The 6.5mm Remington Magnum

By Chuck Hawks

The 6.5mm Remington Magnum was first introduced in the middle 1960's as a companion cartridge to the .350 Rem. Mag. It was initially chambered in the short action Remington Model 600 and 660 carbines. Later it was also offered in the short action version of the Model 700 bolt action rifle. The 6.5mm Mag. was simply the short .350 Mag. case necked down to 6.5mm. The 6.5mm Mag. was a sensible cartridge that, unfortunately, did not catch on. It was, in fact, well ahead of its time. I believe that Remington quit loading for the 6.5mm Mag. in 1994.

In the 21st Century things changed. The series of short action WSM and Remington SAUM cartridges introduced beginning in 2001 have gotten a good play in the shooting press and rekindled interest in Remington's two earlier short magnum cartridges. Certainly it would seem to make sense to offer the widest possible selection of short magnum calibers in any new rifle designed for the Remington SAUM or WSM calibers, so some writers (including yours truly) began suggesting that Remington reconsider the 6.5mm and .350 Magnums. They are well balanced, effective cartridges that do pretty much all that can be done in their respective calibers without undue fuss.

In 2003 Remington kicked over the traces and reintroduced the .350 Rem. Mag. cartridge and the new Model 673 Guide Rifle in which to shoot it. And in 2004 they reintroduced the 6.5mm Remington Magnum, also in the Model 673.

The 6.5mm Rem. Mag. is again being factory loaded by Remington with a 120 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet (SD .247) at a MV of 3,210 fps and a ME of 2,745 ft. lbs. Retained energy at 200 yards is 2056 ft. lbs., at 300 yards is 1,475 ft. lbs., and at 400 yards the 120 grain bullet still packs 1,177 ft. lbs. of energy.

Its ballistics are between those of the .270 Winchester and the .270 WSM with bullets of similar sectional density (SD). In the field there is actually not a lot to choose between the .270 Winchester, 6.5mm Remington Magnum, and .270 WSM. Like all 6.5mm cartridges, the 6.5mm Rem. Mag. benefits in killing power from the generally excellent sectional density (read penetration) of 6.5mm big game bullets.

In recoil the 6.5mm Mag. does have an advantage over the .270 Winchester and .270 WSM due to the lighter weight of 6.5mm bullets compared to .270 bullets of equal sectional density. For example, assume 8 pound rifles for all three calibers. With a 129 grain bullet (SD .264) at a MV of 3000 fps the recoil energy of the 6.5mm Rem. Mag. is about 13.8 ft. lbs. In .270 caliber the equivalent bullet weighs 140 grains (SD .261). Fire that bullet from a .270 Win. rifle at a MV of 3000 fps and the recoil is about 17.1 ft. lbs. Fire a 140 grain bullet from a .270 WSM rifle at a MV of 3000 fps and the recoil is about 17.5 ft. lbs. For a more extensive recoil comparison, see the Expanded Rifle Recoil Table on the Tables, Charts and Lists Page.

The 6.5mm Rem. Mag. case has a .532 inch rim diameter, standard for belted magnum cases. It is .513 inch in diameter just in front of the belt, and .496 inch at the shoulder. Neck length is just about one caliber at .261 inch. The case length is 2.17 inches, and the shoulder angle is 25 degrees. Overall cartridge length is specified at 2.8 inches. The primer size is Large Rifle and the bullet diameter is .264 inch (6.5mm).

This is a very modern cartridge without going to extremes. It is (relatively) short, (relatively) fat, and has a (relatively) sharp shoulder. It exhibits a very high level of accuracy, while avoiding the potential feeding problems that can plague more extreme designs in repeating rifles.

Sight a 6.5mm Mag. to put the 120 grain Speer Hot-Cor bullet at a MV of 3210 fps 2.4 inches high at 100 yards, and it will hit 3 inches high at 150 yards, 2.5 inches high at 200 yards, and 3 inches low at 312 yards. The maximum point blank range (+/- 3 inches) is thus 312 yards.

For the handloader there is a selection of bullets suitable for the 6.5mm Mag. in 85, 100, 120, 125, 129-130, 140, and 160 grain weights. The 129 grain Hornady Interlock Spire Point (SD .264, BC .445) has always seemed to me to be a good all-around bullet for the 6.5mm Rem. Mag.

The 129 grain Hornady bullet can be driven to a MV of 3000 fps with several powders. Try a starter load of 43.6 grains of IMR 4350 behind the 129 grain bullet for a MV of 2700 fps. Or, a maximum charge of 49.8 grains of IMR 4350 will give a MV of 3000 fps and ME of 2578 ft. lbs. The 200 yard figures are 2583 fps and 1911 ft. lbs. Those loads used Remington brass and Federal 210 primers and were chronographed in a 24" barrel.

The Hornady Handbook, Sixth Edition shows that a maximum load of 54.3 grains of H4831 powder behind any of the Hornady 140 grain bullets (SD .287) gives a MV of 2900 fps. The ME of that load is 2799 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the figures for the Interlock Spire Point bullet (BC .465) are 2567 fps and 2050 ft. lbs. That load can be zeroed about 2.5" high at 100 yards for a maximum point blank range of about 290 yards.

One of my e-mail correspondents who owns a 6.5mm Rem. Mag. rifle sent me the following comments:

"In a rifle with a decent length barrel the 6.5 Remington can push a good 140 grain spitzer (I have had exceptionally good results with the Hornady HP boattail) to just over 3000 fps at the muzzle with remarkable accuracy, easily managed recoil, and excellent penetration and tissue damage in excess of 600 meters down range."

"Since I'm primarily interested in long range accuracy, I've fired the round out to 900 meters to see what it could do. I was agreeably impressed with the round's ability to hold a mark at that distance. I would not hesitate to use it on any North American game from elk and moose on down, though I might move to the 160 grain bullets on big elk or bear at closer ranges."

The 6.5mm Remington Magnum is a fine 300+ yard deer, antelope, and general CXP2 class game cartridge. For the handloader it is also a fine all-around cartridge.

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Copyright 2003, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.