From a practical hunting point of view, the 6.5×47 scores higher than the other 6.5s on barrel wear, recoil and powder consumption, but it is unlikely that a standard hunting rifle will be able to take much advantage of the superb accuracy.
Lapua is one of those companies that never stops innovating. It is well known among reloaders for producing some of the finest brass around, and can boast a long list of international shooting medals courtesy of Lapua components. Lapua is responsible for possibly the most accurate ultra-long distance calibre ever invented – the .338 Lapua Magnum – and more recently took the target shooting world by storm with the introduction of the 6.5×47 in 2005.
I have long been a fan of the 6.5mm bullet, having had the opportunity to use the fantastic and popular 6.5×55 Swedish from a young age. The excellent ballistic properties of the 6.5mm bullet are no secret, and have also been tapped into commercially in the form of the .260 Remington. Armed with the historical success and a definitive move by target shooters away from the .300 calibres to the 6.5mm bullet, Lapua and Swiss rifle maker Grunig Elmiger AG set about producing the most efficient and accurate round possible.
The result was a shorter, fatter case than the 6.5×55, but with similar base diameter and overall case length to a .308, which allows easy conversion from short actions previously chambered in calibres where a .308 is the parent case. This followed in the footsteps of specialist benchrest rounds such as the 6mm BR, allowing a more efficient burn of power while using a small primer in the squat case. However, unlike some of its 6mm benchrest brethren, it didn’t suffer from magazine feeding problems, and barrel wear was much less pronounced. This super-accurate, easy-feeding, soft-recoiling, high-BC round suddenly became not only an option for target shooting, but also a very exciting prospect for hunting.
With Lapua’s reputation and the fact that the round was specifically designed to compete in European 300-metre CISM competitions, the 6.5×47 Lapua had a lot to live up to. It most definitely did not disappoint. The strong case design allowed home loads to easily exceed factory ammo velocities, producing superior down-range ballistics to similar calibres such as the .308. It did this with minimal fuss and noticeably less recoil, making it stand out for the ‘practical’ rifle matches so popular in the USA.
One of the beautiful characteristics of this superbly efficient calibre is the ease of working up a load. Mixing combinations of bullet weights and powder showed remarkable accuracy across the 123-grain, 130-grain and 139-grain bullets, using RL15, H4350, Varget, and N550 as propellants. Of the 50 or so combinations I tested, only around 10 per cent were marked out as “poor accuracy”. It is however all relative, as “poor accuracy” was assigned to the loads that exceeded 0.5MOA. Most will print tidy groups between 0.25 and 0.5MOA given a quality rifle set-up. With a tailored benchrest rig, groups under 0.2MOA are possible.
How does it stack up in a side-by-side comparison? On velocity, all the calibres listed in the graph leave the muzzle at 2,750-2,950fps, with the exception of the .300 Win Mag, which achieved a nippy 3,500fps. With match components, the 6.5×47 can produce as much as 2,350fps at 400 yards – some 300fps more than the rest and only marginally less than the .300 Win Mag. It must be noted here the bullets used in the comparison are similar but not identical, and this is across a range of representative bullet weights. If using bullets suitable for hunting, the ballistics in terms of wind drift, down-range energy, velocity and trajectory sit neatly between the 6.5×55 Swedish and the .260 Remington. A little load tweaking easily makes it mirror the .260.
Zeroed at 200 yards, the 123-grain bullet will comfortably take care of any deer species in the UK, dropping bullets along a vertical string of 3.5in from muzzle to target out to 250 yards. With the 139-grain load, it would be well placed for small to medium antelope in Africa, and similar-sized deer species in America. I am yet to read any data on heavier bullets being tested, such as those used by the Swedish concoction. It was originally designed to shoot the low- to middle-weighted bullets, so until I do some of my own testing, I cannot comment on how well it eats anything in excess of 139 grains.
From a practical hunting point of view, the 6.5×47 scores higher than the other 6.5s on barrel wear, recoil and powder consumption, but it is unlikely that a standard hunting rifle will be able to take much advantage of the superb accuracy. If I was target shooting, it would be my first choice, but when it comes to hunting, I don’t think I will replace my 6.5×55. BP