6.5 creedmoor vs .308 long range
(Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Today we’re talking long range cartridges and the enigmatic enterprise of the intrepid 6.5 Creedmoor round. TTAG reader and LGS (local gun shop) raider Marcus M comes in with a question, and some confusion, about long range shooting.

”I see everywhere about how good the 6.5 Creedmoor is. I went to two matches with my rifle (AR-10 in .308 Win) and I lost big time. Like it wasn’t even fair. I spent $2,000 on that rifle and $2,000 on the scope and I’m shooting the best ammo I can get or make. I can shoot at 1,000 yards all day, but in these (steel plate) matches I just can’t keep up anymore. What happened? I never used to get smoked like this! Do I need a 6.5 Creedmoor to get out of last place?”

The short answer here is no, you don’t need a gun chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor to shoot long range. The longer answer, though, is that you probably should consider it, as it offers better performance than .308 in a .308-sized rifle.

6.5 Creedmoor isn’t the be-all, end-all, so don’t be fooled by marketing or some of the “wisdom” you hear thrown around the range. But 6.5 is the best out there for the most common full-size non-AR-15 rifles currently in production.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles
The 6.5 Creedmoor in a custom rifle can be extremely accurate. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Marcus’s situation is familiar to many people who have spent time in the long range sports. I gained and lost interest several times over the years and spent much of that time being critical of 6.5 Creedmoor…but now it’s about all I shoot.

I saw it initially as the start of a race, and sure enough other rounds came out to compete for popularity, but all failed to grab attention.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles ammunition kestrel
The 6.5 CM together with modern equipment like a Kestrel weather station allows for greater precision. It’s not the drop that gets you, it’s the wind. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

When the 6.5 Creedmoor was initially developed, there were few viable options outside of .308 Win and 5.56/.223 for long range. There were, of course, long range options on a custom basis, but the only way to really get competitive off-the-shelf long range rifles was to do so in military calibers.

The .300 Win Mag chambering was the dominant force for years, and even rounds like .338 Lapua gained some traction despite the price tag. People wanted to shoot long range, but the options were frustrating.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles
Rifle #2 is a state-of-the-art traditional style rifle, using an all steel M24 barrel on a steel action. It weighs 21 lbs. as pictured. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Some of you out there are saying, ‘Josh, years back you wrote some bad things about 6.5 CM.’ What they don’t understand is that when I wrote those things, it was still considered a fad cartridge that was being heavily marketed despite offering no ballistic superiority to 6.5x55mm Mauser.

US optics scope mount rifle long range
A high end scope like this USO 5-25x can reach its full potential in a mount like the Sphur. The 6.5CM is benefitted greatly by good glass. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Nothing I wrote was wrong then and it’s still true today. I am not surprised that 6.5 Creedmoor succeeded, but I wasn’t at all under the impression at the time that it would be widely available, which is a major consideration. Plenty of guys I know have some WSSM or RSAUM nonsense that they can’t find ammo for despite the most recent magnum craze that lasted several years.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles
Rifle #1 is a super light long range rifle made of the most advanced materials we have. It weighs only 12 lbs. which means that while it’s the same overall size, it’s just over half the weight of Rifle #2. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

Unlike most other fad cartridges, though, the 6.5 Creedmoor stuck, not because of of its merits and ubermench status, but because of the simple fact that it did better than .308 Win in the same size rifle as .308 Win.

Regardless of how you slice the pie, the 6.5 Creedmoor’s success depended largely on the fact that the .308 AICS pattern magazine and 700-style short action were already in extremely common use. It was a drop-in solution for improvement over an already existing round, not a totally new system.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles
A suppressor like this OSS makes the 6.5CM like shooting a .22LR…well at least close. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

New systems don’t always work. This is again why 300 BLK ended up being so successful commercially in the AR-15. The other popular, and now dying, rounds of the day such as 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC required so many changes to the AR host platform that they just weren’t feasible for most shooters. The magazine problems alone were enough to turn most people off.

The 300 BLK, again, was a drop-in solution that used all the same parts with the exception of the barrel as 5.56, including magazines. Had it not been designed that way, it probably would have been a commercial failure like the rest.

The emphasis here is not on the merits of the cartridge itself, but what is generally and economically viable. The 6.5 Creedmoor beats .308 at most .308 ranges from barrels even half as long. A 13-inch 6.5 CM rifle can handily best a 24-inch .308 ballistically using off-the-shelf ammunition. Precision rifles can thus be smaller and more efficient by way of more efficient bullets.

