The 6.5x68 Schuler

By Chuck Hawks

The 6.5x68 was introduced in 1940 by RWS of Germany. It was developed simultaneously with the 8x68S. This big 6.5mm cartridge is based on the non-belted 8x68S magnum case necked down to 6.5mm, and it has become a popular long range hunting cartridge in Germany and other parts of Europe.

The 6.5x68 is a powerful, high velocity cartridge. With modern factory loads its performance is similar to the earlier .270 Winchester or the later 6.5mm Remington Magnum. With hot handloads its performance approaches that of the .264 Winchester Magnum.

Like the 6.5mm Rem. Mag. and .264 Win. Mag., the 6.5x68 uses standard diameter 6.5mm (.264") bullets. It is a rimless, bottleneck case 67.5mm long, with a .512" rim diameter. The 6.5x68 has a fine reputation for accuracy.

RWS of Germany, Hirtenberger of Austria, and probably others offer factory loads for the 6.5x68 in Europe. Unfortunately, I know of no North American company that loads for the cartridge. The following information about 6.5x68 factory loads comes from Hirtenberger ballistics tables. (For my US readers, since most of the Hirtenberger figures are in metric values, I should point out that 2.5 cm = 1 inch, and one meter = 39 inches; a "Joule" is a unit of energy equal to the work done when a force of one newton acts through a distance of one meter.)

Hirtenberger loads bullets of 105, 120, 125, and 140 grains for the 6.5x68. The 105 grain bullet has a very high muzzle velocity (MV) of 1030 meters/second (3348 fps) and muzzle energy of 3607 Joule. This is virtually identical to the performance of the .270 Winchester with 100-110 grain bullets. However, as with the .270, such a relatively light bullet is of limited usefulness when fired from such a powerful cartridge. The heavier bullets are a better choice for shooting big game, and the 6.5x68's big case burns too much powder to make it a good varmint caliber.

The 120 and 125 grain bullets are a much better choice for hunting medium size big game, such as most deer and antelope species. The 120 grain bullet (SD .246) has a MV of 985 meters/second (3201 fps) and ME of 3784 Joule. For comparison, the velocity and energy of this load is virtually identical to the now discontinued Remington 120 grain factory load for the 6.5mm Remington Magnum (MV 3210 fps, ME 2745 ft. lbs. from a 24" barrel). Zeroed at 200 meters, the 120 grain bullet will strike +3.5 cm at 100 meters, 0 at 200 meters, and -19 cm at 300 meters.

The 125 grain bullet (SD .256) has a MV of 950 meters/second (3088 fps) and ME of 3655 Joule. Hirtenberger tables show the following trajectory: +4 cm at 100 meters, -.5 cm at 200 meters, and -21.5 cm at 300 meters. This load shoots 1.5 cm (.6") flatter at 300 meters than Hirtenberger's 130 grain .270 Winchester load, to which it is generally quite similar. Clearly this would be an excellent all-around hunting load for the 6.5x68S.

The 140 grain bullet (SD .287) is probably the best choice for large game animals. It has a MV of 890 meters/second (2893 fps) and ME of 3604 Joule. Hirtenberger tables show the following trajectory: +3.9 cm at 100 meters, +2.8 cm at 150 meters, -2.7 cm at 200 meters, -12.7 cm at 250 meters, and -28 cm at 300 meters. For comparison, this is nearly identical to the trajectory Hirtenberger shows for the 150 grain .270 Winchester bullet.

As factory loaded by Hirtenberger the 6.5x68 is essentially identical in capability to the 6.5mm Remington Magnum with all bullet weights. But the 6.5x68 offers the handloader the possibility of greater performance than the Hirtenberger factory loads or 6.5mm Rem. Mag. reloads. The 6.5x68 is widely reloaded in Europe, and reloading information can be found in the Dynamit Nobel and RWS manuals.

German ladedaten (loading data) for the 6.5x68 on the Internet shows the top load for Tu8000 powder behind a 120 grain Nosler boat tail spitzer bullet to give a MV of 3297 fps. The pressure of this load is reported to be 52,925 psi. This load shows a very close performance correlation with the Hodgdon data (below) for the 120 grain bullet. I find it reassuring when different sources agree.

Internet ladedaten for a 140 grain Sierra spitzer bullet in front of the same Tu8000 powder shows a MV of 3051 fps. The pressure of that load is reported to be 51,475 psi. This is, by a moderate amount (45 fps), the highest velocity load encountered for a 140 grain bullet in the 6.5x68, and it is worth noting that it is within 112 fps of the top load reported in the Hodgdon Data Manual for the .264 Winchester Magnum.

RWS (German) published reloading data shows the maximum load for a 140 grain spitzer bullet in front of Rottweil R 905 powder to give a MV of 925 meters/second (3006 fps). This is very close to the 2993 fps quoted by the Hodgdon Data Manual (see below), and suggests that both RWS and Hodgdon are credible sources of reloading data for the 6.5x68.

For North American reloaders the Hodgdon Data Manual, 26th Edition contains a very limited amount of 6.5x68 Schuler reloading data (all using Hodgdon H4895 powder, which is apparently the best Hodgdon powder for the 6.5x68). This data confirms the high performance of the 6.5x68 reloads shown by German sources.

The Hodgdon reloading data for the 6.5x68S shows the maximum load for a 120 grain bullet in front of 68.0 grains of H4831 powder to have a MV of 3309 fps. This is only 82 fps less than the top load listed in the Hodgdon Manual for the same weight bullet in the .264 Winchester Magnum. This 6.5x68 load should have a ME of about 2910 ft. lbs. The trajectory of that load with a spitzer bullet with a BC of .433 would be approximately as follows: +2.4" at 100 yards, +3" at 150 yards, +2.6" at 200 yards, and -3" at 321 yards.

Hodgdon data shows a maximum load of 63.0 grains of H4831 powder behind a 140 grain bullet to have a MV of 2993 fps. This load should have ME of about 2790 ft. lbs. The trajectory of that load with a 140 grain spitzer bullet with a BC of .496 would be about as follows: +2.5" at 100 yards, +2.1" at 200 yards, and -3" at 296 yards.

It is wise to verify that bullets intended for use in 6.5x68 reloads can withstand the very high velocities attainable. The popular brands of .264" bullets made in the USA are suitable (including Barnes, Hornady, Nosler, Sierra, and Speer), as they are designed to survive .264 Win. Mag. velocities, but bullets made in other countries and designed for cartridges like the 6.5x54 may not be strong enough for 6.5x68 velocities.

As with all 6.5mm cartridges, the big game hunting bullets used in the 6.5x68 have comparatively high sectional densities for good penetration on suitable size animals. See my article The 6.5mm (.264 Caliber) Rifle Cartridges for more on this subject.

As Stephan Schiessl (who lives in Germany and was instrumental in researching this article) pointed out, the 6.5x68 is one of the world's premier long range cartridges, very popular with European mountain sheep hunters. At short range, and particularly with lightly constructed bullets, it can be quite destructive to deer size animals.

With factory loads the 6.5x68 is comparable to the .270 Winchester and 6.5mm Remington Magnum in trajectory and killing power. With hot handloads it gives away only a little to the .264 Winchester Magnum. The 6.5x68 is an excellent choice for long range shooting, and a fine all-around big game hunting cartridge.

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Copyright 2002, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.