Hornady ELD Match

Match bullets have long been the best friend of the target shooter, but that relationship has been taken even further in the last decade with the rising popularity of long-range shooting. Where once the simple consistency of a match bullet was enough to give the characteristics a competition shooter desired, taking things well out past 1,000 yards has changed the requirements. Whereas many shooters had no idea what Ballistic Coefficient was, or couldn’t explain the difference between a tangent or secant ogive, modern long-range shooters are better educated than ever.

Yes, many of our most popular match bullets are still in use – with good effect, I might add – but Hornady used modern science to bring some new technology to the table. Using Doppler radar, Hornady discovered that the conventional polymer tips they were using to increase and maintain Ballistic Coefficient actually began to melt from the friction of moving through the atmosphere. The deterioration of that tip resulted in a bullet that lost its advantageous shape downrange, and Hornady aimed to fix the issue.

Hand-loaded 6.5-284 Norma cartridges, loaded with ELD Match for use at the SAAM shooting school at the FTW Ranch.

They modified the polymer used on their meplat and redesigned the bullet, resulting in the ELD (Extremely Low Drag) Match bullet. The Heat Shield tip maintains a consistent meplat – much more so than the traditional boat tail hollowpoint designs – allowing the bullet to maintain its shape at ranges well past conventional hunting distances. While a hunting bullet – which was Hornady’s original design concept – will rely on the polymer tip to initiate expansion, the Heat Shield tip worked so well they decided to retain it for the match bullet. Doppler radar testing showed the advantage of the new tip design at distances out past 400 yards.

Using Hornady’s AMP bullet jackets – noted for their consistency and concentricity – and a secant ogive to deliver some of the best Ballistic Coefficient values available, the ELD Match has a well-earned reputation for accuracy. That excellent jacket surrounds a lead core, which is swaged for uniformity and precision. The ELD Match is generally offered in heavy-for-caliber configurations, as the lighter bullets lack the ability to retain their velocity at longer ranges; the heavier bullets will show their advantages out past conventional hunting ranges by resisting wind deflection and maintaining their velocity longer.

Phil Massaro about to send another 140-grain ELD Match downrange at the SAAM Shooting School.

HORNADY OFFERS THE ELD Match in both factory-loaded and component form, allowing all sorts of shooters to take full advantage of the design. I have used it in both forma, and can happily report that it is one of the most accurate bullets I’ve ever had the pleasure of sending downrange. Of all of the rifles in my collection, my Savage Model 116, chambered in 6.5-284 Norma, when topped with the 140-grain Hornady ELD Match, is the most accurate combination I own. When seated atop a relatively mild load of Hodgdon’s H4831SC, the rifle will hold 1/3-MOA accuracy out to 450 yards, which is just about the furthest distance I’ve had the opportunity to put it on paper. The factory-loaded 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition – also centered around the 140-grain ELD Match – has shown exactly how accurate the bullet is; at the famous FTW Ranch in Barksdale, Texas, where the SAAM Shooting School instructs shooters in long-range techniques, the instructors all swear by the Creedmoor with ELD Match ammo. I’ve personally used the bullet to ring 1,500-yard steel, and have seen the instructors take it out to 2,000 yards. That is quite a testimonial in and of itself; these guys get to test all sorts of calibers and varying ammunition, and have found the Hornady factory load for the 6.5 Creedmoor the best for their long-range work.
The results of author Phil Massaro’s hand-loaded 6.5-284 Norma with ELD Match bullets.

The 6.5mm cartridges are a striking example of the benefits of a high B.C. match bullet – the new 6.5 PRC drives the 147-grain ELD Match to over 2,900 fps – but they are not the only bore diameter to enjoy the benefits of the Hornady design. Hornady offers component bullets in .224-inch, 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm. .308-inch and .338-inch, and in cartridges from .223 Remington and .224 Valkyrie to the aforementioned 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Remington, 6.5 PRC and .308 Winchester, to the .300 Winchester Magnum and new .300 Norma Magnum up to the .338 Lapua Magnum, giving a good selection of long-range cartridges for shooters of every power level.

Is it the best match bullet on the market? I have a hard time with labeling any bullet or cartridge as the “best,” as there are just too many subjective parameters to quantify such a thing. I will say that there are many high-quality designs on the market for the precision shooter to choose from, and the Hornady ELD Match ranks among the best. If you haven’t run them through your rifle yet, I highly recommend you do so; I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Story by Phil Massaro