Not long after Ruger introduced a shortened and necked down 375 Ruger, that we know as the 300 Ruger Compact Magnum, the dreams of a 6.5 version began. Those dreams would eventually become what we know as the 6.5 PRC. The 6.5 PRC was officially introduced in 2018. It was designed to run 140-class bullets slightly less than 3200 fps to comply with precision rifle competition rules. Whereas the 375 Ruger is a long action cartridge, both the 6.5 PRC and the 300 RCM were designed for short actions.
DISCLAIMER: This is a guide. Everything listed within is for information purposes only. All loads should be worked up carefully. We have seen loads that require as much as two grains of charge weight adjustment from one powder lot to another. We have seen as much as five grains of powder adjustment required between different brands of brass. Failure to start low could result in damaged equipment or injury. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
6.5 PRC Cartridge Guide
With a maximum SAAMI COAL length of 2.955,” the PRC will not fit in a “standard” short action. Hornady worked with a few manufacturers to have rifles chambered in 6.5 PRC, with initial factory ammunition offerings loaded with 147 ELD-Ms and 143 ELD-Xs. The short actions needed very little change to accommodate the longer than standard 6.5 PRC. Most magazines, for the cartridge, are around 2.950”-3.00” long. Many rifle manufacturers are making subtle modifications to change from the “standard” 2.850” magazine box to the longer box to accommodate the 6.5 PRC. Hornady is forcing the industry to move forward with both PRC cartridges. The longer magazine requirements are hopefully just a start to breaking away from antiquated design restrictions.
Do We Need Another 6.5?
The cartridge almost immediately exploded in popularity. After only a few short months, the ammunition was flying off the shelf, and a growing number of manufacturers were committing to the cartridge. Why did we need another 6.5 cartridge? The PRC is roughly 200-300 fps faster than a Creedmoor, with the same bullets at the same pressures. The 6.5×284 is nearly the same case capacity, and set up correctly will do everything the PRC will do.
There are two main issues with the 6.5×284. The first is the non-standardized chamberings. The second is the COAL. With 140 class and larger bullets seated out of the powder space, it is far too long to fit in a short action. The 6.5 SAUM is a slightly better-performing cartridge but suffers from one of the same issues as the 6.5×284. The SAUM’s non-standardized chambers would make it more difficult to get SAAMI approved. Both the 6.5×284 and the SAUM’s non-standardized chambers all but ruin their commercial viability.
Why not one of the other calibers?
The 6.5 sits nicely between the adjacent calibers. The .243 did not have the bullets with the ballistic coefficients required to meet the original objectives of the cartridge. With the currently available options, the .257 was lacking both ballistic coefficient and bullet choices in general. The .277 suffers from the same issues as the .257. There are plenty of great .284 bullets, but no cartridge could meet the velocity objective. The 6.5 PRC checks a lot of boxes for a large number of different needs of hunters and shooters.
Why not choose a larger caliber and larger cartridge?
The biggest reason is going to be shootability. If you are not hunting large-bodied big game, such as elk, you may be better off with a smaller cartridge. The fact is the smaller cartridges are easier to shoot accurately from field positions. If the added energy and bullet mass is not necessary, you may be better off with a smaller cartridge. While the 140-grain class of bullets has performed well on deer and antelope sized game out to 800-1000 yards, it is still a little light for me. It is, however, a great combination for a new or younger hunter.
For me, the 156 Grain Berger EOL is what made the 6.5s come into their own for hunting. In the charts below, you can look at some example impact velocities and energies. While there are no magic numbers for energy and impact velocities, I like to keep them above 1000 ft./lbs. of energy and 1800 fps respectively for deer or antelope. When hunting elk, I prefer to keep energy above 1500 ft./lbs. Another, often overlooked, key to terminal performance is the actual mass of the projectile. Generally speaking, with fragmenting cup and core bullets, such as Bergers and most Hornadys, more mass kills quicker.
