I’m thrilled to tell you about a project I’ve been working on for several months. It’s a test I dreamed about doing for years, and I finally did it!
There are a ton of guys shooting a 6.5 Creedmoor, so I wanted to help them out by testing every type of popular 6.5 Creedmoor factory ammo that is marketed as “match” ammo. With so many options on the market, I wanted to try to give some context for the type of real-world performance guys might experience for each brand and type. Like most tests I do, this is going to be completely over-the-top!
I bought a box of each type of ammo from an online distributor, then waited 6 months and bought another box of each type of ammo from a different distributor. I measured a bunch of dimensions of the loaded ammo, then fired almost 1,000 rounds over a few days at the range, and carefully collected all the data. I ended up investing around $4,000 out-of-pocket on this research project because I know it will help a ton of shooters. I suspect this is one of the most in-depth match ammo test ever conducted.
In this post, you’re invited to vote on which of the 19 types of match ammo tested you believe will perform the best. Skip to the vote!
Why 6.5 Creedmoor?
The 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the most popular cartridges out – and I’m a fan. I personally own a Surgeon bolt action rifle and a JP LRP-07 Large Frame AR 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 pick the 6.5 Creedmoor, because it is a great choice for both long-range competitions and hunting. Plus, it has a relatively long barrel life, good ballistics, low recoil, 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 short, it is a hot cartridge for a lot of good reasons!
Here is what former special ops sniper and long-range expert, Ryan Cleckner, has to say about it:
“The problem with the caliber discussion is every year manufacturers come out with the new, coolest round that is supposed to do everything better than every cartridge before it – and I just don’t buy into that game. I am VERY reluctant to buy into the newest, latest cartridge. I was a 308 guy for a long time. … When the 6.5 Creedmoor came out it was the newest, greatest thing and everyone was adopting it – I wasn’t. It took me until just recently, just late last year I finally adopted the 6.5 Creedmoor. Of course, if I would have jumped on that bandwagon immediately, I would have also had a 260 Rem 10 years prior, and all the other cartridges that came along. There is always something new coming out, but I’m always thinking about supply chain. I could find 308 Win. ammo in any NATO country, and if I went hunting somewhere and forget my ammo, I could just go to a local Walmart and pick some up. But now the 6.5 Creedmoor has caught on SO much! Now that SOCOM has officially adopted it, they are even making belt-fed machine guns in 6.5 Creedmoor. I’ve seen the belts! So, 6.5 Creedmoor is here to stay. I happened to be in a Walmart the other day and was looking at their ammo selection and I saw one more SKU of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo than I did 308! I thought, ‘Okay, now it’s time to switch.’ … I’ve seen the light now! I get it. I don’t think there is a reason anyone should do anything different than the 6.5 Creedmoor when it comes to target shooting – and if you want to use it for hunting you can do that too.” – Ryan Cleckner (from Intro To Long Range Shooting video)
Affordable and widely available match-grade factory ammo was part of the vision for the 6.5 Creedmoor right from the start:
“The 6.5 Creedmoor resulted from a conversation in 2007 at Camp Perry between Hornady Senior Ballistician Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille, general manager of Creedmoor Sports and 2005 NRA National High Power Champion, about the ideal match cartridge. DeMille suggested a list of characteristics, including: match-grade accuracy, a high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullet, low recoil, good barrel and brass life, moderate chamber pressure, wide availability, economy, and a 2.800″overall length for feeding from short-action magazines. Emary took DeMille’s list back to Hornady and used it to begin development of a new cartridge.” – from Shooting & Loading The 6.5 Creedmoor in American Rifleman Magazine
Hornady disrupted the industry with the release of affordable, match-grade ammo. Before they released the 6.5 Creedmoor in 2008, match-grade factory ammo sold for $2 to $4 per round! That is part of the reason why virtually everyone who competed in long-range matches reloaded their own ammo. Hornady initially released match-grade ammo for the 6.5 Creedmoor around $1.10-$1.25, which was unheard of at the time – and you can still find it for those prices today. Thank you, Hornady for giving the industry a giant shove in that direction and not just pricing it high like everyone else was!
Factory ammo has come a long way over the past 10 years. In years past, shooters felt like they had to reload to be competitive, but today factory ammo can perform at the highest levels of long-range precision rifle competitions. That is proven by the fact that at least 5 shooters ranked in the top 50 in the PRS & NRL use factory ammo to compete – including a couple of guys in the top 20!
About My 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo Test
I started by purchasing a box of every type of 6.5 Creedmoor ammo that was branded as being “match” or “target” or “competition” ammo and was even remotely popular. There are obvious ones that most everyone is familiar with, like Hornady, Berger, PRIME, and Federal Premium – but I didn’t leave it there. I went to popular ammo warehouses and filtered down to 6.5 Creedmoor ammo and then searched for “match” and found a few others I wasn’t aware of. I also ordered a couple of varieties of “custom loaded” ammo from Copper Creek. The bullet weights for the ammo tested ranged from 120 to 147 grains, with the majority around 140 grains. I ended up with two boxes of 19 distinct types of match ammo, which totaled $1,600!
