A Blaser R93 in 6.5-284 Norma shooting Norma's old 140-grain Partition load dropped this 6x6 whitetail with a single hit from about 287 yards. (Why do they always have to break a tine or two?)
The 6.5-284 Norma is the best balanced, all-round, do-everything, short-action centerfire rifle cartridge on the shelf.
You can sell your 308 Winchester’s now. Your 7mm-08 Rem. and 7x57 Mauser, too.
This perennial argument about the "best all-round rifle (cartridge) in the world" can never be settled. In a recent blog (link at end of this post,) Richard Mann states his case for the ever popular (but over-rated) 308 Winchester. It's solid, but everything he claims it does the 7mm-08 Remington does slightly better. And the 6.5-284 Norma beats the 7mm-08.
If that doesn’t float your boat, I can direct you to two more short-action rounds that outperform the 308 and 7mm-08 -- the 260 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor. Both shoot the same efficient bullets as the Norma, but 100 to 150 fps slower. That's still fast enough to outperform the 308.
Let's concentrate on the 6.5-284 Norma here. You may have heard of it but probably never taken any game with it. Most folks have never even seen the cartridge because it's just not that popular. But it should be. The 6.5-284 outperforms many famous hunting cartridges including 270 Winchester, 280 Remington and 30-06 Springfield and (in some ballistic categories) even the 7mm Remington Magnum. What this overlooked 6.5mm delivers is less drop, less drift, more punch downrange and a higher Sectional Density for deeper penetration. Recoil is comparable to a 270 Win.
Ballistically, the 308 Winchester can't match up to the faster 6.5-284 Norma. Neither can the 260 Rem. or 6.5 Creedmoor. However, the 6.5 Norma isn't a "true" short-action cartridge, so long, high B.C. bullets must be seated farther into its powder space in order to function in short action magazines. No big deal. Thanks to its fatter diameter and longer case, it still out-propels all the others.
Let’s revisit the ballistic chart I used in a previous blog to compare the 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem. and add some data for the 6.5-284 Norma. It will be spitting a 142-grain Nosler AccuBond Long Range bullet. It might seem unfair to put a little 142-grain bullet up against “harder hitting,” heavier bullets like the 165-grain .308 and 160-grain .284, but wait and see what happens. All cartridges were zeroed 3 inches high at 100 yards and fired (computer generated ballistic data) at 65-degrees F. in a 10 mph right angle wind.
Check out those energy numbers. The 142-grain 6.5mm projectile, pushed by 52 grains of Reloader 19 powder, beats both heavier bullets. This shoots holes in the persistent myth that heavier bullets drift less in the wind and “hit harder.” The 6.5-284 even kicks a smidgen less than the 308 Win. and 7mm-08 Rem. The load graphed here generates 16.99 foot-pounds free recoil energy in a 7-pound rifle, a pound less than a 270 Win. shooting the same weight bullet. (I'll confess I fudged a bit by not using the highest B.C. AccuBond Long Range bullets in the 308 and 7mm-08 data. That would improve their results slightly, but the 6.5-284 would still win handily.)
Nosler builds 9 different loads for the 6.5-284 Norma and chambers its precision M48 rifles for it.
Pragmatic folks can argue that 2 inches less drop, 2 inches less wind drift and 200 foot-pounds more energy at 300 yards don’t matter to the deer you hit. Maybe. But Super Bowls have been won by these margins. And at longer distances, the 6.5-284 Norma advantage really starts to add up. If you ever have to shoot something at 500 yards, don’t you want a bullet that falls 10 inches less, deflects 6 inches less and packs 346 more foot-pounds of kinetic energy than a 165-grain .308? That’s the 6.5-284 Norma. Heck, it even delivers 133 foot-pounds more energy than the 165-grain 308 slug at 200 yards.
So why is the 308 Win. so popular? Clearly the 6.5-284 Norma is the superior round, but it isn’t going to win any practicality contests for two simple reasons:
- Too few manufactures chamber rifles for it. E.R. Shaw and Savage offer it in some bolt-actions. New Ultra Light Arms has it in the impressive M20, and Nosler wisely offers it in its M48. Semi-custom shops like Rifles, Inc., Gunwerks, and Kilimanjaro chamber it, and you can always have a gunsmith re-chamber or re-barrel an existing rifle. Lex Webernick at Rifles, Inc. likes the 6.5-284 so much in his standard Strata rifles that he has built special, 6 1/2-pound Pear Flat rifles around it.
- Too few manufacturers load ammunition for it. Norma has a hard hitting 156-grain Oryx bonded bullet load. Nosler sells nine different loads featuring eight different bullets. Double Tap has four great offerings including Nosler Long Range AccuBonds and Barnes Long Range X bullets. With all the high B.C. .264” bullets on the market, loading your own is an alluring option.
Norma, Nosler and Double Tap (not shown) load the 6.5-284 Norma.
Mann is correct when he notes in his blog that the 308 Win. is convenient. Guns and ammo are common, abundant and sold around the world, but in some countries it’s a banned military round. Take it hunting and you won't even get through the airport. How convenient is that?
Most serious riflemen (and women) buy, test and practice with their ammo well ahead of time, tuning it and their scopes for precision. They aren't likely to settle for some off-the-shelf fodder even if their luggage is lost for a day or two. Instead they'll ship a supply ahead or arrive early enough for the ammo to catch up. That's the price you pay for enjoying the superior performance of the impressive 6.5-284 Norma. You aren't likely to find it in a small town gun shop.
That might bump this amazing cartridge from the top of the "world/s ideal all round cartridge," but it takes nothing from its inherent performance characteristics. If you value convenience more than performance, get a 308 Win. But if you want maximum performance with minimum recoil in a short-action cartridge, you want the 6.5-284 Norma. It's like a pizza. Better design. Better ingredients. Better ballistics.
Read Mann's arguments in favor of the 308 Winchester here. Read my 7mm-08 rebuttal here.