Mark’s Browning proved itself accurate right out of the box. After 12 different 6.5 Creedmoor factory
rounds were tested, the rifle proved itself quite capable as these targets suggest. The larger target
(left) was the result of 5 shots at 200 yards.
Browning’s Hell’s Canyon Long-Range Rifle And Hornady’s
6.5 Creedmoor Make For One Cool Combination
By Mark Hampton
The shooting world has been blessed ever since a discussion between Hornady ballistician Dave Emary and High Power Rifle competitor Dennis DeMille bore the fruit of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
While 6.5mm cartridges have been widely popular in other parts of the world, Americans seemed to be perfectly content with their non-metric favorites. Granted, some 6.5 rounds tried to keep their nose above the waterline over here—like the .264 Win Mag, 6.5×55 Swede, .260 Remington and even the 6.5-284 Norma.
Personally, I like all of these and have taken enough big game with them to appreciate how efficient they are. But they struggled to gain widespread acceptance with shooters and hunters alike. But the 6.5 Creedmoor has hit the US radar screen like a fireball and you can barely find a gun magazine without it being mentioned.
Can the 6.5 Creedmoor take game more effectively than the other .264 caliber cartridges I mentioned? Well, no. So why has the Creedmoor jumped so quickly into the hearts, minds and gun cases of American shooters? Either the stars lined up perfectly or the cartridge simply has certain attributes that appeal to gun cranks.
To be perfectly honest, I was shooting 6.5 handguns long ago—back in the early ’80’s. The 6.5 JDJ was a wildcat based on the .225 Winchester case. It pushed a Nosler solid-base bullet along at 2,450 fps. After taking over 50 head of game with this little round—and witnessing many more downed—I began to see the light.
The 6.5 was much more effective on game than anyone thought possible—including larger African critters. One factor making it a pleasure to shoot was the fact it didn’t produce unpleasant recoil. As a result, most shooters were able to print bug-hole groups on paper and pinpoint their shots on game. So, when I recalled how effectively the 6.5 JDJ performed on game, it didn’t take me very long to jump on the 6.5 Creedmoor with both feet.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor was more than likely envisioned as a competition round, it’s finding favor with hunters at an astounding rate. It’s often compared to the .260 Remington with which it shares almost identical ballistics. Does the Creedmoor do anything better than the .260? Probably not. The .260 is based on the .308 case while the 6.5 Creedmoor is based on a shortened and altered .30 Thompson/Center case. The Creedmoor has an overall case length of 1.920 with a 30-degree shoulder. The .260’s case length is a tad longer at 2.035 and it has a 20-degree shoulder. With four .260’s residing in our home, I’ve grown fond of the Remington round. Already having an appreciation for the 6.5 bore, it was no wonder the 6.5 Creedmoor grabbed my attention.
Mark found shooting this new X-Bolt variation to be a pleasure. Light recoil and superb accuracy make
it a serious contender for big game. Ammo manufacturers have embraced the 6.5 Creedmoor with open arms.
The threaded muzzlebrake can be replaced with a suppressor if desired, or a thread protector
(included with the rifle) can be put on to protect the threads.
A Suitable Platform
When the opportunity came to test a Browning’s 6.5 Creedmoor-chambered Hell’s Canyon Long-Range rifle, I was excited at the prospect. Having shot several different iterations of the X-Bolt, I had a sneaking suspicion it would be a real performer. I was impressed with the appearance of the rifle right out of the box. The composite stock has a cool-looking camo finish called A-TACS AU (Arid/Urban).
The stock is coated with a Dura Touch Armor coating to provide a consistent grip texture regardless of temperature or conditions. Both grip panels and fore-end are so textured. The right side of the grip panel features a slight palm swell. Matte burnt bronze sling swivel studs are installed and a nicely cushioned recoil pad complements the package.
The X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range comes with a 26-inch heavy sporter barrel with threaded muzzlebrake. For those wanting to use a suppressor, one will be easy to attach. A thread protector is included so if you don’t want the muzzlebrake, no problem. Just screw on the protector and don’t worry about damaging the threads. The barrel’s burnt bronze Cerakote finish matches well with the camo stock. The combination of burnt bronze with the distinctive camo pattern provides a unique look. The barrel, receiver, triggerguard and exposed bolt surface all wear this durable finish. The fluted barrel is free-floated, has a target crown, and comes with a 1:8-inch twist for stabilizing the 6.5’s heavier 140-grain bullets.
