6.5 Creedmoor [Ultimate Guide]: Military’s New Caliber

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Maybe you’ve heard that the US military is replacing the M16 and looking into new rifles and ammo.  Wondering why they’re looking into 6.5 Creedmoor in particular? I’ve got you covered.

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

There are a couple things you should know about 6.5 Creedmoor and today, we’ll put this round into sharper focus for you.  So let’s look at it in more detail so that you’ll see why it could work for the military and why it could work for you.

**UPDATE** 2018: USSOCOM has adopted the 6.5 CM as their new Precision Rifle cartridge. 

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Creedmoor Kicks Ass & Takes Names at Long Range

6.5mm Creedmore Cartridge
6.5 Creedmoor Cartridge

Right off the bat, it’s crystal clear why Special Operations Command would and could turn to this cartridge as an alternative to existing ammo.  The cartridge was introduced in 2008 as one of the first and best cartridges for long range shooting.

At the time, there weren’t a lot of civilians shooting long range, but in recent years, the company has seen demand grow, and grow as manufacturers continue to put out more and more affordable long range rifles.  Today, it is the go-to cartridge for many competitive shooters.

Long Distance Shooters
Long Distance Shooters Love Creedmoor

Obviously, long range shooting is something that is advantageous to those in combat and the military seems to be catching onto Creedmoor’s awesome reputation for shooting close, precision groups at 500 yards or more.

And a bigger bullet means you’ll do bigger damage to your target, whether your target’s a terrorist or a Tazmanian devil.  Also, let’s face it.  Our brothers in arms go through enough crap.  The last thing they need is hellish recoil.  If there’s one thing you won’t get with 6.5 Creedmoor, it’s insane blowback.

US Military in Desert
These guys don’t need to be dealing with blowback.

6.5 Creedmoor is specially designed to offer low recoil rounds without compromising pinpoint accuracy.  And another thing that the military should appreciate is how it goes subsonic after 1,300 yards if we base our findings on the speed of sound recorded at sea level.

When it comes to tactical applications, this one packs a serious wallop.

6.5 Creedmoor vs.  .308 Winchester

Now, many avid shooters will tell you that there aren’t any real differences between 6.5 Creedmoor and the long-established .308 Win.  But those people would be ill-informed…sorta.  The truth is, they are very similar, but there are some key ways in which they differ.

For starters, there is the huge gap between the two when it comes to ballistics.  6.5 Creedmoor loads can reach one thousand yards with less than three hundred inches of drop with proper windage.  This is true of just about any ammo, particularly Hornady 178 grain HPBT, that is used with a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.  .308 Win doesn’t hold a candle to that kind of figure.

6.5 Creedmore and .308 Winchester Cartridges Compared
The Cartridges Compared

Another area in which 6.5 Creedmoor often bests .308 Win is in pure accessibility.  A lot of .308 ammo is out of stock when you visit the major online ammo dealers.  But if you run a search for Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 140 gr AMAX, you’ll get a bite.

And that’s the other thing that is very good news for the military: there are plenty of dealers — large and small —  from which they could order 6.5 ammo in bulk.

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

Some shooters like to gripe about barrel longevity, claiming that the 6.5 Creedmoor will only last for 2-3,000 rounds whereas the .308 Win will be good for as many as 10,000 rounds.  This is simply bogus since it all depends on whether you’re shooting 1 MOA.  There’s just no way that the .308 could be reaching that mark at 10,000.

If you’re using it with a precision rifle or for seasonal deer shooting, you’re going to go long ways with your 6.5 Creedmoor, no if, and, or buts…except the butt you put a bullet in.

Deer hunted with 6.5 creedmoor
Get Your Trophy Every Time

And that’s another thing.  Combat isn’t always what it looks like in movies and on TV.  Those of us who have served can tell you that there are many days where you don’t see much action and, even when you do, it’s not necessarily a rapid fire situation.

If you’re an active duty sniper, you’re gonna get a whole lot more life outta your 6.5 Creedmoor than you would with the .308.  No doubt in my mind.

What’s really crazy about the 6.5 versus .308 argument is the simple fact that 6.5 Creedmoor was specifically conceived to be a cartridge that would be superior to the wildcat cartridges of the day.  At the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s 2007 National Matches at Camp Perry, Hornady engineer Dave Emary decided to remedy was he saw as a problem among competitive shooters.

Dave Emary
The Man Himself

As Emary saw it, people were trying to push their cartridges to the limit, attempting to defy the laws of physics by brainstorming methods by which to get their cartridges to perform at levels they weren’t made to.  Problems would then crop up as a result of these jeri-rigging formulas.

In Emary’s own words, “People were having a lot of problems with functioning the 6mms.  They were running these things at very high pressures to try to get the performance they need to compete.

“Our solution was to go to a 6.5, firing a lot higher BC bullet, and not have to push it as hard to get what they wanted.”

