6.5 Creedmoor: Rifles, Ammo and History Overview
History, performance, and gear roundup for the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge: Competitive shooters and hunters have turned this 6.5mm cartridge into a very popular round; factory-produced rifle brands, custom builders and shooting-accessory makers are scrambling to meet consumer demand
Due to high demand, many factory-production rifles and custom rifle builds, such as this Alpha 11 from Short Action Customs, are being chambered for the flat-shooting 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge. (Photo courtesy of Short Action Customs)
AR Platform Rifles
Tactical / AR Bolt-Action ‘Hybrid’ Rifles
Custom-Built Bolt-Action Rifles
Silencers / Suppressors
Optics / Scopes
Since the introduction from Hornady in 2008, the 6.5 Creedmoor has been a popular competitive shooting cartridge, and is rapidly gaining a high amount of respect in the hunting world. But why?
According to Hornady, the 6.5 CM was the first-ever production cartridge developed – by Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille in 2007 – from the ground up, intended to give competitive shooters a factory-loaded cartridge to compete at the highest level. Hornady also states the design was loosely based on the .308 Winchester. Other information sources say the 6.5 CM was based off the 30 TC cartridge.
Whichever is true, however it was coined, doesn’t really matter; the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is one impressive round. And with much success earned in shooting competitions, it was only a matter of time for hunters to discover its many benefits.
I picked the brain of firearm-industry icon Michael Bane for his thoughts about how the 6.5 CM climbed in popularity.
“The high-ballistic coefficients of a lot of 6.5mm bullets make them excellent for long-range cartridges,” said Bane, host of Shooting Gallery on Outdoor Channel.
Which would explain one reason why the 6.5 CM has been so popular with competitive shooters. However, “popular” can be a relative term. To get one prospective of exactly how popular the cartridge is with custom-built rifles, I quizzed Mark Gordon, owner of Short Action Customs based out of Wellington, Ohio.
“The 6.5 Creedmoor is the most popular 6.5mm (cartridge) that we chamber up,” Gordon said. “In fact, it is the most popular caliber we chamber, period!
“Since 2013, for every three chamberings we do in .308 Winchester, we do four in 6.5 Creedmoor.”
From top to bottom, .308 Winchester, .243 Winchester and the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges in a side-by-side comparison. (Cartridge images courtesy of Hornady)
But there must be other reasons; there are other 6.5mm cartridges out there sharing the same bullets. For the seasoned white-tailed deer hunter with several tally marks scratched out on their trusted .308 or .243 wood stock, more valid reasons to give it a try are likely required.
“The thing with the 6.5 Creedmoor is performance vs. pain. I shot my first 6.5 Creedmoor shortly after a .308 Winchester 168-grain match in a long-distance class,” Bane said. “The (6.5) Creedmoor was like shooting a .22 (LR), and it made distances beyond 500 yards seem easy.”
Mark Gordon agrees with Bane’s assessment, and noted a few other advantages.
“Shooters enjoy the lighter recoil (of the 6.5 CM) when compared to the .308 Winchester,” Gordon said. “The 6.5mm bullets are extremely accurate and have more energy at 300, 500, 800 and 1000 yards (down range).
“Some great factory ammo is widely available and many custom-ammo companies offer great 6.5 Creedmoor ammo as well. For reloaders, it’s an easy to load to work.”
Hmm. Heads up for you hunters; now we’re getting somewhere.
“Given the success, especially in Europe, of 6.5mm chamberings, there were already lots of hunting bullets around in the 120- to 140-grain range, so it was just a matter of time,” said Bane, also a co-host of The Best Defense on Outdoor Channel.
Enough with the history lesson. What can this cartridge really do – performance wise – in the hunting world?
I often don’t like to give recommendations to hunters looking to hunt the biggest game with the smallest cartridge possible. You never really know how good of a shooter you’re dealing with. Whether shooting a bow at a white-tailed buck, a .22 LR at a fox squirrel, 7-shot at clays, or a .338 Lapua Mag at an empty beer can 1,000 yards away, shot placement is everything. Unless, of course, we’re talking about hand grenades and Rambo-style exploding broadheads.
For what I call medium-size game, such as whitetail, antelope, mule deer, wild hogs, go get'em with the 6.5 CM; it will do the job and do it with great efficiency.
And for you song-dog coyote callers that like the challenge of long-range open-country hunting, give this cartridge a serious look.
For bigger game, such as elk and moose, you be the judge. I will say the cartridge is perfectly capable; it is needle-threading accurate over long distances. Hornady does state on their website: “It’s perfect for any North American game up to and including elk.”
