When it comes to long-range shooting, it’s always interesting to check out the wide variety of cartridges on the market. The 6.8 Western and 6.5 PRC are two more recent additions to the world of long range shooting and each has something to offer. But if you have to choose just one, which one is better? This is the 6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC face-off and we’re going to answer your questions, choosing a long-range winner once and for all.
6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC Specifications
Why compare 6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC?
The 6.8 Western and 6.5 PRC are both long-range cartridges based on short/compact parent cases. Their overall lengths are identical, maximum pressure matches, and there’s only a slight difference in bullet diameter (the 6.5 PRC is a little smaller). In addition to their long-range use on paper and steel, they’re both also used by hunters. One—6.8 Western—is newer to the market than the other. If you already have a 6.5 PRC, you might be wondering if it’s worth getting a 6.8 Western, or maybe you’re trying to choose one over the other.
Long-range shooting requires certain ballistics to be successful, and everyone wants the best round for the task. That means not only comparing ballistics and overall performance but spending time understanding how your specific rifle and choice of ammunition deliver on target.
It’s the cartridge vs. cartridge face-off: 6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC.
6.8 Western Review
In the short timeframe the 6.8 Western has been on the market, it’s already gathered a devoting fan base. It performs well at longer distances and gives hunters in wide open spaces greater options for an ethical shot than many other cartridges can offer. This is a cartridge that’s already proven it can get the job done and appears to be just getting started.
6.8 Western History and Purpose
Winchester designed 6.8 Western with hunters in mind. Thanks to its specific long-range applications, it’s also caught on among many long-range target shooters. The parent case of this cartridge is the 270 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM); the case has been shortened to facilitate the use of bullets with a higher ballistic coefficient. This is not a copy of the 270 WSM, it’s something entirely different, and that’s an important distinction for shooters who feel the gun world already has enough 270s.
They made the 6.8 Western for hunters, yes, but they specifically designed it to perform well on large game out of a lighter weight, easier to carry platform. After all, no one wants to sling an enormous, bulky rifle over their shoulder for a lengthy hike in the mountains, woods, and fields. A lighter platform chambered in a capable cartridge is a welcome addition to the hunting world. As for long-range shooters, they benefit because the 6.8 Western is designed to deliver stellar ballistics at greater distances.
Winchester states the 6.8 Western produces a felt recoil around 24 ft-lbs when the rifle in questions weighs eight pounds. And while that might vary a bit by platform and load, it does give shooters a good general idea what to expect.
Pros and Cons of 6.8 Western vs 6.5 PRC
- Bullet Weight – The 6.8 Western delivers equal or greater velocity using heavier bullets than the 6.5 PRC.
- Trajectory – 6.8 Western has a relatively flat trajectory.
- Bullet Size – 6.8 Western uses a larger diameter bullet—and frequently heavier bullets—which translates to a larger wound cavity and an ethical kill on game.
- Recoil – 6.8 Western produces significantly more felt recoil than 6.5 PRC.
- Bullet Drop – 6.8 Western drops at a somewhat faster rate than 6.5 PRC.
- Availability – 6.8 Western ammunition and firearms are more difficult to find than 6.5 PRC.
Best Ammo for 6.8 Western
Although the 6.8 Western is relatively new, launched in 2021, there’s a decent assortment of ammo on the market for it. These are our picks for 6.8 Western:
Winchester Ballistic Silver Tip 6.8 Western 170 Gr Polymer Tip
Cost Per Round
6.5 PRC Review
The 6.5 PRC is well known as a long-range round largely utilized by target shooters. It’s a flat-shooting round with a variety of loads available and has a rather large following. Considering the impressive performance of this cartridge, it’s not a surprise so many long-range target shooters count on it (as do some hunters).
6.5 PRC History and Purpose
Although the 6.5 PRC didn’t officially launch for commercial use until 2018, it got its start years earlier. The cartridge is the brainchild of George Gardner, owner of GA Precision. Gardener wanted to create a short-action cartridge that met the criteria for Precision Rifle Series (PRS) matches. Making it a short-action had and has a lot of benefits for PRS shooters for a few reasons, including because it allows faster follow-up shots.
When asked about the design of the 6.5 PRC, Gardner once said, “I wanted the highest BC bullet you can push at 3200 in a short action. We can push the 6s that fast, but they have lower BCs. The 7s have higher BCs but can’t be pushed at 3200 fps in a short action. The lack of a bullet selection in .25 and .270 ruled those out—so that’s why I settled on the 6.5.”
The 6.5 PRC case was developed from the Ruger Compact Magnum to provide PRS shooters with a flat trajectory, accuracy, and excellent ballistic coefficient. It’s those features that also appeal to many long-range hunters (and hunters).
Pros and Cons of 6.5 PRC vs 6.8 Western
- Ballistic Coefficent – 6.5 PRC offers a slightly higher ballistic coefficient.
- Accuracy – 6.5 PRC tends to be a more accurate cartridge than 6.8 Western.
- Availability – 6.5 PRC ammunition is easier to find than 6.8 Western and produced by more manufacturers.
