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LLANOJOHN 01-14-2005 07:22 PM

>> 6.5 mm -- is this the "perfect" caliber ?
Friends & Neighbors,

I would like to open a discussion with those who peruse this forum on my favorite caliber..the 6.5mm or .264 or as sometimes designated .256. I would like to discuss the bullets available, cartridge choices, achieveable velocities, case life, accuracy potential and expecially COST! Another area of discussion is varmints and game animals suitable for hunting with this caliber. There will be other thoughts as we progress in this thread that can be discussed if there should be interest.

As most of you are well aware, I am not a big fan of 'MAGNUMS' in general so I personally will not be discussing the various 6.5 mm magnums of any kind. However, that should not disuade any others from adding their *two cents worth* pro or con. My comments, if any, will be of a NEGATIVE nature at the very least.

Ol' John..;)

2ndtimer 01-15-2005 12:19 AM

For many years, I looked down on the various 6.5 mm cartridges since when you look at them in loading manuals, their ballistics seemed pretty puny beside the .270 Win, 7mm Magnum and even the 25-06. I couldn't imagine why anyone would own one. Recently I started shopping in ernest for a companion rifle to my .270WSM (Hey, I wasn't after a magnum, but had always been intrigued by the idea of a .270 bullet in a short action. And I figured if I could get an extra 300 fps over a .270 Redding with the 130 gr bullet in a factory rifle that cost about half of what a custom .270 Redding would have cost to build...) But I digress, anyway, the other rifle was intended for my younger sons aged 12 and 15 who had recently successfully completed their hunter education course and could now be licensed to hunt in the state of Washington. I needed a rifle that would be mild recoiling, yet still effective on deer sized game, and maybe even up to cow elk, should the opportunity present itself. After much hemming and hawing, and even borrowing a muzzle braked .270 win Savage Weather Warrior, a 7mm-08 Model 70 lightweight carbine, and my own .270wsm loaded with 100 gr Hornady bullets and the Hodgdon "Youth Load" charge of H-4895 and having my 15 year old test them together at the range, I came to the conclusion that none of them were really ideal for what I had in mind. I had already eliminated the 6 mm, since I wanted a heavier bullet option, so I was sort of left with the 25-06 or the 6.5x55 Swede. (Nobody seems to chamber the 257 Roberts, and my budget wouldn't allow a .257 AI to be built) But the 25-06 seemed a little too close to the 6mm in diameter, and the '06 case looked like it would hold a bit more powder than I felt should be needed for my boys, and the old Swede had lots of fervent admirers that didn't ever talk about paper ballistics, they just went on and on about how effective it was on game, even bigger game than should probably be tackled with it. I swallowed hard and had my dealer buddy order me up a Howa 1500 Lightning in 6.5x55.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't have a happy ending, at least not yet. The new Howa is perfect from a cartgridge standpoint. Minimal recoil with 120 gr handloads and the 140 gr factory loads seem equally mild. The rifle feels great shooting offhand, and is very reliable loading, chambering, firing, and extracting. The problem is just that it doesn't shoot very well. I am going to try glass bedding the action this weekend to try to fix it, but since I have never tried one before, I don't know how it will work out. My shooting buddies are all convinced that all it needs is a bedding job. Sure hope they are right, because if I could get this thing to shoot consistent 1.5 inch 3 shot groups at 100 yards off a benchrest, I would be one happy camper. Wish me luck.
But the 6.5x55 is one nice caliber, provided you can get your rifle to shoot!

Brithunter 01-15-2005 04:31 AM

Re: >> Good but not perfect, Long post with pics
Hi All,

The .256 is a wonderful size, why I have no idea:rolleyes: but it just seems to work so darned well. I of course am prejudiced having 4 of them. The thing I find amusing is the stories I see especially in American Gun rags about the "Oversize Bores" on especially European 6.5's as if it's carved in stone by God that rifling "Shall only be 0.004" deep" part of their secret I think is that the velocity of them seem to hover around that seemingly magic figure 2400fps which just happens to be the same as the .416 Rigby. It seems that this velocity gives stupendous penetration, go higher and especially on tough game you get bullet skip, lower and it does not penetrate enough. Of course that long pencil like bullet (160 Grn especially) helps a lot.

