When it comes to long range shooting, two calibers that cannot be ignored are the 6.5 Creedmoor and the venerable 308 Winchester.
Although the 308 Winchester (7.62 NATO) has been a staple in the long-range target shooting community since its inception over 60 years ago, the 6.5 Creedmoor simply outperforms the 308 Winchester in almost every category when shooting out past 500 yards.
In this article, we are going to go through a detailed comparison of 308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor and explain the pros and cons of each cartridge, as well as discuss the ballistics data for these two popular calibers.
Break out your sandbags, bipods, and spotting scopes because we are going to squeeze the trigger and let it fly on long range shooting today!
What is 308?
In 1952, the U.S. Military started developing a replacement for the long-serving 30-06 Springfield cartridge (military designation: M2 Ball or 7.62x63mm).
Although the 30-06 Springfield had honorably served through both World Wars and Korea, the US Military wanted to develop a new cartridge that was lighter and more suitable for fully automatic rifle fire.
With advancements in rifle powder technology and case design in the 1950s, the new 7.62x51mm NATO rifle round was able to achieve neatly identical ballistic performance as the 30-06 Springfield with a shorter cartridge case length (63mm vs 51mm) and lower overall weight.
The US Army officially adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO round in 1958 and it has been in service ever since.
Seeing the potential of the cartridge in the civilian market, Winchester was quick to adapt the new rifle round to its Model 70 bolt action rifle. The civilian version of the 7.62x51mm NATO was named the 308 Winchester.
The 308 Winchester has since become the most popular big game hunting round in the world with bullet weights ranging between 120 to 180 grains.
308 ammo is available in a variety of loadings for varmint hunters, big game hunters, and F-Class Tactical Rifle shooters alike.
As the 308 Winchester was also adopted by other NATO nations, the amount of surplus ammo and components made by foreign manufacturers is also very plentiful.
The 308 Winchester is a clear upgrade to the 30-06 Springfield as the 308 has lower recoil, the round itself weighs less, it fits in a short action rifle, has lower pressure so it is more appropriate for use in gas powered rifles, and it has a slight advantage in accuracy over its older counterpart.
With all of these advantages, the 308 Winchester has been a staple for precision shooters in the military, law enforcement, and civilian life.
Although the 308 Winchester is the most prolific military cartridge to date, its true success came in the civilian market.
Hunters and target shooters are mostly to credit for the 308’s widespread success.
The most popular hunting ammo is sold with a 125, 150, 165, or 180 grain bullet and can be used effectively on big game across North America, Europe, and on safari in Africa. Of these rifle cartridges, the 150’s and 165’s are the most popular and will have a muzzle velocity around 2800 fps and 2650 fps, respectively.
For my readers who like to really air it out and enjoy long range shooting, the two most popular choices are the 168 and 175 grain bullet: either a Sierra Matchking Boattail Hollow Point or a Berger VLD Target.
However, what long-range target shooters have come to understand is that a slower, heavier bullet with a higher Ballistic Coefficient (BC) is preferred to a lighter bullet with a higher muzzle velocity when you are getting into longer ranges (800+ yards).
This is where the 6.5 Creedmoor comes into the picture.
What is 6.5 Creedmoor?
The development of the 6.5 Creedmoor round began in August of 2005 during Service Rifle Week at the National Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio.
As with most innovations, the genesis of the 6.5 Creedmoor came out of frustration – and that frustration came from legendary Service Rifle competitor and former US Marine, Dennis DeMille.
Several of the competitors at the National Matches were using a wildcat cartridge called the 6XC. Although the 6XC was winning matches, there was no published reloading data for the cartridge and it was consistently blowing out primers and breaking extractors (clearly they never called me about this problem!)
DeMille was working for the company that was the exclusive distributor of rifles chambered in 6XC, and competitors would come to him between strings of fire to ask for help (AKA complain).
DeMille had just about had enough of it and was about to throw in the towel and head home. Thankfully, he was sharing a condo with a good friend of his and soon the gripe session began.
That friend was none other than Dave Emary, the senior ballistician for Hornady Ammunition at the time.
Emary was able to talk DeMille off the ledge and asked him to give him a “wishlist” for the ideal long-range cartridge that could be used for “shooting across the course” (that’s High Power-speak for being viable for all the courses of fire in a High Power match.)
DeMille agreed and the next day he approached Emary with a list of 7 requirements for the new cartridge.
DeMille’s Dream Cartridge Wishlist Was:
• The cartridge must be able to fit into a magazine for the rapid fire stages of the competition
• Less recoil than a 308 Winchester for better follow-up shots and shooter comfort during rapid fire
• Flatter trajectory than a 308 with an accurate, high BC bullet
• Good barrel life
• Uses readily available reloading components so results can be duplicated
• Reloading recipes printed on the box
• Produced in quantities that could keep up with demand
• Emary took DeMille’s list back to Hornady and got to work on producing the ideal long range rifle cartridge.
Emary chose the relatively unknown 30 Thompson Center (30 T/C) as the parent cartridge for the 6.5 Creedmoor. He necked down the case to accept the more aerodynamic .264” diameter bullets and sharpened the shoulders to 30 degrees and the 6.5 Creedmoor was born.
Emary initially wanted to call the new round the 6.5 DeMille but DeMille would hear nothing of that. Instead, DeMille recommend the name “Creedmoor” in honor of the Creedmoor Rifle Range in Long Island, New York where the first National Matches were held.
And so, in 2007, Hornady unveiled their new 6.5 Creedmoor ammo at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
They didn’t have high hopes for this new cartridge and had no idea that the 6.5 Creedmoor was about to take the long range shooting scene by storm.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded in a variety of bullet weights that are typically separated into two categories. The Light Weight category, which ranges from 127 to 135 grain bullet weights, and the Heavy Weight category, which is loaded with 140 to 147 grain bullets.
The cartridge rim of the 6.5 Creedmoor is identical to the 308 Winchester, which means all that is needed to convert a precision rifle or semi-automatic rifle chambered in 308 Winchester to 6.5 Creedmoor is a barrel change. No need to buy a new rifle!
Continue reading 6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester: A Battle of Ballistic Coefficients at Ammo.com.
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