The Definitive Guide to 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308

Key Takeaways

  1. The main benefits of the 6.5 Creedmoor over the .308 are that it’s more powerful and accurate past 400 yards and has 10 to 15% less recoil.
  2. The main benefits of the .308 over the 6.5 Creedmoor are that it’s more powerful and just as accurate within 400 yards and .308 barrels last more than twice as long as 6.5 Creedmoor barrels.
  3. If you plan on hunting or target shooting within 400 yards, use the .308. If you plan on hunting or target shooting farther than 400 yards, use the 6.5 Creedmoor.

The 6.5 Creedmoor has quickly become one of the most popular rifle cartridges for hunting and precision shooting.

Poke around online, and you’ll find plenty of hunters, competition shooters, and range hobbyists who’ve taken to this new cartridge.

Some fans even go so far as to say that it’s the best all-around rifle cartridge you can buy, even beating out the lauded .308 Winchester for most uses.

And that idea has rustled a lot of feathers.

In case you aren’t familiar with the .308 Winchester, usually referred to as simply .308, it’s the single most popular hunting cartridge in the world. It’s also proven to be one of the most versatile, effective full-sized rifle cartridges of all time.

Although most shooters recognize the .308 as the king of rifle cartridges, many have become convinced that the 6.5 Creedmoor is the heir apparent to this throne.

According to 6.5 Creedmoor evangelists, the 6.5 Creedmoor is more accurate and more powerful at long ranges while producing significantly less recoil, or “kick,” than the .308.

While the .308 is slightly more powerful and fires a slightly bigger bullet, negatives outweigh the downsides when compared to 6.5 Creedmoor, they say.

On the other hand, most .308 shooters concede that the 6.5 Creedmoor is better for long-range precision shooting, but claim that the .308 simply can’t be beaten for big game hunting.

They also point out that the .308 is more affordable, time-proven, and just a better overall value for most shooters.

Who’s right?

Well, the short answer is that both sides are right.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is an exceptional precision rifle shooting cartridge that also works well for hunting many kinds of big game.

The .308 is one of the best hunting cartridges in the world and will kill just about any big game animal in North America and works well for precision shooting (although not quite as well as the 6.5 Creedmoor).

And, as a corollary, both sides are wrong, too:

The 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t better than .308 in all circumstances, and the .308 isn’t outdated or obsolete by any means.

Which one you choose largely boils down to what kind of shooting you plan on doing the most and which you prefer.

If you want to know the long answer, then this article is for you.

In this article, you’re going to learn . . .

  • What the 6.5 Creedmoor is, including its history, dimensions, and more
  • Everything you need to know about 6.5 Creedmoor ballistics
  • Why people use the 6.5 Creedmoor
  • What the .308 is and why it’s so popular
  • How to decide between the .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor

And finally, you’ll learn how the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 compare in terms of ballistics, accuracy, cost, and more.

Let’s start by looking at exactly what the 6.5 Creedmoor is.

What Is the 6.5 Creedmoor?

The 6.5 Creedmoor, often misspelled as the “6.5 Creedmore,” is a rifle cartridge designed for long-range target shooting.

Here’s what it looks like:

6.5 creedmoor cartridge

The “6.5” in 6.5 Creedmoor stands for the width of the bullet, which is 6.5 mm in diameter, or about .26-caliber in imperial units.

The “Creedmoor” in 6.5 Creedmoor comes from the name of the company that played a role in the development of the cartridge, Creedmoor Sports (which is in turn named after the Creedmoor shooting matches of the 18th and 19th century).

Here’s what it looks like compared to several other popular rifle cartridges:

6.5 creedmoor ammo

Although the 6.5 Creedmoor was originally designed for long-range competition shooting, it’s since been adopted by hunters and by certain branches of the military for killing animals and people, respectively.

The genesis of this cartridge begins in a conversation between Dave Emary, Hornady’s Senior Ballistics Scientist, Dennis DeMille, Creedmoor Sports’ vice president of product development, and Joe Thielen, Assistant Director of Engineering at Hornady.

Like many great products, the 6.5 Creedmoor was created out of frustration.

Specifically, Dennis DeMille’s frustration. DeMille is a world-record holding, two-time National Rifle Champion and is considered one of the top shooters in the world.

Back in 2005, he was competing at the annual National Rifle Matches in Camp Perry, Ohio, which are more or less the super bowl of rifle shooting competition.

DeMille had become frustrated with the 6XC cartridge he was using—a wildcat cartridge that was causing malfunctions.

(A wildcat cartridge is a cartridge created by home reloaders, the design of which isn’t standardized or mass produced).

The problem he was butting up against was that in order to get the bullet to go as fast as he wanted it to, he had to put so much gunpowder in the case that the cartridge would malfunction. The excess propellant would either blow out the primer or expand the case, making it difficult to extract.

In response, DeMille created a list of features that would make the perfect high-power rifle cartridge for long-range shooting.

