That’s a little bit more than .257″ and a little bit less than .277″, not quite in the middle but I think we might be splitting hairs if we thought it’s the “best” of the three.
And oh, it’s now monikered “6.5” because that seems to give it more cache! And since 7mm is .284 – caliber, is it now deemed “not cool”?
Whatever the convoluted thinking of “the masses” might contemporarily be, I’d choose a .284-caliber any day over a .264″! Why?… the death moans from the .264 Win Mag while the BIG 7 Rem flourished! Last count, I’ve owned 7 of the 7s and two 6.5s, both Swedes. And today, if I chose one or the other of those two, it would be another 7 (.284-cal). Why? A wider choice of bullets that are “wider”. So now we have some .264s that, more or less, are comparable with the “ancient” 6.5 x 55 and .264 Win Mag! My goodness! What will “they” think of next?
But these are blogs about BIG BORES, right? Yeah, but I just can’t dismiss hammering those wannabe “do-it-all” kid’s stuff as pretenders to the “What Crown”? It’s now the “In Thing” that soon will be the “Out Thing” by those who are looking for the “Next Thing”!
At one time (a long time ago) I thought the .264 Win Mag might do something for me – except I didn’t live in The West, and had no expectations of doing so in the near future. Analysis was convincing enough to choose Winchester’s other invention of 1958, the .338 Winchester Magnum that made a lot more sense to me for where I hunted and what. It appeared to be much more versatile – and that view of Mediums hasn’t altered with added years.
< That’s a .264, 140gr Partition on the far left. The others are all .338-cal. L to R: 275gr Speer, 250gr Sierra, 210gr Partition, 250gr Partition, 250gr Speer GS, 250gr Hornady and 225gr Hornady.
The .264 Win Mag had a major flaw, and that was no ideal powders for the ratio of bore to chamber dimensions. Today, the situation has in theory improved, but “everyone” is choosing 125gr to 147gr projectiles for their .264s/6.5s, (to get that “flat-shooting”, high velocity “magic”) whereas the Swedes mostly used 157s and 160s at modest velocity, and got closer where the high SD bullet would penetrate forever! And I bought the “modern line” about the 6.5 Swede until it failed miserably in using a 120gr at 2900 fps on a big “woods” whitetail buck! But I never gave up on .284s in which I used “heavy for caliber” projectiles – 162s to 175s. A 175gr Partition at 3000 fps is even better at long range than a .300 Win Mag firing a 180 at 3000 fps because of a better SD and subsequent BC. Of course, some .300 Win Mags (26″) can easily make 3150 fps. And a .300 Win is “best” firing aerodynamic 200s at 3000 fps, like the Partition or AccuBond – being the cartridge and bullets among my alltime favorites. But that’s not for the “kids” that wimper and whine at recoil over 20 ft-lbs! But it’s one of the best for 1000 yard shooting.
In giving an example of the potential distinct effects of two bullets of similar construction, SD, BC and MV, the results at 100 to 600 yards could be expressed in kinetic energy and/or momentum. While a growing number of shooters/hunters deny any significance in the final effect of those distinctions, yet they physically exist in both contact with an animal and consequent disruption of flesh and bone (if bone is hit in the process). To disregard that KE is a factor in the wounding or killing process would be a denial of certain aspects of physics – at least based on my observations. How would I otherwise understand the complete obliteration of a “trophy class” bear’s heart when field dressed, or tough test media (hard-covered books and dry glossy magazines) turning to confetti inside a container box when hit by heavy .458 projectiles at modest velocities. Or, a 500gr/.458 Hornady “exploding” inside a test box of media, flipping it upside down, then doing a disappearing act- no fragments, no pieces! Or, a 300gr/.375 hitting a Cape buff frontally in the heart. Later, Capstick holding the heart in his hands with a 3-inch hole through it – a .375″ expanding to that diameter?!
