Explanation of the Popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor

BY Herschel Smith
3 months, 2 weeks ago

American Hunter.

To appreciate the Creedmoor’s design details we must first look back to the mid-twentieth century. At a time when the Beatles were the hottest band in the land and the Bay of Pigs debacle was unfolding, American hunters and shooters were obsessed with belted magnum cartridges. The 7mm Remington Magnum, the .300 Winchester Magnum, and Roy Weatherby’s red-hot cartridges had become the standard for making long shots on big game. If you wanted to improve performance from your favorite belted magnum the answer was simple: shoot a lighter bullet.

Over the decades, serious shooters recognized two things. First, while lighter bullets did offer higher velocities and flatter trajectories at moderate ranges things changed when shots stretched much beyond a quarter-mile. Light bullets tended to drop very quickly when their velocities waned, and the wind shoved them all over the place. Second, hunters realized that powerful magnum rounds kicked hard, burned a lot of powder, and required long actions, magazines, and barrels which increased gun weight and overall length.

Fast magnums remained popular through the end of the twentieth century, and they are still popular choices for those who hunt big game at long distances. But by the turn of the century, shooters were taking a long, hard look at long-range bullet performance, and what they learned was that a bullet’s ballistic coefficient played an important role in downrange performance. Heavy-for-caliber bullets with aerodynamic profiles and high ballistic coefficients make sense for long-range shooting.

The sensible solution would be to load magnum ammunition with high-BC bullets, but there were two problems. First, many rifles had barrel twist rates that were too slow to properly stabilize extremely heavy-for-caliber bullets. Second, most cartridge cases were not designed with maximum-weight bullets in mind, so heavy bullets would rob case capacity or exceed acceptable cartridge overall lengths (COL).

Enter the 6.5 Creedmoor. It’s based on the .30 T/C, a cartridge that never garnered a major following. The Creedmoor was necked down and features a 30-degree shoulder and a long enough neck so that it can accommodate 140+ grain bullets without robbing case capacity, yet still fit in a short action. Muzzle velocities weren’t extremely high—around 2,700 fps with Hornady’s ELD match load—but that bullet boasts a G1 BC of .697, so at 500 yards it retains over 2,000 fps of velocity and almost 1,500 foot-pounds of energy. Compare that to Hornady’s .308 Win. 168 Boat Tail Hollow Point (BTHP) Match ammunition, and you’ll see why the Creedmoor makes sense. The .308 Win. load has a BC of .450 so it’s going to move more in a crosswind. The .308 Win., with its heavier bullet, is actually about 200 fps slower than the Creedmoor at 500 yards, and the .308 Win. produces more recoil.

That’s the best explanation of the 6.5 Creedmoor I’ve ever seen.  Not even the engineers at Hornady have done so well at explaining why they developed the round.

It’s a heavy-for-caliber bullet, but not heavy.  It’s long and has a high BC, but it fits in a short action rifle.  It’s a long bullet but it doesn’t rob the case of powder capacity.  It’s a compromise round.  It achieves moderate to high MV at short ranges, but exceptional velocity at longer ranges.

Its recoil is of course more than say a 5.56mm, but it’s not like shooting a 30-06 or 7mm magnum.  Guns designed for it send the round downrange with enough bullet twist to take advantage of the cartridge design.

There isn’t any such thing as perfect ammunition.  Every decision is a compromise on something.  But this round achieves the best of the compromises that have to be made, and is nearly as perfect as can be for white tail, hogs, varmint, and elk at close range.  “When Emary and Thielen designed this round, they wanted a superb low-recoiling cartridge that was accurate and could take advantage of high-BC bullets, and that’s exactly what they’ve created.”

If you want something else, then get something else (e.g., use a 7mm magnum or 7mm PRC for ridge-to-ridge hunting in Idaho or Wyoming).  Don’t criticize the 6.5 Creedmoor – its design has a purpose.  Know what your bullet and gun are designed for, and stay within the boundary conditions of the analysis.


  1. On June 8, 2023 at 3:12 am, Dan said:

    Too many people cannot understand the fundamental physics behind ballistics and how bullets work. They want and expect a round that can do it all. You see the same notion about cars, batteries and many other consumer products. People want what they want regardless of reality. That mindset is prevalent and growing. It will destroy any society that suffers from it..

