One of the tougher challenges of hunting is figuring out the best ammunition for your firearm. If you're not into reloading your own, there's a glut of options out there on the market for many different styles of hunting. Whether you're into wingshooting ducks, geese, and upland birds, or you're looking for some high-quality premium rounds for that hunt of a lifetime, it can get a little overwhelming when you're looking at a manufacturer's website or standing in front of the ammo shelf at your local sporting goods store.
Don't worry, we're here to help you by breaking down some of the more popular ammo brands on the market and the types of hunting each one is best for. If you're just getting into hunting, these are the brands you should look to when getting ready to head into the woods for the first time.
Federal Premium is a solid brand for mid-priced rifle ammunition. Their Non-Typical line of soft-point lead ammo creates excellent wound channels on deer while staying affordable. They are also probably the top manufacturer for shotgun shells. Their Power-Shok sabot slugs get high marks from users for their knock-down power on whitetail deer for hunters in states with shotgun-only regulations.
Don't overlook Federal Premium's Vital-Shok rounds for both shotguns and rifles. These are easy to find on outdoor shelves nation-wide. Speaking of which, their Vital-Shok buckshot rounds are some of the most popular on the market.
Oh, and it's worth noting that they have some of the top-rated turkey and target shooting load shells on both Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops. Federal Premium's 3rd Degree Turkey load shotgun shells are especially popular for those pursuing big gobblers every spring.
Hornady has always been traditionally known for quality hunting rounds. Their American Whitetail rounds are available in a variety of calibers and give an untold number of deer permanent dirt naps every season. We also like Hornady Customs for whitetail deer, especially in the 350 Legend and 450 Bushmaster configurations for Midwestern states.
Their Varmint Express line of rimfire rounds in .17 HMR and .22 WMR are top-notch for critters like prairie dogs and other small pests on any farm or ranch. We also like their Superformance rounds for larger varmints like coyotes. Depending on the caliber, you can get some screaming 4,000-fps muzzle velocities out of that line. We also appreciate the fact that Hornady makes a line of slower subsonic ammo for hunters who want to use a suppressor.
This company isn't really known for shotgun shells with one exception. Their Hornady SST shotgun slugs, which have made it possible for deer hunters in shotgun-only states to reach out to ranges they had previously never dreamed of.
We can't really talk about popular ammo brands without mentioning Remington. They're a household name here in the United States after all. They got kind of a re-start after being bought out by out by Vista Outdoors, who also owns Federal Premium. They re-started most of their factories last year and they've been pumping out ammo like mad, which has helped with shortages.
One could easily make an argument for this company producing some of the best bird hunting shotgun rounds on the market today. Personally, I've used their cheap, foster-style slugs for years to put many a deer on the ground. Remington isn't as well-known as much for their centerfire rifle cartridges, but their Core-Lokt series of rifle rounds enjoy great popularity thanks to their accuracy and affordability.
We also can't talk about Remington without talking about their rimfire rounds. The company has three popular brands of .22 LR ammo. Remington Golden Bullet, Remington Thunderbolt and Remington Yellow Jacket. Personally, I've found the Golden Bullets to be the best of that bunch.
This is a company that really offers it all. Their standard "white box" or USA ammo is sold practically everywhere and is affordable and accurate across virtually all calibers and types. We like this ammo as a warm-up or practice ammo at the range while sighting in for the season without breaking the bank.
For hunting, look at their Super X ammo for both centerfire rifle and shotgun slugs. It is both accurate and packs a punch on a variety of different big-game animals. It's also highly affordable. For even more range and accuracy, their Gold Sabot slugs have gained a great reputation, too. And don't forget their Drylok Super Steel waterfowl loads and Rooster XR pheasant loads. Both will put a lot of birds on your dinner table.
Winchester does make some premium ammo options too. Check out their Ballistic Silvertip line for some seriously speedy rounds for classics like .243 Winchester, which have a muzzle velocity of about 3,100-fps. We also like their Deer Season XP line of alloyed lead core bullets for whitetails.
You're always going to get mixed reviews on rimfire ammo because some guns can be so picky about it. Again, mentioning my Marlin Model 60 here because I always thought this rifle hated lead bullets. That was until I shot some Winchester Wildcat lead target ammo through it. Go figure, it loves the stuff. I used this ammo to take out a couple of problem woodchucks in the backyard recently and it made for a quick, clean kill each time. You'll find their white box brass rimfire ammo gets decent reviews too.
This is a company that is synonymous with rimfire ammo. Their Stinger and Standard Velocity .22 LR rounds are some of the highest rated rimfire rounds on the market today if you start diving into online reviews. It's the same story for their .17 HMR V-Max ammo.
We think much of the success of CCI has been the fact that they are specialists. They only do rimfire and handgun ammo. With a laser focus like that, that CCI has been able to focus on bringing the best quality possible to these rounds. It's no wonder they have become known as the brand to go to for either .22 or .17 HMR. The only downside is that their ammo is rather pricey when compared to the other rimfire options on the market today.
Part of us wants CCI to keep specializing and bringing that high level of quality to rimfire while the other part of us wishes they'd expand production and bring us some centerfire rifle or shotgun ammo. In any case, you can't go wrong with them as a rimfire choice.
Nosler is the go-to brand for premium hunting ammo. Their Trophy Grade lineup that features Spitzer Partition bullets is the one to go with if you have the hunt of a lifetime coming up and you want to leave nothing to chance.
Although Their Ballistic Tip Hunting rounds are great for most North American big game too. Also be sure to check out their Partition Bullets and Accubond Bonded Core Bullets. Their "Varmageddon" (What an awesome name!) bullets get high marks from users on both Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops.
Nosler's Custom Competition rounds and Ballistic Tip Varmint Boat Tails in .22 long rifle are also worth checking out. This company's ammo is a little more expensive than some others on the market. But you'll be hard pressed to find ammo of this quality from other brands on the market today.
This brand is quickly gaining more traction among shooters here in the United States. As you might have guessed from the name, this company was initially based in Italy. The history goes all the way back to 1876. Fiocchi makes rounds for everyone from competitive clay shooting enthusiasts to the most dedicated of big game hunters.
A big part of what's making this company popular with users now is just the reliability and affordability of their bulk ammo. If you do a lot of hunting for ducks, geese, or upland game, it's hard to go wrong with anything in their Field Dynamics, Golden Waterfowl, or Golden Geese Lines. We used Golden Pheasant last year in South Dakota with great results. They also make a dynamite non-toxic option with their Flyaway series of steel shot.
They are starting to gain some momentum for their rifle cartridges too. Especially their Field Dynamics line which chambers everything from 204 Ruger to .45-70 Govt with high-quality soft point bullets. The .45-70 is a hollow point flat nose of course. In any case, there's a lot to like about what Fiocchi is offering to hunters these days.
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