The 6.5mm Creedmoor Dominates Its Caliber Slot in 2018
By Gary Zinn
There has been a contest among cartridges for domination of the 6.5mm caliber slot for the last several years. Basically, this has been between the venerable 6.5x55mm SE and the newer .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges. The market situation indicates that the 6.5 Creedmoor is the winner, at least in North America.
This is somewhat surprising, given that the Creedmoor is the mildest of the three cartridges, in terms of raw ballistic potential (i.e., muzzle velocity). That the mildest mannered of closely comparable cartridges should become the most popular is surprising, because the high intensity cartridge scene has a long tradition of favoring those that squeeze a few more f.p.s. of muzzle velocity out of bullets of a given diameter and weight.
Chuck Hawks has explained the extent and reasons for the ballistic differences among the cartridges in his article Case Capacity Matters: Comparing the 6.5mm Creedmoor, .260 Remington and 6.5x55 SE. Therefore, I do not need to rehash these issues here.
Further, Chuck concludes that, "From the standpoint of the big game hunter, all three cartridges do the same thing and no big game animal can survive on the difference between them." In other words, the ballistic differences between the cartridges are pretty much insignificant from a hunting perspective.
That said, I believe that the rise of the Creedmoor to the top of the 6.5mm slot may be attributed largely to the support and promotion it has been given by Hornady Manufacturing, enhanced by support by other ammunition and production rifle makers.
When Hornady introduced the 6.5 Creedmoor in 2008, they touted it as being designed to efficiently handle long-ogive match bullets within the OAL limitations of .308 Winchester length actions. As I recall, the first Hornady loads announced were with match bullets, but they quickly brought out loads with hunting bullets, too.
Hornady actively promoted the cartridge in the critical early period following its introduction and continues to do so. I believe that Hornady's continued commitment to the cartridge has done much to encourage other firms to bring both ammunition and rifles chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor to the market.
Currently (2018), Hornady catalogs 10 6.5mm Creedmoor loads. These include six hunting and four match loads. The number of Creedmoor loads offered by Hornady equals or approaches the number they catalog for highly popular cartridges, such as the .223 Remington, .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester and 7mm Remington Magnum. Further direct support is given by a dozen other ammo makers that currently offer 6.5 Creedmoor loads.
The sustained support and promotion of the 6.5 Creedmoor may be contrasted with that of its closest rival, the .260 Remington. The .260 was introduced in 1997 with a reasonable amount of fanfare, but I cannot recall that Remington ever supported and promoted the cartridge at a level that approached that lavished on the 6.5 Creedmoor by Hornady. Current evidence of this is that Remington catalogs only four .260 Remington loads, while other production ammo makers similarly give the cartridge scant attention, as will be summarized below.
(Remington has a long history of introducing superior cartridges and then not supporting them. Think .257 Roberts, 6mm Remington, .222 Rem. Mag., .350 Rem. Mag. and 6.5mm Rem. Mag., among others. -Editor.)
Remington has the capability to directly support a cartridge by chambering rifles for it and this they have generally done when announcing a new cartridge, although often without much staying power over time. In the case of the .260, various Model 700 and Model Seven variants have been offered since 1997, but without any real consistency as to the specific models, or number of models, available in any given year.
Currently, Remington catalogs four variants of the Model 700 and three of the Model Seven in .260 Remington. However, other rifle makers are not supporting the .260 Remington nearly as strongly as the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Further, even Remington seems to have acquiesced to the trend that favors the 6.5 Creedmoor, for the company currently catalogs nine Model 700 variants and two Model 783 rifles in the cartridge. Remington is not yet, however, producing 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition.
Here is some information that indicates the extent to which the 6.5 Creedmoor has come to dominate the .260 Remington and 6.5x55 SE. (Information on rifles and factory ammunition was gleaned from major Internet marketers of products of each type.)
I used the rifles cataloged on the Able Ammo website as an indicator of the number and types of rifles available from production rifle makers in 6.5mm Creedmoor, .260 Remington and 6.5x55mm SE, as of September, 2018. Here are the results.
The website listed 95 rifles in stock, including almost two dozen brand names, with multiple models in many brands. Of the total, 62 bolt action rifles are configured for normal hunting use, based on barrel lengths and stock styles. 21 bolt action rifles are configured for match, extreme range hunting, or tactical use, leaving 12 autoloaders of either AR10 or M1A type.
An additional 105 rifles were listed as out of stock. These include 69 bolt action rifles configured for normal hunting use, 26 bolt actions configured for match, extreme range, or tactical use, 7 autoloaders, and 3 single shot rifles.
Six brands of rifles were listed as in stock, totaling 20 items. All are bolt action, with six configured for match, extreme range, or tactical use. The other 14 are configured as normal hunting rifles.
An additional 25 rifles were listed as out of stock. These include 18 bolt actions configured for normal hunting use, 3 bolt actions configured for match, extreme range, or tactical use, and 4 autoloaders.
Five brands of rifles were listed as in stock, totaling 10 items. All are bolt action, configured as normal hunting rifles. An additional 15 rifles were listed as out of stock, all of which are bolt action, configured for normal hunting use.
Summary information on ammunition is from the MidwayUSA website listing of loads for each cartridge.
Forty-nine loads listed, including 29 with hunting bullets and 20 with match bullets. Loads from 14 manufacturers are represented, with Hornady leading the way (10 loads), followed by Federal Premium and Nosler (7 loads each).
Nineteen loads listed, including 12 hunting and 7 match loads. Nosler, Federal Premium and Berger account for most of the loads offered by a total of 8 production ammo makers.
Seventeen loads listed, including 10 hunting and 7 match loads. Lapua contributes 7 loads, while 7 other makers have no more than one or two loads listed.
None of the three cartridges is at any particular advantage or disadvantage from a reloading perspective. The same wide selection of hunting and match bullets can be used to load all three and there are abundant good powder choices for each, with proven load recipes from all reliable load data sources. Loading dies for each cartridge are offered by most major die makers.
Sometimes, availability of brass can be a concern for reloading certain cartridges. This is not one of those times. According to information gleaned from the Graf & Sons website, six brands of brass are available for all three cartridges.
The only noticeable difference among these offerings is that 6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington brass is priced at roughly $10 more per 50 pieces than same brand or otherwise comparable 6.5x55mm brass. Different brands of brass can have noticeably different market prices, of course. Among these cartridges, prices range from $29 per 50 for Prvi Partizan 6.5x55 brass to $76 per 50 for Norma 6.5 Creedmoor brass.
We could debate the subtle differences between the 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington and 6.5x55 SE endlessly. Ditto the reasons why the 6.5x55 has never become overly popular in North America (although it is a rock star in other parts of the world), and why the .260 Remington was not more successful. Such discussions would ultimately be futile, because the 6.5mm Creedmoor has clearly eclipsed the other two cartridges in the current market.
Those who have long admired the 6.5x55, along with those who believe that the .260 Remington is all that anyone needs in a non-magnum, 6.5mm bore cartridge, may be assured that at least some rifles, factory ammunition and reloading brass for these cartridges will be available for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to acquire their first 6.5mm hunting or match rifle will likely be drawn to the 6.5 Creedmoor, because that is where the most options in rifles and factory ammo are found.
Note: An in depth article about the 6.5mm Creedmoor can be found on the Rifle Cartridges page.
Copyright 2018 by Gary Zinn and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.