The 6.5 PRC: Complete Cartridge Profile and Ballistic Data

The 6.5 PRC was released by Hornady in 2018 and has recently become very popular. Its large-diameter .300 Ruger Compact Magnum parent case was necked down to 6.5mm, creating an excellent short-action powerhouse.

So what is the 6.5 PRC? The 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge is a short-action magnum centerfire rifle cartridge. The 6.5 PRC was created with the design goal of shooting a high BC bullet at 3,200fps from a short-action rifle. It is popular for hunting and long-range shooting.

It was really just in 2021 when the 6.5 PRC went mainstream. Although many shooters were interested in the cartridge right when it was released, production lines didn’t produce enough of the cartridge to bring it to the hands of the average hunter.

Now that it has made a name for itself, however, it seems to be overtaking rifle sales. When I look on the shelves of most gun stores, I see 6.5 Creedmoor everywhere, 6.5 PRC right behind it, and then many of the more time-tested rounds (.308 Win, 7 Mag, .270 Win, .30-06, etc).

Pros of the 6.5 PRC

  • Flat shooting
  • Excellent resistance to wind deflection because of the cartridge’s speed and its design which allows for long, high BC bullets.
  • Generally lighter weight rifles due to the short action and short barrel length required.
  • Decent barrel life when compared to similar magnum cartridges.

Cons of the 6.5 PRC

  • Many hunters consider it to be on the lighter side for hunting elk-sized game.
  • Ammunition is becoming common, but tends to still be slightly more expensive than more traditional cartridges.
  • No one knows if the cartridge will continue to be popular long-term, and thus what availability will be like in the future.

The 6.5 PRC is designed for accepting long, sleek, high BC bullets, and most factory loads pair those two together. These bullets, in addition to the 6.5 PRC’s speed which gives the wind less time to act on the bullet, produce an excellent round for bucking the wind.

To illustrate just how good this cartridge is at bucking the wind, I looked up several common loads for each of the 88 most popular centerfire rifle cartridges and looked at how much wind deflection they exhibit at different distances. At 500 yards, the 6.5 PRC ranks #7 out of 88 cartridges for the lowest amount of wind drift. That’s impressive.

One of the benefits of a 6.5 PRC that many people overlook is that it works well in a relatively short barrel. Because it is a short action cartridge, the column of powder in the rifle is fatter and shorter than many other cartridges. This makes the powder ignition faster, and also the quantity of powder used (about 45 grains of H4350) is not too overbore, and thus requires less burn time.

And speaking of barrels, let’s also discuss the barrel life expectancy…

The barrel life on a 6.5 PRC is approximately 1,328 shots. Its barrel life is considered moderate for a high-performance cartridge–lasting longer than cartridges like the .28 Nosler, but much shorter than a 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 PRC Ballistic Performance Chart

Velocity (fps)Drop (in)Wind Drift (in)Energy (ft-lbs)
Muzzle29721.502,780
100 yds280700.22,481
200 yds2649-32.02,209
300 yds2495-104.31,960
400 yds2347-238.21,734
500 yds2204-4113.21,529
600 yds2065-6620.11,343
700 yds1932-9927.61,175
800 yds1803-14037.41,024
900 yds1680-19148.8889
1,000 yds1563-253.762.3769
This chart averages out multiple different common loads for the 6.5 PRC to show a reliable average so you can compare what is typical for the cartridge. The average bullet weight for a 6.5 PRC load is 142 grains, which is what is reflected here. Obviously, you could use a different load to achieve results slightly differing from the average listed here.

On paper, the 6.5 PRC is an incredibly impressive round. Just look at the cart above! It produces excellent energy for hunting out to extended distances, shoots fast, and shoots flat.

The maximum effective range of the 6.5 PRC for hunting is approximately 730 yards, at which distance many bullets will slow below 1,900 fps which can cause a bullet to fail to expand. It produces 1,500 ft-lbs of energy for elk-sized game out to 510 yards, and 1,000 ft-lbs for deer-sized game to 810 yards.