Mike Stroff, host of Savage Outdoors on Sportsman Channel, agrees with that statement.
“I have probably harvested 25 or so deer with the 6.5 Creedmoor, a number of antelope and even an elk,” Stroff said. “The elk was an 800-pound bull I shot at 200 yards … he only ran 50 yards.”
Mike Stroff, TV host of "Savage Outdoors" on Sportsman Channel, shows off a nice antelope he harvested with a Savage rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. (Photo courtesy of Mike Stroff)
More insider information: 6.5 Creedmoor Q&A with Industry Experts
Now let’s look at and review the real purpose I’m writing and you’re reading – guns, suppressors, ammo and scopes – anything and everything related to the epic 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.
Since its debut, approaching 10 years ago, the 6.5 Creedmoor has become a very popular hunting cartridge – due to flat-shooting ballistics and lower recoil – on the market. To help meet consumer demand, Savage Arms has added several new rifles chambered for the hot, flat-shooting cartridge.
New for 2016, the Savage Model 16 Lightweight Hunter is offered in six different short-action cartridges, including the 6.5 Creedmoor. (Photo courtesy of Savage Arms)
Models include the 16 Lightweight Hunter, AXIS, AXIS XP and AXIS XP II. Among these models are right and left hand, blued or stainless and camo options for a total of nine different – new – configurations. In total, they offer 18-ish rifle options for people with 6.5 Creedmoor-itis. Obviously, Savage has taken the time to make sure there’s a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle option for just about anyone.
Editor’s Note: Actually, there are 19, but one has yet to show up on their website. More about this “ghost” rifle below.
I own the Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision rifle. Without going into detail, let’s just say it can shoot way better than I can.
The popular Ruger American Rifle series is a good option for hunters looking for 6.5 Creedmoor benefits in a cost-effective solution. (Photo courtesy of Ruger)
The American Rifle series has been a solid addition to Ruger’s already-vast offering. With the price-conscience gun enthusiasts in mind, the American series come loaded with many bells and whistles at a competitive price.
User adjustable trigger from 3 to 5 pounds of pull; barrel-free-float stock; threaded barrel; one-piece scope rail; sling swivel studs and a removable rotary magazine; all with advertised MOA accuracy. And, you can own one of these featured-packed rifles – American Rifle Predator – in 6.5 Creedmoor.
And if all of those benefits don’t already have you budgeting for another rifle purchase, then maybe this statement from Michael Bane will have you checking the bank account balance.
“I think the Ruger American in 6.5 Creedmoor was a turning point for hunters,” Bane said. “Here's a super-accurate cartridge in a 6.6-pound package with $529 retail price. I’ve shot several of them, and they are uniformly accurate.”
It’s a strong statement in a competitive market for hunters looking to improve their effective shooting range without having to break into the kiddo’s college fund. In addition, Ruger currently offers 6.5 CM in three more rifle configurations in the Hawkeye lineup. Add in the Precision Rifle, which I will talk about below, there are five options for Ruger fans to choose from.
AR Platform Rifles
AR fans, don’t feel left out; there are a few options for you as well. Though not as widely available as bolt-action rifles, some AR brands are building AR-10s in 6.5 CM. It appears most people are going the custom-build route, and there are plenty of small shops out there more than willing to build whatever you want. Just type “AR-10 Custom Builders 6.5 Creedmoor” in Google and you’ll find all the information needed to begin your quest.
DPMS Panther Arms
DPMS Panther offers one of the few AR-10 semi-auto rifles - the LR-65 - available in 6.5 Creedmoor. (Photo courtesy of DPMS Panther)
Without going the custom route, DPMS Panther Arms does offer an AR-10 chambered for the wicked 6.5 Creedmoor. Listed under their competition rifles section, the LR-65 is a spinoff of the popular LR-308. Weighing in at 11.25 pounds and sporting a 24-inch stainless bull barrel with a 1-in-8.5 twist rate, this beast would likely make both precision shooters and hunters perfectly happy.
Seekins Precision is one of the few AR builders that seems to be trying to bridging the gap between factory-production and a true custom-build. As of this writing, their new SP10-6.5 rifle was on a very special list called "backordered." (Photo courtesy of Seekins Precision)
Seekins Precision is now offering their SP10-6.5 (6.5 Creedmoor) to the public. Best I can tell from the price listed on their website, this semi-auto sort of fits between factory-production and custom-built AR-10s. They tout the best features and components on the market today, and designed for shooters, by shooters. The SP10-6.5 is currently listed as “backorder,” which seems to be the norm with any 6.5 CM rifle.
