The 6.5x284 Norma


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Apr 1, 2014
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The 6.5x284 Norma
by Wayne van Zwoll

Neck the .284 Winchester to .264, and you’ll get the increasingly popular 6.5/284. After target shooters and hunters began tapping the reach of the wildcat 6.5/284, Swedish ammunition maker Norma submitted the cartridge for approval by CIP, the European equivalent of SAAMI. That was in 1999; since then the 6.5/284 Norma has become a standard entry in that company’s catalog, now with a 156-grain Oryx bullet at 2,790 fps. That softpoint exits faster than a 180 Oryx from the .30-06, flies flatter at distance and delivers more energy to 300 yards – while hitting you with much less recoil! Hornady and Lapua also produce cases.

A fine big game cartridge, the 6.5/284 is the ballistic equivalent of the 6.5/06, a wildcat that’s never really caught on. Part of the reason: It almost duplicates the performance of the .270. In 1963 Winchester decided to make a short-action version of the .270. To match the .270’s case capacity, it used a rebated design. That is, the standard .473-diameter base is slightly smaller than the case body. The .284 Winchester behaved pretty much as intended. Short actions limit its bite with heavy bullets, but given 150-grain spitzers, it runs neck-and-neck with the .270 and .280.

The first commercial U.S. cartridge with a rebated head, the .284 was initially chambered in Winchester Model 88 lever-action and Model 100 autoloading rifles. It appeared in the Savage 99, Browning BLR and Ruger 77. With a case length of 2.170 inches, shoulder diameter of .475 and shoulder angle of 35 degrees, it holds considerably more powder than the .308 and kin. (The .308, for which most short bolt actions are fashioned, measures 2.015 inches long and mikes .454 at the bottom of a 20-degree shoulder).

Because it can handle heavier bullets, you could say the .284 trumps the 6.5/284 for elk-size game. But that argument is wearing thin as the 6.5mm bore has gained a following. Many fine .264 hunting bullets have appeared, some of them designed specifically for shooting at long range. The 6.5/284 shines on bullseye targets as distant as 1,000 yards. Ballistic coefficients of well over .500 minimize drop and drift with 123- to 142-grain match bullets. All you miss by not using a .30 magnum is gum-numbing recoil!

Hunters find the 6.5/284 deadlier than it looks. Norma-loaded 156 Oryx bullets add great penetration and dependable upset to loads featuring 140-grain softpoints. The 6.5/284 has served me well. In a steep Idaho canyon, I once slipped downhill toward a five-point bull. Out of cover at 300 yards, I leveled my rifle, a Mauser barreled by E.R. Shaw. The elk fed into timber on the cusp of a draw. I planted the reticle in my Zeiss scope in a tiny window. When the animal paused in that gap, I took the last ounces off the trigger. My bullet drove through the forward ribs. The bull flipped over, four feet in the air, and tumbled into the draw. Who says this short 6.5 isn’t an elk round?

Norma’s 6.5/284 is also versatile. It’s no trick to get 3,400 fps from an 85-grain Sierra in my 25-inch E.R. Shaw barrel. Powders a tad slower than medium work fine: BL-C2, N140, 4064, even W760 and H4350. These last two, with N150, Big Game and IMR 4831, launch 100-grain Hornadys to 3,300. For bullets 120 grains and heavier, powders like WMR, AA3100, RL-22 and N160 wring 3,150 fps from 120s.

My rack also holds an Ultra Light rifle in 6.5/284. Despite its 6-pound heft, it drills 3/4-inch groups. Melvin Forbes designed his short U.L.A. action with the mid-length 7x57 and .284 families in mind. Norma seats bullets to take advantage of such receivers.

The .284 is indeed a close match to the .270 Winchester. By several measures, however, the 6.5/284 trumps both!
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