The 6.5x65 and 6.5x65R RWS

By Chuck Hawks

The German firm of RWS introduced this pair of European 6.5mm cartridges in 1988. They are identical except that the "R" is a rimmed version of the basic design intended for use in single shot and double-barreled rifles, or combination rifle/shotguns.

These are modern, bottleneck rifle cartridges with sharp shoulders, essentially magnums without the belt. Bullet size is .264", standard 6.5mm diameter. Unfortunately, they are virtually unknown in North America, and ammunition as well as information is hard to find.

These are unique cases, similar to but longer than the 9.3x62 case. Here are some basic specifications: Rim diameter .470" (6.5x65), .531" (6.5x65R); Head diameter .474" (6.5x65), .475" (6.5x65R); Shoulder diameter .430"; Neck diameter .296", Case length 2.56"; Cartridge overall length 3.15".

Factory loads appear to be available only from RWS. The two 6.5x65 loads I was able to discover are a 108 grain soft point spitzer bullet at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3460 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 2260 ft. lbs., and a 127 grain soft point spitzer bullet at a MV of 3313 fps and ME of 2442 ft. lbs. These ballistics put the 6.5x65 (rimless--for bolt action rifles) in the same general category as the 6.5x68 Schuler and .264 Win. Mag. Note than the 6.5x65R (rimmed case) is somewhat less powerful than the 6.5x65 (rimless), as the 6.5x65R is intended for use in break-open rifles.

Judging from the claimed ballistics and the case capacity of the 6.5x65 (rimless), those RWS factory loads must be loaded to very high pressure. They equal or exceed the velocities possible at SAAMI maximum average pressure (53,000 cup) in the .264 Win. Mag., which has a larger case.

The 6.5x65R is loaded to more moderate pressures. Here is some ballistic information specific to the 6.5x65R (rimmed) contributed by Enrique Feduchy, who wrote the "Spanish Game Animals" article on the Hunting Stories and Articles Page.

6.5x65R RWS Ballistic Data (Barrel length 25.5 inches):

Cone point bullet KS 127 grains (.264 ") , 8.2 grams
Velocity (ft/sec.) - MV 2,855, 100 yards 2,602; 200 yards 2,362; 300 yards 2,136.
Energy (ft. lbs.) - ME 2,298; 100 yards 1,909; 200 yards 1,573; 300 yards 1,287.
Recommended zero distance = 200 yards.
Trajectory (inches) - +1.6" at 100 yards; 0 at 200 yards; -7.9" at 300 yards.

With this particular bullet point and load, and adjusting at +1.6 inch at 100 yards, we can assure a MBPR (+/- 3") of 280/285 yards.

The 108 grain bullet is popular for light European game, much of which runs 40-60 pounds on the hoof. The 127 grain bullet should be adequate for all CXP2 and most CXP3 class game, including African plains game and North American pronghorn antelope, deer, caribou, black bear, wild sheep, mountain goats, Rocky Mountain elk, and similar animals up to about 600 pounds.

I could not find any reloading data on the 6.5x65/6.5x65R RWS cartridges in my collection of North American reloading manuals (they may well be included in European reloading manuals). But I see no reason why the North American handloader with supply of 6.5x65 or 6.5x65R brass and an experimental turn of mind could not work up loads that would essentially duplicate the 108 grain 6.5x65 factory load using any of the common 100 grain .264 bullets. I suspect that a careful reloader could come within about 200 fps of the 127 grain 6.5x65 factory load using the 125 grain Nosler or 129 grain Hornady bullets. And it may well be possible to equal the 6.5x65R factory load using these bullets.

In addition, I suspect that a reloader could drive a 140 grain bullet to a MV of about 2900 fps, and a 160 grain bullet to a MV of 2800 fps, in the rimless version of the 6.5x65. In the 6.5x55R, velocities of about 2600 fps with a 140 grain bullet should be reasonable. (NOTE: these are just guess-estimates, so don't blame me if you blow-up your rifle!)

Here is some trajectory information for the 125 grain Nosler Partition spitzer bullet, which should be a good all-around choice for the 6.5x65 and 6.5x55R. Drive that bullet (BC .449) at a MV of 3100 fps from a scoped 6.5x65 bolt action rifle and the trajectory would look like this: +3.4" at 100 yards, +4.1" at 200 yards, 0 at 300 yards, -9.7" at 400 yards.

Launch the same 125 grain Partition bullet from a 6.5x65R rifle at a MV of 2800 fps and the trajectory would look like this: +1.8" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -7.9" at 300 yards.

One could start with light loads for the 6.5mm-06 wildcat, which is similar in size and shape to either version of the 6.5x65 RWS, and work up from there. Stick with low to medium velocity loads for the 6.5x65R. Do not attempt to exceed the factory MV with either cartridge. Check carefully for signs of excessive pressure and monitor the results with a chronograph.

I would think that powders such as H380, H4350, IMR 4350, and RL-19 would work best with light 87-100 grain bullets. For use with 120-129 grain bullets H4350, H4831, IMR 4350, IMR 4831, RL-19 and RL-22 should work well. For the popular 140 grain bullets, powders including AA 3100, H4831, IMR 7828, RL-19, RL-22, and Win. WMR should prove satisfactory. With the heavy 150-160 grain bullets, slow burning rifle powders such as AA 3100, IMR 7828, and RL-22 should be appropriate.

The 6.5x55 SE is reasonably popular in North America, but most 6.5mm rifle cartridges have failed to gain much of a following. This is a shame, as .264 is a most useful bullet diameter. The 6.5x65 and 6.5x65R are modern examples of what we are missing.

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Copyright 2004, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.