Everyone Wants One- Why?
6.5creedmoor loading trips and tricks to extract the best from your setup.
Everyone wants one – a 6.5creedmoor, this round that has ballistically been around for many years, it remains and increases in its popularity. In various formats like the 260rem, 6.5×47, 6.5x284Norma, the performance given by the 6.5creedmoor was already available years ago however kudos to Hornady for the marketing work they did on it but especially for ensuring that there is enough commercially available ammo for it, well almost, there’s never enough ammo especially in the current geopolitical situation.
That allows manufacturers to pursue this route and as we know, if you can find the ammo, it makes your life easier when you don’t handload or want to sit at the handloading table. This appeals to many and Hornady knows it well. Hornady’s marketing copy reads as follows:
Delivering world-class performance in a factory-loaded cartridge.
“Developed in 2007 after a casual conversation at the National Matches at Camp Perry, the 6.5 Creedmoor has become the world’s most popular modern cartridge. From prairie dogs, to coyotes, deer and even elk, its versatility is legendary. This high-performance, match-accurate round features an excellent cartridge-to-chamber relationship and shoots well in all guns, regardless of price. Shooters worldwide can’t get enough of the 6.5 Creedmoor – and we’re pretty proud of it, too!”
Together with it’s already known and proven ballistic performance, it made hitting smaller targets at distance easier, low recoil and a small amount of powder charge makes it an attractive proposition, especially when everyone is talking about it… I was told it is easy to load for as well so this was a perfect opportunity to do some load development for this 6.5creedmoor. The combination of high BC bullets especially the line of A-tips by Hornady makes this little round a very interesting proposition. Remember that the older sister to the 6.5creedmoor, the 6.5x284Norma conquered many 1000yard matches with the 142gr SMK load for years. I still recall a DVD by David Tubb showing him shoot this round at a mile when I was still in my early teens.
I won’t go into the history of the round development, there’s a lot of content already out there about that. My interest is extracting the best out of a cartridge/rifle combo to make it worth my time. I still prefer the 308Win for wind training purposes, it’s a work mule but I don’t want to loose a match coz i’m shooting a ‘training round’. When possible I will always have the best cartridge for a match which is where my interest for the high performance cartridges lies.
6.5creedmoor Load Development
My objective is to manage to complete this in 50 rounds and to keep my groups around 1″ or better at 300meters. For a rifle of this purpose, that is plenty good for most targets you will engage. If not necessary, it will give you the confidence to know that your load and rifle can do the work. Follow me into this weekend’s work and process to extract the best in the most efficient way possible. I don’t have a 300m range on my doorstep, i travel to neighboring italy for my load development work so over the last 18 years, I had learned from some of the better shooters out there a process which typically enables me to do this in <50 rounds by being selective and data driven as much as possible. This Desert tech SRS A2 has a trigger set around 580grams circa 20 ounces so not an FClass trigger tech or Sidge Triggers by any means but it works.
A few months back I received a barrel in 6.5creedmoor for my desert tech SRS A2 from Solid Solution Designs. This barrel is a Bartlein 1.8 twist 28″ long. In this bullpup format, you can’t tell how long that barrel is. It also sports a sidewinder muzzlebreak from Area419. It has a CIP chamber. I wanted to shoot 140gr Sierra Match Kings for this keeping it also on the lower cost side of things for a trainer. I already invest alot in ELR related rounds so this must be kept on a ‘budget’ if there’s anything like that in this world of precision rifles…
Solid Solution Design offer numerous ELR related rifles and accessories and are located in the Netherlands. We don’t get to shoot ELR all the time mainly due to the distance involved to reach our training ground so a 6.5creedmoor does a good job of keeping us in good shooting order at a fraction of the cost. This Desert Tech is meant to be a platform from which I could switch from this 6.5creedmoor to 300Norma Mag, 33XC or 37XC this enabling shooting in numerous conditions. The 33/37XC format had some issues with primary extraction on which I’m waiting a new bolt face to be able to rectify the issue.
