6.5x55mm (6.5 Swedish)

The 6.5 is a very old cartridge that has always been extremely popular in Europe, and for good reason. It has been an excellent long range competition cartridge with excellent 6.5 bullets available. There have also been companies such as Lapua and Norma that have always loaded superb match grade ammo for it. Over the years I have become a fan of this cartridge based off of its history, pleasant shooting qualities, and great long range accuracy. Unfortunately, the 6.5×55 has never really been considered for much long range shooting in the USA, although to serious long range shooters and European shooters its no real surprise at how well this cartridge does. In the USA there was a brief bit of interest in this cartridge a few years ago but the thing that has hurt it recently is the introduction of the short action 6.5 cartridges such as the 260 Remington, 6.5×47 Lapua and 6.5 creedmore. These all produce performance on par with the USA loaded 6.5×55 ammo, but in a short action. But, you see, the 6.5×55 actually has more case capacity than the others but because there are so many very old rifles built and chambered for this cartridge, most of the USA manufacturers are not willing to load this cartridge to its potential. Instead of labeling the ammo “modern firearm use only” they have decided to handicap everyone using the 6.5×55. In Europe, this is not a problem so Lapua, Norma and others load it to much higher velocities. HSM here in the USA is also working on a hot version of the 6.5×55 with the sierra 142 SMK as well and that should be out very soon and readily available for the USA shooters.

The 6.5 has long been known for its excellent accuracy and absurdly high ballistic coefficients. With some of the European loads available and with HSM introducing a full capacity load, the 6.5 can be seriously considered for sniping. Additionally, I can really see the benefits for Law Enforcement applications, as it generally shoots a lighter bullet then the .308, but heavier then the .243, falling nicely right in between. The 6.5 deserves consideration for military application also, and has been chambered in some older military sniper rifles (WWII vintage). The round actually outperforms the .308 match loads in both the 168gr and 175gr, and its less susceptible to wind and arrives on target with as much energy at ranges over 600 yards. The penetration should be good as well with the superior sectional density of the 6.5 bullets. The only other problem I can see is the lack of sniper grade weapons chambered for the 6.5. But most of the custom sniper rifle manufacturers will chamber their rifles in any caliber the purchaser wants (Sometimes for a small additional fee). Hopefully rifle manufacturers will realize the great potential of the 6.5 and start to produce their sniper rifles in 6.5×55, though with the popularity of the other 6.5 short action cartridges, I doubt this will happen.

Recommendation: The 6.5x55m makes a very good Law Enforcement round as well as a very capable military sniping cartridge. When using the heavier bullets the round is excellent at ranges up to and potentially beyond 1000 meters far out performing the 308 rounds.

Military Applications:

Note: Included are two match loads, one the Lapua 123gr Scener (silver) and the new HSM 142gr load.the Sierra with 120gr Sierra Match King and the PMC with a 140gr Sierra Match king.

  • Lapua = Lapua 123gr Scenar (silver) @ 2850fps
  • HSM = HSM 142gr Sierra Match King @ 2700fps
Lapua +13.3 +23.2 +27.7 +25.9 +17.1 Zero -26.4 -63.7 -113.5 -177.9
HSM +14.8 +25.7 +30.1 +28.6 +18.7 Zero -29.0 -70.0 -124.7 -195.5

Energy (Muzzle: Lapua -2218 Ft-Lbs., HSM – 2298)

Lapua 1963 1733 1524 1336 1165 1013 877 757 653 563
HSM 2044 1812 1599 1407 1229 1066 922 796 687 593

Wind Drift (Inches) 10mph Crosswind

Lapua 0.6 2.4 5.5 10.1 16.2 24.2 34.1 46.1 60.5 77.4
HSM 0.6 2.4 5.6 10.2 16.5 24.7 34.9 47.4 62.3 79.9

Law Enforcement Applications:

Note: What I have choosen here was one of the lighter Lapua loads. It uses a 108gr scenar bullet travel at a high 2950 fps. This lighter bullet should not penetrate as much and will have very little drop and get on target very quick for LE applications. I would also look at the 123 load as well, both would work well. Federal also makes a Premium 140gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw load for 6.5×55 and this should prove to be excellent for a glass busting round. (FBI tests show the TB Bear Claw to be the best at staying together after passing through glass, but of course, your own tests should be conducted to verify any results and so your team knows what to expect in all situations)

  • Lapua = Lapua 108gr Scenar @ 2950 fps
  • Fed = Federal Premium 140gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw at 2550fps

Bullet Drop (Inches)

50y/46m 100y/91m 200y/183m 300y/275m
Lapua -0.2 Zero -3.1 -11.5
Fed 0.0 Zero -4.9 -17.4

Energy (Muzzle – Lapua-2086 Ft-Lbs., Fed-2021)

Lapua 1948 1818 1578 1363
Fed 1855 1699 1419 1176

Wind Drift (Inches) 10 mph Crosswind

Lapua 0.2 0.6 2.6 6.1
Fed 0.2 0.9 3.8 9.0