I have a standard 6.5-06. I shoot 120gr Sierra FB with 57.5 grs. of H4831. It kills our south Texas deer and hogs stone cold dead. It is a great cartridge and I am sure the AI version would also be great. I have a 257, 25-06 and 280 Ackley's and really love them. Good luck!!!!
This isn't my first "Ackley Improved" cartridge. I have a .243 AI which is a rechambered Ruger M77 MKII that has been blue Printed and had a trigger Job. This was my 1st and I got it in a trade. Since it has a 22" bbl, balistics aren't much better than a standard .243 in a 26" bbl, but It's mostly a coyote/ light weight deer rifle.
My .30-06 AI is a diffrent story, I built it off of a Rem700 (my dad's first hunting rifle) it has a Kreiger 26" ss bbl #5 countour. It's in a Faigen laminate stock with aluminum pillars, and has a Timney trigger. The scope on it is a Leupold MK 4 Precision Rifle 4.5-14x42mm SF. I have taken Muleys out to 500yds with this one. This is my current "go to" hunting rifle. It's also capable of 1/2" or less (5 shot groups) at 100yds and shoots 3125fps with a 165g Sierra Game King.
I Love the .30-06 AI and I'll never sell it, but I wanted something else and the 6.5-06 sounded like a lot of fun to me. It's a true Wildcat where the others are only improved.
Unfortunately I'm limited in my finances, I'm raising kids right now (I have 4 sons oldest is 9yrs) and my income is modest (I'm a Butcher/Meat manager), so these projects take lots of time and saving for me. After seeing some of the rifles on this site, I'm certainly humbled as to what I have. I would like nothing more than to blow x amount of $$$ to build one, If money were no option, but living in my world brings me back to reality.
So.... so far the rifle (donor acton) has been purchased, and the bbl. I have ton of .270 Win Brass, which is what I'll be using to make the 6.5-06AI brass. My Gunsmith and Friend, ACGG member Shane Thompson has agreed to build it for me this next year. I'll have to have custom dies made for it and the reamer is coming from Pacific Tool and Gauge.
I'll bed the action and good optics will have to wait, but I've got a Nikon Buckmasters 4.5-14x42mm SF that will do for now.
I'm still excited!! I hope to have it done for this next fall.
Dano I am planning the same build this spring but with a Savage action in a 28" Shilen Select barrel. I am going with the same Light Varmint contour and a 1:9 twist. The 1:9 twist will work great on your 120 and 130s as Berger recommends the 1:9 twist even for their 140s and they are pretty long bullets. I plan on shooting a lot and thought for $20 extra the 28" finish length would allow me to set back the barrel if the throat is shot out. I am topping mine with the Bushnell elite 4000 with 4 x 16 magnification.
I had mine built in '99 by Hazer at Bison Barrels. It's a 6.5-06AI with a 1:8.5" twist, 26" heavy sporter barrel with 6 flutes. Mine has a shorter throat than what I ordered, but has consistently turned in sub-MOA groups. Blueprinted VZ24 Mauser action, Leupy rings and bases, Timney trigger, B&C Medalist stock. Mine currently wears a 4.5-14 Nikon Buckmaster SF with BDC.
I've found that mine prefers 140 gr bullets, and RL22, and loves the Hornady AMAX in this weight. It does well with 120s, but better with 140s...I've also used 4831, RL19 and H1000 in mine with success, just not as good as RL22.
I've also found, maybe due to the short throat in mine, that I can't get that much more velocity over the 6.5-06. I'm usually at or w/in 50fps of the book values with a safe load. More than that and brass life starts suffering and the classic signs of overpressure start showing up. Mine is my "go to" rifle, and has accounted for more head of game than any other rifle I own. Have fun with your build!
I chose the Stainless steel Shilen Select Match 26" bbl because I found it at MidwayUSA on an inventory reduction sale for $180.00 That's almost $100 off the regular price. I wanted the 8.5" twist but because it was a "deal" I couldn't pass it up. I knew it's limitations and after reviewing bullet weight availability I decided that I could live with shooting 120-130gr bullets.
I've taken game using Berger VLDs and they do perform like those guys say. And the 168g VLDs are the most accurate bullet I've ever loaded for my .30-06 AI. So I'm leaning on using them for deer.
Looking at the standard twists that Remington uses for their .264 Win Mag (they use 1-9" for every 6.5 cal) I decided that I probablly would be able to get acceptable accuracy out of a 140g bullet if I really needed one that heavy.
I was looking at RL-22 as a good choice for this cartridge, I was also considering Retumbo, RL-25, Hodgdon's US869 or IMR7828SC due to the bore to powder capacity ratio for this cartridge. Hodgdon's Hybrid 100V, H414, & H4350 have good velocitys for the Standard version so I'd look at them as well.
I have a good friend that has Quick Load and We've used it in load development for the other 2 Ackleys I own. It's been really close without any pressure problems for either cartridge, so I've learned that the data should be good for this one too. The data also seems to be concervative on the velocitys, as I'm using the Max load data for my .30-06 AI for the 165g Gameking and getting 80fps faster than I should and that was with a 12 shot string over a Chrony.
Anyway, It's good to see that there are others with my Kind of thinkin' I'll tell my Pa that I'm not the only one out there (He thinks I should be more conservative on my cartridge choices.)