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6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester: A Battle of Ballistic Coefficients

Old 06-17-2021, 09:35 PM
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Default 6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester: A Battle of Ballistic Coefficients

When it comes to long range shooting, two calibers that cannot be ignored are the 6.5 Creedmoor and the venerable 308 Winchester.

Although the 308 Winchester (7.62 NATO) has been a staple in the long-range target shooting community since its inception over 60 years ago, the 6.5 Creedmoor simply outperforms the 308 Winchester in almost every category when shooting out past 500 yards.

In this article, we are going to go through a detailed comparison of 308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor and explain the pros and cons of each cartridge, as well as discuss the ballistics data for these two popular calibers.

Break out your sandbags, bipods, and spotting scopes because we are going to squeeze the trigger and let it fly on long range shooting today!

What is 308?

In 1952, the U.S. Military started developing a replacement for the long-serving 30-06 Springfield cartridge (military designation: M2 Ball or 7.62x63mm).

Although the 30-06 Springfield had honorably served through both World Wars and Korea, the US Military wanted to develop a new cartridge that was lighter and more suitable for fully automatic rifle fire.

With advancements in rifle powder technology and case design in the 1950s, the new 7.62x51mm NATO rifle round was able to achieve neatly identical ballistic performance as the 30-06 Springfield with a shorter cartridge case length (63mm vs 51mm) and lower overall weight.

The US Army officially adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO round in 1958 and it has been in service ever since.

Seeing the potential of the cartridge in the civilian market, Winchester was quick to adapt the new rifle round to its Model 70 bolt action rifle. The civilian version of the 7.62x51mm NATO was named the 308 Winchester.

The 308 Winchester has since become the most popular big game hunting round in the world with bullet weights ranging between 120 to 180 grains.

308 ammo is available in a variety of loadings for varmint hunters, big game hunters, and F-Class Tactical Rifle shooters alike.

As the 308 Winchester was also adopted by other NATO nations, the amount of surplus ammo and components made by foreign manufacturers is also very plentiful.

The 308 Winchester is a clear upgrade to the 30-06 Springfield as the 308 has lower recoil, the round itself weighs less, it fits in a short action rifle, has lower pressure so it is more appropriate for use in gas powered rifles, and it has a slight advantage in accuracy over its older counterpart.

With all of these advantages, the 308 Winchester has been a staple for precision shooters in the military, law enforcement, and civilian life.

Although the 308 Winchester is the most prolific military cartridge to date, its true success came in the civilian market.

Hunters and target shooters are mostly to credit for the 308’s widespread success.

The most popular hunting ammo is sold with a 125, 150, 165, or 180 grain bullet and can be used effectively on big game across North America, Europe, and on safari in Africa. Of these rifle cartridges, the 150’s and 165’s are the most popular and will have a muzzle velocity around 2800 fps and 2650 fps, respectively.

For my readers who like to really air it out and enjoy long range shooting, the two most popular choices are the 168 and 175 grain bullet: either a Sierra Matchking Boattail Hollow Point or a Berger VLD Target.

However, what long-range target shooters have come to understand is that a slower, heavier bullet with a higher Ballistic Coefficient (BC) is preferred to a lighter bullet with a higher muzzle velocity when you are getting into longer ranges (800+ yards).

This is where the 6.5 Creedmoor comes into the picture.

What is 6.5 Creedmoor?

The development of the 6.5 Creedmoor round began in August of 2005 during Service Rifle Week at the National Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio.

As with most innovations, the genesis of the 6.5 Creedmoor came out of frustration – and that frustration came from legendary Service Rifle competitor and former US Marine, Dennis DeMille.

Several of the competitors at the National Matches were using a wildcat cartridge called the 6XC. Although the 6XC was winning matches, there was no published reloading data for the cartridge and it was consistently blowing out primers and breaking extractors (clearly they never called me about this problem!)

DeMille was working for the company that was the exclusive distributor of rifles chambered in 6XC, and competitors would come to him between strings of fire to ask for help (AKA complain).

DeMille had just about had enough of it and was about to throw in the towel and head home. Thankfully, he was sharing a condo with a good friend of his and soon the gripe session began.

That friend was none other than Dave Emary, the senior ballistician for Hornady Ammunition at the time.

Emary was able to talk DeMille off the ledge and asked him to give him a “wishlist” for the ideal long-range cartridge that could be used for “shooting across the course” (that’s High Power-speak for being viable for all the courses of fire in a High Power match.)

DeMille agreed and the next day he approached Emary with a list of 7 requirements for the new cartridge.