Here is the complete list of the ammo types I included in the test:
- Barnes Precision Match 140 gr. OTM
- Berger Match 120 gr. Lapua Scenar-L
- Berger Match 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
- Berger Match 140 gr. Hybrid Target
- Black Hills 147 gr. ELD-M
- Copper Creek Berger 140 gr. Hybrid
- Copper Creek Berger 144 gr. Long Range Hybrid
- Federal Premium Gold Medal Berger 130 gr. Hybrid OTM
- Federal Premium Gold Medal Sierra 140 gr. MatchKing
- Hornady Match 120 gr. ELD-M
- Hornady Match 140 gr. ELD-M
- Hornady Match 147 gr. ELD-M
- Norma Match 130 gr. Golden Target Hybrid
- Nosler Match Grade 140 gr. Custom Competition
- Nosler Match Grade 140 gr. RDF
- PRIME 130 gr. MatchKing (USA-Made)
- Remington Premier Match Barnes 140 gr. OTM
- Sig Sauer Elite Performance Match 140 gr. OTM
- Winchester Match 140 gr. MatchKing
While I could have reached out to companies like Hornady, Berger, PRIME, Federal, and others, and they would have happily sent me discounted or even free ammo for this test – I decided to buy it all for full retail price from popular online distributors. I didn’t even tell any of the manufacturers that I was even doing this test. I paid full retail price for all the ammo to ensure none of it was cherry-picked or loaded “special” for this test. It was all just random ammo off a shelf somewhere. In fact, I ordered one box of each in December 2019 from popular online distributors, and then I waited 6 months and ordered another box of each from a completely different list of distributors. PRIME and Copper Creek only sell direct to customers, so I had to order those from the manufacturer directly. I made sure no manufacturers knew I was conducting this test, and waiting 6 months between orders should ensure the ammo tested is representative of what you can expect.
Measured Round-To-Round Consistency
I was determined to measure and test anything I could. I started by trying to quantify the round-to-round consistency when it came to physical dimensions and weight. I took a whole box of each type of ammo, I measured the length from the cartridge base to the bullet ogive (CBTO), the bullet concentricity, and the overall weight. I will say there were more than a few surprises in which ones were super-consistent – and which ones were NOT! A few of them didn’t fall into what I’d consider match-grade tolerances. I thought it would be interesting to see how much correlation there was between the consistency of these physical properties and performance in the field in terms of group size and muzzle velocity consistency.
I also invested in a Sartorius Entris II BCE64-1S Analytical Balance and a couple of extra boxes of a few types of ammo so I could take the rounds apart to measure how consistent the powder charges were in terms of weight. Those results were very interesting, and in an upcoming post, we’ll see how those measurements correlate with performance.
Next, I headed to the range and shot 5-shot groups with 40 rounds of each type of ammo, from the two boxes purchased 6 months apart. As I mentioned, I do personally own a couple of high-end 6.5 Creedmoor rifles, but I know most of my readers aren’t using an $8,000 custom rifle setup. Also, it’s possible that a particular kind of ammo would group better out of one rifle than another, because of differences in the chamber, barrel, and other mechanical nuances. Since more people use factory rifles than custom rifles, I decided to buy a stock Ruger Precision Rifle to use in this test. Again, I bet if I’d have reached out to Ruger they would have gladly loaned me a rifle for this test, but I decided to simply buy a brand new one from GunBroker.com, just like my readers would, to try to ensure it was representative and not a rifle that potentially had been cherry-picked off the line. So that was another out-of-pocket expense for this test, and I hope all of this shows how serious I am about objective testing. I am whole-heartedly in search of the real, unbiased truth to help fellow shooters!
I fired eight 5-shot groups with each type of ammo from a rock-solid position on a bench, half of those from the Ruger Precision Rifle and the other half from a full custom bolt action rifle.
Measuring Muzzle Velocities
When it comes to long-range shooting, consistent muzzle velocity is extremely important. If your muzzle velocity changes much shot-to-shot, it doesn’t matter if you have tiny groups or not! So, I measured all 40 shots using 3 LabRadar Doppler Radars. For those that aren’t familiar with LabRadar’s – they’re pretty amazing devices that are very accurate. They are made by Infinition, who are experts in Ballistic Instrumentation Radar Systems. Using three of them was probably overkill, but it ensured I captured every single shot fired on at least two devices (and I actually got readings on all three devices on over 95% of the shots). I then consolidated the readings from all three LabRadar’s and calculated the median velocity of each shot to ensure a bad measurement couldn’t skew the results.
I captured the muzzle velocity for all 40 shots fired. The Ruger Precision Rifle had a 24” barrel, and the custom Surgeon rifle featured a 22” barrel. So, I kept the results separate, but measured the average muzzle velocity, extreme spread, and standard deviation for each rifle and will present those results.
I realize the results of this research could potentially have a significant impact on ammo sales for some manufacturers, so I was extremely careful in collecting the data, and I tried my best to remove or minimize factors that could potentially skew the results.
How I Plan to Analyze & Rate Overall Performance
As always, I will present all the detailed results so my readers can draw their own conclusions, instead of dumbing it down to an overall rating/grade as many magazines do. However, I also know it is easy for us to put too much emphasis on one aspect or the other. What if one type of ammo had tiny groups, but the muzzle velocity wasn’t as consistent as another brand? What if one of the brands didn’t do great in groups or consistent MV, but the bullet has a ridiculously high ballistic coefficient (BC: essentially a measure of how aerodynamic a bullet is or how easily it cuts through the air) and has an extremely high velocity – does that makeup for it? Which gives you the best overall performance for long-range shots?
