The 6.5-284 Norma is the best balanced, all-round, do-everything, short-action centerfire rifle cartridge on the shelf.
You can sell your 308 Winchester’s now. Your 7mm-08 Rem. and 7×57 Mauser, too.
- 6.5-284 Norma shoots flatter, deflects less in wind, and retains more energy at nearly all distances.
- 129- to 147-grain bullets in 6.5-284 recoil less that heavier bullets in 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem.
- 6.5-284 ammo is much harder to find. Ideally you should handload to take full advantage of its potential.
The Truth About the 6.50-284 Norma
OK. Truth in advertising: I can’t prove the 6.5-284 Norma is the BEST all-round cartridge in the world. BEST cartridge is bantered, but never settled. In a recent blog (link at end of this post,) Richard Mann stated his case for the ever popular (but over-rated) 308 Winchester as BEST. It’s solid, but everything he claims it does the 7mm-08 Remington does slightly better. And the 6.5-284 Norma beats the 7mm-08. And many long-action and magnum cartridges, of course, beat both. But in the short-action category, the 6.5-284 Norma can be considered optimum for many reasons, as I’ll outline below. Game animals hit fairly with any will not know the difference, but a shooter’s ability to hit them fairly will be different, as the upcoming trajectory tables show.
If, after digesting all this, the 6.5-284 Norma doesn’t float your boat, I can direct you to three more short-action rounds that outperform the 308 and 7mm-08 — the 260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. Both shoot the same efficient bullets as the Norma, but 100 to 150 fps slower. That’s still fast enough to outperform the 308. (If neither of those excite you, check out the new 6.5 PRC released by Hornady in 2018. It throws the same .264″ bullets the same speed as the 6.5-284 Norma, but in a total package that is slightly shorter.)
Seldom Seen 6.5-284 Norma Beats Many More Popular Cartridges
We’ll concentrate on the 6.5-284 Norma here. You may have heard of it but probably never taken any game with it. Most folks have never even seen the cartridge because it’s just not that popular. But it should be. The 6.5-284 outperforms many famous hunting cartridges including the 270 Winchester, 280 Remington, and 30-06 Springfield and (in some ballistic categories) even the 7mm Remington Magnum. What this overlooked 6.5mm delivers is less drop, less drift, more punch downrange and a higher Sectional Density for deeper penetration. Recoil is comparable to a 270 Win.
Since the 6.5-284 Norma is nominally a short-action round (COAL 3.228,) let’s revisit the ballistic chart I used in a previous blog comparing the 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem. and add some data for the 6.5-284 Norma. It will be spitting a 142-grain Nosler AccuBond Long Range bullet. It might seem unfair to put a little 142-grain bullet up against “harder hitting,” heavier bullets like the 165-grain .308 and 160-grain .284, but wait and see what happens. All cartridges were zeroed 3 inches high at 100 yards and fired (computer generated ballistic data) at 65-degrees F. in a 10 mph right angle wind.
Trajectory Tables Tell The Tale
Check out those energy numbers. The 142-grain 6.5mm projectile, pushed by 52 grains of Reloader 19 powder, beats both heavier bullets. This shoots holes in the persistent myth that heavier bullets drift less in the wind and “hit harder.” The 6.5-284 even kicks a smidgen less than the 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem. The load graphed here generates 16.99 foot-pounds free recoil energy in a 7-pound rifle, a pound less than a 270 Win. shooting the same weight bullet. (I’ll confess I fudged a bit by not using the highest B.C. AccuBond Long Range bullets in the 308 and 7mm-08 data. That would improve their results slightly, but the 6.5-284 would still win handily.)
Do 6.5-284 Norma Advantages Matter?
Pragmatic folks can argue that 2 inches less drop, 2 inches less wind drift and 200 foot-pounds more energy at 300 yards don’t matter to the deer, bear, or elk you hit. True. But your chances for hitting them are better. Super Bowls have been won or lost by similar margins. At longer distances, the 6.5-284 Norma advantage really starts to add up. If you ever find yourself needing to finish off an escaping buck at 500 yards, wouldn’t you want a bullet that falls 10 inches less, deflects 6 inches less and packs 346 more foot-pounds of kinetic energy than a 165-grain .308? That’s the 6.5-284 Norma. And if you insist 500-yard shots are unethical, remember that the 6.5-284 also delivers 133 foot-pounds more energy than the 165-grain 308 slug at 200 yards. The 6.5 bullet’s Sectional Density is higher, too, at .291 vs. .253. That means deeper penetration, all else equal.
Two Reasons 6.5-284 Norma Loses Popularity Contest
Clearly the 6.5-284 Norma is the superior round, but it isn’t going to win any popularity contests against the 308 Win. for two simple reasons:
- Too few manufactures chamber rifles in 6.5-284 Norma. Shaw Barrels and Savage offer it in some bolt-actions. New Ultra Light Arms has it in the impressive M20, and Nosler wisely chambers it in its M48. Semi-custom shops like Rifles, Inc., Gunwerks, and Kilimanjaro chamber it, and you can always have a gunsmith re-chamber or re-barrel an existing rifle. Lex Webernick at Rifles, Inc. likes the 6.5-284 so much in his standard Strata rifles that he has built special, 6 1/2-pound Pear Flat rifles around it.
- Too few manufacturers load ammunition for it. Norma has a hard hitting 156-grain Oryx bonded bullet load. Nosler sells nine different loads featuring eight different bullets. Double Tap has four great offerings including Nosler Long Range AccuBonds and Barnes Long Range X bullets. With all the high B.C. .264” bullets on the market, loading your own is an alluring option.
Do You Want Superior Convenience or Performance?
Mann is correct when he notes in his blog that the 308 Win. is convenient. Guns and ammo are common, abundant and sold around the world, but in some countries it is, or at least used to be, a banned military round. Take it hunting and you won’t even get through the airport. How convenient is that?
Most serious riflemen (and women) buy, test and practice with their ammo well ahead of time, tuning it and their scopes for precision. They aren’t likely to settle for some off-the-shelf fodder even if their luggage is lost for a day or two. Instead they’ll ship a supply ahead or arrive early enough for the ammo to catch up. That’s the price you pay for enjoying the superior performance of the impressive 6.5-284 Norma. You aren’t likely to find it in a small town gun shop.
Relative inaccessibility might bump this amazing 6.5-284 Norma cartridge from the top of the “world’s ideal all round cartridge,” but it takes nothing from its inherent performance characteristics. If you value convenience more than performance, get a 308 Win. But if you want maximum performance with minimum recoil in a short-action cartridge, you want the 6.5-284 Norma. It’s like a pizza. Better design. Better ingredients. Better ballistics.
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