Tactical / AR Bolt-Action ‘Hybrid’ Rifles
Ok, so I don’t really know how to title this section. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, nope; it’s Superman. The same can be applied here. From a distance, I’d argue with a brick wall that the rifle on the shooting bench is an AR-style weapon.
Up close, ok, so it’s not an AR-10 or -15, and definitely not Superman. It’s a bolt-action rifle in disguise. For the sake of this article, let’s call them “hybrids.”
Ruger Precision Rifle
Currently offered in three short-action chamberings, Ruger's Precision Rifle is fairly easy to locate in two of the three. If you want it in 6.5 Creedmoor, get in line. (Photo courtesy of Ruger)
Launched in 2015, Ruger calls their hybrid version the Precision Rifle. Offered in three different cartridges, including the 6.5 Creedmoor, the Ruger Precision Rifle has a little bit to offer all types of shooters.
Read Ed Head’s review of Ruger’s Precision Rifle
Read the “Guns and Ammo” introduction of the Precision Rifle
The rifle comes stock with many feature-rich benefits, such as a threaded 24-inch chrome-moly steel 5R rifling barrel; 20 MOA picatinny rail; over-size bolt handle and 2.25- to 5-pound adjustable trigger, just to name a few.
Mike Fifer, CEO of Ruger, is quoted on the Ruger website for saying, “1,600 yards. Enough said.”
I didn’t shoot it at 1,600 yards but did get to crack off five rounds at bowling-ball pins at a 100. Just the feel of the gun and crisp trigger makes it 10.6 pounds of awesome.
Savage Model 10 BA Stealth Rifle
Shortly after the 2016 SHOT Show, there wasn’t a lot of information to be found about this new expansion of Savage’s 10/110 BA line. I’ll let you guess what “BA” stands for.
On paper, Savage's new Model 10 BA Stealth looks very impressive. No doubt the 6.5 Creedmoor version will be hotter than a full-auto .50 caliber barrel. (Photo courtesy of Savage Arms)
Since then, the Savage Model 10 BA Stealth has hit the production line and released to gun dealers for sale to the public.
The Model 10 BA Stealth was developed to be a lighter, more compact option to the original Model 10 BA offering, along with a bit better price tag.
The rifle is essentially a factory-blueprinted Model 10-barreled action married to a custom version of the Drake Hunter/Stalker monolithic aluminum chassis – modified to Savage’s specifications. It comes nicely equipped with a 5/8x24 threaded muzzle, EGW scope rail, Fab Defense GLR-SHOCK six-position buttstock with adjustable cheek piece, 10-round capacity and the adjustable AccuTrigger.
Chamberings? The tried-and-true .308 Winchester and, of course, the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Shown equipped with a new 4-16x44mm multi-stop turret Grand Slam scope model from Weaver (model 800658), the Savage Model 10 BA Stealth chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor is an extremely accurate production rifle right out of the box. (Jeff Phillips photo)
The 6.5 Creedmoor version – my personal favorite – has a 24-inch, 1:8 rate-of-twist barrel and weighs just more than nine pounds. The .308 Winchester is a bit shorter with a 20-inch, 1:10 rate-of-twist barrel.
I’ve personally fired a significant amount of ammunition through a 6.5 Creedmoor version. Simply put, it’s a well-built, tack-driving machine.
Custom-Built Bolt-Action Rifles
Going the custom-build route - if you have the cash to spend - has its pros and cons. For gun enthusiasts with specific needs and wants, custom is the way to go. The cons? Higher cost and a longer wait time. (Photo courtesy of Short Action Customs)
Earlier in this article, there was much mentioned about competitive shooting, the birth place of the 6.5 Creedmoor. Where were these competitive shooters getting their rifles, and where are they getting them now? Simple; by contacting a custom rifle shop, such as the one Mark Gordon owns, Short Action Customs.
According to Gordon, going through the process of getting a custom rifle built, and owning one, isn’t for everyone. The vast majority of hunters and plinkers looking to cash in on the benefits of the 6.5 Creedmoor will be perfectly happy with a factory build, like the brands and models noted above.
“Production rifles are great for getting shooters into competitive shooting and into new calibers without large financial investments,” Gordon said. “The problem is when the shooter starts to outgrow the production rifle.”
Really? How so?
