November 07, 2016
By Joseph von Benedikt
During the 2016 SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show) I took an informal poll on the 6.5 Creedmoor. According to every single one of the dozen or so custom and semi-custom riflemakers I interviewed, they are building and shipping as many 6.5 Creedmoor rifles as all other cartridges combined.
On top of that, a shocking number of big manufacturers are either introducing models chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor or are expanding their line of 6.5 Creedmoor offerings.
As I've said before, I believe time will prove that the 6.5 Creedmoor is the .30-06 of the 21st Century.
I'm not claiming that it's as versatile as the .30-06 (in elk country the bigger 30 caliber will always hold sway), although in a nationwide sense, it could easily be argued that the 6.5 Creedmoor is far more versatile. It certainly is one of the most inherently accurate cartridges available, and it offers unprecedented levels of performance at a very low cost in recoil, reloading components, and barrel life.
What I neglected during the massive industry show was the fact that ammunition makers are likewise expanding 6.5 Creedmoor offerings. Several boutique loads offering extraordinary performance were already available, ranging from Winchester's 140-grain HPBT match load to Hornady's superbly capable Precision Hunter load.
This year, though, it seems that ammunition companies have really recognized how popular the cartridge is among hunters. (Logically so — it's truly one of the finest deer and antelope cartridges ever devised.) As a result, several outstanding new deer loads are either already on dealers' shelves, or will be soon.
So without further ado, toss another hickory knot on the fire, fill your favorite coffee mug (and splash just a dash of Irish in it), and haul the iPad to your favorite La-Z-Boy to peruse the following offerings. I'll wager that you'll want to try them in your pet 6.5 Creedmoor deer rifle.
Don't have a 6.5 Creedmoor deer rifle? Repent ye, and take yourself to the nearest gun shop to make recompense.
Browning's BXR (rapid expansion) deer load features a very innovative projectile that opens fast and large, imparting tremendous shock and anchoring deer quickly. The tip of the bullet is made of a 70/30 matrix of copper dust and resin, and it more or less disintegrates on impact, initiating expansion of the gaping hollow point beneath.
I had the opportunity to shoot a mature Wyoming whitetail with the 155-grain .30-06 version last fall as well as watch several other bucks, a big male mountain lion, and an aoudad fall to the bullet.
It performs as advertised, putting deer down with eyebrow-raising effectiveness. Plus, it seems to penetrate better than most other deer bullets designed for massive expansion — a very real advantage on the big-bodied Utah mule deer I hunt around home.
Also impressive was the ammunition's stellar accuracy. Although I have yet to put any of the new 6.5 Creedmoor version downrange, I've tested the .30-06 and .270 versions through several different rifles, and the ammo averaged sub-MOA accuracy in every case.
Featuring a 129-grain BXR bullet pushed at 2,850 fps, I expect that the 6.5 Creedmoor ammo will be similarly accurate and will steamroller whitetail deer. Plus, Browning engineers anticipate that the projectiles' BC will top .550, making it a prime choice for extended-range hunting.
BXR ammunition shrugs off challenging weather conditions, too, virtue of its nickel-plated jackets and cases. While some handloaders prefer simple brass, a look at the ammo preferred by law enforcement working in humid, salty environs will tell you that nickel plated cases are more reliable because they don't corrode and their natural lubricity aids slick feeding. Suggested retail will be less than $30 per box of 20.
Fusion 6.5 Creedmoor
Not long after Federal ammunition introduced the Fusion line, a company representative told me that the engineers had succeeded in making it so good that it threatened the company's flagship Federal Premium line.
Fusion bullets have their jackets molecularly fused to the pressure-formed core, and the innovative manufacturing process proved to provide bullets both extremely consistent and surprisingly tough. As a result, Fusion accuracy tends to be very accurate and the bullets provide deep, dramatic wound channels on game. The company touts "best in class weight retention and expansion," and that's a claim they could ably back.
Engineers designing the 140-grain Fusion bullet for the 6.5 Creedmoor gave it a skived tip to aid long-range expansion, as well as a boat tail to make it aerodynamic.
I haven't yet seen advertised muzzle velocities for the 6.5 Creedmoor Fusion load, but I expect that, like most 140-grain bullets in the cartridge, it will achieve around 2,700 fps. And while this is an article focused on whitetail ammunition, I wouldn't hesitate to use this load on black bear or elk. Suggested retail is $33 per box of 20.
