The newest cartridge from Hornady is the 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge), and while it’s always questionable how much impact any new cartridge will make, this one brings considerable promise both for match shooters and hunters.
Now if this triggers a feeling of déjà vu, that’s because Hornady’s wildly popular 6.5mm Creedmoor—introduced a decade ago—is the same bore size (and therefore shoots the same bullets) and also is a crossover for competition and hunting applications. Both are sized to fit short-action bolt rifles, but in addition to being slightly longer, the 6.5 PRC case is significantly fatter than the Creedmoor, to the point where it offers nearly 28 percent more case capacity. With Hornady’s 143-gr. ELD-X super-streamlined hunting bullet, that translates a muzzle velocity of 2960 fps vs. the Creedmoor’s 2700 fps. Advantage PRC, clearly, but how much difference will it make in real-world shooting?
Before running the numbers, let’s acknowledge that ballistics alone won’t tell that tale, since the Creedmoor’s genius is delivering stellar downrange performance with so little recoil that diverse shooters, from demanding tournament competitors to newbie hunters, are ardent fans. Naturally the faster 6.5 PRC kicks more, though how that will be perceived is yet to be determined. Judging by the interest among long-range match shooters for this round and similar wildcats, its recoil must not be too fierce, since many of these folks stepped up from the Creedmoor and other mild 6.5s.
In downrange terms, the PRC’s extra juice indeed produces flatter trajectory and higher on-target energy. From a 200-yd. zero, the PRC’s ELD-X 143-gr. drops 18.2″ at 400 yds., compared to the Creedmoor’s 22.4″ drop. At that range, the PRC hits with 1800 ft.-lbs. of impact energy vs. 1475 ft.-lbs. from the Creedmoor.
Interestingly Hornady says its new wunderkind is “designed for use on medium-to-large game weighing up to 1,500 pounds.” That accounts for a lot of critterdom, though I’m sure no one at Hornady is recommending the 6.5 PRC for brown bears or Cape buffalo. What hunters should understand here is that with the ELD-X, and perhaps in the future with other premium bullets, they can count on sufficient expansion and penetration to drop a wide variety of big-game animals from just outside the blind to cross-canyon ranges.
Where it could get really interesting is to inject the 6.5 PRC into America’s favorite fireside gun debate, i.e., “What to use for elk?” Whereas the 6.5 Creedmoor is largely considered a marginal elk slayer—reliable only on made-to-order broadside shots—the PRC not only surpasses its running mate, it out-punches the .270 Win., and delivers terminal energy in the same league as the .30-06 and 7mm Rem. Mag. While there are more-potent 6.5/.264-caliber rounds out there, numbers like the .257 Weatherby, .26 Nosler and .264 Win. Mag., they require long- or magnum-length actions. So the PRC is potentially a better match with the shorter, lighter rifles preferred by today’s hunters.
For now, though, 6.5mm PRC-chambered guns from Proof Research and other early adopters are serious long-range tools with lengthy barrels and match or chassis-style stocks. But that’s going to change, and it’s fitting that Ruger is planning to join in. We can’t say exactly when that will occur, but when it does, it will kind of close the circle on a new family of cartridges Hornady and Ruger co-parented beginning with the .375 Ruger in 2006. That big boomer begat the underappreciated .300 and .338 Ruger Compact Magnums (RCM), and the PRC, based on the same case, is essentially a necked-down RCM.
When a new cartridge is introduced shooters logically want to know why it was developed, what it offers that’s not already done by other cartridges. In this case, the 6.5 PRC may not bring much of anything unique to the table. But like Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor and the various Ruger proprietary calibers, it’s well-balanced, versatile, accurate and lights-out lethal within the scope of its intended purposes.