It can be hard to choose between the two big names of long-range shooting; should you go for 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 Winchester? As an avid hunter and shooter, I’ve been wondering that as well. That’s why I’ve gone out and done some tests comparing the two, analysing how they perform. We’re going to look at the results of those tests, and see which cartridge is better for shooting over long range.
Read on to see how the newcomer 6.5 fares next to the veteran .308W!
The first thing to look at is ballistic performance, as you can observe from the tables here. Most .308W bullets are heavier than 6.5 Creedmoor, which relies on greater velocity over sheer bullet weight.
Within 300 yards, .308W hits harder and faster, but beyond that range, 6.5mm keeps more velocity. By 1100 yards, the .308W has already gone subsonic, where 6.5 Creedmoor only does the same beyond 1500 yards. That same velocity also keeps the trajectory flatter, especially beyond 500 yards. Beyond 300 yards, you can also count on 6.5mm hitting with more energy than .308W bullets.
So 6.5 Creedmoor performs better at range. No surprise; it’s supposed to do that, being made from the start for long-range target shooting. It also does well in a crosswind thanks to high ballistic coefficient. No matter the range, a 6.5 Creedmoor bullet will have much less wind drift compared to a .308 Winchester.
Basically, within 300 yards, .308W remains king; aiming at a long range target beyond that, 6.5 Creedmoor wins handily.
Of course, there’s more to a round than just ballistic performance. There are other factors to consider.
Recoil is a big one, and everyone knows that the less recoil you get, the better your shooting is. In all cases, 6.5mm wins. Not that .308W kicks like a mule, but you do get a cartridge of comparable performance without as much kick.
The thing about .308 Winchester is that it’s a proven cartridge, and in ubiquity is beaten pretty much only by .30-06 or .223. You’ll always find more bullets in more varieties for .308 Winchester for the simple reason that it’s a mature cartridge; if nothing else, you can always get cheap surplus ammo. 6.5 Creedmoor is a fraction of its age, and so has yet to catch up.
Still, it’s trying quite hard. 6.5 Creedmoor is now Hornady’s second-best seller, beaten only by .223 Remington. Other manufacturers also offer their factory-loaded Creedmoors: Federal, Nosler, and even Winchester.
Also, 6.5 Creedmoor has an advantage in a different direction. It was originally made for long-range shooting, and most of its bullets are made with that in mind. There’s a much wider selection of match-grade hunting loads and bullet weights available for 6.5 Creedmoor within its range, so you’re more likely to find a quality bullet than with .308 Winchester.
Again, .308 Winchester’s maturity gives it the edge here, but 6.5 Creedmoor has been rapidly catching up in recent years. We can thank the Ruger Precision Rifle and its affordable price for opening up the world of precision rifles at just the right time that long-range shooting captured the imagination of the gun society.
You’ll always find a short action rifle that can fire .308 Winchester, but it’s just as likely to find that same rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, so it’s really up to your preference.
No cartridge is perfect, and the 6.5 Creedmoor’s greatest flaw is that it’s hard on barrels. The two cartridges have comparable case capacities (the .308W has more than a 6.5mm, of course), but since the 6.5 uses a smaller-diameter barrel, that barrel wears out quicker. You can expect to put around 5,000 rounds through a .308 Winchester barrel before you start seeing problems, while a 6.5 Creedmoor barrel starts seeing trouble around 2,000 to 3,000 rounds.
Hunters can rest assured; this isn’t really a practical concern for you. Target shooters should take note, however.
For the most part you can choose between the two and not notice any difference in terminal performance; both will bring down most American game without any trouble. 6.5 Creedmoor’s lighter recoil is always a benefit no matter what you’re doing, and it offers much better performance at long range. All in all, 6.5 Creedmoor makes for an excellent competitor to the venerable .308W.
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