Trying to decide between the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges? Here’s what you need to know about them.
I think most hunters would agree that the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor both fantastic cartridges for certain situations. However, while there is definitely some overlap in their capabilities, there are some major differences between the 6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 cartridges you should be aware of.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with many things involving the 6.5 Creedmoor, separating fact from fiction or determining the true capabilities of a cartridge is much easier said than done these days. As you’ll learn here shortly, both cartridges are ideally suited for different tasks, but each can also be adapted to other uses to a certain degree by switching bullet weights and types.
In this article, I’m going to investigate the 6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 debate in detail and provide some insight into which cartridge is better suited for common hunting situations so you can make an informed decision on which one will work best for your individual needs as a hunter or shooter.
Before we get started, I have a couple of administrative notes for you.
First, though the .223 Remington and the 5.56x45mm NATO are technically different cartridges, the practical difference in performance between the .223 vs 5.56 is very small and doesn’t make any difference for the purposes of this article. Use extreme caution when attempting to interchange the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges though.
For a more detailed discussion on the differences between the .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO cartridges, read this article: 5.56x45mm NATO vs .223 Remington
Next, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to create free content that’s useful to hunters like yourself. Thanks for your support.
History Of The 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor
As is often the case in these cartridge comparisons, the story of the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .223 Remington both begin with the .308 Winchester.
The US Military adopted the M-14 rifle and the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge after World War II to replace the 30-06 and the M-1 Garand. However, the military wasn’t completely satisfied with that rifle or cartridge and quickly began searching for a replacement for both during the 1950s.
Even so, Winchester saw a lot of potential with the 7.62x51mm cartridge though and released the extremely similar 308 Winchester in 1952. That new cartridge was indeed a big commercial success for the company and has seen widespread use in the hands of hunters and competitive shooters all over the world in the past 70 years.
Well, while the US Military has continued to use the 7.62x51mm cartridge in medium machineguns and in sniper/designated marksman rifles to this day, they eventually adopted the M-16 rifle as their new infantry service rifle.
That new rifle was chambered in the high velocity 5.56x45mm cartridge, which was derived from the .222 Remington.
Similar to what Winchester did with the 308/7.62, Remington saw the potential for a tremendous commercial opportunity and developed a civilian version of the new cartridge that was extremely similar, but not identical to the 5.56 NATO cartridge. Formally standardized with SAAMI as the .223 Remington in the early 1960s, the new cartridge was capable of firing a 55 grain bullet at muzzle velocities approaching 3,300 feet per second (1,330 foot pounds of energy).
The 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge had very similar ballistics and the original 5.56x45mm M193 ball load fired a .224″ 55 grain full metal jacket bullet at 3,250 feet per second (1,290 foot pounds of energy).
Unfortunately, the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge and M-16 rifle got off to a very rough start in service with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Vietnam. Modifications to the rifle and ammunition solved most of the reliability problems that plagued the system during the war. Large numbers of people in the U.S. military still had serious concerns regarding the stopping power of the diminutive cartridge though.
This was especially true for the new M855 load adopted with the M-16A2 rifle. Incorporating a new bullet design with a steel penetrator, the M855 load fired a 62 grain full metal jacket bullet at 3,025 feet per second (1,260 ft-lbs of energy).
The M855 penetrates much better than the M193, but complaints about the terminal performance of the 5.56x45mm cartridge from Soldiers grew even louder after the new ball load saw use in combat in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Civilian hunters who adopted the AR-15 and .223 Remington cartridge during the last couple decades of the 20th Century shared many of those concerns. The rifle and cartridge worked extremely well for predator/varmint hunting and target shooting, but the .223 Remington also developed a reputation for unsatisfactory performance on bigger game like deer.
With all that said, the 223 Remington remains one of the most popular cartridges in North America today. In terms of ammo sales, it’s probably the most popular centerfire rifle cartridge in the United States.
