A Look At Various 77gr Factory 5.56MM Match Loads


The title isn’t exact as I shot 73gr-77gr match  loads.    I have for a long time wanted to do comparison side by side testing of the MK 262 class  loadings.  The match loads  using bullets  around the 77gr weight are popular and they should be.  The 75-80gr bullets in 556MM seated to magazine length  is  excellent  in AR15 rifles and carbines.  The 77 gr Sierra with 24.0 grains of Varget or RE-15 or Vit is a decades old and proven recipe for successful long range shooting with a service rifle.   The  military MK262 load is a tweaked version of same load and it has done some amazing things in the recent two wars.     It is just a great load.   To say I think highly of it myself would be  an understatement.  I prefer my handloaded version but I still use factory versions for more general purposes.

So the last few weeks a I have been accumulating factory loads to test for accuracy side by side all from  the same rifle at a range that can tell us something  but not so far away I am fighting wind  so much that the groups  lose all ability to tell us anything.

The factory loads talked about today are above.  As more come out and I get my hands on more of them, I will continue with this series.   I did not use the  new Federal Gold Medal  Match ammo with the 73 grain Bergers because I ran out and I used them all up in a previous long range testing.    For the sake of completeness I will do them in the next  part.

For the gun, I used my MK12 MOD 1 with my Nigtforce  22X  optic.   I did this because the barrel is a match  barrel with a true 1/7 twist, it is  sort of the rifle that  helped define the MK262 and its existence during the GWOT in the minds of many people  and the  military MK 262 round as we know it was fine tuned to be used in the MK12. Lastly it has a 18 inch barrel,  It is between the 20 inch of a full rifle and 16 inch of the carbine.  I didn’t have enough of each type of ammo to test out of rifles and carbines so splitting the difference may be a happy compromise.

I shot the groups off very stable sandbags out at 400 yards.   I thought about going further but the heat, mirage and wind  would have  made it questionable how much may have been me or weather conditions if  one brand of ammo shot worse than the other.   For now this will continue to be the range used for testing the match loads.  If I come up with enough ammo for all brands tested after part two I may do it all over again at 600 or 800 yards if a day with good conditions comes up. All that together is a tall order though.   Shooting purely for smallest group size on the few days of truly good condition is hard work. It takes time, a lot of time and patience and I have really started to feel my glasses need to be replaced  with a newer pair after a trip to the eye doc.  I have noticed a lot more eye strain and trouble over the last  year when I do these all day long  sessions shooting for smallest group.

First up is a 20 shot string using the red box Black Hills 77 grain match load.  This is what I keep the MK12 zeroed with for crows. After a few adjustments I shot the remainder into the center. A great load and is  more or less the real legit MK262 load.

The group below is the “white box” Black Hills 77grain match load. The same load but “factory seconds”.  There is not difference in accuracy.

Below group was fired using the 77gr load from SSA. I know a lot of people like this load and it uses the Nosler 77gr bullet that I think is just as accurate as the Sierra bullet but this time it did not do very well.

The Federal Gold Medal match 77gr Sierra  HPBT load is a long time performer and  a favorite  of mine.   It didn’t let me down.

The Norma match load shot great too. For the price it better!   This was the first time I ever fired the Norma match. It is just too pricey for me.

The PMC  is probably the cheapest factory load I tested. It shot pretty decent  though considering the price.  I think if I wanted to stock pile a large amount for use in carbines or  use not really for long range precision but more for the bullets weight, this would be what I would  buy.

Next is the Hornady Match  ELD 73 gr bullet load.  This is their new ballistic tip designed to not deform when shot from heat or all the other things that can deform the tip.  Jury is still out on that one for me. I don’t know about real long range performance with the ELD bullet yet but at 400 it seems to be a bit better than their HPBT AKA “open tip match”.


The last is the Hornady  HPBTWC T2 round.   This 75gr bullet load is loaded for  556MM so it is  higher pressure than the 223 TAP load or match load.   It is a bit less accurate as well. Not a good “match” round if you want accuracy but it is a good round for killing stuff.

So what did we learn?  That the  7X  bullet weight match factory loads all shoot pretty good.   Some are  lower velocity than others  and you can’t  zero your gun with one and expect it to  work with all other loads obviously.   I was glad to learn that all of these are pretty good loads when it comes to accuracy at ranges most users will shoot at.    My opinion of factory ammo has went up a bit too.  I look forward to testing some of the other 7X gr  bullet loads on the market.   I also learned my handloads are still better as I already knew and that I will continue my confidence in the black hills load and Federal  match loads if I want a factory load to  use along with my hand loads.


  1. I’ve had decent luck with the IMI 77gr loading out of a Mk12 Mod 0 clone, at least when ol’ Shaky here behind the trigger is doing his part.

