Here’s a fun fact. If you type into Google “why the 6.5 Creedmoor,” the search engine auto-fills “why the 6.5 Creedmoor is overrated.”
It’s not clear why everyone (including Google, I guess) loves to hate the uber-popular cartridge. Introduced by Hornady in 2007, the 6.5 Creedmoor is among the best-selling 6.5mm cartridges for both hunting and target shooting. It’s versatile, efficient, cost-effective, and low recoiling. It’s a favorite deer and elk cartridge among the MeatEater crew, and it’s taken enough big game to disprove initial doubters.
Anti-6.5 think pieces and forum posts nonetheless abound. “4 Reasons to Hate the 6.5 Creedmoor” declares a 2019 headline from American Hunter. Outdoor Life weighed in with an article titled “The 6.5 Creedmoor is Not the Ultimate Super Cartridge” published in 2020.
On the forum side, one commenter complained in 2017 that they’re “tired of reading about how great the [6.5 Creedmoor is].” Another commenter was more direct. “I honestly don't get why anyone besides match shooters with velocity constraints would ever even consider this new POS,” they said in a 2018 post titled, “6.5 creed....the most worthless, overrated, pos, new toy, over hyped, piss down both legs.”
“Marketing has done an inexplicably amazing job selling this to the masses. And the sheep have lined up for an underwhelming product that brings nothing… ‘new’ to the table. At least the wssm hype was interesting. This one is mind boggling,” the post concluded.
Creedmoor bashing articles have become so common, in fact, that authors are now meta-bashing the cartridge in a word play bait-and-switch. “Overhyped 6.5 Creedmoor Really Gets My Goat” reads a cleverly headlined pro-Creedmoor article about how the author used a 6.5 to bag a goat.
What motivates the 6.5 Creedmoor hate, and is there anything to it? I have a few theories.
Marketing One of the most common complaints leveled against the 6.5 Creedmoor is that it’s over-hyped. You can see that assumption in the title of the Outdoor Life previously mentioned and the same forum commenter from 2017 concludes their post, “Marketing, marketing, marketing. Bah humbug, I say.”
The idea here is that the 6.5 Creedmoor is fine, but it’s not the wunderkind it’s purported to be. The cartridge has certainly received high praise. Field & Stream called it “the best factory rifle cartridge ever,” Gun Digest gave eight reasons why the 6.5 will “stay on top,” and Ron Spomer Outdoors offered “20 reasons to shoot the 6.5 Creedmoor.”
For many, this kind of rhetoric is enough to cast a skeptical eye on the Creedmoor. Some hunters and shooters blame Hornady for marketing their 6.5 to the top of the sales charts in the U.S.
Hornady’s marketing communications manager, Seth Swerczek, admits that the cartridge has received “its share of hype” and that the marketing department “stokes the fire.” But he refuses to apologize for a marketing department that does its job well and points out that no amount of marketing can make up for a product that doesn’t perform.
“A lot of the hype is because people are having success,” Swerczek told MeatEater. “You can’t prop up a cartridge that doesn’t deliver if the proof isn’t in the pudding. The end users are continuing the hype because they’re having success.”
Is the Creedmoor faster/slower/lighter/heavier/weaker/stronger/uglier/handsomer than other cartridges on the market? Maybe. But if it sucked, no one would buy it, no matter how many magicians are on Hornady’s marketing team. That’s Swerczek’s argument, anyway.
I won’t re-hash the Creedmoor’s merits and demerits here. If you want more info on the Creed, you can check out this Caliber Battle. It may not be the “greatest factory cartridge ever produced,” but the truth of that statement depends on what you’ll be using it for. Considering the stunning popularity of the 6.5 over the last decade or so, it seems like many hunters and shooters have found a good use for it.
