Although it recently celebrated its 14th anniversary, many shooters have yet to dip a toe into the ballistically superior waters of 6.5 Creedmoor. Born with the sole intention of being a target round, it gets its moniker from combining the word “Creed,” reminiscent of Creed farm where the first national matches were held, and “Moor,” a nod to the Moors of Scotland which the grounds resembled. Today,
I’m plainly saying this 14-year-old cartridge outshines designs that have taken trophies at the Creed farm, harvested big game on every continent, and have been in military service for more than 60 years. It’s a bold claim, but I’m prepared to back it up.
First, let’s consider the 6.5 Creedmoor’s long-range, short-action design. That design means that guns built to shoot it will have a shorter bolt throw than those chambered in cartridges like .30-06. To the user, that will yield a shorter, easier-to-move action and open up several common semi-auto platforms, like the AR-10. At the same time, the 6.5mm bullets hold their course far better than common .30-caliber designs, giving the smaller cartridge a greater effective range than the larger ones.
Hearing “longer range” might sound a bit like “harder kicking,” but believe it or not, 6.5 Creedmoor is softer on the shoulder than many hunting or target shooting rounds of similar size. The thinner-diameter pills simply do not generate the same amount of recoil as wider, heavier projectiles, and the result is a gun that makes it out of the safe a few more times a year. Call me crazy, but having a gun in my collection that I enjoy shooting has a particular value to it. It’s also rather convenient that it can satisfy most shooting roles.
Long-distance accuracy is a big deal these days. As several forms of extended-range competition have sprouted in the last decade, having a round that can put five shots into a neat circle at 800 yards is advantageous. Our old-time favorites can do this, but most are just about out of steam when they get there. So much so that catching even a slight breeze along the way will affect their course. The 6.5 Creedmoor kicks its lead out much faster, and its superior Ballistic coefficient (fancy term for aerodynamics) helps it to retain much more of it while shrugging off the wind.
Sustained downrange velocity is essential for more than just tight groupings in a match; it’s essential for hunters too. Nearly all hunting bullets are built to expand, helping them to transfer their energy onto the target for a quick, humane kill. For this mushrooming effect to take place, they need to hit with authority. If a bullet sheds most of its speed in the first few hundred yards, well, that’s your effective range. Since Creedmoor holds onto this valuable property for much longer, it will open the door to longer shots. Suddenly taking a poke at a whitetail from 400 yards doesn’t seem unethical, and that’s because, with the right cartridge, it’s not. If a round is accurate and effective at that range, there is no reason not to take that shot.
The last argument for 6.5 Creedmoor is its availability. Now, if this were written in 2008, I’d look like a fool. However, as it is now more than a decade since its release, things have changed; perhaps even flip-flopped. From 2020 to 2021, I have found .30-06 Springfield out in the wild on three occasions … three … occasions. For being the “most popular” hunting round in America, that’s interesting to digest. During the same time period, I enjoyed an uninterrupted supply of 6.5 Creedmoor.
Finding .308 Winchester was only marginally easier than finding .30-06 during this time, largely due to it being a NATO round. However, when I found some in stock, it didn’t offer half the selection of 6.5 Creedmoor. That’s a long departure from the years-ago attitude of “Well, if I get it in .308 I can shoot military surplus ammunition.” I hate to be the one to point it out, but affordable military surplus has been gone for close to 20 years. Today, with stock returning to normal, 6.5 Creedmoor offerings still surpass .308 Win. offerings, indicating an evident marketing shift (and I still can’t find .30-06).
Now, nowhere in the preceding does it say that 6.5 Creedmoor is the say-all, end-all cartridge for all situations. I’ll be the first to agree that it is underpowered for elk-sized game, even though thousands of them have been brought down with it. These are resilient animals, and I liken hunting them with 6.5 to hunting whitetail with .223 Remington. It can be done, but why handicap yourself? It’s also too much gun for varmint hunting, as the price per round is substantially higher than rimfires like the .17HMR. Lastly, 6.5 Creedmoor makes a poor cartridge for home defense, as there’s a good chance of overpenetration, meaning that the bullet can slip right through an attacker at the close ranges in which most self-defense incidents occur with enough velocity to possibly harm an innocent person.
As with most things in the shooting community, the 6.5 Creedmoor deserves a second look if you’ve hastily dismissed it—or a more thorough look if you are considering your first rifle. If nothing else, you can say that you tried it but didn’t like it. (However, the used market on these guns suggests that will unlikely be the case …)