One interesting tidbit about the 6.5 PRC is that if you look at sales per capita of all US states, the 6.5 PRC is most popular in Wyoming. That makes sense for this cartridge because it excels at long ranges on deer-sized game. Wyoming is wide open country with antelope running everywhere, so the 6.5 PRC is an ideal round for that territory. I’m always interested to look up which cartridges sell best in which states, as it always reveals something about the cartridge.

Hunting Capability

I shot this 32.25″ aoudad ram with a custom 6.5 PRC rifle.

The 6.5 PRC is a controversial round in the hunting community. Because of its velocity, it produces impressive numbers. It has more energy than a .308 and is similar to a .30-06 beyond 500 yards. However, it shoots lighter-weight .264 caliber bullets which may not penetrate as deep or mushroom as large. Many hunters have successfully hunted elk with a 6.5 PRC without issue, but others have reported baffling instances of wounded game with the cartridge.

In my opinion, this is a question of bullet selection, and shot opportunity. No matter the load, I personally wouldn’t risk a quartering-to shot on an elk with a 6.5 PRC. There is a risk it may not penetrate sufficiently. Similarly, I wouldn’t take a Sierra Gameking or Berger Hybrid Hunter, chuck it into my PRC, and chase elk. Those bullets don’t have the reputation for penetration needed for elk.

However, if you use reasonable shot angles and choose an excellent controlled-expansion bullet (a Barnes LRX, Hornady GMX, etc would be good choices), there is no reason why the 6.5 PRC couldn’t be relied upon to take elk. I personally would still prefer a little more, but I wouldn’t fault someone for disagreeing with me either.

Last year, I took a custom 6.5 PRC rifle to Texas to hunt aoudad sheep. We came over a rise and found a small pack of aoudad. The sheep spotted us but hesitated after running only 50 yards. I immediately hit the ground and lay prone as we watched the barbary sheep graze. It was difficult at first for me to identify the largest ram in the pack, but when they turned their heads away from us, the curled horns gave away their size.

The largest ram bedded down, and I waited 2 or 3 minutes for him to stand. When he did, he was perfectly broadside. I sat on my butt with my gun rested on shooting sticks because I had to get above the brush to make a shot. I squeezed the trigger and the suppressed 6.5 PRC rocketed out a Sierra bullet at the animal. The aoudad soaked up the punch, ran 10 feet and crashed almost immediately. The hunt was done, and I have a beautiful pedestal mount of that ram in the sitting room of my home.

Other than that anecdotal experience, some hunters prefer to just look at the numbers. I averaged several loads for the 6.5 PRC and plugged them into two popular formulas to determine a cartridge’s ability to take down game efficiently. According to the Hornady HITS formula, the PRC gets a score of 1,054, which is barely higher than the .270 Winchester, and puts it at #45 of 88 centerfire rifle cartridges (remember that list includes the big boys like the .50 BMG too).

If you prefer the classic Taylor’s Knockout Factor Formula, then the 6.5 PRC scores on average 15.9, which is slightly lower than the .270 Winchester on that test.

In my personal opinion, in normal hunting conditions at a range of 400 yards, I would rather shoot an elk with a .270 than a 6.5 PRC, so I’d lean more toward the Hornady HITS formula over Taylor’s Knockout Factor Formula.

The 6.5 PRC can be used to ethically kill elk.  With proper shot placement and a controlled-expansion bullet to punch through an elk, it is very effective.  It produces the recommended 1,500 foot/pounds of energy for elk out to 506 yards, and its light recoil enables hunters to shoot accurately.

The 6.5 PRC is a perfect choice for hunting deer. Deer hunters recommend hitting with at least 1,000 ft-lbs of energy for an ethical kill, and the PRC maintains that power out to 812 yards. Most 6.5 PRC loads utilize high BC bullets which aid in wind deflection, and its short action allows for use in lighter rifles.