Here’s what he came up with:

  1. Be able to fit in a .308 magazine so that it’s compatible with equipment that many shooters already use.
  2. Have less recoil than the .308 so shooters can make accurate follow-up shots with minimal shoulder fatigue.
  3. Shoot as flat as possible with, minimal bullet drop and wind drift.
  4. Produce minimal barrel wear.
  5. Use widely available components with published, standardized reloading guidelines so hand-loaders can adjust their cartridges to suit their needs.

Emary and Thielen spent the next year developing just such a cartridge.

Through their testing and extensive combined experience, they had already determined that a 6.5 mm bullet offered the best long-range performance (more on that in a moment).

Next, they needed a case that would hold the long, heavy 6.5 mm bullet, that would also hold enough gunpowder to push it to their desired velocities. To solve this problem, they used the case of another brand new cartridge, the .30 Thompson Centerfire (.30 TC).

After slightly “necking down,” or resizing the .30 TC case so that it could fit a 6.5 mm bullet, they created the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Here’s what the .30 TC looks like compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308:

6.5 creedmoor vs 308 winchester

The .30 TC is in the middle, the .308 is on the left, and the 6.5 Creedmoor is on the right.

The 6.5 Creedmoor quickly took off in long-range precision shooting circles, which then attracted the attention of hunters who were interested in a more accurate cartridge for killing big game at long range.

Fast forward a few more years, and the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) adopts the cartridge as their standard long-range sniper round.

Summary: The 6.5 Creedmoor is a highly accurate cartridge designed for long-range competition shooting, which has less recoil than .308, fits in .308 magazines, and is more reliable than most comparable wildcat cartridges.

What Is the .308 Winchester?

The .308 Winchester, usually abbreviated to “.308,” and pronounced “three-oh-eight,” is the single most popular hunting cartridge in the world.

Here’s what it looks like:

.308 winchester vs 6.5 creedmoor

“.308” refers to the width of the bullet it fires, which is about .308-caliber. “Winchester” refers to Winchester Repeating Arms, the name of the company who created the cartridge.

The .308 was originally designed to replace the .30-06 Springfield for the military. The .30-06 was the primary rifle cartridge of the United States in World War ll, and was used in the M1 Garand, Springfield, and M1919 machine gun.

The .30-06 also fires a .30-caliber bullet, but features a case that’s significantly longer than the .308 to hold more gunpowder.

Shortly after World War ll, new, more efficient forms of gunpowder became widely available, which allowed cartridges to use less gunpowder but produce the same bullet velocity.

To create the .308, engineers at Winchester shortened the case of the .30-06, used the same .30-caliber bullet, and used slightly less of this new, more efficient gunpowder.

In most respects, the .308 is just a more modern .30-06 cartridge.

Here’s a picture of the .308 next to the .30-06:

308 vs 30-06

The .308 wasn’t adopted by the military, so, Winchester released it to the commercial market as a hunting cartridge in 1952.

Just two years after it was released, the military adopted a modified version of the .308 known as the 7.62×51 NATO. These two cartridges have almost the same performance under nearly all circumstances, and are similar enough they can usually be fired out of the same gun. (Here’s a neat infographic that goes over the main differences).

When comparing .308 to 6.5 Creedmoor, just know that all of the same information applies to 7.62×51 NATO as well.

The primary reason hunters love the .308 is it’s just so damn effective at killing things. It fires a wide, heavy, fast-moving bullet that causes massive damage and clean kills within 500 yards.

It’s so entrenched as the reigning champ of the hunting cartridge world that it’s also become the standard against which all new hunting cartridges are measured, and .308 fans will fiercely defend its capabilities.

Another reason the .308 is so popular is it’s significantly cheaper than most other high-powered rifle cartridges, mainly because it’s been produced for so long.

Finally, the .308 also produces much less barrel wear than many other high-powered rifle cartridges, making it one of the most economical hunting and target shooting cartridges you can shooting.

Summary: The .308 is the most popular hunting cartridge in the world because it fires a wide, heavy, fast-moving bullet that produces clean kills within 500 yards, it’s relatively cheap, and it causes minimal barrel wear.

Why Do People Use 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308?

I’m going to give away part of the plot here:

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 are very similar in many ways, far more similar than most people realize based on all of the debates, comparisons, and vitriol swirling around this topic online.

That said, there are enough differences that you will see a noticeable advantage of using one of these cartridges over the other in certain circumstances.

The three primary reasons people have defected to the 6.5 Creedmoor over the .308 are . . .

  1. It’s more accurate at long ranges (800+ yards)
  2. It’s more powerful at long ranges
  3. It has less recoil

This combination of qualities makes the 6.5 Creedmoor a great all-around rifle cartridge for almost every possible use, whether you’re bagging a trophy elk in Montana, punching paper targets at a competition, or sniping at an enemy fighter in Afghanistan.

.308 still has a large and loyal following, though, so what are the advantages of .308 over 6.5 Creedmoor?

