Range Report: Federal 6.5x55mm Swedish 140gr

Yesterday I went off to the 100-yard indoor range to play around a little with the new rig:

…and see which ammo it likes best of all.  I have quite a few different brands / types of 6.5x55mm ammo, so picking one is no easy choice.  I decided to start with the Federal ammo, because I’ve always had good results with it, and long ago I standardized my bullet weight at 140gr because that’s what all my rifles thus chambered (there have been a few) have shot well.

Before we look at the target, I need to talk a little bit about the scope technique.

Last week, after zeroing the scope, I reset both the top- and side knobs to zero.  All “warmup” strings were fired with that scope setting, and then I’d adjust the scope (once) for that ammo, and let off another string.  While I was letting the barrel cool between the different ammo brands, I’d reset the both scope turrets to their original zero, before changing to the new ammo.

All aiming-points are the center (bull) diamonds.

Because I couldn’t take too much time — the range is always fairly busy, even on a Monday — I had to shoot a little more quickly than I normally would, which meant the barrel heated up quite a lot.  So here’s the 100-yard target:

The top two targets were as follows:  the top right-hand target was the warm-up string with this type (includes a called flyer), and the top-left was after I’d adjusted the scope.  Not bad.

The large center target held two groups:  the left-hand group (with yet another called flyer) was basically the same ammo I used to zero the scope last week, and I was a little worried because my aim-point was the center diamond.  Was the barrel starting to whip?  I decided to let the thing cool for about ten minutes, and then I tried the “new” ammo I’d purchased a few weeks ago:  the Federal “Fusion”, the first string of which which is the right-hand group on the large target, and then, after scope adjustment, the bottom-right target.  Lovely. Good thing I have lots of it.  (Okay, I have a lot of all the ammo types, but whatever.)

Then, disaster.

The bottom-left target was reserved for Federal Premium “Trophy Bonded Bear Claw”, which has always given me excellent results, across three or four different rifles.  All this ammo, incidentally, has the same lot number on the boxes;  it was very carefully chosen and ordered, and it has worked consistently well.

Just not this time, with this rifle.

The two flyers were not called — in fact, all five shots felt “right” when I touched them off — and while I can live with flyers an inch or two off, these two came out of the blue, and were not the last two fired, either:  from memory, they were the 2nd and 4th in the string.  In fairness, the barrel was really hot by then, so… I ended the range session.

The reason this is so perturbing is that if I were suddenly to be called away on a hunting trip with no chance to test-fire any of the types shown, I would grab the Bear Claw in a heartbeat and head out.

It looks like I need to spend a little more time with this ammo.

That aside — and I will get to the bottom of the problem — the Federal ammo brands and types all performed well, under the circumstances.  Remember that this was really just a “rough” test — I plan on fine-tuning each type in separate sessions over the next couple months, with the scope adjustments noted.


  1. My CZ 6.5×55 has a Mannlicher stock and my experience has been that with a cool barrel I can get a shot that is dead on at 100 yards, I reload my own but for factory I found that the Prvi Partizan PPU in 6.5×55 grouped better, little clover leaves with three or four shots. The Fusion which I thought should be the best was much more scattered as the barrel warmed up. I haven’t shot rifle at anything but paper for the past few years but my goal at the range was to end up with a first cold shot out of a one shot fouled barrel being 1 1/2 inches high at 100 yards and the follow up shot close to it.

  2. Did all that.
    I’d actually like to clean the barrel thoroughly between strings, but I don’t get much time and the range frowns on cleaning guns in the lane anyway. (Like I said, it’s very busy.)
    The reason I’m not too perturbed is that the two wild flyers didn’t happen with every brand, just the one. (The fact that it was my favorite, tried-and-tested brand… well, that was a concern.)
    And that wasn’t the last string, either, so it’s not “hot barrel whip”.
    Like I said: MOAR SHOOTING is required.

  3. Come and spend a full day at the Texas City Municipal Range. You’ve shot a “mil-surp” rifle match there about fifteen years ago, so pull up the mental archives and you’ll picture it. They’ll give you a bench on the far end of the line, and let you shoot n’ clean to your heart’s content.

