The Evolution Of The 6.5 Creedmoor (From Outdoorlife.Com)
How this mild metric went from niche competition round to shooting and hunting superstar. -By John B. Snow, Outdoorlife.com
Six Point Five. If you want to ensure that a new rifle round has a short life as it attempts to ascend the mountain of success, where it will languish in the foothills and perish, unloved and unmourned by all but a few devotees, then by all means give it a name that starts with "6.5."
First off, it doesn't start with a .30. In case you haven't been paying attention for the last 120 years, here's a quick rundown of some of our greatest and most successful cartridges: .30/30, .30/06, .308, .300 Win. Mag., .300 Wby., and .300 WSM. See a pattern? Americans love their .30s like no other caliber. So that's strike one.
Next, it's metric. Hate to break it to you, but we tried the whole metric thing back when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were pulling on the oars, and it was as popular as fire ants in a tanning bed. Now, there's one exception to this, and that's the 7mm Rem. Mag. It must be an unwritten rule that American shooters will tolerate one metric cartridge in the pantheon, and the 7mm Rem. Mag. got the nod. Introduced back in 1962, it has been one of our top 10 hunting cartridges and top 10 centerfire cartridges for many years. The one other popular metric is the 7.62×39. But that Commie round is too crude to be considered part of the pantheon, and only hits the sales it does because of all the cheap military surplus SKS and AK rifles kicking around. And, no, the 5.56 NATO doesn't count. We only called it that because our European allies couldn't figure out what a .223 was. It's the ballistic equivalent of the "Royale With Cheese" from Pulp Fiction. Anyway, the metric designation was strike two.
Lastly, it it has a bullet diameter of 6.5mm, and despite the widespread adulation of 6.5s beyond North America's shores, these cartridges--whether called 6.5 or .260 or .264--have never done well with American shooters. This is a shame because some damn fine rounds have been crippled by this bias. The 6.5 Remington Magnum never really got out of the starting gate, and the attempts to revive it were complete failures. The .264 Win. Mag. is a hot round with impressive ballistics, but it was overshadowed by the 7mm Rem. Mag. and never gained widespread popularity.
The 6.5×55 Swede, one of the most popular European cartridges for big game, migrated to North America in the late '50s with the arrival of thousands of surplus Mausers. Even though this round has an amazing pedigree--designed in the late 1800s, it had a distinguished military career lasting decades, has an unimpeachable reputation on large game, and regularly won gold medals at the Olympics, thanks to its accuracy--it, too, suffered from the 6.5 curse and failed to reach the summit of the mountain. Likewise, the .260 Remington, a personal favorite, has struggled, though it gamely fights on. The same goes for the 6.5-284 Norma. Strike three.
Today, the 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded by numerous ammo maker's, including Winchester, Nosler, Hornady, and Federal.
Typically, this is how we get new cartridges. A gunmaker approaches an ammo producer--which is sometimes part of the same parent company--and says, hey, we want to introduce a new round, and if you make it, we'll produce several thousand rifles to support it. They then hype the hell out of it, cross their fingers, and hope shooters are drawn to it like raccoons to hot garbage.
Every now and then a wildcat gains enough traction to join the ranks of standardized cartridges, though this is the exception these days and not the rule. The .243 Win. and .22/250 Rem. are good historic examples of cartridges that traveled this route. More recently, we've seen the .338 Federal and the new 6mm Creedmoor follow this path.
The 6.5 Creedmoor was different, however. Neither of these scenarios applied. Instead, it was born out of a gripe session between one frustrated shooter and his friend. The shooter was Dennis DeMille, a legend in the world of High Power Rifle competition. The friend was Dave Emary, senior ballistician at Hornady Manufacturing. The date was August 2005, and the location was the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.
"It was during service rifle week. Dennis and I were sharing a condo. At the end of one day we were sitting and talking, and he told me he was getting frustrated with the 6XC," Emary says. The 6XC, though it had been winning matches, was still a wildcat, without any published reloading data. Reloaders hadn't worked out the kinks yet, and their ammo was frequently blowing primers and breaking extractors.
Those shooters turned to DeMille to complain and ask for help--sometimes in between strings of fire while he was competing--since the company he worked for was the exclusive distributor of the rifles chambered in 6XC.
"I went back to the condo that evening and told Dave I was ready to pack up and go home," DeMille says. Instead, Emary persuaded him to stay, asking DeMille to think about everything he wanted in the ultimate cartridge for across-the-course shooting, as High Power is also known. The next morning, DeMille gave Emary his list. (DeMille went on to win one of his two champion crowns in High Power that year, by the way.)
DeMille came up with seven requirements. The hypothetical cartridge had to:
1. Be magazine length for the rapid-fire strings in competition.
2. Have light recoil, much less than a .308, for rapid fire and general shooter comfort.
3. Shoot flat, with an accurate, high B.C. bullet.
4. Promote good barrel life.
5. Use readily available components, including powder, so that it could be easily replicated.
6. Have the reloading recipe listed on the box.
7. Be produced in quantities sufficient to meet demand.
With those guidelines in hand, Emary went back to Hornady and got to work. He collaborated with Joe Thielen on the project, and at SHOT Show in 2006, he gave DeMille an unmarked piece of brass. The yet-to-be-named round was based on the forgettable .30 T/C, whose only legacy will be the cartridges it has spawned.
"The .30 T/C was still pretty new then, and going to a 6.5 was just logical," Emary says. "You absolutely cannot beat the aero ballistic performance of 6.5 bullets if they are done right."
DeMille did some testing with the cartridge and gave feedback on how to improve it. Hornady figured they would call the round the 6.5 DeMille, but DeMille quickly rejected that idea.
"I don't want to overstate my role in the development of this cartridge," he says. "It was really Dave and Joe who did all the real work."
DeMille suggested instead the name Creedmoor, not only based on the company where he was general manager--Creedmoor Sports--but on the history of the location on Long Island, New York, where the first national rifle matches were held.
The following year, in 2007, the 6.5 Creedmoor was launched by Hornady at the SHOT Show, but with no expectation that it would come to dominate the broader hunting and shooting world within just a few years.