This past year I asked the 173 of the top-ranked precision rifle shooters in the country about the load they were running in their match ammo. These were the guys that finished highest in the overall season for both the Precision Rifle Series and the National Rifle League (learn about the PRS and NRL). This was the first year I asked about the specific powder and charge weight they were loading. I made it completely optional, because I wasn’t sure if everyone was willing to share or would know that detail off the top of their head as they were taking the survey. I asked them to simply leave that question blank if they couldn’t remember the exact weight they were running. Of the 173 shooters that I surveyed, 162 of them said they handload their ammo and 82% of those guys were willing to share their load data with all of us! Thank you to all the shooters who completed the survey!
This article will cover what bullets, cases, primers, powders, and charge weights these elite marksmen shooting a 6mm Creedmoor or 6.5 Creedmoor found to work best in their rifles. What reloading components work best often depends on the particular cartridge you’re using, so I plan to cover the load data for each of the other popular precision rifle cartridges that at least 5 of these top-ranked shooters were using in these other articles:
- 6mm Dasher Load Data
- 6 & 6.5 Creedmoor Load Data (this article)
- 6BRX, 6BRA, and 6BR Load Data
- 6 & 6.5×47 Lapua Load Data
- 6XC Load Data
While I’d feel fortunate to know what load any of these top shooters are running, this set of data is the aggregate of well over 100 truly world-class shooters, so what a rich and unique data set to pull from insight from! Having such a large sample size allows us to draw more meaningful conclusions on what loads and components seem to work well across multiple rifle configurations. It can be tough to find good load data for a few of these cartridges, so I know this will help a lot of shooters. And while some of us enjoy tinkering with loads, knowing what load other accomplished shooters found as the “sweet spot” for a cartridge may help minimize time in the reloading room and maximize time at the range. I think even the guys who completed the survey will be interested to see what their fellow competitors found that worked best in their rifles.
Important: You should always reference a comprehensive reloading manual and start with the minimum recommended loads and work your way up. Many of these shooters could be running “hot” loads, and just because the load is safe in their rifles, doesn’t mean it will be in your’s. There are a ton of factors that vary from them to you, including exact chamber/barrel dimensions, brass specs, reloading scales, powder lots, seating depth and tension, etc., so it’s critical to follow safety precautions. Failure to follow safe loading practices could result in severe personal injury (including death) or gun damage to the user or bystanders. Technical data and information are based upon survey responses from other shooters under specific conditions and circumstances. The author has not independently verified the accuracy of the data, and cannot be responsible for errors in published load data. Because this site and its affiliates have no control over the individual loading practices and/or components used, no responsibility is assumed by PrecisionRifleBlog.com or its affiliates in the use of this data. The information is to be used at the sole discretion of the user and the user assumes all risk.
6mm Creedmoor Load Data
The 6mm Creedmoor (6CM) was the second most popular cartridge used by these top shooters, with 20% of the top-ranked shooters choosing to run it. It was only behind the 6mm Dasher in terms of popularity. The 6mm Creedmoor has 25% more case capacity than the 6mm Dasher and other cases based off the 6BR, which means you can typically run a little heavier bullets and/or a little faster muzzle velocities. Those things add up to better ballistics, meaning flatter trajectory and less wind drift. However, that extra horsepower usually comes at the cost of shorter accurate barrel life than the smaller cases, and you’ll likely have to manage slightly more recoil. In the precision rifle game, we’re all making trade-offs and trying to strike what we believe is the right balance of ballistic performance, recoil, consistency, and barrel life. Obviously lots of shooters feel like the 6mm Creedmoor was the right ticket!
6mm Creedmoor Bullets
Let’s take a look at the bullets top shooters were running in their 6 Creedmoor rifles:
On the chart above, the various colors represent where a shooter landed in terms of rank. For example, black indicates shooters who finished in the top 10 in the PRS, the darkest blue is people who finished 11-25 in the PRS, and the lighter the blue, the further out they finished in overall standings. The green colors represents the top shooters in the NRL, where the darkest green is the top 10, medium green is 11-25, and light green are the shooters who’s season rank landed from 26th to 50th. The chart legend itemizes the league and ranks each color represents, but basically the darker the color, the higher up the shooters placed.
