Nosler announces a new 6.5mm rifle cartridge – but will it sell?

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The 6.5mm caliber offers tremendous possibilities but just can’t seem to make many inroads in the U.S. market. Can Nosler’s new hyper-performance iteration gain a following for my favorite mid-range bullet?
I must admit to being a big fan of 6.5mm rifle cartridges. I’ve only owned a few, but the 6.5mm caliber is interesting from a ballistic standpoint: its bullets are very heavy relative to their diameter, which gives it excellent penetration capabilities; at the same time the bullets are very streamlined to resist drag, which makes the rounds relatively flat-shooting. In other words, the 6.5mm caliber’s ballistic coefficient is very high relative to its sectional density.

The result tends to be very efficient cartridges and I think that’s a good description for most of the 6.5mm stable. They’re also, as a rule, extremely accurate. If the adage “only accurate guns are interesting”, that makes the 6.5mm very interesting indeed!

For some reason the 6.5mm family never really caught on here in the U.S. Though many thousands of 6.5mm Swedish Mausers were once sold on the surplus market, it’s not often that I see one out on the range. America is the land of the .30 caliber, and you’ll find lots of those both commercial and surplus at the local shooting places, but the 6.5 Swede languishes.

Even our own native 6.5mm rounds haven’t really captured the imagination of the shooters in this country. The fire-breathing .264 Winchester Magnum is almost a footnote in the shooting world despite its tremendous performance; the much more recent .260 Remington, which is the .308 Winchester necked down to 6.5mm, is a tremendously efficient and accurate round yet the local gun stores rarely have a rifle in that cartridge. “Not very popular”, they tell me. Mentioning the 6.5mm Grendel round for the AR-15 usually elicits a “what??” look from black rifle enthusiasts.

My own experience with the caliber has primarily been with the 6.5-284 cartridge, back when it was still a wildcat (it’s since been legitimized by Norma.) I bought it for long range hunting of things like antelope and to do a little shooting on the 1,000 yard range I then had available to me. Neat round, very accurate and pleasant to shoot, but hard on barrels. (The .264 Win. Mag. suffered from the same reputation; in both cases they had a tendency to wear out barrel throats. It was not uncommon to see noticeable throat erosion inside of 1,000 rounds!)

It was with interest, then, that I read about Nosler’s new 6.5mm cartridge: the .26 Nosler. It pushes a 129-grain bullet out the muzzle at a blistering 3,400 fps (easily besting the 6.5-284) and reportedly has as much velocity at 400 yards as the .260 Remington does at the muzzle!

Whilst I applaud my fellow Oregonians for coming up with a new cartridge their invention holds little interest for me. My 6.5-284 was enough of a barrel burner for my tastes, and I never did actually use it to take any game. (I no longer own it and plan instead to acquire or build something around the .260 cartridge.) I’m sure the .26 Nosler will find a following, but it’s the first new 6.5mm round that doesn’t pique my interest — which is as rare as finding a new revolver that doesn’t capture my imagination!

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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