Six-Five Smackdown: The .260 Remington vs. 6.5×55 Swedish
The .260 Remington and the 6.5×55 Swedish (aka 6,5x55mm SE) are both very popular cartridges with hunters and target shooters. The 6.5×55 has a long military heritage and a great record as a hunting round. The .260 Rem, essentially a .308 Win necked down to .264 caliber, is a more recent cartridge, but it grows in popularity every year, being one of the top cartridges for tactical/practical competitions. It offers better ballistics and less recoil than the parent .308 Win cartridge. In our Shooter’s Forum, respected UK gun writer Laurie Holland provided a good summary of the differences between the two chamberings. Laurie writes:
The 6.5×55 case has 6 or 7% more capacity than the .260s, even more in practice when both are loaded to standard COALs with heavy bullets, which sees them having to seated very deep in the .260 Rem using up quite a lot of powder capacity. So loaded up for reasonable pressures in modern actions, the 6.5×55 will give a bit more performance.
The issue for many is what action length is available or wanted, the 6.5×55 requiring a long action. So sniper rifle / tactical rifle competitors will go for the .260 Rem with the option of the many good short-bolt-throw designs around with detachable box magazines (DBMs). If a bit more performance is needed, the .260 AI (photo right) can yield another 100-150 fps velocity, depending on bullet weight.
Brass-wise, you’ve got really good Lapua 6.5×55 off the shelf that needs minimum preparation, and it’s strong and long-lived. [Editor: And now Lapua offers strong, high quality .260 Rem brass that’s every bit as good as Lapua’s 6.5×55 brass. Norma offers quality .260 Rem brass also. Both foreign brands are far better than the old Remington-brand .260 Rem brass.]
For purely target shooting, I think I’d go with 6.5×55 if I was making the choice again today for performance and brass-preparation reasons. In fact, I’ve considered going back to the gunsmith to have the barrel rechambered.
You want a multi-purpose rifle though and that makes things trickier depending on the bullet weight(s) you want to use. The [typical] 6.5×55 and 6.5-08 throats are really designed for 140s, so 90-120s make a long jump into the rifling. If you’re always going to use 130s and up, it’s less of an issue. If you want to use the lighter stuff, I’d say go for .260 Rem and discuss the reamer with the gunsmith to come up with as good a compromise as you can depending on the mix of shooting. 1:8.5″ twist is the norm and handles all the usual sporting and match bullets; you can go for a little slower twist if you won’t use the heavies.
Over here in the UK, in Scotland to be precise, we have a top sporting rifle builder (Callum Ferguson of Precision Rifle Services) who almost specializes in .260 Rem usually built on Borden actions. He throats the barrel ‘short’ so it’s suited to varmint bullets, but will still handle the 100gr Nosler Partition which he says is more than adequate for any British deer species including Scottish red stags.
Accuracy-wise, I don’t think there’s anything between them if everything else is equal. The 6.5 has a reputation for superlative accuracy, but that was high-quality Swedish military rifles and ammunition matched against often not-so-high-quality military stuff from elsewhere. Put the pair in custom rifles and use equally good brass and bullets and you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart.” – Laurie Holland
After Laurie’s helpful comments, some other Forum members added their insights on the .260 Rem vs. 6.5×55 question:
“To me, the .260 Remington has no advantage over the 6.5×55 if one is going to use a long action. Likewise, the only advantage the .260 has in a modern rifle is it can be used in a short-action. There is more powder capacity in the 6.5×55 so you have the potential to get more velocity plus there is a lot of reloading data available to you for loading at lower velocity/pressure if you choose. The Lapua brass is great and Winchester brass is pretty good at low pressures. Having loaded a good bit for both, the 6.5×55 would always get the nod from me. To me, if someone wants to use a short-action, the 6.5×47 Lapua is even a better option than the .260 for a target rifle.” — Olympian
“There is just one small item that has been missing from this conversation — the 6.5×55 has a non-standard rim diameter of .479″ vs. the standard .473″ of a .308 and all of its variants. Depending on your bolt this may be an issue, or it may not.” — Neil L.
Other 6.5mm Contenders: 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .260 Rem
by Laurie Holland
Since I wrote those words some time back, I’ve acquired the three small contenders – .260 Rem, 6.5X47L, and most recently the 6.5mm Hornady Creedmoor and started doing load development and comparative tests. All three rifles have match-length barrels (28 or 30-inch 1:8s) — two NZ True-Flites and on the .260, a 30-inch 5R Bartlein.
How the barrel is throated is a key issue with this trio. In my case, I have always had the feeling that the .260 Rem and 6.x5x47L are at their best with 120-130 grain bullets and both have been chambered to suit the 123gr Scenar seated optimally. Both shoot this bullet fantastically well at getting on for 3,000 fps using Vihtavuori N150. I’m constantly amazed by this bullet’s external ballistics performance at up to 900 yards. I’ve yet to try it at 1,000. No, you won’t stand up to someone shooting a 7 WSM or .284 Shehane with 180gr Hybrids or VLDs at 900 or 1,000 in rough conditions in an F-Open match, but that applies to the 6.5-284 too.
I’m very taken with all three cartridges. The 6.5×47 Lapua is an outstanding mid-range number IMHO. The .260 a good all-rounder. But I have a ‘feeling’ that I am going to end up very fond of the Creedmoor and can understand its tremendous success in the USA. Over here in the UK, it barely registers with target shooters, and I doubt if at all with what US shooters call ‘hunters’, we call ‘deerstalkers’. Fortunately, I was able to get 300 pieces of Hornady brass a couple of years ago, but we can get very strong Lapua .22-250 Rem cases here easily and they can be necked-up / fire-formed albeit to produce a slightly short-necked 6.5 HCM.”
- The Great Debate: .260 Rem vs. 6.5×55 — Which Is Better?
- 260 Rem vs. 6.5×55 — Laurie Holland Compares the Cartridges
- Which is Better: .260 Remington or 6.5×55 Swedish?
- June Issue of Target Shooter Magazine
- Lapua Now Offers 6.5 Creedmoor Cartridge Brass