What is a 6.5
First off, what is a 6.5? The 6.5, obvious to some and not-so-obvious to others, stands for the bore diameter of the barrel, 6.5mm or .2559″. The bullet diameter is .264, the same as any other 6.5mm cartridge like the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 x 55 Swedes, 260 Remingtons, 6.5x57mms, 6.5-284 Normas, 6.5-06s, 6.5 Remington Magnums, and 264 Winchester Magnums. The PRC in 6.5 PRC stands for Precision Rifle Cartridge and was created by necking down the 300 Ruger Compact Magnum case. It was created to be a hard-hitting, long-range round for hunting and competition.
The 6.5 PRC is said to have been developed by George Gardner of GA Precision. He wanted a hard-hitting long-range round for both hunters and competitive shooters, particularly those in the Precision Rifle Series. According to PRS rules, cartridges cannot have muzzle velocities in excess of 3,200 fps. In addition to that restriction, Gardner also wanted to run the cartridge through short-action receivers. These two parameters are why he decided on a 6.5 mm/.264-caliber round.
In an Outdoor Life article Gardner says, “I wanted the highest BC bullet you can push at 3,200 in a short action. The 6’s can be pushed that fast, but they have lower BC’s. The 7 mils 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 ruled those out—so that’s why I settled on the 6.5.”
These days it seems like a new rifle cartridge is coming out faster than you have time to shoot the last new cartridge. Why is this? With information and technology coming at a pace that’s hard to keep up with it’s no surprise that the shooting industry is using this information and technology to dive into the intricate details of bullet performance.
For example, something as simple as a chronograph, while pretty simple and not all that technologically advanced, has helped shooters vastly understand bullet performance and ballistics. It’s kind of crazy to think, many of our grand-dads and even our very own fathers have never shot a rifle through a chronograph.
Another reason we are seeing so many new cartridges developed might have to do with the freight train we know as product marketing. To be successful as a business today you need to remain relevant in a world where the need for something ‘new’ is like a bottomless addiction. Cartridges may be created because the firearm industry, like any other industry, is being forced to come up with something new and make some noise to get consumers attention.
Some shooters undoubtedly rolled their eyes when they heard another new 6.5 cartridge was on the market.
Yet another reason we might be seeing so many new cartridges is the fact that gun owners are becoming more specialists than generalists. There are all sorts of niche markets now within the shooting industry. During the early part of the 1900’s the average American had only a couple firearms they needed to ‘do it all’. Today we have shooters who are highly specialized in their niche of the market. They might be really into competition shooting and require a cartridge that’ll give them an advantage in competition. Even within the hunting community, there are hunters who specialize in one aspect or another. Some really focus on varmint shooting while others focus on large game like elk. With our busy lives today we see many people focusing on one niche of shooting sports with fewer people ‘doing it all’. With this niche focus comes the need to find a cartridge that performs best under that very specific scenario.
The list of theories as to why so many new cartridges are being developed could be much longer but that’s not the point. Whether these new cartridges stick around is for shooters to decide. Some rounds come and fade away while others are here to stay.
Some shooters undoubtedly rolled their eyes when they heard another new 6.5 cartridge was on the market. It seems these new 6.5’s are coming out at an absurd rate. Some say the 6.5 PRC is what the 6.5 Creedmoor should have been and it will make the Creedmoor obsolete. Others aren’t on that bandwagon yet. Below is a chart comparing it against other 6.5 cartridges with a .30-06 thrown in there for comparison.
This chart shows that the 6.5 is a sweet compromise of recoil, barrel life, and ballistic performance. These are taken as an average through a 24″ barrel. These numbers can vary slightly with different guns and loads. Hornady factory loads publish max velocities in excess of 2900 fps and hand loading can get you close to that 3200 fps mark.
6.5 PRC For Elk
Downrange the PRC’s extra juice produces flatter trajectory and higher on-target energy. From a 200-yd. zero, the PRC’s Hornady ELD-X 143-gr. drops 18.2″ at 400 yards, compared to the Creedmoor’s 22.4″ drop. At that range, the PRC hits with 1800 ft.-lbs. of impact energy vs. 1475 ft.-lbs. from the Creedmoor.
Interestingly Hornady says the 6.5 PRC is “designed for use on medium-to-large game weighing up to 1,500 pounds.” One of America’s favorite gun debates is, “What to use for elk?” While the 6.5 Creedmoor is somewhat considered marginal for putting down elk, the PRC surpasses the Creedmoor but out-punches the .270 Win and delivers TERMINAL energy in the same league as the .30-06 and 7mm Rem. Mag.!
For these reasons, some elk hunters are calling it an extremely promising lightweight backcountry rifle. Others are scoffing at the idea of a 6.5 round being used for elk. The question of it being capable for elk is a debate that quite possibly has no right or wrong answer, the answer may lie in an individuals own personal bias.
See what happens when Muley Freak Erik VanWoerkom puts his 6.5 PRC to a public lands elk hunting test.
If you want to know more about Erik’s 6.5 PRC build watch the video below.