When it comes to choosing a rifle cartridge for hunting or competition shooting, there are many options to consider. Two popular choices in recent years have been the .308 Winchester (also known as the 7.62x51mm NATO) and the 6.5 Creedmoor.
In this 308 VS 6.5 Creedmoor guide let's discuss their history, ballistic characteristics, and potential applications.
History of the 308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor
The .308 Winchester cartridge was introduced in 1952 as a sporting cartridge. Just two years later, in 1954, it was adopted by the US military as the 7.62x51mm NATO round.
Due to its military background, the .308 has become an extremely popular cartridge for hunting and target shooting. It is capable of shooting heavy bullets up to 220 grains, making it an excellent choice for big game hunting in North America.
In 2007, Hornady introduced the 6.5 Creedmoor as a competition cartridge for the National Rifle Association's Across the Course matches.
It was designed to be efficient in terms of energy transfer and have minimal recoil, allowing shooters to stay on target and maintain accuracy. With the right projectile, it has proven to be effective for medium game hunting across the United States.
Ballistic Characteristics of the 308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor
One of the main differences between these two cartridges is their bullet weight capabilities.
The base diameter of the 6.5 Creedmoor measures at 0.4703 in while the .308 Winchester measures at 0.4709 in, making both cases very similar. Although the 308 case is longer than the 6.5 Creedmoor case, measuring at 1.92", the overall length with bullet shows that the 6.5 Creedmoor is slightly longer, measuring at 2.825" compared to the 2.81" of the 308 Winchester.
The .308 Winchester can shoot heavy bullets up to 220 grains, whereas the 6.5 Creedmoor is limited to 147-grain bullets, which are currently the largest size offered by Hornady.
However, bullet weight is not the only factor to consider when evaluating a cartridge's performance.
The most common grain weights for 6.5 Creedmoor are:
- 120 Grain
- 129 Grain
- 140 Grain
- 143 Grain
The most common grain weights for 308 are:
- 147 Grain
- 150 Grain
- 165 Grain
- 168 Grain
- 175 Grain
Velocity is also important, as a smaller bullet can travel faster but may have less energy upon impact. In competition shooting, velocity may not matter as much as accuracy, as long as the bullet reaches the target.
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to its impressive accuracy and velocity. It has a flatter trajectory and less recoil than the .308, which makes it easier to shoot accurately at long ranges.
Additionally, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a lighter weight cartridge, making it easier to carry for extended periods.
The 308 is generally considered to be a better killing cartridge than the 6.5 Creedmoor in a hunting context. This is because the 308 typically uses a heavier bullet and has a larger frontal diameter than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Bullet velocity is crucial for an ethical kill. The 6.5 Creedmoor's efficiency of energy transfer is one of its most important attributes for competition shooting, as it allows for high speed with minimal recoil.
This means that it can tear up more meat, which is important when hunting. Additionally, the 308 typically expands more in the meat, making a larger wound channel. While the 6.5 Creedmoor is still a good hunting cartridge, the 308 is better for larger game like elk.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has significantly less recoil than the 308, making it a better choice for new or light-framed shooters.
Additionally, the lighter recoil of the 6.5 Creedmoor makes it easier to spot your impact in the scope, which can be important for sighting in your rifle.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is better in the wind than the 308. This is because the BC of the bullets is generally higher in the 6.5 Creedmoor, and it can be slightly faster than the 308. This means that it will drift less in the wind, making it a better choice for long-range shots in windy conditions.
Both 308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor have supersonic and subsonic ammo options, as with most ammo calibers. While most ammo is inherently supersonic, it may not be labeled as such since it's not a selling factor.
Supersonic rounds travel faster than the sound of 1,086.9 feet per second, which may slightly vary based on weather conditions, but is widely recognized as the sound barrier.
If you want to suppress the round and shoot much quieter, you may choose subsonic ammo for your 308 or 6.5 Creedmoor. This removes a lot of the "crack" of the round breaking the sound barrier.
The 308 is generally cheaper to shoot than the 6.5 Creedmoor. On average, a box of 308 is going for $16 less than 6.5 Creedmoor. With ammo prices being as high as they are, anything you can do to save on ammo makes a big difference.
While this difference may wear away over time, it's still worth considering if you're looking to save money.
This efficiency is also beneficial for hunting, as the high ballistic coefficient of the 6.5 Creedmoor allows the bullet to stay on target and retain energy over longer distances, making it more effective against wind drift.
Another advantage of the .308 Winchester is its ability to shoot heavy bullets, making it an excellent choice for big game hunting. In contrast, the 6.5 Creedmoor's design is optimized for medium game hunting and competition shooting, making it less effective for taking down larger animals.
Which Caliber Should Your Rifle Shoot
When deciding between these two cartridges, it is important to consider the intended use of the rifle. If the rifle will primarily be used for competition shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor is likely the better choice.
Its efficiency of energy transfer, high ballistic coefficient, and minimal recoil make it an excellent cartridge for accuracy and precision.
If the rifle will be used for hunting, particularly for big game in North America, the .308 Winchester is a better option due to its ability to shoot heavy bullets and its popularity for this purpose.
Additionally, the .308 Winchester can be used as a subsonic round, making it effective for use with suppressors.