Another part of the physics process is momentum – the conservation of energy. Some place more emphasis on this than on KE (which I do), while still others see momentum (mass x velocity) as the main factor combined with bullet caliber – sometimes caliber by itself with a particular meplat (nose shape), at others the expanded “mushroom”.
<A 286gr/9.3mm Partition taken from a black bear. It tumbled but penetration was from frontal chest to the rightside flank just in front of the hip where it was recovered in skinning. It retained 211 grains/ 74%. MV was +2620 fps with impact velocity at ~ 2485 fps/3923 ft-lbs. Should an attempt to place a value on any of that be meaningful… or just say, “It killed the bear”?
All that said as a basis to a comparison of two Winchester cartridges introduced the same year and based on the same parent cartridge. Of course, I’m referring to the .264 Winchester Magnum and the .338 Winchester Magnum. The one being created for potentially long range shooting of mule deer, pronghorn, whitetails and elk in the western parts of the USA. The other for the larger Alaskan game such as brown bears, grizzly and moose which are normally not shot at long range. Yet the .264 is certainly capable, and appropriate, of taking game from coyote to moose at closer ranges, as well as the .338 being equally capable of long range shooting of game to adult bull moose size.
Yet, to start an argument that Winchester’s planners and design engineers were badly mistaken in the perceived need for a larger caliber (based on the same case) for the massive and potentially more dangerous game represented in Alaska would be a foolish and unprofitable contention. If the .264 Win Mag was “The Answer” for any and all hunting, despite some unforseen hurdles, the .338 Win Mag would have experienced its demise in the first few years of its existence! Instead, not only has it survived but trying to improve on it has never been a grand success. The .338 Win Mag is better than ever and still the favorite among those who choose .338 caliber cartridges. And I consider it to be an unwise tactic to assume that’s because everyone who has one is “just because” others have chosen it. That kind of thing happens, of course, but it’s ill advised to think we know the motives of all concerned. The truth is that the .338 Win Mag has, for the past 64 years, been far-and-away more popular than it’s sibling – a 6.5! And it appears to be growing in popularity if the number of bullets in .338″ is any indication… Yes, I know there are newer and “other” .338s. The .338-06 was “supposed” to be “The Answer”, but how is it doing these days? It was the “hoopla” for how long?
Back to the .264s (6.5s): If there’s any practical advantage over .284 or .308, I fail to see it. Even from a small cartridge like the .308 Winchester, 2900 fps – 3000 fps from a 150gr is possible today using the best bullets and powders from a 26″ barrel. Then there’s the possibility of using 165s, 180s and 200s, all having excellent BCs, and some designed especially for long range shooting like a 174gr.
That’s to help us get some ballistic balance back into a reality check of 6.5s. They are .26-caliber, and that’s it! With all the hoopla over sleek-modern .264″ bullets, let’s keep in mind that great improvements in “sleekness” have been given to .277, .284, .308, and .338 as well! In fact, all the AccuBonds by Nosler have high BCs, and if I lived in an area where a 6-point Elk could be taken to 600 yards, any of those mentioned with modern loads could do so, assuming I was well prepared and equipped, as well as the environment, plus cooperation from the elk. The average 6-point elk weighs what? 600 – 700 lbs? Depending on the angle of the beast, anything from broadside to a sharp angle away could mean penetration from a few inches to several feet to reach vitals – which places very unequal demands on the same .264″ bullet from the same rifle and load.
<This target was shot at 100 yards. The large ragged hole near center was made by three shots from my .458 Winchester Magnum and all the others by my CZ 455 in .22LR. This was done purposely for contrast. Is anyone foolish enough to suggest from a physical standpoint, or even believe, that there would be little distinction in effect from the two cartridges on a large game animal? Yes, I’m aware of the native girl who killed a record book grizzle using her single-shot .22 LR in a side shot to the brain… but how many have gone to Alaska in pursuit of the big bears armed with a .22 LR? And how many resident hunters have a .22 LR as their main firearm? I very much doubt it’s only because a BIG BORE looks more impressive.