Well, there is a great analysis tool designed to help us answer those kinds of questions! You can feed it all the measurements from my experiments, like group size, average muzzle velocity, the standard deviation in MV, BC of the bullet being fired, and a bunch of other ballistic data, and then specify the distance and size of the target you are interested in – and it calculates the overall hit probability for that rifle, ammo, and scenario. If you want to take an objective, data-driven approach to decide which ammo provides the best performance, this is the ultimate solution! When it comes to hits at long-range, the size of the group on paper at 100 yards doesn’t matter, or the velocity the chronograph spits out, or the BC printed on the box – at least not directly. All we really care about is our ability to hit targets at long range! Now all those factors have some effect on hit probability at long-range but to varying degrees. That makes it easy to put too much emphasis on one aspect or another, but this tool allows us to take them all into consideration at precisely the right proportions in terms of how they impact hit probability at long-range.
The tool I’m referring to is the Weapon Employment Zone (WEZ) Analysis Tool from Applied Ballistics, which is part of the $200 Applied Ballistics Analysis software package. WEZ analysis is very similar to the sophisticated modeling the government uses to decide whether to launch a $1 Million missile or not. I’ve published a series of posts using WEZ analysis before, which you can read about here: How Much Does It Matter?
I plan to publish all the detailed data I collected over days of careful experiments, but for the overall results, I’ll publish data on the hit probability for each type of ammo at long-range based on all of the independent, real-world data I collected through my experiments. I also plan to use that hit probability information to provide insight into what ammo provides the best bang for the buck. Based on the street price of each type of ammo, which gives you the highest hit probability per dollar spent?
At the end of the day, I’m just trying to provide as much data and intel as I can to help people make informed decisions. I know a lot of new shooters are investing in a 6.5 Creedmoor, and I’m hoping to provide some guidance that will help them get rounds on target at long-range without breaking the bank.
Cast Your Vote: What Will Have The Highest Hit Probability At 600-1200 Yards?
I thought it’d be fun before any of the results are published to poll my readers to see which type of ammo you expect to end up on top. What do you think will perform the best when it comes to hit probability at long-range (e.g. 600 to 1200 yards)? This should be regardless of price. Once you cast your vote, you’ll be able to view the results of how others voted.
This poll closed on Jan. 2, 2021, before I started publishing the data I collected from my field test. Over the 70 days, the poll was active a total of 3,165 votes were cast. Here are the results:
If you’d like to be the first to know when they’re published, sign up to receive email notifications about new posts.
6.5 Creedmoor Match Ammo Field Test Series
Here is the outline of all the articles in this series covering my 6.5 Creedmoor Match-Grade Ammo Field Test:
- Intro & Reader Poll
- Round-To-Round Consistency For Physical Measurements
- Live-Fire Muzzle Velocity & Consistency Summary
- Live-Fire Muzzle Velocity Details By Ammo Type
- Live-Fire Group Sizes & Precision
- Summary & Long-Range Hit Probability
- Best Rifle Ammo for the Money!
Also, if you want to get the most out of this series, I’d HIGHLY recommend that you read what I published right before this research, which was the “Statistics for Shooters” series. I actually wrote that 3-part series so my readers would better understand this ammo research that I’m presenting, and get more value from it. Here are those 3 articles:
- How To Predict The Future: Fundamentals of statistics for shooters
- Quantifying Muzzle Velocity Consistency: Gaining insight to minimize our shot-to-shot variation in velocity
- Quantifying Group Dispersion: Making better decisions when it comes to precision and how small our groups are
Absolutely love that you are doing this, but hate that I have to wait for the results! 🙂
I hear you. It’ll be worth the wait!
This is really freaking exciting and I CANNOT WAIT to read the details! Im right on the cusp of building a 6.5cm and Im looking forward to the RPR vs Custom differences. Ive been considering either a trued REM action + Criterion barrel or a Bergara HMR Pro. My intention was to use Hornady 140 ELD-M but this data may change my mind! Im coming from .223/.308 world and Federal Gold Medal Match have been my GoTo.
Scott, it sounds like this is perfect timing for you! I think the difference between the full custom and the factory rifle are going to surprise a lot of people. While there way just a sample size of one rifle of each, it was over 40 rounds from 19 different types of match ammo … so the results are very interesting! Stay tuned!
im both laughing and breathing a sigh of relief.. i just received 20 boxes of different ammo to crudely attempt the same thing.. Just to find out what MY particular rifle likes to eat. so now.. you’ve saved me both time and money.
Eagerly awaiting your results. yaaaay
Wow, Gregory! I know lots of people think about doing that, but to actually have followed through on that idea with 20 boxes says we’re probably kindred spirits. 😉 Of course, testing it in your rifle is the ultimate way to figure out what is “best” for you, although most people aren’t willing or able to make the investment to do that. Hopefully, this gives us all new insight. I bet the ammo companies might even learn something about their own product.