The cartridge is extremely popular among those who enjoy shooting the AR-platform as well as predator and varmint hunters. It’s also in very common usage with recreational shooters ranging from casual plinking to more serious competitive shooting.
Additionally, while it’s still on the light side for that sort of work, advances in bullet technology have made the 223 Remington much more effective on deer sized game today than was the case even 10-20 years ago.
Now let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about the development of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Dave Emary of Hornady Manufacturing and Dennis DeMille of Creedmoor Sports saw an opportunity to build a new cartridge for high power rifle competition shooting in the early 2000s.
Remember how I mentioned the success of the 308 Winchester in competitive shooting matches earlier?
Well, Emary and DeMille wanted to build an ideal long range shooting cartridge that would outperform the then 50 year old 308 Winchester. Specifically, they wanted a cartridge that would fit in a short action rifle and was still just as accurate as the .308 Winchester at long distance that also had less recoil, less wind drift, and a flatter trajectory.
By modifying a .30 Thompson Center (.30 TC) case to shoot .264″ bullets, they successfully built a cartridge optimized for use with 4350 class propellants with a relatively large case capacity that could also accommodate long, heavy, high ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets without intruding into the powder column.
Named the 6.5 Creedmoor (sometimes misspelled Creedmoore or Creedmore) in honor of the Creedmoor Matches and designed for use with a relatively fast 1:8″ rifling twist rate, Emary and DeMille were quite successful in their goal of building the ideal competition shooting cartridge with a relatively flat trajectory.
A typical 6.5 Creedmoor load shoots a 140-grain bullet at about 2,700 fps (2,266 ft-lbs). So, the 6.5 Creedmoor does not have eye popping ballistics, but it is very accurate, uses high BC bullets that retain energy and resist wind drift exceptionally well, and has moderate recoil.
For those reasons, the cartridge has seen a great deal of success in the hands of competition shooters and recently made the jump into the mainstream hunting community. The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge has become extremely popular among hunters and shooters who appreciate the mild recoil and great extended range performance of the cartridge in recent years as well.
If you’d like to learn more about how the 6.5 Creedmoor compares to the .308 Winchester in more detail, read the article below:
6.5 Creedmoor and 223 Remington Cartridge Sizes
You can see differences between the 223 Remington and the 6.5 Creedmoor in the photos below.
First, the 223 Remington is physically quite a bit smaller than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a longer overall length and uses a longer case length than the 223 Remington. The Creedmoor cartridge has an overall length of 2.825″ and uses a case 1.92″ long. The 223 Remington has an overall length of 2.26″ and uses a 1.76″ long case.
That said, the 223 Remington is designed for use in an AR-15, which can only accommodate cartridges up to 2.26″ long. So, the 223 is the maximum size cartridge that will fit in an AR-15. The longer 6.5 Creedmoor will not fit in an AR-15 and requires the use of a larger AR-10.
Both cartridges are commonly found in short-action bolt action rifles though.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a larger rim diameter than the .223 Remington as well (.473″ vs .378″).
For all those reasons, the 6.5 Creedmoor has quite a bit more case capacity than the 223 Remington.
Bullet size is another one of the other important differences between the 6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 Remington. The 6.5 Creedmoor uses .264″ diameter bullets while the 223 Remington uses smaller .224″ bullets.
The 223 Remington is capable of using bullets in the 35-77 grain range. Of these, 55 grain and 62 grain bullet weights are by far the most common.
On the other hand, the vast majority of 6.5 Creedmoor factory loads shoot bullets in the 95-160 grain range, with 120gr, 130gr, 140gr, and 143gr grain bullets being the most common.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is also loaded to a higher pressure than the 223 Remington (62,000psi vs 55,000psi).
Note: while the powder capacity figures listed below do give a good indication of the differences between the two cartridges, exact case capacities vary slightly according to the brand of brass used.
223 Remington vs 6.5 Creedmoor Ballistics
As you can probably imagine, the differences in the external dimensions of these cartridges also translate into some important differences in their ballistic performance. This is illustrated in the table below comparing Hornady Varmint Express and Nosler Trophy Grade factory ammunition.