One unique aspect about the 6 Creedmoor is the number of guys that were using match-grade factory ammo, and not handloading their ammo themselves. 6 of the 13 shooters who said they run the Hornady 108gr ELD Match bullet said they were shooting that from Hornady factory match ammo. And we aren’t talking about guys who finished low on the leaderboard either – one shooter using Hornady factory ammo finished 14th overall in the PRS Open Division! Just ten years ago it would have been unheard of to try to compete at this level of competition with factory ammo, but manufacturing has come a long way! One of the compelling aspects of the 6mm Creedmoor and 6.5 Creedmoor is you have the option for affordable, factory match-grade ammo. You can reload if you like, but there is always the option to just go buy a box of ammo off the shelf, which many shooters value.
If you excluded the guys who were running factory ammo, and only looked at what bullet the handloaders chose to run (since they could pick anything) then you’d only see 7 handloaders went with the Hornady 108gr ELDM compared to 12 that went with Tubb’s 115gr DTAC RBT bullet. There were also 7 shooters running the Berger 105gr Hybrid, so those 3 bullets combine to represent what 90% of the handloaders chose to run in their 6 Creedmoor rifles. I noticed those three bullets were very popular across most of the 6mm cartridges, so you’ll notice a theme over the next few articles.
There were also a top shooter in each league using the Nosler 105gr RDF bullet, which is fairly new bullet design. RDF stands for “Reduced Drag Factor” and Nosler claims their RDF bullets have the highest BC of any match-grade bullet on the market. (Learn more about the Nosler RDF)
6mm Creedmoor Powder
27 shooters said they handload the 6 Creedmoor, with 63% of those using H4350. There were a handful of other powders some of these shooters opted to use. Here is a breakdown of all the rifle powders these top marksmen were reloading in their 6 Creedmoors:
- Hodgdon H4350 = 17 shooters (63%), breakdown of exact powder charge weights shown in chart below
- Alliant Reloder 16 = 5 shooters (19%). Four of the shooters using 105gr or 108gr bullets said they ran powder charge weights from 40.0-42.2, with two shooters using 40.0-40.2gr. One shooter was using RL16 with the 115gr DTAC, and he was using a charge weight of 38.4gr.
- Hodgdon H4831SC= 2 shooters (7%), with charge weights of 43.0gr with a 115gr DTAC, and 43.7gr with a 108gr ELDM
- Alliant Reloder 26 = 2 shooters (7%), both using 115gr bullets with charge weights of 43.5 and 43.8gr
- Hodgdon Varget = 1 shooter with a powder charge weight of 36.0gr with a 105gr Hybrid
Since over 60% of the shooters were running Hodgdon H4350, I want to show a more detailed distribution of powder charge weights those shooters said they were using on my survey. The color on the chart represents the bullet weight they were pairing that powder charge with.
While it appears that the 13 shooters that provided their exact powder charge weight of H4350 in a 6mm Creedmoor are spread out fairly significantly, 77% of those fall between 40.4 and 41.6 gr. That is just 1.2 grains of difference, so it seems like many guys found the “sweet spot” in that relatively narrow range. The guys running within that range (i.e. 40.4-41.6gr of H4350) with 26” barrels and 115gr bullets reported average muzzle velocities of 2950-3040 fps. The guys who were loading a 105gr or 108gr bullet over H4350 and firing them from 26” barrels reported muzzle velocities of 2980-3100 fps.
6mm Creedmoor Brass
Let’s take a look at what brand of 6mm Creedmoor brass these top shooters prefer:
Wow, that is a lot of different brands of 6 Creedmoor brass! Last year Lapua started offering factory brass for the 6mm Creedmoor, so I expected that to be the predominate choice of these top shooters – but clearly I was wrong! That’s why we like to actually look at the data, and not just say what we think! 😉 Hornady 6mm Creedmoor brass is clearly the most popular, 3 to 1 over the next most popular brands. Peterson Brass also made a surprise appearance with just as many represented as Lapua, including a shooter in the top 10 of both the PRS and NRL. Gunwerks brass also made an appearance in the top 10 in the PRS, so it is clearly capable. Alpha Munitions is a US-made premium brass manufacturer that some have said is as consistent as even the “European brands” (i.e. Lapua and Norma), and it looks like at least a couple of these top shooters would agree. Finally, Norma brass, Sig Sauer brass, and even Starline brass each had one shooter represented.