It’s also worth noting that some of the most hyperbolic of the articles lauding the Creedmoor are just that—hyperbole. David Petzal, author of the Field & Stream article above, calls those who might prefer a .260 Remington or a .7mm-08 “ignorant wretches” and “8th-grade dropouts.” He’s not exactly shooting straight in that article, and upon closer inspection, you’ll find that many gun writers qualify their praise.
The Creedmoor has been well-marketed, but it’s also been proven in the field and at the range, and even the biggest 6.5 proponents understand its limitations.
The Creedmoor also suffers a bit from being the "new kid on the block." Unlike most of America's favorite cartridges for medium-sized game, the 6.5 is barely a decade old. Some hunters may have given the Creedmoor one look in 2007 and never revisited the round since.
"Early hate on the cartridge stemmed from not much diversity and variety in ammo options. It was basically a target load," said Brian Kelvington, media director for Federal Ammunition. "Now, within the past 3-4 years, Federal has really stepped up the game by offering many options including some great hunting loads. This makes 6.5 CM a great target load, but also a hunting load which opens itself to more potential users."
A 6.5 Kind of Guy Other Creedmoor critics don’t seem to dislike the cartridge so much as the people who praise it.
“The people that hate it are hating on it because of the people that shoot it,” Swerczek said. He argues that some people don’t like the Creedmoor because it’s an “everyman thing.”
“Its popularity is why people love to hate it. It’s not the cool kid thing anymore. It’s the everyman thing,” he said.
This argument is plausible, but it’s what you might expect from the company that invented the Creedmoor—“don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” and all that.
There are contrarians in the hunting community who don’t like a product simply because it’s popular, but many of the attacks on Creedmoor owners come from another quadrant of the gun world. While some might dislike the Creedmoor and those who shoot it, the traditionalists are even more disdainful.
Field & Stream hunting editor Will Brantley, for example, adopted the old-guy-with-a-.30-06 routine in his criticism of the Creedmoor for a 2019 piece.
“I don’t have [a 6.5 Creedmoor], partly because I don’t have enough enlightened friends to carry on the long-range discussions that 6.5 ownership requires. It’d be like explaining the merits of a Smart car to the guy who’s pulling it out of the ditch with a four-wheel-drive diesel tractor,” he says. “My buddies are old-tractor and .30-06 people.”
Another gun writer, American Hunter’s Phillip Massaro, tracked a similar course: the Creedmoor “doesn’t replace the .30-06 in the hunting fields and it never will,” he said in 2019 without referencing any 6.5 fans who have claimed anything of the sort.
Or consider another forum post from 2019 in which the commenter explains, presumably while twirling his moustache, that Creedmoor fans like the cartridge simply because “they don’t know any better.”
“The 6.5 Creedmoor is relatively new, whereas the 6.5 Swede and .260 Remington have been around for decades. The 6.5 Creedmoor can thus be marketed as the ‘hot new thing’ to people who don’t know any better. I once read a gun writer refer to this as ‘Every year the .308 Winchester is re-introduced to great fanfare.’ (The average shooter is a LOT more ignorant about guns as products than they realize or would probably even admit.)”
The cartridge isn’t the problem, according to these folks—the problem is the kid who thinks he can use the Creedmoor to shoot 1,000 yards with a $350 rifle and a budget optic. The lemmings who have flocked to the 6.5 aren’t enlightened enough to know better. I’ll stick with my .30-06, thank you very much.
Two True Things Here are two true things. First, the Creedmoor is a great cartridge that fills a need for a lot of people. Second, other cartridges might fill that same need, but hunters and shooters have heard about the Creedmoor due in large part marketing efforts.
Those who love to hate the 6.5 Creedmoor don’t realize or don’t acknowledge that number two doesn’t take away for number one. The 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent cartridge, and its fans have proven its efficacy time and again. New long-range shooters were looking for a shootable, accurate, low-cost cartridge when the Creedmoor hit the shelves, and Hornady’s product fit the bill.
Has some praise for the Creedmoor been over the top? Sure. But those who blindly hate the 6.5 are no less ignorant than those who blindly adopt it.