If any 21st Century cartridge has changed the shooting landscape for precision marksmen and hunters alike it’s the 6.5 Creedmoor. While the short-action 6.5 Creedmoor is smaller and lighter than .30-caliber rounds, it certainly shoots flatter and farther, thus more accurately, than cartridges like the iconic .308 Win. and even boasts more downrange energy. What does this mean? It means 6.5 Creedmoor has set the shooting world on fire.
Glen Seekins, founder and owner of Seekins Precision, also supports this ballistic explanation for 6.5 Creedmoor popularity.
“The biggest reason for the 6.5 Creedmoor boom is the ballistic advantage for long range shooting — not so much energy on target but minimal wind drift and elevation drop; it’s very good.” Seekins said. “The bottom line is greatest value … how flat the 6.5 Creedmoor shoots with minimal recoil.”
Indeed, superior ballistics, minimal recoil, reasonable cost and increasing availability all appeal to precision shooters and hunters. To better understand the exodus from the cult of the .308 and unprecedented attraction to the 6.5 Creedmoor, consider this dose of precision caliber history, beginning with the .308 Win.
When it comes to sniper rifles, .308 Win. systems ruled the roost for 60 years. A consummate performer, the .308 Win. caught the shooting world by storm in 1952. Shortly after, the U.S. military turned to the 7.62×51 NATO. While Hornady led a 6mm charge in 2008, resulting in the 6.5 Creedmoor, U.S. military leadership was hot on the .30 caliber trail for ballistics to the .308.
They seem to have found what they were after in both the Army’s new M2010, adopted in 2010 and chambered in .300 Win. Magnum, and the U.S. .338 Lapua SOCOM precision rifle. As an 8-year Marine Corps veteran myself and being quite familiar with doing “the most with the least,” it is no surprise my beloved Corps has continued to utilize the outdated M40 .308. The problem? Ballistics research and development have left Marine snipers out-ranged — well within effective range of combatants while at extended range for their M40 .308s.
Grouping Better + Spending Less = A New Standard?
Of course a larger issue plagues civilian marksmen and hunters in terms of costs. While .30-caliber performers like .338 Lapua may be the wave of the future for military snipers, the cost of these munitions is not practical for those who have to crack open wallets and break the bank.
The guys at Hornady saw the train well before it hit the station on the civilian side and aimed to produce a cost-effective replacement for the .308 for competitive shooters and hunters alike. Thus the 6.5 was born, and it didn’t take long for serious shooters and ballistics fanatics to take notice.
Since Hornady blessed the shooting world with 6.5 Creedmoor, consider its ammo pricing on select popular cartridges — all things considered equal, especially between the .308 Win. and the military’s version, the 7.62×51 NATO:
- 5 Creedmoor 140-grain ELD Match – 20/Bx — $38.60
- .338 Lapua 250-grain BTHP Match – 20/Bx — $121.05
- .300 Win. Mag. 195-grain BTHP Match – 20/Bx — $50.48
Considering the cost of ammunition in 2016 — and some of the attacks firearm and ammunition producers have faced over recent years, including talk of bans, caliber restrictions and micro-stamping — shooting enthusiasts remain cost-conscious and look for opportunities to acquire improved ballistics, precision accuracy and reliable repeatability without higher price points. That said, better all-around performance than the .308 Win. without the price tags of .338 Lapua and .300 Win. Mag. speaks volumes for a push to the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Better Ballistics? Better Believe It!
An odd mix of stars aligned to bring Hornady’s magic caliber to the forefront of target shooting and hunting popularity. While the most significant recession since the Great Depression transformed our nation’s economy and forced people to make conscious spending choices at every level, especially in terms of recreation, the 6.5 Creedmoor offered a comparable low-price option with better overall ballistics.
Considering ballistic coefficients and the Gavre function of drag (G1 for flat bullets or G7 for boat tails) for example, aerodynamics matters in long-range precision shooting. In a nutshell, the higher the BC number, the lower the drag. Sometimes the difference is considerable.
While a 175-grain .308 Win. runs approximate BCs of .461 (G1) and .243 (G7), a 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor BC trumps the .308 soundly with respectable BC approximations of .610 (G1) and .305 (G7). The 6.5 Creedmoor’s muzzle velocity and energy also are impressive, with 2,710 fps and 2,283 fpe respectively; however, the .308 comes in higher at 2,840 fps and 3,008 fpe.
Unfortunately, the .308 cannot keep up the muscle. At 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor still performs at 2,023 fps and 1,273 fpe overtaking the .308’s velocity of 1,951 fps; .308 energy still leads at 1,420 fpe. Even worse for the .308, at 1,000 yards the 6.5 Creedmoor still runs over 1,400 fps with 615-plus fpe while the .308 drops to 1,142 fps and 507 fpe. Even at 1500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor continues to fly at over 1,000 fps. Finally, in terms of sonic, or subsonic as it were, the 6.5 Creedmoor becomes subsonic after 1,300 yards while the .308 becomes subsonic after 1,000 yards — in the interest of standards, based on the speed of sound recorded as 1,100 fps at sea level.
Precision Shooters Calling the Shots
Some of the world’s best shooters have influenced purchases, too. Nearly half of the nation’s top-50 precision shooters choose a 6.5mm caliber with Creedmoor placing second in popularity among professionals behind the 6.5×47 Lapua; however, that round is also tougher to find. Scenar offers a 6.5×47 for approximately $2.50 per round — more than 60 cents more per round than the example of Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 140-grain ELD Match ammo.
Glenn Seekins has also observed this 6.5mm shift in the precision world.
“The 6.5 Creedmoor caught on with precision shooters quickly. Previous to the 6.5 CM, shooters had to reload or purchase expensive custom ammunition,” he said. “As the 6.5 CM crept into custom rifle world, manufacturers like us and Ruger jumped in. We knew the caliber would be popular both in firearms and in the availability of factory ammunition.”
