It used to be cool to have a 6.5 Creedmoor, but now it is cool to hate on the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Whether you look at rifle cartridges or fads in pop-culture, there seems to be a recurring cycle where something goes from zero-to-popular quickly, but once that thing reaches mass-market appeal, it is no longer acceptable to "the cool kids" and becomes the brunt of all the jokes. Or in these days, the subject of many memes.
Now that we have the 6.5 PRC, why in the world would a hunter even consider the 6.5 Creedmoor? Since the 6.5 PRC is bigger, faster, newer, and "cooler" than the Creedmoor, isn't it the obvious choice for hunters these days?
I certainly won't say that the PRC is better than Creedmoor, or vice versa. After all, when it comes to comparing or choosing cartridges that are "better", my question is always — "Better for what?"
Just because one cartridge offers greater velocities, retains more down-range energy, and is "ballistically superior" to another, it doesn't mean that the higher-performance cartridge is "better" for what you need. And that's the thing — these choices all come down to personal wants and needs. There are countless great cartridges and "right answers" when it comes to picking what your next rifle should be chambered in.
I am not writing this article to tout the greatness of the Creedmoor or disparage the PRC. My goal here is to help anyone considering cartridges to think critically about their personal needs from a cartridge and make an informed personal decision, instead of just going with what's biggest, fastest, or "hot" on the market today.
So, let me tell you why I chose the 6.5 Creedmoor over the 6.5 PRC for a custom rifle I had built by the guys at Mesa Precision Arms.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is Effective (...and Limited)
If you're looking for a do-it-ALL big game hunting cartridge, 6.5 Creedmoor is a poor choice. But a do-it-all rifle isn't what I was trying to accomplish with my 6.5 Creedmoor.
I chose the 6.5 Creedmoor because I wanted this particular rifle for deer-sized game. This rifle will be used for Whitetail in the Midwest, Mule Deer in the Rockies, Sitka Blacktail on Kodiak Island, and for other deer-sized species, such as Antelope.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is very effective on those species at the distances I will be hunting them. Yes, the 6.5 PRC is a great choice as well. And, yes, the 6.5 PRC would offer a longer effective range of the same 6.5 bullets, but my 6.5 Creedmoor hunting load (more on that later) is terminally effective at 500-600 yards under most conditions. That's plenty for me.
If you truly want "more power" (said in my best Tim Allen voice) than the 6.5 Creedmoor for animals like elk and moose, I wouldn't suggest the faster 6.5 PRC. Rather, I'd personally move up from 6.5 calibers altogether and choose a 30-caliber or 7mm magnum variant. (Both of which I also own and love.)
The 6.5 Creedmoor is More Affordable and More Available
Whether you are buying factory ammunition or purchasing reloading components to hand-load ammunition, the 6.5 Creedmoor is going to be cheaper and more readily available than the 6.5 PRC.
Especially in times like these, when COVID and political uncertainty has wreaked havoc on the availability of ammunition and reloading components, the 6.5 Creedmoor is easier and cheaper to "feed".
In terms of reloading the Creedmoor and PRC, both obviously require primers and can also use the same 6.5 projectiles. But in terms of the unique components between the two cartridges — brass and powder — the Creedmoor brass is much easier to find, and the same can be said for the wider variety of powders that work well in the Creedmoor, compared to the PRC.
The cost difference between the Creedmoor and PRC may or may not matter much, depending on how much you shoot. If you're the casual hunter that shoots a few rounds to a few boxes of ammunition each year, the cost difference between the two cartridges is pointless. But if you, like me, shoot year-round and strive to practice regularly, the cost difference between the two can be significant.
The difference in cost between shooting Creedmoor and PRC isn't only determined by the price of ammunition or reloading components; barrel life should also be considered. This brings me to my next point...
The 6.5 Creedmoor Long-Lasting
Some people argue that barrel life shouldn't be considered when buying or building a rifle and selecting a cartridge. They argue that barrels on a rifle are like tires on a truck — use them and they will need to be replaced eventually. "They're just disposable; get over it."