Awesome work Cal! As a potential sidebar, I’d also be interested i how the 3 Labradar units measured up against each other in terms of consistency between their measurements,
Absolutely! To be honest, that is part of the reason I did the experiment like I did. I wasn’t just testing the ammo, but testing the accuracy of the LabRadar themselves. I will say that they agreed very closely on almost every shot. Occasionally they’d even all 3 show the exact same velocity. After I saw your comment I went and opened up some of my spreadsheets to get some real representative numbers, and it looks like all 3 of them agreed within 6 fps 75% of the time. It seemed like one unit consistently read slightly slower and another read slightly faster, but they were consistent in that. So the precision of the unit didn’t vary, but the differences might be a result of slightly differing calibrations – if that makes any sense. That is just my gut, and I might be wrong about that. Overall, I was really, really pleased with how much the LabRadars agreed with each other. It gave me a lot of confidence in the data.
Cal, in March of 2017 I ran a test of my AR-10 in 260 REM using my MagnetoSpeed and a friend’s LabRadar, to see whether the LabRadar’s ability to detect an actual, accurate BC would justify the LabRadar’s cost to replace my Magnetospeed. The big attraction was in the promise of refining BCs by detecting the change in deceleration as the bullet went downrange. I fired two 10-shot groups using 140 gn SMKs in front of 42.3 H4350, one group with FGMMs and the other with CCI 200s, tracking each shot with both the MagnetoSpeed and the LabRadar. I looked not only at the LabRadar’s BC numbers, but also at the individual reading samples as the bullet went downrange. Ignoring the difference in reported MVs -9 to +23 fps at averages near 2800.
But then I looked at the raw LabRadar data, which consisted of multiple samples (about a yard apart, with a few misses) as the bullets went downrange, I saw that the data stopped very consistently at 70-80 yd, and the sample-to-sample velocity differences were pretty noisy, ranging from -.1945 to +.1136 (!) fps/yd downrange, with an SD of .0541 fps/yd. This level of velocity noise may not seem like much, but the the ‘droop’ of the velocity curve of the bullet velocity over such a short range is considerably smaller, and the change in droop due to a small change in BC is relatively tiny. The velocity data point sample graph (both calculating in Excel and sighting down its length to visually estimate the curve of the velocity profile) showed a minuscule droop, far below the level of sample-to-sample noise. A 5% change in BC would cause a very small change in the droop over 70 yards. I’m not a statistician, but as an engineer, and from the relatively noisy LabRadar data I saw, I’m afraid I remain unconvinced. As Steven Crowder says: “Change my mind!”
Scott, that is a very interesting point. I actually talked about that in what was probably my favorite article that I wrote last year, and in that I referenced a very serious research project into what you’re talking about:
I’m very hopeful that one day there will be a consumer-grade device that will allow you to do what you’re talking about. The LabRadar seems very close, but unfortunately isn’t quite there. The company that makes the LabRadar is called Infinition, and they make really high-end ballistic doppler radars that can do that … but they are priced between $50,000-100,000 at this point. But, everything comes down with time. The technology will continue to advance and cost of components and manufacturing will continue to come down … it just might take a while until it comes within reach of most consumers – but I believe it will happen at some point!
When I got my LabRadar some years ago I was concerned about its accuracy. For the first several times I took it out I compared it to my (very old) Oehler 33. I set the first distance on the new unit at 15 Ft. and placed the center of my Skyscreens at the same distance. I could fire past the LabRadar and over the Skyscreens with the same shot. During those sessions in different kinds of weather (80 degrees and clear to cloudy and below freezing) over several hundred rounds of several different calibers there was a consistent difference of 2-3 FPS.
Very interesting. The LabRadar seems to be great at what it does. The Oehler equipment was also very accurate. I used an Oehler 35P for a long time, but it was just a hassle to setup, get aligned with the rifle, and then teardown. That might take 10-15 minutes per range session. The LabRadar is closer to 1 minute, and just as accurate. It’s a pretty revolutionary device! For a guy like me that likes to experiment, it was clearly a winner. I was part of the original group of writers that they sent out evaluation units to, and it didn’t take long for me to see the merit and ask if I could just buy the unit. When I talked to the people at LabRadar, they said up to that point there wasn’t a single person who they’d loaned a device too for evaluation who didn’t want to buy it after they used it. Just goes to show how great of a product it is. I’m still using that original device, and it doesn’t seem to leave much to be desired!
Using 3 LabRadar’s that way, I wonder if they all operate at the same frequency and if so, whether there’s any interference of the signal coming back to them that might effect the readings?
This is great to see someone doing this kind of work and publishing it that will give so many help in making informed decisions.
That’s a great question, Truman. You’re obviously a sharp guy. That would be a problem, but the LabRadar gives you the ability to modify the frequencies. So I set each of the devices to a different frequency and spread them out as much as possible for just that reason. That was something I had to work through as I was planning the test. I pulled the data cards for all the LabRadars in early testing and was able to verify that they were each tracking separately and getting good signals and recording the same number of measurements they typically would when used in isolation. That’s just one of those nice features that Infinition threw in that is a must-have for a niche case like this. Those guys are pretty sharp over there!
Again, great question! Level 5 question, really. And thanks for the kind words. I’m fortunately to be in a position where I can do this kind of stuff. I really enjoy experimenting, but I like helping other people get into this sport I’m passionate about even more.
