6.5 PRC Versus .300 PRC
December 27, 2018
Hornady recently introduced two new cutting-edge cartridges, both wearing the “PRC” name (for Precision Rifle Cartridge). Being from the same family, as it were, do these two cartridges compete? If so, which is better? If not, what is each round’s place in the cartridge realm?
Complementing, not competing
While the two PRC cartridges share design concepts and engineering characteristics, and have some very real similarities, they are vastly different in the tasks they are suitable for.
Let’s start with the similarities. Both the 6.5 PRC and the .300 PRC are engineered with an ideal ratio of propellant capacity to bore diameter for long-range work. Both milk the best out of long, high-BC bullets of their particular bore diameter with relative efficiency, providing a combination of outstanding performance and acceptable barrel life. Both share ancestry; the .375 Ruger case is the direct parent of the .300 PRC and the grandparent—via the .300 RCM—of the 6.5 PRC.
Importantly, case and chamber design features of each combine every performance-enhancing characteristic currently known, finessed to favor accuracy and consistency with high-BC long-range projectiles.
Where the two PRC cartridges differ is the action lengths in which they fit, the targets and game for which they are suitable, and their extreme-range capability.
I’ll make a couple of brash statements to start this discussion off: I believe that the 6.5 PRC is the best-engineered 6.5mm hunting cartridge ever designed, and the .300 PRC is the best-engineered ELR (Extra Long Range) .30-caliber cartridge ever designed.
In technical terms, the 6.5 PRC is ballistically identical to the legendary .264 Win. Mag., yet fits in a short-action rifle and has none of the .264’s finicky nature or outdated cartridge design characteristics. It shoots about 200 to 300 fps faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor, which admittedly reduces barrel life a bit but makes a big difference on game, particularly in the elk-size realm or when shots stretch past a quarter mile. Specifically, 143-grain factory-loaded bullets exit the muzzle at around 2,960 fps, producing almost 2,800 ft-lbs of energy. Various high-performance 130- to 147-grain projectiles from Hornady and other companies can be handloaded to 3,000 fps or more.
A very strong argument can be made that the 6.5 PRC is the ultimate all-around hunting cartridge for the Lower 48 states; polite in recoil, inherently accurate, capable at astonishing ranges, superb for deer-size game, and adequate for elk.
The .300 PRC, on the other hand, is not polite. It kicks. Yep, more than the popular .300 Win. Mag. Why? Because it holds a bit more gunpowder, and because it typically shoots very heavy .30-caliber bullets. With an aggressive muzzle brake or a suppressor it’s pleasant to shoot. Without, it’s got bite.
What the .300 PRC is particularly good for is ELR shooting, where “long range” begins at 1,000 yards and extends way, way out. It’s also excellent for hunting where precisely walloping a somewhat distant critter—and doing so with authority—is of paramount importance.
For ringing distant steel targets out to a mile or more, Hornady offers factory-loaded 225-grain ELD Match bullets with an eyebrow-raising G1 BC of 0.777, which exits the muzzle at 2,810 fps and edges into .338 Lapua ballistic territory. Similar heavy-for-caliber high-BC projectiles from Sierra, Berger and so forth can be handloaded for the .300 PRC.
For reaching out and dropping big game at extended distances—whatever that means to you—Hornady offers factory-loaded 212-grain ELD-X bullets with an also-excellent BC of 0.673. It’s rated to exit the muzzle at 2,860 fps, which produces 3,850 ft-lbs of energy. And of course, other long-range-suitable hunting bullets by Barnes, Berger, Federal, Nosler, and Sierra and so forth can be handloaded for the .300 PRC.
Let’s examine the two PRC cartridges in their comfort zones.
The first, smaller 6.5mm version can be built in a very sleek, lightweight precision hunting rifle. Personal experience in the fickle wind and challenging shot angles of my native Rocky Mountains has shown that the 6.5 PRC is death on steel out to a comfortable 1,400 yards. There may be no better cartridge for deer and antelope, and with correct bullet choice any elk inside a quarter mile is in serious trouble. Kids and recoil-sensitive shooters can master the 6.5’s mild recoil. And finally, the 6.5 PRC is a really top cartridge for PRS-type matches fired at distances from 800 to 1,400 yards.
Introduced a year later than the 6.5mm version, the .300 PRC is a bona fide ELR cartridge. Even in challenging sea-level atmospherics, its bullets stay supersonic to almost a mile, and at my home elevation of 5,000 feet, Hornady’s 225-grain ELD Match is supersonic past 2,100 yards. Because of the .300 PRC’s overall length, it does require full magnum length actions.
Although beautifully balanced ballistically, the .300 PRC is not a shooter-friendly cartridge for everyday plinking. Pick this round if you want to pound steel at a mile or big game at distances you hesitate to admit. Also, if you regularly hunt elk, moose, or big black bears the .300 PRC is a better choice than the 6.5 version because it offers considerably greater bullet weight, frontal diameter, and energy.
Which is right for you?
So how do you pick the right PRC cartridge? Use the above performance parameters to figure out which better fits your needs.
I will say this: Unless targets past 1,400 yards and/or game bigger than elk play a regular part in your weekly activities, the 6.5 PRC is your ticket to happiness. But if those hobbies rev your motor, the .300 PRC is—as a matter of ballistically optimized fact—engineered just for you.
Can’t decide? Buy one of each!
Sidebar: 6.5 PRC vs. 6.5 Creedmoor
As an aside, a quick comparison between the 6.5 PRC and the 6.5 Creedmoor—today’s single most popular centerfire cartridge—is called for. In simplest terms, the 6.5 PRC shoots faster, flatter, farther, and with more energy. However, it recoils more, has less barrel life, and ammo is more expensive. Plus, standard rifle magazines hold one less round. Personally, I consider the 6.5 PRC the superior hunting cartridge, and the 6.5 Creedmoor the better choice for competition and target shooting.