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6.5 Creedmoor Vs. .308 Winchester: Hunting, Target Shooting, & More [2023]



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6.5 MANBUN OR .308 FUDD? LET THE FIGHT BEGIN!

For decades the .308 Winchester has been one of the most popular cartridges in the United States, but 6.5 Creedmoor has had 15 years for a new generation of shooters to fall in love with it.

Both are outstanding cartridges, but what is right for you might be a little more nuanced than you think.

We'll break down the ballistics and use cases for both to help you decide!

BARE BALLISTICS

Here is 6.5 Creedmoor 140gr Hornady ELD-M against .308 Winchester 168gr Hornady ELD-M, these are two great examples of what these calibers can do, but they are by far not the only examples. The exact ballistics will depend on the rifle and ammo you choose, but this is as close to an apples-to-apples view as I can present. 

.308 Winchester Hornady 168gr ELD-M

Range (Yards)Elevation (MOA)Elevation (MIL)Windage (MOA)Windage (MIL)Energy (fl.lbf)Velocity (FPS)
0000026722600
100000.650.1923602444
2002.070.61.280.3720782293
3004.871.421.970.5718212147
4008.082.352.70.7915902006
50011.653.393.491.0213821870

6.5 Creedmoor Hornady 140gr ELD-M

Range (Yards)Elevation (MOA)Elevation (MIL)Windage (MOA)Windage (MIL)Energy (fl.lbf)Velocity (FPS)
0000023152700
100-0.0100.540.1620792559
2001.820.531.060.3118632422
3004.311.261.620.4716642289
4007.152.082.220.6414822160
50010.282.992.850.8313152035

RECOIL

Some people find a deep sense of pride in their ability to “handle” recoil. If that sounds like you, that’s cool, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore recoil.

Personally, I hate recoil, and I see no reason to abuse my body more than absolutely necessary. 

But more importantly, recoil is fundamentally bad for precision and accuracy. From the mechanical accuracy of the rifle to your ability to maintain a sight picture to your shooting position being shifted, recoil is bad. Recoil is also something you can’t overcome with machismo.

6.5 Creedmoor (Hornady 140gr ELD-M), left vs .308 Winchester (M118LR), right

Professional shooters understand recoil is a bad thing. From USPSA to PRS to ELR, something all of them have in common is their top shooters do everything they can to reduce recoil. 

That being said, sometimes you just can’t avoid it. 

All of that to preference, 6.5 Creedmoor has a lot less recoil than .308 Winchester. Specifically, about 20-25% less recoil. In the world of shooting, especially at long range, that’s really significant. 

Easier to shoot, has less wear on your body, and has more inherent accuracy due to the reduced recoil. These are major reasons why the 6.5 Creedmoor was developed to start with. While the recoil from .308 Win isn’t the end of the world, it adds up over a long range day.

AVAILABILITY: THE GOOD TIMES

Finding ammo comes in two flavors, good years and bad years. Good years ammo is less expensive and widely available both online and on the shelf at your local store. Bad years, you’re selling plasma for a box of .22 LR, and you’re fighting everyone else who got an email notification to be the first to click “checkout.”

Right now, in January 2023, we’re nearing the end of some bad years, and things are looking up.

In good years, .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor will be the same price for the same quality ammo. Meaning good high-quality hunting ammo will be the same price, super high-grade match ammo will be within a few cents of each other, and plinking rounds will be neck and neck for cost per round.

.308 Win does have a lower floor price. Steel-cased .308 Win is pretty cheap, as are some milsurp when it comes in stock, and even just mass-produced cheap plinking ammo is normally a noticeable amount less expensive than 6.5 Creedmoor.

6.5 Creedmoor simply doesn’t have steel-case super cheap options, and not enough demand for ultra-cheap plinking ammo for any brand to really offer it. What limited military application 6.5 Creedmoor has seen is exclusively sniper/marksman-based, demanding higher-quality ammo with no overruns in production. 

AVAILABILITY: IN TIMES OF SHORTAGES & CRISIS

Bad times come and go, and while we all hope they don’t come often, we should be prepared for them. 2020 was a really bad year for ammo production and availability, but it’s a good reminder things won’t go as planned. 

During the worst of the bad times, 6.5 Creedmoor was almost impossible to find online or on the shelf. Hunting ammo in 6.5 Creedmoor was a little easier to find than match grade, but both more than doubled in price. Match grade 6.5 Creedmoor hasn’t come down by much since then, either. 

