6,5 Creedmoor – Shooting Star from the USA

Nils Waltring 6 months ago

6,5 Creedmoor

The most promising long-range caliber!

Since its introduction in 2007, the most promising long-range caliber of the last few years has soared to star status as a top seller in the USA. Now that it has secured a foothold in Europe with a growing number of users, RWS will offer both target and hunting loads for it.

The 6.5 Creedmoor was developed for Hornady in 2007 by ballisticians Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille. This easy-shooting long-distance caliber quickly became extremely popular. The 6.5 Creedmoor’s byname betrays the use that the caliber’s developers had in mind for it. Rather than being named after the US National Rifle Association’s (NRA) shooting center near Creedmoor, North Carolina, it was named after Creedmoor Sports, which was in turn inspired by the historic Creedmoor rifle range in Queens on Long Island, New York. The swampy moorland was bought by the NRA for its long-distance shooting range in 1872 from a Mr. Creed. The range became known as Creedmoor, named for the former property owner as well as for its biosphere. Today, Creedmoor is a name that evokes memories of historic long-range rifle competitions. The range was officially opened on 21 January 1873, and in 1874, a famous US-Irish international match was held there at 800, 900 and 1000 yards.

Long Range shooting with the RWS 6,5 Creedmoor Target Elite Plus in Denmark
Some of the characteristics that make the 6.5 Creedmoor a cartridge tailored for top accuracy: Optimal rifling twist rate, well-matched case dimensions and a long chamber throat, to name just a few.

The 6.5 Creedmoor (CM) was purposely developed as an easy-shooting long-range cartridge and not as a highly accurate round for distances of 100 or 200 meters. That title still belongs to the 6 mm PPC. It is at ranges beyond 200 m that the 6.5 Creedmoor excels.

The idea for the 6.5 CM arose during the NRA High Power National Championships in Camp Perry, Ohio in August 2005. Many shooters were frustrated by the 6XC and 6.5-284 Norma cartridges. They did not achieve the desired muzzle velocity, and neither the cartridges nor their empty brass were readily available on the market. Hot handloads led to pierced primers and ‘frozen’ bolts. After discussions with top shooters, Dave Emary compiled a wish list of criteria for a new long-range cartridge. 

The list included, among others, the following requirements: 

  • Suitable for short magazines, allowing for quick repeat shots in rapid-fire matches 
  • Low recoil – significantly lower than that of the .308 Win. – for quick shooting and less shooter fatigue 
  • Highly accurate bullets with a flat trajectory and a high ballistic coefficient (BC)
  • Long barrel life
  • Readily available cartridges and reloading components
  • Readily accessible loading data

Emary agreed to develop a cartridge that met these demands. He and DeMille quickly settled on 6.5 mm as their caliber of choice. Its long, heavy bullets should be suitable for long ranges and resist crosswinds well. The recoil should be lower than that which is experienced with .30- or 7-mm calibers: The latter need to burn a lot of powder in order to propel the bullets with sufficient velocity. The new cartridge’s long-range ballistics should also be superior to those of the .308 Win.

Illustration of popular long range calibers, cartridges arranged in  row, sorted by size
From the left: 6 mm PPC, 6XC, 260 Rem., 6,5x47 Lapua, 6,5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .300 WM., 300 Norma Mag., .338 Lapua Mag.

In direct comparison to common target calibers, one of the strengths of the 6.5 Creedmoor is its adequate velocity paired with noticeably more comfortable shooting qualities.

Caliber Bullet Weight in g / gr V0 in m/s V300 in m/s V500 in m/s V800 in m/s V1000in m/s
6,5 CM RWS Target Elite Plus 8,4 / 130 869 708 607 477 405
.308 Win. RWS Target Elite Plus 10,9 / 168 810 617 506 374 321
.300 Win. Mag. RWS Target Elite Plus 12,3 / 190 875 707 604 471 398
.338 Lapua Mag. RWS Target Elite Plus 19,4 / 250 780 661 586 486 428

The trajectory of the 6.5 CM approximates that of the .338 Lapua using 250 grain bullets, but with 60% less recoil. Light magnum powders in the 4350 class or the new Superformance powder were considered ideal by Emery. Small powder charges were the goal since the formula for recoil energy factors half the powder charge weight into the calculation. The ballisticians put their money on VLD (Very Low Drag) bullets with long ogives. The case for the 6.5 CM is, at 48.77 mm, shorter than that of the .308 Win. The mild-mannered 6.5 Creedmoor is no super-cartridge and certainly no super-magnum. It does not burn powder like the .26 Nosler, .264 WM, 6.5x68, 6.5x65 RWS or 6.5-284 Norma. Even the popular .260 Rem. consumes more powder than the 6.5 CM. The most closely comparable European caliber, the 6.5x55, requires a longer standard-length action and therefore must have a longer bolt throw. Its recoil is also perceived to be somewhat greater. Furthermore, 6.5 CM barrels have a long service life.

