The name Creedmoor is steeped in American marksmanship history. Creedmoor was the first premier shooting range on American soil, purchased in 1873 through an appropriation from the state of New York and money from raised by the embryonic National Rifle Association.
It was at Creedmoor in 1874 that a group of upstart shooters, the Amateur Rifle Club of New York, took on United Kingdom champs Ireland in a competition billed as the "championship of the world." The U.S. won that long-range match, fired at 800, 900 and 1,000 yards, and won it again the next year.
The following year at Creedmoor saw the U.S. beat Australia, Canada, Ireland and Scotland, and in 1877 America out-shot Great Britain in the last major international match held at Creedmoor.
So it’s fitting then that the name of Hornady’s new commercial cartridge, designed from the ground up to be a highpower competition cartridge, would be 6.5 Creedmoor.
The idea was the result of a 2006 discussion between Hornady senior ballistician Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille, a two-time national highpower champion and general manager of shooting supply company Creedmoor Sports. The discussion came, appropriately enough, at the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, and the gist of it was this: What would be an ideal cartridge for both across-the-course and long-range highpower competitions, one the average guy could go out and buy and be competitive with?
As Emary pointed out to me on a recent visit to Hornady’s Grand Island, Nebraska, headquarters, the list of usual suspects is a short one. There’s the 6mm, which Emary discarded because he believes the bullets have to be pushed too hard to be competitive in 1,000-yard shooting. The .308 is a bit handicapped at long range because of its low velocity at long range. Then there’s the 6.5-284, a favorite among the long-range set.
"You don’t need that kind of capacity," Emary says. "Plus we wanted to make a cartridge that would work as an across-the-course rifle, not just 1,000."
And the .308-based .260 Remington? "The neck is too short for very low-drag (VLD) bullets," Emary notes.
So Emary turned to a cartridge he developed a few years ago, the .30 TC, and thought that round might just be the ticket if it were necked down to 6.5. And with that he turned the project over to Joe Thielen, an avid long-range benchrest and highpower shooter in Hornady’s engineering department.
Thielen pushed the shoulder back to permit a long neck while maintaining a 30-degree shoulder angle, creating a case with a water capacity of 51 to 52 grains (the sample he measured for me was 51.7). And because the team worked on the design of the cartridge and the chamber simultaneously, they were able to maximize the bullet/chamber interface by tailoring the chamber to take advantage of the reduced bullet jump provided by short-ogive 120- and 140-grain A-Max bullets.
"We set it up for the A-Max so when loaded to the correct overall length the boattail doesn’t go below the ‘doughnut’ at the base of the neck," Thielen notes.
To boost accuracy potential even further, the freebore diameter is .2645, which reduces initial yaw as the bullet begins its journey down the bore.
The next step was to find the right powder.
"No secrets here," Emary says. "We want guys to be able to go out and duplicate on their presses the performance we’re loading at the factory." If you doubt Hornady’s intentions, you’ll find the load recipe printed on every box of 6.5 Creedmoor that leaves the factory.
The goal then was to find an off-the-shelf powder with low temperature sensitivity that would produce the desired velocities with moderate charge weights. Temperature sensitivity is important because guns get hot during a match, and cartridges that spend time in a hot chamber while the shooter waits for the right condition can heat up significantly.
"We decided on 4350 because it fills the case nicely and produces good uniformity," Thielen says.
The pressure spec for the 6.5 Creedmoor is the same as the .308 Winchester, 62,000 psi, although Hornady’s factory loads are well below that at 57,000 psi. For the time being, Hornady is not going to seek SAAMI certification for the round, but Thielen says that could become a possibility down the road.
The 6.5 has a lot going for it as a competition round due to the bullet’s high ballistic coefficient, and you can verify that by looking at the accompanying wind drift chart. And on my visit to Hornady I had the opportunity to shoot the round through both of the guns currently chambering the round, the Tubb 2000 (pictured in the lead photo) and a DPMS Panther, at 600 yards.
Both of the guns were pussycats to shoot–and that was off a benchrest. The 6.5 demonstrated low vertical dispersion (for a discussion of that see David Tubb’s "Precision Riflery" column in the July/August issue). Had I not broken two shots to the right you could’ve covered my first 600-yard group with the palm of your hand. A second group was only slightly larger, and the DPMS gun performed okay, although the guys I was with shot it far better than I did.
So where does it go from here? Steve Hornady says the company plans to get behind a few select highpower shooters to spread the word about the cartridge–hopefully through some winning performances at matches around the country.
If the cartridge delivers on its promise, which by all indications it should, I think Hornady has created a terrific new option for competitive shooters.
When I looked at the Creedmoor’s ballistics, the first thing that crossed my mind was, "What if?" What if a whole bunch of American hunters looked at the efficiency, low recoil and long-range potential of this round and finally "discovered" the 6.5? What might happen when they real
ize that the 120-grain Creedmoor is still supersonic to 1,400 yards and has a maximum point blank range in excess of 350 yards? Think they’d be interested?
Well, it so happens that Hornady is already looking to experiment with what kind of performance it could get with the 6.5 Creedmoor out of a sporting barrel in the 22-inch range using high-tech powders available only to ammo makers.
"With the Creedmoor we developed the load for accuracy, but for hunting we could boost the velocity without degrading the accuracy," Emary says. "So it might go from a 1/2 minute cartridge to a 3/4 minute cartridge."
If the engineers can achieve the performance they want, a hunting load could become a possibility. But beyond the wildcat potential some intrepid experimenters will jump on, Hornady will have to convince a major gun maker to get on board.
The firm has been successful with that in the past–the .30 TC (with Thompson/Center) and more recently the .300 and .338 RCMs (with Ruger). If it decides to do so again, we could have a terrific new 6.5 hunting round to play with.