Why an Old-School .30-06 Hunter is Switching to the 6.5 PRC


After 30 years of hunting with classic cartridges like the .270 and ’06, the author has found a new favorite deer round

Over the past 30 years I have shot 90% of my whitetails with two cartridges: .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield, both with 150-grain bullets. Together, it’s a safe bet those rounds have dropped more whitetails than any others on the planet. 

One day in camp last November, a friend stuck his shiny new rifle in my hands and said, “Man, I know you love old-school and they work for you, but you need to get with it and try a modern cartridge like this.”  

Thinking a man can never have too many deer rifles, I replied, “You’re right, time I tried something newer and sexier.” I picked up a CZ Model 600 Alpha rifle in 6.5 PRC and planned to test it out on a January hunt in West Texas. 

There are plenty of good factory loads made for the 6.5 PRC including the new 140-grain Federal Fusion.

About the 6.5 PRC

In 2018, Hornady introduced the 6.5 PRC, or Precision Rifle Cartridge, as a big brother to its wildly successful 6.5 Creedmoor. The 6.5 PRC is based on the little known .300 Ruger Compact Magnum, necked down to accommodate 6.5mm bullets. 

Examine a PRC round and you’ll notice how short and fat the case looks, and how far the bullet protrudes from the brass. By design, the distance from primer to the cartridge’s front edge (right at 2 inches) is shortened to ensure proper seating of a long, high ballistic-coefficient bullet in a short-action bolt magazine. 

The most popular load for the 6.5 PRC is Hornady’s Precision Hunter with 143-grain ELD-X bullet, though others are available as the cartridge gains popularity including a 130-grain Federal Terminal Ascent and a 142-grain AccuBond LR in Winchester’s Expedition Big Game Long Range. 

The 6.5 Creedmoor is one of the most popular rifle cartridges in America, and beloved by many deer hunters, but I'm not one of them. I’ve seen several deer wounded and lost with the Creed, and haven't been impressed with the terminal performance. That’s where the PRC shines. The Hornady load drives the 143-grain bullet to an advertised 2,960 fps, making it near 300 fps faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor with the same bullet. That higher velocity means the 6.5 PRC shoots flatter and bucks the wind better than the Creed, and delivers almost 500 ft.-lbs more energy on target. 

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West Texas Field Test

Hanback with an old West Texas buck taken with a 143-grain Hornady ELD-X in the 6.5 PRC.

I topped my rifle with a Trijicon’s 4X-16X AccuPoint scope. I wanted high magnification since the cartridge is designed to shine at longer ranges. After arriving at the ranch in Texas, I took this rig to the caliche range, set a target at 100 yards, and started shooting. 

I fired six shots, adjusting the scope as I went. Recoil was comfortable and negligible, noticeably less than my .30-06. Two more shots and the bullets grouped a half-inch apart and 1.8 inches high over the bull’s-eye. Nice. This setup would be dead-on at 200 yards and about 6.4 inches low at 300. If an animal is farther than that, I hold off and try to get closer.

This ranch was on the eastern edge of the Trans-Pecos region, 80 miles west of Del Rio. There are whitetails out here, but not as many as you’ll find farther east in Texas. And these desert bucks have smaller racks. When I got a trail camera image of a 130-class 8-point, which I figured was top-end for the area, I started hunting him. 

He showed up three days later, in the afternoon, following does through the scrub brush. I hoped for a broadside shot, but the best I got was quartering-on. I pinned the crosshair on the buck’s fore-shoulder and pressed the trigger. He dropped like a pile of rocks and never flinched.   

Later at the skinning shed, I plucked the remains of the ELD-X bullet from under the hide of the off-shoulder. It was a perfect mushroom with some 90% retained weight.

The next afternoon I was hunting a doe when one of the biggest feral hogs I have ever seen, 300 pounds if he weighed an ounce, came a-grunting through the brush. He was black as tar, long and dense. I settled the crosshair behind his ear and touched off the shot.

Big boar hogs don't drop easily, but this one did thanks to one well-placed bullet from the author's new favorite cartridge.

You never want a giant boar hog with sharp cutters to run off into the brush. This one didn’t, so no hair-raising track job was needed. The pig dropped on the spot, and once he stopped kicking, I walked up for a look at him. I had pulled the shot back a few inches and center-punched the critter smack in his shoulder armor. That the 143-grain ELD-X bullet could drop and anchor this mini tank on the spot was super impressive.

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If I have one regret, it’s that both the shots in Texas were within 120 yards, so I wasn’t able to gauge how the 6.5 PRC performs at longer ranges. That’s okay because I’ll take my favorite new cartridge out to the plains of eastern Montana this fall, where a 200- to 300-shot at a mule deer is possible and perhaps even likely. 

If, like me, you’ve been shooting an old-school deer cartridge and just wish to try something different this year, the 6.5 PRC deserves a look.