Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to decide what my next rifle is going to be. I already have a couple of rifles in .223, so I knew I wanted something bigger. I also knew I wanted a rifle I could use in long range practical matches, in short-to-mid distance silhouette matches, and perhaps hunting medium-sized game. I eventually decided to start with a Remington 700 chambered in 260 Remington. While this paring is far from unorthodox, I did investigate and research a wide variety of alternatives, so I will describe them here.
My options were 6mm/.243, 6.5mm/.264, 6.8mm, 7mm, or 7.62mm/.30. I settled on 6.5mm for the following reasons:
- Relatively light recoil – What can I say, I’m a little guy 😉
- Big enough for hunting – In Europe, I hear the 6.5×55 (Swedish Mauser) is a popular hunting round, used even for moose (with good shot placement, obviously).
- Good bullet selection – Lots of match and hunting bullets from Sierra, Nosler and others for reasonable prices, in various weights.
- Very high ballistic coefficient – Heavier 140-142 grain 6.5mm bullets have ballistic coefficients equivalent to 200+ grain .30 caliber bullets. So compared to, say, a 150-175 grain .30 caliber bullet, it’ll have less wind drift and drop, as well as higher retained velocity and energy at long distances.
Platform: Remington 700
Picking the platform (action) was the hardest part. There were a few factors to consider in selecting a platform. My requirements were:
- Accuracy – it should shoot better than I can, which at this point means better than 1 MOA
- Cost – it has to be reasonably affordable (less than $1k)
- Ergonomics – I like pistol grips or thumbhole stocks
- Detachable magazine – seems necessary for practical matches
Here are some of the candidates and what I thought of them.
- AR-15 – As I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I like the AR-15. Unfortunately, the AR-15 only supports a limited selection of cartridges because the magazines will only seat cartridges up to 2.260″ in length. The most famous (and perhaps the only viable) 6.5mm cartridge that works in the AR-15 is the 6.5 Grendel. In other words, my decision to use or not use the AR-15 platform depended on whether or not the 6.5 Grendel was the right cartridge choice. I ultimately decided the answer was “no”, and I’ll discuss this decision in more detail below.
- AR-10 – For someone who likes the AR-15 but wants to shoot bigger cartridges, the AR-10 seems like a logical choice. I briefly considered this option, but decided against it because of limited availability of lowers in California, and high cost.
- Swedish Mauser – One of the more well known 6.5mm rifles is the Swedish Mauser. Famous for its inherent accuracy, rifles based on these Mausers have been popular hunting rifles in Europe. I happen to own one of these rifles, made in 1902, but I have a weakness for milsurp rifles, and can’t bring myself to drill into the receiver (say, for a scope mount). I also don’t like the stock, but I’m not sure there are very many after market stocks. I also haven’t found a way to add a detachable magazine to these rifles.
- Ishapore 2A1 – The 2A1s are modern Lee Enfield rifles designed specifically for the 7.62 NATO (.308 Win) cartridge. As such, they purportedly are made of stronger steel than their older British brethren, to withstand the higher pressures of a modern military cartridge. I also have one of these, but the muzzle is pretty worn out, and I can’t seem to shoot anything resembling a group with it. One option was to have it rebarreled and chambered for 260 Remington. Since the 260 is based on the 308 case, the cartridges should fit in the detachable box magazines and feed just fine. I ultimately decided against this option because finding a high quality replacement barrel seemed difficult, and also because these rifles aren’t exactly known for their accuracy.
- Creedmoor CSR-1 – If cost weren’t an issue, these rifles have everything I’d want. AR-like ergonomics, detachable magazines, and support for various 6.5mm cartridges. But at $3750, it is unfortunately far beyond my budget.
- Remington 700 – I have a model 700 in .223 that I don’t shoot that much any more, now that I’ve built that bolt action AR, also in .223. At the end, I decided it made the most sense to just have my m700 rebarreled and chambered for a 6.5mm cartridge. High quality replacement barrels are pretty affordable, and I have a friend who can rebarrel it for me, so my up-front costs would be relatively low. At some point, I might spring for an AICS stock to get that pistol grip and detachable magazine, but I can start shooting 6.5mm without it first.
Cartridge: 260 Remington
Some other candidates were 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, and 6.5-284.
- 6.5 Grendel – I took a nice, long, hard look at the 6.5 Grendel short of actually spending the money to build one. If you absolutely must have (or just plain want) an AR-15 to shoot 6.5mm projectiles, the Grendel seems like the answer you’re looking for. But if you want the best 6.5mm rifle, regardless of platform, there are better cartridges. The main weakness of the 6.5 Grendel is its relatively slow muzzle velocity due to its small case capacity. The Grendel can take about 30 grains of BL-C(2), while maximum loads for 260 Remington calls for up to 38 grains of BL-C(2). Correspondingly, muzzle velocities for Grendel loads seem to be 150-200ft/s slower than the Remington 260 for comparable bullet weights. The ballistic properties of the 6.5 Grendel are still impressive (often comparable to .308 Win), it doesn’t maximize the performance of those 6.5mm pills.
- 6.5 Creedmoor – From what I’ve read, the 6.5 Creedmoor is ballistically similar to the 260 Remington, but has a slightly shorter cartridge length which allows bullets to be seated out further while keeping the overall length short enough to fit in a magazine. I’m sure for top level shooters that’ll make a difference, but I doubt I’d notice any difference. I was ultimately turned off by the high brass prices.
- 6.5×47 – I rejected this cartridge for pretty much the same reason as the 6.5 Creedmoor.
- 6.5-284 – The 6.5-284 has an impressive track record, but also has an extremely short barrel life (supposedly about 1000 rounds). Since I could easily shoot 1000 rounds in a year, I decided I’d rather not have to rebarrel every year, even if it means I might not get the absolute most out of my 6.5mm cartridge.
- 260 Remington – I decided the 260 Remington was right for me because it’s a relatively proven cartridge, has pretty good ballistic properties, and brass is pretty cheap/available (I could either neck up 243 Win or neck-down 7mm-08, of course, in addition to using 260 Remington brass). If you’re interested, “The Case for 260 Remington” is a great read.
One crazy thought I have bouncing around in my head is to design a “lower receiver” to the Remington 700. You’d basically screw on a m700 barreled action to this “lower”, then attach an AR-15 pistol grip, butt stock, and hand guard tube to complete the rifle. The “lower” would also have a magazine well to accept either an AR-10 magazine, or more realistically, an AICS magazine. This all seems possible, but I’ll have to sit down with a CAD software to see…