Updated: Mar 5, 2020
An early writeup of mine on this controversial little cartridge.
I’m not a band wagoner, nor a follower of trendy fads. Not even close. Now the downside to this is that sometimes when something great comes along, I’m the last one to clamber aboard. So unfolds the following tale… Anytime I hear about a great new cartridge on the market, I casually reach for my Pre-64 Model 70 Winchester .30-06 and say, “Oh, that’s neat. Talk to me in 10 years.”
If people are still buying it in significant numbers a decade after its introduction, we can start a conversation. You may see the 7mm STW for reference. Or the .25 WSSM. Oh, hey, .45 GAP anyone?
Several years ago at a distributor show, this little blip of a cartridge came across my radar, to wit, a new 6.5 cartridge named Creedmoor. Having more than a little appreciation for that particular under-rated bullet diameter, I immediately inquired into its lineage, and multiple industry sources indicated that it was basically a .308 Win necked down to a .26 caliber. The truck bearing my enthusiasm suffered a broken axle and slewed into a ditch.
The .260 Rem, version 2.0.
The Wheel. Reinvented.
My mental reaction was a polite golf clap followed by a bellowed, “What else?!” and I quickly moved on towards the nearest table of shiny objects shaped like bolt action rifles.
In later discussion, I found out that the 6.5 was developed by Hornady, and I filed that tidbit away for future reference, as I have a healthy respect for the good folks at that company. They know their business, and do it very well. Regardless, the 6.5 Creedmoor blip faded and moved completely off my radar, at least for the time being.
Then everyone started coming into the store, asking for and buying rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor. I would occasion across random gun articles touting its attributes at extreme ranges, and increasingly by People Who Know About These Things. I started poking around into who was winning what rifle matches with what caliber, and the 6.5 kept cropping up. Dredging up the tattered shreds of my Creedmoor interest, I dove back into the cartridge with renewed enthusiasm.
So it’s not EXACTLY a .308 necked down. It’s based off of a rimless .307 Winchester, which is a rimmed, thicker version of the .308 Winchester. What’s the old joke that says rattlesnake meat tastes like frog legs, and frog legs taste like chicken? So the parent case of the 6.5 is the .307 Winchester, and the parent case of the .307 is the .308 Win. If you successfully read that paragraph while preserving some measure of sanity, you are to be commended.
Anyway, the basis for the development of the Creedmoor was to intentionally create a high-performance long range cartridge that would shoot high-Ballistic Coefficient bullets (but also fit short action rifles), have low recoil, offer readily available factory ammo at reasonable prices, be very reloader-friendly, and have long barrel life. By the almost unanimous industry-wide feedback, the developers went 5-for-5 in nailing down those particulars.
The good guys over at Hornady took the .307 Win, did away with the rim, and shortened it, giving it a bit less body taper and sharper shoulder angle than its older cousin, the .260. The 26- caliber offering from Remington certainly did very well at long range matches, but a relative shortcoming of the .260 Remington was that with longer match bullets, the projectiles had to be seated very deeply to keep overall cartridge length in check. The shorter 6.5 needs no such handicap and can have the longest .26 caliber bullets seated at normal depths.
What’s the advantage of longer bullets? I’m glad you asked. Generally speaking, (although there are other factors), longer bullets are heavier for caliber, boast a higher Ballistic Coefficient, and also a higher Sectional Density. What does this mean to you, the shooter? There are reams of technical data and specs and entire articles devoted to those two topics, but to break it down in simple terms:
High Ballistic Coefficient – Goes Farther Faster, with less drop and wind drift.
High Sectional Density – Kills Stuff Better when it gets there, by which I mean superior penetration and bullet performance on live critters.
Now this… this is the stuff that gets me excited. You see, I only and always shoot heavy-for-caliber bullets in all my rifles. My 7mm Mag? Only 160-grain or heavier need apply. And oh, dear .30-06 of mine, why shouldest thou shoot aught less than a 180-grain missile? And thou, oh .270 Winchester of my heart, why dost thou fret at the 150-grain feedings, and only group well with 130-grains? Verily shalt thou be sold, and thine inheritance given to another!
By which I mean I can’t get my dang .270 to shoot 150-grains bullets, so I want to swap it for one that does. Now why do I shoot heavy bullets? Essentially, because they retain velocity longer than lighter bullets, and offer better penetration on game animals. Sure, lighter bullets boast a higher muzzle velocity, but who shoots game animals at the muzzle?
Now all of this is a relatively moot point when you’re shooting whitetail deer at 85 yards with a .30-06, as the potential venison is unlikely to take a 150-grain shot through the boiler room and run off thinking, “Dang – glad that wasn’t a 180-grain!” When hunting elk at 400 yards, it’s anything but a moot point. In either case, I really do take satisfaction in going to work with the knowledge that I’ve armed myself with the best hammer available.
I said all that to say this:
Rather than a reboot of the .260, we now we have a charming, low-recoil 6.5 cartridge, readily adapted to longer, heavier projectiles; a cartridge that lends itself to superior performance both as a match cartridge and as a hunting round.
Move aside, .308 Win and .300 Win Mag. There’s a hulking new long-range beast at the 1000-yard bench.
Well…. Except, it’s actually smaller than the .308 or the .300, so I guess not that hulking. But still a beast.