DeMille’s Dream Cartridge Wishlist Was:

• The cartridge must be able to fit into a magazine for the rapid fire stages of the competition
• Less recoil than a 308 Winchester for better follow-up shots and shooter comfort during rapid fire
• Flatter trajectory than a 308 with an accurate, high BC bullet
• Good barrel life
• Uses readily available reloading components so results can be duplicated
• Reloading recipes printed on the box
• Produced in quantities that could keep up with demand
• Emary took DeMille’s list back to Hornady and got to work on producing the ideal long range rifle cartridge.

Emary chose the relatively unknown 30 Thompson Center (30 T/C) as the parent cartridge for the 6.5 Creedmoor. He necked down the case to accept the more aerodynamic .264” diameter bullets and sharpened the shoulders to 30 degrees and the 6.5 Creedmoor was born.

Emary initially wanted to call the new round the 6.5 DeMille but DeMille would hear nothing of that. Instead, DeMille recommend the name “Creedmoor” in honor of the Creedmoor Rifle Range in Long Island, New York where the first National Matches were held.

And so, in 2007, Hornady unveiled their new 6.5 Creedmoor ammo at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

They didn’t have high hopes for this new cartridge and had no idea that the 6.5 Creedmoor was about to take the long range shooting scene by storm.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded in a variety of bullet weights that are typically separated into two categories. The Light Weight category, which ranges from 127 to 135 grain bullet weights, and the Heavy Weight category, which is loaded with 140 to 147 grain bullets.

The cartridge rim of the 6.5 Creedmoor is identical to the 308 Winchester, which means all that is needed to convert a precision rifle or semi-automatic rifle chambered in 308 Winchester to 6.5 Creedmoor is a barrel change. No need to buy a new rifle!

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Old 06-18-2021, 07:38 AM
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We see so many of these threads and blog posts online about 6.5 Creed versus 308 for long range shooting, and I really can’t wrap my head around why we’re still “debating” this. After 15 years with the 6.5 Creedmoor on the market, almost 25 years of the 260, over 60 years of the 7-08 and 243win, and over a hundred years comparing x55 Swede to ‘06 Springfield, I’m absolutely baffled that folks are still interested in kicking around the “308 vs. 6.5 creed” discussion.

Honestly, I’m convinced that if anybody is still missing the point, it’s only because they WANT to miss the point. Yes, 308win can be fired long range. Yes, 6.5 Creedmoor is objectively superior for the task in almost every valid aspect.

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Old 06-21-2021, 05:05 PM
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Nomercy I don't think its really a debate as, like you said, th 6.5 wins hands down. However some think the 6.5CM is the holy grail of cartridges when in fact it isn't. But an accurate, low recoiler, moderately log range cartridge it is. An hard to beat. My current 6.5CM is the most accurate rifle I've had in some time. 1/4 - 1/2 MOA is thenorm for it with its current loading.
I owned a couple 308s and frankly it never impressed me, especilly on game. I would much prefer a 7-08 or 6.5CM or even a 243 over the 308.
I'll likely get flack for that remark but that's fine. Its been my experience and I'll hold to it.

Last edited by bronko22000; 06-21-2021 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 06-21-2021, 07:19 PM
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It seems to me - observationally - that there are far more folks who make a lot of claims about “rabid 6.5 creed fanbois” than there are of rabid 6.5 creed fanbois actually making claims about the Creed...

Let’s be clear on two things:

1) Neither is a bad cartridge.

2) The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t “hard to beat.” There’s no competition format in which the 6.5 Creedmoor has a dominating share in the winners’ circle, and has NOT been for at least 6 years. It’s had a diminishing place at the table for a long time, but even since at LEAST 2015, it has not held a majority position among the shooters qualifying for the PRS finale (the game it was supposedly designed to dominate). In every competition format under the sun, it’s exceptionally easy to “beat” the 6.5 Creedmoor, which is why it’s not a dominating cartridge in any form of competition.

While the 6.5 creed smokes the older, slower, less aerodynamic 308win in every objective measure, it’s not a dominant competition cartridge. It’s a gateway drug that us competitors warn newbies to avoid because even it has too many weaknesses in the field of competition. But to the credit of the Creedmoor, the 308winchester is so far removed, a special handicap class exists to allow them to compete only against eachother (and 223rems).

For a casual shooter, either can be a viable option, just as a dozen or a hundred other cartridges could be. But when this particular ball continues to be kicked around, us in the competition side continue to see new COMPETITIVE shooters be mislead into buying a 6.5 Creedmoor, and inherently handicapping themselves. In the context of competition, the discussion between 6.5 creed and 308win is basically like discussing the best behaved kids in detention, or the fastest kids in the slow heat of a race... they don’t really deserve the attention they’re getting, because at the end of the day, determining which is “better” between these two is wholly irrelevant in a discussion for what is “best” for long range shooting competition (arguably also for casual long range shooting).

