Other 6.5mm cartridges have been a bust in North America. We have tried giving them nonmetric names, such as .260 and .264. We have tried calling some “magnum.” Neither has worked. Indeed, the one 6.5mm round that’s hung on most tenaciously has spent most of its life as a wildcat. This is the 6.5/284, based on the .284 Winchester case, which itself has a rather interesting history.
The E.R. Shaw MK-VII rifle is available with a wide variety of options. The 6.5/284 has a 26" No. 4 stainless barrel, helically fluted, and a Boyd’s laminated JRS stock.
The .284 wasn’t designed for super-light little bolt-action rifles, as many younger shooters might guess. Instead, it was intended to approximate .270 Winchester ballistics in Winchester’s Model 100 autoloader and Model 88 lever-action rifles, introduced in 1963. These were styled to look like bolt rifles, but didn’t last all that long because by 1963 most hunters wanted genuine bolt-action rifles.
The .284 itself didn’t do very well, either, partly because some prominent gun writers just didn’t get the concept. They complained that the bullets were seated too deeply, taking up powder space, and that the .284 should have been chambered in Winchester’s famous Model 70 bolt rifle, where the bullets could be seated “out where they should be.” A couple of writers even had custom .284s made on bolt-actions in order to do just that. Apparently they’d never noticed that Winchester already chambered the Model 70 for a cartridge with eerily similar ballistics named the .270.
The most accurate load used the 140-grain Hornady A-Max and 53.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831SC, for a muzzle velocity of about 2,950 fps. This is a superb load for either ultra-long-range targets or varmints.
The .284 hangs on these days in those super-light bolt-action rifles, such as the semicustom Model 20 from New Ultra Light Arms, but its main purpose has been as a parent case for wildcats. At first the .25/284 looked like the winner, but the 6.5/284 is the runaway leader today. There actually are two versions, one called the 6.5/284 Winchester, with the bullets seated to an overall cartridge length of about 2.8", just like the .284 Winchester. The other is the 6.5/284 Norma, with bullets seated out to about 3.35" to gain the most powder capacity possible for long-range target shooting, while retaining the short powder column that promotes more consistent ignition. Norma has been making ammunition for its version for several years now, and recently Hornady started offering brass.
I’d be willing to bet a brick of Large Rifle primers that far more rifles are annually chambered in 6.5/284 than in the .284 Winchester itself. One of these is a rifle belonging to The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine’s editor, John Anderson. In 2008 the E.R. Shaw barrel company started offering their MK-VII bolt-action with a Shaw barrel fitted. This is essentially a stainless Savage action, but with traditional threads in the front end of the action so the barrel can be screwed in instead of fitted with a nut as it is in Savage rifles. They offer this action with various options. With a blued, chrome-moly E.R. Shaw barrel installed the barreled action costs $625, but also can be ordered complete with a synthetic, walnut, or laminated stock for between $675.00 and $725.00. The barrel also can be upgraded to stainless for another $70.00, and can be fluted either straight or helically (a spiral fluting that’s a specialty of E.R. Shaw) for $110.00 or $130.00. The E.R. Shaw list of possible chamberings runs from the .17 Fireball to the .458 Lott, and includes several wildcats, so just about anything you can dream up is possible — except a 9.3mm, because they don’t make 9.3mm barrels. (For a complete list go to www.ershawbarrels.com.)
By coincidence, John Anderson’s 6.5/284 (left) is in exactly the same configuration as John Barsness’s 6.5-06 (right). Aside from the stamping on the barrel, the only way to tell them apart is the Pentax Lightseeker 8.5-32x on the 6.5/284 and the NightForce Varminter 5.5-22x on the 6.5-06. Even the mounts are identical Talley steel rings!
John Anderson tried to find time to work up some handloads, but the life of an editor is busy and he eventually asked a “hired gun” (also known as a freelance writer) to test it out. This appealed to me because I’d had the same rifle built, but in the 6.5-06 wildcat, very close ballistically to the 6.5/284. Both rifles were fitted with laminated Boyd’s stocks, the JRS model designed by well-known gun writer Jon R. Sundra, with 26" No. 4 contour barrels, including Shaw’s nifty-looking helical fluting.
The 6.5/284 is based on the .284 Winchester case (left) and has almost exactly the same powder capacity as the wildcat 6.5-06 (right).
The 6.5/284 (and 6.5-06) are considered primarily long-range target and medium-game cartridges, but Norma’s Web site mentions that the 6.5/284 works very well as a long-range varmint cartridge — one of the reasons I acquired the 6.5-06. That ballistic magic of 6.5mm bullets really starts to help beyond 500 yards, especially when a little breeze is blowing — and a “little” breeze is almost always blowing in the West, where John Anderson and I live.
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