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6.5 Creedmoor vs .338 Lapua Magnum

Ballistics and Performance Comparison of 6.5 Creedmoor vs .338 Lapua Magnum Cartridges

The 6.5 Creedmoor and .338 Lapua Magnum are both excellent long-range cartridges. While the .338 Lapua packs a more serious punch, it can also be tougher on the shoulder, more expensive, and potentially overkill depending on what kind of shooting you’re looking to do. We’ll dive into where each caliber excels, when you might need the extra power of the .338 Lapua Magnum, and how to decide which caliber is best for your unique needs.

6.5 Creedmoor vs 338 Lapua Magnum

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 6.5 Creedmoor vs .338 Lapua Magnum based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

6.5 Creedmoor 147 gr vs .338 Lapua Magnum 250 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.
(Note: Bullet grain selection based on most popular hunting usage.)

6.5 Creedmoor 338 Lapua Magnum
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 2,695 ft/s 2,860 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 2,567 ft/s 2,722 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 2,443 ft/s 2,587 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 2,322 ft/s 2,457 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds 2,206 ft/s 2,331 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds 2,092 ft/s 2,208 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 2,370 ft⋅lb 4,540 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 2,151 ft⋅lb 4,111 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 1,948 ft⋅lb 3,716 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 1,761 ft⋅lb 3,351 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 400 yds 1,587 ft⋅lb 3,015 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 500 yds 1,428 ft⋅lb 2,706 ft⋅lb
Usage @ 0 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 100 yds Toughest Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 200 yds Large Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 300 yds Large Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 400 yds Large Game Toughest Game
Usage @ 500 yds Medium Game Toughest Game
Recoil Energy 9.1 ft-lbs 33.1 ft-lbs
Recoil Velocity 8.2 fps 15.4 fps
Recoil Score* 2.23 4.82
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures takend from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.

Velocity

The velocity of the 6.5 Creedmoor and the .338 Lapua is very similar, though the .338 Lapua does have an advantage here. Right out of the muzzle, we can see the .338 Lapua is traveling 165 ft/s faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor. Once we get out to 500 yards, that advantage has narrowed, with the .338 Lapua traveling 116 ft/s faster than the 6.5 Creedmoor. But remember: this comparison is of a 250-grain Lapua and a 147-grain Creedmoor – you’ll need a lot more energy to propel a significantly heavier bullet even faster than a smaller bullet.

If you’re interested in long-distance shooting, you want to know when your bullet will lose supersonic status – this is also known as its transonic range. The 6.5 Creedmoor has an transonic range of about 1500 yards, while the .338 Lapua stays supersonic out to 1,750 yards.

Energy

If you’re opting for the .338 Lapua Magnum, you’re doing it for the increased burst of energy. Shooters buy the .338 Lapua because it is a heavy-duty cartridge with a whole lot of power that has been used to take down every game animal in North America. Right out of the muzzle, the .338 Lapua has a whopping 2,170 ft-lbs more energy than the 6.5 Creedmoor. This gap starts to close, but still stays fairly significant out to longer distances, with the .338 Lapua still leading by 1,278 ft-lbs as we get out to 500 yards.

Trajectory

With the faster speed and higher energy, it’s no surprise that the .338 Lapua has a flatter trajectory than the 6.5 Creedmoor. There’s just a 3.9” difference between the two at 500 yards, which is certainly not an unmanageable difference for fans of the straggling 6.5 Creedmoor. However, once you get out to 1500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor is dropping a full 157.6” more than the .338 Lapua. That’s not as easy to correct for.

When considering wind drift, the .338 Lapua again holds the advantage. Wind drift measures how much the bullet drifts with a 10 mph crosswind. At 500 yards, the 6.5 Creedmoor will drift 14”, while the .338 Lapua will drift 11”. These differences become more exaggerated over long distances, with the 6.5 Creedmoor drifting 67” at 1000 yards and the .338 drifting only 51”. At extreme distances of 1750, we see the 6.5 Creedmoor drift 247”, while the .338 Lapua only moves 187”. This long-distance shooting continues to be the primary advantage the .338 Lapua holds over the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Recoil

If you’re an experienced shooter, those energy numbers discussed above might have caused some phantom pains in your shoulder. Yes, with the amount of power the .338 Lapua Magnum is bringing, there’s going to be a price to pay. The recoil is significantly tougher on the .338 Lapua than it is on the 6.5 Creedmoor. If you are not prepared to deal with this recoil, it can significantly affect your accuracy. It’s also going to limit how many shots you can comfortably take over the course of the day. So if you are hoping for long days of target practice, or a friendly gun to improve your aim with, or if you’re just planning on shooting shorter distances and don’t require the extra power of the .338 Lapua, it might just not be worth the extra pain. A muzzle break can help reduce perceived recoil in the event you need the heavier-hitting cartridge.

Versatility

With all that power, the .338 Lapua does have an edge in the kind of hunting you can do – but consider whether you are really doing that type of hunting in the first place. This additional power doesn’t necessarily even mean the .338 Lapua is more versatile: in fact, it’s considered overkill for many game species at many distances, including whitetail deer. The 6.5 Creedmoor is very versatile, and is considered a good round for most North American game: you’ll need something stronger for a grizzly, and you’ll need to be in short ranges for elk and moose, but those are really your only limitations. The .338 Lapua will also destroy a lot of meat, so the lighter power of the 6.5 Creedmoor can work to your advantage if you want to preserve more of your kill.

Price & Availability

The 6.5 Creedmoor is a very popular cartridge that has only become more popular in recent years. This means it can be purchased fairly cheaply in most ammunition stores. The .338 Lapua Magnum, on the other hand, has a limited selection of manufacturers available, and may not be found in your neighborhood ammunitions store. The .338 Lapua Magnum can also run twice or more as expensive as the 6.5 Creedmoor. If you’ll be shooting a high volume of ammunition for target practice or on longer hunting trips, that difference in price can start to add up.

Rifle Type

Because the 6.5 Creedmoor is a more popular cartridge, you'll also find 6.5 Creedmoor rifles on the market than .338 Lapuas. However, there are many options from trusted manufacturers to shoot the .338 Lapua. The 6.5 Creedmoor can often be packaged in a smaller rifle: many of these have 24” barrels, instead of the 26” barrels that are common with those chambered in .338 Lapua. If you’re a backcountry hunter traipsing over long distances, the extra size and weight may start to add up.

Which Caliber is Best?

So how do you decide which caliber is best for you? With the .338 Lapua Magnum, it’s always a question of: What do you really need, and what can you really handle? Yes, it outperforms the 6.5 Creedmoor in velocity, energy, and trajectory, which are key components to accuracy and ensuring a clean, ethical kill. But the ammunition is tough to come by, your shoulder won’t thank you for your choice, and it may be more than you really need. If you are shooting large game over very long distances – the .338 Lapua might be just what you need. But if you are shooting over shorter and even medium distances, the 6.5 Creedmoor can help you take the same game with less cost to your wallet and your body.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.