The debate around 6.5 Creedmoor never seems to end. There have been many times where I’ve discussed this cartridge in my articles and there has always been some level of misunderstanding around it. So let’s talk about what 6.5 Creedmoor is and what it isn’t as far as a new shooter is concerned.
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is essentially, an Americanized version of the 6.5x55mm Mauser round that fits into almost anything that’s sized to fit a .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm. Before the detractors come out, understand that there really isn’t much room for debate on this. A quick look at the 2018 Hodgdon reloading manual shows that the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5×55 are extremely close as far as powder charge on most powders, with the 6.5×55 having a slight edge in case capacity and velocity.
There’s nothing new about launching a 140gr 6.5 bullet at 2500 to 2700 fps so don’t be deceived by modern the gun press, which often acts like this is some kind of brand new technology. The Swedish military fielded a 6.5x55mm cartridge called the SK PTR M/94 PRJ M/41 PRICK that fired a 139.9gr spitzer bullet loaded to fly at 2600 fps from the M96 Mauser rifle.
That load displays a trajectory within mere inches of most modern 6.5 Creedmoor factory loads of the same bullet weight. My point to the new shooter is this: 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t really new, but it’s still very effective. What the 6.5 Creedmoor does is bring this effectiveness to guns that we already use, which is why it’s often only a barrel replacement for a .308 Win rifle.
As a beginner or someone new to rifle shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a great cartridge. It fires long-for-its-caliber, aerodynamic bullets that are backed by a stout case and thick powder column. The cartridge was designed for match shooting and precision, so it’s hard to find a rifle that doesn’t shoot it well. It’s a great beginner’s rifle cartridge because it can do most things very well. But the newbie should know that it isn’t a mystical death ray.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has developed its target shooting reputation for good reason, but new shooters (and many, many experienced ones) should know that it is not an ethical cartridge for long range hunting. It’s actually quite small by comparison to many of its peers.
It is within the same performance envelope as rounds like the .257 Roberts, .243 Win, 7mm-08, and other midsized rifle cartridges. I would, for most game, consider the 6.5 Creedmoor to be a 300 yard cartridge with the option to go a touch further, probably 400-450 yards in a pinch on deer-sized game or smaller.
There are people who will debate this, and they’re entitled to their opinion, but the new shooter — especially those new to long range rifle — should know that there’s nothing honorable or admirable about injuring animals at long range just because you have a flat-shooting cartridge. The time-honored .30-06 and .270 are far superior hunting cartridges that are accessible to most shooters and offer much heavier bullets and better muzzle velocity for the bullet weight.
So, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to address the elephant in the room; comparing it to .308 Win. Sure, I’ll go there, if only for a moment.
A new shooter would be well served with either round depending on what they want to do. There’s a great deal of .308 hate out there, but it isn’t warranted. Jeremy’s recent article was fun and humorous on the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Win comparison and it ruffled some feathers.
He did make an exceptional point as to bolt actions and semi-auto rifles. If I had to pick today, I would choose a bolt action in 6.5 and a semi-auto in .308. It really depends on what you are looking to do and what your end goal is. For those who wanted this to be a 6.5 vs .308 showdown, I don’t have to time to debate apples and bananas , so you’ll have to read it somewhere else.
Some good points for a beginner looking at the 6.5 Creedmoor are:
Low recoil While not an exceptionally powerful cartridge to begin with, the 6.5 Creedmoor has very low recoil and it can be mitigated even further with a muzzle brake. The young hunter out there is well-served by this caliber. It’s easy and agreeable to shoot for the small-statured, recoil/pain sensitive, and women hunters.
Great accuracy As you can gather, the 6.5 Creedmoor is an inherently accurate cartridge that just seems to want to hit what you aim it at. It has great ballistics past 1,000 yards and is a favorite for shooting paper and steel plates at games like PRS.
Low ammunition cost Unlike many other match grade cartridges, the 6.5 Creedmoor can be had at relatively low expense. Good match ammo from great makers typically runs about $1.00 to $1.50 per cartridge.
Solid rifles The guns that are built to fire 6.5 Creedmoor were rarely designed in that caliber. Most started out as .308 Win guns and, because the two share the same size case head and overall length, it’s an easy conversion. The two even use the same magazines for the most part. This all means that, because of the saturation ff .308 rifles and systems out there, the 6.5 Creedmoor has inherited mature platforms, which has helped it to become so popular.
A few downsides to the 6.5 Creedmoor, especially for a new shooter include:
Relatively short barrel life. Unlike the 6.5x55mm, which has a long throat and generous case volume and relatively low chamber pressure (51,000 PSI), and thus an exceedingly long barrel life, the 6.5 Creedmoor has to go up to around 60,000 PSI to achieve the same velocities. That means that barrels will wear faster. A high-volume shooter will easily fire 3,000 rifle rounds per rifle in a competitive season, which is often the accurate life for a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel. By comparison, the .308 has an accurate barrel life beyond 8-9,000 rounds, or more than double the 6.5 CM. A vigorous competitor may be looking at a new barrel every year or two depending on their requirements.
Overstated performance Yes, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a fantastic and accurate cartridge. I love it and love what it has done for long range shooting. I don’t like that it has been overplayed as much as it has. A new shooter who buys a 6.5 Creedmoor will still have to practice just as much as the next guy who’s shooting .223 or .308. It won’t make you a better shooter, but it can remove some of the rough edges, especially when it comes to learning how to read wind and correct bullet drop. That said, wind and drop are still present on the 6.5 Creedmoor, despite what you may read.
Comparatively fewer ammo choices The problem with 6.5CM and all new cartridges is that they’re both made and broken by the availability of ammo. Cartridges like the .308 and .30-06 hold a massive advantage for the casual shooter in that they’re both mature and widely available. There are more and more choices for 6.5 Creedmoor all the time, but this can a factor for some people.
Some great rifles to take a look at that are chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor are listed below. There are of course some that I missed, as I do in every CFB article, but cut me some slack because I’m trying to keep this under 2,000 words.
Ruger Precision Rifle and Gunsite Scout These rifles both took the gun world by storm and for good reason. Ruger seems very adept at making what shooters want and it’s no different with these two. The RPR is a state-of-the-art bolt-action that has a huge number of accuracy-increasing features and is ready for the competition line out of the box. The Gunsite Scout, already a classic for most riflemen, can be had in 6.5 these days and it offers clean, traditional lines with enough modern spice to make it almost indispensable.
Savage Arms offers over two dozen models chambering 6.5 Creedmoor. These include their famous bolt actions and their new AR-10 style MSR 10. As you can expect from Savage, these will be as accurate as they are nice to look at.
Howa is one of the few companies that offers barreled actions for the hobby builder. You can find these actions, stocks, and accessories at places like Brownell’s. On the Brownell’s site, you can order all the parts you need to build your own custom Howa on a 6.5 Creedmoor barreled action.
Whether you ike it, love it, or just don’t get it, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a little bit of everything rolled into one shiny, sometimes misunderstood package. A beginner can do great things with this cartridge, but they should know their limits when it comes to hunting and their own skills. Expect the 6.5 Creedmoor to continue to do great things in the future and continue to improve from there.