Gun World - - Hunt -

The SHOT Show, which takes place in Las Ve­gas every Jan­uary, is a barometer of what’s hot in the world of shoot­ing and hunt­ing.

A few years ago, it was ev­ery­thing AR—with dozens of man­u­fac­tur­ers launch­ing new black guns to meet the ever-grow­ing mar­ket. More re­cently, long-range ri­fles have been the cen­ter of at­ten­tion.

How­ever, the pri­mary theme of this year’s show didn’t seem to be a new ri­fle plat­form but rather the ad­di­tion of a hot, new car­tridge that has taken the shoot­ing world by storm: the 6.5 Creedmoor.


De­vel­oped by Hor­nady Se­nior Bal­lis­ti­cians Dave Emary and Den­nis DeMille in 2007, the 6.5 Creedmoor was based on Hor­nady’s .30 T/C, an ef­fi­cient, short-ac­tion ri­fle car­tridge that per­formed at a much higher level than its small case would in­di­cate. When the case was al­tered and necked down to ac­com­mo­date a .264-inch bul­let, a star was born. The 6.5 Creedmoor was ini­tially de­signed as an “across­the-board” tar­get car­tridge, be­cause it com­bined mild re­coil with high ef­fi­ciency and ex­cel­lent bal­lis­tics. The new load’s tra­jec­tory curve matched that of some mag­num cartridges, and that long-for-cal­iber .264 bul­let bucked the wind and clung to ve­loc­ity to ex­treme ranges.

Sud­denly, the shoot­ing world found a round that could pro­duce flat tra­jec­to­ries from a light, short-ac­tion ri­fle that wouldn’t beat the shooter into a flinch­ing pulp, even af­ter sev­eral dozen rounds.

“The 6.5 Creedmoor is a very unique car­tridge be­cause of the de­sign and the cal­iber,” says Dave Emary, se­nior bal­lis­ti­cian at Hor­nady. “The Creedmoor was de­signed from the get-go as a match car­tridge and has def­i­nitely filled that re­quire­ment with un­ques­tioned ac­cu­racy per­for­mance. The 6.5 cal­iber is re­ally a sweet spot in bul­let de­sign, be­cause it of­fers very high sec­tional bul­lets, along with very high BCs. The high sec­tional den­sity en­sures very ef­fec­tive ter­mi­nal per­for­mance, and the high BC pro­vides very good ex­ter­nal bal­lis­tics. The Creedmoor of­fers the best of ev­ery­thing as a re­sult of its low re­coil, ex­treme ac­cu­racy, flat tra­jec­tory, low wind drift, high re­tained ve­loc­ity and very ef­fec­tive ter­mi­nal per­for­mance—all of this in a small, compact pack­age!”


Any dis­cus­sion about the 6.5 Creedmoor be­gins with the term, “ef­fi­ciency.” The max­i­mum over­all length of the case is 1.92 inches, mak­ing it shorter than the .260 Rem­ing­ton, 6.5 Swede and 6.5x284. But since the neck de­sign doesn’t re­quire the bul­let to be seated as deeply as in, say, the .260 Rem­ing­ton, the car­tridge’s case ca­pac­ity re­mains the same. And, as a very im­por­tant added bonus, the 6.5 Creedmoor can use long, heavy-for-cal­iber bul­lets.

In terms of ef­fi­ciency, the case de­sign is al­most with­out peer; the 6.5 Creedmoor achieves a ve­loc­ity of 2,951 fps with 40 grains of Var­get pow­der. With the same bul­let and same pow­der charge, the .260 Rem­ing­ton reaches 2,870 fps. That means you can achieve more with the 6.5 us­ing the same bul­lets and pow­der and spend less money in the process if you are a hand­loader. There are a lot of great tar­get rounds that haven’t achieved the 6.5’s rapid (and ra­bid) fol­low­ing among hunters. Over the past 20 years, hunters have grav­i­tated to­ward more-ef­fi­cient rounds—cartridges that could achieve ev­ery­thing they wanted from a mag­num with re­duced re­coil and muz­zle blast and while burn­ing less pow­der. The re­cent re­newed in­ter­est in the .280 Ack­ley Im­proved is an ex­am­ple of this, but the .280 AI re­mains largely a hand­loader’s car­tridge and the dar­ling of gun writ­ers. The 6.5 Creedmoor has bro­ken into the main­stream.