The point is obvious, I think, that larger calibers with more “horsepower” are best suited to larger and more dangerous animals. The goal is, or should be, their immediate demise… NOT for target practice!
At this stage of life, any thing up to around 40 ft-lbs recoil isn’t bothersome – but not from prone. That means either my .35 Whelen or 9.3 x 62 is more than sufficient for an elk of 800 lbs, or a moose to 1200 lbs – at 400 yards for the Whelen and 550 yards for the 9.3 x 62, using Nosler ABs in each: 225gr in the Whelen and 250gr in the 9.3 x 62 Mauser.
As it is, the Whelen makes 43TE at 400 yards using the 225 AccuBond, and the 9.3 X 62 is making about the same at 550 yards employing the 250gr AccuBond. Generally, that number would represent an animal of up around1000 lbs with a hit to vitals (not CNS), and with a good bullet like the Partition or AccuBond designed for heavy game. 6.5s don’t come close to those numbers at the same ranges. (TE is terminal effect as measured by a synthesis of a few physical factors, including bullet caliber and weight, plus impact velocity, assuming bullet construction is suitable for the work to be done.
<The expanded bullet on the right is a 300gr TSX fired from my Ruger NO.1 in .45-70 LT (long throat) into very tough media from 10 feet. It was a hunting load with 2650 fps MV. It retained 100% of unfired weight and expanded to .825 inches. It would be a mammoth effort in futility to try and convince me that a .264 Magnum (or 6.5 PRC) could have the same effect (however measured) in shooting a 147gr at 3000 fps into an oncoming big bear at 30 mph from 10 feet when first realized a serious attack was in the making – unless it were a brain shot – which under similar circumstances isn’t going to happen other than by accident! And, for me, that applies to any potentially dangerous beast, including moose and wolf!
At 10 feet the KE is ~4640 ft-lbs and 88TE. And to say that a Mike Tyson punch to my gut whould have no more effect than my punch to his gut makes as much sense as denying the potential effects of the load above vs a 6.5, 140gr at ~3000 fps. That’s claiming that 4640 ft-lbs has no more effect than 2800 ft-lbs, or 88TE is no better than 38TE (Again: TE is a synthesis or combination of bullet weight, impact velocity, sectional density and caliber.).
According to at least one reliable report, several of those 6.5 mm long-sleek bullets with very high BCs have failed on larger and tougher game due to their structure. To have a BC of somewhere near .7 with a weight of 140 + grains, they must use lead inside a relatively thin jacket that gives enough expansion for maxium effect. That also can mean their demise if they hit solid bone. I had one such experience and that was more than enough for me. The bullet was a Nosler SB with a plastic tip hitting the shoulder of a mammouth whitetail buck (at least 400 lbs) at 153 yards. It was fired from my M70 in .30-06 at ~2800 fps (so the book said in pre-Chrony days). The bullet managed to break some bone (some fragments left behind) but not enough to stop that buck from escaping by one bound into thick woods and underbrush. It leaped over deadfalls and piles of brush, went across a swamp and was shot by hunters on the far side of the swamp. After my shot, I saw it bound off the woods trail to be swallowed up in the forrest – which took not more than two seconds! I trailed it to the swamp where only pinpricks of blood were found on it’s escape route. The location of where it was shot revealed some bone fragments and a small pool of blood.
Yet that bullet was PRAISED by western media! That’s why I switched to it. The previous year I’d shot a very good buck from the same blind on the same trail – at 65 yards – using the 165gr Sierra BT at about the same MV. That buck went down on the spot, got back up and hobbled into the brush ten yards where I found it as though it were sleeping. I gave it a finisher. That BT Sierra hit the buck just after it saw me and started to turn away. Impact velocity would have been ~2700 fps, hitting the gut, went through to the offside hip joint, changed direction almost 90* and came out in pieces at the knee joint! It was one tough bullet! But it got little attention from the media!
Shortly after, I bought my first Chrony and started to do my own bullet testing in media. That was the beginning of revelations… that I now trust… in comparison with other bullets of the same caliber in the same media.