This is all fine and dandy, but as I mentioned, the 6.5×55 does the same thing. So why isn’t it as popular? Different case head, different action length, different magazines, etc. It’s the same bullet, but with a different system to launch it.

If you go this route, you may as well go custom and do a 6.5-284 or something similar. The point is, while ballistically identical for all intents and purposes, the 6.5×55 doesn’t fit our most popular platforms.

You don’t need a 6.5 Creedmoor if your goal is steel plates at 1000 yards, but it makes sense to have one because it’s more widely supported. Make sense? If you move to Sweden, well that’s a different story.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles
Folding stocks help mitigate the length of these large rifles and make them easier to transport. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

My advice to Marcus is the same advice I would give to anyone who is new to long range or even the experienced competitor coming to the line after some years away from the sport.

The distances haven’t changed, the steel plates are still at unknown distances, and the wind certainly is still there. But if you plan to shoot to win, you have to either compete against identical cartridges or upgrade to a cartridge that puts you on equal footing with those on the top of the leaderboard.

The problem we have here is that Marcus told me he only took about five years off of long range because of a move for work. He still competed up until that point and still shot long range from time to time while traveling. His equipment is arguably top-shelf from some very high end companies.

He showed me his groups on his phone and they were exceptional for a semi-auto, coming in at 3/4” at 100 meters. He is a technically proficient shooter with a military background and is no slouch on steel. But in the last five years his gear became obsolete in direct comparison to the even mid-tier shooters.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles ammunition
The modern 6.5mm round is an accurate cartridge. The most accurate loads the author shoots are 143gr, but 147s perform well, too. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

It’s not that Marcus has poor equipment, it’s that he had to spend about $5,000 to get a .308 that could best all other .308’s, but now isn’t competitive against some $1,000 off-the-shelf 6.5 Creedmoor rifles.

He is, categorically, a better shooter than most on a detailed level. It is harder to shoot a .308 than a 6.5 CM and you need to be a better shooter in general to master it. The 6.5 CM isn’t cheating, it is just the byproduct of good engineering inside the same magazine dimensions.

Looking over his scores, his game doesn’t fall apart until about 800 yards, meaning that if your are a good shooter like he is and already have a .308 of good quality, you probably won’t need to worry much inside that range.

Past 800 yards his hit likelihood dropped to just 30%, and by 1000 yards he was hitting 10% of the time in matches. Even the best .308 runs out of gas at about a half mile (880 yards) and it’s that last 200 yards that can make or break a game. By comparison, a 120gr 6.5CM from a 16” barrel at 2,900 fps is still supersonic at nearly a mile, where even the best .308 round is going subsonic at 1100 yards.

6.5 creedmoor long range rifles ammunition
The 6.5 CM owes a great deal of its success to the fact that the groundwork was already in place thanks to .308 Win. The 6.5 CM works in all .308 magazines and actions. (Josh Wayner for TTAG)

I’m going to leave this open ended. The point is, if you shoot 500 or 800 yards recreationally it doesn’t really matter if you have a 5.56, .308, or a .45-120 Sharps. If you are shooting past 800 yards on a regular basis, it’s probably a good idea to get something that’s chambered for more efficient bullets.

If you shoot a lot, get something affordable like 6.5 Creedmoor that has factory options at a low cost. If cost isn’t a consideration, get what you like such as a .300 PRC or .338 Lapua.

Better yet, decide where you want your game to begin to break down and build the best rifle with the best cartridge for shooting inside that distance. There’s no sense in building out a 6.5 Creedmoor when you only shoot 200 yards regularly. Hell, a good 1911 in .45 ACP can ring steel at that distance, but that’s another story for another time.

 

About the rifles in this article:

Rifle #1: Mesa Precison Arms titanium action with a Proof Research carbon fiber barrel chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor. Chassis is by KRG with extended forend. Mount and optic are SIG SAUER TANGO6 5-30x in a Giessele 34mm Super Precision Mount.

Rifle #2: Tuebor Precison stainless action with a Brownell’s Premium Barrels M24 contour 6.5 Creedmoor. Custom Magpul 700 Pro Chassis with night vision mount. Mount and optic are respectively SPHUR 34mm 0MOA and US Optics Foundation 5-25X. Suppressor pictured is an OSS 762 Ti.

