6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester: A Battle of Ballistic Coefficients

When it comes to long range shooting, two calibers that cannot be ignored are the 6.5 Creedmoor and the venerable 308 Winchester.

Although the 308 Winchester (7.62 NATO) has been a staple in the long-range target shooting community since its inception over 60 years ago, the 6.5 Creedmoor simply outperforms the 308 Winchester in almost every category when shooting out past 500 yards.

In this article, we are going to go through a detailed comparison of 308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor and explain the pros and cons of each cartridge, as well as discuss the ballistics data for these two popular calibers.

Break out your sandbags, bipods, and spotting scopes because we are going to squeeze the trigger and let it fly on long range shooting today!

What is 308?

In 1952, the U.S. Military started developing a replacement for the long-serving 30-06 Springfield cartridge (military designation: M2 Ball or 7.62x63mm).

Although the 30-06 Springfield had honorably served through both World Wars and Korea, the US Military wanted to develop a new cartridge that was lighter and more suitable for fully automatic rifle fire.

With advancements in rifle powder technology and case design in the 1950s, the new 7.62x51mm NATO rifle round was able to achieve neatly identical ballistic performance as the 30-06 Springfield with a shorter cartridge case length (63mm vs 51mm) and lower overall weight.

The US Army officially adopted the 7.62x51mm NATO round in 1958 and it has been in service ever since.

Seeing the potential of the cartridge in the civilian market, Winchester was quick to adapt the new rifle round to its Model 70 bolt action rifle. The civilian version of the 7.62x51mm NATO was named the 308 Winchester.

The 308 Winchester has since become the most popular big game hunting round in the world with bullet weights ranging between 120 to 180 grains.

308 ammo is available in a variety of loadings for varmint hunters, big game hunters, and F-Class Tactical Rifle shooters alike.

As the 308 Winchester was also adopted by other NATO nations, the amount of surplus ammo and components made by foreign manufacturers is also very plentiful.

The 308 Winchester is a clear upgrade to the 30-06 Springfield as the 308 has lower recoil, the round itself weighs less, it fits in a short action rifle, has lower pressure so it is more appropriate for use in gas powered rifles, and it has a slight advantage in accuracy over its older counterpart.

With all of these advantages, the 308 Winchester has been a staple for precision shooters in the military, law enforcement, and civilian life.

Although the 308 Winchester is the most prolific military cartridge to date, its true success came in the civilian market.

Hunters and target shooters are mostly to credit for the 308’s widespread success.

The most popular hunting ammo is sold with a 125, 150, 165, or 180 grain bullet and can be used effectively on big game across North America, Europe, and on safari in Africa. Of these rifle cartridges, the 150’s and 165’s are the most popular and will have a muzzle velocity around 2800 fps and 2650 fps, respectively.

For my readers who like to really air it out and enjoy long range shooting, the two most popular choices are the 168 and 175 grain bullet: either a Sierra Matchking Boattail Hollow Point or a Berger VLD Target.

However, what long-range target shooters have come to understand is that a slower, heavier bullet with a higher Ballistic Coefficient (BC) is preferred to a lighter bullet with a higher muzzle velocity when you are getting into longer ranges (800+ yards).

This is where the 6.5 Creedmoor comes into the picture.

What is 6.5 Creedmoor?

The development of the 6.5 Creedmoor round began in August of 2005 during Service Rifle Week at the National Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio.

As with most innovations, the genesis of the 6.5 Creedmoor came out of frustration – and that frustration came from legendary Service Rifle competitor and former US Marine, Dennis DeMille.

Several of the competitors at the National Matches were using a wildcat cartridge called the 6XC. Although the 6XC was winning matches, there was no published reloading data for the cartridge and it was consistently blowing out primers and breaking extractors (clearly they never called me about this problem!)

DeMille was working for the company that was the exclusive distributor of rifles chambered in 6XC, and competitors would come to him between strings of fire to ask for help (AKA complain).

DeMille had just about had enough of it and was about to throw in the towel and head home. Thankfully, he was sharing a condo with a good friend of his and soon the gripe session began.

That friend was none other than Dave Emary, the senior ballistician for Hornady Ammunition at the time.

Emary was able to talk DeMille off the ledge and asked him to give him a “wishlist” for the ideal long-range cartridge that could be used for “shooting across the course” (that’s High Power-speak for being viable for all the courses of fire in a High Power match.)

DeMille agreed and the next day he approached Emary with a list of 7 requirements for the new cartridge.

