August 26, 2022
The .308 Win. has produced a lot of successful offspring, including the 7mm-08 Rem. and the .243 Win., but one member of that family that hasn’t fared so well is the .260 Rem. After years serving as a rather underappreciated wildcat cartridge, the round was standardized by Remington in 1997. Most people figured the .260 Rem. was the best we could hope for in this diameter, as the 6.5/.264 caliber had never reached more than a cult following here. Then Hornady released a new cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor. From a marketing standpoint, the round seemed to make no sense. Take the case from the .30 T/C—itself a commercial failure—and neck it down to accept a metric bullet that had a century of poor sales in the United States. But within about a decade the 6.5 Creedmoor was a hunting/shooting juggernaut.
The Creedmoor uses a case that is 0.115 inch shorter than the .260 and has a 30-degree shoulder to the Remington’s 20-degree shoulder. Despite its shorter case, the Creedmoor has roughly the same capacity as the .260 Rem.: 52.5 grains of water for the 6.5 versus 53.5 grains for the .260. And the 6.5 Creedmoor’s 0.295-inch neck—as opposed to the .260’s 0.259-inch neck—can accept long, high ballistic coefficient bullets. Creedmoor rifles also come with a faster 1:8 twist barrel than the 1:9 found on most .260s, which helps the Creedmoor stabilize the longest, heaviest 6.5 bullets.
When you compare Hornady’s 130-grain ELD Match (G1 BC .506) .260 load against its 147-grain ELD Match (G1 BC .697) 6.5 Creedmoor load, the advantages of the high BC bullet become clear. The Creedmoor load has an initial velocity of 2,695 fps, well behind that of the Remington’s 2,840 fps. The .260 Rem.’s trajectory is flatter than the Creedmoor until about 700 yards, and that’s when the differences show up. By 1,000 yards the .260 Rem. has dropped 18 inches below the Creedmoor’s point of impact. And in a 10-mph crosswind at 1,000 feet of elevation, the .260 Rem. drifts 10 inches more in the wind than the Creedmoor at 700 yards. By 1,000 yards the difference is almost two feet. That’s a lot.
If you’re a dedicated long-range shooter, there are a lot of good high BC target loads over 140 grains for the 6.5 Creedmoor. There are, to be fair, some relatively heavy .260 Rem. target loads like Federal’s 142-grain Gold Medal Match, but the Creedmoor still holds slightly heavier bullets. What if you don’t care to shoot long range and want a 6.5/.264 hunting rifle for shot to 400 yards on deer-size game? In that case, the playing field is even. When you compare Federal’s 120-grain .260 Rem. Fusion load against its 130-grain 6.5 Creedmoor Terminal Ascent load, you can see just how closely the two rounds compare for most hunting.
The Fusion’s muzzle velocity is 2,950 fps while the Terminal Ascent’s is 2,800, and the .260 shoots flatter to 400 yards. The Creedmoor has a couple hundred more foot-pounds of energy at 400 yards, but both bullets carry more than 1,000 foot-pounds. The Creedmoor drifts less than the .260 Rem. at 200 yards, but the difference is only about an inch. At 400 yards the difference is 3.5 inches in favor of the Creedmoor.
In terms of availability of ammo and rifles, the Creedmoor is the runaway winner. You’ll have to keep a sharp eye out for .260 ammo, and rifles will be harder to come by. If you’re a deer hunter, either cartridge will likely suit you equally well. However, if you’re pushing things past 700 yards or simply want to see what all the fuss is about, go with the 6.5 Creedmoor. No matter which you choose, you’ll have a rifle that produces mild recoil and works wonders on deer-size game.