260REM vs 6.5CM - Picking the Right Cartridge
This question comes up every week, do you go with the 260REM or do you pick the 6.5 Creedmoor ?
It’s a perfectly reasonable question and the actual differences are so small, getting a logical answer on the internet is very hard. Guys are all over the map and because of their considerable investment in one over the other. So they will defend their choice with anecdotal reasoning, this doesn’t always help. The line is only 50fps wide and once the bullet leaves the muzzle for the most part, the shooter is the biggest factor.
So let’s explore the two, taking the emotion out of the equation.
Since both are 6.5 calibers and can use the same bullets, you will see very similar results. There is a small edge to the 260REM in terms of pure velocity, about 50fps depending how you load it so that is one consideration. Once they leave the barrel it’s hard to give one the advantage over the other. We have a great variety of high BC 6.5 bullets to pick from, so you can easily balance the numbers.
For comparison let’s look at the Factory Prime Ammunition example. Here we have their 260REM load and their 6.5CM version. Same bullet, same Norma brass, similar factory load.
Barrel life will be the same between the two, you can reasonably expect anywhere from 3000 rounds to 5000 rounds of barrel life, it just depends on how fast you push them. This is such a big variation because guys will try to squeeze every fps out of the cartridge, as well, not all barrels are created equal. Either way, you will see roughly the same end results. In this case it is wash.
Accuracy will be equally be the same, this is more shooter dependent than cartridge. One is not inherently more accurate than the other. I shoot both and see no difference downrange.
Where the biggest difference comes into play is “Shooter Experience”. This is the determining factor on which cartridge, 260REM or 6.5CM you pick.
If you are a novice shooter, or even an intermediate shooter who has never reloaded or just dipped their toes into reloading. The right choice for you is the 6.5 Creedmoor. Why is this, the 6.5CM has the best factory ammo at the cheapest price. You can find it in a lot of big box stores, from Anchorage, Alaska to East Hartford Connecticut and all places in between. A box of Hornady is about $28 for factory 140/143gr 6.5CM. Match grade 260REM is much harder to find and will cost about 50% or more per box. Prime ammo is the exception, it’s $32 a box for 260REM, where most others are over $45 per box. The Prime Ammo lets a shooter get match factory ammo at a reasonable price, but is limited by the bullet choice.
If you are just starting out in reloading it’s a great place to learn. You can use the factory brass, Hornady or Norma, and you can easily match your reloads to the factory recipe. Hornady did have it on the box, I believe they may have removed it, but don’t quote me. Still it’s very easy to reload for, and compare to the great factory ammo out there.
This gives you a great starting point and if things are not right, you can always default to factory ammo. It’s super easy to run to Cabelas, Sportsman’s Warehouse, etc, and grab a box of Winchester 6.5CM or Hornady 6.5CM off the shelf. It’s generally very good, and will not limit your ability to hit the target. To clarify, this is match grade stuff. When I first tried the Prime 6.5CM ammo, I was one box short during a competition and Jim from Prime was kind enough to give me a box to finish the match. The ability to roll into a box of factory ammo is awesome.
Experienced Shooters with better or above average reloading skills will want to pick the 260REM. In a word, it’s the Lapua brass as well as the extra 50fps that comes with it. Because Lapua makes 260REM brass, this is the chosen direction for all accomplished reloaders. They will also anneal, so they can get longer life out of their brass. Reloaders will watch their loads so not to blow out their primer pockets quicker and because of their skill and experience will be able to squeeze every bit of performance of out of the cartridge. However, this is not to say you cannot do the same thing with a 6.5CM. Same, same, except the brass. Most consider 6.5CM brass to be soft.
Experienced Shooters already know the cost associated to good reloading. They understand the more expensive brass will last longer, and they probably have an annealing machine.
After all this, it comes down to the shooter and his rifle system. Shooting inside of 800 yards you’d be hard pressed to see the difference, beyond 800 yards that extra effort and the additional 50fps is going to shine a little brighter. If you reload a 6.5CM you can gain back the factory losses and extend the max effective range. Remember factory loads are going to be on the conservative side. I have taken students with factory 6.5CM to 1 mile, so it can be done. 2 Hits on an 18x30 target out of 5 shots is not bad considering it was on demand and not after wasting rounds. It’s consistent enough to be meaningful.
