6.5 Creedmoor: A complete profile with pros and cons

The 6.5 Creedmoor is the most popular big game hunting rifle cartridge on the market today. It was released in 2007 by Hornady and Creedmoor Sports. The cartridge’s .30TC parent case was necked down to a .264 caliber and fitted with a 30-degree shoulder angle.

So what is the 6.5 Creedmoor?

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a popular short-action centerfire rifle cartridge commonly used for target shooting and hunting. The cartridge is best known for its very light recoil for a cartridge that is capable of hunting deer-sized game. It is commonly shot in long-range competitions where light recoil is valued.

I like to think of the 6.5 Creedmoor as a Toyota Camry (hold onto your seats for a semi-weird comparison here). Where a .30-06 might be more like an F-150 and a 6.5 PRC may be more like a Prius, I think of the 6.5 Creedmoor as a Camry. A Camry is a small vehicle that gets reasonably good gas mileage, is very common, and isn’t really known for having a lot of power. The 6.5 Creedmoor shoots at a mild velocity, imparts mild energy compared to other hunting rounds, and usually is loaded with high BC bullets to improve its “gas mileage.” I don’t know if that comparison is helpful to everyone, but it makes sense to me.

While the 6.5 Creedmoor saw initial strong support from competition rifle shooters, it did not immediately become a commercial success when it was released in 2007. It sat relatively silent on shelves for several years until it exploded onto the scene. It was not until 2016 and 2017 when the cartridge began overtaking the rifle chamberings at virtually every gun store.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent cartridge as long as its limits are understood. So let’s dive right into the pros and cons of the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Pros of the 6.5 Creedmoor

  • Widely available ammunition and rifle offerings from virtually every manufacturer.
  • The lightest-recoiling cartridge capable of taking deer-sized game out to 500 yards.
  • Capable of loading very long bullets, and stabilizes them well with its 1:8 twist rate
  • Fits into a short action
  • Very long barrel life

Cons of the 6.5 Creedmoor

  • Underpowered for taking elk-sized game. Its hunting abilities are often over-estimated by beginning hunters.
  • It is used commonly for long-range shooting, but not because of its trajectory. The 6.5 Creedmoor is not very flat shooting compared to the competition.

Some shooters may groan when they see the above pros and cons list. There aren’t many cons listed, because the cartridge really is extremely impressive. So why would some groan? The only thing more popular than 6.5 Creedmoor, is hate for 6.5 Creedmoor.

Some shooters dislike the 6.5 Creedmoor precisely because it’s a very good round and it has become successful–so successful that sometimes people far overstate its capabilities. I personally agree with this perspective. I love the 6.5 Creedmoor for what it does, but I find that most people purchase a 6.5 Creedmoor thinking it is the best at certain tasks that it simply isn’t suited for.

6.5 Creedmoor Ballistic Performance Chart

Velocity (fps)Bullet Drop (in)Wind Drift (in)Energy (ft-lbs)
Muzzle26951.502,231
100 Yards253800.61,978
200 Yards2388-42.31,751
300 Yards2242-145.51,544
400 Yards2105-3110.11,360
500 Yards1969-5616.11,191
600 Yards1838-9024.01,038
700 Yards1716-13433.8904
800 Yards1595-19045.7781
900 Yards1483-25959.6675
1,000 Yards1378-343.676.0583
This chart shows an average of multiple common loads for the 6.5 Creedmoor so typical performance can be analyzed. This assumes an average of a 138-grain bullet, which is common for a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.

As you can see from the chart above, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a very mild cartridge in all respects. It shoots with relative mild velocities, but is generally loaded with high BC bullets that allow it to fly with less interference from wind and air. It imparts reasonable energy for some hunting purposes, but is not especially known for its power. 6.5 Creedmoor is mild in every respect.

6.5 Creedmoor for Hunting

I have personally shot many animals with the 6.5 Creedmoor, and I have been present to see at least two dozen more animals shot with a 6.5 Creedmoor.

