I have been hearing this question more and more lately, and as an old faithful .308 Winchester fan, the answer was obvious. But a wise man once said, “Knowing that one may be subjected to his own bias is one thing, being able to correct it is another.” So admittedly, I am (as everyone else) subject to my own bias, but let’s see if I can correct it, and find out which caliber is better, .308 Winchester or .308 Creedmoor?
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a better cartridge in almost every aspect. It demonstrates superior ballistics, maintaining supersonic velocity 20% further than the .308 Winchester, resulting in less bullet drop, making it a flatter shooting cartridge. The 6.5 also has higher kinetic energy at ranges further than 500 yards than the .308.
The 6.5 is also lighter recoiling making it more pleasant to shoot, and is for the most part equal in cost and availability compared to the .308.
OK, this is my belated spoiler alert. But if you have read any of my other articles, you’ll know that I don’t like to make you read all the way to the end to discover the outcome of my research.
Now, I know what you are thinking – “Not so fast, you have to prove those claims”. Well, of course, and I invite you to read on as I go through each aspect of both calibers to substantiate why the 6.5 Creedmoor is a better cartridge than the .308 Winchester, starting with ballistics.
.308 vs 6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics
.308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor both have their strengths and weaknesses. It is essential to keep in mind what you intend on doing the most when deciding between .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor. I have run the data through a ballistics calculator to calculate the velocity and energy of each bullet at every 100 yards so that we can see where each caliber outshines the other. The bullets used for this chart were the .308 Win, 168gr Sierra Matchking with a muzzle velocity of 2,650 feet per second. For the 6.5 Creedmoor, I also used the Sierra Matchking 140gr bullet fired at 2,710 feet per second.
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor ballistics chart
|.308 Winchester |
(168gr @ 2650 fps)
(140gr @ 2,710 fps)
|1000||1,156 (Transonic limit)||499||-421||1,317||539||-358|
|1200||1,027||393||-722||1,150 (Transonic Limit)||411||-602|
.308 Winchester vs 6.5 Creedmoor Velocity
If you are looking to get into long-range precision shooting, this is where you need to pay attention.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is inherently more than the .308 at distances further than around 1,000 yards. Why? Depending on the weather and the exact load data, a .308 Winchester bullet only maintains supersonic speeds (faster than the speed of sound) out to around 1,000, where it enters into a transonic stage (the transition between supersonic to subsonic). When a bullet is in this transition, it becomes unstable and unpredictable, negatively affecting its accuracy.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a transonic range of around 1,250 yards. That means the 6.5 Creedmoor can maintain stability (accuracy) 25% further than the .308 Winchester. Some long-range shooters have been known to load custom ammo with enough velocity to extend this transonic range to around 1,400 yards, 40% further than the .308!
For the purpose of long-range precision shooting, 6.5 Creedmoor is going to give you much more bang for your buck in terms of accuracy at a distance.
How far can the .308 shoot accurately?
Depending on the atmospherics, a.308 Winchester bullet with a BC of 0.463 (B1), weighing 168gr and fired at 2,650 fps, decelerates from supersonic velocity to subsonic at around 1,000. As soon as the bullet travels below the speed of sound (approximately 1,125 fps), it becomes unstable. This determines the bullet’s maximum transonic range and is essentially the maximum range the bullet can travel accurately.
In layman’s terms, the .308 Winchester can shoot accurately out to around 1,000 yards.
How far can 6.5 Creedmoor shoot accurately?
A 6.5 Creedmoor bullet with a BC of 0.535 (B1) and weight of 140gr fired at 2,710 fps will maintain supersonic velocity out to around 1,200 yards. This means the 6.5 Creedmoor can reach 1,200 yards accurately.
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor Energy
The one ballistic advantage the .308 has over the 6.5 is its higher kinetic energy. Higher kinetic energy is favorable to most hunters because it can take down animals more quickly and ethically. However, this advantage is short-lived the instant you push the .308 to longer distances.
