The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t a new round, it was introduced in 2007 by Hornady. But this will be remembered as the year it began its dominance in the marketplace. In reference to .308, I think the words of Winston Churchill say it best. “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning.”
I remember the first time I shot a rifle in 6.5, five years ago at Woody’s Hunting and Rifle Club, back in North Carolina. I was with my friend Damon Woodall, shooting my 18-inch LaRue in .308 preparing for a match. Damon had the first rifle I had ever seen in the new caliber, and let me try it on the same target that I had just engaged. I don’t remember exactly the distance or conditions, but I do remember: the Creedmor required a full 2 mils less in elevation and about ½ the wind hold. I had no desire to make a switch, especially given the price of factory ammo at the time. But it stuck with me, performance wise.
Fast forward a few years, and here we are. In the time since, I spent a lot of hours using up my old stock, or training military guys, which is still a .308 affair. Being a retired Soldier doesn’t lend itself to a lot of frivolous purchases, and my wife is not what I would call keen on new firearms. At SHOT show last January, it seemed like every conceivable platform was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, from hunting rifles to ARs. My interest peaked. My first rifle review of a 6.5 was the Tikka T3 TAC A1, which performed so well, I had to buy it. At the time, I intended to at some point borrow another in .308, for a proper 6.5 Creedmoor versus .308 Win. shootout. Over the months though, I have come to realize that would be a waste of time. 6.5 Creedmoor is the winner in almost every conceivable way.
Hornady’s Development of the 6.5
Hornady really crushed this one out of the park in the development of the 6.5 Creedmoor. It was designed from the ground up to be an accurate rifle round first, not a marketing gimmick. It unquestionably helps that the engineering team involved were also competitive shooters. I will leave it to the 40-pound foreheads to explain why the sectional density and shape give it a better ballistic coefficient (BC). I am content to be told it is made of magic beans. The point is, if you plug it into a ballistic calculator or use it in the real world, two things become apparent. It will out fly .308 in trajectory, and stomp it into a mud hole against the wind. That alone, however, isn’t enough. A lot of wildcat cartridges will do the same. And if I think that, why not 6mm Creedmoor, 260 Remington or 6.5x 47 Lapua instead? There are a lot of things going for those calibers too. But the decision will be made on a number of factors, most of which point to 6.5 CM.
Ballistics— American Gunner 140-grain BTHP out of a 24-in. barrel
Ballistics— Hornady Match 147-grain ELD out of a 24-in. barrel
Benefits of the 6.5
First is price and availability. I knew 308 was finished the day I logged onto the Hornady website, and 6.5 CM was cheaper. This is usually true now across the major manufacturers if we are talking about premium ammo. You can find Winchester White box or surplus ammo cheaper by a margin, but for any precision work, it is useless. Apples to apples, match grade or hunting, 6.5 costs less nowadays. And popularity is exploding. Not only are rifles chambered in 6.5 across the board, but every brand makes ammo. If you are making a decision today, 6.5 Creedmoor is cheaper to feed than .308, and almost as available.
Second, the 6.5 Creedmoor has shown to feed as reliably from semiauto magazines as the .308. AR-10-style rifles are still not common, but they are coming. The second someone produces a semiauto that consistently shoots 1 MOA or less, .308 is finished. It recoils less, the bullet flies better, and the ammo is lighter.
The only question left, how does Creedmor do with shortened barrels? The .308 isn’t optimal out of an 18-inch barrel either, but it does work. Barrel shortening doesn’t affect all calibers equally, but it’s time to find out. If 6.5 works out of an 18-inch or a 16-inch — it’s game over. As long as it retains enough velocity to match .308, why wouldn’t you?
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Third, 6.5 Creedmoor is well suited for military applications. We still don’t know the terminal effect on human beings, and that is a big question. Only combat testing will give us the answer on that. The 6.5 caliber is not without precedent in military history. The 6.5×55 Swedish is almost ballistically identical to 6.5, and was used up to World War II. It is still used to hunt reindeer and moose in Scandinavia, which means it probably packs enough wallop for bipeds. Hornady just released a 147 grain ELD round, which matches the weight of M80 ball. M80 ball is one of the most prolific .308 machine gun rounds. That means the potential exists for a 240G in the new round, something that would have to be done to phase out .308 completely. All that remains is proof of concept in tracer and armor piercing rounds.
During testing, I used my Tikka T3 TAC A1 with a Nightforce ATACR 7-35x50mm. I shot it out to 500 meters, which it produced roughly 3.5-inch groups on a target. As we all know the shooter is the weak link in any accuracy test, but I was pleased with how consistent — all it all they’re pretty impressive. Later we’re going to test the 140-grain American Gunner loads in a rifle that has a little bit fast twist rate to see if that helps stabilize them better.
The 6.5 Creedmoor represents one of the greatest leaps forward in ballistics I have seen in my lifetime. It is a night and day difference from the .308. The 7.62x51mm won’t go extinct tomorrow, that is certain. You can buy a new rifle today in 45-70, and that has been obsolete for most applications for 100 years. But 6.5 Creedmoor is the way forward. And if you haven’t gotten on the train, it should be on your list of things to do soon.
For more information about Hornday’s 6.5 Creedmoor, click here.
To purchase a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor on GunsAmerica, click here.