As a result, the 6.5 Creedmoor not only has staying power in the Precision Rifle Series and other high-stakes competitions, it spends its fair share of time on the award podium and is likely to stay there for quite some time. In terms of 6.5mm, between the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5×47 Lapua, the caliber has won 50 percent of the top 100 precision rifle matches.
“As far as PRS matches go, the 6.5 Creedmoor is definitely one of the most popular competition cartridges,” Seekins said. “I shot with Bo Brock and watched him drive his 6.5 CM gas gun to the top spot in one of the largest PRS shoots in the nation.”
With countless wins under the caliber’s belt, not only do top-ranked precision shooters take notice and buy into this kind of performance, so do hunters.
6.5 Creedmoor Earns Its Rightful Place
Who knew Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor would cause such a stir? The combination of cost, availability, ballistic performance and outright success from the world’s best precision shooters all combined to create an endorsement seldom seen in the ammo. Let’s face it, for every caliber worth its weight, there are 10 more with minor differences being produced, perhaps because somebody wants their name on a cartridge. The 6.5 Creedmoor is not one of those. Even the better-performing 6.5×47 Lapua, which got its start in 2005, doesn’t get the same love as the Creedmoor. The 6.5 Creedmoor was, until Weatherby’s 6.5-.300, the first buzz-worthy cartridge I can recall since the .260 Remington.
As a result of such an endorsement, and because so many precision shooters and marksmen in general also hunt, the popularity shift from precision shooting to hunting and even modern sporting rifles was inevitable.
I mention MSRs because the 6.5 Creedmoor grew in popularity in both bolt-action and semi-automatic MSR platforms exponentially over traditional wood-stocked classics, although Ruger produces quite a nice M77 Hawkeye Predator Rifle and Weatherby also offers a nice Vanguard. While I am not sure if this trend is because traditionalists like to stick to classic mainstream calibers or not, I do know the 6.5 CM short action certainly has earned its place in those luxurious, head-turning, exotic wood stocks; moreover, the 6.5 is becoming somewhat mainstream with increasing availability. Even the Weatherby Mark V is now available in 6.5-.300, a newly unveiled caliber actually birthed by Roy Weatherby himself in the early 1950s — another story in itself.
Three Lock, Stock and Ultra-Cool Barrels
As far as modern sporting rifles, the Ruger Precision Rifle, a bolt action chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, is a jaw-dropping production rifle with the kind of accoutrements you would expect from a custom build without the price! MSRP on this 22-inch barreled beast ranges from $1,399 to $1,599, which is sure to turn heads at firearm dealers across the country.
I recently had the good fortune of shooting the Ruger Precision Rifle. Fresh off a sub 3-inch group at 900 yards with my McRees Precision BR10, I was a little skeptical of the RPR’s potential. I found out quickly my concerns were not warranted. I mounted a Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30×50 FFP riflescope and zeroed at 100 yards. The result was a single elongated hole after the final three shots.
A few days later I had the opportunity to shoot longer range at 500 yards. The result at 500 was sub-3-inch; in fact, I was able to cover the group with my iPhone 6. While I feel comfortable I could have grouped well out to 1,000, I did not have the opportunity. At 500, I can attest that the RPR is a match-ready production homerun sure to scratch the itch of countless enthusiasts looking for a way into precision shooting or long range hunting.
The Seekins SP10 in 6.5 Creedmoor also turns heads as a world class semi-automatic offering ready to win precision shooting matches and stop predators in their tracks past 800 yards. Seekins built its impressive 6.5 on the ultra-popular CNC machined 7075-T6 aluminum iRMT upper receiver. Seekins also incorporated a free-floating handguard for increased stability, match-grade barrel, crisp 3½-pound trigger, fully adjustable Magpul PRS stock and precision-machined, fully ambidextrous lower — all of it designed to give marksmen the ride of their lives. With an MSRP of $2,650, the Seekins SP10 6.5 Creedmoor still delivers a truly custom rifle feel and top-tier shooting experience at a rock solid price point.
One last rifle worth its weight in gold both because of build quality and price point is Radical Firearms’ 6.5 Creedmoor RF-10. The RF-10 shoots as good as it looks, and like the Seekins, delivers the kind of quality, repeatable shootability and precision accuracy one would expect to find in expensive custom builds.
The RF10 system boasts matching precision-machined upper and lower receivers, a fluted 416R stainless steel match-grade barrel, proprietary coating and free-floating keymod rail system, billet trigger and a fully adjustable MBA-1 modular stock. Shooting the 6.5 Creedmoor RF10 with a crisp trigger and positive reset was dreamy to say the least. At an MSRP of just $1,599, your customers are in for quite a pleasant surprise.
6.5 Creedmoor On The Hunt
Either way, the 6.5 fire has surely ignited in the hunting world.
While the cartridge is quite an amazing caliber choice for deer, antelope, hogs and other mid-sized animals, its dominant performance in predator hunting is also a big factor — especially at long range.
Moreover, many agree the 6.5 Creedmoor is a formidable cartridge, even for big game such as elk. In fact, many suggest — and ballistics support — the 6.5 Creedmoor’s terminal performance as it relates to any North American game animal. Considering the dream combination the 6.5 CM presents, including higher velocity and energy at extended ranges, greater sectional density (.287) for deeper penetration, better BC for improved trajectory and even reduced recoil, it’s no wonder hunters are following suit with precision shooters and jumping aboard the 6.5 Creedmoor train.
Whether your clients are competitive precision shooters, hardcore hunters or both, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is worth their attention. If they’re not shooting this amazing cartridge now, they will be.