Hornady's 6.5mm Creedmoor

By Chuck Hawks

Hornady 6.5mm Creedmoor
Hornady 6.5mm Creedmoor match ammunition. Photo courtesy of Hornady Manufacturing.

In the last few years, there has been a marked increase in interest in 6.5mm cartridges. The 6.5mm's have never gotten a lot of play in the firearms press, although they have occasionally gotten some. The one place where they have consistently received a lot of notice is in Guns and Shooting Online articles, where we have extolled their virtues for years.

I know that this has generated a lot of interest in 6.5mm cartridges among Guns and Shooting Online readers, of which there are millions all around the world, and I suspect that the result is a sort of background buzz that has begun to catch the attention of some industry leaders. I doubt that they know why there is interest in the 6.5mm caliber, but they are beginning to realize that it is there. Evidence of this is that Norma standardized the 6.5-284mm, which is now dominating F-Class long range competition, the 6.5mm Grendel is making a play as a military and match cartridge, Remington is starting to notice sales of rifles and ammunition in their Corporately ignored .260 caliber, Big Green also recently did a run of 6.5mm Rem. Mag. rifles and ammunition, and a number of hunting rifles have been offered in the classic 6.5x55 SE caliber in the last few years. It is, however, in the field of long range target shooting that 6.5mm cartridges have recently made the most inroads.

The latest manufacturer to jump on the 6.5mm match/target bandwagon is Hornady Manufacturing, who in 2008 announced their 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge. Hornady has recently had a run of successful cartridge introductions, including the .17 HMR, .204 Ruger, .308 Marlin Express, .375 Ruger, the Ruger Compact Magnums and their LeverEvolution ammunition line that is revitalizing traditional lever action rifle cartridges. With those credentials, when Hornady speaks the shooting world listens.

The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a match cartridge designed primarily for use in AR-type rifles and clones. Hornady credits their Senior Ballistic Scientist, Dave Emary, and Creedmoor Sports General Manager Dennis DeMille for the development of the new cartridge.

The first rifle chambered for the cartridge is the DPMS Panther. This is a heavy barreled, AR-type rifle with a black plastic butt stock and an aluminum receiver that weights 11.3 pounds empty and without any type of sights. For 2008, the Panther is priced at $1,159.

My guess is that no matter how good the 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge turns out to be, the Panther rifle is not going to be a hit with mainstream recreational shooters. If the cartridge is to be successful in the general marketplace, it needs to be chambered in bolt action rifles. (Why are so many good 6.5mm cartridges saddled with ugly, unwieldy, military style rifles? No wonder they have only achieved limited acceptance among North American sportsmen.) However, this may not concern Hornady, who is promoting the 6.5mm Creedmoor as a match cartridge.

The new 6.5mm Creedmoor is designed for standard short (.308 Winchester length) actions and magazines, so its maximum cartridge overall length (COL) is restricted to 2.8", the same as the .260 Remington. It uses the same .473" rim and head diameter as the .308 and the .260, but a case shortened to 1.92" to, as Hornady puts it, "eliminate any Cartridge Overall Length issues when using .308 Winchester length magazines." To make up for lost powder capacity, the 6.5mm Creedmoor has very little body taper (shoulder diameter = .459") and a sharp 30 degree shoulder. The permissible maximum average pressure is the same as for the .308 Winchester, 52,000 cup.

Hornady reloading dies for their new caliber are already available. Hornady is even printing the details of their factory loads, which use H4350 powder, right on the box. What a nice innovation! We wish that other ammo manufacturers were so generous with information.

Hornady is initially offering two 6.5mm Creedmoor factory loads, a 120 grain A-Max bullet at a claimed muzzle velocity (MV) of 3020 fps and a 140 grain A-Max bullet (BC .550!) at a claimed MV of 2820 fps. Note that these velocity figures were achieved in a 28" test barrel and the actual velocities of these loads from standard length 24" barrels are reported to be considerably lower. For example, the 120 grain A-Max bullet has produced chronographed velocities of around 2850 fps from 24" barrels. This is actually somewhat less that the 2900-3000 fps maximum velocities that can be achieved with the same weight bullets at permissible MAP's by the .260 Rem. The 2008 online prices of the Hornady factory loads are $32.70/box for the 120 grain A-Max load and $33.03/box for the 140 grain A-Max load.

Here are Hornady's published velocity figures from their 28" test barrel:

  • 120 grain A-Max - MV 3020 fps, 2815 fps at 100 yards, 2619 fps at 200 yards, 2431 fps at 300 yards, 2251 fps at 400 yards, 2079 fps at 500 yards.
  • 140 grain A-Max - MV 2820 fps, 2654 fps at 100 yards, 2494 fps at 200 yards, 2339 fps at 300 yards, 2190 fps at 400 yards, 2046 fps at 500 yards.

Hornady's stated goals for the 6.5mm Creedmoor are to, "deliver world-class long range performance in a factory loaded cartridge" and "allow any shooter to compete at the highest level with factory loaded ammunition." We will, in time, find out if that is something for which match/target shooters have been longing (and can afford).

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Copyright 2008, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.