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When it comes to cartridge comparisons, the 6.5 PRC vs 6.5 Creedmoor is both a hot topic and a closely contested matchup. Both cartridges are relatively new, both shoot the same bullet, and both are very popular with hunters and long-range shooters. There are three primary reasons for their immense appeal. First, they shoot bullets with very high ballistic coefficients; second, they have very fast rifling twist rates; and third, neither cartridge has offensive recoil. The 6.5 PRC does shoot a bit faster and so kicks a little harder in the same rifle. So, the question comes down to whether you need that extra speed or not.

Interestingly, 6.5mm rifle cartridges have only very recently found a lot of interest in America. The 6.5 Swede (1894) never did great here. The 264 Winchester Magnum (1959) was killed off by a 7mm magnum. Nobody ever really cared about the 6.5 Remington Magnum (1966). And the 260 Remington (1997) has just done its best to hang around. Also interesting is the fact that the bullets all these 6.5mm rifle cartridges shoot are actually 6.7mm/0.264-inch in diameter. A true 6.5mm bullet is much closer in diameter to a 0.257-caliber rifle bullet. This caliber thing can get confusing. None of that, however, helps answer the 6.5 PRC vs 6.5 Creedmoor question, so let’s get down to it, starting with a quick look at each cartridge individually.

6.5 Creedmoor Overview

Ballistically, the 6.5 Creedmoor is nearly identical to the 260 Remington, but because of its faster twist rate it can handle flatter shooting bullets. Richard Mann

I probably don’t need to tell anyone about the 6.5 Creedmoor, which, I think it’s safe to say, is the first rifle cartridge ever to go viral. But, for anyone shooters who have been living under a rock this past decade or so, let’s review.

As the current long-range shooting craze was just gaining steam, Hornady wisely configured a new 6.5mm cartridge for that very purpose. At first, the cartridge went largely unnoticed. Then suddenly it didn’t, and the 6.5 Creedmoor became a thing like no cartridge before it, and, of course, it remains one of the most popular centerfire rifle cartridges around. Hornady was smart to stipulate a fast twist rate for the 6.5 Creedmoor. This lets it manage long, slender bullets with high ballistic coefficients, which in turn allows the cartridge to perform way better than its muzzle velocity or light recoil suggests. The 6.5 Creedmoor, which was introduced in 2008 and was based on the failed 30 TC cartridge case, has essentially killed interest in new 260 Remington and 7mm-08 Remington rifles, and it has even cut into 308 Winchester sales. As things stand now, roughly half the hunting world loves the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the other half hates it. But no one can deny its performance or its success.

6.5 PRC Overview

The 6.5 PRC is slightly longer than the 6.5 Creedmoor, but more importantly it has a larger diameter case that holds more powder. Richard Mann

In 1959 Winchester introduced the 264 Winchester Magnum, which would launch a 0.264-inch-diameter bullet at about 3200 fps. It was a revelation but developed a reputation for burning barrels. With the 6.5 PRC, Hornady essentially created a better/shorter version of the 264 Winchester Magnum. And like with the 6.5 Creedmoor, they wisely stipulated a fast rifling twist rate. Hornady introduced the 6.5 PRC in 2018 and it’s based on the 300 Ruger Compact Magnum cartridge case, which was not as big of a failure as the 30 TC, but in time we’ll forget it too. There are a lot of 6.5mm alternatives to the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the 6.5 PRC is probably the best. It has diminished the interest is some harder-kicking 7mm and 300 magnums but has probably impacted 6.5 Creedmoor sales the most.

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6.5 PRC vs 6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics

There are a lot of factory loads for the 6.5 PRC and 6.5 Creedmoor. For this comparison, we’re looking at only one for each. Hornady is the company that introduced both cartridges, and from an external ballistics standpoint their 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter load is one of the flattest shooting for either. Also, since both loads utilize the same bullet, the comparison is particularly valid.

