This year I was fortunate to have saved up enough to rebarrel my .308 18″ barrel Surgeon Scalpel. I opted to go with a 24″ 1/8 twist PROOF Research Carbon Fiber Wrapped barrel in 6.5 Creedmoor. Ever since my awesome experience with MPA’s 6.5CM BA Lite, I had been interested in acquiring a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle of my own. I had two bolt action precision rifles chambered in .308 with short bull barrels, and I had been saving for a PROOF barrel for some time. Therefore, instead of purchasing a totally new rifle, I thought the Surgeon would be an excellent candidate for re-barreling. Georgia’s Collier Rifles (a great place for cutting/threading services as well) had the barrel I was looking for, and off my rifle went to be re-barreled in a timely fashion.
Fuel for the Fire
While I was at the launch event for Zeiss’ V6 Conquest line, I was extremely impressed by the quality, accuracy, and consistency of Hornady’s 6.5CM ammunition. Therefore, I was extremely grateful when Hornady was generous enough to provide me with the majority of the ammunition to be used for the testing of the PROOF barrel. Equipped with seven out of their eleven 6.5CM loads, I was excited to hit the range and see how the new setup performed.
Break-in? We don’t need no stinking’ break-in!
I started off testing out the PROOF barrel by what I firing what I thought would be a series of “break-in” shots with Hornady’s 140gr ELD Match to put a layer of copper in the bore. Right away, the PROOF barrel demonstrated it did not need such niceties. My first group fired was .8 MOA. I was not even trying to be super precise at that point, and this level of precision was a pleasant surprise. Firing a few more groups, I found that the 140gr ELD match loads demonstrated a consistent .25MOA cold bore shift down and to the right. The shift was extremely consistent across all groups with this load. Predictable cold-bore shifts are great because if one can adjust for a predictable shift, one can turn a good group into a great group.
Equipped with a bunch of targets, my rifle, and a plethora of Hornady’s excellent ammunition, I was ready to get down to some serious testing. I fired a ton of groups throughout the day, suppressed and unsuppressed. Though there was an average zero shift of -2 MOA unsuppressed, overall accuracy remained the same. 5-shot groups are listed, best to worst. Barrel was mildly cleaned for carbon fouling between each group. Shots were fired prone, supported front and rear, at 100 yards. Groups were micrometer measured outside-outside, with bullet diameter subtracted. Range conditions were 5-7mph 8 o’clock wind, in light to medium rain. All the ammunition listed is from Hornady’s factory ammo.
- American Gunner 140gr: .37MOA
- ELD Match 147gr: .40MOA
- ELD Match 140gr: .51MOA
- ELD Match 120gr: .55MOA
- Precision Hunter ELD-X 143gr: .75MOA (Though produced a .3MOA 4-shot group after cold-bore shift of .45MOA)
- Match 120gr A-Max: .78MOA
- American Whitetail Interlock 129gr: .83MOA
Obviously the action, barrel, and ammunition all came together to produce some pretty great accuracy with factory loads. All loads were sub-MOA, 5/7 were sub 3/4 MOA, and three were 1/2 MOA or better. The most pleasant surprise was that the PROOF barrel liked the American Gunner 140gr budget load the best! The performance of the Precision Hunter ELD-X bullet was also outstanding. There’s a couple hunting spots of mine that are a hike of about a mile that I wouldn’t mind taking such a rifle to set up in. If I ever get serious about hunting with the 6.5CM, however, I’m going to have to ditch the stock for a lighter setup. The AICS is pretty heavy at around 6lbs just for the stock!
Earlier this year, I had the chance at a Zeiss Conquest launch event to speak in depth with Hornady staff about recent advancements they have made in the ballistic arena. Hornady has made huge investments in their ballistics department with extensive use of doppler radar and utilization of drag coefficients lately, in conjunction with their 4DOF program. (Hit the link for a more in-depth explanation). Per Hornady:
The Hornady® 4DOF™ (Four Degrees Of Freedom) Ballistic Calculator determines trajectory solutions based on projectile Drag Coefficient (not Ballistic Coefficient), combined with exact physical modeling of the projectile and its mass and aerodynamic properties. Additionally, it is the first publicly available calculator that will accurately determine the correct vertical shift a bullet experiences as it encounters a crosswind; referred to as Aerodynamic Jump (AJ).
What does this mean for the average Joe that picks up a box of Hornady’s factory ammo? Extremely accurate and honest velocities stated on the box (as long as one’s barrel length is the same as the length tested by Hornady) I measured the velocities of all loads on my LabRadar unit. Not only were all average velocities within 10-20 fps of the box-printed velocity, but the variations on the factory ammo were all within 15-20fps shot to shot. This is up amongst the best consistency I have seen from factory loads.
Warm and Fuzzy
After slow-firing groups with a relatively cool barrel, I tried rapid strings of fire and long-range shots. Rapid fire groups did not get the PROOF barrel uncomfortably hot to the touch. The heat dissipation really was better than my old steel barrel! Mirage from the barrel was not as noticeable in the optic as it would have been from a similar profile non-carbon barrel. Groups also did not open up very much at all, and vertical or horizontal stringing were not exhibited with a warm barrel. This fact gives veracity to PROOF’s claim of minimizing POI shift with a hot barrel. Stretching the rifle’s legs out to 1100 yards was no problem, with satisfying rings on steel for each shot. I look forward to shooting this rifle at 1600-1800 yards in the future.
For less than the weight of my old 18″ .308 barrel, I now had a long-range, tack-driving 6.5CM powerhouse. Although expensive, the PROOF barrel has definitely been worth saving up for. I am now a true believer in their superior performance characteristics. As far as the Hornady ammunition goes, I was impressed by the excellent accuracy, consistency, and true stated velocities. For so many of their factory loads and bullets to perform so well speaks volumes. For the time being, I do not have the proper space, storage, or time for reloading equipment, but I can be confident in feeding my long range precision rifle Hornady’s 6.5 Creedmoor ammo.
A huge thank you to:
Collier Rifles for their great service
Hornady Manufacturing Inc. for providing the ammunition for this test
Tamarack Sports and Hughston Shooting School for range time and technical assistance