What is the flattest shooting rifle?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Quite recently, the popularity of flat shooting is getting hot again. According to experts, the secret behind this sudden increase in flat-shooting cartridges is that the number of flat-shooting competitions is getting more and more popular every year. Also, the flat-shooting competition gives the gunner great practice as well for short-range precision shooting.

The whole sport of flat shooting is super exciting on its own. Flat shooting means shooting a bullet so that it can follow its flattest possible trajectory. As major cartridges don’t allow the gunner to successfully flat shoot, the flat shooting cartridges are different from the rest.

Besides the cartridge, the caliber range of flat-shooting bullets is also quite different from the rest. The caliber must support a flat trajectory with minimum thrust possible. The bullet must also be designed to gain more and more velocity as time passes.

Now, the real question comes. As much as flat-shooting is popular, the debate to decide the flattest shooting rifle also gets quite intense. Especially when we have so many amazing cartridges and caliber options available, but remember, only the gun can’t decide whether you’re a good flat shooter or not, it’s the skill that matters the most.  

Some of the best flattest shooting rifles

Many things play a part in determining whether a gun is suitable for flat shooting or not. But we are often asked the question, what is the flattest shooting rifle out there? That’s why we decided to sum up some important factors and develop a list of rifles that will be all-time best for flat shooting.

A rifle is suitable for flat shooting as long as the 500-yard impact range of the rifle falls below the 40’’. That’s why the three best rifles we have sorted have a 500-yard impact range below 40’’.

  • 28 Nosler cartridge 

For decades, the Nosler cartridge has ruled the world of a flat shooting range with complete dominance. And keeping in mind the current dynamics of flat-shooting, the 28 Nosler will be more than enough to do the job.

With a 37’’ 500-yard drop, the 28 Nosler comes with a 3079 FPS Muzzle Velocity, which is impressive for a gun of this caliber. This Nosler also supports a 27 ft/lbs recoil even at a 1094 ft/lbs 1000 Yard energy and 225’’ 1000-yard drop.

The only downside we found with this gun is the cartridge design. The 28 Nosler doesn’t use a bottleneck case to reduce internal drag and friction, which may cause some concern for those who want to make a career out of flat-shooting as it uses more powder than other cartridges.

  • 6.5 x 300 Wby Mag

As long as the sports of shooting will last, the class of Magnum cartridge will remain intact. And to make things more fun, the 6.5 x 300 Wby Mag will be the perfect cartridge to be used in flat shooting.

This cartridge offers the lowest 500-yard drop, which is around 32’’. The magic of Magnum shows itself in flat-shooting. Because of being part of the Mag series, the overall Muzzle Velocity is also quite exceptional, ranging up to 3249 FPS smooth. The recoil of this cartridge is also around 23.6 ft/lbs.

The downside is the zero of this cartridge. It is so flat that at 500 yards, you’ll be looking down your barrel by more than 4”!

  • 26 Nosler Cartridge

Taking the supremacy of the Nosler cartridges to a whole another level, we have the 26 Nosler cartridge. One of the amazing things about this cartridge is that it is one of the very few cartridges genuinely made for flat-shooting endeavors.

The 34’’ 500-yard drop backed with 3272 FPS allows the cartridge to generate one of the flattest bullet trajectories ever seen. Even at a 1000 yard drop, the cartridge range is around 210’’, which makes the 26 Nosler perform quite capably at such a range distance. 

This cartridge's downside lies in the recoil. As the cartridge is also designed for flat-shooting, it produces some amazing speed and energy while doing so. The average Muzzle Energy of this cartridge is around 2028 ft/lbs!

Advantages of flat shooting rifles

As much as it’s fun to shoot flat, the real advantage of shooting flat is in its practice. If you can master your skills at flat shooting, you can master any distance with great accuracy and precision.

Disadvantages of flat shooting rifles

Just like all the good things come with a catch, shooting flat too has some cons. The biggest issue with such type of shooting is that you can’t use it in big hunting games for long-range shots. Because if you do, there is a huge risk of missing your target and getting busted by your prey.

What we mean to say here is that if you think you want to train yourself at long ranges and want to practice really hard to get perfect at it, go ahead! But keep in mind not to use this kind of shooting in actual hunting games because the risk factor will just shoot up sky high! That’s why we always recommend practicing distance management via using medium or short-range rifles. Not because they are better, but because they have a higher success rate.

What kind of trajectories are followed by bullets in flat-shooting?

If we take a closer look at both flat shooting and general scale shooting, there’s only one significant difference between the two shooting schools of thought. The overall trajectory of the bullet as it leaves the barrel of the gun.

In general shooting, the bullet's trajectory must be adjusted to any direction and level as the situation demand. Let’s say the target is 500 yards north. It’s totally up to the shooter's preference which trajectory and cartridge they will prefer to hit the target successfully.

On the other hand, when we talk about flat shooting. The trajectory, as well as the cartridge, becomes quite specific. The flat-shooting requires the bullet to follow the flattest possible trajectory until hitting the target successfully. One can also say that flat-shooting is a more advanced division of short-range precision shooting.

Now, the flat shooting cartridge. Using any cartridge is not prohibited, but it will not give the flat shooting results one is looking for. As cartridges can overpower the bullet's trajectory, without proper unit, the bullet may collapse before hitting its target. That’s why using a controlled flat shooting cartridge is always the best choice.

270 Winchester: The King of flat shooting cartridges

As discussed earlier, not all cartridges are suitable for flat-shooting. The whole concept of flat shooting is not new, as professional shooters have been conducting flat-shooting contests for decades. That’s why, besides these modern cartridges, there’s one cartridge that has a separate spot among flat-shooting cartridges.

The well-known .270 Winchester. The Winchester name itself is enough to assure the quality and flat shooting abilities of this cartridge. The .270 Winchester is one of the earliest known cartridges that flat-shooting experts around the globe used.

With a history that dates back to almost 100 years ago from today, the .270 Winchester is still used. But it is also a fact that it can’t compete with the modern cartridge ranges designed for flat shooting.

With a recoil of 16.3 ft/lbs, the .270 Winchester 46’’ impact range at a 500-yard drop. The odds aren’t quite impressive, but at that time, flat-shooting was all about skills rather than relying on technology. The 1000-yard energy of the .270 Winchester is around 625 ft/lbs, which is impressive for cartridges of that era.

Expert Opinion: What is the flattest shooting rifle?

We asked an expert flat shooter the same question you have been asking us. What is the flattest shooting rifle? A summarizing the reply we have got, the fact that which shooting rifle is the best for flat shooting relies on the cartridge unit and skills of the shooter.

The most important thing is the cartridge of the rifle. The type of bullet used, cartridge’s powder charge, barrel length, weight, and twist are some factors that affect which one you will prefer for your flat shooting match.

As far as skills are concerned, regular practice is required to become a master of any skill. But it becomes quite apparent that by mastering the right equipment with appropriate skills, one can do wonders with their chosen rifle.

Bottom line

There’s no certain answer to the question since both cartridges have equal performance when considering short-range precision shooting where each bullet has a trajectory to follow in order to hit a set point at a specific distance. We hope this article helps you connect the dots and understand what flat shooting means.

Remember, most modern-day shooters consider using a larger caliber cartridge unit to answer all their problems faced during the shoot. But, as long as you don’t have exceptional target placement and factors directional skills, the large caliber is not going to help you out.