Deciding whether to use a 6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Winchester for hunting is as much a matter of preference personal skill.
Both cartridges have their advantages, but in deciding, we must consider our personal capabilities and the clean kill of the animal we are hunting.
Generally speaking, the 6.5 Creedmoor is less powerful with less recoil than the 308 Winchester, which is perfect for small game and novice hunters. For larger animals, the Winchester packs a bit more of a punch…
…but it isn’t as simple as that.
By comparing the merits of the 6.5 creedmoor vs .308, we will provide a complete picture on which of the two seems to be a good purchasing choice for you.
History of 308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor
Back in the days of black powder metallic cartridges, the only means of increasing the kinetic energy delivered by a bullet was to increase its diameter and/or length in order to increase its weight. Chemists had yet to find a way to control the burning rate of black powder and that historic mentality still exists today among North American hunters.
As a result, the .30 caliber bullets were the official caliber chosen by the U.S. military from 1892 to 1967:
- The .30-40 Krag was first
- Then the .30-06 Springfield
- Then .308 Winchester (aka 7.62 NATO)
Consequently, North American hunters have a long-standing and relationship with .30 caliber bullets as well as rifle cartridges that fire .30 caliber bullets such as the .30-30 Winchester, the .308 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield and, the .300 Winchester Magnum.
All of these have been long-term favorites for hunting medium to large North American game species.
From 300 to 308 Winchester
Introduced by Winchester in 1952 as a somewhat more powerful alternative to the .300 Savage, the .308 Winchester cartridge is a rimless, bottleneck, rifle cartridge. The muzzle velocity meets or exceeds that of the .30-06 Springfield cartridge but, unlike the .30-06 which requires a long action, the .308 Winchester cycles in short actions.
That makes it well suited for use in both lever actions and semi-automatic actions as well as bolt actions.
Because of these benefits and applications, it was adopted by the U.S. Military in 1954 (with minor changes to the case dimensions and subsequently dubbed the 7.62 x 54mm NATO) as a replacement for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge.
Since then it has become an extremely popular rifle cartridge among North American hunters for hunting both medium and large game species. According to European ammunition manufacturer Norma, the .308 Winchester is one their best selling rifle cartridges.
In the book The 20th Century’s Top Rifle Cartridges written by Lane Simpson, the author suggests that .308 Winchester is so popular among hunters that has become the single most popular short-action, big game, hunting cartridge in the world.
One reason it’s so popular may be the high versatility due to its wide range of bullet weights, which makes it suitable for hunting game species ranging from varmints to elk to black bear. It is capable of firing a very wide range of bullet weights from a 100 grain “plinker” to a 200 Spizter at velocities ranging from 3,330 fps to 2,400 fps respectively.
Due to its wide popularity, nearly every rifle manufacturer in the world offers one or more rifle models chambered for the .308 Winchester cartridge.
6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Recoil
The historical popularity of the .308 Winchester cartridge doesn’t mean it is free from problems. The power of the 308 comes with excessive recoil and that is a turnoff for many hunters.
The .308 Winchester cartridge can be loaded to produce ballistics that equal or even exceed the .30-06 Springfield cartridge despite its smaller case.
This recoil tends to be a deal breaker for many who simply don’t want to deal with the power of that cartridge while hunting small to medium game at a closer distance.
That is pushing many hunters towards the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge instead because, even though it delivers somewhat less kinetic energy to the target than the .308 Winchester, it generates significantly less recoil.
Let’s take a closer look at the newer 6.5 creedmoor as a hunting rifle cartridge.
6.5 Creedmoor Strikes Back
Despite the fact that the 6.5 Creedmoor was originally designed as a match cartridge, it is fast gaining popularity among hunters of medium sized North American game species due to its lighter recoil and flatter trajectory.
Based on the .30 Thompson Center cartridge (parent case), the 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge was developed by Hornady for Thompson Center who introduced the cartridge in 2007.
This happened in conjunction with their new line of bolt action rifles as a benchrest cartridge in an effort to offer a .264 caliber cartridge with a flatter trajectory and less recoil than the .308 Winchester.
Starting with the .30 TC case, Hornady reduced the inside neck diameter from .308 inches to .264 inches which also created a somewhat steeper shoulder angle while also slightly reducing the capacity of the case.
Due to is smaller bore diameter, bullet weights can range from as little as 120 grains to as much as 147 grains and, SAAMI test data shows that the 6.5 mm Creedmoor can fire a 129 grain bullet at 2,940 fps and a 140 grain bullet at 2,690 fps which delivers 2,477 ft./lbs. and 2,250 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy respectively.
Don’t worry about the details. The benefits of the 6.5 Creedmoor are generally: flatter trajectory and less recoil.
Despite the fact that the 6.5 Creedmoor was initially designed as a benchrest cartridge, many experienced hunters feel that .264 caliber bullets provide optimum penetration and energy transfer to medium sized game animals at longer ranges than the .308 Winchester.
Many hunters now favor the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge over the .308 Winchester cartridge for hunting medium sized North American game species such as:
- whitetail deer
- mule deer
- mountain goats
- dall sheep
We generally consider the 6.5 creedmoor to be a better cartridge and our partner conscious hunting retreat does too.
6.5 Creedmoor vs 308 Win: What’s the Verdict?
Even though the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has a powder capacity similar to that of the .308 Winchester cartridge, the 6.5 provides a significantly flatter trajectory while delivering only slightly less kinetic energy to the target.
The 6.5 Creedmoor also generates less recoil which makes it the perfect choice for young hunters as well as novices who may be recoil shy.
Although the .308 Winchester has a more arched trajectory, it does deliver more kinetic energy to the target than the 6.5 Creedmoor does and thus, it is a better choice for hunting larger game species which require a higher degree of “stopping power”. It generates more recoil to get that power, but for some animals it is worth it.
To determine whether to choose the 6.5 vs 308, it will require you to self-assess skills and needs based on what you are hunting.
As conscious hunters, we want to ensure the cleanest and quickest kill possible for the animal. If that means getting a powerful cartridge even with added recoil, then so be it.
NOTE: If you are a woman planning to give birth, my partner is a birth coach called a doula and she has recommended care when firing such high-powered rifles! Be mindful of the sensitivity of unborn children.