There is no doubt that the 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum hold a place among the best long range cartridges ever developed. Both are well-known for producing exceptional accuracy, flatter-than-pancake trajectories, and terminal performance effective for most of the big game species roaming the North American continent.
Although both cartridges deliver impressive long-range accuracy, there are some major differences between these two powerful marathoners. Which is better is largely a matter of personal opinion. Both have their own loyal following, and more than one friendship has been shattered arguing the virtues of each.
Related: Best Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor
A Brief History Lesson
Before we get into performance, let’s take a quick look at the origins of these two high-performance cartridges.
6.5 Creedmoor – Home on the Range
Although developed by Hornady, the 6.5 Creedmoor is named for Creedmoor Sports. Introduced in 2007, this relatively new cartridge quickly became a favorite of precision rifle shooters across the United States.
The cartridge was designed specifically for match shooting and is the brainchild of competition shooter, Dennis DeMille and Hornady’s senior ballistician, David Emary. The goal was to create the ultimate cartridge for across-the-course shooting. The new cartridge needed to be magazine length and produce light recoil for rapid-fire strings. It also needed to produce a flat trajectory with high B.C. projectiles and use readily available components.
The 6.5 Creedmoor met every single criteria.
Today, the cartridge has crossed competition boundaries to become a favorite of big game hunters. And it performs just as well on the open range as it does on the target range. As far as long range rifles are concerned, this cartridge delivers both distance and knockdown power exceptionally well.
.300 Winchester Magnum – Big Results on Big Game
Winchester first introduced the belted .300 Win Mag cartridge in 1963. It quickly gained a loyal following with serious big game hunters as well as competition target shooters.
Built to pack a whole lot of performance into a standard-length action, Winchester started with a .338 Win Mag case, then expanded it slightly to have less taper. Once shortened and necked down, the case could accept a .30 caliber projectile. The result is a velocity increase of nearly 300 fps and 20 percent more energy compared to the .30-06 Springfield (perhaps the most popular big game cartridge in the U.S.).
Because the .300 Win Mag sends bullets downrange at almost obnoxious velocities, it is one of the flattest shooting factory produced cartridges regularly available.
High speed often translates into precision accuracy, and it certainly does for the .300 Win Mag. It also makes a great all-around hunting load for all but the planet’s largest, most dangerous game. The country’s military and law enforcement forces have also commonly used the .300 Win Mag as a sniping cartridge, just in case you doubted its capabilities as a long-range precision cartridge.
Related: Best .300 Win Mags
Comparing the 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum
While both these cartridges offer some serious long-range accuracy, there are some inherent differences. Let’s see how they match up in a few key categories.
6.5 Creedmoor cartridges feature projectiles that measure 6.72 mm (.2644 inches). Bullets commonly weigh between 120 and 140 grains. The cartridge itself measures 2.825 inches. The decreased length allows 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges to be used in rifles with shorter bolt actions.
In comparison, .300 Win Mag projectiles are larger, measuring .308 inches or 7.8 mm. Most .300 Win Mag bullets weigh somewhere between 165 and 220 grains. The cartridge is 3.34 inches long and requires a longer action compared to 6.5 Creedmoor.
Related: Best Scopes for .300 Win Mag
Ballistics and Energy
While there are many factors that influence ballistic performance (including the specific firearm and ammunition used), you can expect the 6.5 Creedmoor to deliver an average muzzle velocity of around 2850 feet per second.
On the other hand, .300 Win Mag drives heavier bullets at velocities that often push 3000 fps. These larger, heavier, faster moving projectiles will create larger wound channels with more extensive tissue damage. Heavier, fast-moving objects also carry more kinetic energy, meaning .300 Win Mag will drive bullets deeper and transfer more terminal energy into the target.
In terms of lethality, .300 Winchester Magnum will outperform 6.5 Creedmoor practically every time.
There is no arguing that both the .300 Win Mag and 6.5 Creedmoor are scary accurate. If you’re searching for long-range accuracy, both cartridges deliver. However, in the hands of an average shooter, when fired from a quality factory firearm, the difference in precision accuracy will be difficult to measure.
Remember, the 6.5 Creedmoor was developed specifically for precision target shooting, where fractions of an inch can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Emary and DeMille chose a 6.5 mm projectile for their cartridge design, because many serious competition shooters feel this diameter provides the optimal ballistic coefficient and sectional density. Many precision shooters believe 6.5 mm bullets sit in the sweet spot that produces top-notch downrange accuracy.
This doesn’t mean we should disregard the long range capacity of the .300 Win Mag. There’s a reason this cartridge is a favorite of long range benchrest shooters, snipers, and hunters. When you boil it down to slow gravy, the .300 Win Mag shoots a big bullet fast. This means you’ll need only minimal compensation at standard shooting distances, making it practical for hunters who won’t always know the exact distance.
The heavier weight of the projectile also means the .300 Win Mag resists wind drift better than the 6.5 Creedmoor. Since we don’t often shoot in sterile environments, this is an important factor to consider, especially if you find yourself in heavy wind or shooting targets beyond 1500 yards.
.300 WInchester Magnum has a reputation as a heavy hitter in the recoil department. Even its devoted followers will admit the thing “kicks like a mule.” Some shooters will consider the recoil the necessary price for the cartridge’s performance. However, excessive recoil can affect accuracy, particularly the accuracy of follow-up shots. It also doesn’t make high-volume practice particularly enjoyable, especially for smaller shooters.
Meanwhile, the 6.5 Creedmoor was designed to produce minimal recoil. Some shooters have described this cartridge as one that produces all the terminal performance of the .30-06 Springfield, but without the sore shoulder. If you want to kill targets without feeling like you’ll die due to excessive recoil, 6.5 Creedmoor is just plain fun to shoot. Even a full day at the range won’t take a major toll on your shoulder.
We have to declare the 6.5 Creedmoor the clear winner in this category.
Discussing the cost of ammunition is a sticky subject. While some shooters place a high priority on price, others simply don’t care. For them, performance is the number one issue.
When comparing prices of comparable loads, you can expect to spend at least a few cents more per round on .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition. However, for some high-performance loads, the cost difference can be as large as 50 cents more per cartridge. High volume target shooters will save some serious cash by choosing 6.5 Creedmoor.
Big game hunting doesn’t generally involve high-volume shooting, so savings on hunting ammo will be minimal. If you plan to shoot large game like elk or moose, the extra cost of .300 Win Mag is probably worth the investment.
Summing It Up
The 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 Winchester Magnum are both flat shooting cartridges. If we only look at long-range accuracy, choosing one over the other is near impossible.
For hunting, both are excellent choices for whitetails and other medium game. For deer, feral hogs, or black bear at ranges within 200 yards, you won’t see much difference between the two.
With proper shot placement and ammo featuring bonded, expanding bullets, both can even work for elk, at least at reasonable ranges. However, if you want to bring down the big boys at extreme distances, you’ll want a rifle loaded with .300 Win Mag.