Your report will be very interesting. I have tried Hornady, Berger, Eagle Eye and Sig Sauer 6.5 Creedmoore ammo in my Ruger PR and they all shoot almost as well as my reloads and in a couple of cases better. All of them seem to shoot low SD’s sometimes with 5 shot groups but when averaged over 30 shots most go over SD’s of 30. I have had some excellent results with the Hornady 147 ELD at 1000 yards however I voted for Sig Sauer after shooting 100 rounds earlier this year.
Thanks, Hank. I appreciate you sharing. You sound like a guy who is in search of the truth, as well! Kindred spirit! 😉
Your report on SD fits my experience, too. The thing about SD is it is almost always understated when it’s based on a small sample size. That’s an important part to understand when you’re doing analysis like this, so I actually plan to try to share some on that in an upcoming post. That is actually what I’ve spent a SIGNIFICANT amount of time working on, because I’m trying hard to present it in a brief and simple way that virtually any shooter can understand and apply. I’m not sure if I’ll be successful or not, but I guess we’ll see. You definitely led right into it for me! 😉
At what distance are you testing?
Hey, Terry! Hope you are doing well, buddy. I shot for groups at 100 yards to minimize to impact from environmentals. While I like shooting at distance, a random gust of wind 600 yards downrange could skew a group size and you’d never know it. The Doppler Radar records the muzzle velocity multiple points from 0 to around 100 yards. But then I took that data (and other data) and fed it to the WEZ analysis and calculated hit probabilities for a few scenarios like a 4″ circle at 400 yards, a 12″ circle at 800 yards, and a 24″ circle at 1,200 yards. I tried to collect the data in a way that minimized external variables, but the overall performance will be based on that data applied to long-range scenarios using statistical models.
While I am keen to see the results, I am also interested in a “value” ranking. What I mean is I would like to hear your analysis of the best accuracy vs cost evaluation!
You bet! I appreciate you saying that, Eric. I definitely plan to do that by basically looking at the dollars of cost per % of hit probability. If one type of ammo had an 80% hit probability at long range but it costs $40/box, compared to another type of ammo that might have had a 78% hit probability for $25/box … the second is clearly the higher value. I plan to chart it all out as the overall summary of the results because ultimately I’m a very value-centric guy. Just because something is ranked at the top of the list doesn’t mean that is the one you should buy.
Looking forward to the results! Do you think availability should play a factor? The best ammo in the world can not perform if it isn’t able to be purchased and some manufacturers seem to do a much better job of making their products available to shooters.
Maybe it wouldn’t factor into whether it was the best performing but if a person was looking for the best ammo overall I think it is pretty important.
True that! What a crazy time we live in. Luckily I purchased most of the ammo before the craziness, but I will say when I went to buy the 2nd lot of all the different types of ammo it required a lot more effort than the 1st lot! I had to be pretty resourceful, and at one point I didn’t think I’d be able to get another box of a few of them. But, I eventually found them all.
I agree that some manufacturers are better at keeping shelves stocked than others. Business is hard, and some are better than others at it! My advice to guys is that once you figure out what performs well out of your rifle, lay in a big supply (maybe a year’s worth). If you’re dependant on factory ammo, that is the only way you can ensure you have some on-hand … especially with how out of whack supply and demand is right now. Luckily there hasn’t been a run on 6.5 Creedmoor ammo like 9mm or others, but it still isn’t easy!
Cal, definitely add in that lot to lot inconsistencies can be detrimental to extended range shooting. Yes, most of us realize that any time you change lot numbers in regards to components, that you can have a shift in BC or velocity. This is just a reminder to newer shooters (which I feel this article is most beneficial) that you can not expect consistent performance between lots. Bullets, brass, powder, primers or loaded ammunition can ALL be affected.
Also, this article has me really excited and I voted for the Hornady 140 ELD factory load, mainly because it is the most common factory ammo that I have seen used in several factory rifles and at matches for that matter. It’s not uncommon for me to see it group under a half MOA at 100 yards and even a 1/2” at 200 yards.
One more thing, right now is a trying time to find ammo. But, 6.5 Creedmoor, as a whole, is something I see on the shelves. To add, people should take into account the general availability of loaded ammo during “normal” times. Some manufacturers can just plain crank out loaded ammo faster than others. Even Match grade loaded ammo.
Thanks, Jeremy. Yes, there can be lot-to-lot variation in performance … which is why I tested 40 rounds of each ammo from two different lots. I originally thought I’d just measure one box of each, but decided that wasn’t the right thing to do. I wouldn’t even be comfortable publishing that data or putting my name on it if it was just based on one lot. So that’s why I purchased another box 6 months separated from the first box and from a completely different distributor. Ideally, I could have tested 20 different lots, but I’m paying for all this out-of-pocket so that wasn’t feasible. The only guys who can do stuff like that are when the research is funded by the government. I do think my test results will be representative of what you can expect, although at some point we’re trying to predict the performance of future lots and manufacturers can change so many things that ultimately even if I tested 20 lots from the past, the manufacturer could change any number of things in the future and it potentially changes the performance. Ultimately, that’s all academic – and if you go too far down that road it can paralyze you from doing anything. I’m just trying to help guys know what might shoot the best in their rifles, or what 3-4 different types they should invest in to see what works best for them.
