The 6.5mm TCU Pistol Cartridge

By Chuck Hawks

Like all TCU cartridges, Wes Ugalde designed the 6.5mm TCU for the Thompson/Center Contender single shot pistol at the request of Thompson/Center. The 6.5mm was envisioned as primarily useful for the sport of steel silhouette shooting.

6.5 mm TCU brass is created by first necking-up a .223 Remington case to accept .264" bullets (use a tapered neck expander) and then fire-forming in a Contender chambered for 6.5mm TCU. That's all there is to creating 6.5mm TCU cases. Once the case has been formed, it is best just to neck size for subsequent reloads. Note that T/C cautions against the use of 5.56mm NATO military cases as the starting point for 6.5mm TCU brass.

Here are the basic cartridge dimensions: .378" rim diameter, .376" head diameter, shoulder angle 40 degrees, shoulder diameter .370", neck diameter .284". The case length is 1.75" and the overall cartridge length is 2.7".

The 6.5mm TCU has not proven 100% reliable on the long range steel rams unless they are hit squarely. However, it has been used successfully in the field on the smaller species of deer and antelope with the 100 grain Nosler Partition bullet and various 120 grain bullets. Moderate recoil that allows accurate bullet placement and reasonably flat trajectory are the cartridge's biggest plusses for the handgun hunter.

The Hodgdon Data Manual, 26th Edition shows that 27.5 grains of H335 powder will drive a 100 grain bullet at a MV of 2153 fps from a 14" pistol barrel. A 120 grain bullet can be driven at a MV of 2079 fps by 26.0 grains of H335 powder. Both of these Hodgdon loads used small rifle primers.

The TCU case has about the optimum capacity for a 14" pistol barrel. The 6.5mm version (there are also 6mm and 7mm TCU cartridges) is probably the best compromise for hunting the smaller species of CXP2 game.

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Copyright 2006, 2014 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.