Ammo shortages bring inflated prices and scarce options

While .308 Win was scarce and more expensive than normal, it was at least obtainable for all but the darkest days. Now, it’s pretty easy to find anything you need in whatever amount you want, and even the price isn’t too far off from what it normally would be.

This is where the huge popularity of .308 Winchester wins out, hands down. Because so many people use it, including the military, production of it will always be higher. 

HUNTING

.308 Win has taken every form of game animal in North America. Some under-sized Texas deer to monster Canadian Moose, a .308 Winchester has put their meat in the freezer. And it’s done so for decades. 

While .308 Winchester thrives on mid-sized game like whitetail deer, with the right bullet and at the right range it can knock down just about anything ethically. While it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for larger game like elk or moose, it can still get the job done.

6.5 Creedmoor, though much younger than the .308 Winchester, has also taken every game in North America. The exact numbers depend on what you’re shooting, but generally speaking, 6.5 Creedmoor will have a little less kinetic energy at shorter ranges but more energy and velocity at longer ranges over the .308 Winchester. Either way, it’s a solid hunting cartridge with the right bullet and offers the major advantage of lower recoil.

Both cartridges start well over 2,000 ft.lbf and around the same muzzle velocity. While .308 Win will have 200-300 more ft.lbf at the start, this is quickly lost and evens out between the cartridges by around 500 yards.

For pure killing power, .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor are basically interchangeable. While .308 Win might have a little more energy in typical hunting distances, 6.5 Creedmoor has lower recoil and less drop/drift.

Shot placement will always be king, but choosing a good bullet is also important.

TARGET SHOOTING

6.5 Creedmoor using sleeker, lighter, higher BC bullets has some major advantages over .308 Win when it comes to reaching out very long distances and touching steel.

Throwing a 140gr ELD-M bullet at 2710 FPS, the 6.5 Creedmoor will only have about 8.8 mils of drop at 1,000 yards. With a full value 10 mph wind, you’re looking at only 1.8 mils of drift at the same range.

.308 Winchester, even using a fancy bullet like the 168gr ELD-M  moving at 2700 fps, at the same range and wind, you’re in the ballpark of 10 mils of drop and 2.5 mils of wind drift. 

What does that mean for real-world practical accuracy? 6.5 Creedmoor is a big winner at long distances, up to double the hit probability at 1,000 yards on a 1 MOA target.

Mission Critical’s Echo range features concealed targets from 120 to 900 yards. You must find them, determine the range, and engage.

6.5 Creedmoor stays supersonic well past .308 Winchester, by several hundred yards. And combine all of that with lower recoil, you can quickly see why 6.5 Creedmoor is favored. 

All of that being said, .308 Win isn’t a bad choice. There is still lots of great match ammo for it, rifles that are super accurate, and there is nothing wrong with needing to make better wind calls. But no matter how you slice it, 6.5 Creedmoor is, at best, flat-out better in every way for long-range target shooting and, at worst, a whole lot more forgiving than .308 Win.

COMPETITION

For raw scores, 6.5 Creedmoor is going to win in any competition that both cartridges compete evenly. That’s just the nature of better ballistics. That said, these cartridges rarely compete head-to-head since .308 Win is often in a special category like “Tac” or “Tactical” divisions. 

Why? Because .308 Win/7.62×51 NATO is a military caliber. As such, it should have a place in competition. But it wouldn't do very well if forced to fight alongside gamer cartridges.

From NRA to F-Class to PRS, .308 Win offers a lot of flexibility and fun across the board. It’s easy to load, there is a ton of options out there for it, and it’s almost never hard to find.

That said, with equal shooters – 6.5 Creedmoor is going to put up better scores. 

What is best for you depends on your goals and discipline. I would strongly recommend talking to people that shoot the competition style you’re interested in before choosing your flavor.

WHAT IS BEST?

Sorry, but I can’t give you a clear answer to this. It just depends on what you’re looking for. If you want an SHTF caliber, .308 Win wins, hands down. If you want to slap steel at 1,000 yards, 6.5 Creedmoor is a much better choice. Everything has tradeoffs, and this is no exception. 

Personally, I’m unabashedly a 6.5 Creedmoor shooter. I own .308 Win rifles and will probably buy more, but 6.5 Creedmoor is what I hunt with normally, it’s what I shoot the most often, and it’s what I reload for.

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