  1. It’s more powerful up to around 400 yards
  2. It’s just as accurate up to around 400 yards.
  3. It’s more affordable

Let’s kick off this comparison by looking at the data behind each cartridge.

6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics vs. .308 Ballistics

Just want a quick overview of the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 ballistics? Here you go:

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Bullet Velocity (fps)

  6.5 Creedmoor

120-grain Hornady ELD Match

6.5 Creedmoor

147-grain Hornady ELD Match

.308 Winchester 155-grain Hornady ELD Match .308 Winchester 178-grain Hornady ELD-X
Muzzle (0 Yards) 2910 2695 2850 2600
100 Yards 2722 2568 2654 2444
200 Yards 2541 2445 2465 2293
300 Yards 2366 2325 2284 2147
400 Yards 2198 2208 2110 2006
500 Yards 2036 2094 1943 1870
600 Yards 1881 1984 1784 1739
700 Yards 1733 1876 1631 1613
800 Yards 1591 1772 1486 1492
900 Yards 1455 1671 1347 1375
1000 Yards 1324 1573 1213 1264

Want to learn more about where this data comes from and why it matters? Read on.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ballistics as “the study of the effects of being fired on a bullet, cartridge, or gun.”

In other words, it’s the study of how bullets get to the target and what they do after impact.

When picking different cartridges, the main aspects of ballistics that you want to pay attention to are:

  • Muzzle velocity and energy
  • Bullet drop
  • Wind drift

Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll be comparing the following four cartridges:

I chose these cartridges for a few reasons:

  1. The data was gathered under the same conditions from the same manufacturer (Hornady), which is generally more reliable than data gathered under different conditions from different manufacturers.
  2. These cartridges represent the high and low end of the bullet weights typically used for these cartridges (120-grains on the low-end, 178-grains on the high end).
  3. Two of the bullets are very similar in weight (the 147-grain 6.5 Creedmoor and 155-grain .308), which means that differences in ballistics between these two bullets are primarily due to the shape of the bullet, as opposed to its weight.

You may find different numbers floating around online for the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308, but these cartridges represent a fair average for both rounds.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Energy and Velocity

As a general rule, the more kinetic energy is driving the bullet toward the target, the more accurate and deadly it will be.

Kinetic energy, typically just referred to as “energy” when it comes to guns, is simply the energy something has by virtue of being in motion.

When it comes to ballistics, kinetic energy is measured in foot-pounds of force (ft⋅lbf), or Joules (J) if you prefer the metric system. One ft⋅lbf is equal to about 1.355 J, and it’s the amount of energy it takes to raise one pound by one foot.

Here’s an example of kinetic energy at play. If you’ve ever played sports you’ve probably gotten hit with a ball. Hopefully, most of the time the ball was moving slowly and didn’t have much energy.

A few times, though, it was probably moving very fast, and hit you with a lot of energy, which hurt a heck of a lot more.

The same principle applies to bullets (and all objects for that matter).

The faster a bullet is moving, the more energy it has, and the more accurate and deadly it is.

Not only does this result in more damage to the target due to the initial impact, it also means hollow bullets will expand more reliably.

For example, in this picture, the bullet on the right hit the target with significantly more energy than the bullet on the left, and expanded more as a result.

6.5 creedmoor bullet

So, how do you increase a bullet’s energy?

Two ways:

  1. Increase the speed at which the bullet is moving (velocity).
  2. Increase the weight of the bullet.

As a general rule, a faster, heavier bullet will always have more energy than a slower, lighter one. As a corollary, a lighter, smaller bullet can have much more energy than a heavier, bigger one, if it’s moving considerably faster.

This is because, due to the knotty laws of physics, increasing the velocity of a bullet causes a much greater increase in energy than increasing the weight.

You can also only increase the weight of a bullet so much before the added weight begins to reduce other desirable properties of the bullet (like velocity) or the recoil becomes unmanageable.

This is where velocity enters the picture. All else being equal, the faster you can make a bullet travel, the more energy it will have, and the more accurate and deadly it will become.

As you can guess, velocity and energy are closely correlated. The more velocity goes up, the more energy a bullet will have.

Here’s the interesting part, though:

Bullet weight increases a bullet’s energy linearly.

Velocity increases a bullet’s energy exponentially.

That is, if you increase a bullet’s weight by 5%, you’ll get a 5% boost in energy. If you increase a bullet’s velocity by 5%, you’ll get a 10% boost in energy.

This means that increasing the velocity of a bullet is generally a much more efficient way to boost muzzle energy than increasing the weight of the bullet.

Most of the time, you’ll see the energy of a bullet measured at the muzzle of the gun, or the opening of the barrel that’s pointing toward the target. This is referred to as muzzle energy, and as a general rule, a higher muzzle energy is better.

That said, unless you’re shooting something at point-blank range, you also need to consider how well a bullet maintains its velocity and energy.

To quantify how well a bullet maintains its velocity and energy, you want to look at what’s known as the bullet’s ballistics coefficient (BC).