  2. On June 8, 2023 at 5:32 am, jrg said:

    Okay, now I can see the benefit of this cartridge in terms I understand. Thank you for linking to it. I’m old and set in my ways and the newer cartridges just made me roll my eyes at manufactuers ‘reinventing the wheel’.

    But I have not attempted to become a long range hunter, due to me wanting to be certain I will not mess up the shot and cause an animal to suffer because of my limitations. Even with a cartridge which is designed to hit and kill at long distance, I don’t think it is worth the risk.

    This was reinforced by one of my cousins who invited a coworker to hunt with us. He shot a .270 Winchester and claimed 500 yard + kills could be made – he regularly did this. Well, every time he went out to the blind, at least two rounds would be shot. He would trudge over to where the animal crossed, verified no blood trail was found and walk back to blind to continue hunt. Made a racket AND scared animals unnecessarily for the rest of us who were waiting for a shot to present itself.

    He did finally connect, hitting a doe but losing it in the brush in the evening. He went back in the morning, finding and retrieving the doe, which due to being out all night, had a lot of ruined meat. He was not invited back. My relatives and I had a talk with the cousin, who admitted the invitation was a a mistake.

    I’m probably in the minority now, but the old advise of get closer – than get 10 yards closer still resonates with me.

  3. On June 8, 2023 at 10:13 am, RCW said:

    This topic brings to mind the trade-offs that take place in what some call the engineering triangle. At each corner are price, quality & speed. Two of three can be maximized but not all three simultaneously.

  4. On June 8, 2023 at 1:33 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    6.5 Creedmoor was invented – according to the verbiage by Hornady – as an “across the course” competition cartridge. It has done that job well, so well in fact that it spawned an offspring, namely 6mm CM, which has largely displaced its larger-caliber namesake as a competition chambering.

    However, looked at from higher altitude, 6.5CM belongs to a long line of .264-caliber cartridges going back to the late 19th century, including 6.5x55mm (6.5 Swedish Mauser), 260 Remington, and others.

    In recent years, hunters have taken to using 6.5CM and there have been rumors/intel that JSOC is using it in precision rifles being used by their special ops personnel.

    This ought to be no surprise, since 6.5mm (.264-cal.) cartridges offer excellent ballistic coefficient and sectional density numbers, and punch above their weight in terms of performance. About the only detriment for the cartridge is that since it is a short-action, bullet weight tops out around 160-grs. or so.

    The Scandinavians have used 6.5x55mm to hunt game as large as bear and moose, typically with 160-grain round-nose bullets. The conventional wisdom says that 6.5mm isn’t powerful-enough for such use, but they’ve done just fine for well over a century.

    6.5x55mm was also used by the Swedish military as its standard service rifle and machine-gun cartridge, for many years, until finally adopting 7.62x51mm NATO. They even had Browning Automatic Rifles chambered in it, which were license-produced by FN of Belgium. Today, many African hunting guides and PHs (pro hunters) recommend 6.5×55 as a cartridge appropriate for the plains game found on that continent.

    6.5mm projectiles perform well in the precision and long-range areas. Since the projectiles are slippery, they retain velocity and kinetic energy way down range, and they also are deflected less by wind than less-efficient designs. Indeed, Ruger has marketed their Precision Rifle in 6.5CM by using videos showing the company president (yes, that’s right – the top man himself) ringing a steel plate at 1500 yards using the rifle in 6.5CM. It is touted as offering performance comparable to 300 Win-Mag, but without the recoil.

    260 Remington, which is a .308 Winchester case necked-down to 6.5mm/.264-caliber – does many of the things 6.5CM does, and has been a favorite for competition shooters in the U.S. for many decades.

    In a high-quality rifle with an appropriate twist rate barrel – there is really nothing that 6.5CM can do that 260 Remington cannot also do. The only edge 6.5CM has had is that it has been taken to market in rifles already equipped with fast twist rates, such as 1:8, whereas not all 260 rifles have that from the factory.

    And the venerable 6.5×55 can also do what 6.5CM can do, if it is chambered in a modern rifle with a barrel and twist rate appropriate for the task. And since it is a long-action, it can be loaded hotter than the short-action 6.5CM, should the need arise. No big deal …. the venerable Swede has been getting it done since the 1890s….

