A Better 264
A Better 264

A Better 264

The late-great 264 Winchester Magnum. As the esteemed Dave Petzal would say, “It’s as dead as a dead gun writer.”

When I was 14 I took every ammunition catalog I could find, devised a complex formula, and crunched all the numbers. My goal as to determine the best all-round rifle cartridge suitable for everything from groundhogs to elk. The numbers – as they say – don’t like, and the answer was the 264 Winchester Magnum.

I’d been saving up my paper route money and when I had enough, I went looking for a 264. I could not find one and with deer season approaching, I settled for a 270 Winchester. Fast-forward a decade or two and I finally wrangled up a 264. Took one to Africa on my first safari and took another to Montana for my first mule deer hunt.

This bushbuck was taken with a 264 Winchester Magnum and a 120 grain Nosler Partition.

The appeal of fast shooting 6.5s is of course the advantage their highly aerodynamic bullets offer. It just happens to be the right combination of diameter and length for high performance from a sporting rifle without a lot of recoil. There have been several attempts at this. The 264 for sure but it has a belt and requires a long action. Then there was the 6.5 Remington Magnum. It would work in a short action but it also had a belt and a neck that was too short. And, let’s not forget the 6.5-284, a somewhat legitimized wildcat but built on a cartridge case with a rebated rim.

I took my first mule deer hunting with one of the greatest outdoor writers of all time – John Barsness. I used a Remington Sendero in 264 Winchester Magnum and it was the first animal taken with Nosler’s 130 grain 6.5mm AccuBond.

Hornady’s new 6.5 PRC is the cartridge that sort of solves all the problems associated with the older 6.5 hot rod cartridges. I’m sure some will think that Hornady is just playing off the popularity of the 6.5 Creedmoor. While that might be partially true, the two cartridges are a different as they are similar.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is all the long-range cartridge just about anyone will ever need. The 6.5 PRC adds velocity and therefore delivers increased performance at distance. It is a better option for those wanting to shoot to 1000 yards and beyond. And, it’s a better option for those who like to use tough mono-metal bullets for hunting at extended distances, because with the PRC they will impact at the higher velocities these bullets need to expand.

The 6.5 Creedmoor is probably a better cartridge for most. But, if you want the best balance of long range performance and recoil, the 6.5 PRC is clearly a better option.

For example, with a 6.5 Creedmoor, the 120-grain GMX drops below its ideal expansion velocity at about 500 yards. With the 6.5 PRC, you can add another 200 yards to that distance, with only minimally more recoil.

I didn’t do all the math on the 6.5 PRC like I did on the 264 Winchester way back when, mostly because I did not need to. Math does not change and the 6.5 PRC will do everything the 264 will do, it just comes in a better package. The only question left is, which rifle?