Skip to main content

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?

Is The 6.5 The Perfect Hunting Caliber?
Depending on the range, three rounds of Hornady's 140-grain A-Max in 6.5 Creedmoor showed very different performance on the same antelope. FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 441 yards, 100 yards, 382 yards.

The current 6.5 (.264 caliber) craze is best attributed to the 6.5 Creedmoor, but once shooters recognized the Creedmoor's qualities, a host of other 6.5s rapidly gained popularity.

However, the 6.5 isn't technically new. In 1891, the 6.5x55mm hit the scene. Intended for Swedish military service, hunters quickly found it to be great on game, punching far above its weight. Later, Winchester released the .264 Win. Mag., while Remington launched its .260 Remington. Even though both were great performers, it would take time to excite the hunting world.

Today, dozens of rifles are available in some form of 6.5, which begs the question: Is the 6.5 the perfect hunting caliber? If you're thinking one may be in your future, read on. We've tested a wide range of rifles, loads, and projectiles at the range and in the field to find the perfect match for nearly any hunting scene.

A 6.5 Case Study of Bullets

Just because the 6.5 Creedmoor was developed with long-range competition in mind, don't think that all 6.5 bullets have a magical ability to kill game at absurd distances. As a rule, a bullet that is ideal for paper punching is probably not ideal for killing critters. Target shooters like long, sleek bullets that diminish the effects of wind drift. A bullet with a high Ballistic Coefficient slips through the wind easier with less drag, which means if a shooter is battling a gusting crosswind, there will be less drift to target than when using a bullet with a lower BC. Since reading the wind across long distances is far from a science, BC makes a huge difference.


On the other hand, a hunting bullet is designed to expand dramatically, transfer energy, disrupt internal organs, and penetrate deeply completely different requirements from a target bullet that simply has to hold course to target and penetrate a piece of paper.


Dory Schoby with a Montana pronghorn taken at 441 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle loaded with Hornady's 140-grain A-Max. The first shot completely penetrated the rib cage, while a follow-up shot at 381 yards penetrated the vitals and lodged under the skin in the opposite shoulder.

This past season I used three different cartridges, all loaded in 6.5 Creedmoor, to see how they would perform on antelope.

The first antelope was to be my wife's; it was a large Montana buck several football fields away, across a wide-open, windswept sage flat. The closest we could belly crawl was 441 yards. Her 6.5 Creedmoor was loaded with Hornady's extremely accurate 140-grain A-Max bullet a dedicated long-range target bullet, not a true hunting projectile. The buck was standing slightly broadside to us. She ranged him, made elevation adjustments, accounted for the breeze, and squeezed the trigger. The buck flinched at the shot, but didn't drop. He milled around slowly, obviously hit, while the rest of the herd fled over the horizon. Stopping in a small depression, we snuck closer and got back into position. This time the shot was 382 yards as he was quartering away. She put another round into him, and he went down. Walking up to the buck, we discovered he was still alive and put a final round into him around 100 yards.

A postmortem examination showed the first shot completely penetrated the rib cage, but had caused minimal internal damage. The second quartering shot disrupted the vitals and penetrated through, lodging under the skin in the front shoulder, the jacket separating from the core.


Next up was a similar-sized buck, also in Montana. This time I was using a 6.5 Creedmoor loaded with 120-grain Hornady GMX bullets. Even though these are of a lower BC than the A-Max, they are high-performance monolithic hunting bullets.

Spotting the herd feeding along a cheatgrass ridge, I was able to get below them and used a small coulee for cover to move closer. I crawled out of the shallow depression and, lying prone, ranged the buck at 328 yards. He was quartering to as I settled the rifle, checked the wind, and squeezed off. The buck dropped instantly upon impact, the GMX raking through the vitals and exiting at the last rib. Full expansion and energy transfer appeared more than adequate.

The final buck was in Utah. It was slightly smaller in body size than the two Montana bucks. Hunting with a Browning X-Bolt loaded with Browning BXR 129-grain Matrix Tip bullets, my partner, Steve McGrath, and I found a group of antelope in a grass basin that allowed few avenues of approach. Keeping out of sight to the best of our ability, we managed to get within 318 yards of the bedded, but very alert, bucks.


