Looking for an accurate and mild recoiling 6.5mm cartridge? Here’s what you need to know about the 260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser cartridges.
Most hunters and shooters in North America will probably agree that 6.5mm cartridges in general are much more popular now than they were just a decade or so ago. Regardless of what you might think about the cartridge personally, the 6.5 Creedmoor in particular has greatly benefited from this change in attitude towards the 6.5 caliber.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor is great cartridge that’s popular for good reason, it’s far from the first well designed 6.5mm cartridge. It has also been surrounded by a lot of marketing hype from fans of the cartridge and receives a lot of shade from those who don’t like it for various reasons.
There are valid points on both sides of the debate, but there are also a number of genuine misconceptions about the Creedmoor since it first came on the scene. For these reasons, the rapid ascent of the 6.5 Creedmoor has prompted questions about how it really stacks up against some of the more time tested 6.5mm cartridges like the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swedish.
What is so special about the 6.5 Creedmoor? Why has the Creedmoor really taken off while the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swede struggled to gain widespread acceptance in the North American hunting community?
In this article, I’m going to do a detailed comparison of the 260 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5×55 Swede in an effort to cut through some of the misunderstandings that swirl around these three cartridges so you can make an informed decision regarding which one will work best for you.
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260 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5×55 Swede: History
The story of these cartridges begins in the 1890s with the 6.5×55 Swede.
Fearful of being outgunned in a future conflict, European and American military forces scrambled to develop service rifles designed for use with smokeless powder in the late 1800s. The result was a series of new cartridges that came on the scene around the turn of the century like the 7mm Mauser, the .30-40 Krag, the .30-06 Springfield, and the 7.92x57mm Mauser.
Not to be outdone by the other European powers, Norway and Sweden (which were united under a common monarch at the time) established a commission to select a new smokeless military cartridge for the two countries during this same time period.
In 1894, the commission selected the cartridge now known as the 6.5x55mm Swedish.
While the two countries were united under the same monarch, Sweden and Norway maintained separate military forces which adopted different service rifles chambered in the new cartridge: the Swedish Mauser for Sweden and the Krag–Jørgensen for Norway. Partly due to this reason, the cartridge is also known as the 6.5x55mm Mauser, the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, and the 6.5x55mm Krag even though the cartridge is officially designated as the 6.5×55 Swedish by SAAMI and the 6.5×55 SE by CIP.
Similar to other cartridges originally developed for military use like the 7mm Mauser, the .30-06 Springfield, and the .45-70 Government, the 6.5×55 Swede quickly became very popular among civilian hunters and shooters in Scandinavia. Indeed, since it used bullets with a relatively high sectional density, bullets fired by the cartridge tend to penetrate especially well. Combined with the very mild recoil and very good accuracy of the cartridge, the 6.5 Swede rapidly gained a reputation for effectiveness on big game like moose and reindeer.
Over the years, the 6.5×55 Swede became very popular in Europe. However, while the cartridge did eventually develop a small following in North America, it never caught on in the United States to the same degree as it did in Europe.
The lack of appreciation for the 6.5 Swede among Americans was not due to any particular shortcoming on part of the cartridge. Indeed, 6.5mm (.264″) cartridges in general had a tough time getting traction in the United States for many decades. That wasn’t due to a lack of effort: American cartridges like the .264 Winchester Magnum and the 6.5 Remington Magnum also struggled to gain widespread acceptance for various reasons.
That being said, American competitive shooters began to appreciate the aerodynamic benefits of 6.5mm/.264″ bullets before the shooting and hunting communities at large. For this reason, competitive shooters have used a number of different 6.5mm wildcat cartridges over the years.
In a move similar to what the company did with former wildcats like the .22-250, the .25-06, and the 7mm-08, the Remington Arms Company standardized a wildcat derived from the .308 Winchester known as the 6.5-08 as the .260 Remington in 1997.
Developed from a .308 Winchester case necked down to shoot .264″ bullets, the .260 Remington essentially duplicates the performance of the 6.5×55 Swede in a smaller package. It has a mild recoil, a high degree of accuracy potential, and can shoot high BC bullets that have a relatively flat trajectory with lots of resistance to wind drift. To top it all off, unlike the 6.5 Swede, the .260 Remington fits in a short action rifle.
Not surprisingly, the .260 Remington has seen a fair amount of success in competitive shooting circles. For instance, US Army Sergeant Sherri Gallagher won the 2010 National High Power Rifle Championship using the .260 Remington.
That being said, for all its strengths, the .260 Remington failed to really make the crossover to the hunting community at large.