The .308 has about 11% more kinetic energy than the 6.5 at distances less than 500 yards. When you are shooting further than 500 yards, the 6.5 will start to outshine the .308 in every department, including kinetic energy, as the .308 rapidly loses energy at a distance because of its lower ballistic coefficient than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
That does not mean that you can’t hunt with the 6.5 Creedmoor. In fact, with good shot placement and an excellent penetrating bullet, the 6.5 can take down just about anything that the .308 can.
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor Bullet Drop (Elevation)
Elevation, or bullet drop, is another essential factor when it comes to long-range precision shooting. A flatter shooting bullet is going to make the adjustments in your scope turrets easier. A rifle scope has a limited amount of adjustment, so a flatter shooting bullet such as the 6.5 Creedmoor is going to allow you to reach further with the limited adjustment in your scope, compared to the .308 Winchester that has more bullet drop.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has around 358 inches of bullet drop at 1,000 yards, compared to 421 inches for the .308. That means the .308 has approximately 17% more bullet drop at 1,000 yards!
If you are a long-range precision shooter, the odds are stacked against the .308 Winchester when the 6.5 Creedmoor is an option. So far, it has proved better velocity at the muzzle and downrange, better-retained energy at a distance, and proves to be flatter shooting than the .308 Winchester.
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor availability (and cost)
The availability and cost of these cartridges are going to vary drastically from one area to another. But for the sake of comparing apples to apples, let’s use online prices as a baseline to determine which is more affordable.
20 cartridges of Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing 6.5 Creedmoor will cost you $37.99, while 20 cartridges of Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing .308 Win costs $36.99. The .308 Winchester will save you around $1 per 20 rounds, which is not much in the grand scheme of things. Availability is where .308 has the advantage of being readily available as one of the most common military and civilian rounds globally.
However, 6.5 Creedmoor is getting more and more popular in sports shooting and even in the military. In fact, SOCOM is considering switching all their designated marksman and sniper rifles from .308 to 6.5 Creedmoor.
That means that it is quite possible that in a few years, 6.5 Creedmoor will be more available than our beloved .308 Winchester. And, when availability increases, price decreases. So even though 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t necessarily the cheapest and most available cartridge, it might be shortly.
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor Recoil
We have already established that the 6.5 Creedmoor has a longer supersonic range. It retains more energy than the .308 Winchester at ranges further than 500 yards, has less bullet drop, further increasing the shoot-able range of the cartridge. But it doesn’t end there.
6.5 Creedmoor has around 36% less recoil energy than a .308 Winchester when fired out of a rifle of the same weight. The 6.5 Creedmoor fired out of an 8lb rifle produces around 11.93 ft/lbs of “free recoil energy,” where a .308 Winchester fired out of the same weight rifle has about 15.86 ft/lbs.
While neither of these cartridges is particularly heavy recoiling, especially when compared to magnum cartridges. Any saving on recoil will certainly make shooting more pleasant, especially for the ladies and young ones. Combine this saving with a good muzzle brake, and you’ll hardly notice the recoil at all!
.308 Winchester vs. 6.5 Creedmoor rifle options
In most cases, rifle options are a huge limiting factor when it comes to choosing a caliber. However, in the case of .308 Winchester vs. the 6.5 Creedmoor, any rifle that comes in one of these calibers will certainly be available in the other. So having your heart set on either the 6.5 Creedmoor or the .308 Winchester isn’t going to limit you in any way when it comes to rifle selection.
The 6.5 Creedmoor really is an incredible option when it comes to cartridge selection. It has better ballistics than the .308 Winchester, has a longer transonic range, retains more energy at ranges further than 500 yards. The higher initial and retained velocity results in less bullet drop and easier adjustments in your rifle scope, all that while being around the same price and the same availability as the .308 Winchester.
What else could you ask for? I’ll tell you. Believe it or not, despite outperforming the .308 Winchester in almost every aspect, the 6.5 Creedmoor is lighter recoiling making it more pleasant to shoot, especially for women and children.
There you have my two cents. I think the 6.5 Creedmoor certainly is better than the .308 Winchester, and that is coming from a long time .308 Winny fan, and I think the data speaks for itself.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree that the 6.5 Creedmoor is better than the .308 Winchester? If not, then why not? Let me know in the comments section below.