Every. single. season we see new competitors come out to play with 6.5 creeds which was bought based on discussions of “what’s best, a 6.5 creed or 308win?”, and within a couple matches, they realize their mistake, and wish they’d NOT bought a 6.5.

Last edited by Nomercy448; 06-22-2021 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:23 AM
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Mercy I understand where you're coming from. And like I said I don't believe the Creed is the best out there. There were a couple reasons why I purchased mine. I wanted something I could get in a LH action, components readily available, low recoil, accurate out to 600 or 700 yards all without going the custom route. The Bergara B14 HMR filled that bill nicely.
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Old 06-23-2021, 08:22 AM
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My comments above read more harshly than they should, but maybe not. There's not a week which goes by which doesn't see this debate rehashed over and over, which implies to new shooters that it's actually important. The 308win wasn't the "best option" for a new long range shooter before the 6.5 creed, and the 6.5 creed doesn't hold that title today now that it has arrived either. Both are fine options, but I'm hard pressed to pretend either is "best" - there are dozens of options which serve the task exceptionally well for the casual shooter, and further, there are multiple options for competitive shooters which distinctly overshadow either of these... So why this particular discussion continues to get so much attention after FIFTEEN YEARS absolutely escapes me...

Much more productive to describe what makes a good cartridge for long range shooting, limitations, and defining cartridges among a matrix of parameters, rather than simply beating the same drum comparing these two.

Last edited by Nomercy448; 06-23-2021 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 06-23-2021, 11:59 AM
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I got a chance to shoot a friends 6.5 Credemore for the first time a few months back. The thing I liked about the 6.5 was the low recoil. It really made it easy to put a sub-moa group downrange. My first group at 100 yards all 5 the holes touched. I cursed my buddy for making me want another caliber.
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Old 06-27-2021, 02:25 PM
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I can see why the 6.5 Creedmoor continues to get compared to other traditional cartridges since it's one of the newest factory cartridges that was ostensibly developed for long range shooting. I read the OP's article and his link to the 2nd half of that article and it still leaves one with lots of questions. The article mentions 1,000 performance for the military but only gives statistics out to 400 yards. The articles makes a lot of claims for the 6.5CM but doesn't back them up or explain them. Claiming "about 30% less felt recoil" is a meaningless claim without knowing the rifles compared, bullet weights, MV, etc. While on that subject, the ballistics chart simply lists several bullets of a certain weight for both calibers without even mentioning the brand, style of bullet, SD, etc. I like to read articles like this when I learn something. I don't enjoy reading them when I am left with several questions about the very process used to compare both calibers. Not trying to offend but A- for effort but D- for content. Hopefully this helps upgrade future articles.

NoMercy, you made comments about the 308 and 6.5, claiming they were okay (I happen to agree) but there were much better calibers/rounds to use. Which ones? And why? I'm not a long range shooter and don't compete but I still like to read about it and learn. I may never compete in a PRS match but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to figure out what works best for one and see if I can incorporate it into some of my longer range shooting.
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Old 06-27-2021, 08:50 PM
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I would enjoy reading about other calibers as well. The gun mags don't have much incentive to write about other calibers since their job is to advertise.
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Old 06-27-2021, 09:06 PM
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Originally Posted by elkman30
I can see why the 6.5 Creedmoor continues to get compared to other traditional cartridges since it's one of the newest factory cartridges that was ostensibly developed for long range shooting.
"One of the newest" isn't discrete, so maybe I'm splitting hairs, but there have been a lot of new cartridges developed in the last 15 years, many of which out perform the 6.5 creed in various aspects, and a handful of which are assuredly more intriguing for one or another particular feature than the 6.5 creed... And of course, this doesn't explicate at all why there's so much attention given to this particular comparison. Considering "new cartridges designed for long range performance" in the context of the 15yrs the 6.5 creed has been around, we have the 6.8 Westerner, 6.5 PRC, 300 PRC, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 33 Noslers, 6 creed, 6 ARC, 277 Fury, 7mm valkyrie, around a dozen Sherman and Sherman Short cartridges... But for some reason, 2007 defines "new" and for some other reason, 308win defines the gold standard, and for yet another reason altogether, bloggers seem to think we're all fascinated by the same comparison between these two...

