When the 6.5 Creedmoor began gaining popularity in the early 2010s, one criticism stood out among many others: “Hornady’s new cartridge is just a copycat of the much older 6.5x55 Swedish.” Six-and-a-half millimeter cartridges have been popular among European hunters for decades, and like sweet-and-sour chicken or the California roll, the Creedmoor is just an Americanization of a tried-and-true design.
That’s what the critics said, anyway. But two cartridges can share the same bullet diameter and still be wildly different. Creedmoor fanboys might say that the cartridge popularized and improved upon an effective caliber. The Creed offers advantages over older 6.5mm cartridges, which is the only way Americans could be convinced to leave their .30-caliber rifles at home.
Which camp has the most evidence on its side? Read on to find out.
Comparing these two cartridge cases makes clear that the Creed isn’t a carbon copy of the Swede (see what I did there?). The Creedmoor’s case is shorter, but the shoulder angle is steeper and the body tapers less from the base to the mouth. Hornady designed the Creedmoor, in part, to load and cycle more easily in AR-10 magazines, which is where some of those design choices originate.
You might assume that the Creed’s shorter case offers less capacity and, therefore, limits velocity. That’s only partially true. The Swedish does offer about 10% more case capacity, but most velocity data shows that the Creedmoor can keep up with the older, larger cartridge.
These 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor rounds from Sig Sauer, for example, leave the barrel at 2,650 while most load data for 6.5 Swedish lists 140-grain projectiles traveling between 2,550 and 2,650 fps. Even these souped-up Swedish loads only clock in at 2,735 fps, well within range of the Creedmoor.
The same story holds true at other bullet weights: 120-grain pills for both cartridges clock in between 2,800 and 3,000 fps, depending on load construction.
Your high school physics teacher could tell you that projectiles of the same diameter, weight, and shape traveling the same speed will produce identical energy and velocity. The Creedmoor’s lesser case capacity suggests that the cartridge is designed more efficiently, but cartridge efficiency isn’t something you or the animal are going to notice in the field.
However, while these cartridges are ballistically similar, American hunters with a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle will have an easier time finding factory options loaded with high-BC bullets. These long, heavy-for-caliber bullets buck the wind more effectively, and they’re a better choice for long-range hunting or competition shooting. The Creed’s advantage here is due to ammo availability rather than cartridge design (hence the decision to call this round a tie), but it’s something to think about if you don’t reload your ammunition and you plan to hunt in open country.
Both cartridges are known for being easy on the shoulder, and their similar ballistic profiles suggest that they impart similar amounts of recoil. Most recoil data indicates that the 6.5 Swedish delivers a mild 10 to 12 foot-pounds (ft.-lbs.) of recoil energy while the 6.5 Creedmoor hits with about 13 ft.-lbs. The Swede is a little softer-shooting, all things being equal, but rifle weight and load construction can easily flip that script in favor of the Creed.
So far, these two cartridges have been equally matched, but the Swedish has a tough time competing with its American counterpart when it comes to ammo and rifle cost and availability.
The Creedmoor’s stunning popularity means you’ll find it in every local sporting goods store from Texas to Maine, and there are literally hundreds of additional options online. That doesn’t mean the Swedish is impossible to find. Midway USA lists 11 options as “available,” but that doesn’t compare with the Creedmoor’s 61 “available” options.
Cost usually mirrors availability, and that’s true in this case as well. You’ll pay about $1.25 per round for the cheapest 6.5 Creedmoor hunting cartridges while the cheapest hunting cartridges for the Swede are more on the order of $2.25 per round. You can sometimes find cup-and-core cartridges from Sellier & Bellot for $1.25 per round, but that appears to be the only offering that can compare to Creedmoor prices.
These cartridges are more evenly matched when it comes to premium ammunition, but you’ll usually pay $5-10 less for a box of Creedmoor than a box of Swedish.
Rifle availability also heavily favors the 6.5 Creedmoor. Every major American gun maker offers at least one rifle chambered in the Creed, and you can find bolt, lever, and semi-automatic firearms. The Swedish gained popularity in America following WWII when the market was flooded with surplus Swedish Mauser rifles, and CZ, Winchester, Ruger, Howa, and T/C have all offered 6.5 Swede options over the years. But Tikka is your best option if you want to adopt the 6.5 Swedish. They chamber several of their excellent T3x models in the Swede, and your local gun shop should be able to order one for you.
The Swede might have a slight edge in the recoil category, but that’s not enough to overcome the Creedmoor’s running-away-with-it advantage when it comes to ammo and rifles.
Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor
Reloading manuals list bullets ranging from 95 to 150 grains for the 6.5 Creedmoor and 85 to 160 grains for the 6.5 Swedish. That might give a slight edge to the Swede, though it’s unlikely 10 grains on either end offers much of an advantage.
In the real world (at least in the U.S.), the vast majority of bullet weights for both cartridges land squarely in the 120- to 140-grain range. That’s a great sweet spot, and it means that even if you don’t roll your own, the Creed and the Swede offer excellent versatility.
The lighter bullets aren’t too overkill for varmints, and these 6.5mm cartridges are both known as tack drivers. The Swede is popular in Scandinavia for hunting all types of game, including moose, which has always been the strongest argument in favor of the Creedmoor’s ability to go after game like elk. Low recoil, excellent accuracy, and a flat trajectory make these the perfect cartridges for sheep or antelope.
Any cartridge that can run the gamut from varmints to moose offers excellent versatility, and in this case, that applies to both contestants in this Caliber Battle.
The Creedmoor haters have a point: these two cartridges are strikingly similar, especially when you consider bullet speed and trajectory. The Creed doesn’t offer any real ballistic advantage over the Swede, and you can find rifles in both cartridges capable of stabilizing those long, high-BC bullets.
At the same time, the 6.5x55 Swedish had over 100 years to break into the American market, and it failed to achieve anywhere near the popularity of the Creedmoor. Hornady’s tweaks to the Creedmoor’s case produced better efficiency and allowed it to be chambered more easily in semi-automatic rifles (an important advantage in a country full of semi-auto hunting rifles).
Those small improvements allowed it to appeal to an American market, which is why its lower cost and greater availability give it the ultimate edge over its older (nearly twin) brother.
Overall Winner: 6.5 Creedmoor