It seems these days that just about everyone has a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle and for good reason, it’s pretty awesome as a do-all cartridge.
But what is all the fuss about? How does it stack up against other classic cartridges?
We’ve got a ton of information to cover but we’ll answer these questions and a bunch more!
History & Development
Hitting the market in 2008 6.5 Creedmoor was designed right from the start to be a better competition rifle cartridge than .308 Winchester.
Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille worked at Hornady and wanted a better mousetrap -- so they made one.
Since then 6.5 Creedmoor has taken the long range world by storm. First, it started a revolution in the competition arena winning finals and setting records.
More recently in 2018 US SOCOM adopted the 6.5 Creedmoor in the M110K1 sniper system.
Precision Target Shooting
6.5 Creedmoor was designed as a match cartridge. It’s still very popular in that role, but it isn’t the king these days.
Still, thousands of people use it to shoot long range matches every weekend.
Supersonic way past 1,000 yards 6.5 Creedmoor is very flat shooting and bucks wind really well. With awesome bullet designs like the ELD-M from Hornady or Match Burners from Barnes, the 6.5 Creedmoor can really, really reach out to touch things.
We’ll dig into this more in a moment, but 6.5 Creedmoor is a perfectly respectable hunting cartridge -- but it seems many people don’t know that.
Well over 1,000 ft.lbf to 700 yards and over 2,000 FPS to past 500 yards, 6.5 Creedmoor has some very respectable ballistics even at range.
For ethical hunting 6.5 Creedmoor will likely outpace most people’s shooting ability by a comfortable margin.
If you happen to be one of those hunting experts that can ethically harvest from 6 football fields away, you’ll find many great bullet designs for the 6.5 Creedmoor that can drop deer-sized animals with ease.
Granted no one reading this article is thinking of equipping their army with rifles right now, but this is a good point to bring up anyway.
A few years ago SOCOM adopted the 6.5 Creedmoor for their M110 sniper rifles. The switch from the older .300 Win Mag MK13 bolt-action rifles to the new M110K1 semi-auto rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor doubled hit capabilities at 1,000 yards.
Hornady was given a contract for ammo and is supplying SOCOM with a special 147-grain TAP round that is only sold to Mil/LEO.
If you’re interested, the 147gr TAP is basically Hornady’s 147gr ELDM but with some secret sauce extras like a flash retardant and staked primers.
The bullet, BC, and spec’d velocities are the same as the standard 147gr ELDM.
6.5 Creedmoor is a great cartridge ballistically speaking. There are a ton of bullet options out there that let you really tailor your loads if you want to handload ammo, but even just sticking to factory ammo there are some amazing options.
Just to keep things simple, we’ll focus on two very popular loads for 6.5 Creedmoor -- Hornady 140gr ELD-M and Hornady 143gr ELD-X.
ELD-M is Hornady’s best match-grade long range option and ELD-X is their best hunting load.
Both loads start at about 2700 FPS at the muzzle of a 24” rifle.
ELD-M is great for reaching out past 1,000 yards and only goes trans-sonic at around 1,100 yards.
ELD-X retains over 2,000 FPS out to around 500-600 yards and more than 1,000 ft.lbf out to 700 yards. That makes it a great deer dropper to a very long distance.
6.5 Creedmoor Vs. .308 Winchester
Literally designed to simply be better than .308 Win in every way, it’s not surprising that 6.5 Creedmoor is ballistically better in basically every way.
Long range shooting 6.5 Creedmoor has less drop at further distances and much less wide drift.
However, this only really shines when you start to really reach some distances.
At 500 yards, 6.5 Creedmoor has about 55 inches of drop whereas .308 Win has about 58 inches -- not much difference.
But at 1,000 yards 6.5 Creedmoor has almost 75 inches less drop and 45 inches less wind drift (10 mph full value wind).
For hunting, .308 Winchester drops below 2,000 FPS at around 400 yards and under 1,000 ft.lbf at about 650 yards. Either way, you slice it, 6.5 Creedmoor will give you about 100 extra yards for ethically dropping deer-sized game -- assuming you have the skill to use it.
[For more information about 6.5 Creedmoor vs. 308 check out our blog post.]
6.5 Creedmoor Vs. .30-06
An older cartridge but still very familiar, .30-06 has a lot going for it due to how wide a range of loadings you can find for it.
But with it being a long action cartridge, any rifle in .30-06 will by default be noticeably heavier than a comparable rifle in a short action cartridge like 6.5 Creedmoor.
