6.5 Creedmoor load development: Sierra 130 grain Tipped MatchKing (TMK) with H4350, Varget, Reloder 15 and Reloader 17

Sierra’s 6.5 mm (.264″) 123 and 142 grain MatchKings (SMK) are staples of the precision shooting world.  Both offer exceptional precision to the marksman, but a middle weight 6.5mm option eluded those of us who use their bullets until November 2015 with the introduction of the 130 grain Tipped MatchKing (TMK) part number 7430.  The 1.355″ long bullet is advertised with a G1 ballistic coefficient of .518 at muzzle velocities above 2,200 feet/second.

When I asked Sierra why they chose to introduce the 6.5mm 130 grain bullet to the TMK line, they responded “we are really just trying to expand the TMK line into all the popular calibers and looking for weights with as much inclusion as we can factoring in twist, magazine length, and purpose.  We try and walk the line between BC and easy to tune – which has been a hallmark of Sierra for many years.”  The balance of BC and tune is notable, there are some 6.5mm bullets in the 130 grain class with a better BC, however, my personal experience is they are difficult to tune.  I also asked if there were plans to introduce a 6.5mm 130 grain MatchKing, to which Sierra responded, “not at this point in time, but our line is ever changing.  Our 123 is one of our best sellers and suits a lot of uses for which the 142 is too heavy.  That is one reason the 130 was selected – it filled a gap between the 123 and 142 and gave us a TMK in the 6.5 line as well.

130 TMKs

When my 130 TMKs arrived, I immediately went to work developing some loads for my 6.5 Creedmoor.  The rifle I am using for this post has been a great shooter offering respectable velocities despite its relatively short, 22″ Bartlein Heavy Varmint contour 1:8.5″ twist barrel.  Note: this is a slower twist than the 1:8 twist Sierra recommends for the 130 TMK.

6.5 creedmoor custom rifle on gravel 2

The rifle is built with the following parts from Brownells:

Like many 6.5 Creedmoor shooters, I typically shoot from an AICS style magazine.  This means the overall length (OAL) of the cartridge is important.  While SAAMI standards specify a maximum OAL of 2.825″ (see link), most shooters using the AICS magazines will limit their OAL to 2.850″-2.860″ to allow the rounds to cycle reliably in the magazine (in general, the longer the OAL of a cartridge in an AICS magazine, the more likely it is to bind during feeding). Using a Hornady OAL gauge, I measured the 6.5 Creedmoor with 130 TMK‘s to have an OAL of 2.866″ to the lands.  This means, loading a cartridge 2.860″ for an AICS magazine, allows you to be within .006″ of the lands.  This is a big benefit for the guys who shoot from magazine, sometimes you’ll end up with cartridge configurations that will only work in a single shot application.  Unfamiliar with the 130 TMK, I settled on a OAL of 2.850″, or .016″ off the lands for the testing.

130 TMK 6.5 Creed in AICS magazine

Using twice fired Hornady brass, sized with a Redding bushing sizing die, I worked up five rounds of twenty different loads using H4350, Varget, Reloder 17 and Reloder 19 powders in .5 grain increments (see disclaimer below).  I switch back and forth between .3 and .5 grain increments with load development.  While the .5 grain increments are a little more coarse, they do cover a wider range of charges.

I used Wolf large rifle primers for all loads.  If you haven’t tried Russian primers you should, I’ve found they provide more consistent ignition than any domestic offering.

All shooting was done prone, from a bipod with rear bag.  The Nightforce B.E.A.S.T. was set to 20X magnification.  Targets were 1″ orange dots at 100 yards.  The barrel was not cleaned during the course of the load development process.

Results are shown in the table below:

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.

130 TMK 6.5 Creedmoor loads

130 TMK H4350 and Varget

The first ten loads using 41.5-43.5 grains of H4350 and 36.5-38.5 grains of Varget are shown on the target above.

130 TMK reloader 17 and 15

The last ten loads, using 39.0-39.5 grains of Varget, 42.5-44.5 grains of Reloder 17 and 38.0-39.0 grains of Reloder 15, are shown above.  Note the ten round cluster on the top right part of the target is two different groups.  The 43.5 grain Reloder 17 groups was shot with .3 mil right on the optic.  The bottom right group of 39.0 grains of Reloder 15 was shot with 1.0 mil down and .3 mil right, holding on the bottom right dot.  I didn’t put enough orange dots on this target.

I understand H4350 is popular with the 6.5 Creedmoor, however, I’ve never really liked it in the cartridge.  While the velocities were acceptable, and the 42.5 grain charge was the most accurate tested during this initial work up, the standard deviation of loads tended to be much higher than Varget and Reloder 15.

Varget showed moderate velocities, decent accuracy and consistent velocities with single digit standard deviations.

Reloder 17 provided exceptional speeds on the top end of the loads, however, I’ve never been particularly fond of it.  It also produced the largest group, 1.159″. This was not a flyer resulting from the shooter, the shot felt great when it broke.

Reloder 15 provided decent velocities, accuracy and low standard deviations.  By the time I fired the Reloder 15 groups, the barrel was fairly hot and I had a pretty bad mirage.

Looking at my results thus far, I’ll be doing more work with Varget and Reloder 15.  The Sierra 130 grain TMK seems like a great option for the 6.5 Creedmoor and by extension, the 6.5×47 Lapua and 260 Remington.