Letís discuss the 6.5mm cartridge. The 6.5 x 55mm Swedish Mauser is a hoary old cartridge that predates even the .30-06. It was designed at a time when smokeless powder was making fast shooting guns possible, including not only rapid fire magazine fed bolt guns but also machine guns. Since Sweden numbered Alfred Nobel among its citizens, smokeless powder research ran along at a brisk rate. The 6.5 came along at a time when there were no trucks to carry troops and no airplanes. This made for some interesting reality. Here we have a modern smokeless powder cartridge designed to kill men at long distances Ė and disable horses. It might not knock a horse down like a .45 Ė70 would but a horse hit with such a bullet would stop working! And penetration was excellent, so with minute of mule accuracy the 6.5 x 55 could prove deadly. The cartridge was light, which meant lots of them could be carried, and recoil was light as well, which meant higher proficiency for less practice. The original loading was good for 139 grains at about 2400 fps. This doesnít seem like high velocity by modern standards but there is more to the story. The long, heavy for the caliber, bullet exhibited excellent penetration. At the time the performance was cutting edge. And therein lies another tale.
The caliber marking, 6.5 x 55mm, is by no means common in America, but a few enthusiasts keep the cartridge alive.
The Ruger scope bases are models of good function. The bolt is open, exposing the claw extractor.
American ammunition companies such as Winchester and Federal load the 6.5 with a 139 to 140 grain bullet at about 2500 fps. The bullet has good sectional density and is long and heavy for the caliber. It penetrates well and kills animals well with good shot placement. It is something of a wonder caliber, with light recoil but real effect on game. But the loads are generally designed for use in the ancient Mauser action. The original Mauser may not blow up with a heavier load but it will wear much more quickly. A savvy handloader may up the ante a minimum of 100 fps. This supercharging could be useful in some hunting situations. At present the major makers offer good quality ammunition with adequate hunting bullets. My pick is the Hornady Superperformance at some 2700 fps with the SST bullet. That is quite a load and one that maximizes the caliber. Hornady also offers a traditional load for accuracy and for use in the Mauser rifle, but the Supermax is the first choice for hunting in the Ruger and other modern rifles. Firing from a solid bench rest I was able to secure several excellent groups from the Ruger/ 6.5mm combination. However, some observations are in order. First, accuracy is very good but really no better than any other Ruger M 77 that is properly bedded. The .308 is at least as accurate. The .243 is also as accurate. The 6.5 x 55ís long suit is good accuracy and low recoil. Well, it doesnít kick like a .30-06 but the laws of physics are at play here. With 140 grains at 2700 fps the 6.5 will recoil nearly as much as a .308 with 150 grains at the same gait. The 6.5 does have modest recoil and it is accurate, but it is not as soft shooting as a .243 Winchester. Still I like the 6.5. It is not necessarily something I would pay big bucks for in a custom rifle. But since it landed in my hands easily enough I used it and find it a good caliber. The reputation of the cartridge is the field is unassailable. It is a deer killer due to a combination of deep penetration, a good expanding bullet and I suspect the easy road to marksmanship with less recoil than the .30 battle rifles. All in all a fine cartridge and a great rifle and a good combination for those who like performance and despise recoil.
The 6.5 x 55mm is compared to a .308 Winchester. It is quite a round for its size.
Join the discussion of this article HERE at the Article Discussion Forum.