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story.lead_photo.caption With factory ammo, the author’s Ruger M77 “Swede” prints tight cloverleaf patterns at 100 yards. - Photo by Bryan Hendricks

In 2018, my meandering journey as a rifleman circled back about 15 years.

Keeping abreast of new trends and products prevents me from parking on one rifle or one caliber, but I am loyal to things that treat me well.

Cartridges come and go, but the 6.5 Creedmore has legs. It is the phenomenon that finally awakened American hunters to the versatility and overall effectiveness of the 6.5 millimeter (.264 inch) bullet.

Ballistically, the Creedmore is similar to the 6.5 x 55 Swedish, which has been one of my favorites since 2007, when the late Don Hill of Rose City placed a Ruger Model 77 Swede in my hands and refused to take it back. It had been in his inventory for more than a decade, and he wanted it gone.

It's one of my best purchases. The Swede is easy on the shoulder, but hard on whitetails. Mine is accurate with any ammo I feed it as long as the bullet weighs 140 grains.

My Swede has rested for a few years. The 270 Winchester lured me astray for a season, and darned if it still kills deer.

I used the 270 Winchester Short Magnum for a year. Basel Khalil of North Little Rock killed his first buck with it, at about 40 yards.

The next year I used a 7mm WSM and killed two deer within about 70 yards. One weighed about 80 pounds. Do you notice the theme here?

Winchester introduced its Short Magnum family with a expansive marketing blitz in the late 1990s, but it was short lived.

The 270 WSM is the best of the lot. The 7 WSM and 300 WSM essentially duplicate the 7 Mag. and 300 Winchester Magnum, but the 270 WSM rivals the 270 Weatherby. That is phenomenal, but the 270 WSM is on life support. The 7 WSM and 325 WSM are extinct. Only the 300 gained a following.

Oh, and Winchester also introduced a family of Super Short Magnums (WSSM) around that time, too. Remember them? Nobody else does, either.

I used the 25-06 for three seasons, and I'd be happy if I never use anything else. The 25-06 is the ideal whitetail cartridge, but many hunters that actually live in the West use the 25-06 for elk, too. It's also one of the best choices for hunting pronghorns. With high-quality, controlled-expansion bullets like the Nosler Accubond, Nosler Partition and Barnes Triple Shock, it'll take down just about anything.

I had a short dalliance with the 280 Remington. It still kills deer, too.

For 2018, I swung back around to a forgotten favorite, the 7mm-08. It was my standard until 2005.

A Facebook group dedicated to the 7mm-08 rekindled my love affair with that great cartridge, and I used it to kill my only deer in Arkansas in 2018. I used 17-year-old reloads featuring 130-grain Speer boat-tail soft points powered by 41 grains of IMR 4064. It was a one-shot drop through the neck at 178 laser-verified yards.

Ron Spomer, a noted outdoor media presence who lives in Idaho, is a member of the group. He insists that the 7mm-08 hunting cartridge is superior to the 308 Winchester.

Spomer knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, but he summarized his conclusion with this sentence in an article on ronspomeroutdoors.com: "Match ballistic coefficent in all of these bullets at top muzzle velocities, and the 308 Win. is going to come out on the short end. Not radically short, but short enough to lose a Super Bowl."

Another member, Scott Crawford, posted a gallery of photos of big game, like greater kudu and eland, that his daughter took in Africa with a 7mm-08.

Large bore elitists insist that one cannot ethically take African big game with puny 7mm bullets. A guy from Searcy once castigated me in a "Voices" letter on that point. The gist of his rebuttal was that the 375 Holland and Holland is the minimum to effectively take African big game.

We talked about it in person, but he was adamant. He uses a 375 H&H in his African safaris, and therefore ...

Rifle cartridge loyalists are very consistent dogmatists.

The 6.5 Creedmore is legitimate performer. So was the 6.5 x 284. Remember it? Nobody else does, either.

As cool as it is, the 264 Win. Mag. could never escape the 7mm Magnum's shadow. If ever you need a half pound of powder to propel a 120 grain bullet, then the 26 Nosler might be for you.

Let's not forget the 260 Remington. Like the Creedmore, it excels at long-range target shooting, and it's a dandy hunting cartridge, but it is unloved and forgotten.

That leaves us with the 6.5 x 55, which will be 125 years old in 2019. It remains relevant for the same reasons that people like the Creedmore. Its long, skinny bullets fly straight and level.

With modern charges, the Swede is fast enough. You can get nearly 2,900 feet per second with a 140-grain projectile.

Factory loads are much milder because of the abundance of 1894 and 1896 Mauser actions still in circulation. They are said to be too delicate for the high chamber pressures that accompany modern loads. Never mind the fact that those actions were proofed new at about 69,000 copper units of pressure.

A moderately hot 6.5 x 55 round with a 140-grain Nosler Accubond, 44.5 grains of IMR 4831 and a Winchester Large Rifle primer generates less than 50,000 C.U.P. I think those old Mausers can handle it.

Again, my Ruger loves 140-gr. bullets, but it won't group lighter bullets. Or will it?

I recently read an article about how modern 6.5 x 55 rifles like the Winchester Model 70 and Ruger M77 have really long throats. A 140-gr. bullet is considerably longer than 120-gr. I seated lighter bullets to the same overall cartridge length as I did the 140-grainers. However, the longer 140-gr. bullet encounters less freebore -- the distance from the case mouth to the rifling lands -- than a shorter bullet. Excessive freebore will destabilize a bullet and cause poor groups.

On Monday, I lengthened all my remaining light rounds. I will soon see if it improves accuracy.

The Creedmore excels with lighter bullets. Someday I might try one. I hear it's as good as the Swede.

Photo by Bryan Hendricks
Its light recoil and accuracy makes the 6.5x55 Swedish an excellent deer rifle for adults and youths.
Photo by Bryan Hendricks
The shooting world is full of obsolete “designer” cartridges such as the 7mm Winchester Short Magnum, which is now considered extinct.

Sports on 01/06/2019

Print Headline: Playing favorites: Deer season leads writer to reach into the past

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