You'll also hear guys say that "If you can afford enough ammunition to shoot-out your barrel, you can afford to replace your barrel."
I understand that logic, but I still consider barrel life for some rifles. If you're the guy shooting a particular rifle for a couple of dozen or even a couple hundred rounds a year, barrel life may be justifiably irrelevant to you.
However, the difference in barrel life between 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 PRC mattered to me on this specific rifle because I knew that I wanted to shoot this rifle as much as possible. And also because this rifle features a carbon barrel that is not cheap to replace.
Many well-respected shooters and rifle builders I spoke with said that I could expect 1,000 to 1,500 (on the high end) from a short-barreled, suppressed 6.5 PRC. Yet I can conservatively get twice as many rounds, and likely more, from the same barrel in a 6.5 Creedmoor.
Since I will go through 1,000-1,500 rounds in 12-24 months, and it would cost upwards of $1,000 to replace a carbon barrel on this rifle, the difference in replacing a PRC barrel in 1-2 years, or replacing a Creedmoor barrel in 4-5 years is a worthwhile consideration. Again, that's just the difference in barrel cost, not counting the "savings" or ammunition between the two cartridges over that number of rounds.
Speaking of being "long-lasting" and also touching once again on availability, the Creedmoor has become so popular that it will be a mainstay for years — no, decades! — to come. The chances of finding 6.5 Creedmoor on the shelf in 25 years is like walking into a sporting good store today and seeing mainstays like .30-06, .300 Win Mag, or 7mm Rem Mag. That said, I do expect the PRC to be a mainstay well into the future as well.
Mark's first shots at 750-yards with his 6.5 Creedmoor. (One bullet impacted the target's bolt, creating the "arc" seen on the top-right of the bolt.)
The 6.5 Creedmoor is Easy-Shooting
Not only is the Creedmoor easier on the wallet, but it is also easy on the shoulder. I don't consider myself to be very recoil sensitive, but there are two practical reasons I wanted the softer-recoiling Creedmoor over the PRC for this rifle.
First, I am generally an advocate for reducing recoil when possible, allowing the shooter to spot my impacts and easily be "on target" for any follow-up shots that may be needed. Too many hunters chase the most powerful cartridges because they don't understand the importance of staying in the scope, seeing impacts, and being ready for follow-up shots.
The other reason I wanted the softer-recoiling Creedmoor is that I wanted this rifle to be shootable for my wife, kids, and anyone else that is new to both shooting and hunting. Sharing this rifle with friends and family was a specific consideration I had in mind for this build.
Since this is also a very light rifle (weighing under 6lbs bare, or coming in at 8lbs scoped and suppressed), the lighter-recoiling Creedmoor keeps this lightweight rifle very shootable and easy to control.
So, there you have it. Why I chose the 6.5 Creedmoor over the 6.5 PRC.
With so many great cartridges available these days, we are in a fortunate position to have to decide between many great options. While the trend is to look at the biggest, fastest, and hardest-hitting rounds, I hope that some of the considerations discussed in this article will help you make a well-rounded decision for your next rifle.
Rifle Details & Specs
- Mesa Precision Summit Ti Action
- Mesa Precision Altitude Stock
- Proof Research Carbon Barrel (20", 1:7.5 Twist)
- TriggerTech Primary Trigger
- Hawkins Long-Range Hybrid Rings
- ThunderBeast Ultra 7 Suppressor
- Total Weight with Optics & Suppressor: 8.1lbs
- Hunting Load: 124g Hammer Hunter (2900fps with 40.2g Varget)
Mark Huelsing is the host of the Hunt Backcountry Podcast and works at Exo Mtn Gear — though he's never been able to figure out his job title. Connect with Mark by sending him an email (mark at exomtngear.com) or connecting on Instagram, @MarkTheFark.