Since its introduction in 2007, Hornady has continued to hit the sweet spot among long-range shooters with the 6.5 Creedmoor. A modification of the .30 TC and ultimately an offspring of the .308 Win., the 6.5 Creedmoor is effective because it capably seats bullets with high sectional density and ballistic coefficients, which are remarkably adept at producing flat trajectories and handling the wind. The 6.5 is also popular among competition shooters because it successfully houses these long, sleek bullets in a case that still fits in standard AR-10-style magazines and short-action bolt guns. As a result, the cartridge has been popular in competition and among game hunters.
An interesting development occurred in 2007 when Outdoor Life’s John Snow approached Hornady about necking the popular 6.5 down to 6mm. Snow originally intended to use the project merely as a primer on wildcatting, but an accidental byproduct arose from his inquiry: the cartridge got picked up by shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and became wildly successful. Picking up on this trend, Ruger now offers its Precision Rifle in 6.5 and 6mm Creedmoor, lending additional appeal to an already proven round.
In terms performance, the 6mm Creedmoor offers similar ballistics as the .243 Win., which has been around since 1955. The problem with the .243, at least as far as competition shooters are concerned, is that when you seat bullets all the way out the round will no longer fit a standard AR-10-style magazine. The 6mm Creedmoor takes care of this problem, allowing long-range shooters — who are more often than not doing their own reloading — to seat bullets farther out and retain the use of AR-10-style magazines. In a long-range game where scoring depends on hitting targets as quickly as possible, this allows for semi-auto use in standard configurations.
Among its benefits over the .243, the 6mm Creedmoor has a longer neck which provides additional surface area to grip bullets, improving neck tension and resulting in improved accuracy. Depending on load, the 6mm Creedmoor will produce velocities between 3,000 and 3,150 fps, which equates to excellent accuracy out to at least 1,000 yards (PRS aficionados launch them out to 1,300 yards).
The downside, until more recently, was the need for necking down your own brass and reloading it yourself. While serious shooters won’t balk at that prospect, it limits the overall popularity and widespread usage of the cartridge. Hornady solved that problem by producing brass and factory loads, which are available today in the Precision Hunter and Match lines and feature the new ELD-X bullet at 103 grains or the ELD Match bullet at 108 grains.
Sending Lead Down Range
To see just how capable these 6mm loads from Hornady are, I headed to the range with Ruger’s new Precision Rifle chambered in 6mm Creedmoor and topped with Nikon’s Black X1000 4-16x50mm scope. Shooting from a Caldwell BR Pivot bench and sandbags at 100 yards, I measured performance data from five, three-shot groups of each load.
First of all, the 6mm Creedmoor is incredibly light recoiling, which allows you to stay on the scope and quickly reacquire the target. Between paper and steel targets, I fired a total of 80 rounds in roughly two hours without recoil fatigue, something that’s essential for the practice required for long-range competition. At 10.8 pounds (without scope) and braked, recoil isn’t an issue with the bolt-operated Ruger Precision Rifle.
I zeroed the rifle at 100 yards on paper, then proceeded with the first five groups using the 103-grain ELD-X load. I loaded three shots at a time and moved from group to group without stopping. The best group with the 103-grain bullet was measured with a digital caliper at .350 inches, which is more than impressive for a factory load. Average group size came in at .882 inches. Velocities were less consistent with this load than the 108-grain variant, with an average of 3,037 fps and a standard deviation of 33.2 fps. The extreme spread was 68 fps, which helps explain the ever-so-slightly larger group size and a mild flier here or there.
Next, I tested the 108-grain load, which averaged groups of .654 inches, a hair better than the 103-grain ELD-X and not surprising given the standard deviation in velocity of 14.8 fps, half that of the 103-grain load. The best group with the 108-grain ELD Match was .312 inches, which was exceptional given a fluctuating wind between 5-10 mph. Average velocities were 2,926 fps.
After completing accuracy testing at 100 yards, I set up steel targets at 450 and 600 yards and shot from the prone position from sandbags. Playing a 10-mph wind and 20 MOA of adjustment on the elevation turret (with a 100-yard zero), I slapped three shots with the 103-grain ELD-X on a 12×20-inch ShootSteel.com target on the lower center portion. I switched to the 108-grain bullets and had three shots in the same area. Moving to 600 yards, the results were similar and equally impressive.
With factory loads and an increasing number of manufacturers producing rifles for the 6mm Creedmoor, I expect it to be a popular cartridge for years to come. It certainly delivers where it’s most important — extreme accuracy at long ranges. For that reason, it would make an exceptional predator cartridge, especially if you really want to reach out and touch something.
For more information about Hornady’s 6mm Creedmoor loads, click here.
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