The 6.5 PRC is a good choice for black bear hunting, but is too light for safe hunting of a grizzly bear.  Bear hunting often occurs from close distances such as from a stand, and the 6.5 PRC delivers 2,481 ft-lbs of energy at 100 yards, which is easily sufficient for hunting black bears.

The 6.5 PRC can kill moose cleanly and ethically.  Because moose are very large-bodied animals, multiple shots are often required, and the 6.5 PRC’s mild recoil aids in quick follow-up shots. While its 2.64 caliber bullet does not mushroom as large, its added velocity produces excellent damage.

For me, the 6.5 PRC is the absolute perfect round for deer-sized game. I’d pick it above any other cartridge for mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope, aoudad, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, etc. It’s absolutely a fantastic choice and one that I will be choosing for many of my hunts.

HOWEVER

I also feel a little uncomfortable with the 6.5 PRC on much of the larger game that I see people hunting with it.

I personally wouldn’t shoot an elk with a 6.5 Creedmoor at all. I know a lot of people do, but I’ve seen the 6.5 Creedmoor performance on elk-size game and I wasn’t impressed. Personally, I’d be much happier with a 6.5 PRC in my hands for elk. Now having said that, I’d pick a 7mm Rem Mag over both options.

For hunting plains game in Africa, the 6.5 PRC would be my ultimate choice for game up to blesbok, black wildebeest, and hartebeest. I’d prefer not to shoot a greater kudu or a blue wildebeest with a 6.5 PRC.

That’s my take on its hunting capabilities. You can see how I think of the cartridge. It’s all just opinion and you’re perfectly free to disagree with that.

Recoil

The 6.5 PRC produces on average 16.27 ft-lbs of recoil energy, at a velocity of 11.19fps, making the recoil noticeable but very mild compared to many other hunting rounds. For comparison, the recoil of a 6.5 PRC is slightly less than the recoil of a .308 Winchester or .270 Winchester.

In my experience with the 6.5 PRC, I’ve always been surprised by how mild the recoil is for a round that is capable of such performance. My wife or 12 year-old son would have no problem shooting a 6.5 PRC rifle given its low recoil.

Comparing the 6.5 PRC’s Recoil to Other Common Cartridges

  • 6.5 Creedmoor – 11.83 ft-lbs of recoil energy, and 9.54fps of recoil velocity
  • 6.5 PRC – 16.27 ft-lbs of recoil energy, and 11.19fps of recoil velocity
  • .270 Winchester – 17.64 ft-lbs of recoil energy and 11.64fps of recoil velocity
  • .308 Winchester – 18.27 ft-lbs of recoil energy and 11.62fps of recoil velocity
  • .30-06 Springfield – 21.34 ft-lbs of recoil energy and 12.55fps of recoil velocity

Comparable Cartridges

The 6.5 PRC is most comparable to the 6.5 SAUM, the 6.5-284 Norma, and the 6.5 Weatherby RPM in terms of ballistics and caliber. Compared to more common cartridges, it shoots 200fps faster than a 6.5 Creedmoor, and produces approximately the same downrange energy as a .270 Winchester.

The 6.5 PRC compared to some of the most popular rifle cartridges:

Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)Muzzle Velocity (fps)Drop at 500 Yards (in)
6.5 PRC2,7802,972-41
.22LR1331,239-439
.243 Winchester1,9582,922-48
6.5 Creedmoor2,2222,690-56
.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 cartridges so that an apples-to-apples comparison can be made.

One complaint the industry had when the 6.5 PRC was announced was that it simply isn’t very unique. There are other cartridges with very similar properties. Let’s look at a few of them:

