6.5 PRC Rifle Cartridge

by Admin | Last Updated: February 26, 2021

For the longest time, everyone thought the 6.5 Creedmoor from Hornady was the end all, be all cartridge for long-range target shooting and game hunting with a short-action rifle. But then the 6.5 PRC came along. Let’s do a 6.5 PRC review.

The 6.5 PRC was developed specifically for competitive precision rifle shooters, but it has since earned its way into hunters’ hands as well. At first, people were skeptical of what another 6.5mm cartridge was going to bring to the table, but the 6.5 PRC is proving itself to easily be one of the best in the business.

6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5 PRC

History

According to a Q&A video from Hornady,the 6.5 PRC was first developed by George Gardner of GA Precision back in 2013. They say he wanted to form a cartridge that would be an all-around stand-out for both hunters and competitors. Specifically, he wanted to create a cartridge within the Precision Rifle Series restrictions, which includes that cartridges can’t have muzzle velocities over 3,200 fps, for short-action receivers.

Gardner told Outdoor Life that this left him with the option of a 6.5 mm/.264-caliber round.

However, at the time GA Precision was looking for a parent case to mold its cartridge after, Gardner’s first pick of the Ruger Magnum by Hornady was not available, because Hornady was not able to meet the brass requirements. The company was too busy trying to keep up with the demand for ammo amidst the panic-buying crisis at the time.

In the end, Gardner went with the Remington Short Action Ultra Mag, which led to the creation of the 6.5 SAUM/4S. It was not exactly what he was looking for, and Hornady’s 6.5 PRC would eventually come along in 2018 to not necessarily take its place, but to definitely become the popular choice.

“The PRC is just more commercially viable,” Gardner told Outdoor Life. “It works with a greater variety of powders and a broader range of guns and is a little more versatile than the 6.5 SAUM.”

Once the ammo shortage and panic buying slowed down, Hornady was able to focus on the 6.5 PRC redesign using their Ruger Magnum case as Gardner had wanted. Hornady showcased the new and improved cartridge at the 2018 SHOT Show and received a formal Sporting Arms and Ammunition Institute (SAAMI) approval that same year.

Hornady has since made the 6.5 PRC brass available commercial and is readily found, but other manufacturers like Starline and Peterson are also manufacturing and selling 6.5 PRC brass.

6.5 PRC Ballistics

Hornady’s 6.5 PRC has proven itself to live up to a lot of the hype it has received over the last couple of years. In Hornady’s own publication of the 6.5 PRC’s ballistics, it shows that the cartridge was able to reach up to the magic number of velocity of 3,150 fps (extremely close to what Gardner was shooting for when he originally designed the cartridge) using a 143-grain ELD-X and a 147-grain ELD Match in a 26-inch barrel with a 1 in 8 inch twist. All it takes is a little careful handloading.

Of course, using different barrels and different powders will cause results to vary, so it is important to check the compatibility of your firearm and powder with this cartridge. If you take a look at Hornady’s 6.5 PRC ballistics publication, you will find some examples of various outcomes using different powders.

The 6.5 PRC has a case length of 2.030 inches and an overall length of 2.955 inches, giving it a short magnum profile, which is what gives it the advantage in velocity. The SAAMI’s maximum pressure is also set pretty high at 65,000 psi.

One of the biggest advantages of the 6.5 PRC that many hunters and competitive shooters are enjoying is the balance between long barrel life, low recoil, flat trajectory, and the cartridge’s velocity capabilities. The 6.5 PRC stays just within the 3,200-fps range, while only generating about 17 ft-lbs of recoil. It manages to take all the best qualities in a 6.5mm cartridge and balance them out.

Still, there are some riflemen and shooters who are not quite as impressed by Hornady’s cartridge. One of the bigger downfalls of the 6.5 PRC is its cause of barrel erosion. Because it can burn more powder in a relatively small space, your barrel will likely only be good for 1,000 to 2,000 rounds. While this isn’t a huge problem for hunters, it can be a pretty major concern for competitive precision shooters.

There is also a trend in PRS competitors choosing smaller cartridge sizes, rather than going up—many looking to 6mm cartridges for less recoil and cheaper bullets. It begs the question if the 6.5 PRC filled a need. However, if taken a closer look at comparisons between the 6.5 PRC and other similar cartridges, there are some clear advantages.

How does it compare?

6.5 PRC vs 6.5mm Creedmoor

The 6.5 PRC is often compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor, which until the PRC, was considered the 6.5mm cartridge. Then the 6.5 PRC came along and has completely shown up the Creedmoor, even though they are both made by the same company. In fact, the 6.5 PRC was meant to be the big brother of the Creedmoor and is considered a “magnumized” 6.5 Creedmoor.

