The 6.5x57 and 6.5x57R

By Chuck Hawks

At a glance, the 6.5x57 cartridge looks much like the 7x57 Mauser parent cartridge, on which it is based. It is intended for use in magazine fed, bolt action rifles. There is also a rimmed version of the 6.5x57, the 6.5x57R. It was designed for use in break-open actions, which are popular in Europe. Loads for the rimmed cases are usually about 10% lighter to reduce the maximum average pressure, which also aids in the extraction of spent cases.

Although rarely seen in North America, the 6.5x57 has been a popular cartridge in Europe for a long time and remains so today. The ballistics of the 6.5x57 are very similar to those of the later .260 Remington. 6.5x57 ammunition is produced by RWS (Germany), Sellier & Bellot (Czech Republic), Hirtenberger (Austria), and possibly others. Available bullet weights include 93, 105, 120, 123-125, and 140 grains.

Sellier & Bellot has a ballistic table for their ammunition on their web page. They showed a factory load with a 131 grain soft point bullet for both the 6.5x57 and 6.5x57R. The S & B figures claimed a muzzle velocity (MV) of 775 meters/second (2519 fps) for both loads, and muzzle energy (ME) of 2553 Joule.

Hirtenberger also has a web page, and offers a greater variety of 6.5x57 factory loads. Bullet weights offered are 105, 120, 125, and 140 grains for both the 6.5x57 and 6.5x57R.

Hirtenberger figures for the 6.5x57 with the 140 grain bullet show a MV of 810 meters/second (2632 fps) and 2985 Joule of energy. For the Hirtenberger 140 grain bullet in the 6.5x57R the MV is 755 meters/second (2454 fps) with 2594 Joule of energy.

For the reloader without a good supply of 6.5x57 cases, the easiest way to make some is to shorten .30-06 cases and run them through a 6.5x57 forming die, then trim to a final length of 2.232". This eliminates the need for fire forming, which is required if 7x57 cases are used. It is the slightly different shoulder set .046" farther forward on the 6.5x57 case that creates the need to fire form necked down 7x57 brass.

The Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, Third Edition lists a good selection of reloads for the 6.5x57 using Hornady bullets of 100 (SD .205), 129 (SD .264), 140 (SD .287), and 160 (SD .328) grain weights. All loads used RWS cases and Federal 210 primers and were chronographed in the rather short 18" barrel of Hornady's Mauser M-66 test rifle. In a normal 22" barrel velocities could be as much as 100 fps higher. Winchester 785 and Norma MRP powders reportedly gave the best results with all bullet weights.

To summarize, the 129 grain Hornady Spire Point bullet can achieve a MV of 2700 fps with 48.6 grains of W785 or 48.8 grains of MRP powder. Zero that load at 200 yards and the bullet will hit +2.1" at 100 yards and -8.8" at 300 yards.

The 140 grain Spire Point bullet (SD .287) can be driven to a MV of 2600 fps with 47.7 grains of W785 or 47.8 grains of MRP powder. Zeroed at 200 yards the trajectory of this bullet looks like this: +2.4" at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, -9.8" at 300 yards.

The long 160 grain Hornady Round Nose bullet (SD .328) can achieve a MV of 2400 fps and ME of 2047 ft. lbs. with 45.3 grains of W785 or 45.5 grains of MRP. The 200 yard figures are 1776 fps and 1121 ft. lbs.

For the 6.5x57R I suspect that it would be wise to reduce these loads by about 10%. The 6.5x57R should be able to come within approximately 100 fps of the 6.5x57. So whether for a bolt action repeater or a traditional double or combination gun, there is a 6.5x57 cartridge equal to the task.

Note: A full length article about the 6.5x57 and 6.5x57R can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

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