Dave Emary in the Hornady Workshop
Dave Emary in the Hornady Workshop

Emary and his team solved this problem by taking existing .264 cartridges and altering the specs, giving the cartridge the capacity for long-ogive, high-ballistic rounds.  Lo, the 6.5 was born, a short-action rifle cartridge capable of insane performance.

Make Your Hunting Experience a Happy One

Like I said earlier, this cartridge isn’t just a slam dunk for the military should they end up choosing it over the others they’ve been testing.  It’s also a damn good option for almost any civilian hunter or gun enthusiast.

**UPDATE** 2018: USSOCOM has adopted the 6.5 CM as their new Precision Rifle cartridge. It was a close call between the 260 Remington and the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the 6.5 CM won the day due to the military’s belief that the 6.5 CM has more room for innovation in the future.

Personally, I like to use it when I’m target shooting.  I use it with a Ruger Precision Rifle and I shred my targets to kingdom come.  The results are always incredible.  At long range, I’ve seen the CM leave 2.8 inches at five hundred yards.

But the advantages for game hunters is where this one really shines.  It’s got a sick muzzle velocity due to its extra powder space and it’s able to accommodate a wealth of different medium-burning rifle powders.

If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t automatically think of long-range shooting when it comes to big game.  After all, ethical hunting requires limiting your range to as short as possible to ensure a clean kill. 

That being said, it should also stand to reason that if 6.5 Creedmoor can take out a target at 500 yards, it’s going to take care of business at 100 yards with no problem.

Long Range Hunting
If you can kill it from this far, then you can kill it from just about anywhere in between.

In my own experience, I’ve seen how this one can perform in more close quarters situations and I was every bit as impressed as I was when I hunted with the .308.  The round went right where I wanted it to and I bagged a deer without having to rechamber.  Like I said: clean kill.

Why 6.5 Creedmoor is Awesome for Target Shooting

Elementary, dear reader.  Better grouping and more affordable ammo make 6.5 Creedmoor a no-brainer for those who spend a lot of time at the firing range.

Holes in Target from a 6.5 Creedmoor
Holes in Target from a 6.5 Creedmoor

When we take into account the rising cost of ammo in the last few years and the scrutiny that many firearm and ammo companies have faced, 6.5 ammo maintains a reasonable price point and remains readily available.

Bulk Ammo Storage
And cheaper when you buy in bulk. so stock up.

And when it comes to high-end ballistics, you can’t beat these suckers.  The BC numbers on these bad boys are awe-inspiring (approximately .610 G1 at 140 grain).  If you’re looking to impress, you really can’t go wrong with the 6.5’s remarkable 1,400 fps at 1,000 yards(!).

Best 6.5 CM Ammo

If you want the very best from this cartridge, you’ll have to get into reloading. You can start with our Beginner’s Guide To Reloading But if you’re not into that, then you’ll need something you can pick up at the store.

6.5 Creedmoor Ammo vs 5.56
Assorted 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo vs 5.56

Training/Plinking

If you’re on the range to have fun, you don’t want to spend a fortune. But this also isn’t the kind of caliber that you buy cheap, crapy ammo for – you’ll want something that shoots consistent and for a fair price.

Sellier & Bellot is what you’re looking for, from 9mm to 6.5CM they make a good product for a good price.

Best 6.5 Creedmoor Range Ammo
Sellier & Bellot 6.5 Creedmoor 140g FMJBT - 20 Rounds

Sellier & Bellot 6.5 Creedmoor 140g FMJBT - 20 Rounds

Prices accurate at time of writing

Match Grade Long-Range Target

Of course, once you’re ready to really stretch your legs and see what this bad boy can do – it’s time to get out the good stuff!

Match grade ammo isn’t cheap, but it is amazing. Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor Extremely Low Drag match bullet is outstanding for factory ammo. Your mileage may vary, but I’ve been getting half-MOA with this ammo.

Best 6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo
Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120gn ELD Match - 20 Rounds

Hornady Match 6.5 Creedmoor 120gn ELD Match - 20 Rounds

Prices accurate at time of writing

Hunting

When it comes to hunting ammo, you want great ammo. Not only for accuracy but also with a bullet that will expand and do a lot of damage to your target to ensure a clean, humane kill.

Hornady with their Super Shock Tip bullets gives that every time. A polymer tip gives you the ballistics of FMJ with the expansion and killing power of a hollow-point.

Best 6.5 Creedmoor Hunting Ammo
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 129 gr SST Polymer Tip - 20 Rounds

Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor 129 gr SST Polymer Tip - 20 Rounds

Prices accurate at time of writing

Best 6.5 CM Rifles

A cool cartridge is only as good as the weapon that throws it, just like a weapon that throws it is only as good as what it throws.

Best Affordable Rifle

Palmetto State Armory is the name of the game…with $500 uppers and entire rifles for $800.

PSA 6.5 Creedmoor Uppers

PSA 6.5 Creedmoor Uppers

Prices accurate at time of writing

Plus…we managed sub-MOA performance out of it with the cheapest plinking ammo.