DeMille’s Dream Cartridge Wishlist Was:

  1. The cartridge must be able to fit into a magazine for the rapid fire stages of the competition
  2. Less recoil than a 308 Winchester for better follow-up shots and shooter comfort during rapid fire
  3. Flatter trajectory than a 308 with an accurate, high BC bullet
  4. Good barrel life
  5. Uses readily available reloading components so results can be duplicated
  6. Reloading recipes printed on the box
  7. Produced in quantities that could keep up with demand

Emary took DeMille’s list back to Hornady and got to work on producing the ideal long range rifle cartridge.

Emary chose the relatively unknown 30 Thompson Center (30 T/C) as the parent cartridge for the 6.5 Creedmoor. He necked down the case to accept the more aerodynamic .264” diameter bullets and sharpened the shoulders to 30 degrees and the 6.5 Creedmoor was born.

Emary initially wanted to call the new round the 6.5 DeMille but DeMille would hear nothing of that. Instead, DeMille recommend the name “Creedmoor” in honor of the Creedmoor Rifle Range in Long Island, New York where the first National Matches were held.

And so, in 2007, Hornady unveiled their new 6.5 Creedmoor ammo at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

They didn’t have high hopes for this new cartridge and had no idea that the 6.5 Creedmoor was about to take the long range shooting scene by storm.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded in a variety of bullet weights that are typically separated into two categories. The Light Weight category, which ranges from 127 to 135 grain bullet weights, and the Heavy Weight category, which is loaded with 140 to 147 grain bullets.

The cartridge rim of the 6.5 Creedmoor is identical to the 308 Winchester, which means all that is needed to convert a precision rifle or semi-automatic rifle chambered in 308 Winchester to 6.5 Creedmoor is a barrel change. No need to buy a new rifle!

308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor: Which is Better?

Now that you have a better idea about the history of both cartridges, it’s time we take an objective look at both of these long-range target shooting titans and see who comes out on top!

Recoil

When it comes to recoil, the less you have the more accurate you will shoot. Therefore, less is better.

When you are shooting long matches or just out on the range for an extended period of time, shoulder wear is a real problem. The less your rifle pounds on your shoulder, the less you will jerk the trigger during firing (this is called “recoil anticipation").

In terms of recoil, there is no contest as 6.5 Creedmoor has about 30% less felt recoil than 308 Winchester.

Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor by a country mile

Barrel Life

For all of my readers who are hunters, it’s unlikely that you will ever “shoot out” a barrel to the point where accuracy suffers. However, for competitive shooters or long-range target shooters using a high precision rifle, this is a real problem. Barrel wear typically begins at the throat of the chamber, where the bullet enters the barrel.

This is one of the few shortfalls of the 6.5 Creedmoor, as a match grade Creedmoor barrel will typically only last about 2000 rounds whereas a 308 match barrel will hold true for around 5000 rounds. This is primarily due to similar case capacity for both cartridges.

The specifications for 6.5 Creedmoor and 308 Winchester state the case capacity at 52.5 gr and 53.5 gr, respectively. This means that the powder charge for both cartridges will be similar. This large of a powder charge in a smaller diameter barrel will mean that the 6.5 Creedmoor will wear out a barrel considerably faster.

Winner: 308 Winchester hands down

Hunting

On paper, you would think that the 308 Winchester would be the clear winner in terms of hunting efficacy. The .30” bullet “should” leave a larger wound channel, causing more blood loss and deeper penetration.

However, in the field, this is not necessarily the case.

The simple truth is that you will not see any appreciable difference in wound channels between the 6.5 and the 308. Both the 308 Winchester and the 6.5 Creedmoor have enough kinetic energy to take down large game from whitetail deer all the way to bull elk without issue. That being said, the 308 Winchester does offer more varieties of ammo, including offerings with heavier bullets up to 180 grains to take on dangerous game, like black bear, without issue. At closer ranges below 500 yards, the 308 Winchester has more kinetic energy (ft/lbs) than the 6.5 Creedmoor. However, I’m pretty sure the deer in your crosshairs is not going to be able to tell the sub-10% difference between the two rifle cartridges.

Another consideration when picking a round for hunting is Sectional Density (SD). Sectional Density is the ratio of bullet diameter compared to its mass. It goes without saying, that heavier bullets in any caliber are going to be longer than lighter bullets in the same caliber. This means that heavier bullets will have a higher SD and therefore penetrate deeper than their lighter counterparts.

308 Winchester hunting rounds typically go up to a maximum of 180 grains in bullet weight. Your typical 180 grain 308 ammo will have a sectional density of 0.253 while a 6.5 mm 140 grain bullet will have a sectional density of 0.287.

With less recoil, lower wind drift, lower bullet drop rates, higher sectional density, and a flatter trajectory make the 6.5 Creedmoor the ideal hunting round for your new rifle next season.

Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor

Accuracy

There’s no doubt that the 308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor are extremely accurate rounds. Match grade loadings with Sierra Matchkings, Hornady ELD-X, or Berger VLD Target bullets will give you sub-MOA (Minute of Angle, 1 MOA = 1" at 100 yards) accuracy if you do your part.

However, with lower recoil, the 6.5 Creedmoor will give most shooters better accuracy results out of the box with 1/2 MOA and 3/4 MOA groupings being easily attainable.

Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor by a slight margin

Long Range Performance (800+ yards)

There’s no doubt that both rounds are capable of doing very well at long range. Military, LE, and civilian shooters have been using 308 at longer ranges for decades; however, everyone seems to be running to the 6.5 Creedmoor and there’s a reason for that! When it comes to longer ranges, the 6.5 Creedmoor was specifically designed to outperform the 308, and it does so in spades.

Looking at the ballistics data tables below, you can clearly see that the 6.5 Creedmoor outperforms the 308 Winchester in every category past 500 yards. 175 gr 308 Winchester loadings are typically coming close to the edge of being transonic at 1000 yards, while the 6.5 Creedmoor is still well above the supersonic FPS that is needed to maintain accuracy at that range.

It’s clear that the 6.5 Creedmoor is the ideal ammo for shooting longer ranges, hands down.

Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor

Reloading

Reloading components for both calibers are readily available and easy to find. Furthermore, there are no “tricks” to learn when handloading a 6.5 mm cartridge compared to a 30 caliber. Both the 308 Winchester and the 6.5 Creedmoor are a dream to load with a plethora of bullet and powder options to choose from to dial in your ideal handload for your favorite long distance rifle.

Bottom line is that both rifle cartridges are a joy to reload.

Winner: Draw

Military and LE Application

In October of 2017, US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) tested the performance of the long-serving 7.62x51mm NATO against the 260 Remington and the 6.5 Creedmoor and the results are astounding to say the least! It was determined that military snipers using the 6.5 Creedmoor had DOUBLE the hit probability at 1000 meters.

Furthermore, they ascertained that the 6.5 Creedmoor:

  • Increased their shooters’ effective range by approximately 33%
  • Experienced 40% less wind drift
  • Had 30% less recoil
  • Delivered approximately 50% more kinetic energy to the target

Those numbers are staggering to say the least and Uncle Sam took notice and began converting their MK110A1 and Mk20 precision rifles to 6.5 Creedmoor in 2019. As we discussed earlier, all that was required was a barrel change as the Creedmoor was designed to fit in the magazine and on the bolt face for a 308 Winchester.

The 7.62x51mm NATO has served our military valiantly for well over 60 years and it will continue to do so in other firearms such as the M240B and the FN-SCAR. However, when it comes to long range precision shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor is clear winner.

Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor

Continue reading 6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester: A Battle of Ballistic Coefficients at Ammo.com.

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Frank at Snipers Hide did a 6.5 vs. 308 and the 308 with Cutting Edge bullets won, it was slim, but it did better out to somewhere around 1200 yards if I remember correctly and I believe the 308 he used was a 20 inch barrel vs 24 for the 6.5.

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That’s kinda cheating though, how many tens of thousands of 308 rounds has Frank sent down range over the years? That right there could be that slim margin.

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The 308 won due to less drop and drift with that particular bullet, group size was not involved, just ballistics and hitting steel at long range. I don’t see him pulling any shots to prove anything, he loves to do that testing on everything. He even after the testing said he would still take the 6.5 over the 308. He, IMO takes a lot of heat, but he lets the ballistics speak for themselves. He goes into a lot of detail on everything, brass, powder, primers, loading the rounds, FPS the whole nine yards, records everything. I and others fell for this one guy who did a lot of scope testing and bragging about his long range skills and kills online, posted a lot of stuff and did training, he went too far once about supposedly training some over sea’s snipers…Frank dug into the guy and proved he was lying, the guy tried to lie his way out of it and disappeared off the forums…Frank has a lot of friends in that arena and is pretty good at what he does. A lot of good stuff on that forum, but like anything else take it for how you see it.

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Had to find the guy’s name Frank called out, Bryce Wells was the guys name…he seems to have disappeared for the most part online. After Frank and a few un-named people on Snipes Hide called him out with proof they eventually I believe deleted all his content, it was several years ago, maybe 5 or more…

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So many variables. Different day, different barrels, different etc. Could have easily gone the other way. It does show that the right tool in the right hands either one will get it done at way farther than I can or would hunt. If you hunt at any distance I think you have the responsibility to make it a ‘Bang Flop’ if you can. That’s where BC works against you, but modern ‘Bullet Tech’ helps you. Though no matter how good the 6.5C’s ‘Bang Flop’ factors are, they are better with the 308.

