The 6.5 Creedmoor newcomer outperforms the .308 Winchester by nearly every measure
Cartridge comparisons frequently contain a lot of “that depends” and don’t usually come to a solid conclusion.
Giving credit where credit is due, the 308 Winchester has been around longer and has performed well in a wide variety of roles. However, one could argue the only thing it does better than the 6.5 Creedmoor is maintain a longer barrel life.
That matters a lot to units that field sniper rifles for duty use, like law enforcement organizations.
The military also used to be a firm believer in the .308 Winchester for sniping use, but our Special Operations Command has since moved on to the 6.5 Creedmoor in semi-automatic sniper rifles, barrel life be damned.
Expect the regular army to follow. Barrel life difference is significant with a 6.5 Creedmoor lasting around 2,500 rounds and the 308 Winchester lasting around 5,000 to 6,000 rounds.
If that matters to you, score one (and only one) for the .308 Winchester.
6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester Tie to 400 Yards
Inside 400 yards, there aren't a lot of differences between how the two ammunition calibers perform on steel or animals.
Both have a wide variety of bullet weights of various construction that can accommodate just about any hunting style. However, the 6.5 Creedmoor starts to pull away beyond 400 yards because it has less drop and wind drift than the .308 Winchester.
Finally, 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition is longer and skinnier, so it resists the effects of the wind better. The better aerodynamics means the 6.5 bullet doesn’t slow down as quickly as the shorter and fatter .308 bullet.
As the distance increases, so does the disparity in performance between the two.
6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Winchester at the Muzzle
Proponents for the .308 Winchester will argue that it generates more muzzle energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor and is better and bringing down game.
The 308 Winchester has about 2,845 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, while the 6.5 Creedmoor can muster 2,360 foot-pounds. That’s not an insignificant difference, but both are plenty lethal at the muzzle.
At 400 yards that gap narrows to 1,546 ft-pounds to 1,384 ft-pounds, respectively. No animal is going to know the difference and both are still plenty lethal.
Beyond that distance, the advantage rapidly shifts to the 6.5 Creedmoor because of its more aerodynamic shape that better retains velocity and, thus, energy.
6.5 Creedmoor Wins the Recoil Battle
Where the 6.5 Creedmoor clobbers the .308 Winchester (pun intended) is in the recoil department. Recoil is the gift that keeps on giving, smacking the shooter around every time he pulls the trigger.
Tough guys can think that it takes exposure to recoil to “get used to it.” The opposite is true. Prolonged exposure to recoil makes you more sensitive to it over the long term.
Two rifles weighing the same will have a significant difference in recoil. The 6.5 Creedmoor, on a nine-pound rifle, generates 11.9 ft-pounds with a recoil velocity of 9.2 feet per second (fps).
A similar nine-pound 308 Winchester generates 16.5 ft-pounds of recoil with a velocity of 10.9 fps. This is a difference that is noticeable from even one shot and it grows in significance when spending a day on the range.
The 308 Winchester hits the shooter much harder and faster than a 6.5 Creedmoor.
6.5 Creedmoor for Shot Calling
Less recoil is more pleasant, but also increases the training value for each round expended. The 6.5 Creedmoor moves around less when fired, so it’s easier to see where the bullets land (when missing) to make corrections for follow-up shots.
This saves a lot of frustration and makes better use of time and ammunition when shooting alone.
The 308 Winchester has a lot more history, but the present and future belong to the 6.5 Creedmoor.