BC is a measure of how effectively a bullet is able to slip through the air and maintain its velocity after being fired, and it’s calculated by determining how much air resistance the bullet creates per unit of mass.

In other words, how well does the bullet cut through the air for its size?

A bullet with a lower BC will quickly lose energy and velocity, whereas a bullet with a higher BC will maintain its energy and velocity for much greater distances.

If you know a bullet’s BC, weight, and speed, you can come up with a reasonable estimate of how well it will maintain its energy and velocity at different distances.

You can also compare these stats to other bullets, to see which one will maintain its energy and velocity for longer.

And that’s what we’re going to do with the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Bullet Velocity

Here’s that chart again:

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Bullet Velocity (fps)

  6.5 Creedmoor

120-grain Hornady ELD Match

6.5 Creedmoor

147-grain Hornady ELD Match

.308 Winchester 155-grain Hornady ELD Match .308 Winchester 178-grain Hornady ELD-X
Muzzle (0 Yards) 2910 2695 2850 2600
100 Yards 2722 2568 2654 2444
200 Yards 2541 2445 2465 2293
300 Yards 2366 2325 2284 2147
400 Yards 2198 2208 2110 2006
500 Yards 2036 2094 1943 1870
600 Yards 1881 1984 1784 1739
700 Yards 1733 1876 1631 1613
800 Yards 1591 1772 1486 1492
900 Yards 1455 1671 1347 1375
1000 Yards 1324 1573 1213 1264

As you can see if you compare the muzzle velocity of each bullet to its final velocity at 1,000 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor maintains significantly more velocity using both heavy and light bullets.

As you’ll learn in a moment, maintaining velocity is extremely important for maintaining accuracy and consistency in your shots, which makes the 6.5 Creedmoor a better choice for long-range shooting (500+ yards).

Maintaining velocity is important for another reason, too.

When bullets slow down to below the speed of sound, or around 1,100 fps, it becomes much more difficult to predict their trajectory.

As the bullet slows below the speed of sound, the air pressure on the bullet becomes uneven.

This causes bullets to move in unpredictable ways, which can throw off your shots.

Therefore, you want your bullets to stay supersonic for as long as possible. The good news is that as you can see from the above chart, all of the 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 bullets were still moving supersonic at 1,000 yards.

For what it’s worth, the U.S. Army lists the .308’s maximum effective range as 900 yards (~800 meters), and the U.S. Marine Corps lists it as 1,000 yards (~900 meters).

Here’s the key takeaway from all of this: with proper training, you can learn to reliably hit targets 1,000 yards away with the .308, although it will be easier with the 6.5 Creedmoor.

What if you plan on shooting further than that, though?

Well, you’re probably better off choosing a more powerful cartridge like the .300 Win Mag, .300 Norma Mag, or .338 Lapua.

If you’re determined to shoot either 6.5 Creedmoor or .308 at super long range, though, then the 6.5 Creedmoor will go subsonic at around 1,550 yards. The .308 will go subsonic around 1,100 yards.

If all you plan on doing is long-range target shooting, then you can walk away from this article knowing this: the 6.5 Creedmoor is generally a better choice.

If you’re interested in hunting, though, then it’s a different story.

Remember that a high bullet velocity is mainly important because it boosts bullet energy, which is a major consideration when hunting.

If we compare the 6.5 Creedmoor to the .308 in terms of bullet energy, the tables turn.

Summary: The 6.5 Creedmoor maintains velocity much better than the .308, and it’s moving faster than the .308 after traveling around 400 yards. This makes it a better choice for long-range target shooting.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Bullet Energy

Here’s the same chart using the same cartridges, but showing bullet energy instead of velocity:

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Bullet Energy (ft⋅lbf)

  6.5 Creedmoor

120-grain Hornady ELD Match

6.5 Creedmoor

147-grain Hornady ELD Match

.308 Winchester 155-grain Hornady ELD Match .308 Winchester 178-grain Hornady ELD-X
Muzzle (0 Yards) 2257 2371 2796 2672
100 Yards 1974 2153 2424 2360
200 Yards 1720 1952 2092 2078
300 Yards 1492 1765 1796 1821
400 Yards 1288 1592 1532 1590
500 Yards 1105 1432 1300 1382
600 Yards 943 1285 1095 1195
700 Yards 800 1149 916 1029
800 Yards 674 1025 761 880
900 Yards 564 912 624 747
1000 Yards 467 808 506 631

That’s a lot of data to go through, so first of all, I want you to focus on the two columns in the middle. These two bullets are the most similar in weight, so any differences in energy are mostly due to the design of the bullets.

If you look carefully, you’ll notice that . . .

  1. The .308 has about 15% more muzzle energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor. That might seem negligible, but that provides significantly greater killing power at close range.
  2. The .308 loses energy significantly faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor, but it starts out with enough that both bullets have the same energy out to around 400 yards.
  3. Past 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor bullet has significantly more energy than the .308, which makes it a better choice for long-range hunting.