Originally Posted by elkman30
NoMercy, you made comments about the 308 and 6.5, claiming they were okay (I happen to agree) but there were much better calibers/rounds to use. Which ones? And why? I'm not a long range shooter and don't compete but I still like to read about it and learn. I may never compete in a PRS match but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to figure out what works best for one and see if I can incorporate it into some of my longer range shooting.
The sources of my frustration with this particular topic - "6.5 creed vs. 308win" - are twofold:

1) The novelty has thoroughly worn off as these posts have been regurgitated over. and. over. for the past 15years. Various blog sites have all done a poor job at "putting a new twist" or "telling the rest of the story" in this comparison, because there's really nothing so interesting or novel to discuss about it. We've known for over a hundred years that a faster cartridge with a higher ballistic coefficient is easier to manage at long range, offering a higher impact probability. The world first observed a a fast and aerodynamic 6.5x55 Swede Mauser burning down the capabilities of the blunt and sluggish .30-30 Winchester as far back as 1895, so why should we be so surprised and so intrigued when the laws of physics have not changed a century later? Why does every blog under the sun feel compelled to pump out the same story over. and. over. for a decade and a half? Wouldn't the world think it strange if every auto blog under the sun were pumping out a comparison of a 1952 Ford F-150 and a 2007 Dodge Ram every week? Are we all supposed to be surprised when the more modern engine has better gas mileage and higher horsepower - or surprised the ride quality and driveability is improved (the '52 F series lacking power steering especially) in the more modern pickup?

2) This undeserved attention implies the comparison is truly meaningful - a decisive debate determining the "better" of these two should have meaning, right? If we're so fixated on determining which of these two is "better," then shouldn't one or the other be at least somewhat close to "best" for something? But for the competitor, any competitor, there's no discipline - PRS included - in which either of these cartridges offer dominating performance. So much so, that the 308win even has it's own handicapped classes in multiple shooting disciplines... It lags so far behind other successful cartridges in these disciplines that special "bumper bowling" classes are created to allow it to be competitive on its own scale... Palma, Service rifle, Heavy Metal 3 gun, PRS Tac class... In other words, being "better" than the 308win in EVERY shooting sport discipline is exceptionally easy. The 6.5 Creed equally does not capture any dominating performance position in any shooting sport discipline - not even in PRS. So while all of these gun-blogs are pumping over and over the analogous article of 1952 F-150 versus 2007 Dodge Ram, I'm wondering why we care at all, when neither are winning Nascar races, neither are winning funny car drags, neither are leading the market for horsepower or gas mileage or towing capacity... Just two relatively arbitrary pickups in a broad market and a long history of pickups...

Demonstrably, there's no shooting sport discipline for which either of these are the "best choice." But equally, when we remove the specific demands of competitive shooting, the relevance of any singular cartridge as "best" is largely diminished to pedantic irrelevancy. The context of each casual shooter's available range and individual desires and expectations bend the performance definitions for "best" significantly. If a shooter wants low cost options to shoot zero to 600yrds, a 223remington is a more affordable and more readily available option than either. If a person wants to hunt deer at 600-800yrds, there are higher energy options available which are better choices, like 6.5 PRC, 7rem mag, 300 PRC, etc.. If a person simply wants to learn to manage long range trajectories, a 22LR and a 300yrd range is hard to beat. In specific context where either the 6.5 creed or 308win shine brightly, a dozen or more other cartridges shine as brightly or moreso, depending upon what other contextual attributes are included in the calculus. A 7mm-08, 260rem, 243win, 6 creed, Dasher, BR/BRA/BRX, PPC, 6 ARC, 243LBC, 6.5 Grendel, 7x57mauser, 6.5x55 swede, 25-06, 257roberts.... a long, long list of cartridges offering high ballistic coefficients, moderate to high velocities, low recoil and low powder consumption will all suit the demand.

In short, for any form of competition, neither of these cartridges are relevant. For any casual, non-competitor, the differentiation between the two is equally irrelevant among a dozen or more other cartridges which do the same task as well or better - so "better" between the two in either competitive or non-competitive context certainly isn't nearly as important as these inundating and repetitive articles might have us believe.

The comparison can be a great case study in fundamentals of long range shooting - a revisit of the Litz article analyzing the WEZ for each; a sensitivity analysis of various variables for long range shooting - wind reading accuracy, group size, cartridge performance... But the comparison is directional at best, a comparative case study of how fundamentals of ballistics influence real world difficulty, or ease, in trajectory management and influence hit probability at range. But short of the Litz article and the subsequent PRB post thereabout, we really haven't seen THAT instruction being made, which might point many shooters PAST either of these choices..
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