6.5 Rifle Test: 7 Solid Choices for Hunting
August 18, 2017
The Renaissance of the 6.5 cartridge has seen a wealth of new rifles come to market chambered in various 6.5 guides. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a rifle manufacturer today that doesn't chamber at least one model in some variant of a 6.5 — so by no means is this list even close to complete. However, it is a good snapshot of several different rifles currently being offered that we have tested and would make fine hunting companions.
S&W PERFORMANCE CENTER '¢ M&P 10
AR-style rifles have become America's most popular rifles, and the excellent 6.5 Creedmoor has become one of the hottest cartridges on the market. Smith & Wesson combined the two in this Performance Center rifle, suitable for hunting, long-range target shooting, and everything in-between. The 20-inch 5R rifled barrel has a 1:8-inch twist to stabilize the full range of 6.5mm projectiles, and the two-stage match trigger is a practical choice for real-world shooting.
KIMBER '¢ HUNTER
It's sort of hard not to like a 5 1/2-pound rifle with a 1-MOA accuracy guarantee that retails for under $900. Kimber's Hunter combines the established 84M stainless-steel barreled action with a pillar-bedded composite stock. The stock allows Kimber to cut a few hundred bucks off the cost of comparable rifles, such as the Montana, without compromising on the core features. The trigger is adjustable, the magazine box is detachable, and the Mauser-type extractor is a boon to reliability.
ALEXANDER ARMS '¢ SIDE-CHARGING HUNTER RIFLE
Bill Alexander (and friends) set out to maximize the performance of the AR-15 and so invented the 6.5 Grendel cartridge. If you're going to buy a Grendel, why not buy it from the company that engineered it? This rifle abandons the AR charging handle for one on the bolt carrier that's easy to find and operate. The 18-inch, button-rifled, fluted, stainless-steel barrel is free-floated, and the stock is adjustable for length. The receiver, stock, and forend are coated in Kryptek Highlander camo.
RUGER '¢ HAWKEYE FTW HUNTER
Give me a rifle with a great trigger, a good barrel, a stock that fits, and enough weight to give me stability from field positions and you'll take away all my excuses if I miss. This Ruger, designed with input from FTW's instructor cadre, embodies each of those attributes. Its two-stage trigger is one of my favorites on the market. The rifle is just the right balance of portability and stability. The example I own is startlingly accurate.
NOSLER '¢ MODEL 48 LONG RANGE
(6.5 CREEDMOOR, 26 NOSLER)
The 26 Nosler is among the fastest 6.5 cartridges on the planet and does so in a beltless case. Not many cartridges are better suited to long-range shooting than a high-BC bullet at high velocity. Nosler's Long Range pairs a pillar-bedded Manners MCS-T carbon-fiber stock with its Model 48 action, a Timney trigger, and a 26-inch stainless match-grade Shilen barrel with a 1:8-inch twist. The barreled action is Cerakoted, and 1-MOA accuracy is guaranteed.
SEEKINS '¢ HAVAK
This rifle incorporates cutting-edge tactical rifle features in a mountain hunting rig. The action and bolt are precision machined from prehardened stainless steel and pillar and hand glass bedded into the McMillan synthetic stock. Both the barrel and bolt are spiral fluted, and the bolt uses an innovative four locking lug system. The muzzle comes threaded for suppression, and the Timney trigger is set at three pounds.
BROWNING '¢ X-BOLT ALL WEATHER
Sometimes it rains in the woods. This little short-throw bolt action from Browning combines the weather resistance of a laminate stock and stainless steel barreled action in a package that is right at home in a deer stand or a saddle scabbard. It weighs just under seven pounds with a sporter-weight 22-inch barrel with a removable brake. The detachable box magazine holds four rounds. The tang safety is fast and simple to operate.