Skip to main content

New Rifle Cartridges - A Look At What Fuels Modern Development

New Rifle Cartridges - A Look At What Fuels Modern Development

Things in the cartridge world are changing, for sure. In the last decade, we've seen cartridges get smaller, bullets get longer and the overall mentality change. So, what's the deal? Exactly what is the mind set? Let's take a look at some of the modern cartridge developments and the school of thought.

Federal6.5140
Federal Premium 6.5 Creedmoor

The modern family of cartridges began - sort of - with the 6.5 Creedmoor. Some are sick of hearing about its virtues, and some are completely unfamiliar with the design. Nonetheless, it is a sound design, even if its father has faded into obscurity, but I believe we should begin with this cartridge. Based on the .30 T/C (which in turn was purported to give true .30-06 Springfield velocities from a short-action cartridge) the 6.5 Creedmoor filled a niche: it delivered an unprecedented trajectory from a cartridge that fit into the AR-15 magazine. Once the shooting world saw how well the Hornady-developed cartridge performed in the gas guns, it was no time before the cartridge made its way into the bolt guns. Accuracy was fantastic, and the twist rate that was the usual offering for the 6.5mm cartridges gave amazing performance downrange; the Sectional Density (S.D.) and Ballistic Coefficient (B.C.) of the 6.5s are unparalleled.

Now, let me say this: the 6.5 Creedmoor is no miracle wrought in brass; the formula has been with us since the 19th century in the guise of the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser and 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer. From the inception of the bore diameter, the twist rate has been one which would handle the 156- and 160-grain bullets, which are both very long for caliber, and in modern bullet profiles will offer an excellent B.C. Compare those bullets to those suitable for the .270 Winchester, and you'll find a definite advantage. It has nothing to do with the .270's case capacity, but all to do with the .270's twist rate.

6.5Norma
6.5-284 Norma

The beauty of the Creedmoor - and the Swede and 6.5-284 Norma - is the lack of recoil combined with the excellent downrange performance. Wind deflection values are low; the bullets retain all sorts of energy downrange and their S.D. values give good penetration on game animals. It is therefore the desirable bullet shape, and not the horsepower of the cartridge, that makes the Creedmoor what it is.


22Nosler
.22 Nosler

The low-recoil, long bullet combination was once again utilized for the 6mm Creedmoor - sort of obvious, considering that case was simply necked down to hold 6mm bullets - as well as in both the .22 Nosler and .224 Valkyrie. Again, these new cartridges were designed with the AR-magazine as a limiting factor for overall length, and thereby requiring a shorter case in order to leave room for the long, high-B.C. bullets. As far as downrange performance goes, the moderate velocities of these cartridges - at least when compared to some of the magnum cartridges - aren't really a handicap, as the milder cartridge, when mated with the sleek bullets, give the shooter hours at the range without pounding the shoulder to dust.


224Valkyrie223Rem
.223 Remington (left) .224 Valkyrie (Right)

For distances out to or exceeding 1,000 yards, the quartet of cartridges I've mentioned most certainly get the job done, but aren't there designs which would do a bit better job, even if the recoil did increase a bit? Well, the answer is both yes and no. I know that the .22-250 that has served me so well over the years would launch even the 100-grain bullets better than the .22 Nosler or the .224 Valkyrie, but it's got a couple things holding it back. One, the twist rate in modern .22-250 rifles is 1:12 at best, and that has a hard time stabilizing anything heavier than 60-grain bullets. Two, even with the proper twist rate in the barrel, to properly seat the truly long bullets that give the long-range performance, you'd have issues with the magazine length of most of the rifles on the market today.

300winMag
.300 Winchester Magnum

Even the .300 Winchester Magnum - capable of great velocity and hair-splitting accuracy - has problems using the .30-caliber bullets with the highest B.C. values and maintaining the prescribed overall length that allows the cartridge to function properly in the magazine. The bullets would be seated so that the case mouth was on the bullet ogive, rather than the shank of the bullet; and that doesn't work at all. So, in order to take full advantage of the longer, sleeker bullet, the overall length of the cartridge must be violated. Even the 6.5-284 Norma - that darling of the long range community - works much better in a long-action rifle than the short-action that it was designed for. The additional magazine space allows the shooter to seat bullets farther out of the case, without compromising case capacity. Long-range bullets, with the long ogives and boat tails pose no issue if the longer action is used. Hence, these recently developed shorter cartridges - designed around the longer bullets, instead of vice versa -have started a trend that I feel will be with us for some time.

