Love it or Loathe It: All About the 6.5 Creedmoor Round
There’s no denying the 6.5 Creedmoor round was well-marketed, but it wouldn’t still be around if it didn’t also have some serious merits. To be clear, we’re not crowning any Creedmoor as king of the world – so unclench.
The point is that 6.5 Creedmoor is a viable option for many hunters and competition shooters. To write it off because it’s too new, too hip, or too overhyped is really ignoring a round that is here to stay. So, cool your jets and let’s take a moment to get familiar with the most polarizing round in the outdoor world.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is nothing exceptionally new. In fact, it was first launched in 2007 by Hornady, but didn’t generate its insane amount of rage for a good number of years later.
The design is based on a necked-down .30 Thompson Center (TC) casing and was initially intended for long-distance competition shooters. It joins many others in launching .264-inch diameter projectiles but was built for lower wind deflection at further ranges.
This short-action round packs a relatively light powder charge, a major factor leading to longer barrel life. In fact, the 6.5 has been around long enough to have been used as the basis for several other related rounds, including the 6mm Creedmoor and 22 Creedmoor.
Even amid the current ammo shortage and buying frenzies, 6.5 Creedmoor has remained one of the more readily available rounds – chalk that up to ammunition manufacturer production levels or consumer demand.
For many hunters, when purchasing a new firearm, factory ammunition availability plays a major role in selecting a chambering. Most every big-name brand offers not just one or two, but multiple lines, from varmint loads all the way up to larger game, with plenty of deer rounds in between.
The 6.5 Creedmoor’s fairly recent rise to mainstream fame has driven its expansion across most every major firearms manufacturer. Finding a gun builder that doesn’t chamber the round is certainly the exception. In fact, the 6.5 Creed has proven its versatility across the full range of platforms.
Bolt actions are doubtless the most common, but the round is surprisingly popular in the semi-automatic market as well. There are AR platforms, lever actions, single shots, and – yes – even handguns.
A major factor in the 6.5 Creedmoor’s sustained market success is the wide scope of accessibility, from the lowest-end $400 budget guns to fully featured, high-end $3,500-plus hunting and competition rigs.
We’ve shot through a mix of them, including Browning, Ruger, Daniel Defense, Henry Repeating Arms, CVA, Savage Arms, Winchester, Mossberg, and more. We’ve even compiled a list of our favorites for hunters.
Projectile Weight Range
Whether you’re shopping factory-loaded ammunition or stocking up on multiple types of projectiles, the 6.5 Creedmoor boasts a fairly wide range of bullet weights.
Nosler opens up with a 90-grain offering, all the way up to Hornady’s 160-grainers. Because of that, the round becomes a player for everything from furbearing varmints to heavier game like elk and bear, with the correct load.
The selection of projectile weights and types also lends itself well to handloaders. For instance, Hornady alone currently catalogs 22 bullet offerings, from the 95-grain V-Max to a 160-grain Interlock. Such an array allows reloading recipe builders to relish in the possibilities.
Further, the usual 1:8 twist rate found on many 6.5 Creedmoor barrels has proven the ability to stabilize the expanse of longer pills, which adds to the appeal.
The Recoil Question
One of the major draws of the 6.5 Creedmoor is its relatively low recoil. That reduced kick becomes readily apparent when comparing the same rifle model in multiple chamberings.
Time and again, we see even old-school hunters who’ve long adored calibers like .270 Win, .30-06 Springfield, 7mm Rem Mag, or .300 Win Mag taking a step down in recoil to something softer-shooting. Before a meltdown commences, we’re actually longtime fans of all those rounds and also fully aware of the ballistic differences.
Still, many hunters – especially of deer-sized game – have realized the recoil-meets-terminal performance tradeoff is one they’re willing to make. In addition, the 6.5 Creedmoor has been a constant in conversations around the ideal calibers for new or young shooters, along with others like .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, .25-06 Remington, .350 Legend, and .30-30 Winchester.
Long-range Hunting and Competition Crossover
The Henry Long Ranger is one of our favorite rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)
The lines between effective and ethical hunting ranges continue to blur with the boom of distance shooting schools and competitions. That’s a debate for another day, but the 6.5 Creedmoor plays in both camps.
The round’s downrange performance is one of the major factors driving its meteoric rise. It launches long, high-ballistic-coefficient projectiles that are – in many cases – significantly less affected by wind drift than related rounds.
Will that make a difference or even be noticed by the workaday hunter? Probably not. Yet, many shooters shopping for a new rifle will at least consider the 6.5 Creed or one of its even younger cohorts if a mix of hunting and faraway target success is on the agenda.
Suck it Up, Buttercup
It is high time we find the middle ground on the 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s equally as ignorant to write it off as it is to believe it’s the Lord’s gift to the centerfire world. The round isn’t going anywhere, but it’s also not a magical one that transforms its owners into precision shooters overnight.
Would we turn in some of our classic rifles for one chambered in 6.5? Not a chance. But would we buy a new rifle in that round? Sure.
There are several other, much less popular chamberings that can match or exceed the 6.5 Creedmoor in many ways. However, it may well be impossible to find one that is more readily available, accessible, affordable, and offers downrange accuracy potential with the same low recoil level.