6.5mm Ammo Breakdown: Best 6.5 Calibers for Accuracy & Distance

Why is the 6.5 mm family of rounds so popular?

It’s been tried, tested, and put to good use since 1894 when the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser cartridge was invented and used by the Swedish and Norwegian military forces for a whopping 101 years.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

While the Swedish Mauser is still being used today, there are a number of other contenders within the 6.5mm cartridge family that helped to contribute to its newfound popularity.  

Today, we’re going to take a look at just what the buzz is all about with the 6.5mm family of rounds, and what the differences are between them.

Let’s get to it.

What Makes the 6.5mm Family of Rounds So Popular?

Rounds like the 6.5mm Creedmoor and 6.5mm Grendel have helped catapult this powerful round into stardom.  They’ve become a common round for some of our most favorite rifles, including hunting rifles by Ruger and Savage, rifles on the AR-10 and AR-15 platforms, and tactical sniper rifles like the Ruger Precision Rifle.

Best Long-Range Beginner's Bang For The Buck
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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

But the cartridge’s popularity begs the question: what came first, the chicken or the egg?  Or in this case, the popularity of the rifles or the round?

The truth is that the 6.5mm round began to gain popularity once it became a favorite among competitive shooters who loved the round because it remains powerful and accurate but offers less recoil than the .308 Win.  In many ways, shooters felt like the 6.5mm gave them a competitive advantage over the .308 cartridge – and thus a new generation of sniper rifles compatible with the 6.5mm was born.

In addition, the 6.5mm’s rise to fame also coincides with the increased popularity of tactical precision rifle shooting competitions.

But what exactly are the differences between the various members of the 6.5mm family?  Let’s take a look.

6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser

The one that started it all.  The 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser is nearly 125 years old and is still going strong.  Known for its low recoil and pinpoint accuracy, this round has really been able to stand out in competitive shooting and on mid-sized hunting trips.

Swedish Mausers on a clip
Swedish Mausers on a clip

Even in today’s terms, the Swedish Mauser is more than a functional cartridge – it’s downright lethal.  It’s been featured in a variety of hunting rifles, including the Remington 700 and the Winchester Model 70, and has been a favorite for deer, elk, reindeer, and moose hunts.

6.5mm Grendel

The 6.5mm Grendel is an AR-15 round that’s been around for almost 15 years now.  It’s designed with the intention of being more accurate than its .223 counterpart, while also being able to boost power without adding any real recoil.  

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Generally speaking, you’ll find mixed reviews with regard to whether Grendel is better than the .223, but it is praised for being able to travel 800 yards without losing significant accuracy.

In addition, the Grendel will fit in your standard 5.56x45mm magazine and turn a 30-round mag into a 20-round one.

In terms of hunting, the Grendel has developed quite the cult following who prefer it over the .308 Win.  For starters, it has all of the knockdown power needed to drop that beastly buck or elk, plus it’s lighter and offers less recoil than the .308.

6.5mm grendel bullet options
6.5mm Grendel with several bullet options

The only real problem that some shooters have is availability.  While the .308 is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon, some people are worried if 6.5mm cartridges like the Grendel will be less popular in the next decade or two.  

Personally, I don’t think they’re going anywhere.  If you agree…we recommend the Ballistic Advantage barrels.

250
at Ballistic Advantage

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6.5mm Creedmoor

The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a beast that’s designed specifically to compete with the .308 Win cartridge.  Many hunters believe that the Creedmoor is an all-around better round due to the fact that it’s lighter, faster, and offers up far less recoil than its Winchester counterpart.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

That’s not to say that the .308 isn’t an excellent hunting round, but tests show that the 6.5 Creedmoor does perform better between 700 – 1000 yards than the .308.

The truth is that the 6.5mm Creedmoor’s performance has been impressing marksmen for a decade.  

6.5 Creedmoor
The 6.5 Creedmoor

Even the US Military has been looking into dropping the 7.62mm and switching over to a 6.5mm Creedmoor because of its better performance and significantly less wind drift than the current long-range round.  Whether or not the military will go through with the switch remains to be seen, but it does prove that the 6.5mm Creedmoor is an exemplary round for long-distance shooting.

And it’s easy to get into…if you already have an AR-10 (.308) platform, all you need is a complete 6.5mm Creedmoor upper.  We suggest the Aero Precision 20″ or 22″.

635
at Aerp Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

And if you’re building…the bolt and magazines are the same…all you’ll need is a new barrel.  We recommend Ballistic Advantage.

