6mm Creedmoor: Best Predator Round Yet?

The 6mm Creedmoor was born to privilege, is cosmetically perfect and claims PRS championships at distance. But it hasn’t yet trumped the .243 afield!

6mm Creedmoor: Best Predator Round Yet?

Close coyotes and treed cats have tumbled to .22 rimfires – and to a host of centerfire loads, from the .25-20 to the magnums of elk hunters meeting predators by chance. Short months ago, a black-backed jackal flipped by a .300 WSM brought to mind my first red fox, taken with buckshot. 

For those who hunt predators, getting “just the right load” matters because 1) it will, by all logic, deliver the most kills and 2) it becomes a sport unto itself, a pursuit much like pursuit of game. There’s snob appeal to having a perfect anything. It implies you have sophisticated taste, an expert’s grasp of the details that distinguish the best from the adequate, an understanding of the esoteric. Sifting cartridges and components, you’re trophy hunting. 

More power to you. I’ve lavished countless hours and dollars on such quests. Still do.

Predator hunting includes short shooting and long at schnauzer-size game and beasts big enough to take yearling steers. One cartridge won’t excel at every task, but versatility is a virtue. Say you hunt in hilly, half-brushy, sometimes-windy country that can yield tight shots in thickets and quarter-mile pokes – country where you might also want to use a coyote rifle on big game.

Calling or simply glassing, you’ll want a flat-shooting, factory-loaded cartridge of mild recoil that fits short rifle actions but can hurl long, ballistically efficient bullets. It’ll have enough moxie for deer and for the black bear that lumbers up to your call. It will meet legal requirements for same.

“Right now, I am messing around with the 6mms [specifically] a .243 Rock Chucker…I think there’s [promise] in the 6mms and wouldn’t fall over dead if sometime there were a commercial cartridge using that bullet diameter…”

That note to R.T. Davis at MGS Bullets was written by Field & Stream shooting editor Warren Page in 1953, two years before the debut of the .243 Winchester and .244 Remington. 

Let's Jump Ahead

Fast-forward with me. Not long ago, Hornady announced its 6mm Creedmoor, spawn of the 6.5 that’s zoomed to stardom faster than the .270 did nigh a century ago. The latest in a rather spare line of 6s that’s grown mainly in the rarified air of Benchrest and Precision Rifle shooting, the new Creedmoor has the profile and ballistic zip of a hunting cartridge. 

Its roots pre-date the 1950s, though 6mms had little support in the early years of bolt rifles. In 1912, Charles Newton had just come up with the .22 High Power, a hotrod that might have inspired a friskier 6mm than the .236 Navy (6mm Lee Navy, for Lee straight-pull rifles beginning in 1895). At 2,560 fps, the .236’s 112-grain round-nose bullet raised no one’s pulse, even then. It found redemption as parent for the .220 Swift in 1935. Newton shrugged off that case and the prospects of a new 6mm, and designed a rimless .25 that sent 87-grain spitzers at 3,000 fps. Savage called it the .250-3000.

The Brits gave 6s more attention. In the 1920s, Holland and Holland introduced the .240 Flanged (rimmed) Nitro Express and .240 Belted Nitro Express, or .240 Apex. They fired 100-grain .245-diameter bullets at 2,900 and 3,000 fps, respectively. Two years before the 1923 debut of the .242 Vickers Rimless Nitro Express (100-grain .249 bullets at 2,800 fps), Purdey fielded the .246 Flanged with 100-grain .253 bullets at 2,950. In Germany, Halbe and Gerlich made rimmed and rimless versions of the .244 Halger, a necked-down 6.5x57 claimed to drive 87-grain .243 spitzers at 3,700 fps! Holland’s .244 H&H Magnum on its leggy .300 case would later accelerate 100-grain .244 bullets to 3,500.

Stateside after WW II, wildcatters used .243-diameter bullets to chase high velocities. The 6mm International on the .250-3000, and Fred Huntington’s .243 Rockchucker on .257 Roberts brass are best-known. In the ’50s Warren Page and Remington’s Mike Walker came up with the sharp-shouldered .243 Page Pooper on the new .308 Winchester hull. Walker used .222 Remington Magnum brass for his 6x47.

Winchester fashioned its .243 after Page’s Pooper, but with the .308’s original 20-degree shoulder. Factory loads featured 80- and 100-grain bullets. Remington’s .244, on the longer .257 Roberts hull (26-degree shoulder), used 75- and 90-grain bullets. That disparity in bullet weights between the .243 and .244 means nothing afield, but it reflected differences in thinking that would prove decisive at market. 