Compared to the Creedmoor, the 6.5 PRC can provide up to 250 fps more in velocity. Its short magnum profile has made it for a short-action rifle, instead of the AR-15, which was the Creedmoor’s original purpose. However, it has a shorter barrel life than the Creedmoor because it burns more powder in the same amount of space. The 6.5 PRC also has quite a bit more recoil than Creedmoor. Nevertheless, the 6.5 PRC has a flatter trajectory than the Creedmoor, which goes from 4.2” more of a bullet drop at 400 feet to 8.2” more at 500 feet, compared to the 6.5 PRC.

6.5 PRC vs 6.5 SAUM

Although the 6.5 SAUM was developed before the 6.5 PRC, and also offers ballistic and velocity advantages over the 6.5 PRC, the 6.5 PRC has become the bigger commercial success and choice by manufacturers starting with Hornady. The 6.5 PRC recoil which is less than that of the the 6.5 SAUM, as well as the longer 6.5 PRC barrel life, is what made it the more viable commercial offering.

6.5 PRC vs other cartridges

What does the 6.5 PRC compare to? Is the 6.5 PRC worth it? We get asked a lot, to compare the 6.5 PRC vs 300 Win Mag, or 6.5 PRC vs .270 Win or even 6.5 PRC vs 7mm Rem Mag.

Compared to other cartridges, the 6.5 PRC tends to find its way in the middle of each characteristic. The 6.5 PRC maintains a higher energy level and flatter trajectory while providing a manageable barrel life and recoil. In fact, Journal of Mountain Hunting founder Adam Janke said on Gunwerks’ “Long Range Pursuit” podcast, “I don’t think there is a better overall mountain rifle package that you could get than this,” referring to the pairing of the 6.5 PRC with an ultralight Gunwerks rifle.

The balance in ballistics is what makes the 6.5 PRC such an attractive cartridge compared to most others, which is why Field & Stream ranked it as one of the most accurate rifle cartridges they’ve tested.

Hunting and target shooting

The 6.5 PRC cartridge was originally designed with competitive target shooters in mind, specifically for those active in the Precision Rifle Series, as mentioned before. However, the cartridge has found favor with many medium to large game hunters as well.

For competitive precision shooters, they generally like 6.5mm cartridges because they are just in the right spot on the caliber spectrum, balancing ballistic coefficient and weight, or recoil. The 6.5 PRC pushes the boundary of competitive shooting, being able to reach just under the PRS restrictions for velocity. This makes a huge difference: compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor, a PRS rifleman’s favorite, the 6.5 PRC can push its bullet from the barrel at 2,910 fps, or over 200 fps more than the Creedmoor.

What can you hunt with a 6.5 PRC?

Because of the 6.5 PRC’s consistently larger velocity at longer distances, many hunters have turned to it as well to take on medium to large game from a distance. It keeps its energy longer, shoots flatter and hits harder than its younger brother the Creedmoor, which again, is regarded highly among hunters.

Is the 6.5 PRC good for elk?

Janke said in the Gunwerks’ podcast that the 6.5 PRC will especially be good for hunting game in the mountains, because of its ability to be loaded into a short-action, lightweight rifle and still perform accurately from long distances.

Conclusion

Overall, most experts from both the hunting side and the precision shooting side see the 6.5 PRC to be the next best cartridge. While some might remain skeptical of yet another cartridge on the scene, the 6.5 PRC has earned its trust among professionals, who have been using it successfully in competition as well as hunting medium to large game.

The 6.5 PRC is able to balance all the important aspects of long-range precision shooting, from maximum velocity to a balanced recoil. Its accuracy at long distances makes it favorable among hunters who are not always able to get in close and who do not want to lug around too heavy a rifle. Its accuracy also makes it a prime cartridge for precision shooting.

Despite its overly popular younger brother, the 6.5 Creedmoor, most experts are agreeing that the 6.5 PRC is the better cartridge. Bring together the 6.5 PRC and a skilled rifleman, there is not much the shooter, or hunter, can’t accomplish.

FAQs about the 6.5 PRC:

What is the maximum effective range of the 6.5 PRC?

Have a look at the 6.5 PRC Ballistics chart below:

6.5 prc ballistic chart

What is the ideal barrel length of the 6.5 PRC?

A 26″ barrel length with a 1:8 twist, which is what George Gardner used when he originally developed the 6.5 PRC cartridge, would be the ideal barrel length for it.

What bolt face does the 6.5 PRC use?

As can be seen on our Bolt Face & Action Database charts, the 6.5 PRC has a .532″ case head, so uses a .540+/- bolt face. The 6.5 PRC also has a COAL of 2.955″, so works in rifle short actions.

6.5 PRC Load Data

BulletPowderChargeVelocityBarrel
Hornady 143gr ELD-XIMR483151.6gr3000 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 143gr ELD-XRL 2655.6gr3100 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 143gr ELD-XH100057.7gr3050 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 147gr ELD-MIMR483150gr2900 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 147gr ELD-MRL 2654.5gr3000 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 147gr ELD-MH100056.2gr2950 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Hornady 147gr ELD-MVihtavouri N16549.6gr 2800 fps26″ 1:8 Twist
Lapua Scenar 139grRL 2656.2gr3000 fps20″ 1:8 Twist

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