Hornady introduced the 6.5 Creedmoor in 2007, and few people cared. The masses of shooters and hunters weren't interested in a short-action cartridge with similar ballistics to the century-old 6.5x55 Mauser. But the Creedmoor wasn't made for the masses. It was developed by Hornady engineers Dave Emary and Joe Thielen, with the guidance of competition shooter Dennis DeMille, to win High Power Rifle matches. It did just that, and the new round's reputation quickly rose in the relatively small world of long-range target shooting. It took an explosion of interest in long-range shooting in general, spurred in part by the 2014 release of the movie American Sniper, to launch the 6.5 to stardom. As every-day shooters and hunters grasped the cartridge's long-range and all-around capabilities, it became a trend—and then a sensation. In the history of metallic rifle cartridges, there has never been anything like it. Some shooters now swear that the Creedmoor is sexier than Gal Gadot and deadlier than John Wick. Others hate it worse than tax day or ketchup on a hot dog.

Nosler AccuBond ammo
With ammo companies now loading premium hunting bullets, such as the Nosler AccuBond (shown), in factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, the cartridge is employed world-wide for a huge variety of game.Richard Mann

6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics: Just the Facts

To understand the Creedmoor’s rise, you need a basic grasp of ballistics. When shooting at distance, time-of-flight matters most, because the longer a bullet is in the air, the more time gravity and wind have to act upon it. It takes the best factory .308 Winchester load 1.687 seconds to reach 1,000 yards. The 6.5 Creedmoor can do it in 1.543, and it hits that 1,000-yard target with 4 percent more energy. Another major factor in precision shooting is recoil. No matter how tough you think you are, you’ll shoot better at distance with a lighter-kicking gun. And compared to that same .308, the Creedmoor produces 42 percent less recoil. That’s not hype or speculation—just simple ballistic facts, and damned significant ones to anyone who cares about hitting at long range.

It wasn't long after competition shooters confirmed the 6.5 Creedmoor as a superior paper-punching and steel-whacking distance cartridge that hunters started taking it into the field. Because it kicked less than what most of them were using, they shot it better. And they discovered, contrary to what gun writers had been preaching, that "enough gun" for big game doesn't necessarily start at .30-caliber. The elk they shot with 6.5mm bullets died just like the ones they'd shot with bigger projectiles. (One outdoor writer who knew this almost a century ago was the great wilderness hunter Townsend Whelen, who in his 1927 book Wilderness Hunting and Wildcraft proclaimed the .30/06 and 6.5x54 Mannlicher—a 6.5mm cartridge ballistically inferior to the Creedmoor—as two of the world's best big-game cartridges.)

6-5 creedmoor versus the 30.06 ammo
Some manufacturers are now selling more 6.5 ammo than .30/06.Richard Mann

.30/06 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor

Since at least the end of WWII, the .30/06 has reigned as the most popular big-game cartridge in the world. But that distinction is now in serious jeopardy. At 1,000 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor outpaces even it by a few hundredths of a second. Just this past fall, a major ammunition manufacture told me that their long-time sales-leading .30/06 load is now second to the Creed. Federal currently offers 15 different Creedmoor loads, with more on the way. Hornady offers as many Creedmoor loads as .30/06s.

New rifles chambered for the Creedmoor are also outselling ought-sixes. In the past, when a manufacturer introduced a new rifle, it was always chambered for the latter. Now, some new rifles are offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and not in .30/06. For the last three years, the biggest trend in new rifles and ammo has been line extensions to include the Creed. Not every rifle and ammo manufacturer I spoke with was ready to call the Creed the world's most popular all-around hunting and shooting cartridge, but none could think of any other cartridge that has had so meteoric a rise, and they're eager to take advantage of it.

meme collage for the 6.5 creedmoor
Regardless of whether you love or hate the 6.5 Creedmoor, there’s a meme for you.Various

Creedmoor Controversy

As wildly as the Creedmoor is loved, it’s also hated. When it comes to the best—whether that’s Tiger Woods or LeBron James—love and hate tend to be split down the middle. Emotional attachments to cartridges have always been able to eclipse human bonds and defy logic, but never more so than with the Creed. The fact something could be better than Grandpa’s ought-six is a hard pill for many to swallow, and some that manage to get it down may never digest it.

Not surprisingly, the 6.5 Creedmoor has also become a cartridge of mythical abilities, and some hunters lose sight of reality in its presence. A Nosler employee told me about a customer who traded his .270 Winchester for a 6.5 Creedmoor so he could shoot elk at longer ranges. If his goal had simply been less recoil, he might have had an argument, but the best .270 loads will get to 1,000 yards a tenth of a second sooner and hit harder than the best that the 6.5 Creed has to offer. You can do a lot with the Creed, but it won’t part the sea or shoot through the turret of a Russian T-34.

