You all know how much I love the .30-06. Thanks to Gavin, I have the opportunity to work with a new rifle, new scope, and a cartridge that’s new to me! That’s a lot of “new” for me to deal with, but I am enjoying every bit of it.
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Although I hadn’t hunted with the 6.5 Creedmoor yet, I have shot a few 6.5 Creedmoor rifles here at Ultimate Reloader and had handloaded for it a bit. I even compared the ballistics of my beloved .30-06 to the 6.5 Creedmoor. The 6.5 Creedmoor was released in 2007 primarily as a target cartridge. I generally used a .308 Winchester in competition and quickly saw the key advantage the 6.5 Creedmoor offered: it wasn’t nearly as affected by wind. This cartridge was quickly adopted by both high power and PRS competitors. In time, hunters noticed the easy-shooting cartridge and started using it on all sorts of game animals at ranges near and far.
In my experience, if a good hunting bullet is placed well, game is usually brought down quickly. It’s also worth noting that the Creedmoor’s ballistics are quite similar to that of the 130-year-old and much respected 6.5×55, sometimes called the 6.5 Swedish Mauser. From what I understand, that fine old cartridge is still popular in Scandinavia where it is used for hunting big game including moose and bear. I’ve read of the 6.5 Creedmoor being used on elk, moose and even grizzly with shots taken over 600 yards. I had no intention of using it on game at 600+ yards nor using it on elk, moose or big bear. Mostly, I hunt mule deer with a self-imposed limit of about 400 yards. I’ve already taken deer with smaller, lighter cartridges including the .223 Remington, 6mm Remington and the .25-06, all using lighter bullets than the 6.5 Creedmoor takes.
About the Bergara B-14 Ridge Carbon Wilderness
Earlier this year, Bergara released the Bergara Ridge Carbon Wilderness rifle, a lightweight short action designed for hunting. It has a 22” 1:8 CURE Carbon threaded barrel with break, and Bergara two-pound trigger. Gavin did an in-depth review of this rifle, complete with Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 in Hawkins Precision long range hybrid rings. The bare rifle comes in at 6 lbs. 8 ounces and even with the scope, rings, sling and ammunition it’s still a very comfortable weight for hiking the hills.
Made in Spain, the Bergara has a number of desirable features that add up to a very useful hunting rifle. I’m a fan of Bergara’s B-14 action, both long and short. (The 6.5 Creedmoor is a short-action rifle of course.) Far different from my traditional walnut stocks, its synthetic stock is quite comfortable to shoot. I also greatly appreciate the weather resistance of this rifle. While wood stocks are beautiful, this synthetic stock isn’t going to swell or warp with wet weather, nor are the Cerakoted metal surfaces prone to rust.
Bergara is known for producing high quality rifle barrels. This 22” barrel is wrapped in Carbon for stiffness without extra weight, and tipped with an omni-directional muzzle brake. (Remember, hearing protection is extremely important when hunting with a muzzle brake. They are noisy!) The quality of the barrel is such that Bergara guarantees sub MOA accuracy. Gavin shot some groups around half that size and I had no problem keeping all of my groups under one MOA from a rest. The two-pound trigger is crisp and easy to use.
I enjoy setting up hunting rifles for myself and also for friends and family. Gavin had previously installed the Leupold scope and the Hawkins rings. I didn’t have the appropriate scope caps on hand, so I used a soft Leupold scope cover to protect the scope.
A means of resting the rifle is useful, particularly for longer shots. Over the years, I’ve relied on steadying my rifle by use of a sling, bipod, or by using my backpack as a rifle rest. I’ve also braced off logs, branches, and rocks. However, I’ve been using a tripod for the past few years and have been very successful with it. For this hunt, I chose to use Ultradyne’s Carbon Tripod with the Orbit ball head. Gavin installed a short ARCA rail on my Bergara rifle so I could easily attach the rifle to the tripod. The tripod weighs only 4.2 pounds, carries easily and sets up quickly. I used it from both the sitting and standing positions and am quite pleased with my shooting results using it.