“With time, the shooter will demand more accuracy, more consistency out of the rifle, along with more features, such as a detachable box magazine, a larger bolt knob to manipulate the bolt faster, and a stock that fits them more comfortably.
“Once the shooter has been bitten by the ‘accuracy bug’ and wants more features, they turn to companies like us to help with a custom build,” Gordon added.
Custom rifle builds are like fingerprints; no two are exactly alike. This 6.5 Creedmoor was built from a Remington 700 action, which can be supplied by the customer. (Photo courtesy of Short Action Customs)
With growing interest in a custom-built rifle, I pressed on with the following: But there are a few factory-production rifles already offering some of those features.
“New products intended for precision shooters, such as the Ruger Precision Rifle (noted above) are starting to bridge the gap between a traditional production rifle and a custom-built rifle,” Gordon said.
“These rifles are good at a few things, just not great at all. This is where a custom rifle will fulfill all of the shooter’s needs.”
And that’s not a bash at all on the factory-production brands. It’s about specific needs and preferences. You may be diehard fan of some feature – stainless steel, precision stock, low trigger-pull weight – and maybe none of the factory-run rifles are a fit.
For specific needs, demands for ultimate precision and accuracy, and the want for a one-of-a-kind personalized bullet slinger, custom builds are the way to go. Assuming, of course, you’re willing to spend some cash.
Custom builds aren’t cheap, but maybe not as bad as you might think. After talking with Gordon about the process, “custom” also comes with “flexibility.” Flexibility in the sense not all the required parts to build the rifle have to come from the custom shop.
“Customers can expect to pay around $1,000 when supplying most of the parts needed, and up to $4,500 when not supplying any parts,” Gordon noted. “Rifle builds get north of $4,000 when custom painting the stock, barrel fluting and other nonessential services are requested.”
Silencers / Suppressors
While going down this path of anything and everything catering to the 6.5 Creedmoor, we cannot leave out a suppressor option. You can scour the Internet and pull up each brands’ website to do your research, if you have that kind of time. Or you can save yourself some effort and just visit Silencer Shop.
I personally do not know all that much about silencers and was curious to know if one was being offered specifically for 6.5mm cartridges. I shot off an e-mail – with the question – to Silencer Shop through their contact page, just like any consumer would. Within 15 to 20 minutes, I had my answer.
Thunder Beast Ultra 7 and 9 Silencers
The Thunder Beast Ultra series is offered in two models specifically for the 6.5 Creedmoor. Due to the low weight of each, both are great options for on-the-move hunters. (Photo courtesy of Silencer Shop)
The Thunder Beast Ultra 7 (7-inch) and Ultra 9 (9-inch) represent advanced, lightweight precision-rifle silencers. Thunder Beast Arms Corporation (TBAC) has been building silencers for long-range shooters for years with great success. The titanium construction of TBAC’s Ultra line in .30 caliber has been adapted to the specific needs of 6.5mm rounds.
The “thread over muzzle brake” design of TBAC’s tapered-muzzle devices creates a repeatable and reliable mounting system between the firearm and silencer. This coupled with the light-weight titanium design means the precision of the system is not degraded by the interaction – either interface or harmonics – between barrel and silencer.
Weighing in at 9.8 ounces (7-inch) and 11.9 ounces (9-inch), these suppressors are a great option for hunters or the long-range shooter with a low rate of firing. Due to the design and light-weight construction, the Ultras are not full-auto rated.
Note: This is the model specifically designed for the 6.5 Creedmoor (.264 Cal) round, according to the Silencer Shop website.
Worried about ammunition availability for a relatively new cartridge? Don't be; many manufacturers, including Fusion, have started cranking out a variety of 6.5 CM rounds to fit any need, including hunting. (Jeff Phillips photo)
Ammunition makers have jumped on board in a significate way, which is good news for 6.5 CM fans. Unless you’re a reloader, there aren’t many things worse in the shooting world than making a rifle investment chambered for a cartridge not easily found for purchase.
It was destined to happen – and it did – the popular hunting ammunition brand Fusion offers a 140-grain option for deer hunters looking to take advantage of the brand’s touted large expansion and high-weight retention. The advantages of the skived bullet tip and boat-tail design should yield plenty of smiles for long-range hunters.
Touted for quality control and precision craftsmanship above all else, DoubleTap Ammunition is catering to long-range hunters with their DT Longrange line. There’s the lead-free 127-grain Barnes LRX-tipped, and the 140-grain Nosler Accubond to fill the needs of most hunters seeking mid-size game, including those pesky wild hogs.
