The Swede

Longtime Readers will all know of my fondness for the venerable 6.5x55mm Swede (SE), and I happened on an article which gives chapter and verse to this wonderful cartridge.

With all due respect to its larger 7mm / .30 siblings, I stand firm in my belief that the Swede is quite possibly the perfect medium-game cartridge, the excellence of the .308 Win, .30-06 Springfield and so on notwithstanding.  When you take all the factors of shooting into account:  bullet velocity, flatness of trajectory, penetration, and most especially recoil, the sum of the Swede’s parts of this equation are probably higher than the bigger cartridges.  Here’s a pic I’ve posted before, comparing the Swede to its contemporaries:

Here it us with some other “quarter-inchers”:

And finally, vs. the .308 Win (my “1.a” choice for a do-it-all cartridge):

I will say unreservedly that if I were limited to only one cartridge for “ordinary” (i.e. excluding African large game) hunting whether human or animal, the Swede would get my vote ahead of every other cartridge I’ve ever fired.

The only caveat I have is that the Swede doesn’t seem to do as well in shorter-barreled rifles.  I think that in standard loadings — and certainly with the Hirtenberg mil-surp stuff — the bullet needs a longer barrel to get that bullet spinning towards its performance apex.  And the ultimate expression of that is in the wonderful Mauser Mod 96 with its 29″ barrel, as never used (in combat) by the Swedish Army:

In my earlier post on Great War Rifles, I said:

But of all the rifles issued to soldiers of that era, the one I’d have chosen to go to war with would have been the Swedish Model 1896 Mauser.  It has moderate recoil, yet the bullet travels flat and hits hard.  The rifle is also fantastically accurate: consistently-placed head shots at 400 meters and torso shots at 600 meters are quite possible even for an average shot like myself.

I haven’t changed my mind since.

That said, I have old eyes and the iron sights would be problematic — but mounting a scope on the old M96 can be tricky, with that 90-degree-lift straight bolt.  So I’d have to take instead my current love, the CZ 550 with its 24″ barrel:

Compromises… we all have to make them.


  1. I only ever had one. It was that CZ carbine with the full length stock, and you are absolutely right – the round needs a full length barrel to take proper advantage of it. As it was, the beautiful little CZ was a rude gun to shoot with increased muzzle blast and recoil, and the accuracy was not up to my standards.

    Of course all the cartridges in this screed are excellent… but I settled on the 25-06 for my personal favourite. Mine was in a Ruger No.1 with the heavy barreled varmint version… and it made a grand all round hunting rifle too. It would dump moose like nobody’s business. Never tried it on bears.

  2. Bravo. Didn’t one of the African big game hunters use the 6.5×55?

    I’m with you on the old eyes, Kim. I have a CG 63, Swedish target rifle conversion of the M96. Gorgeous old gun, and it shoots great, but the iron sights are beyond me anymore. 🙁

    Hickok 45 has done a couple of YT vids on the Sako 85 full length stock in 6.5 Swede. It’s a beautiful gun, though not cheap.

    1. “SE” is just the international designation for Sweden, as “GB” is for the UK, “FR” for France, etc.

  3. I have always liked this cartridge since the first centerfire rifle I owned was a Swedish Mauser Model 94 modified by Interarms as a G33/50. I gave that away to my nephew but I have a couple of non modified 94 carbines and a Model 700 Remington classic in that caliber. Oh, and a CZ full stock as well. (I almost forgot). Years ago I bought a bunch of surplus ammo and I still have some. You are inspiring me to go out and shoot some of this stuff up. The little carbines are remarkably accurate as well.
    I have been looking to pick up a Ljungmann someday.

  4. My first ‘Swede was an M-38 Skier’s Carbine (actual designation/forgotted to time). Full length stock, to the end of it’s wee 18″ barrel. Muzzle blast & fireball to rival that of an M-44 Mosin-Nagant. It had been gunsmithed by a pro, however, with a nicely turned down (forged) bolt handle, drilled & tapped for scope bases, and the rear-sight ladder & elevator removed. I gave it a new home into a bedded & floated Fajen stock, and killed a LOT of deer with it ‘tween ’82 & ’88. Traded “up” for a Remington .30-’06, which vaporized in the ’99 divorce. Miss the Swede, but the Remington.. there’s a zillion of ’em.