And just for funsies, if you look at the 178-grain .308 on the far right, you’ll notice that it has almost exactly the same energy as the 147-grain 6.5 Creedmoor at 400 yards.

The 155-grain .308 also has more energy than the 120-grain 6.5 Creedmoor even after travelling 1,000 yards.

I don’t know about you, but this data surprised me.

I expected the 6.5 Creedmoor to maintain energy and velocity significantly better than the .308, and I expected these differences to show up at relatively close range.

In reality, the .308 was neck-in-neck with the 6.5 Creedmoor up until about 400 yards, after which the 6.5 Creedmoor surpassed by a relatively small margin.

I knew the .308 would generally have more energy (it’s a heavier bullet moving almost as fast), but I didn’t expect the differences to be this great, either.

Most people don’t hunt game that’s more than about 200 yards away, and at that range almost any .308 cartridge is going to be more powerful than a 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.

Of course, none of this matters if you can’t hit your target, which is why you’re going to compare these two cartridges in terms of accuracy next.

Summary: The .308 has significantly more energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor up until about 400 yards, after which the 6.5 Creedmoor has more energy. This makes the .308 a better hunting cartridge under most circumstances.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Bullet Drop

At close range, bullets behave more or less like they do in video games.

You aim at a target, fire, and the bullet hits more or less where you aimed.

At long range, though (past 200 or so yards for most rifles), bullets don’t fly perfectly straight to their target anymore.  

Instead, they’re pulled toward the ground by gravity, pushed off course by the wind, and behave in unpredictable ways when they begin to slow down.

All of these factors become more and more bothersome the farther the bullet has to travel.

The second a bullet leaves the muzzle of a gun, gravity begins pulling it toward the ground. As the bullet bleeds speed, the force of gravity begins to overpower the bullet’s inertia, making it drop even faster.

The better a bullet can maintain its velocity, the better it can resist gravity, and the less it will drop.

Bullet drop refers to how much a bullet falls as it makes its way to a target at a certain distance.

For example, if you aim a gun directly at a target 100 yards away, and the bullet hits three inches below where you aimed, then there were 3 inches of bullet drop.

Good shooters can compensate for this by adjusting their sights or where they aim, but the further you’re shooting, the harder and harder it becomes to compensate for bullet drop.

As a general rule, then, the less your bullet drops, the less room there is for human error, and the more accurate your shots will be.

So, how can you reduce bullet drop?

By increasing its velocity and ballistics coefficient.

Increasing the velocity of a bullet gives it more energy, which allows it to better resist the pull of gravity, which reduces how much it drops. Of course, increasing the velocity is only helpful if the bullet can maintain its velocity for long distances.

Otherwise, it’ll shoot flat for a short distance and then begin dropping quickly. A good example of this is the 5.56, which has a high velocity but also loses velocity quickly, which gives it a ton of drop.

To help a bullet maintain its velocity, you need to increase its ballistics coefficient. In practical terms, this means making the bullet longer and more aerodynamic.

As a general rule, fast bullets with a high ballistics coefficient will have less bullet drop than slow bullets with a low ballistics coefficient.

This is what shooters mean when they say a bullet “shoots flat.” It means it has a high velocity and ballistics coefficient, which gives it very little bullet drop.

With that background info out of the way, let’s compare the bullet drop of the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. the .308.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Bullet Drop (inches)

  6.5 Creedmoor

120-grain Hornady ELD Match

6.5 Creedmoor

147-grain Hornady ELD Match

.308 Winchester 155-grain Hornady ELD Match .308 Winchester 178-grain Hornady ELD-X
Muzzle (0 Yards) -1.5 -1.5 -1.5 -1.5
100 Yards 0 0 0 0
200 Yards -3.2 -3.8 -3.4 -4.3
300 Yards -11.8 -13.4 -12.6 -15.3
400 Yards -26.7 -29.4 -28.5 -33.8
500 Yards -48.7 -52.6 -52.2 -61
600 Yards -79.2 -83.7 -85.1 -98.2
700 Yards -119.5 123.7 -129 146.9
800 Yards -171.4 -173.5 -186 -208.9
900 Yards -237 -234.4 -258.8 -286.6
1000 Yards -319.2 -307.8 -350.8 -382.8

For the sake of completeness, here’s a graph comparing the 147-grain 6.5 Creedmoor and the 155-grain .308, too:

6.5 creedmoor ballistics

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 have about the same amount of bullet drop at 400 yards, the .308 drops below the 6.5 Creedmoor at about 500 yards, and by 600 yards the 6.5 Creedmoor has a significant advantage.

If we look at the two columns in the middle—the bullets that are most similar—at 1,000 yards the .308 has dropped about 29 feet whereas the 6.5 Creedmoor has dropped 25.5 feet.

That’s a lot for both bullets, but if you’ve ever taken a shot at that distance, you know that 4.5 foot less bullet drop for the 6.5 Creedmoor is going to make a big difference in your accuracy.

