William W. (Bill) Gabbard
The phone buzzed, I saw that it was one of my friends, and answered, “What’s up?”
He replied, “I have a new 6.5.”
“6.5 what?” I asked.
“Creedmoor,” he replied, sounding like I must be crazy to think there was anything else.
Most of us know that there are other 6.5 caliber cartridges out there but admittedly reading most of the online blogs and magazine articles, it would be easy to assume that the 6.5 Creedmoor was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of everything 6.5. While the 6.5 Creedmoor is a fine round, it really isn’t the only 6.5, so let’s look at a few others.
The 6.5 X 55 Swedish has been around a long time, and for good reason. As far as hunting goes in a modern rifle with proper ammo, it can and will do anything the Creedmoor can. Some folks claim it can do more. Over the years the little Swede has been used for everything from varmints to moose. It has been extremely popular in Europe for decades and fairly popular here in the US, but American hunters never really embraced the cartridge. The only real reason not to love it was that some of the older military rifles that had been sporterized had actions that could not stand the pressures produced by heavy loads. Early factory ammo was not loaded to the round’s potential. An elderly neighbor of mine, Jack Long who recently passed away, used a 6.5 X 55 on whitetail and coyote for several years. Jack always said, “It drops them in their tracks.”
The 260 Remington, while not Remington’s first dive into the 6.5 pool, was their most successful. The only real advantage that the Creedmoor has over the 260 is that the cartridge design allows the use of longer bullets without using up powder capacity. The 260 on the other hand has a larger capacity so that advantage is really a wash. Twist rates in most factory rifles usually allow the Creedmoor to handle the heavier bullets a little more accurately, but most deer hunters really don’t need the heavier bullet.
Plenty of articles have been written arguing over these two rounds so I will leave it with saying that I own and enjoy shooting both. When one of my younger friends comes in with his 6.5 that will shoot “under an inch at 100 yards,” I like to show them my little Remington Model 7 in 260 that will shoot groups under one-half inch at 100. In custom rifles with the faster twist rates than most factory rifles many long-range shooters prefer the 260 over the Creedmoor. Jon Landsaw - PRS, Bench, and Long-Range competitive shooter is a longtime fan of the 260.
The diminutive 6.5 Grendel is a sleeper round that is quickly becoming better known. I have to say that if you don’t like the Grendel, you probably haven’t shot one very much. Unless you like a round that is extremely accurate, has almost no recoil, and more than enough energy to cleanly take Whitetail Deer to ranges exceeding 250 yds, you won’t care for the Grendel. I have worked with AR rifles that will shoot under one-half inch and every bolt action in 6.5 Grendel that I have worked with would shoot under one-quarter inch. I recently watched David Gabbard Jr. win a 200-yard Lollipop match shooting a Howa Legacy Mini-Action in 6.5 Grendel.
The 264 Winchester Magnum primarily designed as a long-range Western hunting round hit the ground running in 1959. Based on a necked down 338 Winchester Magnum it quickly earned a reputation as a barrel-burner. With proper shooting, allowing sufficient cooling time between groups, and proper cleaning there probably is no justification for this label. There are several others that exceed the speeds achieved by the 264 Magnum. Dexter Evans, a long-time friend, has hunted with a 264 Win Mag for 40 years and has killed 25 to 30 deer with his rifle affectionately named “Big Joe.” Knowing Dexter, he will never give up the extra 300-400 feet per second or 200-400 foot pounds of energy that he has over the 6.5 Creedmoor.
The 6.5 X 47 Lapua is possibly the go-to 6.5 cartridge if you are looking for accuracy especially in the 300 to 500 yd range. It was designed specifically for 300-meter target shooting, but it has seen success in nearly every facet of long-range shooting, and is known for great accuracy, long barrel life, as well as being easy on the shoulder and easy to load for. Competition Shooter Cecil Combs used one with satisfactory results in competition out to 1200 yds and Cody Little has had success with one at our local Lollipop Matches.
These are only 5 of the “other 6.5” cartridges out there. The 6.5 PRC, which Jason Hornady referred to as “The 6.5 Creedmoor on steroids,” gains as much as 400 fps over the Creedmoor. Bob Nosler once referred to the 26 Nosler as a “Hot Rod”. According to Nosler’s reloading guide #9, the 26 Nosler pushes a 125-gr Nosler Partition to over 3600 fps, beating the Creedmoor by 600 FPS. There are plenty more out there, 6.5 X 284, 6.5 BR, 6.5-06 A Square, and the 6.5 Remington Magnum.
While talking with a couple of friends this morning, they asked what kind of project I was working on. I responded by telling them about this article. Both are avid hunters, yet both replied that they weren’t aware of any 6.5 rounds other that the 6.5 Creedmoor. There are lots of Creedmoor haters out there, but I am not one of them. The 6.5 Creedmoor is a great round, and while it the most popular 6.5 round out there, it isn’t the only one!