Specifically, the 223 Remington loads use 55gr V-Max (.255 BC) and 70gr AccuBond (.370 BC) bullets.
The 6.5 Creedmoor loads use 95gr V-Max (.365 BC) and 140gr AccuBond (.509 BC) bullets.
The Hornady loads use light for caliber varmint bullets fired at a very high velocity for each cartridge while the Nosler loads use heavy for caliber bullets designed for deer hunting. This allows us to conduct as close to an “apples to apples” comparison as is possible for both cartridges for varmint and deer hunting applications.
All four loads used a 200 yard zero.
Not surprisingly, the lighter varmint loads in each cartridge both have the flattest trajectory since they have a higher muzzle velocity.
Interestingly, the two cartridges have very similar trajectories when using the same bullet type. The 6.5 Creedmoor does have a slightly flatter trajectory with both the V-Max and the AccuBond loads than the 223 Remington since it shoots a slightly more aerodynamic bullet at a similar or slightly higher muzzle velocity (in the case of the V-Max).
However, the differences are very small with the 223 Remington having only 2.1″ (6%) and 2.9″ (5.8%) more bullet drop than the 6.5 Creedmoor at 500 yards. In fact, their trajectories are remarkably similar considering the big physical differences between the cartridges.
At the same time, the 6.5 Creedmoor has significantly more kinetic energy than the 223 Remington at all ranges.
The 6.5 Creedmoor starts out with 70-95% more muzzle energy than the various 223 Remington loads. Since it uses a more aerodynamic bullet, that edge in kinetic energy grows as range increases.
That V-Max load from the 6.5 Creedmoor drops below 1,000 ft-lbs of energy around 450 yards, but still has more than double the retained kinetic energy of the most powerful 223 load.
Likewise, the AccuBond load from the 6.5 Creedmoor retains over 1,000 ft-lbs of energy out past 500 yards and has about as much or more kinetic energy at that range than the 223 Remington has at 100 yards.
The chart below compares how much a 10 mile per hour crosswind impacts those same 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor loads out to 500 yards.
Both cartridges also have somewhat similar amounts of wind deflection when using the same bullets, but the 6.5 Creedmoor has an even bigger edge over the 223 Remington and both 6.5 Creedmoor loads have less wind deflection than both 223 Remington loads
Indeed, this is another area where the 6.5 Creedmoor shines since it is well suited to using very high BC bullets.
This is in stark contrast to the 223 Remington which is a high velocity cartridge that’s typically loaded with lighter bullets with a fairly low BC that don’t retain energy or resist wind deflection very well. In fact, that 95 grain V-Max bullet from the 6.5 Creedmoor has a higher BC than even the really heavy 70gr AccuBond from the 223 Remington.
Now let’s talk about recoil.
The table below compares the recoil produced by handloads that approximate the performance of the Winchester factory loads above firing the 70gr and 140gr bullets for the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor respectively when fired from identical 7 pound rifles.
Felt recoil will vary from shooter to shooter and rifle to rifle, but free recoil energy is still a useful way to compare cartridges.
As you can see, the .223 Remington has significantly less recoil than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
In fact, the 6.5 Creedmoor has approximately 3.5x more recoil! That’s really saying something too because the 6.5 Creedmoor is a pretty mild recoiling cartridge itself.
All things considered, most hunters should be able to handle recoil from the 6.5 Creedmoor without too much trouble. The .223 Remington just has an extremely mild (almost non-existent) recoil.
So, the .223 Remington has a big advantage in this respect, especially for smaller or recoil shy hunters.
Don’t underestimate the impact that recoil has on the ability of a person to shoot accurately either.
Some people do handle recoil better than others, but all other things being equal, they will absolutely shoot more accurately with a milder recoiling cartridge.
What about 6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 accuracy?
