An in-depth comparison of two respected calibers - the 6.5 Creedmoor vs .308 Winchester.
If you are looking for a versatile round for both hunting and target shooting, both the .308 Winchester and the 6.5 Creedmoor are excellent choices. But what caliber “wins” the 6.5 Creedmoor vs .308 rifle rumble and more importantly, which of these two cartridges is right for you?
Let’s take a closer look at both rounds to find out.
Getting to Know the .308 Winchester
Bullet Diameter: .308 inches
Rim Diameter: .4728 inches
Total Length: 2.8 inches
First released in 1952, the .308 Winchester has risen to become one of the most popular and commercially-successful cartridges ever invented. It is the civilian version of the 7.62x51mm NATO. The military pushed for 7.62×51 to replace the bulkier .30-06 Springfield. Although they are similar, the .308 Winchester is slightly different from the military round and, with today’s advances in propellants, they are not entirely interchangeable.
The round was released to go with the Winchester Model 70, a firearm that also shared immense popularity among private gun owners. Over the years, the .308 Winchester became one of the most useful cartridges for hunting in the United States and abroad. It is known as a reliable choice for medium- sized game, including whitetail deer, pronghorn, and black bear. Some say it is even powerful enough to use on moose and elk, although its effectiveness on these larger animals is debated.
The .308 Winchester is one of the best rounds for hunting, but a new wave of cartridges are challenging its status as the top choice. Bringing lighter recoil with reliable downrange energy, these modern cartridges have become popular for target shooting, and can even be an option for hunting.
One of these cartridges that is challenging the .308 Winchester is the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Getting to Know the 6.5 Creedmoor
Bullet Diameter: .2644 inches
Rim Diameter: .473 inches
Total Length: 2.825 inches
While the .308 Winchester was essentially developed alongside a military round, Hornady’s development of 6.5 Creedmoor was a completely private endeavor.
Early in the 21st century, Hornady, perhaps one of the most innovative ammunition manufacturers, saw an opportunity. They recognized that while the total amount of hunters was far more than target shooters, target shooters were clearly using more ammunition. A hunter might buy a few packs for sighting their rifle, then fire only one bullet the entire year. A target shooter, on the other hand, could go through hundreds or rounds in a day. If they could create a round that was enticing to target shooters, there was a massive opportunity for profit.
This was the motivation behind the 6.5 Creedmoor. Hornady created a round that is high in ballistic coefficient, affordable, and easy to reload, all while maintaining excellent accuracy and an easy recoil.
6.5 Creedmoor vs .308 Winchester
Ammo Price & Availability
For some shooters, price is less of a concern. For others, it is the biggest concern. (Target shooters especially.) While these two cartridges have their specific differences, it’s best to start by looking at the pricing. While prices will vary by how, where, and what types of cartridges you buy (jacketed hollow points vs. lead round nose, for example), we can generally say that if you are looking for extremely affordable rounds, the .308 Winchester is likely the better choice. However this is not because the .308 Winchester is inherently more affordable, but more because of the sheer number of options; with so many options, there are bound to be more affordable products.
For example, when this article was written there were 131 different product listings on for .308 Winchester ammunition. The 6.5 Creedmoor only had 38. You will likely see this trend reflected on store shelves. With such a large amount of options, the .308 had both the cheapest per round ($0.33) and the most expensive ($2.55). The 6.5 Creedmoor ranged from $0.60 to $2.00.
However, if we look at the prices of the same line of products, we see a different trend. For example, the USA Ready brand from Winchester costs $1.00 per round in .308 is only $0.80 for 6.5 Creedmoor. Others, however, will have the .308 Winchester, for whatever reason, priced slightly higher.
Advantage: .308 Winchester (Due to product variety)
.308 vs. 6.5 Creedmoor Velocity
If you are looking for a high-velocity round, you really can’t go wrong with either of these cartridges.
Both the .308 Winchester and the 6.5 Creedmoor have muzzle velocities that are near or above 3,000 feet per second. So, these are two of the faster options available. Depending on what you purchase, you can find both rounds with speeds that will suit the needs of hunters and target-shooters alike. However, if you want better down-range speed, the .65 Creedmoor generally has better velocity after 300, 400, and 500 yards.
Advantage: 6.5 Creedmoor (Specifically downrange)
The .308 Winchester, largely because it tends to pack larger bullets, generally has more muzzle energy. For example, both rounds are available in Federal’s Power-Shok brand.
While there are variability, the .308 packs 150-grain bullets, while the 6.5 Creedmoor packs 140 grain bullets.
The .308 has a muzzle velocity of 2,648 ft-lb but drops to 1,661 after 400 yards. The 6.5 Creedmoor, on the other hand, has a muzzle energy of 2,750, but because it maintains speed it has 1,985 ft-lbs of energy after 400 yards. So it starts with less energy, but maintains its energy as it travels.
Advantage: .308 Winchester for muzzle, 6.5 Creedmoor for downrange.
Trajectory – 6.5 Creedmoor vs .308
With a lighter bullet and better downrange speed, the 6.5 Creedmoor also has less downrange drop. Looking at the rounds we referenced above (Power-Shok from Federal) we see the .308 Winchester dropping 4.1 inches after 200 yards and 15.4 inches after 300 yards. The 6.5 Creedmoor drops 3.8 inches at 200 yards and 14.1 after 300 yards.
Advantage: 6.5 Creedmoor (Slight advantage)
This is the first category where we see a distinct winner. Most people agree that the 6.5 Creedmoor, because of its intelligent and strategic design, has less recoil than the .308 Winchester. This makes it ideal for shooting high-volume rounds during a long day at the range.
Advantage: 6.5 Creedmoor
After all that, the choice is still tough. While either cartridge can be used for hunting or target-shooting, it seems that, if we are looking at similar products, the .308 Winchester is a better option for hunting, while the 6.5 Creedmoor is a superior target-shooting round, especially for long-distance shots.
Whether you decide in the 6.5 Creedmoor vs .308 Winchester debate, you’re picking a round trusted by thousands, if not millions of shooters. Enjoy your trip to the range or field!