6.5mm x 47 Lapua Review
By John Johnston
A while back Len Backus and I were on the phone discussing future articles. After talking a while Len said, “John, you are really stuck on the 6.5mm?” I had to think a moment and said “Len, I guess you are right.” Let it be known I am a hunter first, reloader second and a non-competitive target shooter. I expect most of my rifles to shoot MOA or better and will not keep one that does not. Several years ago I was shooting 6mm cartridges. I felt that the 6mm Remington was the best Texas whitetail cartridge available and pretty much still feel that way. Slowly the 6.5 s came to my attention. First it was the .260 and it went on from there up to a custom 6.5-06. So naturally when Lapua came out with the 6.5x47 I just had to give it a try.
Bench time at the range.
Finding a rifle would not be easy. It seems there were no major manufactures willing to put the cartridge in their lineup, so far. I had to consider a custom rifle. I did not want a rifle that was a dressed up Remington with a custom barrel. I have a couple of those and they are fine and accurate but I wanted a full blown custom rifle. Since I had a couple Coopers in the safe, I could not think of a better combination. I was pleased to see the 6.5x47 in their available chamberings.
After a phone call, I had the Cooper folks working on a Model 54 which is basically a drop box magazine, heavy barrel rifle. After a wait of about six months it finally arrived. The first thing I do with a new rifle is to get its real specifications. The rifle with Leopold bases, weighed in at 9 lbs. 5 oz. The barrel was a 26 inch stainless semi-heavy which tapered to .799 inch at the muzzle with a 1 in 8 inch twist. The crown was nicely finished to a recessed target style. The trigger pull averaged over five pulls at 1 lb. 13oz. with no creep. I believe in Cooper and Lapua so much, I purchased this rifle. Yes, I could have gotten a loaner, but like Len said, I like 6.5mm.
Shooting at 250 yards.
Cooper makes a fine rifle at a price that is far lower than other “custom” rifles. They have designed their own action that has a three lug bolt that only needs a 60 degree lift. The barrels are of match quality and are made by Wilson. The metal work shows absolutely no machine marks. The stock is hand laid Kevlar with an aircraft grade aluminum bedding block. The bedding is so tight that I would have had to tap on the action to get it out of the stock, which I did not feel was necessary. The model I ordered was a model 54 with a drop box magazine. The only complaint I have with this rifle is the magazine release is small and difficult to engage. One thing is for sure. You will not accidently release the magazine.
Next was to decide what scope would be appropriate for this rifle and cartridge combination. I decided on the Trijicon TR23-1. I have followed Trijicon for years but just did not like that big wide post sticking up in the middle of my sight picture. This scope had a simple duplex reticle with an amber dot in the center. Now I can work with this scope. Scopes between 16 and 20 are the optimum for me, especially at one hundred yards. Using anything over 20 power, I seem to concentrate more on scope movement than being consistent on my point of aim.
Trijicon adjustment knobs.
I found the Trijicon scope to be exceptionally well made and easy to use. The glass was clear through all powers. The adjustments were precise and it returned to zero with no problems. The lighted reticle did not help me much for long range shooting, but I believe it will be great for next deer season or coyotes. You will not hear me say this often, but the Trijicon is worth the money.
Cooper sends with each new rifle a test target for that particular rifle. On the target is the type, brand and weight of the bullet plus the powder used. The test targets are shot at about 42 yards. Cooper has a 50 yard shooting tunnel and the bench takes up some room. They do not put the distance on the target but they do not keep the distance a secret. You can see from the test target, my rifle shot basically one ragged hole. So naturally why not sight in the rifle with the same bullet and powder they used. The result was a half inch group. In fact, after shooting several brands and weights of bullets from 85gr. to 142gr., only one shot more than a half inch group but still far less than MOA. In my opinion this is the sign of a very good rifle. Since I do not even consider the barrel broken in, I believe the rifle is capable of groups in the .25 MOA range. I normally do not shoot many bullets that are not of hunting grade, so I settled on the 130gr. Berger VLD/Hunting bullet over a load of RL15. From what I have read, the RL15 is the powder of choice for this round. However, I did have good results with H4350 also. I loaded up about fifty rounds and headed to the long distance range.
