Bergara Rifles - hunter in the field

The Best 6.5 PRC Rifles

Michael Crites
Michael Crites

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Why you should take a look at the 6.5 PRC

In the world of precision shooting, new cartridges continually promise to unlock previously unreachable long-range performance by pushing the limits of ballistic performance. This is especially true in the last several years. Among these, the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) is slowly becoming a popular round for big game hunting in bolt action rifles.

This new cartridge — with one of the best ballistic coefficients in the business — makes 400-yard shots a breeze thanks to its blistering muzzle velocity and high-tech design. To examine the case for the 6.5 PRC, we highlight six of the best rifles to use. And walk through the benefits, risks, and history of this fascinating new round that seeks to dominate at long ranges.

1. Seekins

The Seekins Precision Havok is an excellent example of the sort of rifle that takes advantage of the precision rifle series.

Coming with an overall length barrel of 24” to get the round up to speed, this rifle has everything you could want in a precision: there is a rail to mount optics, a threaded muzzle, and a rock-solid action bedded into a lightweight body.  Add in a three-pound trigger and a box magazine, and the Seeking PRecision Havak is an awesome rifle choice for this round.

2. Sauer

For a slightly more traditional look, the Sauer 100 Pantera XT is an excellent choice. There are a few things on this one that make it stand out. First is that the barrel is a little shorter at 22”: the size and weight savings are nice out in the field.

Also, the user-adjustable cheek comb, length of pull, and plentiful sling swivels make this an easy rifle to set up for your individual ergonomic preferences. Comfort matters in long-range shooting: the better the rifle fits you, the better you will shoot. That adjustability continues in the trigger, making this one a real “shooter’s rifle.”

3. Sauer

Another version of the S100 we had to include (because it’s a gorgeous gun) is the S100 Fieldshoot. All of the same adjustable features are present here, but now in a sexy laminate wood stock.

With an overall length of 44”, the S100 series are handy rifles that are just as comfortable in the field as they are shooting from a bench, and make excellent all-rounder rifles in the 6.5 PRC. Mount an optic and bipod of your choice on this fantastic rifle, and we have a good feeling you’ll be blown away with its performance.

4. Browning

Borrowing its looks from military sniper rifles, the Browing X Bolt foray into 6.5 PRC is another great option for those seeking  a gun that is exceptional both in the field and on the range.

This one caught our interest thanks to its included muzzle brake. The 6.5PRC is not that high recoiling of a round, but being able to keep on target a little better between shots makes life easier for those of us who end up doing our shooting and spotting alone. As is par for the course in this list, the X-bolt also has an excellent trigger and a rail to mount optics, to get you putting rounds on target as fast as possible.

5. Savage Arms

Aimed squarely at the serious hunter, the Savage Arms 110 is — barrel to butt — loaded with features that make this a very comfortable and accurate firearm.  The first thing you’ll be dazzled by is the camouflage finish, but there’s a lot more to this excellent rifle than just style.

Starting at the barrel, there’s threading to add a suppressor, which may come in handy in some hunting scenarios. From there, the stock has over-molded sections to add comfort, as well as the length of pull and comb height adjustments. Adjust the trigger, add a scope, and you’ll have one of the best hunting rifles available on the market today.

6. Bergara

Bergara refers to this as part of their premier line, and they are in no way kidding. The bolt is one of the best on the market in terms of repeatable lock up, and the trigger is similarly superb.

In terms of the barrel, expect great accuracy out of the 26” free-floated and tapered barrel. The whole action is then bedded in a black synthetic stock that is not going anywhere. This is the rifle you want if small groups at extreme range is your goal. The muzzle is additionally threaded for any muzzle devices you might care to add.

Why Choose a 6.5 PRC?

The 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC) was designed from the ground up to be an accurate cartridge that can reach out and touch a target at unbelievably long range. There are others, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5-248 Norma, and the .300 Winchester magnum, but among these (all of which are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5mm cartridges) the 6.5PRC has two major tricks up its sleeve.

The first is an extremely high ballistic coefficient, which means that it is a very aerodynamic round and is stable in flight, especially at high speeds.

Second, compared to the other rounds, the 6.5 PRC has a high case capacity, meaning more powder and increased muzzle velocity. A high BC bullet, flying fast, can make a believer out of most.

History of the 6.5 PRC

The 6.5PRC is new, having been announced in 2018 by Hornady at SHOT Shot. It is a thoroughly modern cartridge: its design reflects the latest in the use of computer modeling to design a hunting bullet to work at maximum performance out to the extreme range.

It stands as a competitor to more traditional long-range rounds, like .308 and .270 Win, as well as more niche rounds like the .244 Valk and 6.5 Grenel. While there has not been much time, relatively speaking, to put the 6.5 PRC to the test, the data looks like this will go down as one of the best precision rifle rounds in the world.

Benefits

As one of Hornady’s head designers, George Gardner, makes the case for the 6.5 PRC, the main benefit is sheer accuracy at range and their desire to craft a bullet that maximized performance within the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) rules — which stipulates a 3,200 ft/sec maximum velocity for any caliber rifle .30 cal or below. 

It just so happens that 6.5 bullets offer the highest ballistic coefficient you can push safely to 3,150 fps. 6mm can get there but have a lower BC, and 7mm can’t get to 3,150 fps safely in a short action cartridge — so the 6.5 PRC gives you the best ballistic coefficient with the PRS rulebook in mind.

For big game and target shooting at ranges out to 1,000 yards, factory loads of 6.5 PRC are likely some of the best ammo you can buy today.  The 6.5 PRC gets close to Winchester Magnum ballistics, but does so without burning out barrels by working better with faster-twist rages and modern powders to extend barrel life.

The 6.5 PRC can also remain supersonic well beyond 1,600 yards, no easy feat.

Shortcomings

Since a lot of these are made with Hornady’s eld-x bullets, you can expect these to be fairly expensive rounds. That’s nothing new for long-range shooting (it kind of comes with the territory of the precision rifle game) but makes for great hunting and target rounds if you are willing to pay the gold price.

The iron price is best avoided.

Second, George Gardner has expressed some concerns about barrel life in these rifles. While this is unlikely to be a major concern for most of us, some competition shooters might find themselves replacing barrels more often than they would like, even with the PRC’s focus on preserving barrel life.

Choosing the Best 6.5 PRC

If you’re looking at the 6.5 PRC, then precision shooting is something you care about, and we made sure to recommend rifles that will perform well for the vast majority of shooters. From there, we think it makes the most sense to compare the features and weights of those rifles and go with the one you think will do the most of what you want.

With that in mind, any of the rifles on our list are great pics and are worth checking out in their own right.

Conclusion

The 6.5 PRC is an excellent rifle cartridge looking for the bleeding edge in bullet technology, and long-range shooters will not want to miss out on its innovations in ballistics.

Sources:

  1. RifleShooter Magazine, Article on 6.5 PRC
  2. Ibid, on 284 Norma 
  3. Wikipedia: Article on Ballistic Coefficient 
  4. Geroge Gardner for Hornady: Q&A on the 6.5 PRC
  5. Precision Rifle Series, 2021 PRS Rulebook
  6. Field and Stream, 10 Best Long-Range Hunting Cartridges

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