Recently, Hornady released a new caliber, in conjunction with GA Precision’s George Gardner, called the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge). For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s based on the .300 RCM case, necked down to .264”.
It requires a magnum bolt face and works in just about any short action receiver. Basically, if you have a WSM-chambered rifle, it’s an easy conversion to the PRC. Though, as I’ll note later, it does require a WSM magazine due to it’s overall length.
As with all things new, I wanted to get my hands on some and push them through one of our rifles to see what it does, or doesn’t do, compared to other calibers similar in size and published performance. Currently, Hornady manufacturers two variants: 1) the 143gr ELD-X and 2) the 147gr ELD-M. After ordering a case of the 147gr Match (new white box branding) variety, I quickly started dissecting 10% of the rounds to see exactly what they’re pushing them with. I also wanted to get an idea of the factory’s load consistency.
All tested projectiles had a weight standard deviation of less than 1/10th of a grain. The powder appeared to be H4831SC and weighed anywhere from 52.7 to 53.8gr with an average of 53.5gr. All were loaded with a standard large rifle primer (interesting to note that they were a silver cup rather than Hornady’s usual gold primer – so we’re left to assume that it’s either a CCI or Federal primer).
Hodgdon’s H4831SC is one of 11 different powder options listed by Hornady for the 147gr projectile with a max load of 54.5gr which should put you around the 3000fps mark with a 26”, 1:8” barrel according to their data sheet. Lot # 3181368 lists a muzzle velocity of 2910fps. The box indicates a 200 yard zero (as Hornady usually does) with +1.5” at 100 and -6.5” at 300 yards.
Moving on to actual shooting, I used one of our Overwatch™ rifles built from spare parts, though I did ensure that I used a 26”, 1:8” barrel. In this case, it was an M24 contoured 416SS barrel from Proof Research. Other options included a McMillan A4 stock, our Overwatch™ action, Timney’s Calvin Elite trigger with a straight shoe, and a Hellfire™ muzzle brake from Area419.
As mentioned above, using a DBM system, we had to procure a WSM magazine due to the round’s 2.950” OAL. A standard .308 magazine, even without the binding plate, isn’t quite long enough, though the WSM magazine still fits inside a standard short action bottom metal assembly. A seven-round WSM magazine will fit eight PRC rounds comfortably with room to spare – but not enough for nine rounds.
Shooting the PRC reminded me of a soft-hitting WSM in terms of recoil. I shot it both with and without the brake since the Hellfire™ brake is well known to us as one that reduces recoil to the point of “what recoil?!”. The PRC doesn’t have quite the recoil impulse of a WSM, but without the brake, it does have a little bite. With the brake, the gun literally doesn’t move and it’s extremely enjoyable to shoot albeit with a little more “push” than a 6.5 Creedmoor or .260 Remington. Definitely not the bruiser like a WSM can be over a 100-shot string.
My 40-shot string of factory 147gr ELD-M’s averaged 2921fps, according to our LabRadar, with a standard deviation of 51 and an extreme spread of 123. With a 100 yard zero, we had to move up 2.75 MOA at 300 and 11.25 MOA at 600 yards. That seemed to be a little more adjustment than what my .260 requires but I’ve never loaded 147’s in my .260 so I can’t compare apples to apples. I can say that it doesn’t matter if you have a brake or not, the PRC is loud. And a 26” barrel doesn’t appear to burn all of the powder prior to exiting because there is a somewhat significant flash.
In order to get an idea of how it compares to a 6.5CM or .260 Rem, I loaded 80 rounds with H4831SC and a CCI BR4 primer and a 140gr ELD-M. According to Hornady’s data sheet, this configuration can use that powder from 48.6 – 54.7gr (2800-3050fps). So I did it in 20-round steps ranging from 51.0, 51.5, 52.0 & 52.5gr just to be in the middle of the published range. The data from that is as follows:
I will note that I opted to use Hornady’s Match Grade dies since they were moderately priced and I wanted that price to reflect the “average” reloader’s most probable purchase (short of Whiddon Gunworks dies, these dies are truly the best bang for your buck – especially since you get a micrometer seating die – for less than $74 after shipping from MidwayUSA).
These dies use neck bushings and I loaded these rounds with a 0.289” bushing. Considering the SD and ES of the above shots, I felt like there wasn’t enough tension so I ordered another bushing with a 0.287” ID. I also discovered that after a single firing, the brass had very inconsistent neck diameters. So before loading the next 30 rounds, I turned the necks for concentricity. The data now looks like this:
Over the course of a few days, the atmospheric conditions varied, but I did my best to keep variables as close as possible. On my last 30 shots, with the neck turned cases and the tighter bushing, it was still about 85 degrees but the humidity was 30% higher and the pressure went from 29.92 to 30.10inHg between days.
Doing a quick Google search for “Hornady 6.5 PRC load data” yielded a link to Hornady’s website where I found their data sheet. Between the 140, 143 & 147 grain projectiles, you have a choice of 12 different powders to use. I plan to try N-165, Retumbo and maybe one or two of the RL powders to see what changes I get.
So far, the 6.5 PRC defies conventional wisdom in that the faster you push it, the more consistent it gets. At least for the H4831SC, the barrel quickly heats up similar to what you’d expect from Varget in a .308 Win. The Proof Research 416SS M24 barrel I used quickly cools down between strings, though.
I’d also like to note that there are two different reamer patterns and you should choose one wisely based on what you plan to use for ammo. The Hornady pattern has a shorter free bore and doesn’t like factory ammo as much. The GAP pattern has a slightly (very slightly) longer free bore and works better with factory ammo. Seems a little backwards to me, but nothing on this caliber has been “normal.” I used the Hornady pattern and loading them to 2.950” OAL ran them into the lands enough to pull the projectiles out of the case when working the bolt.
So…where does the PRC fit? Somewhere between the usual 6.5CM/.260Rem and a WSM caliber. It’s a fun gun to shoot. So far, it’s a little finicky to load. But I still feel like it’s trying to answer a question that was never asked. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from trying it as long as they understand that they’re relegated to brass that isn’t match quality for the time being.