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Case Histories: 6.5x55 Swedish

Case Histories: 6.5x55 Swedish

One of the earliest ‘small’ calibre rimless, bottleneck, nitro-based military cartridges around – and still getting the job done. With a metric nomenclature reflecting it’s Swedish/ Norwegian birth, it was never going to storm the Colonies but to their credit, discerning North American hunters saw the light; although it took a long time for rifle manufacturers to come to the same conclusion. Notable exceptions have been Ruger with their No 1 and customised Model 77, Winchesters Featherweight M70, Cooper Rifles Excalibur, Kimbers re-worked M96’s (Swedish Mauser), Remington’s Model 700 and some Thompson Center models.

The name: the 6.5 x 55mm Swedish Mauser, (aka, 6.5 x 55 SE, 6.5 x 55 Swedish according to SAAMI as well as 6.5 x 55 Krag). Pretty much every European rifle makers offers this cambering in their catalogue, as does Howa of Japan. ‘NOT INVENTED HERE’ SYNDROME Designed in 1891, the cartridge entered service in both Sweden and Norway in 1894 at a time when the Brits were just beginning to re-engineer their rimmed black powder .303 British for use with Ballistite, Cordite, Rifleite, et al in the Lee-Metford – resulting in the Lee-Enfield. The original military round was Berdan primed and employed a forward seated, 156-grain, round-nose bullet, with an MV of 2350 fps. Later, a futuristic 139-grain boat tailed spitzer, with an MV of 2600 fps, was adopted.

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One cannot help wondering whether it would have been more widely accepted for military service had it been developed in Germany or Britain? Within a couple of decades, the Swedish military took advantage of the robust qualities of their Mauser, subtly modifying the cartridge dimensions and loading it to a higher pressure. There are a number of early 20th century references to chambering difficulties when using stock Norwegian ball in some Swedish Mauser rifles. In any event, the spec for both dimensions and performance was finally rationalised between the Shooting Associations of Denmark, Sweden and Norway in 1990.

‘SHORT’ EXPERIENCE AT BISLEY

My hands-on experience is limited to an Imperial Meeting at Bisley around 40 years ago. An original Carl Gustav M96 Long Rifle from the turn of the century with Berdan primed ammo in 5-round stripper clips, 140-grain Spitzer if memory serves. It was remarkably comfortable and for me, extremely accurate. The military ball had been reloaded and shot really well. I made a mental note to buy one but never got round to it.

Whilst tools, materials and data are abundant, it is important to segregate the old from new. Modern ammo and data must not be used in conjunction with the early rifles, especially the Krag-Jorgensen, unless it has been subjected to modern proof. Some, but not all manuals quote two data tables – one set each for ancient and modern! Whilst stocks of ancient Berdan primed ball can still be found, modern Boxer primed is produced by Sellier & Bellot, Norma, Federal, Lapua, SAKO, Remington, Wolf, Prvi Partizan and Fiocchi, amongst others. Case life is extremely good, indeed, the only hand loading issue that requires careful attention is bullet seating depth.

This classic cartridge, together with an appropriate choice of rifle, offers serious potential in a broad range of applications; from classic military rifle comps and modern target events, to pest control and deer hunting. It is also the entry level calibre for Moose in Sweden and it does the business! Rifles can be found across a wide spectrum of prices and styles, there must be one that suits your needs.

  • Case Histories: 6.5x55 Swedish - image {image:count}

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  • Case Histories: 6.5x55 Swedish - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Case Histories: 6.5x55 Swedish - image {image:count}

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