I have an absolutly beautiful classic rifle in .256" which is an antique. he action was made at Steyr in Austria in 1893, it was imported into England as a "Blocked action" the stock was semi inletted but not finish shaped as I understand it and was built up as a Best Sporting Rifle by John Rigby's of London. In all they years it has not been messed with and so it remains in the same configuration as when it left Rigby's workshops. The groove dia of the bore is 0.268" yet the land dia is 0.256" so the groove depth is 0.006" it shoots very well too. I first tried it with some original Kynoch sporting ammuntition I picked up just to check that the sighs were still in regulation, I then worked with the Hornady 160 grn bullets and reloader 19 in re-formed .303 brass and it shoots as close as I can with open Iron sights. Hmm I need to practice with irons more:rolleyes:
The Rigby.

I would love to hunt Elk with this, however the guide may not approve, friend in the US sent me an article by Ross syfried about a lady who borrowed a rifle very similar to this and she took a Cow Elk with one shot with it. Having absolutely no doubt that ti would do it with 160 grn bullets from Either Hornady or Sierra. Now the cases take a while to make as I don't know of a commercial source for them now but they seems to be almost everlasting. OK I don't shoot this much to many others to play with I suppose:o but if you eer get the chance to handle on of these Model 1892 Mannlichers, well you be amazed at how slick the bolt is, it's like it runs on glass bearings. Mannlicher did do a scope mount for these actions, I very nearly brought a rifle with one before finding this one, it was condition which decided the issue, this was in much better condition so.................

Now as with any rifle the chambering decides a lot about case life, my two rifles in the Swedish chambering have also given me very good case life. The Swedish Sprterised Mauser I have is also extremly accurate and has taken a fair number of head of our Deer both Roe and Muntjac, as it came to me the bolt was only bent down however it did not clear the scope so I cut and shut it and had it TIG welded, some time later I had a proper commercial bolt handle fitted and wish I had done it sooner. Te only trouble I ahd with cases in the 6.5x55 was a faulty set of dies which stretched the cases badley, these were replaced by the dealer I got them from. The Deer I have shot with this cartridge, being only Roe or Muntjac are only small but the terminal effects are outstanding. I shot one Roe Doe at about 90 yards using the Hornady 160 Grn bullet and it spung the poor girl about 180 degrees, she dropped on the spot. Trouble is that the offside shoulder, the exit wound was badly blood shot, so I came to the concussion that thing load was just too much for our small deer and I have been using the Speer 120 Grn or Hornady 129 Grn bullets since.
The sportersied Swedish Mauser

As I liked the cartridge so much I brought another rifle chambered for it, this time is was new one, I got hold of this Onendorf Mauser M96 Slide Bolt, it has a straight pull action and I had high hopes for it, however this rifle has prooved to be more finiky about the bullets and loads it likes. So far I have not been able to equal the accuracy of the Swedish Mauser which had dissappointed me slightly but as we have not exlored all combinations as of yet there is still hope. It's not inaccurate but it's not as good as i woudl expect or like. I have taken a few head of Deer with it including the Muntjac Buck which is mounted above my PC.
The Mauser m96 Slide Bolt.

Of course no mention of the 6.5mm can be complete without the real Classic, the 6.5x54MS and the Model 1903 Mannlicher Schoenauer which chambered it. What with that classic smooth rotary magazine distinctive butterknife bolt handle and the glass smoothness of the bolt............ well what can one say:D This was one rifle I always wanted but the trouble is the cost......... it seems everyone else wants one too:rolleyes: I finally got mine at a show at the Bisley Pavillion, it had been heavily altered in the stock and the barrel had been re-lined some time in the distant past but the rifling looked good although a bit dark. It turned out the chamber was knackered and out of shape hence the failed cases. It now has a new Steyr made barrel fitted and it shoots very well although I have not had chance to shoot it much yet. It has turned out to eb a restoration project, one which will not be cheap and take some time due to lack of finance. As yet I have not taken any Deer with this one.

