IS THE 6.5 CREEDMOOR A CATALYST FOR CHANGE
Every time a new high-powered rifle caliber platform comes out, hunters flock to generic marketing hype to try to determine if it’s worth making the change from the timeless calibers that they’ve always known, like the .270 and the .308 and the .30-06’s of the world. This article intends to determine if there is enough there to help propel the 6.5 Creedmoor into the next timeless caliber spot.
So many calibers have come and gone or turned out to be just a flash in the pan that languishes for about five to six years until it falls out of favor due to lack of consumer interest, lack of manufacturer support, lack of performance, or lack of innovative new capabilities. Hunters return to the classics because they make sense; they do the job for a reasonable price point, and they aren’t unapproachable from an “all-in” perspective.
In short: can we expect manufacturers to make rifles in the caliber, with aftermarket accessories and items for that caliber; will it be easily reloaded and will my favorite components or factory ammo offerings be available in that caliber; and does it do something that I don’t already have in my gun cabinet?
With the 6.5 Creedmoor, you might be surprised.
Before we get into the merits of the 6.5 Creedmoor, let’s temper the discussion by saying: stop trying to compare ballistics with your favorite caliber. If you have a favorite caliber, stick with it. No recent cartridge innovation has yet been different enough in the same caliber performance channel to unseat the classics. But if you are a hunter who likes optimization and nuance or wants a truly long-range option without a magnum shoulder bruising, then the Creedmoor might be a practical choice.
What is the 6.5 Creedmoor?
It’s a Hornady brainchild, and let’s face it, Hornady is an industry thought leader and produces an excellent product. The bases are all covered in the 6.5 Creedmoor. But it took a shift in the tastes of shooters to get the well-deserved surge in popularity that the Hornady creation is now experiencing.
It’s a cartridge that takes optimization and nuance to the next level and in this author’s opinion makes a case for incremental improvement in overall ballistic design harmonization. Forget about the most mass and the newest materials; the Creedmoor shines because it is a perfect mix of flat shooting trajectory, heft and stopping power, and is mild on recoil.
A 6mm projectile is too light for most game in North America over long distances with different environmental conditions. While a 140-grain projectile seems light for large game, it’s more than enough for most game on the continent in the hands of a skilled hunter. Where the 6.5 Creedmoor shines, however, is in the 350-yard range and beyond for moderate and large game. You simply cannot find the same mix of flat trajectory and hitting power combined with manufacturer support like you can with the Creedmoor, unless you get MUCH bigger in the projectile. Subsequently, your recoil and the cost per shot goes up too.
Sometimes you don’t want a magnum caliber or a long action. Certainly, in the wind, you don’t want the projectile weight if you can help it. Often, you will find yourself undesirous of the heavy recoil and the expense per shot cost associated with larger platform long-range calibers (like the .338 or others). Furthermore, .308 recoil isn’t particularly heavy in the grand scheme of things, but it’s significantly more than you get with the 6.5 Creedmoor.
It’s often a shootout between the .308 and the 6.5; that is because the two will have a similar effective range as the diminishing hitting power on target of the smaller 6.5mm projectile over the longer distances meets up with the heavier, more sloping trajectory of the .308 projectile at a distance. Given a choice between a slightly harder hitting bullet in the 168-grain .308 and the 143-grain, super mildly recoiling, significantly more accurate 6.5 Creedmoor, the answer is plain to see. It’s better to hit the spot you’re aiming at with a tiny bit less power than to miss it altogether. As stated before, that “slightly diminished performance” is a nuanced factor. We’re talking a few dozen ft. lbs. of energy less than a .308 generally, and a faster velocity.
Given that you’re going to get better trajectories and significantly better multi-channel performance in wind over 400 yards with the Creedmoor, it already makes more sense for most moderately-sized game than the .308 Winchester.
The story of the 6.5 Creedmoor however, doesn’t always have to gravitate to it vs. the .308. It’s not always about what is a better general-purpose cartridge. What is telling, though, is that the frequent comparisons mean something. You’re getting comparisons to one of the most famous rounds in history for hunters and precision rifle shooters, and you’ve only been in the market since 2008 officially? That means you have already ascended beyond marketing hype.
A rifle cartridge of nuance and optimization
While the average hunter won’t perhaps see a need for a barrel that lasts more than a few thousand rounds, it can make a difference if you are a power user at the range and want to hunt with your rifle too. The 6.5 Creedmoor offers a sweet spot of velocity and projectile size that simultaneously performs ballistically, and yet doesn’t prematurely wear out barrels by being too fast.
As a hunter, if you are hunting for moderately-sized game, the benefits you get with the 6.5 Creedmoor go far beyond what you can get with any other mainstream competitor, so long as you can take the animal with a sub-150-grain projectile that can generate more than 1,300 ft. lbs. of energy at 500 yards on a target. Those are 140-grain numbers that rival the .270 with around half the recoil. They beat the .308 too.
At 500 yards, where the 140 grain Creedmoor hits its stride, it offers more power on target than comparable 150 grain .308 does. It does so with less recoil, faster follow-up shots and better wind performance, not to mention a more predictable trajectory.
You are getting a super long, super flat projectile that has exceptional ballistic coefficiency and generally has no other peers for the effective operating range of the Creedmoor.
What does all of this mean? Can I switch to the 6.5 Creedmoor and be completely happy as a hunter?
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty though: does the modern Creedmoor give enough of a catalyst for the average hunter to consider a wholesale change? Is it worth adopting the platform long-term?
Here’s the long and the short of it. Hornady knows they have a winner. It’s easy to shoot, competitively priced on components, and easy to wrap the head around. They have committed to the caliber for the long-term.
What’s more, it’s going to continue to come down in production baseline costs over the years.
The USSOCOM test determined that the long-range hit probability was doubled compared to .308 at 1,000 meters. It is the military interest that has perhaps ignited a widespread interest beyond the hunting and long-range precision shooting crowds. It is also able to fit into existing architecture (magazines, etc.) It is a short action dedicated platform that further enhances its acceptability on the market.
The point here is, there is a litany of bullet points (pardon the pun) that prove the Creedmoor is not going anywhere. That in and of itself might be the catalyst that a hunter needs to explore the cartridge. Aside from the fact that it’s so immensely popular right now that you can hardly find component hardware for it from guns to barrels to bolts, there is a robust marketplace already in existence for the cartridge.
If you are a practical user that needs a multi-purpose round, this might be it too. The Hornady line includes at least 11 different offerings, from a 95-grain varmint round that would also work for small coyotes at 400-yards, to a longer range 129-grain projectile capable of larger game, to the heaviest of the portfolio, a 147-grain ELD Match projectile that sheds wind and hits hard.
When you weigh all the practical concerns together for the change over to a new caliber platform, it’s hard to not choose the 6.5 Creedmoor relative to peers. If you look long-term, no caliber is more capable of being refined and optimized than the Creedmoor. We are just beginning to see the loadout mix, and it’s getting more promising every day. There is a lot of room for improvement on ballistics as the cartridge matures. Manufacturers have doubled down. Hornady has committed to it long term, and the waiting list for components is growing daily as well.
It comes down to a single concept: if you can handle the idea that nuance and optimization is a better play for your future ammunition dollars, then the Creedmoor is a wise choice to switch to or add to your collection. If you don’t need more than you already have and are comfortable with the typical rate of ballistic improvement over time, then stick with what you are already using and accept the wall you’ll hit at 450-550 yards with the .30 caliber projectiles.
It’s a simple choice if you can wrap your head around the coalescing market and the support behind the newest entry to the shrine of timeless rifle cartridges: the 6.5 Creedmoor.