The .223 Remington in particular has seen extensive use in the hands of competition shooters and has an outstanding reputation in that area. However, the 6.5 Creedmoor also excels in that area as well and, if we’re being honest, both cartridges are absolutely capable of tack driving accuracy (sub-MOA, sometimes much better) in the right hands.
At shorter range, the cartridges are very evenly matched.
The .223 Rem likely has a small advantage due to the fact that the mild recoil and flatter trajectory of the cartridge no doubt help hunters place their shots in the right spot to a greater extent than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
The situation changes a little bit when shooting at long distances though.
After all, the 6.5 Creedmoor was specifically designed as a competition shooting cartridge. At the same time, since it utilizes .264″ bullets, there is a bigger selection of high BC and high SD match grade hunting bullets available for the cartridge. Those factors give the 6.5 Creedmoor an edge at longer range where resistance to wind drift becomes more important.
That’s not to say that the .223 isn’t accurate or that there aren’t good quality bullets available for it. It’s just that the overall design of the 6.5 Creedmoor gives that cartridge an edge over the .223 Remington in potential accuracy at extended range.
Additionally, there are a couple of other factors that are also worth discussing.
First, the 6.5 Creedmoor uses larger diameter bullets than the 223 Remington.
Specifically, the larger diameter .264″ bullets used by the cartridge have about 39% more frontal surface area (also known as cross sectional area) than the .224″ bullets used by the 223 Remington (.0547 vs .0394 square inches). All other things being equal, a bigger bullet will make a bigger hole, cause more tissue damage, and result in more blood loss.
This is a significant advantage in favor of the 6.5 Creedmoor, especially on bigger game.
Especially when combined with the fact that the 6.5 Creedmoor carries more kinetic energy downrange, those larger diameter bullets can also be helpful when hunting big game, especially deer or even potentially bigger game.
At the same time, the bullets used by the 6.5 Creedmoor usually have a higher ballistic coefficient than those used by the 223 Remington.
The .264″/6.5mm bore diameter is also in something of a sweet spot where it’s easier to manufacture very high BC bullets that’s aren’t especially heavy (like the Hornady ELD Match or ELD-X). Those aerodynamic projectiles don’t slow down as fast and are more resistant to wind drift.
That’s not a hard and fast rule.
However, it’s generally the case that .264″ bullets in the most common weights will be more aerodynamic than otherwise identical .224″ in the most common bullet weights.
At the same time, the 6.5 Creedmoor also has an edge over the .223 Remington in bullet sectional density.
Sectional density (SD) is a measure of the ratio of the diameter of a projectile to its mass.
All other things equal, a heavier bullet of a given caliber will be longer and therefore have a higher sectional density and consequently penetrate deeper than projectiles with a lower mass and sectional density.
As an example, 95 grain, 120 grain, and 140 grain .264″ bullets have sectional densities of .195, .246 and .287 respectively.
This compares favorably to 55 grain, 62 grain, and 77 grain .224″ bullets which have sectional densities of .157, .177, and .219 respectively.
While the heaviest .224″ caliber bullet does have a higher SD than the lightest .264″ caliber varmint bullet, the heavier .264″ bullets intended for use on bigger game (where bullet penetration is more important) far outclass those used by the 223 Remington.
All things considered, the 6.5 Creedmoor is simply a significantly more powerful cartridge. It’s not a heavy hitter on the level of cartridges like the 7mm Rem Mag or 300 Win Mag or even the 30-06, but it’s still in a completely different league from the .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO.
223 vs 6.5 Creedmoor Barrel Life
The 6.5 Creedmoor will probably burn out a given barrel faster than the .223 Remington because it uses so much more powder.
Exactly how fast that occurs depends on a number of factors like the quality of the barrel, the exact ammunition used, etc.
For serious target shooters, this can be a concern.
The good news for hunters is that typical barrel life for even the 6.5 Creedmoor is more than enough to last for many years of hunting with no issues. Exactly when the barrel is unusable depends on the rifle as well as the hunter in question and what sort of performance they expect from their rifle.