  • The 6.5 SAUM is similar to the PRC, but it shoots about 50fps faster because of its added case capacity. Because of its rebated rim and lower compatibility with a range of powders, the 6.5 SAUM has not seen as much success.
  • The 6.5-284 Norma Match is extremely similar to the 6.5 PRC as they are both short-action .264 caliber cartridges. Both shoot a similar speed, but most loads will favor the 6.5 PRC. Unfortunately, the 6.5-284 typically uses a 1:9 twist rate that is a little slow for today’s very long bullets.
  • The 6.5 PRC and the 6.5 Weatherby RPM are so similar that you could almost call them twins. The real difference is the 6.5 PRC is about 100 fps slower, which may sound like a bad thing until you realize that the 6.5 PRC is already slightly overbore. The 6.5 Weatherby RPM is an extreme hotrod caliber that will burn out barrels more quickly.
  • The 6.5 PRC is often called a magnum version of the 6.5 Creedmoor because of the similarity between the rounds other than the speed advantage of the 6.5 PRC. The 6.5 PRC shoots approximately 120fps faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor.

The History of the 6.5 PRC

The cartridge was originally created for use in PRS (Precision Rifle Series) matches. George Gardner from GA Precision approached Hornady in 2012 or 2013 about creating a round that would better meet the needs of competitors.

The rules for the PRS matches do not allow cartridges that shoot in excess of 3,200fps, and all bullets must be .308 caliber or thinner.

He also wanted the cartridge to utilize a short action because it aided shooters who worked quickly through a PRS match in cycling. Short actions also slightly increase the rigidity of the action which can aid in accuracy.

Dave Gardner explained the idea behind the 6.5 PRC as he decided what caliber would be the best match for his design goal:

“The 6mm’s can be pushed [to 3,200fps], but they have lower BCs. The 7mm’s have higher BC’s but can’t be pushed at 3,200 fps in a short-action. The lack of bullet selection in the .25 and .270 [calibers] ruled those out—so that’s why I settled on the 6.5.”

George Gardner quoted in Outdoor Life

My Video Of the 6.5 PRC

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31 Comments

  1. Allan Burton says:

    Excellent analysis of an excellent cartridge. Great work. Thanks.

    1. Clint Johnson says:

      Excellent article. Very informative. I prefer the larger calibers for elk. With the 7mm Remington mag being the smallest I would go. For me personally I like the 338 win mag., 35 whelen, or the weatherby 300 and up. I think bigger bullets moving slower bigger holes with less meat damage

      1. MATTHEW KYLE says:

        If you can’t kill an elk with a 6.5mm bullet, probably should work on marksmanship.

  2. This website has the most comprehensive approach to understanding the abilities of a particular cartridge. I look forward to more profiles in the future!

  3. Mike Ames says:

    Like what your doing with the profiles, one thing I would suggest is adding an link on the main page to your site that lets you gain easier access to looking at he varied profiles you have. Currently you almost have to know the exact profile link to view it; there is no profile link that you can browse and look at he ones written.
    Just a thought.

  4. Very good review. Very interesting round. I would like to see you do the same thing with the 6.8 Western.

  5. This profile analysis has really helped me in making a decision on my next rifle calibre to purchase. Also your YouTube rifle comparisons helped me as a new shooter to pick my first rifle.

  6. Michael Richter says:

    I dont care howmany new cartridges are introduced,but it makes it harder for ammo manufactures to keep up ,say if youre making lots of 223 ,or 308 or whatever you increase set up time on loaing machines !There are so many fifferent types of cartrjdges now as to virtually assure a shortzge of other more traditional rounds wheres all the brass,bullets,powerder ect,ect at now?

  7. Love your channel even when I disagree with you! Fantastic channel! I think the 6.5 PRC is a disaster waiting to happen. If you purchase a rifle in 6.5 PRC and the 6.5 PRC disappears due to lack of ammo sales what do you with that rifle? The case is so short and fat that you can not set that rifle up for other short action cartridges that will be around for another 100+ years. You can not put the metal back on the rails and magazine area to ever fit anything else that is currently available.

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      It’s a very valid point. Personally, I’m seeing enough sales that I think this thing will stick around, but you’re right that it could happen and it’s something to always consider.

