6.5-284 Norma Best All-Round Cartridge


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Apr 1, 2014
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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Figures aside and they are a bit misleading here I think because of the difference in weights used, this is poppycock. Yes, the 6.5-284 is a good round no question but to say its so much better than others in its class, not buying it. For instance in the Nosler load it brags a 130 gr bullet at 2900 fps. Big deal! Its parent case the .284 Win with which I have some experience will easily drive a 150 gr bullet to that same speed and even surpass that. Yes, I know the 6.5 bullets will theoretically dig all the way to China and back, but again the real world differences are minor. Is it a tad better than the .308 in some instances? Sure, a bit flatter shooting, carry its energy farther. But here again what does "better" mean? The .308 can be loaded with 200 gr bullets and in shorter ranges will hit harder, no question. So if you want to say its a better long range round, yeah, I buy that. Within a couple hundred yards on larger game, I would prefer the larger caliber and heavier bullet, especially on elk size game, like kudu or eland. He also states here that the 7-08 can beat the .308 in all ways. Again, baloney, for the same reasons as noted above, bigger caliber, heavier bullet capability. These "which rounds are best" arguments are great fun, but in the real world where a 500 yard shot is beyond most of our capabilities, mine included, who cares if a particular round still has a couple hundred pounds of energy way out there or if it drifts a couple inches less? I don't.
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My last build was a 6.5 284. Needless to say I'm a bit prejudice seeing that I've just replaced my favorite deer rifle with it. Mild recoil accurate as hell and built on a great action, I love it. I'll still use the 7x57 from time to time as well as the 270 but for a mid weight gun I couldn't be happier.
I know that it is a darling of the match shooter crowd as well due to its inherent accuracy, a trait it shares with all 6 .5 rounds.
Cracked open my Nosler 7 book to compare with the .308 and I am not seeing the benefits to the 6.5-284 over a .308 win. Looks to me like the .308 outperforms the 6.5 with 140 grain bullet and uses less powder. Then there is wide range of bullets available for the .308 not available in the 6.5. Given a choice between the two I think I would have to go 308 without a second thought. That said, if I wanted to shoot 140g bullets out to 500 yards, (I can't see that far anymore let shoot accurately) a 280 AI would probebly be a top contender for me.
This is a fine advertisement to drum up more interest in a cartridge (not surprisingly) Norma standardized not too long ago. Who knows maybe it will, but not for me. It was in my sights as I researched for a new rifle but didn't make the cut. While I don't care whether it's a short action or not, the title is misleading, Norma standardized it into a standard length cartridge with a max OCL of 3.228 inches to give it more powder capacity. Not a bad thing, but let's be honest Mr. Spomer. Then there's the ballistics and ranges. Most shots are 200 yards or less, where the heavier 270-30 cal bullets are holding their own even better than he claims, especially if he had used the far more common 125 to 130 grain bullets, not the heaviest bullet on the market for 6.5 mm. Then there's availability. You know a cartridge has been accepted when it's manufactured in left-handed (my market). It hasn't. So to me it's a good cartridge among many other good cartridges, but nothing more.
I will start by saying I'm not a cartridge or ballistics nut. That being said, this cartridge isn't even in the running for "best all around" IMO and the article is nothing but an advertisement for "best" under very limited and specific circumstances.

Simply put, all round means, well, all around. Who wants to hunt Cape Buffalo with this cartridge? Elephant? Brown Bear? If it was an all around cartridge some would raise their hands.
In fairness to Mr Spomer, I am pretty sure he meant all around as in deer sized game and up to large deer, kudu etc. He has made many trips to Africa and certainly knows that this round nor any its class could compete with a true all rounder.
In fairness to Mr Spomer, I am pretty sure he meant all around as in deer sized game and up to large deer, kudu etc. He has made many trips to Africa and certainly knows that this round nor any its class could compete with a true all rounder.

You're probably right.

This perennial argument about the "best all-round rifle (cartridge) in the world" can never be settled.

But not what he said. :)
I will start by saying I'm not a cartridge or ballistics nut. That being said, this cartridge isn't even in the running for "best all around" IMO and the article is nothing but an advertisement for "best" under very limited and specific circumstances.