Those who want extremely tight groups for long range shooting are probably going to want to change their barrel out sooner than those with slightly lower standards.
All other things being equal, the 223 Remington will probably have a longer barrel life than the 6.5 Creedmoor, but the difference is probably not big enough for the average hunter to worry about unless they are putting a really large number of rounds downrange.
So where do we stand with each cartridge?
6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 Remington
The 6.5 Creedmoor fires a larger diameter, significantly heavier, and usually more aerodynamic bullet than the 223 Remington. Therefore the 6.5 Creedmoor has more recoil, a flatter trajectory, more resistance to wind drift, and carries significantly more retained kinetic energy downrange than the 223 Remington.
223 vs 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo
Both cartridges are extremely popular among hunters and shooters all over the world. Indeed, both are also likely in the Top 10 most popular centerfire rifle cartridges in the United States. While the 6.5 Creedmoor is extremely popular itself, the 223 Remington is likely still the most widely used of the two and is typically the most popular centerfire rifle cartridge in the United States in terms of raw ammo sales.
While it’s often very easy to find a variety of ammo for both cartridges during normal times, ammo is usually easiest to find for the 223 Remington. In general, 223 Remington ammo is typically the least expensive of the two as well.
During the 2020-2022 ammo shortage, the difference between the two cartridges has become even more apparent and 223 Remington ammo is often significantly easier to find and much more reasonably priced than ammo for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Just about every ammunition manufacturer produces several different loads of .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO ammunition.
This ammo ranges from match grade and surplus FMJ ammo best suited for work at the range on one end of the spectrum, to hollow point, soft point, and ballistic tip ammo designed for hunting and personal protection on the other end.
Note that FMJ ammo is generally NOT legal for hunting in most states. So, while that military surplus 5.56x45mm ammo is good for use at the range, I don’t recommend taking it afield in search of game.
Most .223 and 5.56 NATO ammunition is designed for target shooting or plinking, but companies like Barnes, Federal Premium, Hornady, Nosler, Remington, and Winchester all produce ammunition in those chamberings suitable for hunting.
Most of this is varmint hunting ammo, like Hornady’s Varmint Express and Superformance Varmint lines, Nosler’s Varmageddon line, and Winchester’s Varmint X line.
However, there are also a handful of .223 Remington ammo options specifically designed and marketed for big game hunting. For instance, there are both .223 and 5.56 loads in the Barnes VOR-TX line, Federal offers .223 Remington ammo in their Fusion line, Nosler offers 223 ammo in their E-Tip and Trophy Grade lines, and Winchester produces .223 Remington ammo in their Deer Season XP, Power Max Bonded, and Super X lines.
On the other hand, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo tends to be more common in ammo lines designed for deer hunting.
The big ammunition manufacturers like Barnes, Browning, Federal Premium, Hornady, Nosler, Remington, Sierra, Swift, and Winchester all produce a large variety of quality 6.5 Creedmoor factory ammunition suitable for hunting most species. In each case, there is normally a good selection of bullet types and weights for each cartridge suitable for big game hunting.
That said, predator and varmint rounds like the Hornady V-Max and Nosler Varmageddon are also commonly available for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Ammo availability is also usually excellent online and the bigger retailers typically have a good selection of quality factory ammo for both cartridges as well.
If you’d like to learn more about some of the various hunting ammunition choices for the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor, read these articles:
Handloaders will appreciate the fact that reloading components for both cartridges are widely available and there’s an excellent variety of bullet choices for each cartridge. So, you should not have any trouble working up a good custom load for either one if you like to handload.
The 6.5 Creedmoor uses the same 6.5mm/.264″ bullet size as other 6.5mm cartridges like the 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 PRC, .264 Winchester Magnum, 260 Remington, and 6.5×55 Swede.
223 vs 6.5 Creedmoor Rifles
Once again, the .223 Remington is probably a little more common than the 6.5 Creedmoor. However, there’s a good selection of rifles chambered in both cartridges.