Here is a bit of a surprising example of ‘High-Tech’ hunting bullets. Note that these are claimed BC’s, and the results are calculated using those numbers. Interestingly the .308 has a higher BC than the 6.5, it is of course much heavier and obviously both of these factors would have benefits at distance.

Cavity Back Bullets’ - Match Grade Hunting Projectiles:

Cavity Back 7.62mm/.308 MKZ-T - (Maximum Kill Zone Tipped)
168 grain premium tipped hunting bullet for the 7.62mm/.308. Ballistic Coefficient - .540 G1 Opening speed range 1600 fps (expansion .750 of an inch) to 3000 fps (expansion.840 of an inch). There is no upper speed limit, however above 3000 fps in game may cause petal loss and may not maintain full weight retention.

Cavity Back 6.5mm/.264 MKZ- Maximum Kill Zone 118 grain premium hunting bullet for the 6.5mm/.264 shooters. Ballistic Coefficient - .505 G1. Opening diameter in ballistic gel tested to .700 of an inch. Opening speed 1500 feet per second. This bullet still has substantial double caliber expansion down to 1500 fps.

You may or may not hold with the ‘tried and maybe true’ hunting guideline energy metrics of 1500 fpe for Elk and 1000 fpe for deer, but we can use them to have something for comparison. Using Hornady’s Online Ballistic Calculator at sea level comparing these two bullets we get:

6.5 mm @2900 fps the 118 gr MKZ 1500 fpe at just shy of 300 yards and 1000 fpe just shy of 600. The manufacturer claims the bullet will perform on large game past 800 yards.

.308 @2700 fps the 168 gr MKZ (Tipped) 1500 fpe at 450 yards and 1000 fpe at more than 700. The manufacturer claims the bullet will perform on large game to 800 yards.

This is a good example of why I would more often than not, choose a .308 Win to hunt with over a 6.5 Creedmoor. I know we could use different bullets, but in the end at ‘My’ hunting distances the .308 covers everything pretty darn good. From 115 gr to 200 gr, Speed Goats to Black Bear and better than the 6.5 Creedmoor.

https://www.cavitybackbullets.com/

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The 308 has always been good to me, when I went 6.5 I went all the way to a 6.5x300…lol

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Have you tried the Hammer Hunters?

Or the Cavity Backs?

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I’ve listened to his podcast for years now, the man has taught me a lot and saved me some money, caused me to spend money a few times as well. A class with him is one of those bucket list items.

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Hey! Why not neck dowm the .308 to .264"? Oh, wait. Ken Waters did that in 1953 and then Jim Carmichael came along in 1994(*/-) and convinced Remington to produce it as the .260 Rem. But smarter companies produced it in the 1:8" twist it needs.

My current whitetail deer cartridge of choice. Has a few fps over the Creedmoor. :wink:

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They both kill deer efficiently.

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They both are murder on hawgs too.

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Sierra 168 BTHP pushed by 45 grains of Varget drops Deer like a rock, not shot any Hogs…

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The 6.5 has worked since the 6.5x55 came off the drawing board 130 years ago. It was so good it is still used. The first weight I think was 156gr. The Creedmoor loses a bit of capacity vs the 260 to seat the longer heavier pills in a SA DBM. Because of the Creedmoor even the 156 gr can now be loaded into a SA. The modern bullets perform so well at lower weights the Creedmoor’s (& 260 Rem & other 6.5s) functionality is enhanced. Though so is the 308’s. Felt recoil is generally less for the Creedmoor. The worst kicking 308 we have is the Winchester M-88. The best is the modified Vepr. It has less felt recoil than the heavier 6.5 Creedmoor in a fully adjustable chassis. That 6.5 C will out shoot everything we have except that light M-88. Of course it is only good for 1 3 round group till it cools off.

It is 63 years old and shoots lights out. The Creedmoor will need a barrel change soon because it gets shot so much. We loving it death!

Hunting? Give me the M-88 …& a Limbsaver :laughing:

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My Savage M-11 .260 Rem has a long enough throat that I can use the 156 gr Norma Oryx. The magazine lets me seat past the SAAMI O.A.L. by 0.0090", but because of that bullet’s ogive I can use a 0.0015" jump and still be only 2.729" O.A.L. (short of the 2.800" recommended).

I just have to come up with something big enough to justify needing that bullet. Always thought I’d like to try a moose hunt. Maybe someday?

