6.5 Mania Continues

Unless I’m imagining things there has been more activity this year on the ammo side of things than with guns. In the last issue I told you about the growing ammo line of SigSauer, and Federal’s new Terminal Ascent hunting ammo.

Since then, our DOD (Dept. of Defense), has announced it has adopted the 6.5 Creedmoor to replace the .300 Win. Magnum in its Remington Model 700-based MK13 sniper rifle. Appropriately enough, they’ve chosen Hornady — the company who developed the cartridge back in 2007 — as the supplier. They won’t say how large the order is, but you can bet it’s a biggie.

The 6.5 Creedmoor looks puny next to the .300 Win. Magnum, yet it replaces it as the DOD’s long range cartridge of choice for the MK13 sniper rifle.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind regular readers of this column about how the 6.5s — and the Creed in particular — have dominated the news these last several years and this latest development is just another affirmation of that.

It started with the Creedmoor, but it was hardly an overnight success, especially with hunters who generally rate cartridges by velocity. Here was one that launched a 140-grain bullet at a modest 2,650 fps, which was 300 fps slower than the 50-year old .264 Win. Magnum, a cartridge that had so fallen from favor by 2010 that it was officially designated as obsolete (it has since been put back in production and thus has regained legitimacy).  

It was the same fate for the 6.5 Rem. Magnum which appeared in 1966; it, too, was capable of launching bullets significantly faster than the Creed, but it was given the cold shoulder like few cartridges before or since and Remington stopped chambering for it just five years later. Remington gave the 6.5 cal. another shot in 1997 with the introduction of the .260 Rem., a wonderful little cartridge that duplicated the ballistics of the 104-year-old 6.5x55mm Swedish, but did it in a short action, whereas the Swede needs a standard-length action.

Then in 1999 Norma ushered in the new millennium by putting their imprimatur on the wildcat 6.5-284, a number that comes within shouting distance of the 264 Win. Mag. It has proven to be great performer in 1,000-yard competition and in the game fields.

All the aforementioned have enjoyed a renewed interest in the 6.5 cal. in general, thanks to the Creed. I guess in the political context you could call it the coattail effect. Since then we’ve seen continued interest in the caliber manifest itself with the rolling out of the 6.5 Grendel for AR-15 fans, the fire-breathing 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum and 26 Nosler and the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge), another Hornady contribution.

What I find so fascinating is that where once magnum-class .30 caliber cartridges were considered de rigueur to be competitive in 1,000-yard shooting events, the trend is unquestionably to smaller cartridges and smaller calibers. For a while magnum-class 7mm’s were thought to be the optimum long range caliber, but the Creed and other non-magnum 6.5s changed all that.

The ever-growing 6.5 family (l. to r.): 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Rem., 6.5×55 Swede, 6.5-284 Norma, 6.5 Rem. Mag, .264 Win. Mag, 26 Nosler and 6.5-300 Weatherby. Not shown is Hornady’s 6.5 PRC.

And now the 6mm’s — the new 6mm Creedmoor among them — which have dominated benchrest for so long, are starting to challenge that. To many it just seems counterintuitive that a 105-grain 6mm bullet out of a .243 Winchester-sized case can be better suited for extreme-range shooting than a 200-grain bullet out of a .300 Magnum. But records don’t lie.–Jon R. Sundra

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