Separated by only 0.013 inches of bullet diameter, the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .270 Winchester make an obvious Caliber Battle matchup. Both are used widely by hunters from Alaska to Alabama, both throw similarly weighted bullets traveling similar velocities, and both are chambered in a variety of rifles.
In fact, when you Google “6.5 Creedmoor vs,” the first auto-fill option is “270.” Hunters are clearly interested in how these two uber-popular cartridges stack up, and we’re here to settle that debate.
As a general rule, the .270 Win. offers more velocity and energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
To compare apples to apples, we’ll use as examples these 120-grain Trophy Copper 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges and these 130-grain Trophy Copper .270 Win cartridges. The 6.5 flies at 2,870 feet-per-second (fps) at the muzzle to deliver 2,202 foot-pounds (ft.-lbs.) of energy while the heavier .270 flies 3,060 fps to deliver 2,703 ft.-lbs. of energy. The 6.5 has shrunk that velocity gap to 85 fps at 500 yards, but it has still dropped four more inches than the .270 at that distance.
You may find exceptions to this rule (and not all factory data is real-world verifiable), but most comparisons will look like this one. When comparing bullets of similar weights, even when the .270 is slightly heavier, the old Winchester flies faster and hits harder at most reasonable hunting ranges.
The 6.5 does retain some advantages. As a relatively new cartridge, the Creedmoor benefits from modern cartridge and chamber design that offers better accuracy in factory rifles. Custom .270 rifles can shoot every bit as accurately as a 6.5, but my experience with budget-friendly factory rifles gives the accuracy edge to the 6.5.
The Creedmoor was designed from the get-go with heavy, high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets in mind, so most factory rifles also come with fast 1:8 twist barrels. This means that in most head-to-head matchups, the 6.5 will usually be loaded with higher BC bullets than its .270 counterpart. This Fusion 6.5 Creed option from Federal, for example, has a .439 BC while this .270 Fusion option has a .400 BC.
The Creed’s higher BC allows it to buck the wind as well as the .270 even though the bullet is traveling slower and drops more. In some cases, the 6.5 will actually drift less than the .270 thanks to the long, sleek bullet designs.
Whether a few more inches of wind-bucking ability and a slightly more accurate rifle tip the scales towards the 6.5 depends on a hunter’s particular needs. But when it comes to sheer ballistics, this round goes to the Winchester.
Winner: .270 Winchester
Both cartridges are widely available and relatively inexpensive, and neither is known as a piledriver. But if you’re looking for a great bullet-velocity-to-recoil ratio, the Creedmoor is the way to go. The Creed is the more efficient cartridge, using 20% to 40% less powder for only a 10% to 15% velocity reduction. That efficiency means that even though the Winchester wins a footrace out to 500 yards, the older cartridge is going to offer more felt recoil. The 6.5 Creedmoor is usually reported as delivering about 13 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy while the .270 delivers about 17 ft.-lbs. Neither cartridge is a shoulder-breaker, but based on my experience with each, the 6.5 offers noticeably less recoil.
It's unusual for newer cartridges to compete with established options when it comes to cost and availability, but the Creedmoor wins this category as well. Midway USA, one of the largest online ammunition dealers, offers 92 Creedmoor options but only 68 options in .270. Bass Pro Shops offers a wider selection of 6.5 Creedmoor, as does Brownells. You’re almost sure to find both cartridges at your local sporting goods store, but if the big ammo dealers are any indication, they’re more likely to have a wider selection of 6.5 Creedmoor.
The Creedmoor is also slightly cheaper. Midway USA offers 6.5 for $1.25 per round while the cheapest .270 is about $1.45. The same holds true at Brownells, where five 6.5 Creedmoor options are cheaper than the cheapest .270 Winchester.
High-quality hunting ammo doesn’t always follow this pattern. While you can find both cartridges for about $50 for a box of 20 rounds, Federal puts a premium on its 6.5 offerings. The 6.5 Creed Trophy Copper mentioned above, for example, is $61 per box while the .270 is $57.
Since most hunters purchase far more rounds for practice than for hunting, the 6.5’s overall lower cost and recoil give it the edge in this category.
Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor
When two cartridges use bullets of similar weights traveling similar velocities, you can bet they’ll be capable of taking down the same range of game animals.
Both the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .270 Win. can be found with bullets ranging from around 90 grains to around 150 grains, with the vast majority of options in the 120- to 150-grain range. This means that both can operate comfortably in the medium-to-large game category (deer, elk, black bear) while also moving down to varmints with light, quick-expanding bullets.
Some consider the .270 Win. to be underpowered for very large game like moose, but a modern hunting bullet with good shot placement is more than up to the task. You could say the same about the 6.5, but the .270’s superior energy allows it to handle this category of game more comfortably.
Rifle versatility is also similar. Sportsman’s Guide offers 49 rifle models in .270 Winchester and 52 in 6.5 Creedmoor. There are more semi-auto rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor thanks to its similarities to the .308 Win., but bolt-action rifles constitute the vast, vast majority of both calibers. It’s safe to say you won’t have any trouble finding a bolt gun in either cartridge.
This category is the closest so far, but the .270’s ability to punch above its weight class give it the nod here.
Winner: .270 Winchester
There’s no question that within 500 yards, the .270 flies faster and hits harder. That velocity advantage means that even given the 6.5’s superior BC, the .270 shoots flatter within that range. The 6.5 starts to catch up past 600 yards, but most hunters never take shots at those distances.
Despite this ballistic advantage, I personally tend to favor the 6.5 Creedmoor. For the kind of hunting I do, an accurate, low-recoiling, low-cost, moderately powered cartridge does the trick. I’d also recommend the 6.5 over the .270 for new whitetail hunters for exactly those reasons.
But Caliber Battles don’t play favorites. As the winner of two out of three categories, the .270 Win. takes this one home.
Overall Winner: .270 Winchester