Hornady6.5PRC
Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor

The 6.5 PRC - based on the .300 Ruger Compact Magnum - is a fatter, faster design, but adheres to the short case/long bullet theory. It will better the trajectory of the Creedmoor, but at the price of additional recoil, and can be considered the magnum version of the Creedmoor theory. The short powder column seems to enhance accuracy - the PPC cartridges were glaring example of this - but this design seems to be free of the feeding issues that the Winchester Short Magnums all-too-often exhibit.

Norma's new .338 Norma Magnum is another example of the shortened cartridge theory; they took a .338 Lapua - itself based on the .416 Rigby - and shortened the case to the same length as the .30-06 Springfield, not to give a shorter overall length than the Lapua, but to better handle the longer ogive bullets in a magnum-length magazine. The .338 Norma's case capacity is slightly reduced in comparison to the Lapua - roughly 6 to 7 percent - but the pressure is ramped up a bit to meet or beat the Lapua's velocities. I've shot them both, and I like them both, but the .338 Norma Magnum makes it a bit easier to seat the longest .338-inch bullets, and it is seriously accurate.


The-Mighty-.338-Lapua
.338 Lapua Magnum

Again, please realize these new designs haven't set any velocity records, and that they don't generate ridiculous energies. As far as hunting rounds go, you can get the Creedmoor's performance out of the 6.5x55 Swede, or the 6mm Creedmoor's performance from the .243 Winchester in a bolt-action rifle, with little trouble, but if the AR-platform is your thing, it should be obvious that the Creedmoor was designed for that exact purpose. At sane hunting ranges, you probably won't see any huge advantage to these new designs, but then again they were all designed as long range specialty tools.

With the popularity of long range shooting competitions, you'll see more cartridges designed with these parameters in mind, taking full advantage of the longer bullets that are popping up like spring grass. It's a good thing, as they obviously do their job, and do it well.

 
 
Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those looking for a rifle that fits like a custom-made firearm should look no further than the Benelli Lupo.

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle, the Impulse, with three hunting configurations.

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

In this Guns & Ammo TV segment, Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr discuss the benefits of airsoft training for uniformed professionals and armed citizens alike.

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range to wring out the Umarex Air Ruger 10/22.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Meet the Wilson Combat Protector: You get the experience of sound design and quality now in a more affordable package.Wilson Combat Protector Review Reviews

Wilson Combat Protector Review

Tom Beckstrand - March 24, 2020

Meet the Wilson Combat Protector: You get the experience of sound design and quality now in a...

Don't underestimate the fun factor.Review: Remington V3 TAC-13 Shotguns

Review: Remington V3 TAC-13

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 08, 2019

Don't underestimate the fun factor.

Springfield Armory's SAINT Edge Pistol may be the best AR pistol on the market.Springfield Armory SAINT Edge Pistol Review Handguns

Springfield Armory SAINT Edge Pistol Review

James Tarr - April 17, 2019

Springfield Armory's SAINT Edge Pistol may be the best AR pistol on the market.

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE sensor, onboard recording, automatic & manual calibration options, multiple color palettes, and manual focus.Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look Optics

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifle

Pair your ammunition with a straight-shooting rifle, such as the Savage Model 12 Varmint Series, and bagging a 'yote this winter will almost be in the bag.Varmint & Predator Ammunition Shoot 101

Varmint & Predator Ammunition

Kali Parmley - May 11, 2020

Pair your ammunition with a straight-shooting rifle, such as the Savage Model 12 Varmint...

 Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain TMK ammunition, Beckstrand attempts to ring steel at 600 yards with help from Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calculator in this segment of Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout Rifle

Guns & Ammo TV: Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 31, 2020

Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain...

For this shoot, Pro Tom Beckstrand, former U.S. Army Special Operations officer and sniper team leader, faces off against Guns & Ammo TV cameraman Ben LaLonde in a challenge that highlights the differences between the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H.Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H Rifle

Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H

Guns & Ammo Staff - June 17, 2020

For this shoot, Pro Tom Beckstrand, former U.S. Army Special Operations officer and sniper...

Federal Ammunition announced a contract award to supply high-performance 7.62x51mm NATO and other novel ammunition for the U.S. Army's Next Generation Carbine Technologies (NGCT) program.Federal Awarded US Army NGCT High-Performance Ammo Contract Rifle

Federal Awarded US Army NGCT High-Performance Ammo Contract

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 04, 2020

Federal Ammunition announced a contract award to supply high-performance 7.62x51mm NATO and...

See More Rifle

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now