6 Creedmoor Primers
Now let’s look at the primers used for the 6mm Creedmoor. This is trickier than most other cartridges, because you can buy brass for the 6 Creedmoor that has a small primer pocket or a large primer pocket. Hornady’s original design was for a large primer pocket, but some believe small primers produce more consistent muzzle velocities and may take higher pressures and/or have a longer brass life because there is more metal in the case head and a smaller void/hole. Peterson Brass seems to provide some good insight into this:
“Casings with small rifle primer pockets do get more reloads than ones with large pockets. There is more metal around the pocket, so they hold up longer. There is an advantage to this for competition shooters. The first three or so times a casing is fired the more it forms to the shooter’s chamber, which results in more consistent muzzle velocities. So the more reloads you get after that break-in period the better. But we also make the 6mm Creedmoor in large rifle primer pockets. The larger primers seem to be less temperature sensitive – they perform more reliably in cold weather. So for someone wanting to use their gun to hunt deer the LRPs may be the better choice.”
I noticed on Graf.com’s product page for Peterson 6CM brass it has this note:
“If you plan to load above SAAMI max pressure and are concerned about primer-pocket leak, Peterson recommends you try the 6mm Creedmoor SRP [Small Rifle Primer]. While they do not suggest loading over SAAMI max pressures, Peterson’s small primer pocket 6mm Creedmoor have proven to hold up over SAAMI max pressures when tested in their universal receiver.”
I’ve actually heard of studies that proved small rifle primers were better, and others that proved large were better – so it continues to be a heated debate and it’d be a stretch to say there is a definitive answer to which is “better” at this point. Luckily with the 6mm Creedmoor, unlike other cartridges, you have the choice of small or large primer pockets, so everyone can pick a side they believe in. To the best of my knowledge, Hornady only offers 6CM brass with large primer pockets, Lapua only offers it with small primer pockets, and both Alpha Munitions and Peterson offer 6CM brass in either large or small, because apparently some shooters won’t buy one or the other. As long range shooters, we can have some pretty strong opinions, can’t we?! 😉
Finally, here is the list all of the primers the 6mm Creedmoor handloaders said they were using in their loads:
Because many of these shooters were running Hornady brass (which has a large primer pocket), we shouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of large rifle primers at the top of the list. The most popular choice was the Federal 210M Gold Medal Large Rifle Match Primer, with 55% of the shooters that were using large primers choosing it. There was also a top 10 shooter in both leagues, and a couple other shooters using Wolf Large Rifle Primers. Wolf primers are made in Russia, and according to BulletCentral.com, “In many cartridge types Wolf primers have shown excellent accuracy, and competitively low ES and SD. Wolf primers may require a little more force to be seated properly.” CCI BR-4 Small Rifle Bench Rest Primers was the most popular choice among the shooters opting for small rifle pockets.
6 Creedmoor – Exact Loads From The Top Pros
While the aggregate data of what guys are running is valuable, I wanted to also share the specific load data that a couple of the very best of the best were using in their match ammo. Scott Satterlee and Phillip Velayo are not only world-class shooters, but both are also very knowledgeable, long range rifle instructors. I’ve watched both of them help other shooters at matches. They’re some all-around good dudes, and I know I’d value their advice … so here are the loads those two are using in their 6mm Creedmoor rifles:
#5 in PRS & #8 in NRL: Scott Satterlee
- Cartridge: 6mm Creedmoor
- Bullet: Nosler 105gr RDF
- Powder: 40.2gr of Reloder 16
- Case: Peterson
- Primer: Wolf Large Rifle
- Muzzle Velocity: 3075 fps from a 26” barrel (SD = 4 fps)
#10 in PRS & #9 in NRL: Phillip Velayo
- Cartridge: 6mm Creedmoor
- Bullet: Superior Shooting Systems (Tubb) 115gr DTAC RBT
- Powder: 38.7gr of H4350
- Case: Gunwerks
- Primer: Federal 210M Match Large Rifle
- Muzzle Velocity: 2900 fps from a 26” barrel (SD = 7 fps)
6.5 Creedmoor Load Data
The 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the most popular cartridges out right now – and I’m a fan. I personally own a Surgeon bolt action rifle and a JP LRP-07 chambered in 6.5CM. I have lots of friends ask me for rifle advice, and I find myself recommending the 6.5 Creedmoor more than anything else. If I could only own one rifle, I would probably pick the 6.5 Creedmoor, because it would be a great choice for both competitions and hunting. Plus it has a relatively long barrel life, there are great factory rifles chambered in that cartridge, and you also have a ton of great factory, match-grade ammo options that are relatively affordable. In other words, it’s a hot cartridge for a lot of good reasons!
