T he 6.5mm—.264 in American parlance —has been popular in Europe. This has been especially true in the Scandinavian countries, since before the turn of the 20th Century.
The Swedes use 6.5x55s, which we consider to be marginal for deer, to take thousands of moose every season. W.D.M. Bell used a 6.5×54 Mannlicher with 160-grain solid bullets to kill elephants.
Why this caliber has never been very popular in the U.S. is something I don’t understand. But except for a few smart old rascals who had a pet 6.5×55, 6.5×54, or sporterized 6.5 Arisaka, It hasn’t been—until recently.
In the last 15 years the American shooter has finally discovered what the rest of the Western World has known for more than a hundred years—that the 6.5mm is one fine caliber.
One of the things the 6.5 has going for it is that bullets in that caliber have amazing ballistic coefficients. That means that bullets in that caliber tend to shoot flatter, be more stable, and penetrate deeper than do many other calibers. This has been discovered and put to use by the guys and gals who participate in long-range target matches.
The various 6.5s range from the diminutive to the monstrous and include both factory cartridges and wildcats. Two of the most popular in the recent past have been the .260 Remington (based on the .308 Winchester) and the .264 Winchester Magnum (with a case like the 7mm Remington Magnum).
The .264 Winchester Magnum, developed in 1958, was well on its way to being the king of high velocity cartridges, until Remington introduced the 7mm Remington Magnum in 1962, and kicked the legs out from under the .264. However, with modern slow-burning rifle powders the .264 Winchester is a real velocity star and is currently making a comeback as a long-range plains and mountain rifle.
Matched with a 26-inch barrel it will spit a 120-grain bullet at 3,400 feet per second and a 130- at 3,250. This is not a lot more than the .270 Winchester, but is enough more to give the .264 a significant advantage in long-range trajectory. With a shorter barrel, however, the .264 Winchester is really no better than the old .270.
One of the calibers that was recently developed (2007) specifically for the long distance games is the 6.5 Creedmoor. While it was originally developed as a target cartridge, shooters quickly learned that it is one fine hunting cartridge.
I became acquainted with the 6.5 Creedmoor when we bought one for my granddaughter, Tristin, to use on a cow elk hunt in West Texas. Tristin was 12 at the time and couldn’t stand much recoil, and we figured the 6.5 Creedmoor was the most powerful caliber she could shoot well (she shoots it very well).
While I was working up loads for her, I found that I liked the cartridge so much that I got one for myself. I have been loading for it and shooting it for the last few months and like it better now than I did then.
The thing that’s different about the 6.5 Creedmoor is that it has an especially long throat in the barrel that allows the handloader to seat the bullets out far enough to take advantage of all the powder capacity of the cartridge, while it will still work in a short bolt action. This means that a;though the cartridge case is actually shorter than the .260 Remington, it has almost the same useable powder capacity.
When matched with good 120-grain bullets such as the Barnes TSX, the Hornady GMX, or the Nosler 130-grain AccuBond, it makes an especially deadly deer cartridge. Hornady makes their Superformance rounds with a 129-grain SST at 2,950 fps, which is also a great choice. It may be the finest cartridge extant for the lady, youth, or other hunter who doesn’t like being belted by recoil. And that is saying plenty!
Even the diminutive 6.5 Creedmoor will break 3,050 fps with a 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and 2,950 with a 130-grain AccuBond. The ballistic coefficient for the 6.5mm 130-grain AB is 0.488 as compared to 0.435 for the .270 caliber 130-grain AccuBond. So, I think it safe to say that the little 6.5 Creedmoor will do practically anything the venerated .270 Winchester will do, and do it with a lot less noise and recoil.
Tristin did not get an elk on our West Texas hunt; they were just too wild and spooky for us to get her close enough and for the elk to stand still long enough. She really is a fine shot, but has not learned to shoot with speed, yet. Tristin finally asked me to shoot one for her, but I refused. That is no way to end a hunt. It was her shot, and I will not shoot another hunter’s game.
Later I took my 6.5 Creedmoor to West Texas on a mule deer/aoudad hunt. Again the odds were on the side of the animals. We saw no aoudads, and while we saw a lot of deer, I saw none that I wanted to shoot. Mostly they were young animals, no older than 3 1/2 years, so I passed. Maybe next season both Tristin and I will have better luck and our little 6.5s will make meat.
Email Steve LaMascus at
Email Steve LaMascus at [email protected]