The 6.5 CRDMR is an adequate hunting round and actually is very useful in many hunting situations, but unfortunately, the cartridge has been misunderstood as having more power than it really does, and I have seen the cartridge be used in hunting situations where it really has no business being used. It has limitations, and you must understand them.

In my opinion, the 6.5 Creedmoor should only be used for hunting deer-sized game and smaller. While many elk, bear, and other animals have been taken with it, my personal experience with the cartridge has shown it to simply not be the right choice for game larger than deer. That’s not theoretical–that opinion comes after personally seeing it kill over two dozen animals.

In fact, just a few days ago, I was on safari in Africa hunting plains game and took several animals with my son’s 6.5 Creedmoor. Blesbok, springbok, and similar deer-sized game went down immediately. On wildebeest (I’ve taken 6 with the 6.5 Creedmoor), it was simply underpowered and follow-up shots were necessary.

In one case on a blue wildebeest, the 143 grain ELD-X simply didn’t penetrate deep enough into the shoulder. In another case, it penetrated deeply, but the small .264 caliber bullet did not expand to a large enough size to immediately bring down the animal and a follow-up was required.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the 6.5 Creedmoor for hunting. It is an excellent deer round, but I personally think 6.5mm (.264 caliber) bullet weighing on average 140 grains and shooting at a moderate 2,700fps at the muzzle is just a little too light for elk.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent cartridge for hunting deer. It produces sufficient energy out to 500 yards to ethically kill deer, and the cartridge’s light recoil make it an excellent choice.

6.5 Creedmoor is generally considered too light for hunting elk. While many hunters have successfully used it, the cartridge has developed a reputation for wounding elk because of its light bullet weights and mild velocity.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is an adequate black bear hunting cartridge as long as it is used at reasonable distances and with controlled-expansion bullets.

6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent choice for hog hunting. As long as the bullet is placed properly, it can quickly dispatch even large hogs. It works well for headshots or shoulder shots.

Recoil

The 6.5 Creedmoor is known for being a light recoiling cartridge. On average, it produces 11.83 ft-lbs of recoil energy at a recoil velocity of 9.34 fps. In comparison, it produces 12.5% more recoil pain than a .243 Winchester, but 22% less than a .270 Winchester.

One of the reasons that the 6.5 Creedmoor has become so popular is exactly because of its light recoil. My sons started shooting the Creed when they were 8 years old. At that time, they felt like it was a cannon and it was the most recoil they could handle. Now a few years later, they both still like shooting it because it helps them to stay on target for follow-up shots, and they don’t develop any flinch.

Barrel Life

In general, the 6.5 Creedmoor is considered to be excellent for barrel life. The average barrel life expectancy of a 6.5 Creedmoor is 2,430 shots.

The reason the cartridge does so well on barrels is because it shoots at mild velocities of around 2,700fps, and the max pressure is 62,000psi in a 6.5mm bore. Overbore cartridges are what kill barrels, and the 6.5 Creedmoor would hardly be considered such.

Comparable Cartridges

The 6.5 Creedmoor is most comparable to the .260 Remington 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser. In terms of muzzle energy produced for hunting, the 6.5 Creedmoor is very similar to the .25-06 Remington. The 6.5 Creedmoor is less powerful than a .270 Winchester, but more than the .243 Winchester.

Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)Muzzle Velocity (fps)Drop at 500 Yards (in)
6.5 Creedmoor2,2222,690-56
6.5 PRC2,7802,972-41
.22LR1331,239-439
.243 Winchester1,9582,922-48
.270 Winchester2,8622,944-46
7mm Rem Mag3,1222,937-44
.308 Winchester2,7842,491-66
.30-06 Springfield3,1792,646-57
Obviously, any of these loads could be faster or slower depending on the load data, but these numbers reflect averages of several loads for each cartridge so that an apples-to-apples comparison can be made.

Loading the 6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 Creedmoor is one of the easiest cartridges to handload for, since it performs very well using the most popular powder–H4350.

It’s also a short-action cartridge (the SAAMI cartridge overall length is 2.83″) and designed to take long VLD bullets, so pretty much any bullet style you choose will work great. Also, it only takes around 38 grains of powder, so you don’t blow through your powder supply very quickly.

