There's A New Cartridge In Town...And It's Here To Stay

Although the venerable .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester remain popular cartridges worldwide, there is serious competition on the horizon. Especially the Creedmoor family of cartridges, with 6.5mm and 6mm flavours, has considerably gained in popularity over recent years.

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When Hornady introduced the 6.5mm Creedmoor in 2007, the idea was to launch a cartridge allowing any match shooter to compete at the highest level with factory-loaded ammunition. Developed by Dave Emary, Hornady’s Senior Ballistic Scientist and Dennis DeMille, VP of product development for Creedmoor Sports and two-time NRA National High Power Rifle Champion, this cartridge has a big sporting pedigree going for it. The 6mm Creedmoor saw the light of day in 2009 and is factory loaded as well, with a necked-down .22 Creedmoor being a popular wildcat in its own right. Initially designed for long range target shooting, the Creedmoor family is also taking over the hunting world by storm and is even making inroads into the military.


In the early 2000’s, the .308 Winchester was one of the undisputed kings of cartridges, both on the hunting field as well as in target shooting. Although back then the .308 Winchester was a very popular cartridge for long range match shooting, Emary and DeMille spotted an opportunity to build a new cartridge that outperformed the .308 Winchester. What they wanted was to design the perfect cartridge for long range shooting, just as accurate as the .308, but with less recoil, a flatter trajectory and less wind drift. With this in mind, the two gentlemen modified a .30 Thompson Center case to shoot long, heavy, high ballistic coefficient (BC) .264″ bullets from a cartridge that neatly fits in a short-action rifle. A sharp 30° shoulder and aggressive body taper allow the 6.5mm Creedmoor to deliver higher velocities than similar 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges at standard .308 Winchester pressures. 


The interesting thing about these Creedmore cartridge designs is they don’t have jaw-dropping bullet speeds but are as efficient as they come. With minimal recoil, they are extremely, as in sub-MOA, accurate, retain energy very well downrange - due to their high BC projectiles - and resist wind drift exceptionally well too. For all these reasons combined, the 6.5mm Creedmoor has already made a tremendous mark in competition shooting and is taking over the hunting world as well. As the cartridges parent company, Hornady now offers no less than 12 factory loads with bullet weights ranging from 95 to 147 grains.


Four years ago, in 2017, the US Special Operations Command, pitted their standard issue 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge (essentially the military version of the .308 Winchester) against the .260 Remington and the 6.5mm Creedmoor in several sniper rifle setups. They concluded 6.5mm Creedmoor performed the best, doubling hit-probability at 1,000 meters, increasing effective range by nearly half, reducing wind drift by a third, with less recoil than standard 7.62x51mm NATO cartridges. Because the two cartridges - 7.62x51mm NATO and 6.5 mm Creedmoor - have similar dimensions, the same magazines can be used, and a rifle can be converted with just a barrel change. This led to its adoption and fielding by special operations snipers to replace the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge in their semi-automatic sniper rifles from 2019. In 2018, USSOCOM announced they would roll-out 6.5 mm Creedmoor in a long-range precision rifle, and use it in a carbine as well as an assault machine-gun.


When trying to get an overview of the rifle manufacturers now chambering their products in 6.5mm Creedmoor, it might be easier to count the ones that didn’t yet made the jump. As could be expected from a long range tackdriver, chassis rifles and PRS-style rifles chambered in six point five - like for example the Barrett MRAD - abound. Yet more traditional hunting rifle brands such as Blaser, Sako, Browning, Bergara among others have also welcomed the cartridge into their product range. The same goes for semi-automatic rifles built upon the AR-platform. There is even at least one lever-action rifle - the Henry Long Ranger - delivering bolt-action accuracy, but with the speed of a repeater.


Until now we have mostly compared the 6.5mm Creedmoor to the .308 Winchester. Yet we should keep in mind that on the hunting field, the .30-06 Springfield has reigned supreme for decades and decades. Here too the 6.5mm Creedmoor is knocking on the doors of the kings palace. When comparing Google search traffic in the last 10 years, you notice the .30-06 Springfield and .308 Winchester remain popular worldwide. Yet since 2010 the 6,5mm Creedmoor is clearly increasing in search traffic, while .30-06 traffic is steadily declining over time. Meanwhile the newer cartridge not only caught up with the venerable veterans, but is currently outpacing them online as well. There’s no doubt the Creedmoor family of cartridges, with the 6.5mm as its leader, is here to stay.