But one bullet “failure”, after pondering the cause, or probable causes, turns me away from ever using that bullet again under similar conditions.
So the long and the short of it is that I became an avid believer in larger calibers for bigger game in tough places. That’s where any animal’s habitat was mostly thick brush and forrest, ravines, lakes, rugged ridges, marshes and bogs – anywhere that a bullet could easily be deflected or break up on a sapling, branch or other unseen objects – and the animal to escape and never to be found in a myriad of places that humans rarely know exist. The fact is a slight deflection can quickly and easily cause a projectile to hit in the wrong place and the animal be lost. A few hard-earned lessons have taught that a .358 Winchester/.356 Winchester would likely have been a better choice using 220gr to 250gr under such conditions than a .30-06 using anything less than a well built 200gr or 220gr.<If we followed the illogical beliefs of those who say: “It’s not what you hit ’em with, but where you hit ’em that matters”; or others, such as: “use a good bullet and put it in the right place”. Without qualifications as to “where you hit ’em” and “a good bullet in the right place”, an unthinking and unexperienced hunter might possibly think of using the tiny .22 LR solid above and shoot it into the shoulder of a lion, buffalo or Brown Bear – but NOBODY with sanity and a modicum of knowledge attempts such stunts! The other above cartridge is a .45-70 load for my former Ruger No.1 LT. That’s a 400gr SP. I’d never use that bullet on any of the DG mentioned, but a good 400gr, like the 404gr Hammer, could be more than adequate from that Ruger No.1 with an MV up to 2400 fps.
Our situation in Ontario would be more akin to Michigan and hunting experiences there, both in species and physical conditions. Rarely is a flat-shooting, long range rifle-cartridge needed, except, as pointed out numerous times, in the far north of our province with its multiple lakes, streams, bogs and clearcuts. In a moose hunt of Northern Ontario a .300 magnum makes a lot of sense as a starting point. As previously mentioned, my friend “Jim” finally discovered, after trial and error, that a .338 Win Mag was just about perfect- and that was after starting out with a .270 Win, then a 7 Rem Mag. I’d recommended a .338 Win Mag to him when he was at the .270 stage pronouncing it “good enough for any moose”. Yeah, it took a few years, but after having lost a couple of bulls to his “good enough for any moose” .270, he began to think otherwise – but failure is often the first step to success! The first year of using the .338 Win Mag, he cleanly took a bull a bit shy of 300 yards, and the following year another at ~ 400! He shared those experiences with me the following summer in getting himself and the .338 ready for the upcoming fall moose hunt.
And that’s exactly my experience with smaller calibers and their frangible bullets on our big game in their particular ecosystems. Where Jim and friends hunted annually, moose often travelled across a marsh from one point of timbered land to another. Distances from their stands to where a moose was crossing could be anything up to 600+ yards!
Twenty years or so ago, BIG BORES was the rage! Hornady was the main supplier of bullets for the .404, .405, .416s, 450/400, 450 NE, .45-70, .458 Win and Lott, 470 NE, .505 Gibbs, and 500 NE.
“Everyone” had to have one or another! And along with some dusty ones in closets, Ruger took up the challenge of producing some new versions of the same themes as well as creations of their own like the .375 and .416 Rugers. Then some custom shops were also overloaded with orders!<That was around the time that I purchased this CZ 550 in the .458 Winchester Magnum. You’d be hard pressed to find one new like it today. In fact, finding factory ammo for it today would be a fruitless endeavor from most shops in Canada. Back order only! However, being a handloader, I was prepared. Now I have more than enough in powder, bullets, primers and cases.
Today, “everyone” and his uncle, aunt, father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister, brother, and anyone he knows “has to have” a 6.5 to be cool! And it’s all justifiable, “just because”!
Now… to be “cool” with it, I think the ballistics of the .264 Winchester (6.5) has a place, a niche, that it always had… nothing more, nothing less. But nothing more than Two-Eighty-Four (7mm) and just a bit less.
Till the next…