With the 6.5 Creedmoor I've taken moose at 300 yards and seen other big game animals taken at twice that distance. I've yet to see a rifle chambered for the cartridge that shot poorly, or one that recoiled too hard for, well, anyone. I know serious long-range practitioners who'll shoot nothing else. I've also seen the mere mention of the Creed turn benign social media posts into hostile frenzies, and heard otherwise sane people ignore ballistic fact and swear the 6.5 Creedmoor is a bad idea, marketing hype, and even a fad. Like with Voldemort from Harry Potter, there are some who refuse to speak its name, even while stumbling through piles of 6.5 Creedmoor brass at the range.

New Leader

So just why is it so popular? You won’t find the answer in some ballistic riddle or in anyone’s idea of a magic bullet. It’s much simpler than that. I once asked a Remington ammo guy why, in today’s age of the wonder bullet, does their 75-year-old Core-Lokt ammunition still sell so well. His response was, “It works. If it didn’t, hunters wouldn’t keep buying it.” And so it is with the 6.5 Creedmoor. Aside from the fact that it offers the best balance of ballistics and shootability for 90 percent of what rifle shooters and hunters do, whether you love it, hate it, or don’t give a damn, the 6.5 Creedmoor works. As an all-around performer that punches paper as well as it pounds big game at long range, it’s on top of the world. The free market has spoken. The 6.5 Creedmoor has pulled the sword from the stone, and if it hasn’t already been crowned king, it soon will be.

10 Hottest New 6.5 Creedmoor Products

At the SHOT Show in Las Vegas this past January, there were times when it seemed like every new product on the floor was in some way connected to the 6.5 Creedmoor. The cartridge's wild popularity, more than anything, is driving the guns and ammo industry in 2019. Here are 10 prime examples.

1. Steyr Scout Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor
Steyr Scout Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor
Since its introduction in 1997, the Steyr Scout rifle has been chambered only for Jeff Cooper's cartridge of choice: the .308 Winchester. For 2019, it comes in 6.5 Creedmoor. $1,787Steyr Arms
2. Browning Long Range Pro Ammo
Browning Long Range Pro Ammo
For 2019, Browning added this new 130-grain 6.5 Creedmoor load to its Long Range Pro line of centerfire rifle cartridges. Topped with a Sierra MatchKing bullet, its one a handful of new 6.5 Creedmoor offerings for this year. About $26 per 20Browning Ammo
3. CVA Cascade
CVA Cascade rifle
The affordable Cascade is CVA's first bolt-action centerfire rifle. It has a 22-inch, 4140 carbon-steel barrel with a threaded muzzle and protective cap. It's available in 6.5 Creedmoor, but not .30/06. $567CVA
4. Remington Model 783 Varmint
Remington Model 783 Varmint rifle
As handy for deer as it is for coyotes and other vermin, the new Model 783 Varmint has a heavy threaded barrel and is available in—you guessed it—6.5 Creedmoor. $625Remington
5. Weatherby Mark V Subalpine
Weatherby Mark V Subalpine rifle
The sharp-looking new Subalpine, with aluminum-bedding block, tips the scales at just 5.75 pounds. You can’t get it in .30/06, but you can have it one in four Weatherby Magnum chamberings, or the 6.5 Creedmoor. $2,700Weatherby
6. Browning X-Bow Max Long Range Hunter
Browning X-Bow Max Long Range Hunter
This new Browning X-Bolt features a new composite stock that offers an adjustable comb to dial-in eye-to-scope alignment. You can have one in 6.5 Creedmoor, but not .30/06. $1,270Browning
7. DPMS GII Hunter
The Creed craze is not limited to bolt actions. This new 6.5 Creedmoor DPMS Hunter is built on the excellent GII platform, featuring a 20-inch barrel and carbon fiber handguard. $1599DPMS
8. Remington Model Seven SS HS
Remington Model Seven SS HS
If you're still on the fence in the 6.5 Creedmoor versus .260 Remington argument, consider that Remington is offering the Creed instead of their own .260 in this new Model Seven. $1,149Remington
9. Remington High Performance Rifle Ammo
Remington High Performance Rifle Ammo
At first 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition was expensive. Now more affordable options, like this new High Performance Rifle load from Remington, are becoming more prevalent. Around $23 per 20Remington
10. Norma Professional Hunter Ammo
Norma Professional Hunter Ammo
Famous for building a company around a single cartridge (the 6.5x55 Mauser), even Norma now has a 6.5 Creedmoor load. It's topped off with the very high-BC Swift Scirocco bullet. $37 per $20Norma