September 21, 2022
The 6.5 Creedmoor has quickly established itself as one of the most popular deer hunting cartridges, and the round’s new-found renown is not without merit. The 6.5 Creedmoor fires heavy-for-caliber 6.5mm bullets at a reasonable velocity and offers up all this ballistic goodness with minimal recoil and impressive accuracy.
The 6.5 Creedmoor’s massive popularity has prompted virtually every ammunition manufacturer to load for this round, and that has helped to keep ammo costs low. A box of reliable Creedmoor deer ammunition won’t cost more than what you’re paying for .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield from the same maker. But there are a few bargains when you’re shopping for your next 6.5 Creedmoor deer load. If you see these rounds on the shelf you can scoop them up knowing full well that’s you’re getting a great value.
Hornady American Whitetail 129 Grain
Hornady’s American Whitetail 6.5 Creedmoor load comes with a 129-grain InterLock bullet, which is a proven performer on deer. It’s a cup-and-core bullet that derives its name from the elevated ring positioned near the base of the bullet. This ring helps ensure that the jacket and core don’t separate and this, in turn, results in deadly, straight-line penetration. The 129-grain is a bit lighter than some other 6.5 Creedmoor loads, but this isn’t Hornady’s go-to long-range Creedmoor target bullet. Instead, it’s a traditional hunting bullet that’s been knocking down deer for 45 years, and since it’s loaded to Hornady standards you can be assured that this load utilizes high-quality powder, cases, and primers despite its reasonable price point. There’s nothing fancy about the American Whitetail load (except perhaps the packaging), but this is one of the original bullets that put Hornady on the map loaded into a cartridge that the company designed themselves.
Federal Fusion 140 Grain
The Fusion bullet is a very clever and, I believe, underappreciated projectile design. For years hunters have known that bonding a bullet’s lead core and copper jacket to one another resulted in consistent performance and a reduced risk of core/jacket serration. Traditionally, bullets were bonded by heating the lead core and bonding it to the jacket, a process similar to soldering. Fusion bullets are different. They begin life as a lead core that, through an electrochemical bonding process that the engineers at Vista Outdoors have perfected, the bullet’s copper jacket is applied to the outside of the core. The bullet and core are then attached, and skiving on the nose ensures consistent performance. Traditional bonding is costly, but Fusion’s electrochemical bonding process allows these bonded bullets to be priced closer traditional cup-and-core ammo. The 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor Fusion load is designed with the whitetail hunter in mind, and you can expect excellent accuracy and reliable expansion at a price that’s lower than other bonded bullets.
Norma Whitetail 140 Grain
On the surface, Norma Whitetail 6.5 Creedmoor seems like your basic deer load: it utilizes a 140-grain lead core, copper jacketed bullet with a flat base. The exposed lead nose doesn’t have any colorful polymer tip, and these look very much like the bullets our fathers and grandfathers used to hunt deer in days long past. But this is Norma’s take on whitetail deer ammunition, so it should come as no surprise that this ammunition performs to the company’s high standards. Whitetail ammunition is built in Norma’s state-of-the-art facility in Amotfors, Sweden using Norma premium brass. That’s music to the ears of handloaders who hold Norma brass in the highest esteem, and rightly so. But you don’t need to fire and handload this ammunition to get premium performance: during testing, I’ve found Norma Whitetail to produce consistent velocities and accuracy. The exposed lead tip bullet design remains popular today because, well, it works wonders on whitetails. Think of this as the traditional cup and core deer hunting bullet perfected—and fairly priced.
Browning BXR 129 Grain
Browning’s BXR bullet features the brand’s Rapid Expansion Matrix Tip, which is made of a blend of polymer and copper. Upon impact, the tip expands rapidly and the hollow point bullet continues to penetrate and transfer shock. The design is streamlined, and so not surprisingly this 129-grain 6.5mm bullet has a higher BC (.557) than most of the other bullets listed here, allowing it to buck wind and retain energy for long shots. BXR ammunition that I’ve tested in 6.5 Creedmoor has proven extremely accurate, and it has proven very impressive on deer. A few years ago while hunting Kentucky a very large, heavy-bodied buck stepped out that, until that time, I’d only seen in trail camera photos. The 129-grain BXR bullet struck just behind the shoulder, the buck made it a couple steps, and down he went. That’s excellent performance from a deer hunting bullet, but BXR is also relatively affordable.
Winchester Deer Season XP 125 Grain
Winchester has been making some of the most popular deer cartridges for some time, and the Deer Season XP is a favorite. The bullet uses Winchester's Extreme Point bullet, which uses an oversized impact diameter to create larger wound cavaties for quicker knockdowns. Out-of-the-box velocity is going to be around 2,850 fps from the muzzle, and the bullet maintains impact energy well at distance. The bullet uses an alloyed lead core with a tapered jacket, and the nature of the round gives it a flat trajectory over distance. The Winchester Deer Season XP 125-grain 6.5 Creedmoor is already well-established as an effective cartridge, making it an ideal choice for midwestern deer season.