Ballistically, .30-06 starts off with a lot more punch at around 3,000 ft.lbf at the muzzle but it also loses that punch a lot faster than 6.5 Creedmoor.
By about 700 yards both cartridges are effectively equal in energy and drop below 1,000 ft.lbf giving them basically the same range in that respect.
Velocity is basically the same at the muzzle, 2700ish Vs. 2750ish FPS. But again, .30-06 loses gas a lot faster than 6.5 Creedmoor will.
.30-06 drops under 2,000 FPS at roughly 400 yards, just over 100 yards sooner than 6.5 Creedmoor.
For pure hunting -- it really depends on what you want. If you need all punch, .30-06 is likely a better option. But it comes at a weight cost and a recoil cost.
The further you’re shooting the more 6.5 Creedmoor will start to outperform .30-06. It will also be easier to carry and allow for better follow-up shots.
In long range precision shooting, 6.5 Creedmoor wins by a long shot.
Hunting With 6.5 Creedmoor
This deserves more details so let’s dig into it for a moment.
Old school thinking was that a rifle cartridge needed about 1,000 foot-pounds of energy to be ethically effective on a deer-sized animal. But as bullet design changed and our understanding of what actually makes a bullet lethal changed, people have started to care more about velocity at the target than ft.lbf.
Depending on the bullet design anything between 1,600 to 2,000 FPS is required with 2,000 FPS being the most common “standard” that people agree on.
Looking at Hornady’s 143gr ELDX -- a long range expanding bullet design, with 2700 FPS at the muzzle this cartridge delivers 1,020 ft.lbf at 700 yards and 2,030 FPS at 500.
However, Hornady says the ELDX only needs a minimum of 1,600 FPS to expand, if that’s accurate -- the 143gr ELDX has 1,628 FPS at 850 yards.
Either way you cut it -- 6.5 Creedmoor can really send it when it comes to long range hunting.
But just because the cartridge can do it, doesn’t mean that is what you should expect when hunting.
Most hunters never take a shot over 100 yards due to where they live. But those of us in the western USA will commonly see 350, 400, even 500 yards as being entirely doable.
With a good cartridge like 6.5 Creedmoor and some training, those ranges are within your grasp.
Is 6.5 Creedmoor The Best Beginner Long Range Cartridge?
If you want raw precision at range, there are better options than 6.5 Creedmoor. For under 1,000 yards cartridges like 6 BR, 6 GT, and 6 Dasher take the crown. For reaching really long distances like 2,000 yards+, 375 Cheytac and 416 Barrett have been taking 8 out of the top 10 at King of Two Mile.
But for beginners?
I will absolutely go on the record saying I believe the 6.5 Creedmoor is by far the best beginner long range cartridge.
6.5 Creedmoor has long since proven itself ballistically speaking. From being designed by a major brand like Hornady to taking the competition world by storm for years to being adopted by the military -- 6.5 Creedmoor clearly has the goods.
With almost 15 years of history to it, the best twists have been worked out. Better bullets designed. And rifles of every shape, size, and style and readily available.
On top of all that, reloading for 6.5 Creedmoor is forgiving and fairly easy with several awesome powders being (normally) available.
And if that still isn’t enough -- it cannot be ignored that 6.5 Creedmoor has much lower recoil than something like .308 Winchester and that allows you to stay on target much easier, shoot longer, and shoot without developing bad habits like a flinch.
When you look at it as a complete package -- there is simply no other cartridge that comes close to the ballistic effectiveness, ease of use, low recoil, ease of availability, wide range of options, and reasonable cost that 6.5 Creedmoor delivers.
Bolt Rifle Or Gas Rifle
In the words of a Wiseman -- Por que no los dos?
I’m a big fan of the 6.5 Creedmoor and have both bolt and gas rifles. Bolt rifles are much more accurate for the money but gas rifles are a blast to shoot and can be very accurate.
For a general hunting rifle or PRS style rifle, bolt is likely your best option.
But if you want to plink at long range or want a very modern “Battle Rifle” then nothing but semi-auto will do.
If you’re going the gas rifle path, I recommend an AR-10 that you buy as a complete unit. AR-10s can be a little tricky to get running right and unless you’re really into tinkering, getting a complete AR-10 rifle is much easier.
We covered a lot of ground here, feel free to ask some questions in the comments!
As you can tell, I love the 6.5 Creedmoor. It is, for now, one of the best cartridges you can get and has a wide range of applications that suit it.
It’s been around for a long time now and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.