6.5 Creedmoor 123 Sierra MatchKing (SMK) HPBT load development with H4350 and Varget

I worked up some loads for my custom 22″ barrel 6.5 Creedmoor precision rifle using Sierra’s 123 Grain MatchKing (SMK) HPBT with Hodgdon Varget and H4350 powder.

6.5mm 123 Sierra MatchKings SMK

According to Sierra, the 123 grain SMK has a sectional density .252, and G1 bc of .510 above 1,635 feet/second.  Litz estimates the G7 BC at .260.

6.5 creedmoor custom rifle on gravel 2

The rifle is built with the following components from Brownells:

6.5 creedmoor rifle front

It is topped with the outstanding Nightforce BEAST 5-25 FFP mil/mil scope in Nightforce rings.

To see how I built the rifle, check out Building a Custom 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Rifle.

WARNING: The loads shown are for informational purposes only.  They are only safe in the rifle shown and may not be safe in yours.  Consult appropriate load manuals prior to developing your own handloads.  Rifleshooter.com and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

Hodgdon H4350 and Varget both seem to be the popular powder choices for the 123 SMKs in the 6.5 Creedmoor, so I developed loads with both. Brass for the Varget loads is 1XF Hornady, neck sized in a Redding full length neck size die with a .290 titanium nitride bushing (note: the I did not use the FL die to set back the shoulder).  I used new Hornady brass for the H4350 loads.  Powder charges were measured with a RCBS Charge Master.  A Redding competition seat die was used to seat the bullets on a Forster single stage press.  Tula primers were seated by hand with a Sinclair priming tool.

All shooting was done prone, from a Harris BR bipod equipped with a Pod-Loc, and a rear bag. Range conditions were 81F, overcast, with moderate to heavy rain.

Velocity information was collected with a MagnetoSpeed barrel mounted ballistic chronograph.

Results are shown below.

123 smk and varget table

6.5 creedmoor 123 smk varget test target

Lighter bullets in the 6.5 Creedmoor like these 123 SMKs are new to me.  Normally, in a heavy barrel rifle like this, I shoot 5 shot groups for load development.  In this case, I shot mostly 3 round groups to establish a baseline.  The velocities produced with Varget were similar to those achieved in my 22″ 6.5×47 Lapua using the same powder.

Some of the loads were noteworthy.

6.5 creedmoor 123 smk 38.3 grain varget 2784 13.6 includes cold bore

38.3 grains of Varget.

6.5 creedmoor 123 SMK 39.2 grains varget 2854 sd 14.5

39.2 grains of Varget.

6.5 creedmoor 123 smk 39.8 grains of varget 2887 sd 7.6

39.8 grains of Varget.

My upper end Varget loads exceeded published maximums and seemed a little hot.

123 smk and h4350 6.5 creed table

6.5 creedmoor 123 smk H4350 test targetsWhile the H4350 wasn’t as accurate across the board as Varget was, the velocity was better.

6.5 creedmoor 123 SMK 44.8 grains H4350 2938 sd 8.1

One load, 44.8 grains of H4350 produced a .178 MOA 3 shot group at 100 yards (above).  This had a velocity of 2938 feet/second and standard deviation of 8.1.  Anytime I have a sub .200″ group with decent velocity, it gets another look (in retrospect I wish I had loaded 5 rounds of this, but that’s how it goes sometimes).  I plan on shooting five, 5 shot groups with it to see how it fares.  If the performance keeps up, it may be my go to 6.5 Creedmoor load.

On this trip to the range, I made the mistake of shooting 20 different handloads from this rifle in rapid succession.  I typically shoot a hot rifle to simulate field conditions on longer strings of fire, however, the barrel mirage for the H4350 loads was brutal.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pack some 2″ painters tape which works as a mirage band in a pinch.  I suspect the mirage, as well as the use of new brass compared to the fire formed cases used with the Varget, may have made the H4350 slightly less accurate (across the board.

I realize many guys prefer the heavier bullets in the Creedmoor, but I’ve had great success with the 120-123 grain bullets in the 6.5×47 Lapua which is a very similar cartridge (click to see post).  Running the 44.8 grain H4350 load through the ballistic calculator using a G7 ballistic coefficient from Litz, it predicts 301.7″ (8.4 mils) of drop at 1,000 yards and 82.3″ (2.3 mils) of drift in a 10 mile/hour crosswind.  In the same rifle, the 142 SMK (2712 feet/second) drops 338.0″ and has 79.5″ of drift in a 10 mile/hour crosswind and the 136 Scenar-L load (2704 feet/second) has 354.8″ of drop and 87.8″ of drift in the same conditions.  The 123 SMK shoots flatter then both, and has similar performance in the wind to the 142 SMK.

My first impressions of the 123 SMK in the 6.5 Creedmoor are great.  Once I do some more work with the combination, I’ll report back.



6.5 Creedmoor


I worked up some loads for my custom 6.5 Creedmoor precision rifle with a 22″ barrel using Sierra’s 142 Grain MatchKing (SMK) HPBT and Hodgdon H4350 powder.     According to Sierra, the 142 grain SMK has a sectional density .291, and G1 bc of …

6.5 creedmoor 3

I’ve taken a few trips to the range developing a load for my 22″ barrel 6.5 Creedmoor precision rifle. The rifle is built with the following components from Brownells: Surgeon 591 action Bartlein 6.5mm 1:8 twist HV barrel Badger M5 bottom Metal Timney 510 trigger …

6.5 creedmoor front 5

The flat shooting and light recoiling 6.5 Creedmoor was introduced by Hornady in 2007.  Based on a 308 Winchester case, the 6.5 mm (.264″) Creedmoor fits inside an AR10/ 308 AR platform and feeds well from AICS style magazines. The Creedmoor is unique among the …