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Favorite Loads for a pair of Ruger 6.5s Part 1

By Western Powder’s Staff

Growing up, there was only one 6.5 caliber rifle that got much space in magazines, the wonderful and accurate 6.5 x 55mm Swedish Mauser.  They had come into the country in droves after World War II at prices that were more than fair and of a quality that made sporterization a worthwhile.  What the public found then, and still knows today, is that the 6.5 bullet is a freak of physics that kills better than it should and flies truer than its external ballistics would indicate on paper.  Later there was the .264 Winchester with its higher velocities and all the problems that come with high intensity loadings.  The public remembers that too.  The simple truth is that the 6.5 caliber as a precision hunting round has always done best at velocities between 2,500 and 2,800 fps.  These two new Rugers, one a lightweight hunter and the other a full-blown precision rifle, are made to exploit cartridges designed for accuracy in that velocity range.  And they are both, in different ways, extraordinarily well-conceived rifles.

Fed by a modified AR-15 magazine, the Ruger Predator has a standard capacity of ten rounds.

The American Predator rifle comes with a moss green stock that includes the trigger guard loop.  The bottom, err…, plastic, (it is hard for me to get used to this age of polymer firearms) is obviously modular to adapt a group of rifles in this line to different magazine configurations.  This model use a standard AR-15 box magazine with a modified follower to better match the larger diameter of the 6.5 Grendel case.  The magazine holds ten rounds.

The bedding system that Ruger created for these rifles is novel.  A round receiver is mounted between metal V-blocks that are imbedded into the synthetic stock.  These provide strong, pillar-like bedding points that hold the action securely and free-float the barrel.  The barrel itself is hammer-forged 5-groove with a 1 in 8″ twist over a span of 22 inches.  It is threaded 5/8″-24 for a muzzle brake or suppressor.

The threaded barrel accepts standard brakes and suppressors.

Overall, the rifle is light and quick to the shoulder. At 6.6 lbs. empty, it is the sort of rifle you can forget you are packing over the course of a leisurely hunt.  To me, it seems at home hunting small and medium game up to the size of deer at reasonable ranges.  It is a rifle for shooters who respect shot placement over the flash and recoil of mightier loadings.  Despite its modern looks and efficient production design, the rifle at the shoulder feels very European in its trimness and mild recoil.

The 6.5 Grendel itself is an interesting cartridge.  It is the brainchild of Arne Brennan, a noted competitive shooter, and Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms.  They hoped to bring a precision cartridge to the AR-15 platform with the ability to strike effectively outside the envelope of the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO cartridge.  To do this, they began with a modestly modified 6 PPC case and necked it up to 6.5 caliber.  The result was an accurate and surprising hard-hitting cartridge that fit within the 2.260 internal dimensions of an AR-15 magazine.

Burris 4X20mm compact Short Mag optic is a perfect match to this light rifle.

Because this is going to be a light hunting rifle on a firearm that behaves like a modernized 6.5x55mm Swede, I mounted a compact 4-power scope to help maintain the rifle’s trim lines.  The little Burris Short Mag 4×20 fixed power scopes is one of my favorite compact optics.  At only 8.4 ounces and boasting generous eye relief, it is fantastic option for hunters looking to scope carbines and light rifles.  The only problem I had with the scope at all was created by the rather heavy duplex reticle.

For picking up tough moving targets quickly, that heavier reticle is a blessing, but it played hob with accurate shot placement from the bench.  I am confident that this rifle is capable of groups running toward 1/2 MOA if it had been scoped differently or tested by a more competent shooter, but it is ultimately headed into the field as a light hunter, not strictly as a varmint rifle. Given those circumstances, the little Burris Short Mag was my first choice.  A higher magnification, larger scope would just be an impediment on this quick hunting rifle.

Groups from both the 95 grain V-Max and Nosler Ballistic Tips showed a lot of promise, but the thick crosshairs, low magnification and average shooter tended to open up the groups.

Of all the testing I did with Predator, two lighter 6.5 bullets stood out.  The 95 grain Hornady V-Max has performed well in my 6.5X284 Winchester Cooper rifle as a varmint round and it seemed like a natural in the Grendel.  Using 29.0 grains of Accurate 2230, the rifle’s 22 inch barrel produced a respectable 2,672 fps over an average of three, three shot groups.  Hornady notes that the bullet will provide explosive expansion at velocities as low as 1,600 fps.  This puts the bullet firmly in the varmint class.   Where I live, coyotes are rampant, along with prairie dogs so the little bullet should be right at home.

Nosler provided image of average expansion of the 100 grain BT at 1,800 fps.

The 100 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip offers controlled expansion and deeper penetration than the V-Max and would be more at home for use on larger animals like deer and antelope.  Using 28.0 grains of Accurate 2230, the 100 grain Ballistic Tip averaged 2534 fps.  This is right in the middle of the bullet’s performance range and promises reasonable expansion at ranges between 100 and 150 yards.  Again, the rifle was hindered by the low magnification scope and thick duplex crosshair, but it would be murder in the field, averaging just slightly over one inch at a hundred yards.  At that range, the bullet still retains more than 2,100 fps and more than 1,000 ft-lbs of energy. At 150, the bullet is down less than two inches from the 100 yard zero and still maintains a bit over 1,000 ft-lbs.

Best group of the day was provided by the Nosler Ballistic Tips.

The Ruger Predator in 6.5 Grendel is a lot like a classic hunting knife.  It has everything you need and very little you do not.  It is accurate enough to varmint and powerful enough to hunt deer-sized game at reasonable ranges without crushing recoil.  It is a rifle for quiet evenings in a deer stand with a son who is just old enough to take his first game or for a pleasant day stalking whitetails in loose cover.  Ruger has made a rifle that is a modern hunting classic.  Click here for  complete loading data for the 6.5 Grendel from Western Powders.  6.5 Grendel pdf