Skip to main content

6.5x55 Swedish Mauser Rifle Ammo

6.5x55 Swedish Mauser Rifle Ammo
The 125-year-old 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser cartridge can offer the performance of the new 6.5 Creedmoor and has long been regarded for its accuracy.

In the last two decades we’ve see a resurgence of 6.5mm (.26 caliber) rifle cartridges, and many are used for demanding match shooting where accuracy is everything. It is fitting that an old foreign military cartridge that introduced many U.S. sportsmen to this bore diameter is also highly respected for its accuracy. The 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser cartridge debuted around 1893 for the Swedish variations of the M1893 Mauser rifle. That makes it slightly older than the .30-30 Winchester!

The 6.5x55mm became the darling of Scandinavian sport shooters, prized for both its performance on game and its accuracy in matches. Given its age, the “Swede” has remarkably modern proportions. Its 25-degree shoulder angle is steeper than most of its contemporaries, contributing to the ageless appearance. I was struck by the physical and performance similarities to the recent 6.5 Creedmoor. The Creedmoor has a slightly steeper shoulder angle and a shorter 49mm case for AR actions, but I think I see a resemblance.

The Swede case does not have a “standard” base diameter. Its European 6.5mm contemporaries often had the 0.445- to 0.455-inch base diameter found in many Mannlicher cartridges. Mauser cartridges from that time, like the 8x57mm and 7.65x53mm, pioneered the 0.470- to 0.473-inch base that we see so often today; we call it a “.30-06 head,” but it predates our venerable service cartridge. At 0.480 inch, the Swede’s base makes it an oddball. The Swedish case is not easy to form using more common cases, but ready-made cases and factory ammo are easier to find now more than ever before.

U.S. shooters had few opportunities to experience 6.5mm performance between the World Wars. There were a few imported Mannlicher-Schönauer sporting rifles chambered for the less powerful 6.5x54mm cartridge, and some rare proprietary .256 Newton rifles (basically a 6.5-06). Swedish Mausers began to show up in numbers after World War II, and the little Model 94 carbines were especially popular as they could be used for hunting with very little customization should the buyer’s budget be tight.


It is a tribute to the usefulness of this cartridge that it achieved significant acceptance among U.S. shooters with essentially one source of ammunition and cases: Norma. It was not until near the end of the 20th century that major U.S. ammomakers offered 6.5x55mm ammunition and cases.


Much of the Swede’s hunting success has been attributed to long bullets at modest velocity, and I have to agree. That’s a good combination for deep penetration. Europeans still use 6.5x55mm ammo on big game, loaded with bullets weighing between roughly 155 to 160 grains. The 140-grain loads are the most common in the United States, and factory velocities run from about 2,550 to 2,735 fps.

For U.S. hunters the 140-grain bullet is the all-around weight for the 6.5 Swede. Its sectional density of 0.287 matches a 160-grain 7mm bullet and exceeds that of a 180-grain .30-caliber bullet. The high-tech construction of many new bullet styles means today’s 140-grainers typically out-penetrate the heavier conventional 6.5mm bullets popular with our European counterparts seeking larger game.

The U.S. industry has kept 6.5x55mm pressures conservative—the official assignment for the maximum average pressure is 51,000 psi, the same as the 7mm Mauser. After Ruger, Winchester, and Remington all introduced modern bolt rifles chambered for 6.5x55mm in the 1990s, we did a complete reshoot of Swede data on the latest transducer equipment, ultimately showing two levels of handloads in the Speer Reloading Manual #14.

We set loads in the first set to SAAMI guidelines for “two-lug” Mausers like the M94 and M96 Swedish service carbines and rifles. The second set was for the newly manufactured commercial U.S. rifles and Mauser 98k models rebarreled by Schultz & Larsen to 6.5x55mm. For these we set pressures at 58,000 psi, closer to European pressures and the same as the .257 Roberts +P. This drove 140-grain hunting bullets to the mid-2,600 fps range from a 24-inch barrel.


Some of today’s 6.5 Swede factory ammo using non-canister propellants can post this sort of velocity within the conservative SAAMI pressure limit. Hornady has a 140-grain Superformance load that is rated at 2,700 fps, the same as the 6.5 Creedmoor. Other brands have loads at 2,650 fps.

