Today's hunters are always looking for faster, flatter-shooting rifles. Knowing that, it's little wonder 6.5mm bullets have become so popular for long range hunters. They are fast with high ballistic coefficients that allow them to slice through the wind for better accuracy out to distances, allowing hunters who may have previously passed up the shot a better option. It seems like every company has been playing around with 6.5mm cartridges, each one trying to out-do the other in terms of performance and speed. One of the newer offerings on the market is the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum, a design the legendary Roy Weatherby tinkered with back in the 1950s, but didn't see an official release on commercial markets until 2016. Thankfully, his family picked up his work where he left off.
It is obvious Weatherby designed this round to go in direct head-to-head competition with the 26 Nosler. Weatherby claims this is the fastest 6.5mm cartridge ever developed, and after looking at the numbers, they may be correct in that regard. This round is a true speedster and delivers a tremendous amount of energy after striking a target. It's a great option for hunters pursuing pronghorn antelope, whitetail, and mule deer, and can even be used on elk deep in the backcountry of America's mountain west. That's probably enough hyperbole; let's look at the specs on exactly what this round can do, and review some of the rifles currently being manufactured for this blazing fast round.
Ballistics of the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum
Right now, Weatherby is naturally the only company making factory loads for this cartridge, which uses the mighty .300 Weatherby Magnum as a parent case. The company necked down that case to accept a .264-inch bullet diameter, and as you might guess with that kind of case capacity, the new cartridge has some eye-opening specs. The muzzle velocity produced is quite impressive. For instance, their 127-grain LRX rounds are doing a blistering 3,531 fps at the muzzle and 3,309 fps at 100 yards. At 500 yards, they're still doing 2,523 fps. This round is delivering a little over 3,000-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. Step it up a notch to the 130-grain Scirocco, and you're still getting 3,476 fps at the muzzle, and 3,276 fps at 100 yards while delivering just under 3,100-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. A testament to the accuracy is here too. Weatherby says there is zero drop at 300 yards for both rounds. When you extend the range out to 500 yards, it's about 19 inches. Not bad at all.
Stepping things up again to a 140-grain Accubond bullet, you're looking at 3,300 fps at the muzzle and 3,100 fps at 100 yards while delivering 2,987-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. These rounds also have zero drop at 300 yards, and about 21 inches at 500. Additionally, Weatherby makes a 140-grain A-Frame bullet that does about 3,395 fps at the muzzle and 3,122 fps at 100 yards with 3,030-foot pounds of energy at 100 yards. It also claims zero drop at 300. Extend the range out to 500, and Weatherby says to expect about 23.3 inches of drop.
Pros and Cons of the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum
We've already talked about most of the pros of this round. If you are looking to do some extreme long-range shooting, this is the cartridge to consider. In fact, this round may be a bit overpowered if you are planning on most of your shots being in the 100- to 200-yard range. That's probably why more hunters opt for something like the .257 Weatherby Magnum or .300 Win Mag instead. One can argue the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum should be considered a niche offering for only the most dedicated of backcountry hunters going after larger game animals like elk.
There are some cons to this round. For one, it does leave rather large exit holes on most game, depending on the bullet grains. If you're worried about salvaging the most meat possible, this may not be a great option. Another con is barrel life. As can be expected from any high velocity round, these hot loads will wear down the barrel faster than some of the other 6.5mm offerings on the market. Another negative factor is availability and cost of ammunition. It can be hard to find 6.5-300 on store shelves. Even when you do, it's expensive. You're looking at $65 to $110 for a box of twenty bullets. It's not a casual range shooter! We should also mention it does have some recoil to it because of those larger cases, but that's to be expected with a design like this.
Finally, data for handloads appears to be scarce. There is some information out there, but it usually requires some digging to find. We've heard more than one frustrated reloading enthusiast who just can't seem to find the proper information they need. It's probably best to think of the 6.5-300 as a high-end sports car. It's big, it's fast, and it's likely high maintenance. And just like a sports car that needs premium fuel, the cost of running one isn't cheap. If you're still interested in the 6.5-300, the good news is Weatherby makes one to fit nearly every budget. We will start with the least expensive and work our way up from there.
Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic
One thing we appreciate about Weatherby is that they do not cater exclusively to the wealthy clients who can afford to drop two or three grand on a new rifle. The Vanguard Synthetic is highly affordable at around $550 retail. Their 6.5-300 offering has a 26-inch hammer-forged barrel with a 1:8 rate of twist. The weight is 7.5 pounds, which is a sweet spot between being easy to pack and compensating for recoil. Weatherby gives these rifles an adjustable two-stage trigger. Weatherby guarantees a sub-MOA three-shot group at 100 yards with premium ammo, as they do with all their rifles. We also just like the ergonomics of the recoil pad and Griptonite stock, which comes in grey or green. The price is the same either way. This is a nice option for the average hunter who wants the speediest rifle on the range and in the field. Who says a regular Joe can't own a sports car?