Guaranteed Accuracy

The 6.5 Creedmoor has all the earmarks of high accuracy and performance. The case has no belt and headspace is established at the shoulder, which is more precise. Its 30-degree shoulder angle ensures a perfect seat in the chamber as well as optimal powder burn and efficiency. The maximum chamber pressure is set at 4350 bar: high, but within the spectrum of contemporary cartridges. Its nearly cylindrical rimless case and 12.09 mm head diameter provide a large powder chamber and an ideal chamber seat. With a maximum overall length of 71.12 mm, it is an ideal fit in short actions of the .308 Win. class. The only slightly conical case body, tapering from 11.94 to 11.73 mm diameter, centers itself perfectly in the chamber, thereby optimally aligning the bullet with the centerline of the bore. The fast twist of 1:8 inches is predestined to stabilize heavy bullets. A long chamber throat was selected so that long bullets can be seated far out so as not to reduce powder capacity. Because the bullets lie very close to the rifling, there is no freebore – another guarantee for accuracy.

Presentation of the RWS 6,5 Creedmoor Target Elite Plus on a shooting range, draped next to the packaging and rifle
In direct comparison to common target calibers, one of the strengths of the 6.5 Creedmoor is its adequate velocity paired with noticeably more comfortable shooting qualities.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is best served by bullets between 120 and 140 gr (7.78 to 9.07 g). 120 gr bullets have a muzzle velocity of about 886 m/s (3052 Joules energy), 130 gr bullets of 868 m/s (3173 Joules), and 140 gr bullets of 826 m/s (3095 Joules). Depending upon the bullet and its BC, bullets remain supersonic at 1100, 1350 and 1400 m respectively. A 147 gr (9.53 g) match bullet can remain supersonic up to about 1475 m. Thanks to their shape and the typical use of spitzer bullet points, 6.5 mm (exact bullet diameter 0.264 in/6.71 mm) bullets possess ideal flight characteristics. They buck the wind well and – especially at great distances – lose less velocity than other bullets, even those in other calibers. This is where the secret to the caliber’s long-range suitability certainly lies.

Furthermore, the 6.5 CM is loaded with Large Rifle standard primers like the RWS 5341 and moderately-burning standard rifle powders like Norma 203-B or RWS R903. Light magnum powders like Hodgdon H4350, RWS R904 and Norma 204 are also used. In Europe it has more than a little competition from the 6.5x55 SE.

Many characteristics speak for the 6.5 CM: 

  • It fits in a short action (lighter rifles with a shorter bolt throw)
  • Modern chamber configuration tailored specifically to fit the bullet’s profile.
  • Long, heavy bullets with excellent flight characteristics and high BCs 
  • Comfortably shootable with low recoil
  • Particularly suitable for recoil-sensitive shooters
  • Ideal for long-range shooting
  • Superb accuracy, especially at long ranges
  • Very good performance on game, whether near or far

6,5 CREEDMOOR: THE CROSSOVER CARTRIDGE

The 6.5 CM is a typical hybrid or crossover cartridge. It is an outstanding match and long-range cartridge but is an equally excellent hunting cartridge of interest to both hunters and competitive shooters. The 6.5 CM is certainly suitable for a wide range of game, from roe deer to red stag. Not only is it ideal for medium game such as chamois, mouflon and ibex, but it can handle sika and fallow deer as well. Mountain stags and moose also fall to it as do North American wapiti (elk). Hunting plains game like impala, nyala, bushbuck, and warthog is its métier. Even a kudu has fallen with a single shot fired from over 300 meters. In North America, pronghorn, whitetail and mule deer as well as thinhorn sheep like Dall and Stone’s sheep can certainly be ethically hunted with the 6.5 CM.