    • was IMI the line of 77gr stuff that caused some over pressure and Ka-Booms a year or so ago or was it another brand? was thinking it as the IMI stuff. Did the testing I did offer you any info you could use? I been hoping to get some feedback adn see if it was worth the effort and money spent on the match factory ammo to continue

      • Oh wow. That I don’t know. I’ve never seen any drastic overpressure issues other than it’s a Mk262 clone a loaded on the warm side. Velocities were all in the mid 2700s if memory serves. I’d have to pull up the data book to verify.
        That’s something to look into though. First I’ve heard of it but I’m not on the forums so much anymore.

        • that is a pretty warm load. You know, I have heard some claims of people chronographing some military 77gr loads at 2900. that is pretty smokin! how well did that stuff shoot for you?

      • But, yes great info because it shows relative accuracy and performance of the stuff on a given day.
        I like to see tabulated data like velocities and such as it gives me a snapshot to compare to my location and conditions.
        Separate note, I’ve never been able to get the Noslers to shoot as well as the Sierras. In .30 I’ve tried their usual fodder, 168 & 175, on top of the stand-by IMR4895 loaf and just couldn’t get them to settle down. Same as their 77s. I hoped for it since they’re a couple bucks cheaper but I won’t fight it. I’ll feed them critters what they like.

        • You are not the first person I have met that has had trouble with those nosler 77s. A couple friends who live near me have had trouble with them. I can’t recall myself noticing it but now I think I will buy some just to try out. Whn you say you want velocities did you mean you want me to use a chronograph on next go round? I guess I should have done that this last time but it didnt even occur to me. for you 308 load if you havent already., try 44.0 grains of varget with the nosler 175s and see if that gets you any better results new laoding guides may say that is a bit warm but It really isnt.

          • Yes, a chrono would be great on the next shoot. I try, with a key on the try, to bring mine with me so I can record for that day’s conditions. With the newest ballistic apps I’ve never seen a huge difference in projected vs actual performance but my inner nerd likes charts and information.
            Speaking of apps, I’ll need to see if they brought it back on line but the Vortex LRBC was my go-to. My back up is the old KAC calculator mostly because it’s been on my phone for so long.

          • I will do my best in the next one to use a chrono. I tell you, as you no doubt already know. sometimes a day of getting set up, shooting groups of different ammo, letting the gun cool, cleaning a bit just in case. man that is a lot of work. Just keep in mind where I shoot is on top of a mountain in the Appalachians so I don’t know how that will apply to the rest of the country

    • did you guys miss the optic of the week monday about the Unertl or was it just dull and boring? I was hoping for some discussion on it but no one seems to have anything to say. Did I mess up when I made two posts that day so you all thought the winchester ammo one was the only thing up that day ? Usually any post with Unertls in it seem to generate interest and questions and its surprised me no one had anything to say

          • I do enjoy the older optic reviews. Especially the stuff i can’t reasonably get my hands on like the old NV stuff. I would love to see someone find a way to breath some life into an M3 carbine scope and do a video/write up. Always wondered just what those could do.

          • Howard has a great collection of optics, all that NV stuff is his and most of the super expensive stuff, I tell him all the time he has more money in optics than a lot of people do a life time collection of guns. At one Time Howard even had a PAS-13 thermal but sold it off when his GI bill for paying for a year at college as late. I wish we could have done something on the site with it before that.

  2. I would definitely try the PPU 75gr and 69gr .223 rounds and the Australian Outback 69gr round. All print well under 1 MOA in semi-autos and bolt actions of mine. I have shot the 77gr Norma as well and, by a slim margin, edge out the AO and PPU offerings, though, as noted, they cost more than twice as much. Recently shot the Norma 77gr through a Mossberg MVP and Ruger American where both printed approx. .8 MOA with that ammo type, but I had punctured primers and I believe this is a thin primer issue, not a rifle issue. The AO was discontinued in the U.S. in the last 18 months, but supposedly is coming back to store shelves soon…I cannot recommend this highly enough!

    • I was waiting for some one to bring up the PPU 75gr load. I have a ton of it, but in every gun I have, it is a lucky day for it to get 1.5 MOA groups. Now, I bought all of it back in 2009, so I dont know if it has improved or I got a bad lot or something but I was considering what to do with it for the purpose of the 77gr comparisons

  3. I got snowed under this week on Monday and Tuesday. So I didn’t have a chance to comment on the Unertl article in a timely manner. Or this one. Still digging it.

  4. Very informative, thank you.
    Just got to say though: “This is what I keep the MK12 zeroed with for crows.” Come on, crows are super intelligent and social. IMO that’s the bird equivalent of shooting dogs. Should be done only when absolutely necessary. Thumbs down on that only


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