Whether you hunt deer, pronghorn, feral hogs, coyotes, or even elk and moose, you might want to shoot 6.5 Creedmoor. This is the rifle cartridge version of the New England Patriots — the consistent winner that people love to hate. Creedmoor here, Creedmoor there, Creedmoor this, Creedmoor that… Are there really good reasons why you should shoot 6.5 Creedmoor? Oh yeah. But the most important are probably these three.
- Perfect bullet weight and power for deer-sized game.
- Less recoil than most popular deer cartridges at a similar price point.
- Ideal for long-range target shooting with long barrel life and minimal wind deflection.
The Truth About the 6.5 Creedmoor
Here’s the honest truth: the 6.5 Creedmoor is NOT the world’s greatest rifle round. There, I’ve said it. But somebody needed to because the 6.5 Creedmoor can’t stop a locomotive, can’t see through walls, and isn’t even faster than every other speeding bullet. But it can leap over tall buildings in a single bound.
Seriously, the 6.5 Creedmoor has become a hot property because it is efficient, light on recoil, and long on downrange performance. Hornady engineered it from the 30 T/C case in 2007 to deliver everything long-range target shooters wanted in a cartridge. Hunters later discovered it delivered much of what they needed, too. With the Hornady 143-grain ELD-X bullet, this Creedmoor can deliver more energy at 1,000 yards than the 300 Win. Mag. can with a 180-grain spire point bullet. Enthusiasm for the 6.5 Creedmoor took a few years to warm up, but once it reached critical mass, the little round took off like Super Cartridge without a cape. Here are several reasons why you might want to shoot 6.5 Creedmoor:
20 Reasons to Shoot 6.5 Creedmoor
1. It handles long, sleek, .264” bullets in weights (120-grains to 147-grains) popular in proven “deer cartridges” like 270 Win., 280 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem., 7mm Rem. Mag., 308 Win., and 30-06.
2. It recoils less than all those popular deer cartridges listed above. In 7-pound rifles, shoot 6.5 Creedmoor 2,700 fps with a 143-gr. ELD-X and you get 16 f-p recoil. Shoot a 145-gr. ELD-X from a 270 Win. at 2,950 fps and you get 23.7 f-p of kick.
3. Shoot 6.5 Creedmoor with that same 143-gr. Hornady ELD-X and at 400 yards it will drop 4 inches less and drift 3 inches less than a 178-gr. ELD-X fired from a 308 Winchester. At 800 yards the little 140-grain Creedmoor bullet will be packing 86 f-p more energy than the much heavier 308 Win. bullet. The ballistic charts below show the surprising results. Both zeroed at 240 yards, shot in 10 mph right-angle wind.
4. Shoot 6.5 Creedmoor with Hornady’s 120-gr. GMX Superformance load and it will drop only one-half inch more and deflect less than a half-inch more than a 270 Win. shooting the 130-gr. GMX Superformance load at 300 yards.
5. The small powder charge of the 6.5 Creedmoor (about 43 grains average) contributes to longer barrel life. Figure 2,000 to 3,000 shots before the leade (throat) erodes enough to severely impact target accuracy (and accuracy could remain good enough for big game hunting for another 1,000 rounds.)
6. It’s a short-action cartridge like the 308 Win. Short-action rifles are stiffer than long-actions, potentially enhancing accuracy.
7. Short-action bolt-action rifles cycle a smidgeon faster than long-actions.
8. Short-actions can be built a few ounces lighter than long-actions.
9. You may find that short-action hunting rifles are slightly more convenient to carry and maneuver in cover.
10. The short powder column centers more of the powder closer to the primer flash for potentially more efficient ignition and burning.
11. A full-caliber-length neck precisely aligns and firmly grips long bullets, enhancing accuracy.
12. A set-back shoulder combines with the long neck to keep long, heavy, ballistically efficient bullets from intruding into powder space.
13. Speaking of long, efficient bullets, 6.5 Creedmoor rifles stabilize these thanks to their 1-8” twist or faster rifling. Long 6.5 bullets (.264″) have higher Ballistic Coefficient ratings than the same-weight bullets in larger calibers. This results in more retained energy and less wind deflection at extreme ranges. To match the B.C. of 6.5 Creedmoor’s 143-grain ELD-X in a 308 Win., 30-06 or 300 Win. Mag., you’d have to shoot Hornady’s 200-gr. ELD-X with much higher recoil and added expense.
14. Factory ammunition is widely available with a wide variety of bullet types and weights, and most is built to high accuracy standards, since that’s what riflemen and women who shoot 6.5 Creedmoor demand.
15. Factory ammunition is priced competitively with most popular deer hunting cartridges, running about $20 to $40 per box of 20.
16. Handloaders can work with bullets as light as 95-grains and heavy as 160-grains to address everything from long-range varmints to close-range bears and moose.
17. The 6.5 Creedmoor is chambered in an extensive variety of rifles from lightweight sporters and AR-10s to long-barreled, heavyweight PRS platforms. Complete rifles sell for as little as $450 MSRP.
18. A pocket or magazine full of 6.5 Creedmoor rounds weighs less than the same quantity of all the other deer rounds mentioned in this article. That might not impress you much unless you’re a long-range backpack hunter who knows every ounce counts in the big mountains.
19. The pelts of coyotes shot with a 6.5 Creedmoor are usually in better condition than those shot with the larger rounds mentioned here.
20. Shoot 6.5 Creedmoor and you won’t be accused of being overgunned for elk, but with precise shot placement, you can get the job done.
I included #19 and #20 just so I could claim 20 reasons to shoot 6.5 Creedmoor. You can throw those two out if you want. But that won’t make this cartridge any less versatile. No, the 6.5 Creedmoor is not the best all-round hunting cartridge on the planet. You can shoot the same bullets a lot faster with a 6.5-284 Norma, a 264 Win. Mag., 26 Nosler, and 6.5-300 Wby. You can get longer barrel life with a 30-30 Win. But if you’re looking for minimum recoil and a good balance of ballistic performance, low operating cost, long barrel life, target accuracy, and effective hunting performance, you could do worse than shoot 6.5 Creedmoor.
For 49 of his 50 hunting seasons, Ron Spomer never collected any game with a 6.5 Creedmoor. That ended during his 50th season.