The difference in bullet drop doesn’t become significant until about 600 yards, though, which also surprised me. I thought the 6.5 Creedmoor would have significantly less bullet drop by at least 300 yards, but in reality the .308 was about as good in this regard up until 600 yards.

All in all, both the .308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor performed well in this regard, with the 6.5 Creedmoor only becoming a significantly better choice past 600 yards.

Summary: Both the .308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor have similar levels of bullet drop up until about 600 yards, after which the 6.5 Creedmoor drops far less than the .308. This makes the 6.5 Creedmoor a better choice if you plan on doing lots of target shooting past 600 yards.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Wind Drift

Aside from gravity, there’s another force that’s working to push bullets off their path—the wind.

Like bullet drop, this isn’t a major problem at close ranges.

Within 200 yards or so, most rifle bullets have enough energy to resist the effects of wind and travel more or less straight to their target.

Past that point, though, wind can push bullets several inches or even several feet off target at long ranges, an effect known as wind drift or windage.

You can think of wind drift like the horizontal version of bullet drop. If you aim your rifle at a target 300 yards away, and the bullet hits 6 inches to the left of where you aimed, the bullet had six inches of wind drift (assuming the issue wasn’t with your sights).

Once again, the two main factors that determines how well a bullet resists wind drift are velocity and ballistics coefficient.

Bullets that are moving faster have more energy, which allows them to resist the force of the wind. Bullets with a higher ballistics coefficient are better at slipping through the air without getting pushed off target.

You can probably guess what the results will be, but let’s compare 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 when it comes to wind drift, too.

This data is based on a 10 mph wind blowing perpendicular to the shooter.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308 Wind Drift (inches)

  6.5 Creedmoor

120-grain Hornady ELD Match

6.5 Creedmoor

147-grain Hornady ELD Match

.308 Winchester 155-grain Hornady ELD Match .308 Winchester 178-grain Hornady ELD-X
Muzzle (0 Yards) 0 0 0 0
100 Yards 0.7 0.5 0.7 0.7
200 Yards 2.6 2 2.8 2.7
300 Yards 6 4.6 6.6 6.2
400 Yards 11 8.3 12.1 11.3
500 Yards 17.8 13.2 19.6 18.3
600 Yards 26.6 19.5 29.5 27.3
700 Yards 37.7 27.3 41.9 38.5
800 Yards 51.4 36.7 57.3 52.2
900 Yards 68 47.8 76.1 68.8
1000 Yards 87.9 60.7 98.9 88.5

Alright, a few fun facts about this chart:

  1. As you might expect, the 6.5 Creedmoor experienced less wind drift than the .308 regardless of the bullet weight. This is due to its more aerodynamic, high-BC bullet.
  2. Strangely, the 120-grain 6.5 Creedmoor and the 178-grain .308 had very similar levels of wind drift. A good example of how either a high-BC (in the case of the 6.5 Creedmoor) or a high bullet weight (in the case of the .308) can both counter wind drift well.
  3. When comparing the most similar 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 bullets—the two columns in the middle—it’s obvious that the 6.5 Creedmoor has less wind drift than the .308 from the get-go, and much less wind drift after about 400 yards.

Overall, the 6.5 Creedmoor experienced far less wind drift, which you could say makes it a more accurate cartridge.

That said, you have to take this data with a grain of salt.

First of all, the different bullets will have significantly more or less wind drift, as you can see when comparing the 120-grain 6.5 Creedmoor with the 178-grain .308.

Second, the wind won’t be moving perfectly perpendicular to your shots most of the time. Typically, it will be coming in at an angle, which is going to cause less wind drift than sideways wind.

Third, sometimes you may be shooting in conditions with no wind, or in an area where trees, rocks, and hills block much of the wind, making wind drift even less important.

In the final analysis, then, don’t judge the .308 too harshly in this regard. Yes, it experienced more wind drift, but this simply isn’t going to matter most of the time unless you’re shooting at very long distances.

Summary: Unless you’re shooting over 500 yards, you aren’t going to notice a major difference in wind drift between the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308. Past 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor has significantly less wind drift than the .308.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Which Is Better At Killing Things?

Finally, let’s take a look at what ballisticians call terminal ballistics.

Aka, what bullets do to targets after hitting them.

Aka, the fun part of shooting.

I’ll spoil the ending now, though: the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 are more or less identical at most ranges.

Technically the .308 should cause more damage within about 500 yards than the 6.5 Creedmoor thanks to its higher energy, but even then, the real-world differences will be slight.

The .308 is also one mm wider than the 6.5 Creedmoor (remember, .308 = 7.62 mm), so all else being equal it will create a bigger hole, but this isn’t going to make a noticeable difference in killing power.

Here’s a good unofficial ballistics gel comparison of both cartridges:

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 penetrate about 21 inches, although the .308 seems to cause significantly more damage within the first 12 inches than the 6.5 Creedmoor does.