- Efficacy – 6.5 PRC is not as effective on game as 6.8 Western.
- Bullet Size – 6.5 PRC typically uses smaller bullets than 6.8 Western.
- Price – 6.5 PRC rifles are often more expensive than those chambered in 6.8 Western.
Best Ammo for 6.5 PRC
There are more ammo options for 6.5 PRC than for 6.8 Western, meaning you can take your pick of a variety of loads. These are our picks for 6.5 PRC:
Ballistics Comparison: 6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC
The 6.8 Western and 6.5 PRC are two rather similar cartridges, at least they appear to be. That makes it harder to tell which is the superior round, but the good news is there’s a way to figure it out: ballistics. We’re going to do a side by side of a few different loads to figure out which cartridge is right for you.
To compare cartridges beyond 100 yards, we’re going to take a look at a few different loads. First, let’s consider Winchester Match 6.8 Western 170 grain BTHP with a ballistic coefficient of 0.564 against Hornady Match 6.5 PRC 147 grain ELD Match with a ballistic coefficient of 0.697.
|Distance (yards)||Winchester Match 6.8 Western 170 grain BTHP Velocity (fps)||Winchester Match 6.8 Western 170 grain BTHP Energy (ft-lbs)||Hornady Match 6.5 PRC 147 grain ELD Match Velocity (fps)||Hornady Match 6.5 PRC 147 grain ELD Match Energy (ft-lbs)|
The velocity of these two loads starts and remains close, although 6.5 PRC does manage to maintain its speed better than 6.8 Western. At the muzzle, 6.8 Western produces significantly more energy, but around 300 yards it begins to drop faster. By 500 yards, only about 50 ft-lbs separate the two cartridges. By comparing velocities, you can guess that 6.5 PRC probably has a flatter trajectory, although not by a lot. As for 6.8 Western, it’s going to deliver more energy at closer distances.
What happens if we change over to different loads and compare Browning Long Range Pro Hunter 6.8 Western 175 grain Sierra Tipped Game with a ballistic coefficient of 0.468 and Barnes VOR-TX Long Range 6.5 PRC 127 grain Polymer Tip Lead Free with a ballistic coefficient of 0.468?
|Distance (yards)||Browning Long Range Pro Hunter 6.8 Western 175 grain Sierra Tipped Game Velocity (fps)||Browning Long Range Pro Hunter 6.8 Western 175 grain Sierra Tipped Game Energy (ft-lbs)||Barnes VOR-TX Long Range 6.5 PRC 127 grain Polymer Tip Lead Free Velocity (fps)||Barnes VOR-TX Long Range 6.5 PRC 127 grain Polymer Tip Lead Free Energy (ft-lbs)|
Although they designed both loads in the chart above for long-range hunting, they’re quite different. The 6.8 Western load features a 175 grain bullet while the 6.5 PRC uses a 127 grain bullet, so it’s not surprising the differences are obvious. Interestingly, they start at the muzzle with the 6.5 PRC’s velocity outdoing the 6.8 Western, but by 300 yards, the 6.8 Western ends up with greater velocity. As for energy, the 6.8 Western outdoes the 6.5 PRC right from the start. What this tells us, really, is that the 6.8 Western is a better hunting cartridge overall.
Let’s check out a comparison of drop and drift rate using the same loads.
|Distance (yards)||Browning Long Range Pro Hunter 6.8 Western 175 grain Sierra Tipped Game Drop (inches)||Browning Long Range Pro Hunter 6.8 Western 175 grain Sierra Tipped Game Drift (inches)||Barnes VOR-TX Long Range 6.5 PRC 127 grain Polymer Tip Lead Free Drop (inches)||Barnes VOR-TX Long Range 6.5 PRC 127 grain Polymer Tip Lead Free Drift (inches)|
The 6.8 Western has a slightly faster drop rate than the 6.5 PRC, which isn’t exactly surprising considering the heavier bullet. As for drift, 6.8 Western just barely drifts more quickly than 6.5 PRC. These are two closely matched cartridges, but it’s accurate to say one always has a bit of an edge over the other.
Our Take – 6.8 Western vs. 6.5 PRC
When it comes to trajectory, 6.5 PRC wins. It doesn’t have an enormous edge over 6.8 Western but even small amounts can make a difference, especially at longer ranges. 6.5 PRC also gives you greater accuracy, and those tiny fractions matter. If you’re a PRS shooter or just someone who likes hammering steel at long distances, 6.5 PRC is likely the round for you.
However, if you’re a hunter, 6.8 Western is the winner. Not only does it tend to be loaded with heavier bullets, but it sends those bullets toward your target at velocities similar to what 6.5 PRC manages with lighter bullets. Energy on target is extremely important to hunters, and you get the energy you need for a clean kill with 6.8 Western.
In this case, the winner depends on the use. But we need to pick a winner. I am going with the 6.5 PRC, mostly because of ammo availability. Maybe over time when ammo is not the limiting factor my opinion will change. Which do you prefer?
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023
November 28, 2023