The .264 Win. Magnum was introduced in 1958; I was 18 and remember it well, for I was already a budding gun weenie and an avid reader of the few gun magazines that existed at the time. No cartridge introduction since the rolling out of the .270 Win. in 1925 created more interest among the hunting community, or more controversy.
Among the gun writers of the day, opinions were mixed as to whether it was enough gun for elk and African plains game. Many years later at a Remington Writers Seminar, Elmer Keith told me with a wink that he considered the .264 to be a good long-range pest cartridge! The controversy pretty much ended four years later when Remington unveiled its 7mm Magnum, which essentially sucked all the air out of the .264.
To illustrate how much has changed these past several years, consider this description of the .264 Win. Magnum that appears in the Obsolete Centerfire Cartridge section of the 4th Ammo Encyclopedia published in 2012: “With the sole exception of the 6.5×55 Swede, 6.5/.264 caliber cartridges have never been popular in the U.S. This is not for lack of trying, as ammunition manufacturers have developed several very good 6.5 designs. All have proven to be marketing failures — the .264 Win. Magnum is a good example of this.”
In the eight-year interim since the aforementioned commentary was penned, there’s been more excitement around the 6.5/264 than any other caliber by far. Aside from the 6.5×55, not all 6.5s were introduced since 2012; it’s just that an intense interest in the caliber began around that time.
After all, the .260 Rem. and 6.5-284 Norma debuted as SAAMI cartridges in 2002; the 6.5 Grendel, which was developed for the AR-15 platform, has been with us since 2004 and the 6.5 Creedmoor appeared in 2008. In the last three years we’ve been given the .26 Nosler, the 6.5-300 Weatherby and Hornady’s 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge).
Performance-wise we’ve got the 6.5 Grendel that launches a 120-grain bullet at around 2,700 fps on one end of the spectrum, while on the other there’s the fire-breathing Nosler and Weatherby, both of which can send that same 120-grain bullet out at more than 3,600 fps.
The reason for this brief history of the 6.5/264 bore is to point out the fact that what used to be considered a minimum caliber for larger soft-skinned game is now considered perfectly adequate. Granted, we now have better, heavier-for-the-caliber bullets with extremely high BC ratings that deliver more energy at longer distances and with less wind deflection.
And with less recoil than comparable-class 7mms, they can be shot…well, more accurately. To put it another way, in the eyes of many, the 6.5 has jumped a rung on the performance ladder and what used to be considered the realm of the 7mm has been usurped by the 6.5. Whether as a hunter you buy into that is up to you, but there’s no denying that a lot of folks already have.–Jon R. Sundra