Lastly, it’s about seating depth. The 6.5CM is a bit shorter and is not always loaded as long, so it fits in AICS magazines much better. Like the 6.5X47 it was designed to fit a magazine fed rifle better. The 260REM loaded to the lands may not fit properly in an AICS magazine without some modification. It can be loaded beyond the OAL of the magazine. You see a lot more people load the 260 long so if they don’t shoot a chambered cartridge the bullet will bite the lands and stick. When they eject the unfired cartridge, the bullet is unseated and the powder is dumped. You have to very aware of what is going on here so not to have this problem. It can cost you a stage.
The Fan in Me,
I am huge 6.5 fan, I have been shooting 260REMs since the early 2000s, the first Sniper’s Hide Rifle made by GA Precision I had chambered in both 308 and 260. This was the Headhunter George did in the early days of the Site.
Back then we also did a Savage project called the Ghost Dancer. When Savaged discontinued the 260 10FP, we bought 5 of them at a considerable discount and built them up as full blown tactical rifles. McMillan A5 Stocks, after market triggers, the works. Turned out very well.
Today I interchange between 6.5CM and 260 at will. Especially because I shoot a lot of factory ammo. I have my brass custom loaded and will also use custom reloads for competitions. But for day to day training and in my videos, I use both and see no difference in doing so. The results are impossible to ignore and the box of factory Prime is always there and that is no accident.
Here is a 1000 yard target where I can pick and chose my groups at will with a 6.5.
If you want to see the difference ballistically check out the information from Prime Ammo. With both cartridges loaded with the same bullet you can get a nice overview of the two side by side.
Prime 6.5CM Ballistics
Barrel Length and Twist Rate
Since both the 260REM and 6.5CM can use the same bullet, you can pick a very similar barrel spec.
In terms of barrel length, for an every day rifle I would recommend 24” and a 1-8” Twist rate. This is a good universal set up that will help balance speed and weight.
Some companies will offer a 1-8.5” barrel and this is ok too just not optimal with all bullets. The 1-8” will shoot everything equally well.
I also own an 18” 6.5CM and it works outstanding. See my “World Record” Video for more. But in this case you can increase the twist rate a bit to account for the shorter barrel. This school of thought has guys shooting a 6.5 bullet from a 1-7” twist. That is bit aggressive, but if you are going shorter and reducing the muzzle velocity you’ll have very good results with it. You want to be careful when over twisting a bullet that you are not destroying the jacket. You can easily rip the jackets on certain bullets. So don’t use a 26” barrel with a 1-7”.
Recently I had Bartlein Barrels spin me up a Left Hand Gain Twist Barrel that is 8.25” to 7.75” at the muzzle. I am having excellent results with this combination shooting a 260REM. In fact through my research believe you can go 8” at the chamber to 7” at the muzzle and still be in very good shape. The Gain Twist will help you prevent jacket deformity so you can keep the speeds up.
Competition guys will always want to go longer when it comes to their barrels. Competition is a speed race and that means longer barrels and higher velocities. So it’s not uncommon to have people recommend a 26” barrel so they can push heavy 6.5 bullets over 2900fps. A 24” might average between 2750fps and 2825fps with a 140gr bullet where a 26” might get you 100fps more. 2900fps is a great number to shoot for.
(Your Loads my vary as I am speaking in generic terms)
18" 6.5CM Video
Remember this, everything you can do with a 308, you can also do with a 6.5 just better and faster. So if you use a 308 semi auto, with a short barrel, the same rifle in 6.5 will be better. That same concept continues across the board. More velocity, better ballistics and enough energy to get the job done. Guys see excellent results from 6.5 Semi Auto Rifles.
Hope this helps, believe me there is no wrong answer when it comes to choosing the 260REM over the 6.5CM. It’s a Time vs Money equation. If you have the time to reload and are well versed in it, the 260REM is a great choice. If you have the money to buy factory ammo, you opt for the 6.5 Creedmoor and never look back. You can easily cut your teeth reloading with the 6.5CM and then work up to cartridge like the 260REM which may require a bit more experience. At the end of the day, the better shooter will always win. So fear not when choosing which 6.5 to go with, this include many of the others too.
No Wind !
Lowlight @Sniper’s Hidenull