In a comment in another article, I recently wrote, “If cost and weight are not an issue, there’s really no need to have a bolt gun anymore.” The MasterPiece Arms MPA 6.5BA Creedmoor bolt action rifle proves that might have been the dumbest thing I’ve ever said. Because Lord, I need this rifle.
Out of the box, the 6.5BA looks good. The chassis — and for once I’m good not just calling it a stock — is MPA’s own design, manufactured from 6061 aluminum. It’s a rock solid platform that houses all the goodies this rifle has to offer. It also does the most important thing very well: it holds the barrel action in a firm, consistent manner. On top of that, it has a few extra features . . .
First, the 6.5BA’s optic rails include a 20MOA rail long enough to comfortably position true long range scopes and a rail section at the end for night vision devices. Texas pigs don’t, but I really appreciate the feature. For this gun, however, I’d rather just pull the scope off and swap it out with my M646 6X fixed night vision scope. That would make this gun the ultimate night time hog sniping machine.
The 6.5BA’s chassis houses a bubble level in the back of the receiver. Even at 400 yards, a rifle that’s not level can cause you to miss — especially when you’re kneeling. The level’s position on the 6.5BA means I never lose my cheek-stock weld while checking the gun’s level.
If you’re one of those truly impressive shooters who can play with the cant of your rifle to predictably affect the trajectory, you might want a level with more graduation marks. Of course, that’s pretty easy to add. It’s something to see someone like Todd Hodnett make a wind call at one mile out, and then intentionally cant his rifle to adjust. Witchcraft. For the rest of us, this will do just fine.
Unlike some previous versions, this gun comes with a simple AR-style pistol grip with a single finger tab. Oddly enough, I don’t like this type of grip on an AR, I prefer a flat-fronted grip; I like to get my hand as high up on the handle as possible. Here, however, it makes for a nice rest and compliments the thumb shelf built into the chassis.
Putting your firing hand thumb on the side of the rifle instead of on the stock behind the receiver makes a bigger difference for some people more than others. I’m some people. I’ve heard people say this translates less of your pulse into the gun, improving accuracy. I’m doubtful. I can tell you that it helps me pull the gun straight back into my shoulder and encourages me to use better trigger control. On this gun, the relief cut into the stock for that thumb is just where it needs to be.
The trigger itself is the Timney 510. Mine was set at 1.9 lbs. and broke clean and crisp with zero creep or grit. I’m a trigger snob. The triggers on my bolt guns say Jewell and they are outstanding. This is every bit as good, and it actually hurts me a little to say that.
The 6.5BA includes a barricade stop, something I considered silly on a bolt gun. If I want to brace the front of the gun against something I just put it up against the front of the bi-pod. The barricade stop mounts anywhere up and down the bottom of the chassis with a simple pin and hole mechanism. I figured it would just get in the way and I would end up leaving it in the case.
And then, while sitting in box blind to see how the rifle handles in a tight space, I found myself comfortably bracing the gun about halfway down the chassis against the barricade stop. So yeah, it turned out to be pretty useful after all.
Unlike other similar guns, this rifle’s stock is fixed. If I’m constantly getting in and out of a vehicle, I like a stock that will fold. My Accuracy International rifles all had folding stocks. I thought it was a great feature at the time. Only one problem: I never folded them. Keep it simple, stupid.
One other thing on the chassis I found helpful; the magainze release. It’s a wide paddle on each side, making it easy to swap mags, even if my hands are sweaty or wearing winter gloves.
As with many quality firearms manufacturers justifiably proud of their barrels, MPA recommends a complete barrel break-in procedure. Although I didn’t skip this procedure entirely, I didn’t go all out. I swabbed the bore and let it sit (and yes, I use a bore guide…always use a bore guide). Then I shot a magazine, swabbed the bore and let it cool. Then I repeated it all a few times.
Lengthy brake-in procedures on any firearm are annoying, and generally make me grumpy. Sell me a complete product. If it requires breaking in, brake it in before you ship it to me. It’s always been my experience that the recommended break-in procedure isn’t required, and this rifle is no exception.
MPA recommends that you never get the barrel too hot to touch. Maybe that depends on what they mean by hot. It would take a lot of shooting to actually get this rifle too hot to touch. I like playing Pound the Pigs, and when I do, the barrel certainly gets warm.
To mimic some of the shots I’ve had on sounders in the past, I get to a kneel and shoot four rounds at 100 yards as fast as I can while keeping them in a 6″ circle. Then I do it again at 300 yards, still within the same circle. That heats up the barrel and I did it several times. At no point would I have considered the barrel too hot to touch. As we will see, accuracy didn’t suffer a bit.
As far as recoil, 6.5 Creedmoor is a notoriously light shooting round. This MPA bolt gun is a twelve-and-a-half pound rifle with a muzzle brake. If you feel this gun recoil, you did it wrong. This round delivers more energy at 1,000 yards than my .45ACP does at the muzzle, but the recoil feels more like my three-year-old tapping me on the shoulder to get my attention.
That brings me to the only thing I would change on this gun, the muzzle brake. The 6.5BA’s muzzle brake works extremely well, looks good, is solid, doesn’t catch on anything…all that good stuff. If you want a muzzle brake, this a fine one.