Besides having good killing power, the 6.5 CM stands out because it keeps meat damage to a minimum. Bloodshot meat seldom occurs with light game, but when it does it is limited. There are not many ranges in Europe where you can shoot at 1000 meters and beyond, but the 6.5 CM can be used for target work at distances of up to about 1300 m. Of course, it can also be used in hunter-style matches or in practice at ranges from 100 to 200 m. Shooting at 300 m is becoming more popular in the Old World. The 6.5 CM is eminently suitable for medium ranges. RWS acted decisively and developed one match and two hunting loads for the 6.5 Creedmoor. 
RWS TARGET ELITE PLUS is synonymous with match-grade cartridges of handloader quality. With its 130 gr HPBT bullet, it is very low in recoil and highly accurate. The bullet, which has a high BC of 0.548, has a muzzle velocity of about 869 m/s; it is still clocking 708 m/s at 300 m. This match bullet also masters crosswinds very well.

An additional loading from RWS with a 93 gr EVOLUTION GREEN bullet will be available in 2020. The gilding metal jacket is nickel-plated, which reduces metal fouling in the bore. The food-grade tin core is divided into two parts. The solid rear core remains in one piece thanks to a heavy cannelure. This solid slug ensures deep penetration, an exit wound and blood spoor. The tin front core is pre-fragmented and explodes inside the animal’s body. Thanks to the pre-formed fragmentation points and Speed Tip point, the bullet deforms very quickly even under low resistance and low impact velocity. Great shocking power is the result. The EVOLUTION GREEN is an extremely accurate bullet with excellent all-around performance, even at long distances. As a rule, game either drops at the shot or falls nearby after a short final flight. Meat damage is somewhat higher than with sturdier bullets. The EVOLUTION GREEN practically does it all and can take on every game species for which the 6.5 CM is predestined. 

Another universal bullet effective against everything up to and including Central European red deer is the RWS SPEED TIP PRO in 140 gr (product launch 2020). It, too, has the plastic Speed Tip bullet point with a front and rear core. The nickeled mild steel jacket causes minimal friction and reduces metal fouling. The lead-core bullet has a V-Tail base and a hardened rear core that is held in place by an H-shaped constriction. The soft lead front core deforms and fragments reliably in the game animal. It is a bullet made for high accuracy and stability in flight. It is equally reliable at long ranges and at low impact velocities. The stable rear section provides satisfactory penetration and, as a rule, produces an exit wound. In the 6.5 Creedmoor, it is the bullet for heavy game. 

Shot red calf with RWS 6,5 Creedmoor in the forest
The 6.5 Creedmoor is eminently suitable for all European game and offers convincing performance, even on red deer.

Summary

The 6.5 CM is no super-cartridge. It is no super-magnum nor is it an overbore caliber with unbelievable muzzle velocity. It is, in fact, more of a standard cartridge for short-actioned rifles than anything else. Its low stress on the shooter may be the decisive factor in determining whether that shooter stands on the victor’s podium at the end of a match. With modern VLD (Very Low Drag) bullets, it can be used for long-range matches up to 1300 meters. It is more than suitable for shooting at 1000 m. With somewhat lighter bullets, it provides outstanding performance at the 300-meter mark and is still usable up to 700 m.

Its dual-use utility makes it an excellent hunting cartridge. It masters 400-meter shots with no problem. It is ideal for medium game and is even effective up to Central European red stags. Simply put, its many-faceted utility paired with high accuracy and comfortable shooting qualities is exactly what makes the 6.5 CM so beloved. This modern counterpart of the 6.5x55 SE has pulled a nose ahead of the more than hundred-year-old cartridge. It is a cartridge with a long future which we will be hearing a lot about in hunting lodges and by campfires around the world. The ‘six-point-five’ is not ‘out’ by any means. The 6.5 Creedmoor is ‘in’!

  • Packaging of the RWS 6,5 Creedmoor EVOLUTION GREEN together with a rifle cartridge
  • Packaging of the RWS 6,5 Creedmoor SPEED TIP PROFESSIONAL together with a rifle cartridge
  • Packaging of the RWS 6,5 Creedmoor Target Elite Plus together with a rifle cartridge
Caliber Bullet Weight in g / gr Item No.
6,5 CM EVOLUTION GREEN 6,0 / 93 2411682
6,5 CM SPEED TIP PROFESSIONAL 9,1 / 140 2411631
6,5 CM TARGET ELITE PLUS 8,4 / 130 2409762

Photos: Nils Waltring