W.D.M. Bell liked the 6.5mm x 54 M-S for elephant(!) Mostly because of the smooth action and his knowledge of where the elephant’s brain sits. And that’s a very weak sister to the .260 Rem or 6.5 CM.

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Nice. I like Savages. Our 6.5 C is in a upgraded Savage BA Stealth Evolution with the Drake Chassis. Changed out the Rail and took off the NV Bridge. Put on a MDT Elite ESS-S Stock with the Folding Adaptor. (We put the Magpul PRS on a Seekins Tac 6) The 6.5 C shoots pretty good still, it has a 6.5 PRC and a 308 barrel too (both Savage). Haven’t tried them yet. Will probably go with the 6.5 PRC next, and soon before this original 6.5C barrel is worn out, then buy another 6.5 C for later.

That M-11 of yours has a blind magazine that helps a little with COAL. Nice that you can use the 156 Norma Oryx in the 260 Rem, their being European I never thought about it. I’ve heard about them heard, they’re expensive too I’m thinking if I remember.

With ours we’re limited to the DBM’s Max COAL of 2.810. We need to get the KACs for our Savage, they allow up to 2.871 for handloading the 6.5 PRC and eventually the 6.8 Western. Cause I’m looking forward to the day when we can get a pre-fit that has a 1:7.5” twist for 6.8 Western and we can sling 175 grainers at Elk from a Bartlein Mod-400.

I know the 6.5 caliber works. Especially now a days with modern bullets. Honestly when I was real real young the 243 and 270 were kind of the cool fast Cartridges. 30-06 was what everybody had. Our ‘Kind of People’ didn’t buy Weatherby, but the 300 WM and even the 7 Rem Mag got real popular. The 308 was what everybody looked askance at for awhile, some even switched to 7-08. The 260 Rem was a real rebel when it came out. Now it seems that it’s the 6.5 C that’s disparaged. I don’t want to pile on, it doesn’t deserve it, but the 308 was what we had.

I grew up with it, and have really learned to love the 308. Few do everything that it does. Some do what they do better. Nothing really quite fills it’s wide use range as well as it does. Though I admit 6.5’s are certainly getting there. It is great time to be an American Rifle Lover.

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I love the .308. Not dissing it. One of the most accurate rifles I ever owned was a Remington 788 in .308 that I foolishly sold (I did that a LOT in the '70s and '80s, as I was always chasing the next “thing”). See below - I just didn’t need a .308 at that time.

When I purchased my .260 Rem I was actually shopping to buy a 7-08 for the then just opened to rifle region of NY where I live. They were sold out . . . but had a dusty old .260 and were willing to make some “toss-in” deals for reloading components. They didn’t have any loaded ammo (not odd now but odd then). I did a quick consult to a reloading manual on their rack and thought “hmmmmmm - this might just be a dandy whitetail rifle”. I wasn’t wrong.

Yeah. The Norma Oryx are pricy. I tried 11 different bullets from 125 to 156 gr and that one shoots well. As I said, I just don’t have a need for that load at this time. The ubiquitous 143 ELD-X wasn’t all I hoped . . . at the ranges I ended up shooting. May be all roses & a bag of chips at 350 yards but at 12 to 160 yards (yes, 12 yards) I didn’t get the shock or expansion I had hoped for. I’m using 130 gr (over lightly compressed Reloader-19) so the shorter neck isn’t an issue at all.

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Thought you would be interested in this SK.

ORKAN w/Primal Rights in SoDak Posted this today in a Long Range Hunting forum thread about the 22C shooting 73gr hammers:

"Lots of folks tend to think 22 Creeds aren’t up to deer hunting. However, those same folks would not hesitate to shoot one with a 6.5 Creed. Yet a quick glance at a ballistic computer would show them that an 80gr berger from a 22 creed hits with 300ft/lbs MORE energy at 600yds than a 140 from a 6.5. Secondly, the 22 has a higher probability of actually transferring all of that energy to the animal than the 6.5 does.

Big 22 cals with fast twist and heavy bullets are quite possibly the most under rated combo’s of all time. If I could only have one cartridge, it would be a 22 creedmoor."

and Pickens from OK says he’s been using 44gr Hammers at 4200/4300 fps for Deer.

Maybe I need to buy a 22 Creed Barrel?

Edit: Very interested, going to start a new thread about them 22 Cal Killing Machines.

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Tthanks for educating me on something i never knew before. I’ve been holding onto my mosin for hunting. I am pretty good with it too.
Any reason i should spend $$$$ and buy another caliber?

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Nope. They been shooting stuff for over 120 years. Long barrel life too. But if you need a excuse to by a new gun… I for one understand… I feel your pain.

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