I don’t re­call a car­tridge ever reach­ing the level of acceptance that the 6.5 has achieved so quickly. The love af­fair with the car­tridge has prompted a num­ber of ri­fle mak­ers to add 6.5 of­fer­ings to their lineup. You can now buy an off-the-shelf ri­fle in 6.5 Creedmoor from Brown­ing, Kim­ber, Moss­berg, Sav­age and a host of other man­u­fac­tur­ers. And, un­like some mag­num cartridges that re­quired an ex­pen­sive gun with a long, heavy ac­tion, the Creedmoor is avail­able in a num­ber of af­ford­able fac­tory op­tions. Moss­berg’s ex­cel­lent Pa­triot ri­fles are now cham­bered for the round, as are Sav­age’s Axis guns and Thompson/Cen­ter’s sleek Com­pass. Th­ese guns are real bar­gains, and the best part is that 6.5 Creedmoor fac­tory ammo isn’t more ex­pen­sive than more tra­di­tional loads. The Creedmoor is a car­tridge of the peo­ple, and that’s part of the rea­son it’s so pop­u­lar today. I shy away from the term, “inherent ac­cu­racy,” but the Creedmoor has a num­ber of fea­tures that make it an easy ri­fle to shoot quite well. For starters, it uti­lizes bul­lets up to 160 grains, although 120to 140-grain loads are more use­ful for most hunt­ing sit­u­a­tions.

Hor­nady’s Pre­ci­sion Hunter ELD-X fac­tory load comes with a 143-grain, poly­mer-tipped bul­let with a G1 bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cient of .623. That means the bul­let is de­signed for long-range hunt­ing and will re­tain ve­loc­ity and buck wind at great dis­tances. Best of all, you get that level of per­for­mance in a car­tridge that can be housed in a short, light ac­tion, and re­coil is very min­i­mal.

Re­coil sen­si­tiv­ity is one of the most com­mon rea­sons shoot­ers don’t get the type of ac­cu­racy from their fifth group as their first, and if you’re shoot­ing on bags, the ac­cu­mu­lated re­coil from a cou­ple of boxes of .30-cal­iber mag­nums can leave you jit­tery.

The an­swer to this has been to shoot off sleds or to buy a heavy ri­fle—or both—nei­ther of which trans­lates well to field shoot­ing and long stalks in the moun­tains. How­ever, even the most re­coilsen­si­tive shoot­ers can han­dle the 6.5 Creedmoor’s set­back; and there’s very lit­tle game the 6.5 Creedmoor won’t han­dle.


As a gun writer, I’m not in­clined to be­lieve hype un­til I’ve had a chance to talk to sev­eral shoot­ers who have ex­ten­sive field ex­pe­ri­ence with a car­tridge. My own ex­pe­ri­ence with the 6.5 Creedmoor is rel­a­tively lim­ited, but I’ve fallen in love with just about every ri­fle so cham­bered that I have touched. I lean, in­stead, on the ex­pe­ri­ence of those who have used the cal­iber a lot in the field—or have seen it used.

In ad­di­tion, as I make my rounds, talk­ing with guides (who see a lot more game killed in a sin­gle sea­son than most of us will see dis­patched in a life­time), I al­ways ask about the ef­fects of cartridges on real game. And, from Alaska to Sonora, I’ve heard noth­ing but good ac­counts re­gard­ing the 6.5 Creedmoor.

On deer-sized game, it is an ef­fi­cient killer—great for white­tails, black bear, hogs, an­te­lope and sheep to long ranges. But I had my doubts re­gard­ing how this car­tridge would work on the larger, tougher deer species, specif­i­cally elk. I shouldn’t have been sur­prised to hear from elk guides (who are no­to­ri­ously tough crit­ics on cartridges) that the 6.5 Creedmoor was a win­ner.