That lines up with what I’ve heard from most hunters, too.

The .308 causes more damage at typical hunting distances, but at longer ranges, you’re better off using the 6.5 Creedmoor thanks to its ability to retain energy.

Summary: The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 are more or less equal when it comes to terminal performance, although the .308 has a slight edge at close range and the 6.5 Creedmoor has a slight edge at longer ranges (400+ yards).

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Which Has More Recoil?

Recoil, also known as “kick,” is the amount of force a firearm transfers to the shooter.

In other words, it’s how hard the gun pushes into you when you fire.

Now, typically the people who worry about recoil the most are new shooters who are worried it will be uncomfortable, but it’s something even serious shooters should consider, too.

You may scoff at the idea of using a lower-recoil cartridge, but there are several major advantages to using cartridges with less recoil:

  1. It’s easier to stabilize the firearm when shooting (even if you’re a big, strong person).
  2. It’s easier and more comfortable to take rapid follow-up shots.
  3. It’s easier to observe where your shots hit, because the sights aren’t getting jolted out of view.

So, whenever you can use a cartridge with less recoil, it’s a good idea.

As a general rule, bigger, heavier, more powerful cartridges will produce proportionately more recoil than smaller, lighter, less powerful ones, and that’s also the case with the 6.5 Creedmoor.

The .308 typically fires bullets that weigh between 125 to 180 grains, whereas the 6.5 Creedmoor fires bullets that weigh anywhere from 95 to 150 grains.

The .308 also has about 5% more case capacity, which allows it to hold slightly more gunpowder.

Both of these factors lead to the .308 having around 10 to 15% more recoil than the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Specifically, most .308 cartridges tend to produce around 15 to 18 ft⋅lbf of recoil.

Most 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges tend to produce around 12 to 16 ft⋅lbf.

Recoil can vary considerably depending on how much powder is loaded into the case and the weight of the bullet, so it’s not worth looking at 100 different examples.

The important thing to remember is that 6.5 Creedmoor will have slightly less recoil than .308.

Is it enough to make a difference in your shooting?

Maybe if you’re doing a lot of long-range target shooting, but at close range, it shouldn’t make a major difference.

If you’re a new shooter and you’re still worried about recoil, I suggest you look at the .243 Winchester or the 30-30, which have around 50% less recoil than even the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Summary: The 6.5 Creedmoor has around 10 to 15% less recoil than the .308, which is noticeable, but not enough to make a major difference in your shooting.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Which Is More Expensive?

There are two ways to look at the cost of a cartridge:

  1. How much the ammo costs.
  2. How much the gun to fire that ammo will cost.

In the case of the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. the .308, the primary variable is the cost of ammo.

Ammo Cost

You can expect to pay around $1 to $1.5 for most hunting and match-grade ammo.

For example, the Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor ELD-X and ELD Match ammo mentioned earlier costs around $1.25 per round. The .308 ELD-X and ELD Match are usually a little more, at around $1.35 per round.

If you want to use lead-free bullets, the cost rises to around $1.5 per round for most good hunting ammo like the Barnes VOR-TX.

There’s more of a difference in price when it comes to practice ammo, though.

You can find military surplus .308 or cheaply made Russian .308 from Tulammo and Wolf for as cheap as 30 cents per round, although around 50 cents per round is more common.

As 6.5 Creedmoor is a newer cartridge, there are far fewer budget ammo options available.

The lowest price you’ll generally find for 6.5 Creedmoor is around 60 to 75 cents per round, or around 50 to 100% more than .308.

Rifles

You can expect to pay around the same amount for rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .308.

The 6.5 Creedmoor was designed to work in the same dimensions as a .308, so it was easy for many gun manufacturers to make a few small changes to their existing models to accept 6.5 Creedmoor.

The rounds are so similar, in fact, that some guns have interchangeable barrels that allow you to fire both cartridges.

Since the 6.5 Creedmoor is a newer cartridge there are fewer budget-friendly options, but that’s quickly changing. If you’re buying a nice rifle that you expect to last (and not the cheapest option possible), you aren’t going to notice much of a difference in price between 6.5 Creedmoor and .308.

You’ll incur one major added cost by using 6.5 Creedmoor, though: barrel wear.

Rifle barrels do wear out eventually, and while you can keep using them long after they start to show signs of wear, accuracy diminishes quickly after a certain point.

With the 6.5 Creedmoor you’ll notice a significant decrease in accuracy after firing about 2,000 to 2,500 rounds.

If you’re mostly shooting at long range (>500 yards), you’ll notice a decrease in accuracy after around 2,000 rounds. If you’re mostly shooting at closer range (<500 yards), you’ll notice a decrease in accuracy after around 2,500 rounds.

In contrast, the .308 causes far less barrel wear.

With the .308 you’ll notice a decrease in accuracy after firing about 5,000 to 8,000 rounds, with 5,000 rounds being the cutoff for long-range shooting and 8,000 for close-range shooting.