Perhaps the .260 Remington was just a little ahead of its time. However, while prevailing attitudes towards 6.5mm cartridges in the United States have changed a great deal in the United States since the .260 Remington was introduced in 1997, another cartridge has since come on the scene and stolen a lot of thunder from the Remington cartridge: the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Unveiled in 2008, the 6.5 Creedmoor was the brainchild of Dave Emary and Dennis DeMille of Hornady Manufacturing. They designed the cartridge in an effort to gain an edge in high power rifle competition shooting, which had been long dominated by the .308 Winchester. Basically, they wanted a new cartridge that could fit in a short action magazine and was just as accurate as the .308, but with less recoil, less wind drift, and a flatter trajectory.
By modifying a .30 Thompson Center (.30 TC) case to shoot .264″ bullets, they successfully built a cartridge with a relatively large case capacity optimized for use with 4350 class propellants that could also accommodate long, heavy, high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets without intruding into the powder column.
Like the .260 Remington, the new 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge had less recoil, a flatter trajectory, and more resistance to wind drift than the .308 Winchester.
If you’d like to learn more about the 6.5 Creedmoor (sometimes misspelled Creedmoore or Creedmore) and how it compares to the .308 Winchester, read this article:
However, while the .260 Remington has a tiny bit more powder capacity, the 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded to a slightly higher pressure and can better accommodate very high BC match grade bullets without intruding into the powder column.
Yes, these are very small differences and we’re really splitting hairs here.
The 6.5 Creedmoor was also designed after the .260 Remington in the midst of a boom in long range shooting when more shooters appreciated the benefits it offered at extended range. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the 6.5 Creedmoor also received a more enthusiastic and coordinated marketing campaign from Hornady and Ruger than the .260 ever got from Remington.
All those things resulted in a better reception of the 6.5 Creedmoor in the shooting community than the .260 Remington. For many of these same reasons, the Creedmoor has also gained much more widespread acceptance for big game hunting than the .260 Remington.
260 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5×55 Swede: Cartridge Sizes
As you can see in the photo below, all three cartridges use .264″ bullets.
The 6.5×55 Swede also has the longest case length and overall length. However, with a maximum overall length of 2.825″ and 2.80″ respectively, the shorter 6.5 Creedmoor and .260 Remington will fit in a short action rifle while the 3.15″ long 6.5 Swede requires a long action.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a steeper 30 degree shoulder angle than the 25 and 20 degree shoulder angles of the 6.5×55 Swede and .260 Remington cartridges. Additionally, the .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor both have a relatively common .473″ rim diameter, but the 6.5 Swede has a more unusual .480″ rim diameter.Due to its smaller dimensions, the 6.5 Creedmoor has the smallest capacity of the three while the 6.5 Swede has the largest case capacity. However, the 6.5 Swede has a lower maximum SAAMI pressure than the .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor (51,000psi, 60,000psi, and 62,000psi respectively).
6.5×55 Swede vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 260 Remington Ballistics
Even though there are some major differences in their external dimensions, the .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5×55 Swede have very similar ballistics.
This is due in large part to the fact that most common factory hunting loads utilize the exact same bullets for each cartridge. The advantage in case capacity the .260 Remington and 6.5 Swede have over the 6.5 Creedmoor is offset in part by the differences in maximum authorized pressure between the cartridges. Even so, for most factory loads using the same bullet, the .260 Remington will have a slightly higher velocity than the 6.5 Creedmoor, which will in turn have a higher velocity than the 6.5 Swede. The same goes for maximum handloads for each cartridge.
This is illustrated in the table below comparing Swift High Grade factory ammunition loaded with 140gr Swift A-Frame bullets (.401 BC) and Barnes handloads using the 120gr TTSX (.412 BC). Keep in mind that these are maximum handloads provided by Barnes on their web site. Use those loads at your own risk.
All six loads used a 200 yard zero and a 24″ barrel (with the exception of the Swift 6.5 Swede factory load, which used a 30″ barrel). Note that this data is for 6.5×55 Swede factory ammo produced in the United States. European ammunition for this cartridge can be as much as 100-200 fps faster for the same weight bullet.Just as you’d expect, the .260 Remington has the flattest trajectory of the bunch and the 6.5 Swede has the most bullet drop. The same goes for the amount of kinetic energy retained at longer range.
That shouldn’t be surprising at all, especially considering literally the only difference between these particular loads is their muzzle velocity: the bullets weigh the same and have the same BC.
The chart below compares how much a 10 mile per hour crosswind impacts those same .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5×55 Swede loads out to 500 yards.Once again, all three cartridges perform relatively well and pretty much like you’d expect: the .260 Remington has the least wind drift and the 6.5 Swede has the most.
