Cartridge Clash: 6.5-.284 Norma vs 6.5 PRC

Long before the current long-range shooting craze swept the nation, rifle cranks had a soft spot for .264-inch/6.5mm bullets. With their long profile and high ballistic coefficients, the 6.5s could buck the wind and shoot well at extreme ranges. So when the rebated-rimmed .284 Win. was released in the 1960s, it wasn’t long until wildcatters decided to experiment by necking-down the .284 case to hold 6.5mm bullets.

The resulting cartridge, the 6.5-.284, which was eventually standardized by Norma, provided plenty of powder capacity in the .284 case to push a 140-grain 6.5 bullet at velocities exceeding 2,900 fps with the right powder. The high B.C. bullets offered relatively flat trajectories, and recoil was quite manageable.

Hornady helped set the current 6.5 renaissance in motion with the introduction of the 6.5 Creedmoor, and it recently introduced the 6.5 PRC. Based on a necked-down .300 Ruger Compact Mag. case, the 6.5 PRC offers a short-action 6.5 that generates magnum-caliber numbers without excessive muzzle blast, barrel wear or recoil.

The Norma cartridge had a significant head start on the 6.5 PRC, and there are more factory loads available for the 6.5-284 from Norma, Nosler and HSM. Hornady is the only company currently offering factory loads for the 6.5 PRC, and currently there are two options: the Precision Hunter load with 143-grain ELD-X bullets and a Match load with 147-grain ELD Match bullets.

However, the Hornady ammunition is significantly less expensive than factory 6.5-284 Norma ammo. You can expect to pay between $40 and $70 per box for factory-loaded 6.5-.284 ammo—with the average price being $55 per box. You’ll spend only about $35 per box on Hornady’s 6.5 PRC, about 80 cents less per shot compared to the 6.5-.284.

While handloaders can get top performance from the 6.5-.284, factory loads for it are reeled in a bit. When compared side-by-side, the factory figures for the 6.5 PRC beat the 6.5-.284 Norma number’s significantly. Hornady’s 143-grain ELD-X load achieves a velocity of 2,960 fps from the muzzle while Nosler’s Trophy Grade 140-grain AccuBond load is closer to 2,750 fps.

This 6.5-.284 load drops four more inches than the PRC at 400 yards, and it’s 10 inches below the Hornady load at 500 yards. The difference in velocity also makes a significant difference in retained energy. The 6.5 PRC carries almost 450 ft.-lbs. more punch than the 6.5-.284 at 500 paces, although it’s worth noting the Nosler load generates less recoil and blast.

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Both are short-action cartridges, with the advantages this design brings, but the PRC doesn’t have a rebated rim like the 6.5-284, which some regard with suspicion in terms of reliable feeding. That will tip the scales for some shooters.

The 6.5 PRC is a new cartridge, and not all new cartridges fare well (take, for instance, the PRC’s parent cartridge). The 6.5-.284’s parent cartridge faded away long ago, and one would have expected the 6.5-.284 to meet the same fate, but it soldiers on and in fact is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. To wit, Savage is now chambering it, as is Nosler. Other companies, including custom shops, have or are chambering it, so guns are out there.

There are fewer factory rifles chambered in 6.5 PRC, but there are a lot of companies that have either added 6.5 PRC offerings or plan to in the future. The list includes Sauer, Montana Rifle, Savage, Seekins Precision, Proof Research and others.

In terms of effectiveness on game, both are exceptional rounds that offer flat trajectories, great wind-bucking capabilities, heavy bullets that penetrate well and mild recoil, so you’re a winner regardless of which round you ultimately choose.

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