Simply put, all round means, well, all around. Who wants to hunt Cape Buffalo with this cartridge? Elephant? Brown Bear? If it was an all around cartridge some would raise their hands.

I use a 308 in a Ruger M77 compact with a 16 inch barrel! I would go all the way up yo eland with it and not worry. Don't know much about this 284....,., but it's a good sales pitch.
Well its a dang good round for sure, but there lots of dang good rounds out there and this one is no better than most and not as good as others. For African hunting or elk size critters anywhere, I would take an '06 over this puppy any day.
...I would take an '06 over this puppy any day.

From my limited experience, the '06 is a much more versatile cartridge. LOL, a cheapskate friend lived in New Mexico for a while and used one with 110 grainers to shoot Prairie Dogs. Then would take it Elk hunting with 180 gr rounds. Now THAT'S versatile.
The advertorial is rather laughable. I'm not sure the 6.5-284 can even claim to be the best all-rounder in the 6.5 class.

I didn't see any reference to the 6.5x55 Swede, which only has 100 years or so on the 6.5-284 and is arguably a better 'all-rounder' in the 6.5 class. Must have been an accidental oversight:cautious:

If speed is the objective, then the 26 Nosler does it better. 260 Rem and the Swede are probably more efficient as far as powder usage goes. Heck, is the 6.5-284 even a short action cartridge, as was claimed? Not that action length excites me one iota, but the (inaccurate) propaganda does stick in the craw.

No doubt it's a great target/benchrest round as its accuracy has proven. I struggle to see what extra it offers in a hunting context.
The dirty secret about 6.5x284. World class competitors figured out that it actually shoots best with a full cartridge of powder or a compressed load that results in a 2925fps muzzle velocity. Sure it will go higher, but accuracy is lost.

The softer recoiling 6.5x55SE can be loaded to nearly those same velocities with the same accuracy. So all that extra velocity potential of the 6.5x284 is at a loss of accuracy past 2925fps.

I will concede that the 6.5x55 does need a longer action than a modern "short action" rifle but it exceeds the bullet options of its short action ballistic twin the .260 Rem because it takes a longer action and the swede can then load for longer, heavier for caliber bullets.

I'm a recoil sissy and I don't like lugging heavy guns so I'll stick with 6.5x55 and 7x57 myself. I don't think there is a bad choice in all the greats: 6.5x54MS, 6.5x55, 6.5x284, .260, .264, 7x57, 7x84, .284, .26 nos, .28 nos, .280 AI. There is a reason that everybody wants to stick with 6.5 and 7mm projectiles...they're amazing.

Now do I think that amongst those gems the 6.5x284 is the champ? Not so much. I don't care for the guns that chamber them as they are looking for trouble. All of the above except for perhaps the last 3 are really designed for medium to large game out to about 250-300 yards. The latter three and the 6.5x284 are taking coyote shots at 1000 yards but then some knuckle head thinks its a good idea to take 600 yard pokes on Elk/Eland class game with said guns...not good. You're suffering with a heavier gun with a heavier scope to take a longer shot that you probably ought not take with a 6.5 caliber bullet as 140 grains is going pretty slow at 600 yards and isn't ideal.

I don't dislike it but it provides little ballistic advantage for a stalking rifle and I do not intend to lug around a 15x scope and do firing solutions on distant game with any rifle, especially one so underpowered at great distances.
This was an article I wrote about 7mms as a case study but it just as easily applies to the debate over 6.5x284 versus say 6.5 MS, Swede, 260, etc.

Facts are tricky things as they harm our biases.

Roy Weatherby held to a fanatical philosophy that “speed kills”. That notion has had cascading impact on decisions for rifles, scopes, bullets and cartridges that frankly do not apply to 99% of hunting situations yet they still persist. Looking at several other points that converge on “what gun and bullet to use” will show how specialized high velocity rifles are and what a marginal payout they provide.

Maximum Point Blank range (MPBR) is defined at the maximum range one can “point, aim, fire” from a weapon and have it be effectively what you see is what you get. Usually the MPBR is +/- 4” or 27.5cm for most hunting situations. Thus, if I aim well and the bullet is less than 4” low or high from where the sights/scope have been regulated, the shot will be good.

