William W (Bill) Gabbard
From targets to T-Rex, the one round that does it all, the 6.5 Creedmoor. The latest greatest unnecessary round that does nothing that can’t be done better by something else - the 6.5 Needmore!
Yep, over the past few years I have heard it all when it comes to the 6.5 Creedmoor. There are two strong camps out that either love or hate the round, and even though I must admit that I like to kid with my buddies that love their Creedmoor rifles, I am in neither camp. I do believe that with the proper loads in the right rifle though the 6.5 Creedmoor can be a great varmint rifle, target rifle, or a great hunting rifle for deer-sized game. So, let’s look at some handloads that get the job done for all three.
Hornady’s 95 gr V-Max is going to get the job done on varmints with plenty of energy left over. Hodgdon’s data lists speeds up to 3371 fps using StaBALL 6.5 powder while Hornady’ 10th Edition lists a top speed of 3200 fps using Norma 203 B. Most mid-range loads for the little V-Max list speeds greater than 3000 fps. That is going to be more than enough energy to dispatch varmints.
The current situation with loading supplies dictated what I could use to load specifically for varmints. The 95 gr V-max was the only dedicated Varmint bullet that I could obtain. I loaded enough for three shot groups with five different powders. I loaded two complete sets of these and took two rifles, a Custom Remington 700, and a Savage Impulse.
Out of ten groups only one exceeded 1.0 inch. And it was 1.041. The other nine were under an inch with two under 0.50 inch. This was with strictly book loads! With a little fine tuning by adjusting the powder charge, bullet seating depth or different primers, groups under 0.25 inch should be easy to obtain.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has become one of the most popular Whitetail Deer hunting cartridges for a couple of reasons. Accuracy and light recoil are two of the reasons a lot of deer hunters like the cartridge. Accuracy using bullets of the proper weight and construction has proven to be quite phenomenal with various rifles for which I have loaded. Hornady’s 143 gr ELD-X bullet has produced groups of less than a 0.25 inch in two bone stock hunting rifles.
A total of eight 6.5 Creedmoor rifles that have passed through my reloading room have turned in groups in the 0.50-inch range using the 143 gr ELDX. Both Nosler’s 120 gr Ballistic Tip Hunting bullet and their 129 gr AccuBond Long Range (ABLR) have gone well under 0.50 inch. Sierra’s 130 Tipped Game King (TGK) has produced groups just under and just over quarter inch. Berger’s 140 gr Elite Hunter bullets produced groups of just over 0.25 inch in one rifle and a group of 0.178 in another.
When it comes to match shooting the 6.5 Creedmoor seems to show up in different venues. A group of long-range shooters in Eastern Kentucky, who routinely shoot matches starting anywhere from 200 yards to 1000 yards, always have a few 6.5 Creedmoors in the competition. In a recent match, 25% of the competitors were shooting them. Berger’s 130 Hybrid Tactical bullet easily produces groups of less than 0.50 inch while Hornady’s 140 ELD-M does the same in stock rifles. Hornady’s 130 ELD-M had a best group of 0.216, while their 147 ELD-M produced a best 0.287, just over quarter inch. Local competition shooter Randy Bryant uses a time-tested load of Hodgdon H4350 and Hornady’s 140 gr ELDM to consistently put groups under 0.25 inch. The 6.5 Creedmoor is still popular in PRS circles.
When I first started loading for the 6.5 Creedmoor everything I read and everybody I talked to told me to just use Hodgdon H4350 and forget everything else. H4350 is indeed a great powder for the Creedmoor, but H4831, IMR 4350, IMR 4831, IMR 4451, W-748, IMR 8208XBR, Varget, Big Game, as well as W-748 from Hodgdon have all proven to be excellent performers depending on the rifle and bullet. Alliant’s Reloader 15 and 17 have both produced excellent results. While the best group of this test came with VihtaVuori N150, their N140 powder is always an excellent performer.
The selection of 6.5 mm bullets out there gives you many options to choose from when loading for the 6.5 Creedmoor. While I won’t go as far as saying that the Creedmoor is good for anything from “Targets to T-Rex,” I will say that the round is extremely versatile. The above charts show that a patient handloader should be able to build a great load for varmints, deer- sized game, or match shooting.