Reloading the 6.5 Creedmoor
November 04, 2011
Few cartridge introductions have had the fanfare of Hornady's 6.5 Creedmoor. It was developed in 2007 by Hornady's Dave Emary and former Camp Perry champ Dennis DeMille. The intent was to create an "across the course" round for high-power matches, and to that end it succeeded admirably. Factory ammo was loaded with Hornady's sleek 120- and 140-grain A-Max bullets, producing flat trajectories with less recoil than the .30s.
It didn't take long for hunters to discover the 6.5CM. The reputation of long-for-caliber 6.5mm bullets for deep penetration is well known, and today's selection of high-tech bullets allows you to tailor a load for just about any application.
The 6.5CM is based on Hornady's .30 T/C and has been described as the .260 Remington "done right." There's considerable justification for this. The 6.5CM case is .115 inch shorter and has less body taper and a sharper 30-degree shoulder than the .260.
But unlike the .260 Remington and 6.5-284 Norma, the 6.5CM case was designed from the ground up as a short-action cartridge. Bullets in the 6.5CM can be seated out to match throat dimensions, so they don't eat up valuable powder space, yet still fit in a short-action rifle.
Our test rifle this month is my Ruger M77 Hawkeye. Its 26-inch barrel rings every drop of velocity out of the powder charge. Ruger cuts 6.5CM barrels with a 1:8 twist that will handle virtually all of the wide range of bullet weights available.
Forget what you've read about "overstabilizing" light bullets. Today's bullets are much more uniform than those of old and typically shoot like a house afire, regardless of twist.
For testing I mounted a new Bresser 6-18x40 True View scope in Warne QD rings. I used Hornady New Dimension dies I got when I bought the rifle. Standard, large-rifle primers are most appropriate for the relatively short and compact charges of the 6.5CM. Magnum primers are not needed, but match-grade primers might be worth a try for specialty loads. In addition to factory ammo, Hornady also offers cases.
Appropriate powders are in the medium- to slow-burning range. Several new numbers such as Hornady Superformance powder from Hodgdon, Varget, Hybrid 100V and Vihtavuori N-150 were excellent with selected loads. Additional powders that deliver noteworthy performance are Reloder-17, Norma URP and Winchester 760.
Load development for any 6.5mm cartridge is a real treat because the selection of .264-inch bullets is so varied.
We tested more than 60 different bullet and powder combinations, but the final cut includes only the best load with each bullet listed.
For a light-recoiling load for paper punching or popping the occasional 'chuck, check out the 95-grain Hornady V-Max over 41.0 grains of Varget. At a velocity of 3,362 fps, it was the fastest load tested, and accuracy was great. A couple of 100-grain favorites are the Nosler Ballistic Tip and the Sierra HP. Both were exceptionally accurate at a bit over 2,900 fps. The new IMR 8208 XBR and good old IMR 4064 were the standouts here.
The 120-grain bullet lineup runs the gamut from target to game. The velocity of factory loads offers a clue as to speed goals here. Hornady lists its 120-grain A-Max at 3,020 fps, but it registered 2,818 fps in the Hawkeye.
For a hunting load, 47.5 grains of Superformance with the 120-grain Sierra Spitzer at 2,984 fps punched tidy little groups. The Nosler Partition is always a good choice for big game, and a charge of 43.0 grains of H-4350 gave the 125-grain version 2,737 fps. For pure paper punching, Sierra MatchKings are always tough to beat. The 123-grain MK over 38.4 grains of Varget zipped along at 2,823 fps and averaged a hair over a half inch.
For medium game, the Hornady SST was fine with 43.5 grains of Hybrid 100V at 2,785 fps. The Nosler 130-grain
AccuBond liked 39.0 grains of IMR 4007 SSC. Velocity was 2,655 fps, and groups averaged .87 inch.
The 140-grain selections are ably represented here by the Speer Hot-Cor and Hornady SST. Both are excellent medium-game bullets and preferred Vihtavuori N-550 and Hybrid 100V, respectively.
Finally, there's the grand old 160-grain RN, one of the best designs ever. At reasonable ranges it shoots plenty flat enough and has contributed to the reputations of many 6.5mm cartridges.
With appropriate handloads, target shooters can be highly competitive without developing a flinch, and hunters can take medium to big game efficiently. The 6.5 Creedmoor is the real deal.