Although the compact case suggests otherwise, the Swede thrives on slower-burning propellants. In those tests in 2006, we saw best velocities from Alliant Reloder 22 and Reloder 19 with 140-grain bullets, and slow propellants introduced after I retired in 2007 continue that trend.

Lighter hunting bullets are useful for smaller deer species, and we were able to push some varmint-weight bullets to 3,400 fps from a 24-inch barrel. However, this brings up the only real quirk in this otherwise well-behaved cartridge.


Both SAAMI and CIP chamber drawings for the 6.5 Swede show the legacy of heavy bullets: The chamber throat length is 0.5551 inch. That is by far the most of any U.S. 6.5mm/.26-caliber cartridge with conventional throating.

What does this mean for reloaders? A short bullet seated too deeply will experience a long jump before engaging the rifling. In addition to ballistic inconsistencies, this will affect accuracy. Factory ammo compensates for this with bullet length and profile choices; the reloader can adjust cartridge overall length (COL) as well.

The maximum COL for the Swede is a generous 3.150 inches, and handloaders should take advantage of it. Bullets under 140 grains should be seated as long as possible while still keeping about 0.20 to 0.25 inch of shank in the case neck. The closer to maximum safe pressures you are, the better chance a short bullet has of gracefully dealing with throat jump.

If you need reduced-recoil handloads, do it with 140-grain bullets to improve ballistic efficiency and fit chamber throats. Hodgdon has information on making effective reduced loads using H4895 propellant.

Is it likely that the old Swede will see another resurgence? Despite its capability of greater performance given a higher pressure limit, probably not. The rapid increase in new 6.5mm cartridges over the last 15 years gives the average shooter more than enough choice. However, let’s not forget the one that opened the door.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol? Here's why.Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity Handguns

Revolver vs. Semiauto Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barrel revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barrel semiauto pistol?...

There are plenty of good .22 rimfire rifles under $300 on the market. Here's a quick look at some of the most interesting models.Best .22 Rimfire Rifles Under $300 Rifles

Best .22 Rimfire Rifles Under $300

Payton Miller - January 11, 2021

There are plenty of good .22 rimfire rifles under $300 on the market. Here's a quick look at...

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06.Get the Most Out of the .30-06 Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

Firing 21 different loads in Kimber's Mountain Ascent rifle proved it is a good friend to have in high places.Kimber Mountain Ascent Rifle Review Rifles

Kimber Mountain Ascent Rifle Review

Steve Gash - January 22, 2021

Firing 21 different loads in Kimber's Mountain Ascent rifle proved it is a good friend to have...

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

Created in 1915, the .250 Savage was the first commercial hunting cartridge to achieve a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps..250 Savage — Trailblazing Hunting Cartridge Ammo

.250 Savage — Trailblazing Hunting Cartridge

Allan Jones - May 22, 2020

Created in 1915, the .250 Savage was the first commercial hunting cartridge to achieve a...

Starting in the late 1950s, the .338-bore size gained considerable traction — thanks to the .338 Winchester Magnum. Why? Because hunters are often after game bigger and tougher than whitetails. Here's a list of the .338-caliber greats in chronological order in which they were introduced.11 Great .338 Caliber Rifle Cartridges Ammo

11 Great .338 Caliber Rifle Cartridges

Payton Miller

Starting in the late 1950s, the .338-bore size gained considerable traction — thanks to the...

It's not much of a stretch to make a case for the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser being the best 6.5mm cartridge of them all.Best 6.5mm Cartridges: 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser Ammo

Best 6.5mm Cartridges: 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser

Joseph von Benedikt - December 02, 2020

It's not much of a stretch to make a case for the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser being the best 6.5mm...

Magnum shotshells give shooters more of what they don't need, including more recoil, more muzzle blast, and long shot strings.Magnum Shotshells - Do We Really Need Them? Ammo

Magnum Shotshells - Do We Really Need Them?

Terry Wieland

Magnum shotshells give shooters more of what they don't need, including more recoil, more...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Shooting Times App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now