 

 

38 COMMENTS

  1. I have been reading about all the “wonder” new calibers that are supposed to do anything and make all the older calibers obsolete. I go my reloading book out and began looking at the loads that I can make with the new longer profile bullets with some of the new powders. Decided that the “wonder” is that so many run after every new red wagon that comes along. For me , the 25-06 and light projectile loads in the old 270 Win. would suffice for me. To each his or her own. Have fun whatever caliber you choose.

  2. So the answer is that it depends on what “long range” is to you and what kind of result you require at the extreme end of it.

    If you’re shooting competitively at 800+ yards like the guy who asked this question, then you DO need 6.5 Creedmoor (unless you’re into spending unnecessarily massive amounts of money for the same result).

    If you’re like most shooters (heck, I haven’t even found a need to stretch beyond the effective range of my ol’ .30-30), then no, you don’t. Not even remotely. Because .308 is fat and stupid, and so are you.

  3. I was a major 7mm-08 Rem. apologist until I checked out 6.5 CM. Honestly, it was about evonomics: 6.5 CM ammo is WAY cheaper than 7mm-08. However, I keep both guns – and I’m glad I did: now the shelves are full of 7mm-08 and 6.5 CM is nowhere to be found.

    I shoot happy faces at around 500m (my typical “loud guy” antelope range), but I’m useless out past that.

  4. Josh could have whoever built that $5K AR10 re-barrel it. If he has a Ton of 308 brass I’d suggest the 260 Rem if he reloads. The higher the G1 or G7 of the bullet chosen, the faster twist rate will be needed. Instead of Remington’s 1/10 or 1:9 go to a 1:8 twist.
    – same as a Creedmore and you’ll have a bit more velocity to boot.
    If he wants to stay 308, he could re-barrel the 308 to a faster twist or pound the shoulder with 220 grain pills. a buddy was disappointed in his 308 @ 1000yds with 168 & 175 gr. So he ordered 190 grain. But i don’t think he’s been back to the long range course since.

  5. Answer: “Yes, if you want to shoot 6.5 Creedmoor at long range”.

    Personally, I’m on that 6.2×52 (.243 Win) tip for long range competition shooting but that’s just my personal cup-o-tea.

    • How would you rate the .243 vs the .260 REM. vs the .280 British? I’ve though about doing an FAL in one of those calibers but have no idea which one of those 3 are the best performer ranked from #1 to #3. Only reason I threw the .280 British in there is because it’s one of the original calibers first considered for the FAL platform that is now impressively modernized. Not considering any of these for anything but hunting.

      • I don’t know much about .280 Brit.

        Going from memory when I selected the cartridge and built the rifle:

        .243 will generally shoot flatter than .260 and comes out of the muzzle hotter with less recoil. It will however lose velocity faster and the bullets tend to weigh significantly less. When you go to the top end of bullet weight for .243 (115gr) you start to get better performance across the board than you get from .260 in 147gr MatchKings. But that’s going to cost you on barrel wear when you start trying to push 115gr rounds at just shy of 3100fps.

        Really it depends on what you want to do with it. I use this in a bolt gun specifically for matches where all I care about is punching a piece of paper or getting enough impact on target that the RO calls a hit out to ~1200m. The gun has some compromises built into it because I have to carry the thing 40-60 miles over the course of two days so I’m not trying to lug the ultimate sniper rifle around. I see people do that and they regret that 20+lb rifle pretty quick.

        With a 95gr round like a Hornady SST I wouldn’t really want to try to kill much of anything past… hmmm. 600m or so. I know for a fact it will take mule deer cleanly at 500-550m but I wouldn’t try to push it much past that if you care to be ethical. Unless you’re varminting. Groundhogs or something of that size… coyotes… 800m if you’re a good shot. Maybe farther if you’re excellent.

    • Strych what twist is that barrel? Saw a match last year(?) a 243 re-barreled to a faster twist whent toe to toe against a 6.5 & a 6mm Creedmore. He was using a pretty long 6mm in that 243. Wasn’t your standard deer round.

  6. Problem with both 6.5 MM cartridges right now is ammo is nowhere to be found for either one. I do however see both .308 and .300 WM but both are currently about the same price per round. Interestingly .300 WM can still be found in small quantities on the shelves now and also could back in 2012 – 2013 when the other lunatic communist was in the WH but it’s never available in bulk like the .308 is. Again though there’s almost always about 100 rounds of .300 WM on any given store shelf that sells the gamut of ammo. Because of this I’m still considering a bolt gun in .300 WM if I wind up doing one at all. For now and a while in the future the 6.5 Creedmore needs more study while I watch it’s ammo situation. Very good article though and I enjoyed the reading as such I for always helps us to learn.