295
at Ballistic Advantage

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6.5x47mm Lapua

Designed specifically for bench shooting, the 6.5x47mm Lapua is a mid-sized cartridge that provides accuracy and minimal recoil when compared to the .308 Winchester.  Generally speaking, it functions quite similarly to the .260 Remington, but with one added benefit: guns that shoot the .308 can easily be converted to fire the 6.5mm Lapua.

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at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Because the 6.5mm Lapua and the .308 share similar dimensions, all you need to do to make the transition over is swap out the barrel.  And compared to the 6.5mm Creedmoor, the 6.5mm Lapua delivers the same overall level of accuracy.

6.5x47 Lapua, with a cutaway view on left
6.5×47 Lapua, with a cutaway view on left

Most popular with bench shooting the 6.5mm Lapua is most often reloaded instead of store bought. If you’re interested in getting into reloading your own ammo, you’ll find our Beginner’s Guide to Reloading to be a great place to start.

.260 Remington

The .260 Remington (or 6.5-08 for you folks in countries that speak metric) was created primarily to compete with the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser.  Like other 6.5mm cartridges, it boasts accurate at longer ranges and less recoil than the .308 Win.  Its accuracy has made it a popular round of long-range shooting competitions up to 1000 meters.

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Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The biggest complaint about the .260 Remington round historically was the lack of variety.  But these days, you can find the .260 in a number of different grain weights.  Aside from that, it’s also said to be a little harsher on the barrel than its .308 counterpart.

260 Remington
Remington .260

Still, the .260 is an excellent round for law enforcement and hunting.  While not as popular as the .308, it can be used to take down medium game with relative ease.

.264 Winchester Magnum

The .264 Winchester Mag has been around since 1959.  And while it’s always been a solid cartridge, it never really saw the popularity that it deserved.  Some of this was its reputation for being extremely harsh on the barrel, but it didn’t really cause any more stress than most other magnum rounds.

.264 Winchester Magnum
.264 Winchester Magnum

The .264 Winchester was pretty accurate round, but it doesn’t do nearly the distance as some of the other 6.5mm cartridges.  In fact, you can probably expect around a three-inch drop as soon as the bullet travels about 500 yards.  With that said, it’s always been a solid cartridge for a mid-sized game like deer and elk.

These days, the .264 isn’t quite the barrel-eating round that it was known for in the 1960s.  You can thank that on the improved technology that’s helped make barrel steel stronger and more protected against wear and tear.  So what was known to eat away at barrel throats after 100 or so shots now holds up anywhere between 700 and 1000 fired rounds.

The downside of .264 win mag? Well, unless you reload – it can be nearly impossible to find. Fact is, I couldn’t find a single store online that had it in stock.

6.5mm vs .308 Winchester

Now that the 6.5mm family has finally experienced the popularity it’s always deserved, a lot of people are forsaking their .308s for these smoother rounds.  But does that mean that the .308 Win has been made obsolete?

Short answer: no.

Size comparison of some 6.5mm cartridges, left to right: .264 Winchester Magnum, 6.5×55mm Swedish, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 6.5mm Grendel
Some 6.5mm cartridges, left to right: .264 Winchester Magnum, 6.5×55mm Swedish, .260 Remington, 6.5mm Creedmoor, 6.5mm Grendel

Unless you’re doing most of your hunting from long-range, you’re not really going to feel too much of a difference between the .308 and your 6.5mm cartridge – especially if you’re shooting at a target less than 300 yards away.  In this context, they’re both quite equal in effectiveness at dropping a mid-sized animal.

It’s also important to remember that the .308 is always going to be readily available due to its popularity.  While I firmly believe that the 6.5mm cartridges aren’t going anywhere in the future, they just haven’t reached the same level of usage as the .308, which means that you might not always be able to pick up a box of Grendel or Creedmoor in a pinch.

It doesn’t make one cartridge better than the other – it’s just a numbers game that the .308 happens to win.

Alternative AR-15 cartridges
Alternative AR-15 cartridges

However, when we’re talking about competition shooting, a round like the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, or 6.5 Lapua – and even the .260 Remington – is going to outperform the .308 nearly every time.  That lack of recoil and improved accuracy between 700 – 1000 yards is crucial in making the 6.5mm family better cartridges for long-distance shooting (and even tactical situations).

But remember, both the .308 and the 6.5mm family serve different purposes.  

At the end of the day, shooting a Grendel or Creedmoor doesn’t make you a better shooter.  It’s about knowing the limitations of each cartridge you’re shooting with.  If you do that, you’re already on your way towards being a marksman.