Now lets talk about recoil.
The table below compares the recoil produced by the Barnes loads compared above for those cartridges when fired from a Tikka T3x Superlite rifle. This specific model weighs 6.3 pounds when chambered in .260 Remington and 6.5 Swede and 6.5 pounds when chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare cartridges.As you can see, all three cartridges have a very manageable amount of recoil, with the .260 Remington and 6.5 Swede having a tiny bit more free recoil energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor. However, this difference is due primarily to the fact that the Tikka T3 rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor is a little bit heavier than the others.
For all intents and purposes, there is no difference in recoil between the three. They’re all very mild recoiling cartridges that the vast majority of shooters should be able to handle without any trouble.
There is one final area we need to discuss as it relates to ballistics: bullet weight.
While all three cartridges use bullets of a similar weight, there are some minor differences to keep in mind.
The 6.5 Swede most often utilizes bullet weights in the 100-160 grain range, with 120, 139, 140, and 156gr bullets being the most common. Particularly when dealing with factory hunting ammo, 139/140 grain bullets are by far the most common for the 6.5 Swede.
On the other hand, the .260 Remington typically fires 85-143gr bullets and 120, 125, 129, 130, and 140 grain bullets are most common. There is a good amount of factory hunting ammunition loaded with 140 grain ammunition, but the 120 grain, 125 grain, and 130 grain bullets are much more common with the .260 Remington than with the 6.5 Swede.
Finally, the 6.5 Creedmoor most often utilizes bullet weights in the 95-160 grain range, with 120, 129, 140, and 143gr bullets being the most common.
Sectional density (SD) is a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass. All other things equal, a heavier projectile of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density.
Since they all use the same diameter bullets of similar weights, there is not a big difference in bullet sectional density for most common factory loads used by the three cartridges. However, Norma does offer factory 6.5×55 Swede hunting ammunition using 156gr bullets and Hornady sells a .264″ 160gr InterLock Round Nose bullet that handloaders could use for all three cartridges.
A 160 grain .264″ bullet has a sectional density of .328 and a 156 grain .264″ bullet has a sectional density of .320. This compares favorably to the .246 and .287 sectional densities of 120 grain and 140 grain bullets of the same caliber. Heck, those 160 grain and 156g grain bullets have a higher sectional density than the vaunted 175 grain bullet used by the 7mm Mauser and 7mm Rem Mag (.310 SD).
Since this article is focused on the hunting applications of the three cartridges, I did not include any ballistic data comparing the cartridges past 500 yards. However, this is where the Creedmoor really starts to shine when compared to the others, especially the .260 Remington.
Notice how much longer the 143gr ELD-X bullet for the 6.5 Creedmoor (.625 BC) in the center is than the 140gr Core Lokt bullet for the .260 Remington (.435 BC) on the left in the photo below?Like I briefly mentioned earlier, due to its longer neck and shorter case length, the 6.5 Creedmoor is much better suited than the .260 Remington for shooting very high BC match grade bullets without intruding into the powder column and while still fitting in a short action rifle magazine.
While there are a good number of 140gr hunting ammunition options for the .260 Remington, it’s much easier to find factory ammo loaded with heavy, high BC bullets in the 6.5 Creedmoor.
For instance, Hornady loads their Match line of ammo with the 130gr ELD Match bullet in .260 Remington (.506 BC)and the company does not currently manufacture their Precision Hunter line of ammo in that cartridge at all. On the contrary, Hornady offers their Match and Precision Hunter lines of ammo with 140gr ELD Match (.646 BC), 143gr ELD-X (.625 BC), and 147gr ELD Match (.697 BC) bullets respectively for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
In cases where a company offers a factory load featuring very high BC bullets of the same weight for the two cartridges, like Berger does with their 140gr Hybrid Target loads, the 6.5 Creedmoor is loaded to a slightly higher velocity than the .260 Remington.
Though there are some exceptions, the same trend more or less holds true for handloads with the two cartridges: the slight advantage in velocity held by the .260 Remington over the 6.5 Creedmoor in many cases either narrows considerably or flips in favor of the Creedmoor when really high BC bullets are used.
Like I said earlier, this is a very small difference that makes very little difference for the vast majority of hunting situations. Granted, competition shooters fall into a completely different category from typical hunters, but this article is focused on the performance of these cartridges for hunters.
So where do we stand with each cartridge?
With a flatter trajectory and less wind drift, the .260 Remington does have tiny advantage over the 6.5×55 Swede and 6.5 Creedmoor in external ballistics at typical hunting ranges when using typical factory hunting ammo. This makes the cartridge a little more forgiving of range or wind estimation errors than the others, but that’s a decidedly small advantage.