Weatherby Vanguard Sporter
We like this one for the traditionalists who aren't afraid to spend a little more for a classical-looking hunting rifle. Just like the Synthetic, this rifle features a 26-inch barrel with a 1:8 rate of twist. It also has a two-stage, adjustable trigger and the same recoil pad. The big difference here is the stock, which is Monte Carlo-style and made of Grade "A" Turkish walnut. It has some beautiful checkering that will help with the ergonomics and the satin urethane finish gives a nice sheen to this rifle. What's most impressive is that Weatherby still managed to keep the weight at 7.5 pounds, even with the premium furniture. This one comes in at about $830, so you are paying premium mostly for the stock. However, that stock also gives this rifle a truly timeless quality for the old-school hunter who doesn't want to forget his or her roots.
Weatherby Vanguard MeatEater Edition
Yes, in case you were wondering, this bolt action rifle is branded through Steven Rinella's popular show "MeatEater." However, don't go thinking that you're paying $950 for just the show's logo engraved on the magazine's floorplate. This rifle is lighter than the other Vanguards thanks to the fluted barrel, coming in just a hair over seven pounds. It also features a black Cerakote finish on the fluted bolt and Tungsten Cerakote on all other metal components to help protect against things like snow and rain, which are almost inevitable when you're deep in the backcountry after a trophy bull or ram. The barrel is also threaded and ready for a suppressor or muzzle brake. You don't even need to be a fan of the show to appreciate the features that make this gun a backcountry, long distance beast. This is a good option for anyone who has previously stuck with "budget" rifles in the past, and wants to get something a little bit nicer than they've previously purchased.
Weatherby Mark V Hunter
The Mark V is one of Weatherby's finest rifles, although it does come with a kick up in price to about $1,300 new. The Mark V Hunter comes in at 7.3 pounds and features a 26-inch barrel with a 1:8 rate of twist. Weatherby gave this firearm a Cobalt Cerakote coating on the barrel, trigger guard, and receiver. The bolt, bolt knob, and safety have a graphite black Cerakote finish. That makes this one of the toughest rifles around for corrosion resistance. It's a great option for anyone who is hard on their equipment. We also like the crisp Triggertech system, which is a big step up from the Vanguard's match grade system. It breaks cleanly and consistently every time. You likely won't need a lot of follow-ups with 6.5-300, but the 54-degree bolt throw makes this rifle cycle much faster and easier than others on the market. The Mark V also features a souped-up nine-bolt locking system that's going to help chamber and unlock the true potential of this fast round.
Weatherby Mark V Weathermark
This rifle is very similar to the Mark V Hunter, but the main reason you might want to consider the Weathermark is that it's a hair heavier, which is going to help with the recoil. Also, it has a few more features to help it stand up to the elements. This rifle has a 26-inch barrel length and has a 1:8 twist rate, and it's threaded and includes a thread protector. The receiver, barrel, and trigger guard are all protected against corrosion thanks to a Tac Gray Cerakote finish. This rifle has the same TriggerTech trigger and 54-degree bolt throw that make the Hunter such a great gun. Another big difference is the Weathermark is arguably more comfortable and ergonomic thanks to the Monte Carlo stock. It has aluminum bedding blocks and a raised comb to help dial in on those longer shots without as much flinching from the kick of the gun. Expect to pay around $1,550 for the Weathermark's extra features.
Weatherby Mark V Backcountry McMillan
For the serious backcountry hunter who doesn't mind dropping nearly $2,300 on a top-of-the line rifle, this is the one to get. The Mark V Backcountry McMillan is for shooters who are planning to take shots at 500 yards or more for elk or sheep deep in the mountains. It has a 28-inch fluted barrel with a 1:8 twist rate. Weatherby cut weight everywhere they possibly could to get this offering down to an incredible 6.3 pounds. Talk about a rifle that's easy to lug up steep terrain on the toughest spot and stalks. The trigger guard, receiver, and barrel are all coated with McMillan tan Cerakote, while the bolt, bolt knob, and safety are coated in graphite black Cerakote. This gun is definitely ready for the elements. This rifle also comes packaged with the Accubrake ST muzzle brake straight out of the box. There is also a 3D HEX recoil reducer to help tame the 6.5-300 Weatherby Mag's kick. We appreciate that as a compensation since they reduced the weight so much! This is one awesome rifle built only for the serious hunter with a big budget. It may not be for everyone, but for the long range shooters who want to truly take advantage of this cartridge's ballistics, this may be the best offering out there.