By: Pete Moore
Pete Moore discusses his latest project rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor that Riflecraft built for him
About two years ago we saw rifles coming out of the US market daubed as predators. The build combined a longish 24 to 26” medium weight barrel with a slightly heavier stock. The idea was a sort of portable but longer range option that could be carried easily in the field and gave near varminter-like performance. I kind of liked the concept though thought little more about it.
About the same time Hornady launched its then new 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge. Designed as an across-the-course, Match performer it combined the innate ballistic superiority of the .264”/6.5mm projectile in a 308-type short action case. In terms of comparisons it’s right there with the venerable 260 Remington and the newer 6.5x47 Lapua. All of which offer a very similar specification and ability. Independent articles on the web indicated that all three calibres are very near each other in performance, so if for example you had a good 260 Rem it would not be worth trading it in for either the Lapua or the Hornady. But if you had none, then a group of cartridges well worth a look!
Hornady have now also turned the Creedmoor into a hunting cartridge by the simple expedient of changing bullet types. For example loaded with both the new 120 grain GMX® and the venerable 129 grain SST®, it brings a world of precision-based performance to the hunting arena. For the UK this means it’s good to go from muntjac to red deer.
For me the A-MAX also appeals as though primarily a target bullet, its ballistic tipped build is rated by Hornady for soft skinned game too. I have used this with great success in my 308 with the 168-grain A-MAX and for the Creedmoor Hornady offer 120, 123 and 140-grain loadings. In the next instalment I will be looking at both factory ammo performance as well as touching on reloading, as I have also had good success with their 123-grain A-MAX and 129-grain Interbond, plus some lighter weights too.
MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE
However, I’m a big fan of 6.5mm and already own a 6.5 Grendel intermediate and the grand daddy of them all the 6.5x55 Swedish. The last was without doubt the inspiration for the 260 Rem, which it is just a modern, short action version of. At the time Hornady had been asking me if I would like to do something with their 6.5 Creedmoor, however, back then rifles did not exist for it and it would be a custom job. They said they would be prepared to loan me reamers and obviously dies, cases and bullets would not be an issue.
Though I really didn’t need another 6.5, looking at the spec of the Creedmoor was a bit like Goldilocks’ porridge, not too fast, not too slow, still supersonic at 1000-yards with a good choice of bullet weights and types. Plus the magical, .264” bore diameter, which is hard to beat! Unlike my Grendel which is in truth a short range; out to 300-yard performer or my 6.5x55, which is a classic hunter, the Creedmoor in the right build had the ability to be both hunter and varminter, in fact the ultimate predator rifle.
THE QUEST BEGINS
Hornady true to their words dropped me a selection of Creedmoor ammo from 120 to 140-grains in various weights and configurations, plus dies, bullets and data. It was then down to me to get the project rolling. The real beauty of a custom rifle in this calibre is the short action and 308-sized case head, so the world was my oyster. Riflecraft (cheers Mark!) agreed to put it all together and already had the correct reamers and asked me what barrel I wanted? I had no fixed idea of make and they suggested that they’d like to use a Bergara tube as they had some in and was keen to see how they performed. Fine by me, I now needed an action and stock, both of which initially proved problematic.
I was originally thinking of a Howa 1500, but could not get an action on its own, as I did not want to buy a barrelled unit and throw away a new and perfectly serviceable tube. The solution came from a similar source as I had a Weatherby Vanguard Sub MOA in 243 Win on my books (Howa-made action and identical bottom metal to the 1500). Suffice to say the rifle never lived up to its name and even after full bedding and re-crowning would never shoot sub-MOA groups consistently. So it sat in the cabinet gathering dust.
DONOR ACTION AND PROBLEMS
This was passed on to Riflecraft as the donor action. They rang me to say they could not unscrew the barrel and would I mind if they machined flats in it for a spanner. No problem; as I reckoned that tube was at the heart of the Sub MOA’s lack of consistent performance, so was for the bin anyway. They came back and said the barrel was still not moving and in the end had to drill it out. It is however a testament to the Vanguard’s receiver as it took all this abuse in its stride.
The next consideration was barrel length and I reckoned that 26” would be the best bet, as I wanted maximum performance. So they made a medium/heavy tapered profile that blended rigidity with a sensible weight. The rifling twist was 1-8.5”, which I was advised would stabilise most projectiles up to 140-grains.
The other problem was the stock as I wanted a laminate thumbhole (T/H) varmint. I could get this from Highland Outdoors as the Howa 1500 foot print and that of the Weatherby Vanguard are identical. I had decided on their ambidextrous T/H varmint model, which shows a larger, profile-like cut-out in the butt area with a heavy, free-floated forend. Failing that the standard, right handed T/H varmint. What arrived was the standard, Non-T/H varmint, as it turned out it was all they had as they were not expecting deliveries of the model I wanted for about three to four months. I tried it but the pistol grip was massive and I found I could not hold it properly without doing major surgery. So the project came to a halt while I re-thought the furniture.
As it happened this proved a blessing in disguise as a friend sent me a picture of a rather radical looking stock from a Norwegian company called GRS (Grodas Rifle Stocks). Available, in a choice of coloured laminates they offered a number of models; I picked what they called the Sporter/Varmint. The medium/heavy forend free-floats the barrel and the butt area shows a 6° off set pistol grip that is beautifully scalloped out and as I discovered gives a near perfect firing hand and trigger finger position. Along with a height-adjustable comb and length of pull, the underside of the butt is removed too as it’s not really required. Best of all GRS do it for the Howa 1500/Vanguard and a call to Norway got me one in green mountain camo.
With the right stock now acquired it went off to Riflecraft for the final fitting that pillar and synthetically bedded the action and sorted the free float. It was now down to the fine detail and I fitted Warne steel bases to the action to which I mounted a Nightforce 3-15x56 with ZeroStop in their bolt-on ring set. I reckoned that was a pretty solid interface.
Initially I was going to go for the Weatherby floor plate magazine, as it was all that was really required. However, I had not long ago tested the detachable box mag kit Highland brings in for the Howa 1500, which should also fit the Vanguard. All-polymer the mag release is at the front and you have the choice of either 5 or 10-shot capacity. Five should be good enough for most things and give faster and easier loading and unloading drills. But I also got a ten as that would make it good for shooting comps like the McQueens and similar. Well priced and well made it fed 100% reliably and proved considerably more cost effective than the expensive AI-type systems currently available.
HARDY AND HARRIS UP FRONT!
A final thought was a moderator and keeping with Riflecraft I picked their new Hardy Gen III reflex. I had tested this new make from New Zealand at the end of 2011 and with its integral, muzzle-mounted moderator proved light weight, quite and effective. The final item was a Harris BRS (Bench Rest Swivel) bipod, which for me is the best twin-legged support system ever made.
I have to say it looked great and that GRS stock handled beautifully and the whole thing came together well as a Predator rifle. It is perhaps a tad heavier than I would have liked but that can be addressed given the situation by removing the bipod or even moddy if required. One final thing was required as the trigger pull - though crisp - was a bit heavy, but luckily the Vanguard mech is easy to adjust and in this is much like the Remington 700.
Next time; first impressions rifle and cartridge.
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