  7. 264 win mag, then the 7mm mag. the 270. I know the 264 & 7mm run out to a 1000 and more acurately. Right bullet & velocity. But the 6.5 Creedmore will regularly paste the 1400 yd target with less boom and recoil. A friend said he eventually hit a 1 mile 24×24″ with his. But I wasn’t there for that one.

    • Ol’sarge,

      It seems like .264 Winchester Magnum should allow for bullets with the same or even better ballistic coefficient than 6.5mm Creedmoor (which should produce similar or better “accuracy” with variable/unknown wind conditions). But then do typical .264 Winchester Magnum rifles have barrels with fast enough twist rates to stabilize those extra heavy bullets? Furthermore, like you said, 6.5mm Creedmoor can deliver similar/better “accuracy” with less boom and recoil.

      I went through a similar internal debate (with myself) several years ago when considering my first bolt-action rifle purchase. I ended up choosing .270 Winchester because ammunition is readily available everywhere and it stays supersonic well past all other calibers with readily available ammunition. The only exception was .300 Winchester Magnum. But why acquire a caliber with Magnum blast and recoil when I can get almost the same effective range (in terms of accuracy and terminal ballistics) with a non-Magnum caliber?

      Note: either 6.5mm Creedmoor was not yet available or I had not heard about it when I purchased my first bolt-action rifle in .270 Winchester. Had it been available or had I heard about it, I probably would have chosen 6.5 Creedmoor over .270 Winchester.

  8. As the author ever-so-briefly hinted in the article, I think it is all about wind deflection: the higher the ballistic coefficient of a bullet, the less that wind will deflect it.

    The truth of the matter is that wind is variable and no one can accurately see it. Thus, bullets that are less sensitive to wind will, in practice, be more “accurate”. And in that regard, bullets in the 6.5mm range will tend to have the best ballistic coefficients and thus be the most “accurate” bullets.

    Caveat: any caliber could have bullets with extremely high ballistic coefficients. Historically, however, established calibers never allowed long enough “overall length” specifications to accommodate long bullets with high ballistic coefficients. Thus, the chamber dimensions of typical established calibers simply do not support super-high ballistic coefficients.

    Additional caveat: while you could take a really long bullet with a really high ballistic coefficient and seat it really deep in the casing to make the cartridge fit inside a given chambering, that reduces propellant volume and, in turn, muzzle velocity which tends to negate the advantage of the super-high ballistic coefficient in variable/unknown winds.

  9. Uncommon – the Twist rate ! (as i learned) the Remington Sendero 264 is a 1:9 twist – I had more powder & more velocity but that twist would still not stabilize a Long RDF bullet compared to a nosler custom comp bullet. The further out I went, the worse the groups got. (.8MOA @ 1000 with the CC) By 1400 it was pretty bad. The Creedmore next to me, a Ruger Precision was 1:8 & walked right out to 1400 with out a miss and constantly pasted it. A 25-06 was thrilled he hit 1000. But the owner of the Ruger 6.5 Creed could not get his 308 to the 1000yd steel with 168 or 175 grain match ammo.

  10. >>> “The other popular, and now dying, rounds of the day such as 6.5 Grendel…”

    6.5 Grendel is dying? In long-distance shooting or the cartridge as a whole?

    I get that the cartridge never caught on due to the makers tradmarking (™) the cartridge which they had to drop to get SAAMI standardization for it. ‘Proprietary’ usually doesn’t help when it comes to consumer adoption. None the less, I still see complete uppers for 6.5 Grendel along with barrels, BCG’s, and magazines for it available online. Those businesses aren’t exactly offering liquidation prices on those pieces either.

    I’ve been debating whether to buy or build a 6.5 Grendel upper for my AR just for fun & giggles but if it’s ‘dying’ there’s no reason to go down that rabbit hole. Would appreciate more input and discussion from those more knowledgeable than me.

    • After an extended anticipation I just bought a new complete 6.5 Grendel upper. Problem only ammo I can find is 60 rods. of Wolf Military. I still have yet to get to the range but with all my notification requests sent out I still have yet to receive a call from anyone stating Grendel ammo is back in stock. Haven’t seen a scope with Grendel-specific calibration yet neither. I’m sure when the ammo debacle starts to clear up things will get better.