I have always been fond of Browning’s short-throw 60-degree bolt lift. Should follow up shots be necessary, the bolt can be manipulated quickly. The bolt knob is somewhat flattened and angled perfectly for user-friendly operation. This X-Bolt variant features an adjustable trigger. The gold-plated trigger on my test gun broke at 3 pounds, 15 ounces without creep. A 2-position safety is located directly behind the receiver, making it easy to engage with your thumb. The composite detachable rotary magazine holds 4 rounds. The bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver.
The exposed surface of the bolt, receiver and triggerguard feature a burnt bronze Cerakote finish.
The bolt knob is slightly flattened and angled perfectly for a user-friendly operation. Under the
triggerguard you’ll find Browning’s signature Buck Mark (below).
The bolt release is located on the left side of the receiver and the triggerguard allows ample
room for shooting with gloves on. The Hell’s Canyon Long Range stock comes with a cushioned
recoil pad and textured grip panels.
Optics And Ammo
Hoping to squeeze the last bit of accuracy out of the rifle, I mounted a Meopta Meo Pro 6.5-20X variable scope in Browning rings. This particular scope is one of the better-kept secrets in optics. The 1-inch aircraft-grade aluminum tube wears a non-reflective matte black finish. The parallax adjustment turret is located on the left side of the main body and adjusts from 30 yards to infinity. This scope offers superb clarity and brightness. It’s an ideal optic for a long-range hunting rifle.
Gun manufacturers are not the only ones embracing the 6.5 Creedmoor. New loads for it are being introduced every week it seems. I procured as much factory ammo as possible and managed to test 12 different loads. Winchester, Nosler, Federal, Prime and (of course) Hornady all make 6.5 Creedmoor ammo. Other manufacturers will be joining the ranks shortly. The ammo I tested was loaded with both hunting and target bullets ranging from 120 to 143 grains.
With the help of Redding’s National Match Die Set, I cranked out a few handloads with Sierra bullets. There are many premium 6.5 bullets available for target shooting and hunting, depending on your specific application. Medium-burning powders like H4350, Rl-17, Varget and Rl-16 have shown to be efficient performers. I used Nosler brass and Federal 210 Match primers (Lapua also offers excellent brass).
My shooting partner John joined me during a lengthy range session. We found the detachable magazine was easy to load and hassle-free. With scope mounted, the rifle tipped the scales around 8-1/2 pounds and handled nicely. Recoil was not a factor during our shooting of more than 200 rounds. We got several 3-shot, sub-inch groups at 100 yards. The gun functioned flawlessly, and the fast, short bolt-throw was becoming addictive.
After testing both target and hunting rounds, John and I came to one conclusion—this particular X-Bolt flat-out shoots. With two different shooters, a dozen factory loads and four handloads, the largest group measured 1-1/2 inches.
We shot a few groups at 200 yards. At this range, John produced a 5-shot group with Hornady’s 140-grain ELD-M that caught our attention. Even though John pulled one shot slightly, it measured a fraction over an inch. Banging a few steel plates out to 300 yards and beyond was the capper to a gratifying afternoon.
Time will tell, but I have a gut feeling the 6.5 Creedmoor is here to stay. It is an excellent choice for whitetail, antelope, hogs and such. And if you’re leaning toward a new hunting rig, you can’t go wrong with Browning’s Hell’s Canyon Long Range rifle. When scoped, the gun is not too heavy for carrying long distances and not too light for accurate shooting.
The combination of Browning, Meopta and premium 6.5 Creedmoor ammo will definitely tip the odds in your favor when big game seasons roll around.
X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range
One Browning Place
Morgan, UT 84050
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
Barrel length: 26 inches
Overall length: 46 inches
Weight: 7 pounds, 3 ounces
Finish: Burnt bronze Cerakote
Sights: None (drilled and tapped for scope mounts)
Stock: Camo composite
Importer: Meopta USA
50 Davids Dr.
Hauppauge, NY 11788
Objective diameter: 50mm
Eye relief: 8.89mm
Adjustment Range: 45.4 MOA elevation & windage at 100 yards
Click value: 1/4-inch
Tube diameter: 1 inch
Weight: 21.83 ounces
Overall length: 15.59 inches
900 Ehlen Drive
Anoka, MN 55303
Hornady Manufacturing Company
3625 West Old Potash Hwy.
Grand Island, NE 68803
500 Rainbow Rd., Suite 300
Las Vegas, NV 89107
600 Powder Mill Road
East Alton, IL 62024