Hmm thinking on this more as I wrote this, the Schoenauer I have would have done 2ndtimer perfectly once it had been re-barreled that is. The stock was shortened just for a Boy or Lady I think and recoil is neglibable to say the least especially with the 100-120 Grn bullets. That Howa or yours I would have taken it back personally. I also think that you have been better off getting a CZ American chambered in the 6.5x55 cartridge, but that's too late now. I kow just how frustrating it can be when a new rifle does not shoot properly out of the box. I have one like that which I would have sent back but the company is no longer trading, I think this one was just thrown into the stock to get it out f the door in the late days as they were being wound up:confused: Normally they had a very good reputation, it was some whizz kids who brought the firm and raped it then shut it down:confused:

LLANOJOHN 01-15-2005 10:55 AM


Originally Posted by 2ndtimer
...... I swallowed hard and had my dealer buddy order me up a Howa 1500 Lightning in 6.5x55.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't have a happy ending, at least not yet. The new Howa is perfect from a cartridge standpoint. Minimal recoil with 120 gr handloads and the 140 gr factory loads seem equally mild. The rifle feels great shooting offhand, and is very reliable loading, chambering, firing, and extracting. The problem is just that it doesn't shoot very well. I am going to try glass bedding the action this weekend to try to fix it, but since I have never tried one before, I don't know how it will work out. My shooting buddies are all convinced that all it needs is a bedding job. Sure hope they are right, because if I could get this thing to shoot consistent 1.5 inch 3 shot groups at 100 yards off a benchrest, I would be one happy camper. Wish me luck.
But the 6.5x55 is one nice caliber, provided you can get your rifle to shoot!


Yes, it is always nice when they shoot well ! I have only had a few Howa's to come thru the shop and have never glass-bedded one so I can't help you there except to say "use plenty of release agent". Be sure to check that the barrel is not touching anywhere on the barrel channel. Are you using a "proven" scope? What factory ammo are you using? What bullet and what powder? My personal hunting rifle in 6.5x55 is a CZ550 American and it really gave me fits at first. The best groups from factory ammo came from S&B 131gr..the least expensive ammo on the market but even after glassbedding I was still getting no better than 1.5", 3-shot groups. Now the 6.5x55 seems to prefer "slow" powders like H-4350 for best accuracy. Before reloading for this cartridge I checked the update in Ken Water's "Pet Loads", the best accuracy was with 120gr Nosler BT's(I will get you the 'particulars' later) To make a long story short, using the load and OAL recommended, the first 3-shot group measured...(drum roll)....0.548.....!

The factory loadings are rather "puny & weak" and that includes the Hornaday Light Magnum chronographed 200fps slower than what was advertised. The 6.5x55 really starts to shine with reloading. Keep us informed as to your results.

Ol' John...:D

PS...Brithunter......those are some fine looking "classics" you got there!..:cool:

2ndtimer 01-15-2005 02:49 PM

Thanks for the reply, Hondo. I have tried a number of handloads with 100 and 120 gr Nosler Ballistic Tips, Hornady 140 gr SP, Speer 140 gr SP, with H-4895, Reloder 19, Accurate XMR4350, Varget, and Vihtavuori N-165. I have loaded all of them in Winchester brass with Winchester Large Rifle primers.
My factory loads have been just Federal 140 gr Softpoints, and I did shoot one group with the Federal Premium 140 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet. (The Premium load actually printed a nice 1.26 inch 3 shot group) I have actually shot a few decent groups, actually putting 5 Speer 140 gr spitzers into .90 of an inch at 100 yards on one occasion, thinking I had finally found my load, 47 gr of N-165. The next time I went out it averaged around 2 1/2 inches at 100 yards. :mad: I had finally settled on a very mild load of 34.0 gr of H-4895 with the Nosler 120 gr B-Tip, since it had been averaging under 2 inches fairly consistently, then the last time I had it out, it threw up a couple of 3 inch 3 shot groups! I am going to try the glass bedding and see if it helps. One of my buddies said if it were him, he wouldn't waste any more time or components on it until then, I have to agree... Once I get it bedded, I will try some IMR-4350 and Reloder 22 with the 120 gr Nosler and Speers, and a few more with the 140 gr Speers and Hornady's. If it still won't shoot, I may just set it aside and order a Savage in .270 WSM and call it good.
edit: Scope is a Burris Fullfield II 3x9, same as I have on my Super Shadow in .270WSM, which shoots great.

LLANOJOHN 01-15-2005 03:23 PM


Good thing I no longer rely of my memory especially when it comes to reload data. Here it is.....
From Ken Waters "PET LOADS"...6.5x55 Update:
120gr Nosler Ballistic Tip...RL-22...48.0grs....IVI brass...3.01"COL....2780 fps...22"bbl, Win Model 70 using WLR primers.