Hornady American Whitetail
It appears that deep within the bowels of the company responsible for bringing us the most successful cartridge introduction this century, the R&D engineers have taken a brief break from devising the future of ammunition and created a simple, practical whitetail load for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
It doesn't feature a super-BC bullet with a heat-resistant tip, or blended propellants that boost velocities above the norm, or anything else extraordinary.
However, and it's a big however, the new American Whitetail load features one of the most proven deer bullets on the continent. The classic Hornady InterLock is typically superbly and forgivingly accurate, commonly offering outstanding accuracy in most of the rifles it's fired from.
I know of at least one premium custom house that uses Hornady ammunition loaded with InterLock bullets to confirm its ½-MOA accuracy guaranteed rifles. If that's not a stamp of approval, I don't know what is.
On impact, the lead-tipped InterLock expands with a fury, peeling back into the classic mushroom shape. Unless the impact is at very high velocities or the projectile encounters dense bone, expansion is slowed or halted by an "InterLock" ring swedged inside the bullets' jacket.
The 6.5 Creedmoor American Whitetail load pushes a 129-grain bullet at 2,820 fps. It's not a particularly expensive load, but if your particular rifle likes it, it's all the ammo you'll ever need for whitetail deer inside of 300 yards. Suggested retail is $29.40 per box of 20.
Nosler Ballistic Tip
In competition shooters' minds, Nosler brass is second only to legendary Lapua match-grade brass — and some count the two equal. Lapua will likely never make 6.5 Creedmoor brass, because the cartridge competes with its own 6.5 Lapua cartridge.
So what you get with Nosler's new Ballistic Tip 6.5 Creedmoor load is arguably the best 6.5 Creedmoor brass that money can buy, already loaded with one of the finest whitetail deer bullets ever devised.
As one old-timer said, "If you can't get your rifle to shoot with Ballistic Tips, just sell the @%#& thing because you'll never get it to shoot with anything else either." There's a lot of truth in that. Nosler's Ballistic Tip bullet is one of the most inherently accurate deer bullets on the market.
The early Ballistic Tip projectiles of decades ago featured very thin jackets, and coupled with the Delrin polymer tips that protected the bullet from deformation in the magazine, aided aerodynamics, and initiated expansion, sometimes the bullets flew to pieces on impact. But within a short time Nosler got the kinks worked out, and for many years the Ballistic Tip has been a gold standard of performance on deer.
Nosler engineers chose to push the 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor load to a rather mellow 2,650 fps, opting for forgiving accuracy over increased speed and comfortable in the knowledge that with the bullets' rather decent BC of 0.509, it would hold on to velocity well and absolutely hammer deer pretty much as far as hunters would want to shoot. Suggested retail is $36.95 per box of 20.
Winchester Deer Season
Deer Season ammo features a flat-based bullet with a very, very large polymer "Extreme Point" tip. Designed to kill quickly by dumping all its energy into a deer, it should be forgivingly accurate courtesy of its flat-base design.
Unlike most competing designs, the polymer Extreme Point does not have a shaft that penetrates down into the swedged lead core of the bullet. Rather, just inside the mouth of the case the tip's flat base sits firmly against the flat front of the bullet's core. The mouth of the copper jacket fits just under a shoulder on the polymer Extreme Point tip and holds it securely in place. I don't have any test data to prove it, but I believe the design aids accuracy and makes for very reliable, predictable expansion.
With a bullet weight of 125 grains, the 6.5 Creedmoor Deer Season XP load generates a relatively high 2,850 fps velocity, resulting in flat trajectories inside common whitetail distances. I'd wager that it will shoot well out of most rifles, and will result in very short blood trails. Best if all, it should retail at less than $25 per box of 20.
The only caveat that I'd apply to this bullet is that since it expands violently and wallops deer like Paul Bunyan's axe, it shouldn't be expected to penetrate like a Roman javelin. While I wouldn't hesitate to shoot a quartering-to deer on the point of the shoulder, I'd recommend avoiding steep raking shots on quartering-away deer. I doubt the bullet could break down the hip and penetrate sufficiently into the vitals.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.