I do concur that the Hornady 140 ELD-M factory match ammo does seem to perform well across a wide range of rifles. That matches what I’ve heard from guys. We’ll have to wait to see if that is what the objective research revealed or not. 😉
And yeah, when I started this project I obviously didn’t realize we’d be in a historic ammo shortage. You can still find most of this, but it isn’t as readily available as it was 12 months ago. And I do agree that some manufacturers are able to catch up to demand faster than others. I’ve heard that even the components that some of them use are in short supply, so it will be interesting to see which companies are able to figure it out and meet market demand. There are so many uncertainties in this season it seems like we’re all just trying to figure it out!
“So that was another out-of-pocket expense for this test, and I hope all of this shows how serious I am about objective testing. I am whole-heartedly in search of the real, unbiased truth to help fellow shooters!”
Nobody that has followed you Cal over the years should have any doubt about your seriousness in regard to objective testing! Thank you for all the great testing and information you consistently provide; it is much appreciated within the shooting community!
Some ammo manufacturers may not feel the same way after you post your results I’m guessing though. Hopefully that just makes them produce a better product in the future for consumers. I don’t even shoot 6.5CM currently but I’m looking forward to your test results. Thanks and best regards!
Thanks, Steve! I am in a fortunate position where I don’t need advertisers for my provision, and I can continue to be an idealist that just tells it like I see it. I do expect there are a few manufacturers that won’t love that I did this, and it could impact their ammo sales. But, like you said, they should take it as feedback and try to produce a better product. In the end, I simply want to give fellow shooters insight so they can make better decisions, cut through the marketing hype, and put more rounds on target. I’m not out to burn any companies, but show how product performance compares in an objective head-to-head comparison. That’s actually why I put so much effort into thinking through these tests, and things like the 3 LabRadar’s, because if a company does look bad at the end of it, I want to have confidence that it wasn’t because of bad data, but simply their product’s poor performance. Any head-to-head comparison will end up being favorable for some products and not for others, but ultimately I think it’ll help a lot of shooters.
Honestly, even if you don’t shoot a 6.5 Creedmoor, I think this is relevant and probably provides some insight into the quality controls and processes at each of these companies. While we can’t assume the results can be directly applied across every type of ammo a company produces, if the results for a particular company showed their 6.5 Creedmoor ammo was exceptional, do you think their 300 Win Mag ammo might be good too? That might be a good bet. If another company’s results showed their 6.5 Creedmoor ammo performed crappy, do you think their other ammo is somehow drastically better? That might be plausible, but it seems unlikely. How I originally thought about this test was to try to figure out what brand of match ammo was the best. The 6.5 Creedmoor offers such a wide variety of ammo that it was a good focus, and there are A TON of new shooters investing in that cartridge and I’m passionate about helping those new guys find success in this game. So it just seemed to fit, but I personally feel like this will give us insight into what companies have the best quality control when it comes to ammo production … and which ones might have good marketing, but the end product doesn’t stack up in terms of performance.
It might be a wild ride as companies start seeing how they objectively stack up, but I’m committed to seeing it through! So stay tuned!
I see a lot of votes for the Berger 130, but actuall suspect the 140 will do better at 1200 🙂
Interesting view. I can neither confirm nor deny. I will say that I used the Berger 130 Hybrid back when I competed in PRS matches with a 6.5 Creedmoor. I didn’t do that long, but it seemed like a better fit for the typical distances and scenarios I found myself engaging. But, you might be right … maybe the 140 performs better at 1200 yards.
I look forward to the results. I have had 5 different 6.5’s and it seems like the Hornady 140 ELD-M shoots well in everything I try. I cannot say the same for the rest. Best may be relative to the particular rifle.
Perhaps a mean radius/$ or some other measure of value would be interesting too…
If you need some more rifles to try, I live nearby.
Ryan in Snyder.
Thanks, Ryan. We are thinking along the same exact lines! I agree that the best may be relative to a particular rifle, and I also appreciate the “mean radius/$” suggestion. I hope to reiterate things like that through this series, and I think you’ll enjoy the stats I throw out and how I present the results.
You never fail to truly amaze! Your inventiveness, objectivity, relativity, thoroughness, on and on and on.
Your my vote for President 2020…
Thank you for all you do.
Ha! I’m pretty sure I don’t want that job! Someone wakes you up every morning saying, “Sir, we have some problems.” Please don’t write me in!
I do appreciate the kind words and encouragement. I hope it’s obvious how much I enjoy doing this!
My RPR likes BOTH Hornady 120 ELD-M and 140 ELD-M. Go figure.
Here in windy southern Nevada I use 140 gr, ELD-M to 1,100 yards for competition.
Thanks for sharing, Eric.
Cal, great analysis and perfect timing for me. I ordered my first 6.5cm a couple months ago. Your results will help immensely. Love your detailed logical approach.
Thanks, Lee. You’re exactly the kind of guy I had in mind to try to help when I was planning this test and spending countless hours at the range collecting data! I hope it helps you get the most out of your new rifle.
Dear Cal: I recently bought 300 rounds of Berger ammunition #31091 with Lapua brass and 153.5 grain Long Range Hybrid Target bullets with a G7 of .356 from Midsouth Shooters Supply for $35.99 a box of 20.
I think that this ammo would win hands down. Please include these in your tests.
I also think;
Any comparison of ammo cost becomes useless compared to all associated costs while competing.
All things considered remaining equal, the highest G7 BC bullet will get the best results.