However, there were only 6 of these top shooters running a 6.5 Creedmoor. I bet some reading this may want an explanation for that – so I’ll do my best. Even though I’m a fan of the 6.5CM, own rifles in it, and recommend it often, I actually compete with a 6mm Creedmoor (view my match rifles). Don’t misunderstand, the 6.5CM is extremely capable. If you handed a 6.5 Creedmoor to one of these guys in the top 100, I bet they could still smoke me in a match (and a lot of other people). It’s more about the shooter than the cartridge! But, if you gave them a 6mm instead of a 6.5mm, they might be able to spot their own shots a little easier because of slightly less recoil, and that might help them correct a wind call that was a little off before it resulted in a miss at longer range. The ballistics for the 6CM are also slightly better than the 6.5CM (in most cases), but that comes at the cost of barrel life. There is no free lunch! So while I recommend 6.5CM to a lot of friends, if I had a friend who really wanted to optimize their rifle specifically for precision rifle matches, where terminal energy doesn’t really matter like it does in hunting or other applications, and they’re willing to replace the barrel more often for a slight advantage, then the 6mm Creedmoor or another 6mm cartridge might be the better choice. I believe that’s why 7 out of 8 of these top precision rifle competitors are shooting rifles in 6mm. There are still 23 of these top shooters running a 6.5mm cartridge (including one who finished in the top 10), so it’s clearly not a “dumb” choice – but at the absolute pinnacle of the sport, everyone is looking for the last little bit of advantage and most believe a 6mm provides that for these styles of competitions.
I know there are a ton of guys shooting 6.5 Creedmoor, so I wanted to provide as much help to them as I could, even though I only have data to share from 6 of these top-ranked shooters. Keep in mind that while these guys are experts, it is still a relatively small sample size. I will try to provide a little more commentary than normal to provide context where there could be bias due to the smaller sample size.
First, one of those shooters said they were running factory ammo. That shouldn’t be surprising since there are more great options for match-grade factory ammo in 6.5 Creedmoor than any other non-NATO cartridge. Hornady Match Ammo in 140gr ELDM or 147gr ELDM are both excellent choices, and I expected that was likely what that shooter was running – but they actually said they compete with Federal Premium Gold Medal Match with a Berger 130gr Hybrid. Honestly, I didn’t know Federal Premium was loading Berger bullets for the 6.5 Creedmoor. That’s awesome! Like I said, there are a lot of great options for match-grade ammo for the 6.5 Creedmoor. And one last note, that shooter using that Federal Premium factory ammo placed in the top 30 in the PRS Open Division, so it is truly match-grade ammo!
6.5 Creedmoor Bullets
Okay, now let’s dive into what bullets the guys shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor were using:
It is probably no surprise to see half of the shooters were using the Hornady 140gr ELD Match bullet in their 6.5 Creedmoor rifles. That bullet is a great pair for the 6.5 Creedmoor in terms of the velocities you’re able to get and the BC of the bullet. You can also see there was one shooter running the Hornady 147gr ELDM, Nosler 140gr RDF, and Berger 130gr Hybrid.
There is one bullet that is suspiciously missing from this group: the Berger 140gr Hybrid. That is another great option that would likely be well represented if we had a little larger sample size. In an upcoming article I will show what bullets the shooters running a 6.5×47 Lapua chose to load, and 65% of them picked the Berger 140gr Hybrid, so it’s clearly a great bullet option in 6.5mm that simply seems to not be represented among these 6 shooters. The chart below shows the most popular 6.5mm bullets used by these top-ranked shooters overall, and not just the ones guys were running in their 6.5 Creedmoors. You can see the Berger 140gr Hybrid is worth considering, along with several other outstanding match-grade bullets.