Remember: a rifle with a 5.56 NATO chamber can usually safely and accurately fire .223 Remington ammunition, but the reverse is not always true. So, many (but not all) gun manufacturers chamber their rifles in 5.56x45mm NATO so their customers have more flexibility with ammo.
The .223 tends to be more common in bolt action rifles like the Browning X-Bolt, Ruger American, Remington 700, and Winchester XPR. The 5.56 NATO is an extremely popular chambering for AR-15 style rifles like those made by Bushmaster, CMMG, Noveske, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, and Wilson Combat.
It’s also available in other semi-automatic sporting rifles like the Ruger Mini-14.
That’s not a hard and fast rule though and it’s not unusual to find bolt action 5.56 rifles. For instance, the lightweight CZ 527 and the Ruger American Ranch bolt-action rifles are both available in 5.56 NATO.
On the other hand, the 6.5 Creedmoor is extremely common in bolt-action rifles. In fact, just about every really popular bolt-action hunting rifle in current production is available in the cartridge.
For instance, the 6.5 Creedmoor is available in several different versions of the Remington Model 700 and Winchester Model 70. The same goes for the Browning X-Bolt, Kimber Hunter, Mossberg Patriot, Nosler M48 and M21, Remington Model 7, Ruger American, Ruger Hawkeye, Savage Axis, Savage 110, Tikka T3x, Weatherby Vanguard, and Winchester XPR.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor is most common in bolt-action rifles, it’s also available in a few different semi-auto rifles like the S&W M&P 10. Heck, Springfield Armor even produces a version of their M1A rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.
Both cartridges are also available in lever action rifles. For instance, the Henry Long Ranger is currently manufactured in both 223 and 6.5 Creedmoor.
So, you can probably find a good deer rifle available in either cartridge regardless of the action type you prefer.
Additionally, barrel lengths do vary for both cartridges depending on the manufacturer and exact model.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is most common with a 22″ barrel length. 24″ long barrels are not unusual though. Neither are 20″ or even shorter barrels.
Many .223 Remington rifles have 22″ barrels as well, but it’s also not unusual to see that cartridge in rifles with shorter 16″ or 18″ barrels, especially with the various AR-15 models.
All things considered, rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor tend to be slightly longer, heavier, and more unwieldy than rifles chambered in 223 Remington.
Having a shorter and lighter rifle is more important on some hunts than on others. So, just keep that in mind.
If you’d like to learn more about some of the various hunting rifle choices for the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge, read this article:
6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 Remington: Which Is Right For You?
Do you primarily hunt medium sized game like whitetail deer, feral hogs, or black bears at ranges within 200 yards? Both will work on deer sized game if you do your part. However, the 6.5 Creedmoor is significantly more powerful and I strongly recommend using it for hunting deer instead of the .223 Remington.
A 6.5 Creedmoor shooting 120-140-grain bullets is a very effective deer load.
While I don’t recommend using it on black bear, the 223 Remington will absolutely work on deer with good bullet selection (like the Winchester Deer Season XP or a Barnes load) and with good shot placement. It’s definitely on the light side though and has a much shorter effective range on deer than the 6.5 Creedmoor. You will also have much less of a margin for error with your shot placement and you should be prepared for a potentially longer and more difficult to follow tracking job with the 223 as well.
Are you looking for a cartridge to hunt predators, varmints, and small game animals (like prairie dogs) with? The 6.5 Creedmoor will work really well in this role and lots of people use it for predator hunting due to the extremely flat trajectory and hard hitting characteristics of the cartridge. However, I think the .223 Remington is the best choice here because it has a relatively flat trajectory, ammunition is cheaper, and there are many types of .223 ammo specifically designed for predator and varmint hunting.
Additionally, the 223 Remington is extremely common in AR-15 pattern rifles, which are great for those who want the ability to take an extremely rapid follow-up shot in case of a miss or in case multiple coyotes come in at once.