Barrels in .243 had 1:10-inch rifling, those in .244, 1:12. The faster spin, wrote the scribes, best stabilized bullets heavy enough for deer hunting. The market pendulum swung in favor of the dual-purpose .243. (The 1:12-inch twist in 722 Remingtons worked fine with most 100-grain bullets. Certainly mine did!) But Remington conceded error, trotting out a “new” 6mm in 1963. Actually, it was the .244 with a different headstamp. Barrels marked “6mm Rem” had 1:9-inch rifling. Ballistically, the .243 and 6mm are twins. 

The .243, Still Popular

Six decades later, the .243 is still wildly popular. A growing range of excellent bullets and factory loads, and chambering in a broad selection of rifles, add to the appeal of light recoil and flat trajectories.

The 6mm Remington has languished, partly because of its late start, partly due to its lineage. The .257 Roberts is essentially a necked-down 7x57, Paul Mauser’s fine 1892 round that got instant traction in military circles, then earned plaudits on game fields worldwide. Mauser’s ’98 action was originally built for 2.24-inch (57mm) cases loaded to 3.06 inches overall length. Modern long (or “standard”) actions got their dimensions from the .30-06, OAL 3.34. Short actions are most comfy with cartridges derived from the .308, OALs around 2.80 inches. The .243’s hull measures 2.05, so keeping OAL to 2.80 is easy. The 6mm has a 2.23-inch hull, so bullets must be seated deep to clear short-action magazines. 

The 6mm Creedmoor case mikes 1.92 inches, same as its parent 6.5. Based on the .30 T/C, both were given a short torso so the long bullets most efficient at distance could be seated in a neck of normal length without bringing the ogive below the case mouth. The 6mm Creedmoor fits short actions perfectly. 

Precision Rifle competition gave the 6mm Creedmoor its first airing, though hunters as well as target shooters no doubt thought about a 6 on the 6.5 Creedmoor case. Among the first it seems was John Snow, who writes about firearms for Outdoor Life. A recent survey of PRC enthusiasts showed more than 85 percent of them using a 6mm. In popularity, the 6mm Creedmoor almost matched the Dasher, one of several PR rounds on the 6mm BR case. In fact, 47 percent of respondents used either the Creedmoor or the Dasher! As to velocity, a 20-percent edge in case capacity favors the Creedmoor over the squat BR clan. But all hurl long bullets fast enough for long-range hits, and shooters have found short cases deliver the consistency they covet.

Hornady loads this 6mm with 103-grain ELD-X and 108-grain ELD Match bullets at 3,050 and 2,960 fps, respectively. Downrange performance is very similar (500-yard energy differs by 7 ft./lbs., 500-yard drop by 2 inches!). There’s also an 87-grain V-Max exiting at 3,210 fps and landing almost on top of the Match bullet at 500 yards. At four-figure distance, long bullets that leak velocity slowly have a decided edge. With such missiles, the 6mm Creedmoor stays supersonic past 1,300 yards, with 143-grainers from the 6.5 Creedmoor and 190s from the .308. 

If, like me, you detest recoil, the 6 is the clear choice!

Factory loads from other quarters appeared soon. Lapua lists brass. Rifles came lickety-split, as no action work is needed to make a 6.5 Creedmoor into a 6mm. With its long-range loads, this 6mm requires fast-twist rifling. Ruger’s RPR is rifled 1:7.7-inch. Slower twist will suffice for bullets commonly used in .243s. Conventional wisdom holds that it’s better to spin a bullet a bit too fast than too slow.

My introduction to the 6mm Creedmoor came on an indoor range where a charitable soul handed me a beautifully built competition rifle with a Proof Research barrel. “It’s on paper at 100. Light trigger. Aim small.” The computer screen registered just one hole after my first two shots. A third hardly enlarged it. No fool, I laid the rifle down. But my host would have none of it. “Two more.” Reluctantly I fired a fourth. It egged the hole; a fifth stayed with the original three. The group measured just over 0.2-inch. 

Now, these were handloads carefully assembled, fired in a rifle a bit awkward for the hills. While my old, un-tuned Savage .243 hasn’t yet shot 0.2-something, it routinely prints into 0.7, tighter than needed for foxes and coyotes.

For Predators, Which is Best?

Is the 6mm Creedmoor a better predator round than the .243?

In my view, yes, because it’s more efficient, better able to handle long bullets, a little less violent and, well, prettier. But that’s a snob’s view of the Creedmoor’s case as much as a fair appraisal of performance. Its ballistic chops show at distance, not normal hunting ranges and then only with bullets designed for long shots. 

The Creedmoor won’t soon be available in the plethora of loads that bless the .243, or chambered in nearly as many rifles. Beyond the .243, though, I can’t think of a 6mm to match this new Hornady cartridge. Target rounds on the 6mm BR hull and those of similar form weren’t designed to feed like sausages through hunting rifles. Ditto the .243 WSSM. The 6x47 is excellent, but not as spunky as the Creedmoor, and essentially unavailable in factory loads. The .240 Weatherby, a veritable bolt of lightning, begs a long action. It snorts and bucks too. 

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