6.5 Creedmoor Powder
5 of these top shooters said they reload for the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the data on what type of powder they use was more spread out than some of the other cartridges. There is really no way to show patterns in the data, because of that. However, in order to provide the most complete data I can for all my 6.5 Creedmoor shooter friends, even with a relatively small sample size, I’ll simply provide the individual loads these shooters said they were using on the survey:
|Rank||Bullet||Powder||Primer||Case||Barrel Length||Muzzle Velocity||SD|
|#9 in NRL||Hornady 140gr ELDM||43.5gr H4350||Fed 210M||Gunwerks||26||2750||15|
|#38 in NRL||Nosler 140gr RDF||41.8gr Reloder 16||CCI #200||Norma||23||2870||7|
|#43 in NRL||Hornady 140gr ELDM||41.0gr IMR 4451||CCI BR-2||Prime||26||2800||12|
|#79 in PRS||Hornady 147gr ELDM||43.0gr Reloder 23||CCI #450||Peterson SRP||28||2790||2|
|#97 in PRS||Hornady 140gr ELDM||41.9 H4350||Fed 205M||Alpha SRP||26||2796||3.6|
Please remember that these guys may be running “hot” loads, and just because it’s safe in their rifles doesn’t mean it will be safe in your’s. Read my highlighted tip in the intro of this article, and consult a comprehensive reloading manual for safe loading practices.
6.5 Creedmoor Brass
Of the 5 top-ranked shooters reloading for a 6.5 Creedmoor, they were all using a different brand of brass! I’m getting the sense that these 5 shooters may be type of guys who like to buck the trend, and go their own way! 😉 I can certainly appreciate that! When it comes to brass, there was 1 shooter using each of these brands:
- Alpha Munitions
- Prime Ammo
It was surprising to see them all spread out, but what more surprising was that none of them were using Hornady or Lapua brass! While all the brands I listed above produce high-quality cases, this seems like another area where the small sample size could be skewing the results. We saw that 44% of the shooters using a 6mm Creedmoor chose to run Hornady brass, so it seems extremely likely that if we had a larger sample size you’d see Hornady as one of the more popular brands of brass for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Also over all the 150+ shooters who were surveyed and said they reload their match ammo, 72% of were running Lapua brass. Lapua has been making 6.5 Creedmoor brass for a couple years, so it’s shocking that there aren’t more of these guys using it. I don’t want to insert my own bias here, but once again it seems extremely likely that if we had a larger sample size you’d see a significant number running Lapua brass, more similar to what we saw with the 6mm Creedmoor.
For context, the chart below shows the most popular brands of brass across all of the shooters, regardless of what cartridge they were using. None of the brass manufacturers offer cases for every cartridge these guys were using, but most of them do offer brass for the very popular 6.5 Creedmoor. I hope this helps fill in parts of the bigger picture that perhaps this small sample size could be missing.
6.5 Creedmoor Primers
Similar to the brands of brass, the 5 shooters that reload their match ammo were using 5 different kinds of primers. I’m sensing a pattern here! There was one shooter using each of the following primers:
- Federal 210M Gold Medal Large Rifle Match Primer
- CCI #200 Large Rifle Primer
- CCI BR-2 Large Rifle Bench Rest Primer
- CCI #450 Small Rifle Magnum Primer
- Federal 205M Gold Medal Small Rifle Match Primer
Like we saw for the 6mm Creedmoor, it is a mix of both small and large rifle primers, because different brass manufacturers offer 6.5 Creedmoor brass with either large primer pockets or small primer pockets … and a few brands offer both. While all of the primers these guys are using are clearly excellent options, since you are able to pick from any small or large rifle primer with the 6.5 Creedmoor, I thought it’d be helpful to include the overall popularity of different brands and models of primers these top-ranked shooters were using in their match ammo across all of the cartridges.
CCI and Federal absolutely dominate in terms of primer popularity. Just scan down the left side of that chart and notice how many times you see either “CCI” or “Federal.” Isn’t it interesting to see the complete absence of primers from companies like Winchester? There was also only one shooter in this entire crowd using a Remington primer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t capable or high quality, it is just interesting to see they aren’t represented among this group.
The clear favorite overall is the CCI #450 Small Rifle Magnum Primer … by a huge margin. As I mentioned in a previous post, the CCI #450 is a magnum primer, but from what I heard it produces some extremely low standard deviations (SD) in muzzle velocity, meaning the ammo is extremely consistent shot-to-shot. I’ve also heard that magnum primer doesn’t show signs of pressure as quickly as some of the other softer primers, so guys might be able to run slightly higher pressures with it. I can’t say for sure why so many of these shooters prefer it, but the data clearly shows they do.
Do you enjoy this kind of data? This is one of several posts based on a gear survey of the top PRS shooters. To be the first to know when the next set of results is posted sign-up to receive new posts via email.