  5. On June 8, 2023 at 2:34 pm, Latigo Morgan said:

    I have a friend who went all in on the 6.5 Creedmore. It’s a neat round, but it’s like he’s always insecure about his choice and has to constantly compare it to me with my .308. I think he gets frustrated because he can’t outshoot me with his designer rifle in the gee-whiz caliber. We match shot for shot at the range when ringing steel targets.

    I tried to explain it to him that I’ve put 10’s of thousands of rounds of 147 gr. bullets from the .308 Winchester/ 7.62×51 NATO down range out to 900 meters. I know what that bullet is going to do out of my rifles in all wind conditions, weather, terrain, and temperatures. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like the 6.5 or that I think it sucks. It just means I’m sticking with what I know and am proficient with.

  6. On June 8, 2023 at 4:24 pm, Not-A-Fan said:

    My real beef with “The CREED” is marketed to new hunters. If you want to shoot at paper or steel, I wouldn’t give a single damn, care or mind. The marketing to n00bs has them believing it magically transforms all shooters into a long-range marksman. It’s easy and everyone can do it. Just grab a rifle chambered in “The CREED” and you’re in the long range experts club . . .

    The marketing encourages new hunters to start shooting at animals at ranges much further than they have any business shooting at. Long range shooting is truly a black art. It takes years to master, and a huge amount of practise to become proficient. Yet at long range, no matter what calibre, one puff of wind at the wrong time will result in a miss or worse, a gut-shot or jawless animal dying in misery.

    I am an Australian deer hunter. 99.9% of my deer are taken within 200 yards using 139gn SST’s in my 7mm-08 rem. I certainly see deer much farther away than that but refuse to shoot at a live animal further than ~200 yards. I use my ability to get within 200 yards so my shots are nearly certainly going to land exactly where I’m aiming.

    I go to the range 6 times or so per year for practice and confirm my zero. I often see new shooters turning money into noise with their whizz-bang brand new rifles chambered in the “CREED”, complete with tactical stocks, huge scopes and determined expressions. The CREED sure kicks a lot more than a 243 win, and in my book, a fast-twist 223 rem or a 243 win would be a much better choice for a new shooters’ first centrefire. But what do I know?

  7. On June 8, 2023 at 4:39 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    That’s fair, but men’s failures are not the fault of the cartridge. It’s just a metal machine.

    You should get fed up with men who don’t do ethical kills. Every hunter should aspire to ethical kills.

    One nice thing about the CM is that it’s a flat shooter, so even those 200 yard shots, if you need to take them quickly, can be a little more forgiving and you can use holdovers fairly quickly.

  8. On June 8, 2023 at 5:54 pm, Not-A-Fan said:

    Exactly Hershel – it’s the failure of the nut behind the butt. My judgement towards “The CREED” is genuinely clouded.

    It is the current marketing lie that “The CREED” is an instant shortcut to long range marksmanship excellence that makes the red curtain of blood cloud my vision. I have developed an instinctual chalk/fingernail reaction towards the cartridge.

    I rarely see the n00bs at my local range with anything other than a tactical-bolt action chambered in the holy “6-5 CREED”. (Bear in mind, we’re not trusted with semi-autos in Australia). They’re practically snipers – just ask them, they’ll tell you how good they are.

    They ALWAYS have a rifle chambered in “6-5 CREED”. Nothing else. At the end of the day, it is the “w@nker-f@ct0r” is why I dislike the cartridge.

  9. On June 8, 2023 at 10:50 pm, Dirk said:

    Georgia, very good overview. Many years ago all my mil friends left the 308,went to the 6.5 c. I just couldn’t do it, I built a custom .243 around the DTAC115. Running longer barrels. Was able to achieve some amazing impacts at very long distances.

    About 8 years ago I bit the bullet, commissioned Wilson Combat build me one of their Super Snipers in 6.5c at 22 inch barrels. A Schmidt and Bender tops it in the PMII, wanted to stay consistent with many of my other long range units.

    This was my first AR10 sniper rig, I love it. In fact I loved it so much I had Wilson build me a ar10 super sniper in 308. They only offered a 20 inch barrel. Topped it with a matching scope in MRAD.

