6.5 Creedmoor vs .308
I almost hate to write such a controversial article. Regardless of what I say, there are those who will have their hard headed pre-conceived notions on the two rounds, much like the .45ACP vs 9mm discussion (more on that to come). Though people will have their favorites, I think everyone can agree that both cartridges are fantastic for hunting and competition alike. Is one better than the other? Lets compare.
.308 Winchester Early History:
The .308 Winchester (7.62X51mm NATO) was derived from the beloved .30-06 after powder technology had advanced, allowing new casing options to be engineered. Since the .308 was shorter than the .30-06 (thus using a smaller action), it was capable of greater reliability in semi-automatic weapons for military use. After being developed for the military, the .308 was thrust into the civilian market during 1952 as a hunting load where it was offered in Winchesters famous Model 70 rifles. Two years later, the .308 Win was adopted as the 7.62x51mm NATO for global military usage, and is now one of the most successful military cartridges of all time.
6.5 Creedmoor Early History:
To give you an idea on just how young this round is, while Hornady was developing the 6.5 Creedmoor; George W. Bush was President, Apple released the very first iPhone, and Michael Vick was found guilty for dog fighting. If these random facts mean nothing to you, then just know that the 6.5 CM was released to the public in 2007. Hornady’s goal with the 6.5 CM was to develop a round that could be magazine fed, with little recoil, a high ballistic coefficient, offering good barrel life and accuracy. And though the caliber got off to a slow start in 2007, US-SOCOM adopted the round this year to replace thei .308 rifles, and I think everyone now would like to tell Hornady, “Good job Guys”.
Case dimensions of each respective caliber
.308 Win vs 6.5 CM
Tried and trued for over 60 years, the .308 is inherently accurate, and still chosen by competitive shooters and hunters alike. Hunter’s are likely the reason the .308 has done as well as it has, since it’s such a versatile cartridge. Loaded in a range from 125-180 grains, the .308 can shoot small game at long distance, or drop large game with a heavy hitting, large grain bullets.
The 6.5 CM is the new kid on the block, offering some pretty outstanding ballistics. It got off to a slow start in 2007, but later gained traction, and is now a staple at gun stores and ranges alike. A direct competitor to the .308 in terms of hunting, the 6.5 is offered in loads ranging from 85 to 160 grains. Shootable and terminal out past the .308, the 6.5 offers some unique characteristics that the .308 cannot replicate.
An accuracy comparison by the Precision Rifle Blog
Comparing the accuracy between the .308 Win and 6.5 CM is like comparing a Porsche to a Ferrari. They are both inherently accurate cartridges with high ballistic coefficients. But when distances start to stretch, the advantage clearly goes to the 6.5 CM. It is less susceptible to wind, and because it retains velocity better than the .308/7.62mm, it also retains more energy at distance and drops less. All of this leads to almost a 50% higher hit probablility at 1,000 yards.
Recoil is a huge variable when talking about shooting accurately at distance, and since the 6.5 boasts 25% less recoil ( 15ftlbs vs 19ftlbs ) when set side by side to a comparable .308--the 6.5CM is the clear winner here.
Price and Availability of Ammo:
This isn’t even a competition, the .308 has been a ridiculously popular round since the 50’s. There are more brands, prices, and types of ammo for the .308 than probably any other round in existence.
The 6.5CM is starting to become very popular as well, and many manufacturers are picking up and making many different loads for the 6.5CM.
But due to the availability of cheap military surplus ammunition, and the fact that you can find it at any gunshop, no matter how small, the hands down winner here is the .308 Win.
Out to about 300 yards, both rounds have a very similar trajectory. However once the distance starts to stretch past 500, the flatter trajectory of the 6.5 Creedmoor starts to shine. The 6.5 has a higher ballistic coefficient and muzzle velocity, and hits on average 6” higher than a comparable .308 at 500 yards.
The .308 does have an advantage when it comes to kinetic energy from muzzle to about 300 yards, but again, once the distance reaches about 500 yards the 6.5 closes the gap to minimal differences.
Due to the high ballistic coefficient, the 6.5 is far less susceptible to wind drift, on average drifting 3.5” less at 500 yards when compared to a .308.
Past 500 yards the 6.5 is vastly superior in trajectory, energy, and drift. But since most shooters and hunters wont stretch out past 500 yards, I am not going to do into detail.
Although the .308 is old, I would never refer to it as a “dated” cartridge, as it still dominates the market today for hunters and target shooters. But ballistically; the 6.5 CM is the superior round, and blatantly so. With better drop, wind drift, energy retention, and recoil, the 57 years of technological advancement paid off for the Creedmoor load. The 6.5 is a “current” cartridge, fitting into today's fads while also delivering a solid, efficient, and effective bullet.
Every part of me wanted to root for the .308 during this comparison, but there’s just no way I can say the .308 is the all around better round. The .308 may be better for your applications, but as an all around caliber: I would choose the 6.5 Creedmoor over the .308 Winchester.