    • Yeah I didn’t know grendel was dying either. I guess I’ll keep it with my other dying calibers… 5.45×39 and ubiquitous 7.7 jap. Well the 7.7 is all but dead, and the 5.45×39 will be dead when the kid sniffer bans all imports by whatever reasoning his illegitimate regime can “think” up.

    • It’s a fun round.

      Just as an aside, you can get a Howa 1500 Mini barreled action in 6.5 Grendel, and “roll your own” with (for instance) an MDT stock and AR furniture. Depending on the model (pencil or heavy barrel, etc.) it can make for a nice light rifle.

      • Thanks for the reply!
        I forgot that Howa had come out with their bolt mini-action in 6.5 Grendel. Now my mind is running like crazy thinking of all the possibilities for something like this vs. collecting parts for my AR.

        Decisions, decisions…

  11. Last time I checked there were specific definitions for distance shooting:
    Close / Point Blank 0 – 300 meters
    Medium Range (MR) 300 – 600 meters
    Long Range (LR) 600 – 1000 meters
    Extreme LR (ELR) 1000 – 1600 meters
    Ultra LR (ULR) > 1600 meters
    Yes, the 308W is really MR, it can be used in LR, but 6.5 CM is capable in ELR band, and now the MRAD MK22 338 Norma Magnum covers ULR. Personally I am getting to old for heavy rifles so I am using 6mm ARC for MR and LR shooting and I like it. My 308Ws, 6.5CM, and 300WMs are all collecting dust in the storage racks. Close range happiness is a 300 Blackout AR pistol truck gun with a BAT Semi-auto Bullpup 12ga for CQB applications. Everything has its place.

  12. A while back I picked up 3 boxes of Nosler’s RDF (reduced drag factor) ammo for my .260 Rem, of which I’ve shot none out of a combination of fear of running out and typical Iowa winter weather. I did however, do a ballistic calculator comparison to the same Nosler load in 6.5 Crapmore. The .260 comes with a 130gr bullet at a BC of .615 (that’s pretty high) whereas the 6.5 comes with a 140gr bullet at a BC of .658 (that’s really high), however the Creedmoor also comes with a muzzle velocity 250fps lower. (Typically, all else being equal the .260 should have about 50fps over the 6.5.) I think I plugged in a typical Iowa elevation of 1000′. The results, the .260 remained supersonic for an extra 75 yards, although both were in the neighborhood of 1700 yards. The lighter, faster .260 bullet had the advantage in trajectory and wind deflection all the way out to 2000 yards. Which just goes to show you that the Creedmoor is a joke. I mean, they named it after a mental hospital in Queens ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creedmoor_Psychiatric_Center ), so that should tell you something.

    As far as the .308, it carries more energy out to 600 yards than either the .260 or 6.5 Creedmoor, albeit with more recoil, although less recoil than a .30-06. But if your only interest is pinging steel or punching holes in paper buy the Creedmoor and enjoy sitting at the cool kids’ table.

      • Sir, I am a veritable farting maniac.

        BTW, the point of my diatribe above isn’t solely that the .260 is just a better round, but that the whole premise of the Creedmoor is flawed in that the round can’t accelerate heavier bullets to the degree that there’s any advantage to them for long range shooting. Unless you’re shooting at 1 mile , and in that case you need a lot more cartridge anyway. Accuracy falls abruptly once the bullet goes subsonic.

  13. Just make sure you have the twist rate to stabilize those RDF’s – That’s the problem I ran into with the 264 win Mag. Sendero SFII. The shorter Custom Competition bullet was much better accuracy @ 600 & out. RDF’s got squirrely real quick. And i was pushing them past 3100FPS that day. with a 1:9 stock barrel.
    >> Check the on line “Twist Rate Stability Calculator” @ berger bullets to make sure.
    >> High B.C. ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, but it’s fun on paper!

  14. 6.5×55 is one of my favorite cartridges even though I currently have nothing chambered in it. The OAL for 6.5×55 is the same as .30-06 which is 80mm, and needs a long action to support.

    My longest range is 500 yards (about 460m) and a .308 is still enough for me. I may go 6.5CM at some point.

  15. People, people. Let’s not get caught up in the details, shall we?

    When faced with the question of “Do I need X in order to Y,” where “X” is a caliber one doesn’t already have, the answer is always “Yes.” The rest is just the details. 🙂

  16. The question itself is without meaning. It’s as if no one took ‘long range’ shots before 6.5CM came along.

    Do I need a Ferrari to get from point A to point B? No.

    Lots of things will do the job. Very few people are concerned about reaching out that far. Very few people are going to invest themselves in that.

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