    As for Chronographs. Now, at $600 MSRP, it’s not a cheap device, but a good range or club could afford one, and it’ll put about any other chronograph to shame. The Lab Radar Chronograph not only gives velocity at the muzzle, but at most any other chosen distance downrange, out to about 400 yards or such. Depends a great deal on which caliber, which projectile, etc. With such data, you can feed ballistic software the info, and get a very precise trajectory chart, the *actual* Ballistic Coefficient of your bullet, and much more info besides.


    They need to send you one to test, and write up a review. Preferably, leading up to Boomershoot. From which your write-up should be the lead article in one of the major publications.

    Make Gunwriting Great Again!

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  4. I would be very concerned.

    We are familiar with the church known as Shotgun Creek Range near Eugene Oregon.
    They have a section of community 100-yard lanes; they also have remote 200-yard lanes for more religious members.

    I am spiritually incapable of accepting any results other than ‘all holes touching’.

    At another church, the 600-yard range near the penitentiary at Ione California, unknown-distance targets are set by the deeply-devious on ATVs.
    For me, any more than a couple-three shots for a canoe/splash is grounds for a ‘time-out’ while sitting in the corner wearing a dunce-cap.

    At the city worship-center outside Lincoln [spit] California, a Remington 700 7mm magnum rings the 300-yard gong.
    Using blunt hunting slugs.

    My buddy in Idaho worships at his 2,400-yard range from his back porch.
    A mile-and-a-half.
    The target is a two-foot steel square.
    Anything over eight shots to ring is humiliating.
    At that distance, a .408CheyTac wearing a Nightforce is handy to achieve enlightenment.
    Although many tried, that combo is significantly handier than a .45-110 black-powder Sharps replica.

    I mean no offense.
    I seem to be gifted with an unusual ability to guide projectiles.
    This’s not something I am able to teach.

    While piloting, I see other aircraft miles before anybody else in the cockpit.
    My unassisted night-vision scares most folks.
    I’ll be 69 in a few weeks; I read ‘the fine print’ no problem.
    I cannot explain it.

    Inevitably, I have an opposites story.
    I acquired a new Colt AR-15 in about 1970.
    I could not zero it at any distance.
    It threw ten-inch groups at twenty-five feet.
    This duplicates our family experiences with several of the StromRuger mini-14 series in .223 shooting 5.56 military ammunition.
    At some points during our evals, my dad, my aunts, my cousins all suggested tossing an angry stray cat would be more accurate.
    Or something to that effect.

  5. I should point out to everyone, by the way, that I was shooting off a bipod. Now bipods are great for hunting and such, but a bipod is just a fulcrum — especially on a shooting range “shelf”, where the recoil is instantly transmitted down to the shelf and bounced back up again, usually as or just before the bullet might leave the barrel.
    True precision requires a sandbag — it’s what I used to sight in the Ruger ULD rifle, by the way — because the gun needs to be anchored rather than bouncing around all over the place. But schlepping a sandbag around when all I’m trying to do is get the thing to shoot multiple brands inside a side plate… way too much hassle.
    So the next session will see the bipod off and the sandbag brought into the picture.

    Sheesh… you guys need to relax a little.

    1. Most of the suggestions already mentioned occurred to me as well. However, it is also obvious that you know what you are about, so I kept them to myself. +1 on the sandbags. That said, I do sometimes shoot at Defender Outdoors in Ft. Worth. They have MTM plastic front rests for customers to use. Specially, the Front Rifle Rest & Handgun Pistol Rest.

      Long ago I bought somebody’s brand X plastic rest and was unimpressed when I used it, so my first time at Defender, I was prepared to be unimpressed again. I was wrong. When combined with a rear sandbag (same brand as in your photo) they work very well. The V notch channels recoil in a straight line. My groups were as good as any I have shot. I ordered a rest for myself. While bulkier than sandbags, they are stable and wonderfully light weight.

  6. I guess I haven’t bought 6.5×55 for a while. The selections from Norma, Lapua and even Fiocchi are quite dear. Even this caliber is sold out in several brands now, as I just discovered. I have a bunch of military rounds that I bought many moons ago as well.

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