Using a rifle sling as a shooting aid seems to be a dying art, but it’s something I’m experienced with. I learned sling use from my father, from the Marine Corps, and from using one extensively at rifle matches. It is fast to use and helps so much. My favorite shooting sling is the Turner Saddlery National Match Sling which I’ve used on several rifles over the years. The leather was incredibly stiff to begin with, but after 25 years of use it’s gotten much more pliable.
We also brought a spotting scope, good binoculars and a rangefinder on the hunt.
6.5 Creedmoor Hunting Load
With the rifle squared away, it was time to think about the ammunition. I selected Sierra’s 140 grain Tipped GameKing as Sierra’s hunting bullets have done well for me for a long time.
They’re typically quite accurate and perform well on game. The Tipped GameKing is fairly new and available in a wide variety of diameters and weights. It’s important to note it’s not simply a normal GameKing modified to accept the plastic tip. The jacket is considerably thicker than most other Sierra hunting bullets, providing slower expansion and deeper penetration than might otherwise be possible.
I decided to pair this bullet with Vihtavuori N555, which I read is ideal for 6.5 Creedmoor.
This clean-burning powder is temperature insensitive with a copper fouling reducer and lot to lot consistency. It also flows well through a powder measure. For this loading session, I used the RCBS Summit press, which operates a bit differently than many single-stage presses.
With the Summit, the case remains stationary and the die is lowered onto it for both sizing/decapping and for seating the bullet. The press has a lot of room for big cartridges and considerable work space for the operator. I found it quite easy to use with good leverage. The round handgrip was particularly comfortable and it can be adjusted for either right hand or left hand use. RCBS’s 6.5 Creedmoor Supreme die set had everything I needed in one place, including the full length resizing die, seating die, appropriate shell holder, and case gauge.
The N555 flowed nicely through my RCBS Uniflow powder measure. I weighed out 43.0 grains, just under Vihtavuori’s maximum, on a beam scale before pouring it into a Hornady case with CCI BR-2 primer.
Starting the bullet at just under 2700 fps muzzle velocity, it retains 2,000 fps at 400 yards. With a variety of hunting bullets, I’ve seen reliable expansion down to 2,000 fps.
My average velocity was 2689 fps with a standard deviation of 8.1 fps and extreme spread of 25.5 fps. I was very happy with this, especially from a 22” rather than 24” barrel. I was greatly impressed with the low, single digit SD figures when I chronographed my hunting load.
Okanogan County is a large rural county in Washington state, right along the Canadian border. It’s well known for good hunting and fishing and rugged scenic beauty. For nearly 30 years, I’ve enjoyed trips to Okanogan County where I’ve had several great do-it-yourself hunts and many good fishing trips.
Two years ago, my son and I had enjoyed a fun and successful guided hunt with Jerrod Gibbons of Okanogan Valley Guide Service (OVGS). Each of us took mule deer on that short four-day hunt in 2021, and we decided to book another guided hunt with OVGS this year. We headed out to Okanogan, excited to use some new gear. The Bergara Ridge Carbon was comfortable and easy to carry. I also appreciated the Leupold scope, which I could see clearly through far longer than my binoculars as dusk approached. The hunt started well, but sadly we had to unexpectedly cut our hunt short and return home without tagging a buck. That pretty well finished up my deer hunting opportunities for this season, but the freezer is still well stocked with deer and elk meat from last winter’s hunts.
I’ll be continuing my 6.5 Creedmoor hunting efforts this year by predator hunting, primarily coyotes, but always with the hope of seeing a mountain lion.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has been touted as an incredible cartridge. It’s also had much fun made at its expense. For hunting, I consider it a very reasonable choice for medium -sized game out to 400+ yards. Accuracy is easy. Recoil is light. I’ll likely explore more bullet choices in the future including all-copper bullets. The Bergara rifle was easy to carry afield and has been quite reliable while I’ve been shooting it. Ultradyne’s carbon tripod was also much lighter and easier to carry than those I’ve previously used. While I unfortunately did not harvest an animal this trip, I enjoyed working with a new cartridge, some new gear and some of my old, reliable RCBS equipment.
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