At least with typical American factory ammunition anyway, the 6.5×55 Swede has slightly inferior ballistics than the other two. However, even though the 6.5×55 Swede does not have eye popping ballistics, when using heavy for caliber, high SD 156 or 160 grain bullets, the cartridge tends to penetrate especially well and “punch above its weight” in a manner similar to the 7x57mm or 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridges.
Finally, the 6.5 Creedmoor has very similar ballistics to the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swede while fitting more or less in between those other cartridges in terms of trajectory and wind drift. However, it can better utilize typically shoot very high BC bullets at a higher velocity than the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swede. While that change does give the 6.5 Creedmoor a slight advantage in terms of trajectory and resistance to wind drift, it does not make an appreciable difference at ranges inside 700-800 yards.
There is virtually no difference in recoil between the three and they’re all very easy to shoot cartridges that most hunters and shooters should be able to handle with ease.
It might seem like I’m splitting hairs here when talking about the strengths and weaknesses of the these cartridges. That’s absolutely true. In fact, of all the articles I’ve written comparing different cartridges, I’ve had to do the most nitpicking and hair splitting in this one.
While they each offer different advantages, all three cartridges are very accurate, relatively flat shooting, and hit hard enough for use on a variety of game out to several hundred yards. For the vast majority of hunters, there is basically no difference in their performance at typical hunting ranges. Regardless of whether you’re using a 6.5 Creedmoor, a .260 Remington, or a 6.5×55 Swede, no big game animal will be able to tell the difference between the three cartridges if the shot is placed correctly and will not go far if you put a well constructed bullet into the vitals.
6.5×55 Swede vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 260 Remington Ammunition Selection
Now lets talk about a couple of factors that really start to differentiate between the three cartridges.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is by far the most popular cartridge of the three. Though it’s rapidly growing in popularity, the it’s still nowhere near as popular as cartridges like the .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, or .30-06 Springfield in North America. Even so, the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swede cannot hold a candle to the popularity of the Creedmoor and the corresponding selection of factory 6.5 Creedmoor ammo choices for it.
That being said, the .260 Remington and 6.5×55 Swede are not rare in North America either. Additionally, the script flips completely in Europe and the 6.5×55 Swede is one of the most popular cartridges used by hunters over there.
Many of the really big ammunition manufacturers like Federal, Hornady, Norma, Nosler, Remington, and Swift produce a good quality hunting ammo for all three cartridges. Additionally, Barnes and Berger make ammo for the .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor while Lapua, Sellier & Bellot, and Prvi Partizan are also good sources of 6.5×55 SE ammunition.
Prices and availability vary from region to region, but (in the United States) the 6.5 Creedmoor is by far easiest to find and is usually a little bit less expensive than the others. Once again, the situation is different in Europe and the 6.5×55 SE is the most common and least expensive there.
Buy some quality .260 Remington hunting ammo here.
Buy some of the best 6.5 Creedmoor hunting ammo here.
Buy some great 6.5 Swede hunting ammo here.
All three cartridges are relatively popular among reloaders and handloading components are widely available. Not only do all three cartridges use the same .264″ diameter bullets, but they also use the same size bullets as other cartridges like the 6.5 Grendel, the 6.5-284 Norma, the 6.5-06, the .264 Winchester Magnum, the 26 Nosler, and the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum.
Since more and more shooters are starting to appreciate the advantages offered by the 6.5mm bore size, there is a very large (and growing) selection of quality 6.5mm bullets to choose from like the Barnes LRX and TTSX, Berger VLD, Hornady ELD Match, ELD-X, InterLock, SST, Nosler AccuBond, Ballistic Tip, E-Tip, Partition and RDF, Swift A-Frame and Sirocco, and the Lapua Scenar (just to name a few).
6.5×55 Swede vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 260 Remington: Rifle Selection
The rifle situation is very similar to the ammunition situation with these cartridges: the 6.5 Creedmoor is the most common in North America but the 6.5×55 Swede is most common in Europe.
To an even greater degree than most other gun manufacturers, Ruger has really gotten behind the 6.5 Creedmoor and offers their American, FTW Hunter, Hawkeye Long Range Target, Number 1, and Precision Rifles in both cartridges. Ruger does not currently manufacture any rifles in .260 Remington or 6.5×55 Swede, though they have in the past. The Browning X-Bolt, Mossberg Patriot, Nosler M48, Weatherby Vanguard, and the Winchester Model 70 are also available in 6.5 Creedmoor.