But unless it’s a very heavy magnum or an ultralight rifle in a magnum caliber, I don’t want a muzzle brake. And I don’t want the guy next to me on the range or the guy I’m hunting with to have a muzzle brake. The noise is just too much and this rifle doesn’t need it for recoil management.
If it were mine, I’d pull the brake and slip on a silencer instead. That’s easy enough since it comes factory threaded. Much thanks there.
The 6.5BA is not the mountain pack rifle you’re looking for. Everything about it says that it’s a prone gun, or at least a gun designed to pick up, move, and put down. So if your criteria is closer to a seven-pound short action bolt gun, the 6.5BA isn’t the gun for you.
It’s the rifle for me, though, and one I’d take with me, even on long hunts. My true mountain hunts have been with a bow, but I’ve hunted up and down the desert hills of west Texas for many days at a time. When it’s not in my hands, which is the vast majority of the time, my rifle is slung. A 12.5lb rifle is nothing slung (I prefer and recommend a biathlon sling), and it stays nothing when shot.
But all of that is bells and whistles because if it won’t thread a needle at this price, it’s not worth its weight. Folks, the 6.5BA threads the needle.
The 6.5 Creedmor can be a tricky round, and so the barrel labeled for the 140gr AMax is helpful. It also means that I can test this gun with a store bought round approved by the manufacturer. That store bought round consistently shot under 3/8 of an inch for a five-round group at 100 yards. With hand loads using 140gr AMax bullets, the 6.5BA shot closer to .2″ groups, and one even better.
Ok great…it shoots the round it was made for. But that’s not the round I want to shoot. Over the last six years or so, I’ve been awfully impressed with the performance of the Nosler Accubond round. So I loaded up some 140gr Accubonds to just under max pressure and let them rip. I think my largest five-round group was .28″ (above).
When I have to break out the Brown and Sharpe calipers to measure a group size, that’s a tiny group. Especially with a hunting bullet. My other 6.5 Creedmoor guns are particularly sensitive to the distance from the ogive to the lands. I’m betting this gun is no different. Which makes me wonder how tiny I could really get those groups if I played around with the jump, instead of just going with the book specs.
What about distances farther out? Using the 140gr AMax, the 140gr Accubond, and the 129 grain Nosler Accubond Long Range pills, I was able to put five out of five rounds into a 10″ target at 800 meters. And I did that a few times. I went four for five twice and five for five once at the same distance with a 6″ target. I’m no professional shooter, and I did that in a full value, very tricky wind. Considering wind is my inconsistent nemesis, that sold me right there.
Be advised: as of now, and probably always, the 6.5 Creemoor is a reloader’s cartridge. So if you are not reloading, I would suggest you 1) reevaluate your life decisions, and 2) don’t buy a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. A couple of years ago, Nick reviewed the 2014 version of this rifle in .308 and loved it. The updated version is even better, and it’s nice to see that there is consistent quality and improvement coming from MasterPiece.
Specifications: MPA 6.5BA Creedmoor Bolt Action Rifle
Caliber – 6.5mm Creedmoor
Action – Kelbly’s Atlas Tactical
Barrel – Spencer/MPA Hand Lapped Barrel
Chassis – MPA Tactical Aluminum Chassis
Chassis Weight – 5.2 lbs
Rifle Weight – 12.5 lbs (no mag or optic, 24″ Sendero Barrel Profile)
Barrel Twist – 1:8 (other twist rates available)
Barrel Length – 24″ Standard
Muzzle Thread – 5/8-24 TPI
Barrel Profile – Sendero profile (others available)
Monopod – Included
Barrier Stop – Included
Front Bridge – Removable (included)
Coating – Cerakote
Magazine – AICS or AW Mag Compatible. (10 Round AICS Magazine Included)
Length of Pull – 13.75-15″
Trigger – Timney 510 (Calvin Elite or Rifle Basix, L1 or Lv1).
Pull Weight – 1.5-4 lbs.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * * * *
It’s a bolt gun, so usually, as long as your arm works, so does the gun. But some bolt guns in 6.5 Creedmoor can have feeding issues or be finicky with brass. I had no issues at all.
Accuracy * * * * *
To get to a five-star review on a bolt gun of this cost I expect 1/2 MOA or better. I got better. Much better. Consistently better, and without trying too hard. With hunting rounds.
Style * * * * *
Utilitarian, but still sleek. It doesn’t look or feel like plastic. Nothing shiny and all the angles have a purpose. I dig it.
Customize This * * * * *
Rails and places to put rails everywhere. The optic rails are long and well placed, but the bipod rail is way out front. It accepts either AW or AICS magazines and the barrel comes threaded.
Overall * * * * *
I try hard to keep guns out of the five-star territory. They really have to earn a top score. You may have noticed a lot of great guns that I rave about still get 4½-star scores. But I just can’t find anything that would reasonably take away from this gun. It’s comfortable, flexible, reliable, and quarter-minute accurate. Sure, it’s pricey, but for what it delivers, it is below, and sometimes way below, what other companies offer. This is my must-have rifle.