Review: Hornady 6.5 PRC Cartridge

posted on February 27, 2018

To capitalize on the current interest in long-range shooting, Hornady has introduced what might be its best long-range cartridge yet, the new Hornady 6.5 PRC.

Sniper-like shooting skills have impressed us since the dawn of the rifle. That alone was enough to drive moviegoers to see the film “American Sniper.” And, combined with the story of Chris Kyle’s patriotism, devotion to duty and premature death made the movie a blockbuster. It was also an anthem to the American soldier. War is hell, coming home is hell and living with the war you fought is hell. “American Sniper” conveyed that message, one our veterans have known since 1776.

More importantly, when the movie was released America was in dire need of a hero. Our political elite, sports stars and entertainers, aren’t a shadow of the hard men who forged this country, or men like Kyle who protect it today. At heart, Americans are cowboys, and Kyle was an average American cowboy who, like countless other average Americans, heeded the call. The movie reminded us what a hero really was and how badly we missed having one around.

The portrayal of Kyle gave us the new millennium’s John Wayne, and to connect with him, Americans responded by emulating his craft. Suddenly, everyone wanted a precision rifle, the related gear, and the requisite skill to hit at 1,000 yards. This was first manifested in the rise of the 6.5 Creedmoor, a cartridge introduced seven years before the film. As interest in “going long” peaked, shooters realized its virtues and as the film left box offices, “the Creed” became the cartridge of the future.

Shooting trends come and go and long-range shooting is what’s hot. What's helping that trend is the Hornady 6.5 PRC, a cartridge expressly built to be the ideal long-range—shoot the cents off a nickel—cartridge. It’s based on the 300 RCM (Ruger Compact Magnum) so it holds more powder than the Creedmoor. The two initial Hornady loads are a 147-grain ELD Match bullet at 2,910 fps and a 143-grain ELD-X bullet at 2,960 fps. With a 100-yard zero, drop at 1,000 yards will only be about 24.5 MOA. And, bullets will impact in less than 1.40 seconds, with a retained velocity of more than 1,600 fps. The 6.5 PRC remains supersonic beyond 1,300 yards.

By comparison, at 1,000 yards the Hornady 6.5 PRC is traveling 5 percent faster than a .300 Win. Mag. But, the amazing statistic is that the 6.5 PRC does this with only about 68 percent of a.300 Win. Mag.’s recoil. As riflemen know, the harder a rifle kicks, the harder it is to shoot with precision. You can shoot more rounds from a 6.5 PRC and enjoy better-than-.300 Win. Mag. performance while experiencing less fatigue.

A magnum-powered 6.5 mm cartridge is nothing new, so you might be wondering why Hornady didn’t just load the 6.5 Rem. Mag., .264 Win. Mag. or the 6.5-284 Norma with modern bullets. As simple as the answer is, it’s also mildly complex. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) sets specifications for commercial rifles. For the older 6.5s, the stipulated twist rate is too slow to handle the modern, high BC, 6.5 mm bullets. These older cartridges are also flawed with features like a short neck, a rebated rim or a belted case. Yes, from a velocity standpoint, the Hornady 6.5 PRC is similar to these cartridges. But, with the proper twist rate and chamber dimensions that are compatible with modern bullets, the 6.5 PRC is clearly superior. This is an aspect of new cartridges often overlooked by consumers afflicted with neophobia, and who think there’s nothing new under the sun.

I tested two Hornady 6.5 PRC rifles; one built by Proof Research and the other by Gunwerks. The first thing I noticed was the limited recoil. The second was that the cartridge performed as advertised. Average velocities with factory ammo were higher than Hornady’s numbers, trajectories were flatter than Kansas and you could cover every 100-yard, five-shot group with a nickel. By combining things long-range shooters like to tout, such as a 30-degree shoulder, a longer-than-caliber case neck and a pressure curve that will not fry a barrel in a couple thousand rounds, the 6.5 PRC has lots going for it.

Admittedly, the 6.5 Creedmoor is all the long-range cartridge most of us can appreciate. But, for those with the skill, drive and determination to reach out as far as they can, the Hornady 6.5 PRC is a better option. Still, it will never be as popular as the 6.5 Creedmoor looks to become. This is partly because “the Creed” has a running start, partly because it has a cooler name and partly because few shooters have the skill to realize its limitations. None of this changes the fact that there’s at least a veiled (if not obvious) connection between the “American Sniper” movie, the current long-range, precision-shooting frenzy and the 6.5 PRC.

I’ve shot a lot of 6.5 Creedmoor rifles, but I don’t own one. I will be getting a Hornady 6.5 PRC, because it offers the best balance between long-range performance and recoil of any cartridge currently available; it’s the high-performance 6.5 mm cartridge many have dreamed of. I may not have the skill to take it to its limits and I’m no American sniper. What I am is an American rifleman, and like most Americans, I have a little bit of cowboy in me. And, like with any real cowboy, no range is too far to ride.


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