Thank you for using the WEZ analysis approach explained to me by Brian Litz in his book Accuracy and Precision For Long Range Shooting.
As usual another great post.
Anthony, I’ve already completed my testing. It was several months of testing, and part of what I did was spread out the purchases by 6 months to ensure some time went by and I was testing two completely different lots. I don’t have time to do that with the new ammo you mentioned. However, I tested 3 different types of Berger ammo … so if those did well, I would assume the loading processes and quality control for that one you mentioned are similar, so you could probably draw some conclusions that way.
… and you are right: of course if all things are equal the one with the highest BC will win, but (as you know) in the real-world all things are never equal! If BC is the one variable that you allow to change, then yes, the highest one will perform the best. However, hit probability is a myriad of lots of factors, and BC is just one of them. It is an important factor, but definitely not the only important factor. That’s why I decided to go out there and spend days collecting data. And you’re spot on with the WEZ analysis. That is the perfect tool to help us put all of these factors into context in a very objective and useful way. I appreciate the thoughtful comments.
Oh man! this is like being ten again and waiting for Christmas. Nigh unbearable. I like to roll my own, but I suspect there will be tremendous data for that use as well, but it will be great if a ready supply of extremely reliable factory match ammo can be had at a reasonable price.
After voting i was already wanting to change my vote. There are several i suspect will do well.
There is no way I could hope to duplicate this testing on cost alone. Thank you!!
You bet, Will! I appreciate your excitement. It was quite the investment, not just in money but in time. I’m excited to share all of the hard-earned work that has gone in over the past several months.
No Desert Tech ammo?
Sorry, Steve. I didn’t include Desert Tech. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just means it didn’t show up on any of the major websites as being a popular option and nobody has claimed to use it in matches on any of the shooter surveys I have conducted over the past few years. Ultimately, I had to draw the line somewhere. I figured there would be a couple of types of ammo people asked me why I didn’t include. Honestly, I wish I would have included Desert Tech now that you mention it, but it just didn’t hit my radar because I really was even remotely popular in terms of sales and I don’t think Desert Tech is in enough distribution channels to have as much of a following as these other brands.
Hey Cal! How’ve you been?
I have a question for you about the 6.5? I wonder why the military is leaning towards the 6.8? I know they are trying to reduce weight with the polymer cases but ballistically, I wonder why they aren’t looking at the 6.5?
What do you think?
Thanks my friend!
Hey, Dave. Good to hear from you. I’m not sure the application for the 6.8 in the military. I know some special forces units have adopted the 6.5 Creedmoor (like the belt-fed 6.5CM machine gun I was holding in one of the photos) but I’m not familiar enough to speak to the 6.8mm. Ultimately, military applications are often different than civilian, so the priorities are different … and why the military decided to pick something is way more complex than just ballistic merit. Lots of politics in there! 😉 I’m certainly not trying to claim the 6.5 Creedmoor is the best … but the market has clearly said it’s hugely popular. It’s a very capable round for long range use, and even in some hunting scenarios. I actually think it was Hornady’s affordable match-grade ammo that brought it into Vogue, and not necessarily “ballistic superiority.”
Anyway, all that to say … I don’t know. 😉
Yep, I copy all. I’m wondering what is in the minds of the Army? I know that is a fool’s errand but I’ve been told I resemble a box of rocks so it’s no surprise I chase these errands. Here’s the link to the article I read about the 6.8 caseless ammo.
Again, I’m not trying to create churn – just trying to understand the ballistics and to understand the engineering aspect of the polymer cases?
You got me, Dave. I will say that I read a good article published in Guns & Ammo magazine a couple of months ago on the polymer cases. You can find that here: https://www.gunsandammo.com/editorial/true-velocitys-new-polymer-cased-ammunition/247607
It will be interesting to see how well things match from your testing compared to what the pros use. It would be strange if what the pros use isn’t at the top your list.
Very interesting thought, Marc. The way I think about it is that I bet the pros used something very capable, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best. So I might expect it to be in the top half, but I doubt any of them did this thorough of testing (getting multiple lots and carefully measuring everything from multiple rifles). They also may have been sponsored by the factory who makes the ammo. I’ve seen that. I never think of what the pros use as the absolute best. It simply means it is clearly capable. It might end up at the top of the list, but it might not. I’d expect it to be “towards” the top of the list, if that makes sense.
I guess we’ll see! 😉
Holly Molly Cal! Thanks, but how do you stay married?
Ha! Well, I did this over several months. Honestly, one of the hardest things was finding days where there wasn’t any wind to shoot the groups. That makes it tough in West Texas! Just meant several trips, and if the wind started to pick up above 5 mph I’d pack up my stuff and continue on another day.
It is a bit over-the-top, but I guess that’s my style. I’ve had this test in my head for a couple of years, so I’m glad that I finally did it. I think it will provide as much value as I was hoping (or maybe more).
… and my wife is awesome. 😉
Wow – over 5mph! That’s like finding a day in Seattle when it’s not drizzling or raining. I usually settle for reasonably steady under 15 when shooting at 100yds with the 6.5cm. 🙂
Ha! You are exactly right. It definitely was tough to find those days in West Texas! I just didn’t want that to somehow skew the results. One day I hope to have a 100-yard tunnel to eliminate those variables altogether, but for now … I just had to wait until it was one of those rare days, and usually even then it was only for a short duration in the morning or evening. But, I got some really good data out of it that I am supremely confident in! 😉
While I am keenly interested in the Accuracy results, I am also interested in your evaluation of the “value”.