At a re­cent hunt in Texas with the Back­coun­try Hunts team, I asked Steve Jones and his guides what they thought of the 6.5 Creedmoor. They see a num­ber of elk taken in New Mex­ico each year. The re­sponse from ev­ery­one across the board was uni­ver­sal: If you do your job, the 6.5 will take elk cleanly, in­clud­ing big bulls. One mem­ber of that group—guide Robert Curry—is an avid coy­ote caller, and one of his favorite ri­fles is (you guessed it) the 6.5 Creedmoor.


One of the se­crets to the 6.5’s suc­cess that is true for all the .264-inch class of hunt­ing cartridges is the fact that th­ese bul­lets tend to be heavy for cal­iber. A 140-grain 6.5 bul­let has a sec­tional den­sity (the ra­tio of bul­let weight to cal­iber) of .287. Higher sec­tional den­si­ties trans­late to deeper pen­e­tra­tion. That’s bet­ter than a .30-06 with 180-grain bul­lets (.271) and a .270 Winch­ester with 140-grain bul­lets (.261) and equal to a 7mm Mag­num with a 162-grain bul­let. In ad­di­tion, the 6.5 Creedmoor’s long bul­let de­sign shoots bet­ter in the wind and re­tains en­ergy and ve­loc­ity at ex­tended ranges.

How does all this re­late to tra­jec­tory?

Con­sider this com­par­i­son: A .308 Winch­ester fir­ing 165-grain bul­lets (BC .435) at 2,700 fps must be sighted in 2 inches high to be ze­roed at 200. Thus ze­roed, the bul­let will be 8.6 inches low at 300 yards and 25.1 inches low at 400 yards.

The Creedmoor with a 143-grain ELD-X bul­let (BC .623) leav­ing the muz­zle at the same ve­loc­ity will be al­most equal at 100 yards for a 200-yard zero. At 300 yards, the bul­let drops 7.9 inches; at 400 yards, it has fallen 22.4 inches. The trend con­tin­ues

as dis­tances in­crease. But even though the 6.5 Creedmoor shoots flat­ter and re­tains more ve­loc­ity, the real dif­fer­ence ap­pears when you com­pare en­ergy lev­els. At the muz­zle, the .308 pro­duces about 300 foot-pounds more en­ergy than the Creedmoor: 2,670 and 2,314, re­spec­tively. At 400 yards, how­ever, the long, heavy 6.5 Creedmoor bul­let main­tains al­most 100 foot-pounds more en­ergy than the .308—all with less re­coil and less pow­der.

Mag­nums have their place, and there’s no doubt they will re­main pop­u­lar. But it’s im­pres­sive to see how quickly the mild­man­nered 6.5 Creedmoor has won over both the com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing and hunt­ing crowd. This ver­sa­tile round is per­fect for ev­ery­thing from varmints to medium-sized game, and if you have the op­por­tu­nity to hunt large deer, it will work well, too.

It’s too light, re­ally, for dan­ger­ous game and the great bears, but those are highly spe­cial­ized hunts. For most of us, the af­fa­ble, ver­sa­tile 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the best cartridges to come around in years. GW


The 6.5 Creedmoor is based on the .30 T/C and fits in very short ac­tions. Long, heavy-for-cal­iber bul­lets make it a great choice for long-range shoot­ing.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a nat­u­ral se­lec­tion for light moun­tain ri­fles such as the new Howa 1500 KUIU Verde shown here. Hor­nady in­tro­duced the

6.5 Creedmoor to be an “across-the-board” car­tridge—and in­deed, it is. With light re­coil, it’s also a ver­sa­tile choice for new


The New Ber­gara B-14 Tim­ber ri­fle is just one of the many ri­fles— both bolt ac­tions and semi­au­tos— that are now cham­bered in the ver­sa­tile 6.5 Creedmoor.

When Chris­tiansen

Arms launched its new Mesa ri­fle, it was of­fered in—you guessed it—6.5 Creedmoor. The pop­u­lar­ity of this cham­ber­ing is en­tic­ing ri­fle mak­ers to of­fer guns that are cham­bered for the ver­sa­tile Creedmoor.

A sam­pling of the var­i­ous avail­able 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges (from left): Hor­nady’s Amer­i­can White­tail with 129-grain In­ter­lock bul­let; Hor­nady’s 129-grain SST; and Nosler’s 140-grain Match HPBT

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