    A lot to like about the 6.5c, I load and have developed some real effective loads. Currently building 147 g bullets. Tack drivers to 2k.

    I still own three 6.5c’s no idea how many 308s, a couple built300wm and a couple 7mm, which I rarely shoot.

    I think what amuses me over the years is this. It’s the guy behind the rifle who drives it. Ts a feel, a confidence, it’s a developed skill set which is incredibly perishable.

    If I could only have one rifle it would be a 338 LM. I’ve owned one for12 years now, 2 nd barrel. These rifles do everything well.

    I’m particular, I’m a Krieger Barrel guy, straight trigge, and high end actions, and stocks. I also run Razors on about four five rifles.

    The gamers here locally are heavy into the 6mm and I’m starting to see 6.5 and 6 mm PRC rifles. Never shot one.

    I am in the middle of a m16 target build 20 in SS BCM upper, my goal is 900y, pushing 77 or maybe 69g bullets. I’m still in the build on this m-16 project.

    I’ve dropped down to a Vortex Strike Eagle mrad scope for this project. Razors are 2400 ish S&B ar 3500.00
    The strike eagles a 34 mm tube think is 6x25x56. I have three of these now,,,,all recently purchased and mounted on tier two rifles. They’re decent what they’re not are Razors or Schmidt and Benders.

    I’m a 1000 rounds away on three rifles before I’ll have enough dope to make an informed determination on the Strike Eagles.


  10. On June 8, 2023 at 11:46 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Dirk

    Sounds like you are staying busy, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing…

    Re: “I think what amuses me over the years is this. It’s the guy behind the rifle who drives it. Ts a feel, a confidence, it’s a developed skill set which is incredibly perishable.”

    Ken Royce once said on the subject of gear versus the man using it that every time, a good man with only average equipment will best the mediocre man with top-of-the-line gear. And he’s right. Or as they say, it ain’t the tool, it is the craftsman.

    Where I see the advantage of using efficient projectiles and cartridges is that experienced shooters can use them to squeeze every last bit out of their capabilities, as a force-multiplier, except for skills. For the inexperienced, the fact that your wind call can be off by a considerable amount, but that since 6.5mm probably deflects less in the wind, maybe the new guy can hit the shot instead of missing it.

    That said, I have heard a lot of seasoned LR guys say to learn the basics with .308 since it is common, cheap, and has tons of already worked-out dope. Since it isn’t per se ideal for the LR game, if you learn to use it well, you’ll do even better when you migrate to something more efficient.

    338 is a great caliber, and not just 338LM. I read that 338 Norma Mag is very good, but also just your run-of-the-mill 338 Win-Mag, too. Very versatile as a hunting cartridge; can be downloaded for medium game, but loaded with heavier, harder-hitting fare, it works for the biggest bears and those giant moose.

    And as a LR cartridge, 338LM is being pushed forward by new and super-efficient bullet designs with G1 BCs above .700 or even .800, which is very good. Hornady’s 300-grain .338 A-Tip Match has a G1 BC of .863, which is simply superb.

    Just as 300 Win-Mag is intruding on 338 territory when loaded to its limits with the newest and most aerodynamically-efficient bullet designs, so too 338 LM is pushing the envelope of the chamberings above it in the ELR pecking order.

    Of the new PRC cartridges, 7mm PRC intrigues me the most, although of course 300 and 6.5 look good, too. Not many companies are making the 7mm yet, so hurry up and wait.

    Yeah, there’s no doubt that if you like to geek out on this sort of thing, it is a good time to be a shooting sports enthusiast.

  11. On June 10, 2023 at 11:22 am, Dirk said:

    Regarding the 338. Even at 2000y, when the round impacts thirty pound steel targets it does so with authority, at those distances the energy knocks the shit out of the steel! Slaps it around, truly impressive.

    It is my experience after several thousand rounds and a second barrel, the 338lm does everything well.

    I have zero experience with what I refer to as the civilian rounds. I’m sure you are correct.

    I’ve commissioned at 408 ChyTac build, been almost a year since I ordered. Getting close!


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You are currently reading "Explanation of the Popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor", entry #35113 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published June 7th, 2023 by Herschel Smith.

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