The whole principle of magnum class high-velocity weapons is to provide a flatter shooting rifle so you can take those remarkable long distance shots that we see on the Internet. The classic 1300 yard across the canyon to the next mountain shot on elk, for example. But do magnum weapons really give you a competitive advantage on MPBR?

Case examples:

7x57 traveling at 2437fps with a 175gr Nosler Partition bullet. (BC .519) Nosler partitions are known to work best at impact velocities of 1900-2400 fps and at higher rates fragmentation or jacket separation occurs, and at lower speeds lack of penetration is the problem

7mm Weatherby traveling at 2950fps with a 175gr Nosler Partition bullet. (BC .519)

For the 7x57 the MPBR requires a 1.99” high 100 yard sight in to provide the MPBR of 210 yards.

For the 7mm Weatherby the MPBR requires a high 1.84” yard sight in to provide the MPBR of 252 yards.

At 350 yards the 7x57 has dropped 19” and has reduced to the minimum 1900fps for proper bullet performance.

At 640 yards the 7mm Weatherby has dropped 80” and has reduced to the minimum 1900fps for proper bullet performance. But no man can do a holdover shot ethically for an 80” drop at 640 yards so that brings up the better question:

But at what point has the bullet of the 7mm Weatherby dropped a reasonable 19” for an “aim for top of the back” holdover? At 395 yards.

Benefits and trade offs

7mm Weatherby Negatives:

Less accurate for most due to violent recoil

Built on a heavier gun to withstand higher recoil

Is not in the desired 2400fps ballistic range for proper bullet performance until 310 yards away

Significantly more muzzle blast and report

A marginal advantage of a MPBR +42 yards over the 7x57

7x57mm Negatives

Is not in the desired 2400fps ballistic range for proper bullet performance until 20 yards away

A marginal disadvantage of a MPBR of only 210 yards.

So the 7mm Weatherby in the example (or any other high speed, high recoil gun versus a moderate speed counterpart) isn’t useless, it just is useful for a very unique shooting circumstance that almost no one requires. It is a specialist’s gun that is not used for its specific abilities by almost anyone.

False Assumption: Buy the 7mm Weatherby if you demand an MPBR that will carry you to 252 yards instead of 210 because you cannot judge/estimate distances and you don’t have a range finder and therefore the additional 42 yards of MPBR is an extremely compelling benefit. Which it wouldn’t be because the gun isn’t even in the proper functional impact velocity for the bullet at its Maximum Point Blank Range! So don’t buy the 7mm Weatherby for extending your MPBR after all!

True Assumption: Buy the 7mm Weatherby magnum because you want to take lethal shots on game animals out to 640 yards. This assumes you have a very high quality mil spec optic, you can judge the wind, provide calculations in mils or mins as well as a trained sharpshooter, and you’re willing to endure noise, weight, and recoil to get this particular benefit. Basically, you want the 7mm Weatherby for hunting from 350 yards to 640 yards because that is where the 7x57 will be ineffective in the example.
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I'm in the 6.5 x 55 SE camp! Don't care if it is considered a "long action" cartridge. Most people that have ever used it know the capabilities. those that haven't used it and actually see what it is capable of, want to know everything about it. Made several believers at caribou camp last fall and a few in TN about 2011 at pig camp. Hopefully make a few more believers down here in TX this fall when i go after pigs and deer!
The 6.5 Swede is a sweathart of a cartridge, it kills anything up to and including moose with not much effort at all....recoil is mild and accuracy with this cartridge is simply inherent.....

My 7x64 Breneke is just as awesome - it's ballistics are quite outstanding and I really like 7mm bullets - so to be quite frank, I wouldn't swap either for the 6.5x284 Norma as it offers no real advantages to my current battery.....sorry!
I just looked at my 300wsm 155 amax @3300 vs the 6.5 x 284 142 ABLR @ 2900. Both zeroed at 100

600 yds 300wsm drops 62.4 the 284 72.7

energy 300wsm 1409 the 284 1362 plus the 300 punches a bigger hole, is far more readily available. Further the 300wm has an edge over the 300wsm and is available everywhere at very reasonable prices. The 6.5X284 is a wonderfully accurate long range target cartridge but it sure as hell isn't the best all round, not by a long shot

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