CARTRIDGE OF THE WEEK
6.5 x 55 SE
The USA gun market are finally catching on – the 6.5 is an excellent projectile. It only took them 106 years after the 6.5×55 was invented to make the 260 Remington. In the mean time they had a crack at high velocity 6.5 cartridges – the 264 Win Mag from the 50’s and the 6.5 Rem Mag from the 60’s were both as popular as small pox. But since 1997 we have seen a burst of popular 6.5 cartridges – the 260 Remington, the 6.5-284, the 6.5x47L, the 6.5 Creedmore and, more recently, the 26 Nosler and 6.5-300 Wby mag. But none of them match the clever design and versatility of the 6.5×55.
So the 6.5×55 did have a lot of things going for it – but then it was fortunate enough to have a rifle built around it. While trade-offs were made in case design to fit the 260 Remington into the Remington short action magazine, the 6.5×55 always had plenty of room to seat the projectiles out of the case to maximise efficiency. This allowed for the use of long, javelin shaped projectiles capable of insane accuracy at extreme ranges and deep, deep penetration on game. This made the 6.5×55 cartridge excellent for shooting larger, thick skinned game.
The 6.5×55 was designed in 1891 to shoot through rifles made in 1891 – unfortunately, this means that loaded ammunition has to be manufactured to be safely shot through older rifles. 6.5×55 cartridges are loaded to a pressure approximately 10% lower than most other rifle cartridges – while this restricts velocity it makes this calibre very mild to shoot. Lapua manufacture a cartridge loaded with a 139gr projectile for accurate, long distance shooting, though the projectile only travels at around 2600 fps. However, the projectile has a ballistic coefficient of .578, making it very efficient through the air. In comparison, the .308 175gr Sierra Match King only has a ballistic coefficient of 0.505. This means that while the 308 Winchester is supersonic out to 900 meters, the 6.5 x 55 is supersonic to over 1100 meters.
So why wasn’t the 6.5×55 popular in the USA? Because the 270 Winchester, invented early last century, could kill all the same game that the 6.5×55, and the 270 x55 wasn’t invented in ‘Merica. However, in the last few years Weatherby have chambered their Vanguard rifle in the 6.5×55 cartridge, which has been incredibly popular with Australians.
So if you are interested in a mild shooting long distance cartridge, it would be hard to go past the 6.5×55.