6.5 PRC SAMMI Cartridge and Chamber Dimensions
Choosing An Action For Your 6.5 PRC
The 6.5 PRC’s SAAMI chamber has .188” of freebore. This will accommodate any of the available 6.5 bullets. The 156 Berger could use a little more freebore to place the bullet at what I would consider the perfect seating depth. Due to our testing for the website, we have not ventured away from SAAMI, but if I were to build a custom rifle for my favorite 6.5 bullet, the 156 Berger, I would add another .020”-.040” of freebore. Another thing to note with our favorite 6.5 PRC combination is the COAL will be around 3.060” touching the lands in a SAAMI chamber, and with a .210”-.230” freebore chamber, the COAL could go over 3.1” touching the lands. This will not allow you to reach the lands with the 156 Berger in factory magazines.
If I were building a dedicated custom rifle chambered in 6.5 PRC, I would build on a medium or a long action. There are a few medium action options, like the XM from Defiance Machine or the medium action from Lone Peak. Long actions are a great option, and to date, all of my customs have been built on long actions. There are many great long actions to choose from. We have done a few reviews and have some great sponsors for you to check out. Soon, I will put together a video breaking down the different features of some of the action manufacturers.
We Prefer A Custom Reamer
We have seen a lot of issues with SAAMI minimum chambers, not allowing even custom “small base” dies to size enough to get rid of bolt click (we will cover what this is in a future video for those who don’t know). This usually shows up around 4-5 reloads, and it happens well below any signs of pressure. We would recommend a custom reamer for your build. We are finding a .535” measurement at the .200” line is fixing the issue (we have a video on our YouTube showing the fix). If you have the issue already and you chose to re-ream the chamber, you may have to throw your brass away and start over.
6.5 PRC Bullets
While the cartridge may have initially been designed to run 140-grain bullets, the 143 ELD-Xs and the 147 ELD-Ms were far more popular when the cartridge was released. Any of your favorite 140-grain bullets will work very well with the 6.5 PRC, and most will be capable of nearing 3100 fps in a SAAMI chamber with a 26” barrel. The 140-grain Bergers are typically very easy to tune in the case capacity range.
In my experience, the 143 ELD-X has been more difficult to get the accuracy I expect from a long-range hunting rifle. I would steer clear of them. In my experience, the 147 ELD-M has been one of the easiest bullets to tune. Accuracy and terminal performance have been impressive. I do need to note that we have seen random bullet blow-ups with the 147s. I am not going to dive into diagnostic details here, but I would proceed with caution.
In mid-2019, Berger finally released the long-awaited 156-grain EOL. This has since become the favorite of most hunters who chose the mid to larger capacity 6.5 cartridges. The 156 Berger is by far my favorite 6.5 caliber bullet. It provides excellent ballistics and has shown a very impressive terminal performance. There are numerous other bullet options for the .264 caliber. This is one of the most attractive attributes of the caliber. I am confident one of the many .264 bullets will suit your needs.
Powders For 6.5 PRC
Which powder should you choose to fuel your 6.5 PRC? H4831SC will work very well with the lighter bullets and has long been a favorite of bench-rest shooters shooting the PRC’s ballistic twin, the 6.5×284. RL23 is proving to be at least as good as H4831SC, if not better. Either of these would be great for 140-grain bullets.
H1000 and Retumbo have performed very well with 140-grain bullets and give more velocity than H4831SC. I have used both in this case capacity, with 140-grain bullets, with great success.
For 147 ELDMs and 156 Bergers, RL26, N565, and H1000 have been incredibly easy to tune and give excellent velocity. While RL26 has been very temperature stable in my testing, the verdict is still out. Many report the opposite. H1000 is known to be very temperature stable and would be at the top of my list if you shoot often in changing conditions. N565 has also been very stable in my testing but is still relatively new. H1000 is the easy button for the 6.5 PRC and 156 Berger combination. If you want more performance and are willing to do some testing, RL26 and N565 are great performers.