    2. Mark Bradsher says:

      The pandemic and subsequent ammo shortages should have taught us all one thing: reloading is essential. My only reget is that I didnt buy more powder, primers, and bullets at the beginning. I have plenty for hunting but would like more for target shooting and that includes for 6.5 PRC. The PRC (6.5) uses the same bullets as the creedmoor (Jim, you can add that to your positives and negatives.) so bullets for it will be around. If you reload, you’ll just need to stock up. I’d be more concern if I owned a 300 PRC.

      1. So … did the 6.5 PRC dominate 2021 sales?

    3. Of course you can use that rifle for other things. You can rebarrel, or simply cut down the barrel and re-chamber it for other 6.5 rounds. Also, the magazine size is the same thing you\’d use for 243, 308, 7mm 08, 6.5 creedmoor, 6mm creedmoor and so on. There are plenty of opportunities. And given that it\’s literally the fastest growing round out there, it will likely last. Hornady has a great track record and the advertizing oompf to help it along.

  8. Tracy Danis says:

    Would you consider 6.5 PRC close to the 26 Nosler? What is the cartridge profile for the 26 Nosler?

  9. Mike Pinnell says:

    I’m interested in a new gun. I want long range shoot capability and hunting. Mule Deer and Elk. Hmmming and haaaing over all the fantastic balistics. I have .243, 30-06, .308. This is a WANT not a need.

    1. Daryl Schuchart says:

      I understand the want. Keep shooting your 3006 and 308 , I’m 65yrs old been full circle , I’m small and lightweight had a 7mm when younger but got tired of recoil , now I shoot my 24″ barrel 3006 168gr hand loads 500yrds well and 900yrds just to see ?
      If you can handle recoil the new caliber I enjoyed reading is 7mm PSC , GOOD bullet selections and speed !

  10. I think you’ve somewhat overstated the 06 energy and understated the 6.5 prc’s. I’ve used both 143 factory ammo and 156 eol custom loads and achieve just shy of 3000 ft lbs with each when I chrono and do the math. I’m over 3000 fps with the hornady factory ammo and just under with the bergers. I’ve never been able to get velocities with my 06 that give almost 3200 ft lbs.

  11. Mike Richter says:

    You know I so often see recoil mentioned as if it is just a legal if you have recoil as great as the 30_06are we a bunch.of sissies now?I shoot many different cal. Guns generating far more recoil than the old 30_06 and I don’t mind it at all neither have several young teenaged boys I’ve instructed in shooting with my 300win mag,338 win mag 350 rem mag rifles after explaining the basic rules of Newton’s theory they all shot really good !And after biting the target and getting good hits ,they all wanted to shoot again and agian,because hitting their target meant more to them than the recoil,!Recoil after all is necessary . I also own and shoot a 416rigby,its not a gun for teaching unfamiliar shooters and I’m reluctant to let.them try it because a bruised shoulder or scope cut will surely end their fun!but recommending these puny cartridges for moose or elk ,never stick with the old tried and true 30_06 minamum!

    1. Its not about if the recoil hurts or not. It\’s about accuracy and consecutive shots. Lower recoil helps you be able to get another accurate shot quicker after firing.

  12. larry clare says:

    very good article that covers all the bases

  13. Lawrence Zawacki says:

    I like your article.
    I am looking at the Weatherby 6.5rpm
    Because I really like the Weatherby mark V . I agree that shot placement and bullet construction are key with all sub 30 cal. I have taken Deer out to 315 yards with a 90 spear Spitzer 6mm rem
    Boiler room the bullet fragmented but 1/2 the heart and lungs were jelly.
    And have taken moose at 30 to 90 yards with a 105 spitzer .
    But I do most of my elk and moose hunting with my 7mag .
    But I am 66 now and recoil is starting to be an issue. So I am thinking the 6.5 With the 127 barns or swift A frame or GMX will be a good choice.
    Again great articles.👍
    Lawrence Z
    Cheers

  14. Arnie Grammon says:

    Good work on the 6.5 PRC evaluation, Jim. After reading this, you may need to add another bullet and load to the mix.
    This morning I loaded up with Nosler 150 grn Accubond Long Range bullets (great bullet!) using Magnum Powder and my FIRST group measured 0.43 inches C to C. In the latest Nosler Manual, this load is listed as “Most Accurate Tested”. Attention: It is their MAXIMUM listed load for the 150 grn bullet. Look….I love the .270 Winchester, in which I have taken at least 30 elk over the last 35 years – almost all one shot kills. That said, this load is actually BETTER than the “Jack”, with higher BC and apples to apples weight bullet as the .270. What???? Yep. On paper, better. I’ll be using this load soon on elk.
    Thanks again, for an excellent write-up, Jim.
    The load above was just off the lands using my Bergara topped with a 6×24 Vortex.

