New Powders & Bullets in the 6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 Creedmoor Ammunition

As many grumpy hunters point out, the 6.5 Creedmoor (middle) doesn’t provide any faster velocities than the previous .260 Remington (left) or 6.5×55 (right). But it fits far better in a standard “short action” magazine.

From Chapter 45 of Gun Gack 2

My latest 6.5 Creedmoor is a Ruger American Predator purchased for the vast sum of $350. Right out of the box it turned out to be as accurate as any 6.5mm rifle I’ve ever owned, including several custom rifles. Is this due to chance? I doubt it, since all the other 6.5 Creedmoors I’ve fooled with also shot very well. The least accurate put five shots into an inch at 100 yards, with the first ammunition tried.

            Factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition is not just affordable but very accurate, and Hornady brass is consistent in both weight and dimensions. Some handloaders report Hornady cases developing loose primer pockets after a few firings, but so far all such handloaders I’ve questioned have been trying to turn their Creedmoors into mini-magnums. My own collection of Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor brass includes some from factory ammo purchased in 2010, when I bought my first 6.5 Creedmoor. The primer pockets are still tight, just possibly because I don’t exceed published handloads.

            Perhaps the most-used Creedmoor “accuracy load” is a bullet in the 140-grain class with around 41.5 grains of H4350. This normally gets 2650-2700 fps in 22-24 inch barrels, but a chronic shortage of H4350 has resulted in shooters using other powders, including some introduced since 2007. I’ve had great luck with IMR4451, and early trials with Alliant Reloder 16 have also been promising.

            For those who simply must have more muzzle zip, both IMR4451 and RL-16 are double-based, so tend to produce 50-100 fps more than H4350 with the same bullets. However, this may result in slightly shorter barrel life, since double-based powders burn hotter than single-based powders like H4350, due to the added nitroglycerin.

            One of the other big advantages of the 6.5 Creedmoor is relatively light recoil for the downrange results. With high-BC bullets, the Creedmoor’s 300+ yard velocities exceed the .270 Winchester’s with conventional hunting bullets of the same weight, yet the Creedmoor kicks about a third less. This is why it’s starting to replace the .243 Winchester as the “starter cartridge” for many hunters—and has also become the new cartridge for some magnum-weary veterans.

            However, the 6.5 Creedmoor does have one sneaking little quirk: It’s still not quite short enough for every high-BC bullet to touch the lands at an overall cartridge length of 2.84 inches, partly because factory rifles vary slightly, as factory rifles will. Two prominent problem children are the 130- and 140-grain Berger VLD’s, which may be why Berger’s introduced other 130 and 140-grain 6.5mm bullets with slightly shorter ogives since 2007.

            The Fierce Edge rifle listed in the data, by the way, has the shortest throat of any 6.5 Creedmoor I’ve measured, though that doesn’t mean there’s much variation, since the longest throat measured is in my Ruger American: The difference between the throat-length in the Fierce and Ruger is .012 inch, about the thickness of an average business card. (The Fierce rifle also has a magazine 2.95 inches long, so there’s no difficulty in loading any high-BC boattail to the lands. More and more short-action rifles have magazines closer to three inches these days, even some factory rifles.)

6.5mm Creedmoor Ruger American Predator

My latest 6.5 Creedmoor is a Ruger American Predator, as accurate as any custom 6.5mm rifle I’ve ever owned. This 5-shot group (yes, five not three) was the first handload tried, with the 140-grain Berger VLD and 41.5 grains of H4350.

            Please note that the groups listed in the load table are five shots at 100 yards, not the three-shot groups commonly fired today.( If you’re more interested in tiny 3-shot groups, you can subtract about 1/3 of the group sizes.) This consistency is a major reason the Creedmoor has become so successful, and while designed for serious target shooters, it also works very well for other uses, regardless of the shooter’s economic level.

            Yes, cartridges capable of driving 6.5 bullets to the same velocities have been around for over a century, but the entire package is better adapted to 21st-century realities than any other medium-sized 6.5mm cartridge, the reason the 6.5 Creedmoor’s rapidly becoming a standard chambering for bolt-action rifles, even in Europe. This may be discouraging to shooters who believe there wasn’t any reason for the Creedmoor in the first place, but not to the many shooters who’ve actually given it a try.

6.5mm Creedmoor Ruger Hawkeye

My first 6.5 Creedmoor was a Ruger Hawkeye, purchased in 2010. It didn’t do anything different ballistically than my custom 6.5×55, barreled with a 1-8 twist Lilja, but right out of the box shot more accurately with factory ammunition than my best handloads in the 6.5×55.

Need the data?

From 100 to 147 grain bullets,  Hornady, Berger, Nosler, Barnes, Lapua, Sierra and Swift bullets, plus lots of powder choices. Seventeen loads in all in Gun Gack 2: More Stuff about Handloading & Hunting Rifles.

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