Budget 6.5 Creedmoor Hunting Ammunition Comparison

Whether you like it or loathe it, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has virtues that have established a cult following that continues to win new adherents. It was first developed in 2007 for long-range match shooting applications before making the jump to a big game hunting cartridge. That transition is quite the opposite of typical hunting rounds out there, where the hunting application came first followed by match loads and rifles to boot. As time marched on the demand for hunting rifles has gone up and prices for a previously niche product have come down. The same is true for the ammunition. But how cheap is too cheap when it comes to selecting a good 6.5 hunting load that won’t break the bank? To that end, I combed the GMW catalog and my local stores for the cheapest options I could find. Here is how they fared.

Winchester Super X 129-grain Power Point

When it comes to hunting cartridges, the lion’s share has the name Winchester attached it. The 6.5 Creedmoor is among a growing minority that is not. But Winchester makes a serviceable and inexpensive 6.5 Creedmoor hunting load.

The bonded jacketed soft point that is the Power Point is old tech but proven tech. This loading uses a 129-grain Power Point bullet, while most match rounds you will find have a higher ballistic coefficient and a heavier 140- to 147-grain weight. The Power Point load has an advertised muzzle velocity of 2,820 feet per second. With a 100-yard zero, this round will theoretically drop 3.9 inches at 200 yards and 14.5 inches at 300 yards. This round is marketed under the Winchester brand, but it is the same ammunition marketed under the Herter’s brand that you might find at your local Bass Pro or Cabela’s shop.

For my ammunition test, I paired a budget rifle with budget ammunition. In this case, a Stevens 334 bolt-action rifle with a 22-inch barrel. In terms of trajectory, my results at 300 yards matched what was advertised. This load had a five-shot average velocity of 2,758 feet per second. My Caldwell Chronograph also collected an extreme spread between the highest velocity and lowest velocity readings of 106 feet per second. In terms of practical accuracy, the Winchester Power Point load didn’t let me down. From the bench, I could post five rounds into a 1.5-inch group.

6.5 creedmoor hunting accuracy
The accuracy differences between these rounds at 100 yards are very small.

Sellier & Bellot 131-grain SP

Practice ammunition can be a hard sell in cartridges normally associated with hunting. But foreign concerns like Sellier & Bellot of the Czech Republic have always marketed generic hunting loads at prices that are low enough for practice on the range. Sellier & Bellot makes a pocketbook-friendly 131-grain soft point load that promises just that.

This brass-cased load uses a non-boattail 131-grain jacketed soft-point bullet with a pronounced curve that I am familiar with. It is essentially a lighter soft-point version of a 140-grain FMJ that I used to handload in 6.5 Swede ammunition.

sellier & bellot
The S&B load costs the least and produces good accuracy. The Hornady load is slightly more accurate and has a higher muzzle velocity.

The S&B load has the lowest advertised and real muzzle velocity of the rounds considered. S&B advertised it at 2,740 feet per second with 13.9 inches of drop at 300 yards from a 100-yard zero. The velocity I recorded is 2,696 feet per second with an extreme spread of 76 feet per second. This round is more consistent than the Winchester load and at 300 yards, the difference between the two is negligible. But my five-shot groups with the S&B load at 100 yards were consistently, if marginally better. My best attempt is a respectable 1.25-inch group.

Hornady American Whitetail 129 Grain SP

Hornady prides itself on producing ammunition with the consistency and accuracy that approaches hand-loaded rounds. Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor offerings are among the very best and you will pay for it. The fact that Hornady also produces one of the least expensive options in this chambering under their American Whitetail line.

As the name implies, Hornady markets their American Whitetail ammunition in 6.5 Creedmoor as a deer hunting cartridge. It uses Hornady’s proprietary Interlock bullet, a jacketed soft point with a solid lead core and a grooved cannelure that recesses into the core, ensuring that the core and jacket stay together and penetrate while providing excellent expansion.

A five-round string over my Caldwell Chronograph produced an average velocity of 2877 feet per second and an extreme spread of only sixty-eight feet per second. This ammunition proved a little quicker than Hornady’s advertised velocity of 2820 feet per second from a 24-inch test barrel.  With a 200-yard zero, the 129-grain Whitetail load is advertised as rising to 1.8 inches high at 100 yards and by 7.7 inches at 300 yards. With a 100-yard zero, I had to hold about 10 inches high to reliably hit my intended point of impact at 300 yards.

hornady american whitetail 6.5 creedmoor
The Hornady American Whitetail load is the cheapest Hornady load out there, but it still beats other brands.

In terms of practical accuracy, the American Whitetail might not be one-hole worthy, but it can get close. Through my Stevens, I could coax five rounds into a one-inch group. Former police sniper and GMW contributor Jim Davis profiled this ammunition and in a previous test, he could get these rounds into a 1.125-inch group at 200 yards. Excellent for bargain ammo!

And the Winner Is…

Judging by this limited test, any budget-line ammunition from a major manufacturer will be more accurate than the average shooter with an average rifle can be. Among 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, budget ammunition tends to be lighter soft-point hunting loads. These loads will use a projectile that is around 129 grains in weight and generally will not have the boattail, the ballistic coefficient, or have a pronounced point of heavier 140- to 147-grain match ammo. Loads like these should not be expected to exhibit match-grade accuracy but they have their advantages beyond the less money you are out when you buy.

A good soft-point bullet dumps its energy into a target like nothing else can and the lighter bullet tends to produce less felt recoil. Out of all of these ammunitions, I could certainly feel less muzzle rise and less of a thump in the shoulder. While consistency varied, all produced accuracy that was more than adequate for all tasks outside the match. The Sellier & Bellot load earns the nod in performance at its price, but the Hornady American Whitetail load is the most consistent and accurate overall. But all of these loads should be on your radar when searching for your next practice or hunting load.

Terril is an economic historian with a penchant for all things firearm related. Originally a pot hunter hailing from south Louisiana, he currently covers firearms and reloading topics in print and on his All Outdoors YouTube page. When he isn't delving into rimfire ballistics, pocket pistols, and colonial arms, Terril can be found perfecting his fire-starting techniques, photographing wildlife, and getting lost in the archives.

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