Cooper Model 54 with Trijicon TR23-1.
With a printout from the Long Range Hunting Ballistics Program, I sat down and dialed in for 250 yards. I shot three shots and they were dead on target. Next up was the 500 yard targets. Again dialing elevation given to me by the program, I was still right on the money. I was getting a little cocky about this time. “Man does this rifle shoot!” I told my spotter. Ok, it was time to go where the big boys play, the 750 yard 8” popper. First let me explain about this range: it faces east and the wind is usually out of the south and of full value. There are high embankments on each side out to about to 300 yards. So a shooter has to figure windage based on partial bullet time without significant wind, then some wind drift. It took a few shots but with the aid of a spotter, I dialed in the correct windage hold and knocked that freshly painted popper to the ground. Several shots on the popper showed a group slightly less than MOA. That was the maximum distance I could get out of the scope, rings and bases. With the use of some Burris ZEE rings with an extra 20 MOA I could have gotten out to the 1000 yard target.
At my home range developing loads. A good chronograph is a must and I am trying out my new CED M2. I was pleasantly surprised by ease of use and dependability.
This round was developed by Lapua to fill a niche for bench rest shooters who needed a little more power over their 6mmBR and PPC rounds at the 600 yard targets and on out to 1000 yards. It is not based on any particular case, but it does have the case head dimensions of a .308. It uses a small rifle primer and the case design makes for easy chambering. This cartridge, by design, can be loaded fairly hot due to its ability to withstand pressures. The load I used of RL15 pushed the 130gr. Berger to a velocity of 2752 fps. according to my new CED M2 chronograph. There are reports of shooters reaching 3000 fps with this combination. If you are wondering, the 6.5x47 is not a barrel burner, and with proper care the barrels should last a very long time. This cartridge in the Cooper was very pleasant to shoot, with light recoil.
The Cooper's magazine release.
Right now some of you are wondering how it compares to other 6.5 cartridges, and that is a good question. I could sit down and compare ballistics, barrel life, etc. all day long but in the end it depends on what each shooter wants out of his or her rifle/cartridge combination. Ultimately a cartridge has to be judged on the primary use of the rifle. Even though this round was made for bench rest I feel it is a great hunting cartridge. With 108 gr. bullets it can take out coyotes and prairie dogs at very long ranges. If you want to join the Varmint Hunters’ 1000 yard club this may be the cartridge to use. I personally would not be reluctant to take any whitetail deer, antelope or hog with this 130gr. Berger bullet load.
If you want a do all cartridge that you can take to the range and out to the field, this may be just the right one.
One final note: there have been some television series that said the armed services have adopted the 6.5x47 Lapua as a sniper round. The folks at Lapua will not confirm or deny this rumor, but the rifles shown on television belonged to private individuals. They try out a lot of cartridges, but adopting one for issue is a whole different matter. The government is always looking for a new cartridge for long range sniping and who knows, this may be one, but for now I think this is strictly an unsubstantiated rumor.
After twenty-five years with a major law enforcement agency, John Johnston retired to the hill country of central Texas. His law enforcement career was diverse with assignments with the tactical/motorcycle unit, patrol, and criminal investigation. After retiring, writing became his calling. He started with a newspaper column which, he still writes and then moved up to major magazines in the area of shooting and hunting. He is known for his unbiased product testing and evaluations. Having a full size range from 25-450 yards next to his home was his dream come true. 2010 marks his fiftieth anniversary in the hunting, shooting and reloading sports. You will notice his writing style is quite relaxed and he prefers to write like he is speaking to you around a camp fire. John welcomes questions and comments whether good or bad. You can reach John at [email protected].