The 223 Remington is a very effective coyote cartridge, but there is a greater chance of wounded and lost animals when using it compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor. This is not as big of an issue with the 223 as it is with smaller cartridges, but it’s something to keep in mind.
So, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a better choice for hunters who want to minimize this issue as much as possible (like participants in a coyote hunting contest). The downside of the 6.5 Creedmoor is that fur damage will likely be a bigger problem.
Are you looking for the cartridge better suited for long range hunting for game like mule deer or pronghorn antelope in open country where you might need to take a shot at longer ranges? The 6.5 Creedmoor is definitely the way to go here between these two cartridges and this is an area where the 6.5 Creedmoor really shines. Be very careful trying to shoot game at longer distances with this round though. People do it all the time with a lot of success, but bullet weight and type are both very important here.
I would not shoot past 300 yards on a deer or pronghorn with a run of the mill hunting bullet, but could potentially extend that to 350-400 yards or potentially even farther with a load using a high BC bullet (like the Hornady ELD-X or the Nosler AccuBond Long Range). It all depends on the conditions and the skill of the shooter though. If we’re being honest, most people don’t have any business shooting at game past 300 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor (or any cartridge for that matter) at all.
Do you want a hunting cartridge that’s well suited for caribou, moose, elk, eland, kudu, or red stag hunting? I consider both to be on the light side for hunting larger game, but the 6.5 Creedmoor is definitely better than the .223 Remington for this sort of hunting because it shoots larger diameter bullets that carry more kinetic energy downrange, especially with heavy bullets.
Use heavy for caliber, controlled expansion bullets (like a 140gr Nosler Partition), keep your shooting distances short (under 250 yards), only shoot broadside or very slightly quartering angles, and be extremely careful with your shot placement.
Do you want a cartridge suitable for self or home defense? Both cartridges will certainly work in this regard, but I’d go with the 223 Remington here mainly due to rifle selection. In practical terms, an AR-15 in 223 Remington is an easier to find rifle that’s likely smaller and easier to handle in close quarters than an AR-10 or a bolt-action rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, even if the 6.5 Creedmoor is more powerful.
Are you sensitive to recoil and in need of a serious low recoil cartridge? Both are very mild recoiling cartridges, but the 223 Remington has the edge over the 6.5 Creedmoor here. It really depends on what you’re trying to do though. The 223 Remington would definitely be my recommendation for casual shooting at the range or predator hunting.
The 223 Remington is also a great choice as a centerfire rifle cartridge for a completely brand new shooter to start out with.
Even for a newer and/or recoil shy hunter, the 6.5 Creedmoor is probably a better overall choice for deer hunting since it has a longer effective range and gives the hunter so more room for error. That cartridge is very “shootable” in a rifle that fits the hunter well, has a good recoil pad, and is equipped with either a suppressor or a muzzle brake.
As I’ve stated before: the .223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor are both solid rifle cartridges. However, since the difference between them (6.5 Creedmoor vs 223) is pretty big in certain respects, each cartridge is better suited to specific situations than the other.
Carefully evaluate your needs as a hunter based upon the circumstances you foresee using the cartridge in, get a good hunting rifle chambered in the cartridge you select, learn to shoot it well, use quality bullets, and it should serve you well afield.
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The Lyman 50th Edition (p139-143 & p183-184) and Hornady 10th Edition (p160-168 and p317-322) reloading manuals were used as references for the history of the 6.5 Creedmoor vs 223 cartridges. I obtained the data used to compare the trajectory of the cartridges from Hornady (here) and Nosler (here). Data used to calculate recoil was obtained from the Nosler 9th edition reloading manual (p120 & p275). Case capacity information for the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor was obtained from Chuck Hawks (here and here). Maximum pressure and data to compare cartridge sizes for the 223 Remington and 6.5 Creedmoor were obtained from SAAMI (p26 and p23). I used ShootersCalculator.com to compare trajectory and recoil for the cartridges.