Below, the Desert Tech SRSA2 this time fitted with David Tubb’s 37XC ELR cartridge, barrel is a Bartlein in 34″ barrel and a Dan Warner Muzzlebreak – one of the best in the business and definitely, the best finished I have seen.
Firstly, I tried some Hornady 140ELDM factory ammo to see what the performance was like, i took it to our Trapani Range in Sicily where we have access to 2000m, same location as Extreme Shot Italia III Venue.
The range is split in two and there is an area with targets from 200-1000meters spread out across the course in 100m increments and another higher range that starts from 680 – 1640m with a further firing point range at 2000m.
This is excellent testing grounds. the targets can be as small as 5×4 inch or as large as 15″. I ran my zero at 100m, it was alright but not tight enough, I like my 100m groups to be almost one hole so we can have that nice 1″ at 300m. Maybe the barrels needs a few rounds through so let’s start.
I did a few more groups at 500m, they stayed on the 2MOA plate. I also took it out to the 900m target with a few good edge of plate hits and respectable 10 inch group. No flags on this range so it’ boils down to what you can see and decipher.
Hornady 6.5 ELD-M 140 Grain load performance
Meanwhile I gathered the velocity data as I was running this barrel in with the Hornady factory Match ammo. The high was 2809fts and 2726fts low giving an ES of 83 over 25 rounds. If you’re shooting IPSC style targets, you won’t necessarily see the difference.
Squeeze into smaller targets, and that ES will start to bite you. Again, having commercially available ammo is important, it enables us to shoot on the fly when we may not have time to load. In europe a box of these is €66\ $70 per 20. At €3.30each, it’s not really plinking ammo but thankfully it’s available. Here’s the string measured using the SpeedTracker which was sent to me for these tests and a few others i’m working on.
6.5creedmoor Long range testing
Sicily is amazing shooting ground for long range shooting and thankfully, it’s almost on my doorstep, a two hour ferry ride and a few hours drive brings me to this awesome ELR shooting grounds in Trapani on the North West side, about 1 hour away from Palermo. A touristic area with lots of potential, great value and hospitable people. A place we have come to love and respect.
We engaged large and small targets with the 6.5creedmoor. That small coldbore target is at 419meters here, a nice challenge. We put 6/8 rounds on it with the Hornady 6.5ELDM Ammo.
I ran two boxes of this ammo to run the barrel in. The performance was Ok but it wasn’t as tight as I like the gun of this level to shoot. I also looked at the string of fire recorded over SpeedTracker, I knew the ES could be improved. Thanks to SpeedTracker and Solid Solution Design who sent me two units of theirs to test on my various rifles and collect some data, and that’s what we have been doing collecting data over tens of rounds in various weather conditions especially big bore.
I also wanted to use this Hornady brass for my later load development so this would be done on 1x fired brass which I prefer as the cases would be blown out on my chamber and the volume more consistent. I anneal all of these cases on the trusted AMP Annealer gen II which I got from Armeria Regina in Italy.
6.5creedmoor Quickload Data
I prepared some data on Quickload to see what sort of velocity I could expect. I measured my base to ogive distance at 2.755 touching the lands and moved back 0.015 from that to start off.
As pressure increased, the changes from predicted to actual increased as well as seen in column ‘Difference’ but the starting point was good, only 5ft/s at 39grains of N550.
I also record the increase in velocity as I increase the charge by 0.3grains in this load development. The charges were weighed using a supertrickler with the A&D scales.
Man, it is awesome if a little pricey but it uses one of the most respected laboratory scales in the business. more on that another day.
Roughly, we get about 21ft/s increase per 0.3 grain or 7fts per 0.1 grain of N550. I took this device with me to the range to be comfortable to load there. The yellow nodes were those I was interested pursuing after I shot the latter test.
My ladder test charges for the 6.5creedmoor were these below, together with others using a base charge of 39gr to be topped up later after the ladder test. 16 rounds for ladder testing from which I collected the data seen above.
I used Whidden dies with whidden bushings for FL sizing, ARC Ballistics expander at .2625″ which is very good quality and Whidden Seating Die with micrometer gage. This is easily transportable to the range.
All my loading kit can be moved to the range including the press which I have mounted on a purposely made wooden base to be portable.
