6.5 PRC Calibre Review
- Monday, 14 March 2022
We review the 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge and consider is suitability for UK deer stalkers.
When I first started deer stalking, if someone mentioned a 6.5 calibre, they would almost certainly have been referring to the 6.5 Swedish.
Today, they may be referencing any number of 6.5 calibres. There is the 6.5 Creedmoor the 6.5 Grendel, the .260 Remington, the 6.5-284 Norma, and the .264 Winchester Magnum. There is also the new kid on the block, the 6.5 PRC which arrived as recently as 2018.
The 6.5 PRC has been the brainchild of George Gardner, owner of GA Precision who has worked long and hard at delivering a calibre intended specifically for Precision Rifle shooting, a sport that has seen a drive toward better and better ballistic coefficients.
For those unfamiliar with Precision Rifle, the discipline requires that during a timed competition, competitors are assessed on their ability to engage a series of targets from a variety of shooting positions, at unknown distances from just a few yards out to 1200 yards.
The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) has proven to be a hugely successful shooting sport. Originally derived from Practical Shooting and originating in the US around 2012, the number of active competitors has increased from 164 to over 15,000. In the UK it has also spawned the Precision Rifle League (PRL) which is also gathering steam.
I have written before about Precision Rifle and have looked at why so many precision rifle shooters have made the transition from Precision Rifle to deer hunting, and when writing this piece, referenced the increasingly popular 6.5 Creedmoor as the go-to choice of many PR shooters.
You can read more about Precision Rifle here: precision-rifle-uk
Developed in partnership with Hornady and Creedmoor Sporting in 2007, there was no denying my admiration for the 6.5 Creedmoor, in fact should I be making the choice today between my beloved .308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor, it is to the Creedmoor that I would turn. Albeit there has simply not been enough between the two calibres to make the transition worthwhile when one considered the ballistic advantages out to say 300 yards, a distance beyond which most self-respecting deer stalkers would elect to stalk in closer. It is after all called ‘stalking’ and not ‘long-range deer sniping' for a reason.
But what about the 6.5 PRC, does this make the transition worthwhile? With factory ammunition the 6.5 PRC propels the same 143 grain bullet 260fps faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor, meaning it has a flatter trajectory, more retained energy, and less wind drift than the 6.5 Creedmoor at typical hunting ranges.
However, I also have a .300 Win Mag. Why do I mention this? Well, the 6.5PRC is essentially a 6.5 Creedmoor Magnum, so might reasonably be compared with other magnums. Therefore, if I wouldn’t bother swapping my .308 for the 6.5 Creedmoor, would I exchange it for the 6.5PRC? Or does my 300 Winchester Magnum do the job just as well?
Questions, questions. Well, let’s have a closer look at the ballistics and why the Precision Rifle boys and girls like the PRC so much.
Based on the criteria of bullet drop and retained energy the above charts make it clear that at extended ranges of 300 yards and more the .308 is surpassed by both the PRC and 6.5 Creedmoor, but whilst the 6.5 PRC is superior to the 6.5 Creedmoor, it is only when rounds get beyond 500 yards, that it begins to surpass the 300 Win Mag, prior to which, the 300 Win Mag remains in top spot.
How I wish it were that simple!
There are other trifling matters, not least of which are accuracy, recoil, wind drift and the speed of cycling a round.
In regard to speed of cycling, the .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor have shorter casings (51.18mm and 48.77mm respectively) and are designed for short-action rifles. The 300 Win Mag’ with a case length of 66.55mm requires a longer bolt throw and the 6.5 PRC is somewhere in between, but in truth, just in excess of the length generally accepted as ‘short-action’.
Of course, the additional energy, resistance to wind drift and flatter trajectory all help when engaging game at longer ranges and in theory will improve the hunter’s ability to place a well-aimed shot, but that downrange energy comes at a price.
Most people, including myself, shoot smaller calibres more accurately than larger calibres, this is simply due to the tendency to ‘flinch’ in anticipation of recoil, which, as one would expect, broadly increases with performance. In fairness the PRC only has marginally more recoil than the 6.5 Creedmoor, nonetheless, the questions that you should ask yourself are; How recoil shy am I, do I really need all that extra downrange energy and am I taking shots at extended ranges where I need a flat trajectory?
Ballistically the 6.5 PRC is undoubtedly superb, but we are not Precision Rifle competitors. The wise hunter selects calibres that he or she can shoot most accurately at ranges they are most likely to encounter game. In short, your calibre choice should be fit for purpose.
If you hunt mainly Red stag in the Scottish Highlands where typically animals are encountered at longer ranges and high winds can result in substantial bullet drift, the 6.5 PRC is something you should seriously consider. If, however, you are hunting Roe and Fallow in woodland where the deer are smaller and ranges shorter, you may find that you shoot more consistently with a milder recoiling rifle.
Ultimately George Gardener has created a calibre perfectly suited to Precision Rifle, whether it has a place in UK deer stalking where most shots are taken at ranges less than 300 yards is to say the least arguable. And then of course, as with all new calbres, there is the availability of ammunition!
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