Michael Shive writes articles about ammunition and personal defense.
Look, can we get one thing clear today? Your butcher is no better than my butcher. Your local brand of Vodka is no different than that of my local brand of Vodka. It's very rare these days that you find one particular product that is demonstrably better than it's competition: Pepsi and Coke, Ferrari and Lamborghini, Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Victoria's Secret and Wacoal, Cheyenne Tactical and Barrett.
And if you do find something that has a clear advantage over it's rivals, I'll wager that there's something dreadfully wrong with it. Ultra-long-range sniper rifle ammunition is a classic case in point.
It's not that sniper rifles can't shoot for shit at long range - it's the bullets they fire: They just can't get out there.
In the time it takes a sniper to shoot someone with a .338 Lapua Magnum to actually get out beyond 2,000 yards, you'd have probably shot at least 3-5 rounds or more. But what happens if I told you there's 2 rounds in the world that can do just that with one, single, magnificent shot?
Maybe, if I'm hypercritical, the two bullets could be labelled short. I mean, they're both smaller than the .50 BMG. And maybe, if you see the comparisons, the images have been tarnished because an estate agency has bought them all. But if you want a long range solution to a long range problem, and are within a mile and a half of your target and want a cold-bore shot, I can't think of a single reason why you would consider, even for a moment, using anything else.
Enter, the .408 Cheyenne Tactical and the Barrett .416.
.408 Cheyenne Tactical
Being developed by John D. Taylor and a machinist named William O. Wordman, it was designed to be used with military and law enforcement applications, specifically, in anti-personnel, anti-sniper and anti-materiel roles out to a range of a whopping 2,200 yards (2,000m). It can, get this, maintain supersonic speed even out to a range of 2,300 yards (2,100m). That's just biblical. It really is. Compare that to the .50 BMG, it's supersonic only up to a range of 1,500 yards and anything beyond that is considered a miracle.
It is a direct competitor to the .338 Lapua Magnum and .50 BMG long range cartridges. And obviously, the .416 Barrett.
It is a highly specialized, rimless, bottlenecked, centerfire cartridge that came from the .400 Taylor Magnum. All that was needed was to neck it down to accommodate the slightly smaller 10.4mm bullet diameter of the .408 and ta-da! All they needed was a powder that could propel it far and fast.
However, the cartridge is severely limited in that it requires a Cheyenne Tactical-issued military-grade laptop and a special Cheyenne Tactical-issued range-finder. In the tv show, Future Weapons, the bullet was featured with the M200 Cheyenne Tactical sniper rifle, and it took about 3 shots to get out to 2,300 yards. That's not bad, actually. Considering that most bullets drop and hit the ground at 1,200 yards, that's phenomenal! That's a game changer, actually. Never before had a bullet reached out that far and touched a 4x4 foot wood block from 2,300 yards. The host of the show, Richard Mackowicz, was so impressed by the performance of the .408 and the M200, that I recall him saying it's the best sniper weapon system in the world.
But, of course, Barrett wouldn't let that happen so easily.
.408 Cheyenne Tactical
Now, say you're in a real battlefield. You have stalked him for 3 days and finally, the target is in your crosshairs and is 2,500 yards (2,286m) away and you have permission to fire. You take deep breaths and let your pulse steady while gradually applying force to the trigger. BANG! It took 3 days for you to stalk your target but only 3 seconds for the bullet to reach the target.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, mates of class, friends of old, firearm enthusiasts and service members! Arguably, without question, the best sniper ammunition in the world.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division requested for an alternative to the .50 BMG. Developed at Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Chris Barrett, the son of Ronnie Barrett, used National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) low-supersonic-drag equations to actually design, form and make the bullet's shape.
In Future Weapons, Chris said that he had to develop a special propellant powder just for this bullet. And guess how long it took him to get the chemical composition right: 3 years! That's right, dear readers, 3 years just to develop a propellant powder strong enough to propel a 400 grain bullet at 3,150 fps (960 mps) and hit a target 2,500 yards away. However, his efforts weren't in vain because, at 2,500 yards, all you need is one shot. And that's where the Barrett M99 comes in. It was designed specifically for the .416 and .416 only. The M99 is a single-shot, bolt-action precision rifle that was made in conjunction with the .416.
Although, today, many servicemen and women are converting their .50 BMG Barrett M107's with .416 because of the extended range, more kinetic energy, and quicker kill time that the .416 offers.
Let's face it, dear readers, the .50 caliber BMG is just big and brazen but not accurate or trustworthy at these ranges.
305gr (20 grams)
398gr (26 grams)
Finally, we are nearing the close and it's time for a summary.
The .408 is undoubtedly a great bullet because, for the first time in forever, it allowed a precision marksman to go out beyond 2,000 yards. However, it does have it's drawbacks and they are pretty obvious. One is that it needs a range finder and the second is it needs a specialized purpose-built rifle. And even with these tactical advantages, it still requires about 3-5 bullets before you hit your mark.
The .416, on the other hand, is a massive improvement over the .408. All you really need, really, is a single shot. Sure, there's a slight difference in size to the .408 and it's slower, but at least you can safely assume that the bullet will hit in one shot and one shot only. First time every time.
And now, it's time to say goodbye. If I were to choose between either, well, it'd be a no-brainer. I'd take the .416 Barrett.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.