6.5 PRC Primers
For primers, we have found CCI BR2s and Federal 210Ms to work very well, with most rifles preferring the 210M. I would suggest picking one and doing load development. Most likely, you will find a great load. If it does not meet expectations, go with the other and do some tweaking around the best node from the other primer.
6.5 PRC Load Data
The two bullets I have the most experience with are the Hornady 147 and the Berger 156. Both are incredibly easy to tune. For the 147, I would start with 56.0 grains of H1000 and the bullet seated at a COAL of .040” off the lands in a SAAMI chamber and work up. I would expect accuracy in the 58-grain range. Watch for pressure, as different cases and lots of powder can have huge effects. Once you find the powder node, you can tweak seating depth.
For the 156 Berger, I would start with the bullet .025 off the lands and 56 grains of N565 or H1000, and work up. I would expect to find accuracy around 58 grains with both powders. We have had great luck .025” off the lands, but every rifle is different, so I would do a seating depth test with the most accurate powder charge. If you want to use RL26 with the 156 Berger, I would start at 54 grains and work up. I would expect accuracy around 55.5 grains. Keep in mind different brass brands have different case capacities and will affect your loads. You can see the difference in the chart below, as well as how the PRC compares to the 6.5×284 and the 6.5 SAUM.
Any good set of reloading dies will work, but we have come to prefer full-length “S” bushing dies with a micrometer seater. Redding dies have become our preference. Hornady makes a great set of bushing dies with a micrometer seater, often at half the cost. Both have made great consistent ammo. We will have a video on our YouTube channel discussing the different dies and why you might choose one over another.
Factory Rifles Chambered In 6.5 PRC
For those looking at factory rifles chambered in 6.5 PRC, there are quite a few we can recommend, and the number is growing. Christensen Arms makes many great models chambered in 6.5 PRC, and one of them will surely fit your needs. We have shot many different models in various chamberings, and all have exceeded expectations. These rifles give a near-custom performance at a fraction of the cost.
Fierce offers multiple models that would suit the needs of most as well. I have shot the Edge models and the Rival. Both are great if they are within your budget.
Bergara also offers several great rifles chambered in 6.5 PRC. While we have no personal experience with these rifles, they are building a great reputation.
Browning is also making some great factory rifles these days and has always had a great reputation.
The Nosler M48 is another great rifle with great parts but has been stuck in the old design cycle. They have recently announced they will be chambering certain rifles in 6.5 PRC. Don’t overlook them when shopping for your next 6.5 PRC.
Savage has long been known for making very well-priced accurate rifles, and they have jumped on the 6.5 PRC bandwagon. These would be a great option for someone on a budget.
If a custom 6.5 PRC is what you are after, there are almost an infinite amount of options. Take a look at our sponsor page. There are a few great rifle builder and gunsmith options. We also have some sponsors that make great components. Whether you are looking for a turnkey custom or you want to collect the parts and have one built, our sponsors have you covered.
The 6.5 PRC meets the needs of many potential users. It can serve as a hotrod with lighter bullets in competitions for those wanting better ballistics. Or, as a long-range hunter with larger bullets for deer and antelope-sized game. It is at the top of the list with a select few for the best overall long-range cartridge for anything in North America smaller than elk. The 6.5 PRC would be right at home hunting plains game in Africa.
It does well in a properly setup short action, although can be optimized with a medium or long action. The current availability of great factory ammunition options makes it very attractive to those who do not reload, and the great SAAMI design makes it an easy button for those wanting to build a custom rifle. The 6.5 PRC is one of the best options for those who demand performance without the added recoil of a larger caliber. The popularity of this cartridge is through the roof and continues to grow. I do not see this cartridge going anywhere in the foreseeable future. If you’re trying to decide on a high-performing, relatively low recoil option for your next build, you need to consider the 6.5 PRC.
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