7.62MM M118 Match Bullets

In 1960 the Ordnance Technical Committee (OTCM) designated a new 7.62MM Match cartridge, the XM118. Adopted as the M118 in 1965, the cartridge would be the match standard until 1981 when it was replaced by the XM852.

The M118 was a very good competition cartridge but there was no way to stop shooters from trying to make it even better. Any changes to the cartridge were forbidden by the rules for the Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) matches, but when used in other matches, modifications were permitted. Replacing the regulation 173 grain M1 Type bullet with commercial match bullets was the most common alteration and was practiced by civilians, service teams, marksmanship units, and the Army itself. Since the rifles used in the matches were primarily the M14 and M1A, cartridge overall length had to be such as to allow feeding from the M14 magazine. For that reason, the cartridges are all very similar in appearance and identifying them can be difficult, even for the advanced collector. The bullets, however, are quite different. Shown below are 10 that I have identified so far.

Good post Ray
From my (not terribly well informed) position I believe the 168 grn Sierra rules the roost.


The 168 grain Sierra MatchKing was the bullet selected for the M852. Originally designed for 300 meter International shooting, it was very accurate out to 600 yards or so but, in a 7.62MM or 308W, it started to go wobbly at the longer distances. No sooner had the M852 been adopted than shooters, especially the USN and USMC, began tinkering with it just like they had done with the M118 twenty years earlier. In response, Sierra developed the 175 MatchKing with the traditional 9 degree boattail and it is now the favorite. It is what the current sniper/tactical/match cartridge (M118 LR) is loaded with.

What is interesting is how we never seem to learn. The old Sierra 180 grain HP with the 9 degree boattail was very likely a better bullet than the new 175 grain. But, Sierra changed it to a 13 degree boattail (the same as the 168 SMK) in the 1970s and it was seldom used by anyone since.

Thanks for reading my thread, and responding.



Would the 175 Gr Matchking perform that well in most .30 cal. cartridges?



There are better specialized military cartridges, but the M118 LR with the 175 grain SMK is a very good compromise. It is fairly accurate (competition), has sufficient terminal energy (sniper), and it’s trajectory is close to most other military cartridges (tactical). For GIs who have no choice but to shoot an M14, and for competition where a service rifle and ammunition are required, it will probably shoot better than most of it’s shooters are capable of.

Generally speaking, a good bullet is a good bullet across a wide range of uses. But today, anyone who wants to be competitive has to specialize. Otherwise you’ll always end up clapping for someone else when the awards are given out. Guys who shoot short to mid-range generally opt for a light weight, flat base 30 caliber bullet, while those that prefer the long distances will choose a heavier, high BC bullet. Except for Palma, you won’t find many shooters using the 7.62MM (308W) and for those that do, the 175 grain SMK is probably not their first choice.

I was fortune enough in the late 70’s and early 80’s to shoot on a US Navy rifle team. We used the M-118 ammo almost exclusively as it was issued to us and free. When we found lot numbers that performed well we would horde it for our matches. I remember shooting the ammo at 600 and 1,000 yards out of my M-14 and M1A rifles and obtained very good down range results.
I was an instructor for BUDS ( Boot UDT/SEALS ) at the time and they used the M-118 ammo for their operations.
After I had retired the Navy moved onto the newer bullets and powders used by most long range competitors.
I do remember many shooters loading their own ammo and using bullets as heavy as 190 grains.
Just in the past year or so many of the stores of M-118 ammunition has been demilled. I have purchased many thousand of the pulled bullets and reclaimed Reloader-15 type powder. The bullets work very well out of my M1911 Swiss long rifle out to 1,000 yards and are a lot cheaper than the commercial match bullets for our matches.
Thank you for your effort and photo in your post. It is very informative.


Most of the pull down bullets and powder that you see are from the M118LR that used the 175 grain SMK and RelodeR 15 powder. Lake City was not allowed to sell overruns or out-of-spec ammunition so it was sold to outfits such as Talon who broke it down and then sold the components, or reloaded it. But now, Lake City has permission to sell the ammo intact and you’ll find it with lot numbers such as PD, XM, and SMQ. Even though most of it is boxed as LC, it is actually ATK who is selling it. Any ammunition that is not safe is either destroyed or broken down.

For the most part, LC has switched from RelodeR to the old reliable IMR but the 175 grain SMK remains the standard. History has a way of repeating itself since this “new” ammunition is really a copy of what shooters were using in the 1970s and 1980s.


The bullets I bought are FMJ with no open tip. Are they Sierra Match Kings?

Those would be the standard 173 grain FMJ Match bullet. Known by various names - M1 Type, M72, M118 - they were sold to handloaders thru the old DCM. I’ve seen them in boxes containing anywhere from 100 to 1500 bullets.

I have a dealer now who sells them by the drum full if you want them. I’m paying 9 cents each for them when my club does a group buy.