Shooters looking to spend some time at the range with their 6.5 CM rifles may want to give American Eagle a look. The brand offers a 140-grain open-tip match round perfect for accurate, higher-volume shooting.
If you like sending a lot of rounds to targets at the shooting range – accurately – then American Eagle’s 140-grain Open Tip Match 6.5 CM ammunition is a good option. (Jeff Phillips photo)
For additional 6.5 CM hunting-round options, or for those seeking match-grade ammo, just pull up MidwayUSA; there are several brands – American Eagle, Hornady, Fusion, Winchester, Nosler – and bullet weights to choose from.
If you reload, check out “Reloading the 6.5 Creedmoor” by Steve Gash on “Guns and Ammo”
Optics / Scopes
Though not tied directly to the 6.5 Creedmoor round, I feel it’s necessary to be comprehensive while talking rifle shooting systems. When choosing a scope for a rifle, it is an important decision. When choosing a scope for a long-range rifle, it’s more than important.
I’ve heard it many, many times from industry experts: “Get the best optics you can afford.” Though there may be some truth to the statement, I’m not exactly sure what it means. If I’ve budgeted $2,500 for a complete 6.5 CM rifle setup, $1,000 goes toward the rifle, $250 for ammo and $250 for bases and rings, does this mean I should spend $1,000 on a scope?
Maybe, maybe not … might need to spend even more.
The intended purpose of the rifle should dictate the type and features needed in a scope. If you’re unsure about how to choose the best scope to fit your application, call customer service of some of the scope companies. Tell them the rifle-cartridge you are getting, and the intended purpose. They will quickly be able to give you some good options, and likely some different price points.
If the perfect scope costs $750, putting you $250 under budget, so be it. Use the saved cash to take the wife or girlfriend out for a nice dinner. Shortly afterwards would be a good time to break the news about buying a new 6.5 CM rifle.
Start with quality scope brands with good warranties. Then, let the intended use of the rifle decide the exact model needed. Just remember, the shooting system is only as good as the weakest link. Going with a scope that may be a slight overkill isn’t a bad thing. Below are some options to point you in the right direction.
Depending on the intended use of the rifle, Zeiss Conquest HD5 series scopes with a wide magnification range are flexible optics for a flexible 6.5 CM cartridge. (Photo courtesy of Zeiss)
If you’re planning on center punching mule deer and antelope at 400 yards – and the occasional whitetail at 50 – with your new 6.5 CM rifle, I’d suggest the Conquest HD5 3-15x50mm with locking turrets.
This is a quality, reliable scope with a flexible 5x magnification that will allow you to focus on an animal at close range or dial up the power for long-distance encounters. The locking turrets will ensure elevation and windage adjustments don’t get bump-changed while in the field.
Maybe the goal is to punch long-range targets or let coyotes know it’s not safe to come within 1,600 yards of a predator call, then I’d take a look at the Conquest HD5 5-25x50mm with locking turrets. Same technology as its little brother, just more power.
Bushnell's LRHS Elite 4.5-18x44mm scope is a good option for shooters looking to benefit from the reticle in the first focal plane. The MOA or Mil reticle - available in both - hold-over marks are the same at any magnification. (Photo courtesy of Bushnell)
Recognizing hunter demand for quality long-range scopes, in 2015 Bushnell introduced the Elite Long Range Hunter (LRHS) 4.5-18x44mm. This scope is feature packed with a wide power range in the first-focal plane, which makes hold-overs the same at any magnification.
Distance adjustments to zero in on a target are easy as well with the target-style RevLimiter zero-stop elevation turret. Dial up the distance, shoot, then simply turn the elevation back to the zero-stop.
Whether you like MOA or Mils, the Elite LRHS is offered in both reticles and matching turret adjustments.
Check out Bushnell’s Con-X system for quick, accurate range adjustments
There is truly a 6.5 Creedmoor movement, or craze, happening with all shooting disciplines. From factory-run rifles to custom builds, from silencers to ammunition, everyone in the industry seems to be on board. At least for the moment.
Is the 6.5 Creedmoor just the latest flavor? Is it here to stay and become a household name like the .308 Winchester? Mike Stroff offered a few opinions.
“(The) 6.5 (CM) is here to stay for sure,” Stroff said. “I strongly feel if people will shoot the caliber (cartridge), it should replace a lot of .308s and .243s in gun safes over the next few years … it performs on all fronts.”
For more information about the 6.5 Creedmoor from industry experts – Michael Bane, Mike Stroff and Mark Gordon – click here for a Q&A article.