You may get more or less life out of your barrels than this, but the bottom line is that you’ll generally get at least twice the barrel life out of a .308 rifle than a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle.

Good barrels range from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars or more, so the less you have to replace them, the better.

Overall, the .308 wins when it comes to cost.

Summary: Although 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 rifles and ammo tend to cost about the same amount, .308 barrels last two to three times as long, making the .308 a more economical choice overall.

6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308: Which Should You Use?

At the end of the day, which cartridge you use depends on what kind of shooting you plan on doing.

If you plan on mostly hunting or target shooting within 400 yards, the .308 is generally going to be a better option. It’s more powerful, just as accurate, and more affordable to shoot than 6.5 Creedmoor.

If you’re worried about recoil from the .308, the 6.5 Creedmoor has about 10 to 15% less recoil. That said, a .243 Winchester has about 50% less recoil than the 6.5 Creedmoor, making it a better option if most of your shooting is within 400 yards.

If you plan on mostly hunting or target shooting farther than 400 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor is going to be a better option. It has less bullet drop and wind drift and retains significantly more energy than the .308.

If you plan on mostly plinking and target shooting within 100 yards (like most recreational shooters), go with the .308. You won’t notice any advantage of using the 6.5 Creedmoor except a little less recoil.

When I was choosing between the two cartridges for my “do it all” rifle, I chose the .308.

I rarely shoot targets that are more than 200 yards away, I almost never hunt targets more than 100 to 150 yards away, and I like being able to shoot relatively cheap ammo if I want to toy around on the range. For me, that made the .308 the obvious choice.

The final reason you may want to try the 6.5 Creedmoor is simply because it’s new.

I love trying out new guns and cartridges, and there’s nothing wrong with buying a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle simply because it’s new, shiny, and interesting.

Summary: If you’re hunting or target shooting farther than 400 yards, go with the 6.5 Creedmoor. If you’re hunting or target shooting within 400 yards, go with the .308.

The Bottom Line on the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .308

The 6.5 Creedmoor, often misspelled as the “6.5 Creedmore,” is a rifle cartridge designed for long-range target shooting.

The .308 Winchester, usually abbreviated to “.308,” and pronounced “three-oh-eight,” is the single most popular hunting cartridge in the world, and it’s also used for long-range target shooting.

When you compare the ballistics of both rounds, here are the key takeaways:

The 6.5 Creedmoor retains significantly more velocity than the .308, which makes it better suited for target shooting farther than 400 yards.

When it comes to super-long range shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor also stays supersonic for twice as far as the .308 (1,550 yards vs 1,100 yards), making it a better choice for this purpose.

The .308 has significantly more energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor up until about 400 yards, after which the 6.5 Creedmoor has more energy. This makes the .308 a better hunting cartridge under most circumstances.

Both the .308 and the 6.5 Creedmoor have similar levels of bullet drop up until about 600 yards, after which the 6.5 Creedmoor drops far less than the .308. This makes the 6.5 Creedmoor a better choice if you plan on doing lots of target shooting past 600 yards.

Unless you’re shooting over 500 yards, you aren’t going to notice a major difference in wind drift between the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308. Past 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor has significantly less wind drift than the .308.

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .308 are more or less equal when it comes to terminal performance, although the .308 has a slight edge at close range and the 6.5 Creedmoor has a slight edge at longer ranges (400+ yards).

The 6.5 Creedmoor has around 10 to 15% less recoil than the .308, which is noticeable, but not enough to make a major difference in your shooting.

Although 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 rifles and ammo tend to cost about the same amount, .308 barrels last two to three times as long, making the .308 a more economical choice overall.

The bottom line is that the 6.5 Creedmoor is a speciality cartridge that’s optimized for long-range target shooting.

You can use it for hunting and shooting at closer targets (100 to 500 yards), but many of the benefits of this cartridge are wasted at that range.

The .308, on the other hand, is optimized for causing maximum damage within around 400 yards or so.

You can still accurately hit targets up to 1,000 yards away with a .308, but this requires more skill than does the 6.5 Creedmoor.

To sum everything up:

If you want an affordable rifle that can reliably kill most big game and still hit the occasional 1,000 yard shot, get the .308.

If you want a rifle that can consistently hit targets up to and beyond 1,000 yards away and occasionally use for hunting, and you don’t mind spending extra money on barrel changes every few years, get the 6.5 Creedmoor.

What are your thoughts on the 6.5 Creedmoor vs. the .308? Have anything you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Oh, and if you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about how the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge compares to other cartridges, you want to check out the American Arms Guide to Cartridge Ballistics. 

This is guide shows you the muzzle velocity and energy, bullet weight, and bullet drop for over 50 different cartridges, including many different kinds of 6.5 Creedmoor. Using this guide, you can choose exactly the right kind of ammunition for your shooting goals, whether they be hunting whitetails, punching paper at the range, or winning your next rifle competition.

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