PSA 6.5 Creedmoor AR-10
PSA 6.5 Creedmoor AR-10

Check out our full review here.

Hunting Rifle

For a budget hunting rifle, it’s hard to beat the Savage Arms 12 FV – not only is this a solid rifle out of the box, but it is at a price that is hard to beat. I commonly see this is the $370-$410 range. 

Best Budget Bolt-Action
Savage Arms 12 FV

Savage Arms 12 FV

Prices accurate at time of writing

Long-Range Precision Target Rifle

I already said it, but when it comes to long-range target shooting the Ruger Precision Rifle is just too good to beat. For the price, the options, the aftermarket, and the out-of-the-box quality – you want this rifle.

Honorable Mention Rifle

A dedicated rifle for every role is the dream for many of us, but if you don’t have the room in your safe (or your budget) for that then you might want to consider a middle of the road do-it-all rifle.

The Tikka T3x is that rifle. Rugged, lightweight, smooth as butter action and outstanding trigger – a Tikka T3x is my go-to hunting rifle.

On the precision side, Tikka offers a 1 MOA from the factory guarantee and lives up to it!

Best Do-It-All Bolt-Action
Tikka T3X Lite

Tikka T3X Lite

Best Scopes for 6.5 CM Rifles

Once you have your ammo and rifle picked out,  you’ll want to invest in a quality scope.  Depending on what role your 6.5 Creedmoor will be filling you might want a couple of scopes!

For hunting, you’ll generally want something a little lower magnification, like this Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x.

Crossfire II 2-7x32 by Vortex

Crossfire II 2-7x32 by Vortex

But if you’re looking to do some real precision shooting, really put this cartridge to the test, then you’ll need something with a LOT more magnification: Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60x fills the bill!

Highest Magnification
Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60x52

Vortex Golden Eagle HD 15-60x52

Other Accessories

Another important thing to keep in mind when purchasing any cartridge is maintenance.  If you’re going to be participating in extended shooting sessions, you should always bring along the proper gear for cleaning your rifle and cartridge.  Maintenance will help you to sustain that pinpoint precision you’re hoping for.

I always take my J Dewey Rods’ Complete Bolt Action Rifle Cleaning Kit with me when I know I’m gonna spend all day at the range or out in the field.  The 6.5 kit costs around $30 and includes everything I need for proper upkeep.

J Dewey Rods

J Dewey Rods' Complete Bolt Action Rifle Cleaning Kit

Prices accurate at time of writing

You get a BAC Chamber Kit, a B-6.5 Bore brush, an M-22 Bore mop, a CH-308 Chamber brush and a 100 count of P-221 1 ½” Round Patches.

Closing Thoughts

So what’s the bottom line? Quite simply, 6.5 Creedmoor is a formidable cartridge for tactical and target shooting applications alike.  

At the end of the day, the battle between 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester will wage on, but I think it’s clear that 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t going anywhere.

6.5 Meme
Now Don’t Disappoint Me

If anything, it’s only going to continue to grow in popularity as more and more long range shooters embrace it.  

What about you! Did you get the 6.5 Creedmoor? Take any game this year with it? Do you agree with the military adopting it? Let us know in the comments!

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Sam Ainsworth
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Sam Ainsworth

S&W/T/C Compass rifle @ KY Gun Co. for$275 with $75 rebate for Vets and active duty.

Hammer
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Hammer

I love the 6.5 Creedmoor round, it’s superior to the .308 when reaching out over 800 yards. But, there is a newe 6.5 PRC on the horizon that is supposedly even better than the 6.5 Creedmoor. It will take some time and testing to see the actual stats on the newer 6.5 PRC but either way the 6.5 is here to stay!

byproduct
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byproduct

Wasn’t PART of the point of Mil looking for a new round, was to make a move to 1 single round to fit all scenarios and weapons, rather than 2, or,3?
And in that case, 308 doesn’t cut it because of the bulk and recoil.

MarionM
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MarionM

I took the plunge with a custom 6.5 CM on a Remington 700 SA with sleeved bolt, 1:8 Christensen Arms carbon wrapped barrel in a pillar bedded laminate stock. Shoots lights out at 100 yards with 4 shot groups in the 0.3’s using 140 grain Berger Target (not the hybrid) seated 0.100″ off the lands, Lapua SR primer brass, and Federal 205M primers. I get the same results with 40.0 grains of RL-17 or H-4350. Switched to a 140 grain Swift A-frame with same 40 grain H4350 load @ 2590 fps for pigs and have taken two 300 lb. boars,… Read more »

ColoradoRancher
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ColoradoRancher

Just bought a Bergara B-14 HMR in 6.5mm Creedmoor, placed a Talley 20MOA Picatinny rail with 30mm High Tactical 6-screw turrets and a Zeiss Conquest V4 6-24×50 on it and it out shoots the .308 I got to shoot in the service any day. I wish I’d have had my HMR back then!