Mike Schoby (left) and friend Steve McGrath with a unique Utah pronghorn taken with a rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and loaded with Browning's BXR 129-grain Matrix Tip bullets.

The grass was too high to go prone, so setting up on sticks, I got into position and waited. When the buck finally stood up, I took him broadside through the front shoulder. The bullet exited completely and dropped the buck within feet — impressive performance indeed. (To see the video clip of this buck, go to petersenshunting.com/browningantelope.)

All told, the 6.5 Creedmoor is great at the range or on game. You just have to match the bullet to the task at hand!

6.5x300

WEATHERBY MAGNUM

Max. Velocity Range: 3,550 fps

Water Capacity: 96 grains

Max. Pressure: 65,000 PSI

6.5

GRENDEL

Max. Velocity Range: 2,900 fps

Water Capacity: 35 grains

Max. Pressure: 52,000 PSI

26

NOSLER

Max. Velocity Range: 3,400 fps

Water Capacity: 93.5 grains

Max. Pressure: 65,000 PSI

6.5

CREEDMOOR

Max. Velocity Range: 3,050 fps

Water Capacity: 52.5 grains

Max. Pressure: 62,000 PSI

6.5x55MM

SWEDISH MAUSER

Max. Velocity Range: 3,190 fps

Water Capacity: 57.9 grains

Max. Pressure: 51,000 PSI

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Camp Chef at SHOT Show: Elk Venison Slider Burgers Recipe

Have a freezer full of ground elk venison from your fall hunting trips? Never fear, the folks at Camp Chef have a great SHOT Show recipe that is lean and mean, easy to prepare, and a crowd-pleasing favorite!

Moon Phase Rut Tips

Moon Phase Rut Tips

John Dudley, technical writer and host of Nock On TV discusses why it's imporant to follow moon phases for the rut.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are redefining remote and low-impact scouting. Here's why and how one or a network of them can help you.Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You? Accessories

Is a Cellular Trail Camera Right for You?

Josh Honeycutt - September 15, 2020

The new Moultrie X-6000 series cellular trail camera and the Moultrie Mobile app are...

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd? Conservation

Do Coyotes Really Affect the Whitetail Herd?

Jeff Johnston

Are predators really to blame for declining deer numbers? The answer might surprise you.

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.The Return of Lever Action Rifles Guns

The Return of Lever Action Rifles

Craig Boddington - May 26, 2020

Is lever action dead? Not by a long shot.

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

I hate to begin an article by apologizing. So, I won't. If you're of sensitive nature andTop Big-Game Cartridges Ammo

Top Big-Game Cartridges

Joseph von Benedikt - December 06, 2017

I hate to begin an article by apologizing. So, I won't. If you're of sensitive nature and

The new requirement is now being enforced statewide. California's Lead-Free Ammo Regulations Conservation

California's Lead-Free Ammo Regulations

Andrew McKean - December 11, 2019

The new requirement is now being enforced statewide.

With new loads like Federal Premium's Heavyweight TSS in #9 shot, the right .410 shotgun canOld School .410 Bore Shotgun Offers New Spring Turkey Hunting Options Ammo

Old School .410 Bore Shotgun Offers New Spring Turkey Hunting Options

PH Online Editors - February 21, 2018

With new loads like Federal Premium's Heavyweight TSS in #9 shot, the right .410 shotgun can

When OSG senior digital editor Lynn Burkhead visited with JJ Reich of Federal Premium Ammunition at.224 Valkyrie Offers Predator and Deer Hunters New Long-Range Option Ammo

.224 Valkyrie Offers Predator and Deer Hunters New Long-Range Option

Lynn Burkhead - January 24, 2018

When OSG senior digital editor Lynn Burkhead visited with JJ Reich of Federal Premium...

See More Ammo

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 Petersen's Hunting App

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 Petersen's Hunting 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