    I’ve got a 29′ bbl. M-96 in the safe. Shot it at Appleseed & a .mil-surp match along with you in Texas City, back in ’04, if you’ll recall. It still shoots just as well now, as then. But I’ve also got a (rare) Norwegian Krag in the caliber, alas though in a ’50s Bishop stock, vs the original livery. All the steel though, is un-touched by Bubba, and the numbers match throughout.

    Finally, a Ruger 77mkII Hawkeye African, a One of 250 rifle, via Lypsy’s Distributors. It’s lettered from them as being their 2016/2017 Shot Show display rifle. 24.5″ bbl, with a sling-band affixed about 2″ past the ebony fore-end tip. I’ve plonked a 2.5x10x42 Nightforce atop, and it’s now at the ‘smith being glass bedded and a tad more free-float for the barrel, as well as dye-checking the bolt lugs, face and raceways for square and true.

    It’s quite likely, the closest to a “bespoke” rifle, I’ll ever own.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  5. With all the fuss today over the 6.5 Manbun, the Swede doesn’t get the love it deserves. Although I own a number (more than 2, less than 20) CZ rifles, that is the one caliber I don’t have in a CZ platform. When I lived in Arizona full-time a few years ago, I went through several Swede, traded them all away for something else, then came upon a Steyr Mannlicher in 6.5×55 that I thought I paid way too much for, but it ended up being a bargain. I bought it because the stock was magnificent and it came with a Zeiss Conquest scope and did I mention the stock was magnificent? It was a safe queen before it came to me and I doubt it had a dozen rounds through it. That is the gun that instituted my “never sell any gun” rule, unfortunately not until I’d sold it though. I’d buy it back in a heartbeat if I could find it. Now enjoying a Sako Gray Wolf in 6.5×55, although not as much as I’d like. I have to drive 300 miles round trip to shoot these days.

  6. I have the straight 90′ degree bolt Swede Mauser with the long barrel which has an almost un-shot barrel and it shoots like a demon. I also have the full stock CZ which never grouped as close as I thought it should, it drives me nuts because the Prvi Partizan 6.5×55 groups as well as any of my handholds. I don’t know but that Privi stuff outshoots any USA loads in my rifle. I love the full stock look, I like the trigger, I have a nice Leupold scope on that rifle and it is almost minute of angle at 100 yards which is not too bad.

  7. Kim,
    Your praise of the 6.5×55 on your previous blog convinced me to buy an M96. Then a marvelous CG63 with diopter sights. Both are good shooters, but my old eyes don’t do well anymore with iron sights.

    Finally, I built a 6.5×55 using a Savage Target Action, a Shilen 26″ bull barrel, stock from a Savage FTR and a Whidden V block. Put a Zeiss Conquest 6.5-20×50 on it. Tried 120g SMK and 140g Nosler CC. Rifle much preferred the 140. Powders tried were Varget, 4064 and both IMR & Hodgdon 4350. Either version of the 4350 gave the best accuracy. Normally I can get 5 shot groups in the.3s. Sometimes in the .2s. Twice, when the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, got groups in the .1s. I’m an OK shooter, but I’m sure others could best my efforts.

    Thank you for turning me on to this fantastic cartridge.

  8. Back about 8-9 years while I was working part time as a security officer at a L-M facility my boss had a need for some 7.62X39 ammo. So I traded him a spam-can of Yugo(( that I had maybe $70.00 in) for his sporterized ’94 Swede.

  9. I need, need to get my hands on a Swede Mauser. Even if she’s been sporterized, so long as said sporterizing isn’t too egregiously wretched.
    Tho’ back to the first picture, I’ve lately been contending that as much as I love the good old .30-06, the US probably should have adopted a slightly-modified 7mm Mauser, say a 7x58mm or x58.5mm, long enough to not let US ammo be compatible with others’ 7×57 rifles but short enough that 7×57 isn’t a safety risk to fire in exigencies.

    But the reason the 6-7mm bores keep coming around, aside from the mid-20th Century, when Camp Perry types somehow convinced the USA that .30″ bores were The Only Thing for a good 40-50 years, even in the face of solid evidence that wasn’t so, is

    And God bless ’em, and all the designers out there bringing more options to market. Even if a bunch fail. Because a few of the people who try ’em will likely find out about the originals, and the more interest in a cartridge, the more impetus to keep it in full production.

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