Anyone here rocking an AR-10, AR-15, or bolt-action hunting rifle with 6.5mm ammo?  Have a favorite member of the 6.5mm family? Let us know!

30 Leave a Reply

  • Doug Bourg

    I’ve been shooting the 6.5-08 (.260) with a Remington 700 action (AKA - bolt gun in my house) for about 15 years or longer. Not any good ammo for it, but I started reloading a few years before so just bought tools to reload for this cartridge, too. Use Winchester .243 cases mostly and neck up. Shoots consistently at 1/2 to 1/4 MOA groups out to 600 yds. Use Lapua cases too - but a lot more expensive. Also have AR platform for this cartridge but needed some adjustments to make it shoot as well. Had to get new bolt from JP Ent. with smaller pin to keep from blowing primers. Forgot to mention I generally shoot SMK 142 gr using VV N-550. The AR can also shoot 123 gr SMK using 4000-MR powder. But N-550 can drive the 142 gr in the bolt gun at about 2850 fps. Only about 2620 in the AR but that’s where there’s an accuracy node. Love both guns. May look at Grendel upper in future for one of my unused AR-15 lowers

    4 weeks ago
  • Patrick D. Allen

    I love my 6.5 MPC in both my Remington 700 PSS and AR-15’s. With a ton off 5.56 brass to resize I will never have to worry about supply issues. Truly all I needed to convert an AR is the barrel. Same bolt and mags. It shoots extremely well up to 123 gr MK’s and 130 gr GK from Sierra.

    3 months ago
  • BJ

    I have a 6.5 Grendel with a 22 inch barrel with golf ball pinging on the entire barrel. At 150 yds I was able to touch each hole from the previous round. I am a little worried about all of the 6.5 Creedmoor vrs. 6.5 Grendel. I also Have a few 5.56 ARs (9) and one 6.8 spc AR. what would the challenges be to convert one of those to 6.5 Creedmoor? May be better off selling a couple 5.56 and putting the proceeds into a Creedmoor?

    3 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      It would be impossible to convert one of the 5.56 or 6.8 SPC rifles into a 6.5 Creedmoor gun. 6.5 Grendel, 5.56, and 6.8 SPC are all built on AR-15 style lowers - 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win use an AR-10 lower. PSA makes a 6.5 Creedmoor AR-10 for a great price, John used one to ring steel at a mile a few weeks ago! Here is our review of it. Here is our review of the 8 Best AR-10s

      3 months ago
  • Briley

    I have been shooting a Remington 700 in 6.5 Remington Magnum for over 40 years (gees, closer to 50!) and am finally having to replace the barrel from too many barn burner 85 gr. Sierra hollow points with generous doses of IMR-4831...super accurate and deadly explosive at around 3400 fps. I have cranked them up to 3700! but the accuracy went to heck much above 3400. I have taken many deer and several elk with a variety of 120, 129 and 140 grain bullets never more than one shot per kill. Ken Waters maimed this cartridge because of a bad batch of brass, blaming the "short fat" design of the case for excessive stretch. That is too bad as it is better than most of the other 6.5's with ballistics nipping on the heels of the .264. My new barrel is a 26 inch Shillen and should give the bullets a little more push. I can hardly wait to see what it will do with 2 more inches of barrel.

    4 months ago
  • Stephen Fahnestock

    What about the 6.5-284

    6 months ago
  • Jason

    I have always shot and hunted with a .308 because, simply, that is the rifle that was handed down to me. I am very intrigued by the 6.5 CM but I have never had an opportunity to shoot this round before. I am curious if someone can try and explain the difference in recoil felt between the .308 WIN and the 6.5 CM. Supposedly a .270 WIN has less recoil than a .308 but I personally can not tell that much of a difference in the two. However, I have shot a 25-06 and it has very noticeably less recoil felt. Any helpful comparisons or calculated data would be gratefully appreciated. Thanks!

    6 months ago
    • Phil

      I have a .308 bolt action, a .308 AR and a 6.5mm Creedmoor Precision rifle and have love for all 3. My 6.5 and my AR are far superior to my .308 bolt but that may simply be because my .308 bolt isn't very advanced. I shot my first deer with a .308 so I will always love it but my Creedmoor is my new go-to weapon for hunting and anything long range. The Creedmoor has far less recoil than the .308 and is much more accurate while costing only slightly more to shoot. I highly recommend it and would suggest the Ruger 6.5 Creedmoor RPR (which is what I have) or a Remington 700 in 6.5 Creedmoor........you will find the Ruger is ready to go out of the box (I added a Vortex Viper PST 5-25x50 scope) where the Remington, I would recommend a trigger upgrade and a little bastard muzzle brake)

      6 months ago
  • Rick Roman

    Just picked up a CZ 557 Sporter in 6.5 Swede. Had a Carl Gustav M96 (1905) back in the day so I know the round. Loading Hornady 140 ELD-Xs now but hunting in Cali I'll need to go lead free. Should be a soft shooting tack driver! I'll be keeping the .308s I own tho. One reason why guns are better then women...you don't throw out the old ones when a new one comes along!

