The 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer

By Chuck Hawks

The 6.5x54mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer became a favorite of many well-known professional hunters in Africa before the beginning of the Second World War. Included in that number was the legendary ivory hunter W.D.M. Bell, who is reputed to have killed over 1000 elephants. Bell used the 6.5x54 with 160 grain solid bullets for brain shots on elephant. The factory loads at that time had a MV of about 2230 fps. He liked the moderate recoil and deep penetration of the little 6.5mm cartridge.

The 6.5x54 has remained reasonably popular in Europe and Africa, although it never really caught on in the New World. Physically the 6.5x54 is a modern looking, rimless, bottle neck cartridge that uses standard 6.5mm (.264") diameter bullets. Its case is 54mm (2.11") in length with a 24 degree shoulder and a .453" rim diameter. It is a cute looking little cartridge.

Norma offers factory loaded cartridges and brass to American as well as European shooters, and RWS offers factory loaded ammunition in Europe. Most of the bullet makers supplying reloaders offer a decent selection of 6.5mm (.264") bullets. Most reloading manuals include loads for the 6.5x54, and any shooter with a 6.5x54 rifle in North America (or perhaps anywhere, given the high cost of factory loaded ammunition) would do well to reload his own ammunition.

According to the Sierra Reloading Manual, Second Edition the 120 grain spitzer bullet can be driven to a muzzle velocity (MV) of 2600 fps from a 20" barrel by 35.9 grains of IMR 3031, 37.3 grains of IMR 4895, 37.8 grains of IMR 4064, or 41.2 grains of H380 powder. The muzzle energy (ME) of these loads is 1801 ft. lbs. According to the Sierra external ballistics tables, from a scoped rifle the trajectory of this load looks like this: +2.31" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -9.64" at 300 yards.

From the same 20" barrel the Sierra 140 grain Game King bullet can be driven to a MV of 2300 fps with ME of 1644 ft. lbs. by 33.1 grains of IMR 3031, 34.4 grains of IMR 4895, 35.1 grains of IMR 4064, or 37.4 grains of H380 powder. Zero a scoped rifle for 200 yards, and the bullet will land 3.07" high at 100 yards and 12.03" low at 300 yards.

Note: A full length article about the 6.5x54 can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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Copyright 2005, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.