Velocity & Energy

At the muzzle, the 6.5 PRC has a velocity advantage of 260 fps over the 6.5 Creedmoor. This translates to a kinetic energy advantage of 467 foot-pounds. At 500 yards the velocity advantage is 225 fps, and this drops the energy advantage to 307 foot-pounds. Clearly the 6.5 PRC has a velocity and energy advantage, but what does that advantage really mean?

Since both cartridges shoot the same bullets, the velocity advantage of the 6.5 PRC means it will shoot flatter, and we’ll look at trajectory next. But for the hunter, these numbers do not mean a great deal because it’s nearly impossible to translate velocity and energy numbers to lethality. However, what we can do is look at impact velocities at distance because impact velocity determines how a bullet will perform.

The Hornady ELD-X bullet needs to impact at around 1700 fps to deliver optimum bullet upset to maximize tissue damage. Fired from a 6.5 PRC, the 143-grain ELD-X bullet will slow to 1700 fps at about 950 yards. The same bullet fired from the 6.5 Creedmoor will slow to that speed at about 775 yards. That means from a terminal performance standpoint, the 6.5 PRC has about a 175 yard advantage. Another way of looking at it is that anything you can do with a 6.5 PRC, you can replicate exactly with a 6.5 Creedmoor at 175 yard closer.

Richard Mann

Trajectory & Drift

The ability to hit a target at distance is important to target shooters and hunters. We can easily compensate for trajectory if we know the exact range and DOPE (data from previous engagement) for our cartridge, rifle, and load. Where a flatter trajectory really matters is when we do not know the exact range. The 6.5 PRC shoots just a little bit flatter than the 6.5 Creedmoor. If you misjudge a 525 yard range as 500 yards, your 6.5 Creedmoor will impact about 7 inches low. Make the same mistake with a 6.5 PRC and your bullet will impact about 6 inches low.

Wind drift is a bit different because you can never perfectly predict wind speed and direction from the muzzle all the way to the target. The bullet that gets to the target the quickest, will be the least affected. The 6.5 PRC has an advantage here too. Let’s say you compensate for a 10 mph 90° crosswind at 500 yards with a 6.5 PRC and a 6.5 Creedmoor. But let’s say the wind is actually blowing 15 mph. With the 6.5 PRC your bullet will drift about 6.5 inches more than your correction. With the 6.5 Creedmoor, your bullet will drift about 7.5 inches more. This is because the 6.5 PRC bullet gets to the target 0.06 of a second sooner, and the wind has less time to act on it. That’s not much difference for big-game hunting, but it could make the difference in winning or losing a match.

The Same but Different

The author’s son took this black wildebeest at almost 300 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor. Richard Mann

I once had an outfitter tell me he would not let hunters use a 6.5 Creedmoor for aoudad hunting but would allow a 6.5 PRC. This didn’t make much sense because he did not limit the 6.5 PRC to a certain distance. Again, anything you can do with a 6.5 PRC, you can also do with a 6.5 Creedmoor at 175 yards (or more) closer. If a 6.5 PRC will take an aoudad at 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor will do it at 325 yards. This is because at those distances both bullets will impact at the same velocity. Ballistic fact sometimes eludes outfitters and hunters.

There are of course other considerations. There are about three times as many factory loads for the 6.5 Creedmoor. Similarly, there are a lot more 6.5 Creedmoor rifles to choose from. And because the Creed can function from a shorter action, Creedmoor rifles can be a little more compact and lighter. Some will also claim a 6.5 PRC needs a longer barrel to take advantage of its larger case capacity and realize its velocity potential. That’s true, but out of the same length barrel—regardless how long or short—the PRC will always be faster.

One of the best ways to look at the 6.5 PRC vs. 6.5 Creedmoor comparison is to consider the PRC a magnum version of the Creed. The PRC shoots about 10% faster, hits about 18% harder (at the same distance), and has about a 175 yard advantage. But the 6.5 PRC will recoil about 17% more. If you think you need that extra energy and speed, and if you think the added recoil will not negatively impact your shooting, then the 6.5 PRC is the best option. However, most hunters who only shoot big game at sensible distances will never know the difference between the two. Well, except when they buy ammunition; 6.5 PRC ammo costs about 13% more than 6.5 Creedmoor ammo.

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