    8 months ago
  • DaveP326

    No mention of the 6.5 Jap and the 6.5 Carcano?

    8 months ago
  • Karel (South African in Aus)

    Hi all. I have a Tikka T3 CTR chambered in 260 Rem. I do my own reloading and I’m shooting the Hornady 140 ELD-Match bullets. Can get 1/4 MOA at 100m and put 5-6 pills through the same hole at that distance. I shoot Hornady 140gr SST’s for hunting and have dropped kangaroos with a headshot at 300-350m + at night time with an instant kill. The 6.5 caliber as a whole is a much better all rounder in my opinion. I’ve shot similar shots with a 308 with 168gr Zmax from Hornady but it’s not as effective as the 260Rem at that distances 300m +. I’ve shot Practical Hunting Competitions with both the 308 and 260 and find the 6.5 caliber to be a better all rounder. Less recoil and a lot less drop and drift in the wind. Have shot a mates 6.5 cm in a Sako and find the 260Rem and 6.5CM to be almost identical. I still prefer the 260 over the Creedmoor but I think it’s beca I like to be different and not jump on the same Creedmoor craze. Both great rounds and superior to almost all cartridges I’ve shot bafore. The best all rounder for practicality for hunting and competition in my opinion. Happy hunting and shooting fellas.

    8 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      "I shoot Hornady 140gr SST’s for hunting and have dropped kangaroos with a headshot at 300-350m + at night time with an instant kill." Wicked cool. Fun fact, The USA Special Operations Command did massive and extensive testing of .260 Rem and 6.5 Creedmoor. They also found them to be nearly identical in ballistics and effectiveness at long range. They would go on to adopt the 6.5 Creedmoor only due to it being a more popular cartridge with more commercial loadings available.

      8 months ago
  • Scott

    6.5 PRC from Hornady is a great round a time will show it

    9 months ago
  • T. Dumoulin

    Hello. The 25-06 seems to have been forgotten here. .257 in is 6.528 mm. I read it was a hot cartridge.

    10 months ago
  • James C Warner Jr

    I also have a 6.5, but its in the Weatherby 6.5-300 version. it is a super fast flat powerful round. A true combination of the legendary .257 Weatherby mag and the .300 Weatherby mag. Way to hot to be a constant shooter (barrel heat). but deadly accurate with Barnes 127 gn LRX.

    10 months ago
  • G-Kat

    When it comes to a discussion on long range accuracy, I think the 6.5x284 NORMA is among the best and should be included.

    11 months ago
    • Will

      Thank you. It’s about time I scrolled this thread forever to hear someone mention this jewel of a cartridge. It’s my next purchase

      1 month ago
  • zooboomafoo

    you forgot the two greatest rounds: 6.5 Arisaka and 6.5 Carcano

    1 year ago
  • B.

    Any of the rounds listed can get the job done but for me the reason i decided to stay with 308/7.62 is barrel life. wild game dont know the difference in what round hits them and if the shot is well placed, they drop like a brick with any calibers listed. .

    1 year ago
  • Eric B.

    I shoot the 6.5 Creedmoor in both my Ruger Precision Rifle and Ruger American Predator. With 140 gr. and 147 gr. Hornady ELD-M factory loads I get consistent 1/2" MOA with my RPR and slightly larger 3/4" MOA with my RAP. (FULL DISCLOSURE: My RAP has been upgraded with a Timmy trigger and a Boyd's Classic Laminated stock.) I feel that competing with the Hornady ELD ammo in my RPR puts me on the same accuracy level as guns costing many times more. I use a Bushnell ERS 3.5 - 21 x 50 tactical scope W/H59 reticle. The 6.5 CM permits me to easily compete to 1,000 yards/meters and the newer 147 gr. Hornady match round is great in southern Nevada's unpredictable winds. I feel the 6.5 CM is a better caliber for these conditions than the new 6 mm Creedmoor.

