With the rise in popularity for the 6.5 caliber in recent years it is nice to see a cartridge developed to better fulfill the wants and needs of hunters and notably longer distance hunters. The 6.5 PRC is the big brother to the popular 6.5 Creedmoor boasting higher speeds and increased kinetic energy on impact. This cartridge and caliber combination has shown promise in the hunting community. With this larger cartridge the viability of the 6.5 PRC against larger game animals is now more practical then that of its predecessor and with the right bullet selection this cartridge may become your “go to” for your next elk hunt.
Penetration is the biggest point that needs to be addressed when insuring the ethical use of the 6.5 PRC against elk sized game due to their larger bone mass. For this reason solid core bullets such as the Barnes LRX are going to rank higher then a standard jacketed bullet.
The increased speeds of the 6.5 PRC have made this cartridge popular for long range hunters and the cartridge has proven to be very effective against a range of moderate sized animals ranging from hogs, deer, mountain goat, and sheep. Though with this added velocity the 6.5 PRC has begun to be used as a large game cartridge. Though this is possible some factors should be taken into consideration before converting your sheep rifle into a elk setup. Most notably the extra penetration required to reliably and ethically harvest elk.
What makes a lethal hunting bullet?
Hunting bullets get their lethality due to the fact that they expand inside of the animal. The energy transfer from the bullet into the animal is what crates the “wound cavity” and hemorrhaging of the tissues. Unlike animals harvested with archery equipment where animals expire due to the loss of blood and extreme hemorrhaging bullets require energy transfer to kill the animal.
The unique characteristics of different bullet brands and designs are what determines the amount of penetration and energy transfer.
When selecting a bullet for your 6.5 PRC in the intent of harvesting heavy boned animals such as elk, penetration is going to be the dominant factor that most hunters should look for. For this reason solid core bullets will be at the top of the list when making your selection.
Do not confuse solid core bullets with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. Solid core bullets do not use a lead core however they still expand on impact.
Solid core bullets that should be on your radar
Barnes LRX bullets are a superb option when looking for a 6.5 caliber bullet that is also solid core. Barnes is one of the most popular options on todays market when looking for solid core bullets and has become their specialty in a way. Barnes scores the interior of their LRX bullets to help introduce expansion and energy transfer. Barnes offers their LRX bullets in 6.5 caliber with a weight of 127grains.
Hornady’s GMX bullets are also a very good option when looking for a solid core bullet. Similar to the Barnes LRX the Hornady GMX has a polymer tip to help introduce expansion and increase the bullets ballistic coefficient. Hornady’s GMX bullets are offered in 6.5 caliber with a weight of 120 grains and also 140 grains.
I have personally harvested an elk and moose with my .270WSM using Barnes solid core bullets and have had perfect penetration and expansion on both animals. It should be noted however that at closer ranges solid core bullets have a tendency to pass through the animal and retain a considerable amount of velocity. This correlates to a loss in potential energy transfer.
Premium Jacketed Bullets
Jacketed bullets are by far the most popular offering on the market today. With a copper jacket and a lead core these bullets offer a large energy transfer and reasonably good penetration. The only short fall of the jacketed bullet would be the unfortunate meeting of large bone masses that can potentially sap all of the energy out of the bullet and reduce penetration.
Hornady’s ELD-X bullets are a newer development that have taken the market by storm. With extremely high ballistic coefficients these are by far some of the most efficient bullets on the market today that are available to hunters. Hornady offers their ELD-X bullets in 6.5 calibre with a weight of 143 grains.
Sierra bullets have a reputation to shoot very well out of a number of different rifle brands. Their Tipped Game King bullet comes in at 140 grains and will work better then Hornady’s ELD-X bullets when attempting to feed out of a magazine. With that advantage however comes the fact that they do not boast as good of a ballistic coefficient as the ELD-X.
Nosler’s Accubond Long Range will also be a good choice for a jacketed bullet for the 6.5 PRC against elk. Nosler is known for their bonded technology that keeps the soft lead core of the bullet bonded to the outer copper jacket. This will help with retaining mass while expanding to help increase penetration and also dump energy into the animal. Nosler’s Accubond Long Range bullets come in 129 grains, 142 grains, and 150 grains.
Shot placement with the 6.5 PRC
As though it were a broken record that all hunters hear far too often, shot placement is a massive factor in success. The 6.5 PRC though having high speeds and kinetic energy can experience problems with penetration if heavy bone if encountered. Animals such as Whitetail Deer and Bighorn Sheep do not possess the bone structure significant enough at common hunting distances (being 300yards and less) to outright stop your bullets penetration.
With elk however, the front shoulder of a large bull is plenty thick enough to deflect and or stop all of the energy of an incoming bullet. So pick a spot on the animal that will keep your bullet out of the front shoulder. On a broad side shot I like to hold for a point of impact that lines up with my vertical crosshair running strait up the leg and my horizontal crosshair running along the lower 1/3 of the body usually being on the same plane as the shoulder joint.
My personal setup when using a smaller caliber rifle against large animals such as elk and moose is always jacketed bullets. I personally run the Hornady ELD-X and have never had any issue with penetration out of my rifles. You have to be prepared to let animals walk however, if they do not present the proper shot angle. With that said I would consider using Barns LRX bullet if the weight and ballistic coefficient were better matched to the ELD-X.