The .270 Win. has achieved global acceptance by sportsman thanks to its mild demeanor and lethal potential. With bullets from 100 to 150 grains, it combines flat trajectory with moderate recoil. Velocities can top 3,000 fps with a 140-grain bullet without pushing limits, and since the cartridge debuted in the 1920s, it has always remained a relatively popular hunting cartridge.
In 2007, Hornady’s Dave Emary and champion shooter Dennis Demille designed a 6.5 competition cartridge based on the .30 T/C. Unlike its parent cartridge, the 6.5 Creedmoor won fans in a hurry. While it was a competition cartridge by design – mating long, high-BC wind-bucking bullets with a short, efficient case and low recoil – the 6.5 Creedmoor quickly became a crossover hunting cartridge.
There’s a great deal of overlap between the .270 and 6.5 in the field. The Creedmoor uses bullets from 95 to 160 grains, the .270 with bullets from 100 to 150 grains, so there are more options with the 6.5.
But the .270 Win. has an advantage in terms of sheer speed and energy. With a 140-grain bullet, the 6.5 Creedmoor struggles to reach 2,725 fps, whereas the .270 Win. can easily top 2,900 fps and can even break 3,000. But the extra speed and energy requires more powder, a longer action, and the result is a heavier gun that generates more recoil.
Muzzle velocity is only one aspect of a cartridge that can perform at longer ranges, though. You must also consider a bullet’s ballistic coefficient, and the 6.5 Creedmoor has the upper hand there. The 129-grain Hornady InterBond 6.5 bullet has a BC of .485 compared to the 130-grain .270 Inter-Bond’s .460; the 140-grain 6.5 SST’s.520 BC outshines the 140-grain .270.
SST’s figure of .495. That equates to less wind drift, and the long, heavy 6.5
bullet’s high sectional density means a Greedmoor bullet meant for hunting will penetrate deep to drop big game. The Creedmoor is also a masterfully efficient cartridge design. With 140-grain bullets the 6.5 Creedmoor achieves 2,700 fps with 42.3 grains of Hybrid 100V powder or 42.8 grains of Winchester 760.
To achieve that same velocity with a .270, you’ll need 49.2 and 50.3 grains of powder, respectively. It’s less expensive, therefore, to reload the Creedmoor, at least in terms of powder consumption. And although the .270 Win. is hardly to be considered a heavy-recoiling round, it generates about 15 percent more recoil than the demure 6.5 Creedmoor, as well as more muzzle blast.
Virtually every centerfire ammunition manufacturer offers at least one load for the .270 Win.; the same can’t be said for the 6.5 Creedmoor-at least not yet. Likewise, virtually every bolt-action rifle made offers a .270 variant, although manufacturers like Savage and Browning are adding rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor every year.
On larger game like elk, the .270 Win. has the advantage. If you believe the adage that it takes 2,000 ft.-lbs. of energy to kill a bull, then the .270 carries that level of energy with most loads to roughly 300 yards whereas the typical 6.5 Creedmoor load falls below that number between 100 and 200 yards.
If you don’t handload, the .270 is probably a better option simply because rifles and ammo are everywhere. If you handload, you can take advantage of the wide variety of 6.5 bullets. Bottom line is that these two cartridges will serve you well, and it’s impossible to hang the term “loser” on either one.
- Better performance at moderate ranges
- Lengthy track record on game
- Huge ammo, rifle selection
- Requires longer action, heavier rifle
- Generates more recoil than the 6.5
- Not as great component bullet selection
- Short-action rifles and low recoil
- Excellent BC and SD figures
- Increasingly more gun, ammo choices
- Not as effective on elk-size game
- Ammo still not widely available
- Future not carved in stone