The 6.5 Swede 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 the excellent 6.5 bullets available. There have also been companies such as Lapua and Norma that have always loaded excellent match grade ammo for it. The popularity in Europe is 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 it is no real surprise at how well this cartridge does. In the USA there was a brief bit of interest in this cartridge a while ago but the short action 6.5 cartridges such as the 260 Remington, 6.5×47 Lapua and especially the 6.5 creedmore have dominated the 6.5 long range popularity contest. All three of these produce performance on par with the 6.5×55 and from a short action. The 6.5×55 actually has more case capacity than the others but because there are so many old rifles built and chambered for this cartridge, most of the USA manufacturers are not willing to load this cartridge to its full 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.
The Swede has long been known for its excellent accuracy and high ballistic coefficient bullets. With some of the European loads available the Swede can seriously be considered for sniping. Additionally, there are benefits for Law Enforcement applications, as it generally shoots a lighter bullet then the .308, but heavier then the .243, falling nicely in between. The Swede 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 just as much energy at ranges over 600 yards. The penetration is good as well with the high sectional density of the 6.5 bullets. The only other problem I can see is the lack of sniper grade weapons chambered for the Swede, and of course the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor. Though most of the custom sniper rifle manufacturers will chamber their rifles in any caliber the purchaser wants.
Recommendation: The 6.5×55 Swedish 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 beyond 1000 meters, far out performing the 308 Winchester.
Note: Included are two match loads. The Lapua 123gr Scener (silver) and the new HSM 142gr load using the Sierra Match King bullet.
- Lapua = Lapua 123gr Scenar (silver) @ 2850fps
- HSM = HSM 142gr Sierra Match King @ 2700fps
Energy (Muzzle: Lapua -2218 Ft-Lbs., HSM – 2298)
Wind Drift (Inches) 10mph Crosswind
Law Enforcement Applications:
Note: What I have chosen here was one of the lighter Lapua loads. It uses a 108gr scenar bullet traveling at a high 2950 fps. This lighter bullet should not penetrate as much and will have very little drop and get on target very quickly 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)
Energy (Muzzle – Lapua-2086 Ft-Lbs., Fed-2021)
Wind Drift (Inches) 10 mph Crosswind