June 18, 2020
By Brad Fitzpatrick
The cartridges duking it out in this month’s Clash have a combined market lifespan of less than three years. Hornady launched the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) in 2018 while Weatherby released the 6.5 RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum) in late 2019.
Let’s start with the 6.5 PRC. Hornady had unprecedented success with the 6.5 Creedmoor. But good as the Creedmoor is, its performance wanes out past 1,000 yards.
For those who wanted a 6.5 that was better suited to really, really long shots—primarily PRS shooters and long-range addicts—the 6.5 PRC was the answer. It’s based on the .300 Ruger Compact Magnum, and although it requires a magnum bolt face, the PRC will fit in a short action and doesn’t require a 26-inch barrel for optimum performance.
It also shoots Hornady’s heavy 143- and 147-grain bullets that long-range shooters and hunters adore, but it sends them out of the barrel at least 200 fps faster than the Creedmoor (2,960 for the 143-grain ELD-X; 2,910 for the ELD Match). The PRC was built to be a match round, but hunters are learning to love this cartridge.
We move from Grand Island, Nebraska, to Sheridan, Wyoming. With the release of the new family of Weatherby Mark V rifles in 2019 came a new cartridge, the 6.5 RPM, that was expressly designed to make the most of the company’s trim six-lug Mark V action. The 6.5 RPM ditches the traditional belt and venturi shoulder that have come to symbolize Weatherby cartridges in favor of a rebated .473-inch rim and a 35-degree shoulder.
Despite their similarities, the 6.5 PRC and 6.5 RPM are opposites in some regards. The PRC requires a magnum bolt face but fits in a short action whereas the RPM utilizes a standard-diameter bolt but demands a long action.
Manufacturer-supplied velocity figures show the RPM is slightly faster than the PRC, but not by much. With factory loads the RPM will push a 140-grain InterLock bullet out the pipe at 2,975 fps, and it makes 3,075 fps with a 140-grain AccuBond. That beats the figures for the Hornady bullets in the PRC slightly, but the PRC is firing slightly heavier bullets with higher ballistic coefficients.
The RPM’s case capacity is greater than the PRC, but the PRC’s neck design allows bullets to be seated farther out, and the PRC’s throat design already has a reputation for gilt-edge accuracy. Higher-BC PRC bullets carry energy better, too. At 200 yards all of the RPM loads beat the PRC’s energy figures. At 400 yards the PRC takes the lead, though, and at 500 yards the PRC retains 100 ft.-lbs. more energy than any of the RPM loads.
The RPM offers three factory loads to the PRC’s two. In addition to the two 140 offerings, the RPM is also available with Barnes 127-grain LRX bullets at a scorching 3,225 fps. Weatherby is the sole supplier of RPM ammo at the current time, and it’s going to cost you between $50 and $65 for a box of 20.
Hornady’s ammo is cheaper. As of this writing, Brownells offers both the 143-and 147-grain ammo for just $38 a box. Rifles in 6.5 PRC are available from a variety of manufacturers, and Mossberg’s Patriot offers a low-cost entry into the PRC market. But the RPM is available in the new ultra-light Mark V rifles, which are purpose-built for high mountain hunting.
Realistically, these two cartridges are both outstanding, and they’ll both take most of the big game in the world without beating you to death or costing you a fortune. The available Mark V rifle options will make the RPM appealing to mountain hunters, but long-range shooters will love the PRC’s extreme accuracy potential and impressive 1,000-yard-plus ballistic performance.