, SK Standard Plus and SK Rifle Match both have a muzzle velocity of 1073 fps (26″ test barrel), while SK Biathlon Sport and SK Long Range Match both have a muzzle velocity of 1106 fps (21.7″ test barrel).
As far as whether or not the shooter experiences any benefits on target with the higher grade (more expensive) ammunition label is why I am writing this SK Long Range Match review article.
My CZ 455 has a 16″ barrel and I was able to get velocity data with the LabRadar.
- SK Standard Plus – 1041 fps average, 13 SD, 47 ES
- SK Rifle Match – 1048 fps average, 8 SD, 23 ES
- SK Biathlon Sport – 1072 fps average, 18 SD, 57 ES
- SK Long Range Match – 1074 fps average, 7 SD, 25 ES
If you look at the above numbers, SK Rifle Match is definitely better than SK Standard Plus when you look at the chronograph data. The average muzzle velocity is almost the same which is what you expect according to the factory specifications, but Rifle Match is more consistent (which is what you also expect).
SK Long Range Match is shown to be more consistent than SK Biathlon Sport as well. The differences in consistency between Standard Plus vs Rifle Match and Biathlon Sport vs Long Range Match is quite similar.
The velocity numbers out of my rifle are about on par with the differences seen in SK’s published factory specifications (which use a 26″ test barrel).
That being said, how much better is Rifle Match over Standard Plus on target? How much better is Long Range Match over Biathlon Sport on target? Is Long Range Match better than Rifle Match?
The 50 yard groups of all four SK ammunition lines is a good indicator of how each one compares to the other. The following groups are 10-round aggregates.
On target at 50 yards, Rifle Match shot tighter than Standard Plus, and Long Range Match shoot just a little bit tighter than Biathlon Sport. But Rifle Match actually shot tighter than Long Range Match. Note that I shot more strings of groups with each different SK ammunition to get the group comparisons to be in the same conditions, and all strings of fire demonstrated consistent group size differences between one another (largest to smallest groups: Standard Plus, Biathlon Sport, Long Range Match, Rifle Match).
I also stretched out to 100 yards to get the following test groups that are indicative of how each one performs compared to the other. The following groups are also 10-round aggregates.
Note: At the time I shot the 100 yard groups, I was pressed for time and did not shoot Biathlon Sport.
As you can see above, SK Standard Plus fell apart at 100 yards. Although, I feel that the bottom shot in that group is an outlier caused by shooter error (I called low shot because of bag shift), which could shrink down that group by at least a 1/4″. Granted, that group would still be worse than SK Rifle Match and SK Long Range Match, both of which shot comparatively the same.
Given these results at 100 yards, I decided to try out Rifle Match vs Long Range Match at 200 yards.
Rifle Match performed at lot lower than expected. A 10-round aggregated measured 8.09″ at 200 yards. SK Long Range Match had a better 10-round groups size of 5.667″ at 200 yards. But if you take out the first two shots of the group which happened to print higher than the rest of the shots in the group, it tightens down to 3.0402″.
I shot a few more 10-round groups of SK Long Range Match at 200 yards and they all exhibited the same core group size, but had one or two outliers that caused the group to be bigger.
When you analyze the above 200 yard 10-round groups of SK Long Range Match, the group sizes are a bit larger because of one or two outliers, or what some people will call a flyer. In groups A and B in the above set, it is not as easy to see the group trend like it is in group C. I feel confident in saying that SK Long Range Match performs better at 200 yards than SK Rifle Match.
Note: During my range session on 2019-04-24, my Kestrel 5700 Elite indicated a 7 MRAD up elevation for 200 yards from my 50 yard zero in the prevailing weather conditions. In reality, I only needed 6.4 MRAD.
After this basic testing, I find that in my rifle SK Long Range Match shoots the same if not slightly worse than SK Rifle Match from 25 through 100 yards. Of course, SK Long Range Match puts out over 25 fps more muzzle velocity than Rifle Match and it appears to help on target at 200 yards (based on the group testing).
SK Rifle Match and SK Long Range Match have about the same standard deviation in my rifle.
Given the price differences of the ammunition tested, Rifle Match appears to be a slightly better value, especially if I am shooting at 100 yards or less. Given that Rifle Match definitely shows better performance over Standard Plus on target, it might be worthwhile to use Rifle Match, but Standard Plus will be a solid practice round.
As far as Rifle Match vs Long Range Match, the price difference is not much with Long Range Match about $4 more per brick (of 500 rounds). Granted, Bruno Shooters Supply (whose pricing I quoted earlier in this article) has better pricing that other vendors on Long Range Match (where I have seen LR Match being sold for nearly $90 per brick).
Note: Target Sports USA also carries most of the SK Ammunition line and has Standard Plus, Rifle Match, Biathlon Sport, and Long Range Match 500ct bricks priced at $50, $65, $65, and $90, respectively.
All that taken into account, I think it is still up for debate on whether or not SK Long Range Match is the way to go as opposed to the other SK ammo options, in particular Rifle Match. What my tests did show is that Rifle Match and Long Range Match are better than Standard Plus and Biathlon Sport, but Rifle Match and Long Range Match are basically going to group the same up to 100 yards. After 100 yards, Long Range Match appears to shoot tighter.
It is worthwhile to reiterate that SK Rifle Match and SK Long Range Match have about the same SD and ES, but with different muzzle velocities (Long Range Match is supposed to run faster than Rifle Match according to factory specifications).
My recommendation for anyone interested in SK Long Range Match: Get brick of SK Rifle Match and SK Long Range Match and try running both in your rifle. While I am fairly confident that SK Rifle Match and SK Long Range Match will perform better than SK Standard Plus and SK Biathlon Sport in your rifle, I cannot say if you will or will not see any performance differences on target between RIfle Match and Long Range Match. But it is likely you will see improvements beyond 100 yards with SK Long Range Match over the other SK offerings.