In other words, which ammo gives the best compromise between accuracy and cost. Hopefully there will be no need to compromise!
Well, I’d love it if the best performer also happened to be the lowest cost, but that isn’t the way it tends to go. I will say that it’s also not the more you spend the better the ammo. That’s a fallacy, and I have the data to prove it. We’ll just have to wait and see!
Cal, I am also looking forward to your results. I jumped on the 6.5 CM bandwagon last year, but haven’t been able to shoot enough to get any sense of components to try. Your results will give me a good idea to work up handloads that I can be confident of downrange.
Awesome! There are lots of guys going to the 6.5 Creedmoor, and for good reason! Lots of great components for it, in both brass cases and bullets. I’d bet there is a better selection than any other cartridge used for serious long-range shooting. So good choice! I bet this will be helpful for you.
Easily one of the most comprehensive tests I’ve ever seen. Thanks for doing this and I can’t wait to see the results. I think given the rifles and distance a 140gr of one of the manu’s will be at the top.
Been a fan of 6.5cal since my first Gustaf Swede 40yrs ago. I’ve switched back and forth between it and the 308 as my favorite all around and since recoil isn’t something that bothers me that much have generally gone with the 308 for the mentioned availability everywhere ammo is sold.
Thanks for sharing, Jon. The 6.5×55 Swede was way before it’s time! It was extremely popular in Europe, but I think it didn’t gain as much popularity in America because we originally leaned away from “metric cartridges” and “Swedish” being in the cartridge name likely both played into our “Not Invented Here” bias. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t an extremely capable cartridge and a better choice than a lot of others that were invented in America. Our patriotic pride probably just blinded us to this one.
Even though the 6.5×55 Swedish was designed in 1891 for military purposes, it is ridiculously similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor … which was designed 117 years later! Think of all that we’ve learned about ballistics in the last 100 years!!! For something to still be relevant and seen as a good design over that long of a period puts it on par with Browning’s design for a 1911, the Mauser 98 extractor, and the Model 1903 Springfield ejector. There just isn’t a long list of designs that have stood the test of time like those, especially over the 100 year period that represented exponential advancements in research, understanding, and manufacturing capabilities. It’s ridiculous if you think about it!
The two of us aren’t the only ones to see the similarities! Dave Petzal from Field & Stream wrote an article called “The 6.5 Creedmoor Vs. the 6.5×55 Swedish” in May 2020, which systematically compares the two. It’s pretty nuts.
Well, if you like the 6.5×55, you’d love the 6.5 Creedmoor! It’s like combining the best of the cartridges you mentioned. You have the ammo availability of the 308, with the ballistics and lower recoil of the 6.5×55 Swede. It’s rare you get to have your cake and eat it too, but it seems like the case with the 6.5 Creedmoor, which explains why it’s exploded in popularity and continues to rise.
Thank You Cal …… eagerly awaiting the results !!
I really think you should have tried either the 140gr ELDM or the 142gr SMK from Spark Munitions. In my opinion it’s among the best 6.5 CM available and at great price. I have done testing out of several rifles and it’s always preformed better than everything else, even handloads!!!
Thanks for that Jared, but I’ve never even heard of Spark Munitions. I tried to include any of the “popular” brands, and they just didn’t fit that criteria. I would have loved to try all the brands, but ultimately, this is all out of my pocket and it’s my volunteer time out on the range … and every box of ammo adds cost and time. That’s awesome that it works for you, though. Thanks for sharing.
Don’t understand the creed mood
craze. It’s not a TRUE caliber ima 264-6.5 Winchester can put Multiples in one tiny hole could not leave a creedmoor at my place for free. Yes I use short typing
Okay. I’m not trying to convince you to switch. It sounds like you have everything you need. Best of luck to you.
I choose Hornady Match as I am still new, and it is my only experience 🙂
I have purchased both accuracy 1st precision level and the SendIT level based on your recommendations. In terms of precision, have you tested which if better. The accuracy first is on a continuous scale, while the SendIT is digital down to 0.2 degrees.
A second question, if you have to choose, which is more important, a level turret with the reticle off my a small degree (would this have consistent tracking [technically another question]), or a level reticle with the turret off by the same degree?
Thanks. I haven’t done any empirical tests on those bubble levels. I believe the electronic one allows you to customize it so that it can be more sensitive than the bubble, but I’m not positive about that.
The 2nd question is funny. I’d pick both, but if I couldn’t have both … I’d ask if you are going to dial for elevation more often or hold-off for elevation more often using the reticle. If you dial more often (as I do and most other shooters), then the turret is the most important to get level and the reticle doesn’t matter as much. If you mostly hold for elevation adjustments (like Todd Hodnett and other accomplished shooters do) then the reticle is the most important thing to have plumb. So if it was me, I’d say turret, but it depends on how you shoot to some degree. (pun intended)
Cal, thanks for that reply to Golf’n’Guns! I wondered why there are two camps on the subject, and in a short paragraph you completely explained it. That’ll go into long-term memory!
Cal, Thank you! That was the most succinct, well explained and useful answer.