For my loads I substituted Lapua brass and a COL of 2.997".

The reason I asked about the scope being "proven" is an event that happened a number of years ago. My cousin and I both purchased Weaver K-4's at the same time. His was mounted on a .270 and mine on my 6.5/06. His 270 was grouping in the .75's and my 6.5/06 was doing 1.50", for some reason I don't now remember we swapped guessed it ... my 6.5/06 groups went to about .90 and his .270 went to 1.50" groups. I sent the scope back to Weaver and told them what had transpired and received a new scope it would group .85 to .90 and all was right with the world. This event was back in the mid 1960's when the original Weaver steel scopes were available. Just an FYI................

Ol' John

PS...from what you describe above I would say that you do have a bedding problem which a properly done glassing job will rectify.

LLANOJOHN 01-15-2005 04:32 PM

First lets look at bullet availability...........


95 gr bt V-MAX, 100 gr Spire Point, 129 gr Spire Point, 129 gr Super Shock Tipped (SST), 140 gr Spire Point, 140 gr SST, and 160 gr Round Nose.


85 gr HP, 100 gr HP, 120 gr Spitzer, 140 gr Spitzer bt, 160 gr Semi-Pointed


90 gr HP-TNT, 120 gr Spitzer, 140 gr Spitzer, 140 gr Grand Slam, 140 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (25 bullets for $26.99..GASP!!!!!)


120 gr PSP Core-Lok and 140 gr PSP Core-Lok


...Partitions--100gr, 125 gr, 140 gr..........Ballistic Tips....100 gr and 120 gr.

As you can see there is a large number and types of bullets available for most any hunting purpose from varmints to Elk, Sheep, Goat and Moose.

I have left out purposely the bullets designed for competitive shooting as they will be discussed in a future post. Yes there are other bullet manufacturers ie..Swift, Barnes, Magtech, Norma, Lapua, Berger, Lost River Ballistics (box of 20 for $34.35..OUCH!!!!), and Woodleigh(50 for $26.99...I don't think so)

I am not so sure about these premium-high dollar bullets. If you think they are worth it then by all means....!

Ol' John...;) :D

Brithunter 01-15-2005 05:47 PM

Hi All,

In the sporterised Swedish mauser Speer 120 grn IMR 4350 45.5 Grns COL 3.005" WLR brass was NNY heastamped. This groups about 5/8"

Now 2nd timer if you cannot get that howa shootign right. I would not give up on the Swedish Cartridge. I really would suggest that you look at the CZ 550 American, it's a very nie rifle and as Hondo can tell you quite accurate too;) . My Model 601 did not need bedding I ahve nevr touched it just shot it but that's in .308 Win. Good luck on your quest.

LLANOJOHN 01-15-2005 06:04 PM


Yes, I really like my CZ550 American........but......let us not forget the Ruger 77MkII in 6.5x55....really, really nice......trigger is kinda cruddy but Timney makes an excellent after-market which is easily installed even with the filing necessary to get the safety to work properly.....The Ruger is still the factory rifle that fits me the best.

Ol' John

RumRunner 01-15-2005 07:54 PM

Interesting reading fellows. I have a little experience with the 6.5. However, in all fairness, I can't get too far away from my old 7x57. Consequently, that lovely little 6.5 does not get the opportunities it deserves. I did take a fairly nice, heavy Bull Elk about 10 / 12 years ago, and if better performance is desireable, I am not astute enough to know where it would have been applied.

Ol' John has picked a good one here.
Like the 7x57, it's "killing" power is far beyond that of it's paper ballistics. Someone mention earlier that the 2400fps mark held something "mystic". I agree 100%. Albeit, this may be the first time I have heard someone else voice this. My three "favorite" guns, the 6.5x55, the 7x57, and the 35 Whelen, all work in that 2400fps range.
That long bullet driven at the 2400fps velocity does indeed seem to perform some kind of magic, when compared to the magnums.

I am not a Magnum fan. I have never learned to appreciate them properly, and in all actuality, I prefer the 6.5 or 7x57 over any of the magnums I own, and I own three of them.

A fellow could do a lot worse in selecting a caliber. The main thing about this little jewell is "shootabilty", that delivers tremendous horse power where it's needed most.

The 6.5x55 was not broken, and didn't need fixin, when the Greenbox Gun Company introduced the .260....but that's progress, I suppose.

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