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12 Comments

  1. Wendy (owner of guppyplanet.com) says:

    How do you do the pros and cons formatting? I’ve tried everything in the WordPress block editor and can’t find anything.

  2. Michael R Perine says:

    The 6.5 CM is reported to have a barrel life of just over 2,400 round. The life of the .308 Winchester is reported as between 4,000 and 8,000 rounds. You stated that the 6.5 CM is very long. Please explain.

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      I doubt most people would get a .308 to 8,000 rounds, but “long” is a relative term. A .26 Nosler may burn out under 1,000! So I would consider the 6.5 Creedmoor to have a long barrel life of around 2,400 rounds.

  3. michael a nave says:

    I enjoy your information. Keep it up and if you ever need some testing ammo, hit me up and I will see what I can give you. I have a lot of standard sizes. I’m in Arizona so not too far to ship.

    1. Art Crabtree says:

      Excellent article on the 6.5 Creedmoor. I have found all of the 4350s and IMR 4451 powders to work great. Everyone wants an uncompromising hero. There is no cartridge that is the best at everything. That’s why you have to love each one for it strength. Otherwise, you would only need one gun and that would not be acceptable. Have fun.

      1. Exactly. I built a 6.5 cm for a range/precision rifle. With hand-loads I’m shooting out to 1200 yrds. I am extremely happy with it and my choice. Having said that, I often call the 6.5 cm “the most overrated cartridge”. The cartridge is great at what it is great at but not the be-all, end-all that some purport it to be. I am however a big fan.

  4. It is the BC that gives this round its appeal. There is an optimum in all physics. This round “flys better” than rounds of other sizes and shapes. A .264 caliber round in this projectiles “longer configuration” moves through the air with less drag and therefore it is less affected by air movement around it. It’s more accurate. How much more? A tiny amount, but it is more accurate. Within the caliber there are different weight projectiles, and I’m pretty sure one of those weights is optimum as well.

  5. tim faubert says:

    my 6.5 creed moor will push a 143 grain eld x out of its 24 inch 1/8 twist barrel @ 2793 fps
    and a 130 grain bullet @ 2894 fps with out pressure signs
    I’ve successfully killed deer and bull elk 7 deer with this load out to 600 yards and never lost an animal
    and I’ve been hunting game for 45+ yrs so I’m not new to hunting or shooting

    1. Alexander Hert says:

      Not disputing what obviously is more the quality of the hunter than the limit of the cartridge, telling the average novice not to plan on using it for elk is a safe move. I don’t want my neighbor using it for elk, he is a terrible shot and I wouldn’t trust him with anything less than his 30-06 shooting any further than 100yds. Obviously a skilled and patient hunter will always be the most important factor.

  6. there are a lot better powders for the creed RL 16/26/17/ HOGDON super performance hv100
    stabil 6.5 vitouri all will give 100 -150 fps faster speeds then h4350

  7. Thanks for your videos they are informative and fun to watch

  8. FINALLY, some objectivity and acknowledgement of real facts, which are not hard to find, but usuallu ignored.

    What astounds me the most is that the 6.5 bullets which built the 6.5 reputation “in the field,” the 160 grain bullets, with the really high sectional density are not even used in this cartridge. Sectional density is harped upon with no consideration of the relativity of the matter. Yes, a 120 grain 6.5 bullet will have greater SD than a 120 .308 bullet, but a 120 grain .257 bullet will have a greater SD than a 20 .264″ bullet. We need a class in high schools on how to smell advertising BS.

    Great little 6.5 cartridge though – just as great as the other little 6.5 cartridges which have been around for decades or for over a century. Unless one is splitting hairs at 1,000 yards, the touted wonders will have no meaning.

    I personally refer the 6.5×55, but usually suggest a 6.5 Creedmoor to mew shooters because brass is so much more available. Such a shame the old, lumbering 160s have fallen by the wayside. So silly we have to jack pressures so high to do what ‘s been done for a hundred-plus years at much lower pressures.