Not surprisingly, Remington currently manufactures rifles chambered in .260 Remington: their Model Seven and 700 lines. The company also produces the Model Seven, 700, and 783 in 6.5 Creedmoor. Savage also produce their Model 110 rifles in both .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. On the other hand, European manufacturers like CZ, Mauser, Sako, and Sauer make several modern rifle models in 6.5×55 SE.
Tikka is the only company I’m aware of at this time that produces rifles in all three chamberings.
The .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, and 6.5×55 Swede are all most common in bolt-action rifles. However, the .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor are also available in some semi-automatic sporting rifles (the AR-10 platform in particular) as well.
Buy a really nice .260 Remington hunting rifle here.
Buy an excellent 6.5 Creedmoor hunting rifle here.
Buy a great 6.5 Swede hunting rifle here.
260 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5×55 Swede: Which Is Right For You?
Do you primarily hunt medium sized game like feral hogs, black bear, or deer at ranges within 200 yards? The .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5×55 Swede are all wonderfully suited for hunting thin skinned, medium game animals like pronghorn, feral hogs, mule deer, blacktail deer, whitetail deer, roe deer, or fallow deer. There isn’t much difference between the ballistically inside of 200 yards. Go with the 6.5 Creedmoor (or the 6.5×55 Swede if you live in Europe) if you want the cheapest or easiest to find factory ammo.
Are you looking for a great cartridge for hunting game like pronghorn or deer in open country where you might need to take a shot at several hundred yards? They will all work well in this role as well and the differences between them is very small. However, with typical hunting factory loads, the .260 Remington has a slight advantage over the others in this regard with a flatter trajectory and the most resistance to wind drift.
Are you sensitive to recoil? All are very mild recoiling cartridges and there isn’t much difference between them at all in this area.
Do you want the cartridge best suited for target shooting out to 1,200 yards or so? Though the .260 Remington is also a good choice, the 6.5 Creedmoor has a definite edge for longer range shooting since it’s better suited to using very high BC bullets.
Are you looking for a great cartridge for sheep, mountain goat, or tahr hunting where you need a heavy hitting cartridge with manageable recoil in a lightweight and easy to carry rifle? The .260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor will both fit the bill here. Neither is a classic sheep hunting cartridge, but they’re powerful enough to get the job done and still have very mild recoil in a lightweight rifle that’s easy to haul up the mountain.
Do you want a cartridge well suited to hunt elk, moose, red stag, or kudu with? While they are excellent choices for deer sized game, these cartridges are also suitable for bigger creatures under the right circumstances. Many look down their noses at these cartridges for elk and moose hunting, but the fact of the matter is that due to the exceptionally long run the 6.5 Swede has had in the hands of Scandinavian hunters, very few other cartridges have taken more moose than the 6.5×55 Swedish since the 1890s. All three cartridges have very similar ballistics at short range and they’re all perfectly capable of ethically taking moose and elk sized game (to include most species of plains game you might encounter on an Africa hunting safari) under the right circumstances.
That being said, the .260 Remington, the 6.5mm Creedmoor, and 6.5 x55 Swede are in a totally different league from heavy hitters like the 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag when it comes to hunting really big game and they wouldn’t be my first choice for this task. However, if you use good quality, high SD bullets (like the 156 grain and 160 grain bullets I mentioned earlier), only take shots within 200 yards (preferably closer), and are very careful with your shot placement, they’ll all work just fine. Of the three, I’d personally lean towards the 6.5×55 Swede with its better selection of high quality, heavy bullets in easy to find factory ammunition though.
Like I’ve said many times, the .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5×55 Swede are all excellent rifle cartridges and the differences between them are very small, which makes it virtually impossible to choose the “best” one from the group. On the contrary, even though they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, they all are very capable performers that are suitable for a wide range of hunting tasks. The differences between them (.260 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor vs 6.5×55 Swede) are extremely small and there is a large amount of overlap between them.
No animal will never know the difference if your shot is placed in the right spot. Get a good hunting rifle chambered in the cartridge that you think fits your needs the best, learn to shoot it well, use quality bullets, and you’ll be all set for most hunting situations.
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The Lyman 50th Edition (p183-187 and 1910-1891) and Hornady 10th Edition (p305-322) reloading manuals were used as references for the history of the cartridges. The data used to compare the trajectory and wind drift of the cartridges was obtained from Swift (here and here) and Barnes (here, here, and here). Case capacities were obtained from Chuck Hawks. Maximum pressure obtained from SAAMI (p23 and 27). I used the Hornady Ballistic calculator and ShootersCalculator.com to compare trajectory, wind drift, and recoil for the cartridges.