Caliber Comparison

Longtime Friend & Reader John C. sent me this email over the past weekend:

I found this article (“6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Winchester”) and thought you might find it interesting. I have .308 dies, a .308 Savage bolt gun, and if I get the urge to build another AR I’d do it in .308 because I have the dies. Not enough difference for me to collect another caliber, I’m slowing down.
A buddy was asking about it, though, and I said if he has no .308 and is getting a new gun he should consider the 6.5 Creedmoor (CM). If he has a .308 I said stick with it. He’ll likely not ever shoot beyond 500 yards. Your thoughts?
I thought it was a pretty good article, but unless I think I’ll take up F-Class (unlikely), like the author I’m not gonna think about it for me any more.

This was my response:

I enjoyed the article.  My additional thoughts are as follows.

For 95% of all shooting, anything more than 400 yards is unlikely. (Targets and long-distance disciplines excepted, and the other 5% if you’re hunting antelope in eastern Montana, for example.)

In my opinion, therefore, the only difference between the .30x and the .25x (6.5mm, .270 Win etc) is that the latter doesn’t recoil as hard. As someone once said, they’re all good enough that the deer won’t know the difference. It’s the reason I prefer the 6.5x55mm Swede over just about any other: plenty of range (further than I can confidently shoot at), lots of penetration (high sectional density/SD), flat trajectory and so on.

If you’re a devotee of the .308, it’s fine. It may be the best all-purpose medium cartridge ever made, taken across every kind of use (military, hunting or target). I just prefer not to beat my shoulder up if I can avoid it. It’s the same reason I prefer 7x57mm over the 8mm: more or less the same effectiveness, smaller bruise.

Now that said, I love shooting. I love shooting, a lot. Which means that I pull the trigger more, in a single range session, than 75% of other shooters, and under those circumstances, recoil is a big thing.


It’s one of those things where you really don’t have to get all worked up over finding the “perfect” cartridge — trying all sorts of different calibers, loads etc. — and letting the perfect be the enemy of the good (or in this case, good enough).

Frankly, I think that riflemen need to find the cartridge/chambering which suits their personal criteria (mine, as above: maximum effectiveness with the lowest possible recoil), then find the cartridge (bullet weight, manufacturer, muzzle velocity whatever) which works the best in your rifle, and lay in a boatload of ammo of those specs (or reload accordingly, if you’re that way inclined).

Then shoot it lots, and become a master rifleman.

…or, as the above linked article puts it:


  1. I picked 30-06 twenty years ago. It works. I was looking hard at 7mm-08 but ammunition isn’t as plentiful as 6.5 Creedmoor.

    Ranges over 200 yards are rare in my neck of the woods.

    Definitely stock up on whatever your rifle likes. Bullets don’t expire. Store your powder and primers safely.


  2. Agree with your comments (didn’t have time to read the linked article yet). I began shooting NRA Highpower Rifle in 1980. A lot of interesting stuff has come along since, but by that time I was belt buckle deep in 308 components, so just stuck with it. My deer slayer is fairly light weight. To tame recoil somewhat, my handloads are 125 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tip.

    Over time, the Highpower crowd went from 30 caliber down to 7mm (7mm-08), then 6.5, and some even to 6mm. 243 Winchester was the rage for a bit, but barrel throats burned out before 1000 rounds. Tip o’ the hat to them all for the knowledge they gave us.

    The only new round I was seriously tempted by I read about in the old magazine ‘Precision Shooting’. A couple of guys that were shootin’ buddies simply took the 22-250 and necked it up to 6mm. Period. It turned out to be a wonderful sweet shooting round, very close in performance to the 243.

  3. Thanks for this, Kim! You know I consider you a National Treasure of small arms knowledge. I will encourage my friend to get the 6.5 if he does not already have a .308. I don’t shoot as much rifle as you, so I still think I won’t change.

    OTOH, if I do decide to build a larger caliber AR platform, I may consider a 6.5CM instead of the .308. That’s probably not likely, at least for now.

  4. There is no perfect cartridge, only a good cartridge that fits a specific use case.

    I happen to like the 300 Blackout as an AR platform shooter. I can suppress it without converting it to a .22LR, I can shoot it also out of an SBR without it becoming a .22 LR, and I can use the exact same bullets that I can also shoot out of my 308 and 30-06 military rifles. I think an SBR AR-15 in 300 Blackout is the natural successor to the M1 Carbine in the Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) category, if you can’t afford a 9mm submachine gun (and who here can?).

    That bolt action I also have in 300 Blackout? A pure toy. I might be tempted to do suppressed hunting of feral dogs or feral pigs with it, but nothing bigger.

    I also have a lot of fun hand-loading Trail Boss loads to shoot out of Springfields and 303 British Enfields (no, I don’t shoot 308 bullets out of 303/312 guns…). It lowers the pressures on 100+ year guns down a lot, and makes them incredibly fun to shoot.

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