  15. Eric hilton says:

    ? 308 can easily match.. in fact out perform the 6.5 PRC, 168 gr high BC 30 cal bullets at 2750 to 2850 FPS shot extremely excellent groups from what used to be STD 24” barrel with 1:10 twist in 308 win.

    And in my book my 300 win mag. At 2875 FPS is incredibly light shooting with 5” group at 500 yards. That combination in a savage pro shop T10 action, 16 pound rifle is joy to shoot everything out western US out to 600 yards on even elk. I would still take a 7 mm 08 with 152 gr ELD-X bullets at 2750 FPS over any combo in 6.5 PRC.
    People want performance and accuracy … need to learn to reload. Average fellow who is going to use factory Ammo….. stick with 270, 7mm08, 308, or 30-06 and 400 yards or less. You’ll never be sorry about performance. Slower heavy bullets and 200 -400 yard shots are much better percentages for 75 % of hunters.

    1. Daryl Schuchart says:

      I\\\’m 65yrs old been full circle and around many younger shooters and their calibers.
      I totally agree with your statements, I will add my rifles with factory black synthetic stocks seem to have less felt recoil than my wood stocked rifles.
      My big gun I enjoy now and shoot against the younger people is , Winchester mod.70 24\\\” barrel black synthetic stock of the shelf factory gun 2.7lb trigger for old fingers.
      Hand loads , I like the 168gr. Combined technology Black molybdenum plastic tip bullets.
      This is just 12gr. Less bullet than a big Ole 180gr.
      Works very well down range way out there with the magnums and the young folks !

  16. Andrew Henley says:

    How does the 6.5 PRC perform at close range? On deer?

  17. Larry Eck says:

    Greetings, I\’ve always enjoyed you\’re Utube videos and wanted to pass a few kudos you\’re way👍..Jim, I\’m looking @ putting together a chassis that will accommodate both 6.5 PRC and Br14R barreled actions, either an XLR or a PDC Custom…. I\’m torn between aTika using T1X and T3X and the same in a Bergara set up.. They both have pro\’s and con\’s as most things do.. I\’m pretty sure it\’s not major mill surgery to accommodate both actions as long as the foot print is the same.. Perhaps you have some experience with what I\’m trying to do? I like the idea of having one nice chassis with a folding stock that\’s compact and light enough for hiking in mountainous & high desert areas for deer, antelope, black bear & elk if I\’m within a couple hundred yards and it\’s a broadside resting shot? If I need to add a little bit more weight for the bench, they\’re already set up to do so.. By using the same chassis, I can keep tuned up in the off season without breaking the bank.. If you have any thoughts or advice re: my objective, please feel free to throw some my way! Have a stellar day & watch yer top knot 😃 Best regards, Larry

  18. No, a 308 can’t match a PRC. It can’t match a Creedmoor at range. The idea that you’re doing much hiking with that 16 pound rifle isn’t great.

    1. Daryl Schuchart says:

      Try a SS SaVage AXis synthetic stock , accue trigger factory enexpesive rifle in your choice of caliber , use the picatinny rail for scope rings to get scope for enough back for eye relief.
      Get use to the different feel and that rifle is very comfortable and accurate, I own 3 off them the first one sold me on the other 2 !

  19. Thank you for all the info by reading ans re reading all you wrote about the 6.5 prc ,I finally can make a choice on what rifle Iam going to have buildt for myself thank you again.