Excellent long-range performance, deep penetration, and mild recoil brought me into the 6.5mm camp many years ago. Over the years, I’ve spent many a day prowling the deer woods and high plains with a 6.5×55, .260 Remington, or 6.5-284 Norma. But lately I’ve left my old 6.5s behind in favor of Hornady’s entry into the 6.5 market—the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Hornady originally designed the 6.5 Creedmoor for match shooters who load long, heavy-for-caliber bullets in their 6.5s. At 1.920 inches, its case is slightly shorter than the .260 Remington’s case but a little longer than the 6.5×47 Lapua’s. According to the folks at Hornady, the shorter case length was designed to avoid overall length issues when combining long, pointy bullets and short, .308-length magazine boxes. It is a particularly useful improvement for shooters who use AR-based rifles.
Case capacity of the 6.5 Creedmoor is 53.0 grains of water. Its case has a sharp, 30-degree shoulder and an aggressive body taper. Hornady claims these improvements allow the new cartridge to deliver higher velocities than other 6.5mm cartridges while operating at standard .308 Winchester pressures. Claimed velocity for the new cartridge is 3,020 fps for the 120-grain A-Max load from a 28-inch barrel.
Like the .260 Remington and 6.5-284, the Creedmoor outperforms the .308 in drop, wind drift, and retained energy at long range when stoked with 140-grain bullets. The high sectional density that helps those long heavy-for-caliber bullets buck the wind so well helps the projectiles drive deep on game, too. And like the .260 Rem., the Creedmoor gets all that performance with less muzzle blast and recoil than even the mild-mannered .308.
I was smitten with the new 6.5 Creedmoor right off the bat. Unfortunately, no one chambered a hunting rifle for it and after testing it in a DPMS AR-15 when the cartridge first came out, I was not sure that a standard, 24-inch-barreled hunting rig would generate enough velocity to do the round justice. Fortunately, I was able to corner Ruger CEO Mike Fifer about my idea for a 26-inch Ruger Hawkeye in 6.5mm Creedmoor on a Texas pronghorn hunt. Fifer really liked the idea, and with a little extra prodding from Hornady’s Steve Johnson, he agreed to introduce a 6.5mm Creedmoor Hawkeye in 2009.
Like all Hawkeyes, the Creedmoor I tested has a trim, classic stock with clean lines and wonderful ergonomics. The slim fore-end and tastefully executed checkering feel good in the hand. A thin red recoil pad provides a pleasing contrast to my gun’s relatively dark wood. Though it’s not an overly fancy stick of wood, the stock on my rifle looks nice and feels as good as any factory wood stock I’ve shouldered.
|Model 77 Hawkeye|
|Manufacturer:||Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.(203) 259-7843|
|Model:||Model 77 Hawkeye|
|Barrel:||26 inches; rifling: six grooves, 1:8-inch RH twist|
|Overall Length:||46 inches|
|Weight, empty||7 pounds|
|Sights:||None, integral scope mounts|
|Stock:||Walnut, wrap-around checkering on fore-end and pistol grip; plastic pistol grip cap; 1/4-in. red rubber recoil pad; sling-swivel studs|
|Magazine Capacity:||4 rounds|
The Hawkeye is built on Ruger’s fine Model 77 action. The two-lug design has a claw extractor, controlled-round-feeding, and a three-position safety. Ejection is accomplished with the aid of a robust, blade-style ejector. The bolt has an ejector cutout in the five o’clock position. A Mauser-style bolt release is located at the rear of the receiver on the left side.
Ruger’s fantastic LC6 trigger is standard on the Hawkeye. Ruger specs call for LC6 triggers to leave the factory at a crisp, clean 5 pounds. Mine broke at 4 pounds, 1 ounce, with minimal take-up and overtravel—a huge improvement over the old Model 77 MKII trigger.
My only concern with the 6.5 Creedmoor for hunting was velocity. The Creedmoor was originally designed with 28-inch-barreled target guns in mind. After testing it in a 24-inch AR, I knew it needed a little more length, but 28 inches is just too darn long for hunting. Fortunately, Ruger got this one right and gave the Creedmoor version a 26-inch, hammer-forged tube. Rate of twist is 1:8, which is ideal for stabilizing the long, 140-grain projectiles so many 6.5mm fans seem to favor.
Since I envisioned the new Hawkeye as an open-country gun for pronghorn and small- to medium-sized Africa plains game, I decided to mount a Swarovski 3-9X 36mm with TDS reticle scope. The TDS reticle will help me make the most of the flat-shooting cartridge at long range, but the scope is compact enough to keep the rifle light and eminently packable. I used the supplied Ruger rings to affix the scope to the rifle’s integral scope bases.
|Ruger 6.5 Creedmoor Hawkeye Accuracy|
|Load||Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation (fps)||Extreme Spread (fps)||100-yard Accuracy (inches)|
|Hornady 120-gr. A-Max||2919||22||52||0.8|
|Hornady 129-gr. SST SP||2985||23||55||1.17|
|Hornady 140-gr. A-Max||2657||19||50||1.35|
|NOTES: Average accuracy is the result of five, five-shot groups fired from a Sinclair front rest and rear bag. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 15 feet from the gun’s muzzle with a Shooting Chrony chronograph.|
A Real Shooter
I wasn’t expecting much recoil when I touched off that first 120-grain A-Max, but I was truly shocked at how light the little rig bucked. Doubtless, the 26-inch tube played a big part in that, but the Creedmoor is definitely one mild-mannered little hammer.
My accuracy testing was quite uneventful. Three-shot groups with all three of my Hornady factory loads averaged less than 0.6 inch, but my fourth and fifth shots wandered as the light barrel heated up. That is fairly common, in my experience, especially with guns like the Hawkeye that are not free-floated. Even with the consistent fourth and fifth shot spoilers, the Hawkeye’s accuracy was still very good, but I will glass bed the test rifle soon to see if I can improve its five-shot-group accuracy even more.
The test rifle really shined in the velocity department, particularly with Hornady’s new Superformance load. The original 120-grain A-Max load averaged 2,919 fps, and the 140-grain projectile averaged 2,657 fps, but the new 129-grain SST Superformance load averaged an impressive 2,985 fps. That is simply outstanding velocity from such a small case.
Accuracy with the hotter load was equally impressive. My best five-shot group with the new load measured 0.79 inch, and my best three-shot group was an astonishing 0.311 inch.
The new Superformance load performed very well on game, too. The first animal to fall to it was a 130-pound hog at a little over 100 yards. The 129-grain SST hit the boar just behind the near shoulder and destroyed the top of the heart and both lungs before blowing through the pig’s off shoulder. Later, my buddy Lance Bertolino used it to drop a big-bodied South Texas buck at 269 yards. The SST hit the buck at the juncture of the neck and shoulder and bored all the way through to the offside hip. The ancient eight-pointer dropped on the spot.
The introduction of the new Superformance load for the Creedmoor and the new Hawkeye rifle were no accident, but the pairing is a lucky one for hunters. The new Hawkeye is a joy to carry in the field and every bit as pretty as it is accurate. Hornady’s new Superformance ammunition for the 6.5 Creedmoor has the mild-mannered 6.5 nipping at the heels of the 6.5-284 despite its significantly smaller case capacity. The Creedmoor should be more affordable, available, and easier on barrels than the 6.5-284, too.
I just can’t say enough for this little combo. Ruger’s new Hawkeye and Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor Superformance ammunition make for a sweet-handling open-country hunting rig.