    1 year ago
    • Phantom30

      Well Eric I have the same rifles but in 6mm Creedmoor and they shoot the same performance with even less recoil and the ability to self spot. Plus when loaded with DTAC 115gr RBT I can get 1700 yards supersonic, but the stability of the RBT stretches it out to a mile.. However, my LR 6CM, had a technical problem with the barrel so while this upper was off for servicing, I did put a 6.5CM on top and works fine as you have commented.. What is interesting is the direct interoperability between the two. BCG, Magazines and Charging handle are the same, the lower doesn't care so it is a cheap swap. Good stuff all round.

      1 year ago
  • KJE

    I really like your website and appreciate what you are doing, older gun enthusiasts frequently look down on newbies and are often condescending to them when they ask questions. This is not good for future generations of gun owners. Your website educates people in a simple and clear way, thank you for recognizing this need and thank you for your initiative in correcting it. I also appreciate how you recognize the 6.5X55 Swedish Mauser as way ahead of its time. Its reputation in Europe has been legendary and that has been won competing against other popular rounds such as the 303 Brit or 8 mm Mauser, etc.. This is old school stuff. If you haven't had the chance to shoot one of the Swedish Mausers you should do it, they are sweet(dish). The Swedish Mauser and the 6.5 Creedmore are ballistic-ally nearly identical, enough said. The 6.5 Grendel is slightly inferior in ballistic performance but runs in an AR-15 platform. If you aren't shooting over 600 yards or killing moose, who cares? There are some subtle errors in your evaluation of the 6.5 Grendel. No one recommends using 5.56 magazines for 6.5 Grendel and the accuracy is generally considered superior, although this depends on the shooter, barrel, etc. so it is somewhat subjective. Most people who have Grendels are enthusiasts and are purchasing quality equipment, know how to shoot well, reload, etc. so they report remarkable performance. I am a “common shooter” and can report remarkable performance with my low budget guns. They are fun to shoot and kick ass. For about the same size magazine you get 25 rounds of 6.5 Grendel versus 30 rounds of 5.56 (not a 20 to 30 ratio as stated). The magazines are reasonably priced. When 6.5 Grendel is compared to a 5.56 there is a significant increase in energy (about 50%), not only at the muzzle but substantially more downrange, thanks to the higher ballistic coefficient. If you are considering purchasing your first AR-15 type rifle and only want one, or very few, the 6.5 Grendel will do everything the 5.56 version will do and then some. I recommend it to people who are considering an AR-15 for hunting of most anything like deer or smaller. The few disadvantages are related to ammo, it is cheap and readily available online, or expensive and readily available on line, you get what you pay for but the cheap stuff is about 1 moa (depending on gun shooter, etc.) and the expensive stuff is better and more expensive, (surprise, surprise). You will probably NOT find it at your local Walmart, at least not yet, so you will need to plan ahead, but who goes hunting without planning it? I think the Grendel is here to stay.

    1 year ago
  • Yer

    Confused on your comment that the .264 win mag does not do the same distance as the other 6.5 cartridges. Wouldn't this cartridge push all 6.5 bullet weights faster across the board, making it shoot flatter and hit harder? Of course it'll have more recoil and less barrel life.

    1 year ago
    • Multicaliber

      The 264 Win Mag is the 6.5 KING. No matter what the popular opinion says. Facts are facts.

      1 year ago
  • Daniel

    I have adopted the 6.5 creedmoor as my new hunting cartridge. Although, I don't really shoot beyond 150yds at deer, I feel the 6.5 has a lot more knock down power over my tried and trusted 308. I know the numbers may say otherwise but from what I have experienced in the field, the 6.5 seems to destroy less meat and kill faster. I am not sure why this may be but, that is just what I have noticed in the past 4 seasons.

    2 years ago
    • Chuck

      What is your preferred 6.5 Creedmoor ammo for hunting?

      1 year ago
  • John

    Can you shoot the 6.5 mm Swedish Mauser and 6.5 mm creedmoor through same rifle

    2 years ago
    • Eric Hung

      Hi John, they are different lengths so they would not shoot through the same rifle.

      2 years ago
  • Jeff Wright

    What about the 6.5 X .284 that round is very popular with F-Class Open

    2 years ago
    • Charles Wittmer

      and all the other 6.5 cartridges used in Europe and japan around 1900. this is only new to milleaneals 6.5x50 japan, 6.5x52 Italy, 6.5x54 sporting round in Europe remember the carcano/kennedy? only the powders and bullets have progressed along with cnc tooling. the jap arisaka from 1900-1930 and the 96 mauser will always be a standard to match in a bolt gun made on a manual machine.

      1 year ago
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