Happy days on the 300m loading range doing what I enjoy best.
6.5creedmoor ladder test
Below you can see the rounds shot at the 300meter ladder test recording velocity at 21 Celcius. The ladder test showed a high and a low node spreading a maximum of 4.9 inches over the 321 feet/s spread across the 4.5grain charges. (N550)
Keep it practical.
Then I picked 3 nodes and loaded 5x rounds of the ones that had shot very tightly together not withstanding the change in velocity and powder charge. Note: the velocity nodes weren’t very evident as in some other instances.
They were close but I didn’t get that very wide charge node where the velocity doesn’t change as you increase the powder charge, typically characterized by a flat graph. Notice that the ladder test graph below, has very little flat nodes where the velocity stays the same as I increased the powder charge.
This shows me the powder charge window that I can possibly have in which even though the charge changes, the velocity increase is hopefully minimal providing a more stable load.
Preferably the impacts would be in the same horizontal and ideally I get both same point of impact and minimal ES in velocity.
I used a 40x March scope, preferably even higher mag of the 8-80x on a very early morning before the mirage starts to temper with my poa for load development. I used the top part of my reticle to align the aiming mark with the black stadia of the POA on target to have a VERY fine HOLD.
This allows for better and minimal error. I fired 5 groups adjusting only windage between the three groups to print them in different parts of the target and then adjusting elevation for the last group. to ensure I don’t spoil the others.
As you can see, the last group on top was the tightest at 41.2 gr. I knew it can be improved and worth pursuing. I learnt one thing over the years, when a load is in the node it wants to be, it will tighten up.
6.5creedmoor Load development part 2
Below I plotted the velocity of these 5 shot groups with different loads, 40.8gr, 41.0 and 41.2gr to enable me to see if there was anything I could learn from these.
The best group here in blue below, shows very consistent speeds as well. The top group measured 3cm high or 1.181 inch. The others are close but not as tight.
Load development part 3 – seating depth test.
In my trips to Bisley, UK shooting with some of the guys from the UK team, I learned the importance of seating depth testing. Some of those guys like Gary Costello, David Raybould and Russell Simmonds managed incredibly tight verticals which enable them to stay in that X-ring.
I still remember watchin David Raybould seating depth test a beautiful 300WSM built by Pete Walker at the 1000yard line at Bisley. Those lessons are applied here too. I managed to find the pictures from that Sunday morning. I was testing my 284win barrel with a 190Gr Hornady A-Tip at above 2800fts.
Back to our little 6.5creedmoor. Sunday morning I loaded the 41.2gr load which so far had showed some promising results. I had already seen what it was shooting like at 2.241″ base to ogive length so this time I used the Whidden Gunworks inline seating die to back off further away from the lands. The whidden die is beaufifully machined with a sleeve inside to help guide the cartridge while seating the bullet. Unlike a Wilson bullet seater where the seating step pops up, the Whidden die will show you a gap between the die and the case holder which sits beneath it.
6.5 Creedmoor load development results
I shot 3 groups always moving further away from the lands. At 2.230″ I had the tightest vertical at just 10mm or 0.39″. 1 MOA would be 3.4″ at this distance of 300m so that’s 0.1 MOA vertical.
The other thing that I noticed is that all the 3 groups maintained a nice vertical overall. Remember, this is a tactical rifle meant to shoot ipsc size targets and with this careful load testing process, we’re managing to get it to shoot as close to an Fclass like rifle. Pretty decent over 2 mornings.
Overall, for the time spent on it and just under 100 rounds on the barrel, I’m pretty happy with the result.
Harry at Solid Solution Designs did a good job on my request for this barrel and the barrel block system that holds the barrel in place in the DT works well. I had already been sold to this system as I use a barrel block on my Fopen gun as well so it doesn’t surprise me. No fancy rear bags here, just a berrybag from Wiebad with a velcro strap, solid as can be while enabling you to easily move about from target to target. It’s the same one I use for my ELR rifle. With these velocities, i’m supersonic to around 1100meters, plenty good for a training rifle which will see most action under 800m
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