The Hornady 6.5mm ELD Range
In this article, the first in a series of projectile comparisons from various manufacturers, we’ll look at the three 6.5 projectiles sold currently that eclipse all others.
They’re well priced, have a stellar reputation in both target and hunting applications and come with a cult following. But let see how good they really are … and what advantages one design has over the other.
The ELD range is verified by Doppler radar; the Heat Shield tip is immune to the effects of aerodynamic heating and retains its shape to maintain the highest-in-class ballistic coefficient (BC) over its entire trajectory. Hornady’s AMP (Advanced Manufacturing Process) match-grade jacket is used throughout the ELD range.
All range testing was carried out with a Sauer 404 Synchro XT semi-weight 20″ barrel, with a 1:8 twist rate chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor fitted with a DPT suppressor.
Shot velocity was measured with an optical chronograph and a LabRadar.
Range testing was at 100yds.
Hodgdon Superformance powder was my go-to, as I’ve had great results running this in the Creedmoor previously. This blended powder is also a great high-velocity, low-pressure option for lighter projectile 300WSM loads and 30-06. It’s a spherical propellent that metres very well.
Tale of the Tape
On the scales and measuring from bullet base to ogive are always good indications of manufacturing quality and control in the production process.
I laboriously weighed and measured all 300 projectiles of the three design types generously supplied by Steve’s Wholesale for this experiment. This is how the numbers looked:
• Weight variation 139.8-140.2gr. Note: 90 of 100 projectiles tipped the scales at 140.1gr. This excellent consistency definitely contributed to how well this bullet shot.
• Length variation was .003. Again, good consistency.
• BC .646
• Weight variation 142.7gr-143.4gr
• Length variation .005
• BC .625
• Weight variation 146.7gr-147.2
• Length variation .003
• BC .697
These measurements, with every bullet manufactured, tend to vary with production batches and bullet design. The simpler design tends to produce greater consistency. The flip side is, of course, some of the more technical bullet designs can be more effective for certain intent. i.e., bonded projectiles for hunting with high velocity calibres.
The groupings I was achieving with the 140s were some of the best I’ve ever shot with any bullet/rifle combo.
The best was .09MOA. That’s .10 inch. I’m not a target shooter and don’t claim to be; so, to knock out single hole groups is almost enough to make you want to pack up and call it a day!
This is a legit match bullet.
This one’s widely regarded as the go-to 6.5 hunting bullet. With its interlocking ring to provide an additional factor of expansion control, the 143gr ELD-X maintains an impressive BC. Hornady’s recommendation for required twist rate is 1-8.
It’s been presented as the ‘hunting’ option of the three 6.5mm Red Devils; what really interests me is how it performs on impact.
The Hornady marketing machine presents us with picture-perfect mushrooms through a wide velocity: 1800fps-2600fps with 80-95% weight retention beyond 400yd. They state the thick shank of the jacket and high InterLock ring keep the core and jacket together providing 50-60% weight retention at higher velocity.
What we observed with our ballistic gel testing carried out at 2400fps (approximately a 200yd field impact range) with two 143gr ELD-X projectiles was 75% weight retention and 13mm expansion diameter – the results with both bullets were close to identical.
Reigning champion of the ballistic coefficient at .697 G1 and .351 G7, it’s still easily stabilised in a 1-8.5 twist barrel. This bullet helped drive the already legendary 6.5 calibres to superstardom!
Its inherent wind-cheating ability, an optimum secant ogive and boat-tail design along with the Heat Shield tip produce a bullet with the highest possible ballistic coefficient in its class.
I’ve found the 147s not particularly fussy with seating depth and have best results from .050-.090.
There’s no doubt this bullet is capable of extremely tight groups and will give you every advantage that comes with its aerodynamic design.
What most people ask us is, “How do they perform on game? With their thin jackets, do they hold together enough to achieve desired depth of penetration?”
General feedback is they perform very similarly to the A-Max with massive fragmentation when they enter the engine room. Our in-house impact testing observed exactly this – fragmentation soon after initial penetration, followed by core separation.
Accuracy is this bullet’s advantage. Would I call it a hunting bullet? Absolutely! But shot placement is key. If you’re someone who isn’t confident to make a well-placed shot, you’d better be good at tracking!
‘Splitting hairs’ is a term that comes to mind after carrying out separate load developments on each of these projectiles. All three shot well under 1/2 MOA with
the 140s taking out the title at .09 MOA. That’s tight!
As a reloader, if I had to pick two standout attributes that really impressed me with all three bullets, it’d be their consistency and how forgiving they are with seating depth to achieve excellent accuracy. This is a huge advantage over some other bullet options that are absolutely as capable of shooting as well if magazine length doesn’t hinder load development.
How they continue to perform in the ever-growing and competitive 6.5 calibre market – and beyond that, what 6.5 calibre is king? …well, that’s a whole new debate!
In the next edition, we’ll put to the test Federal’s ever-expanding range of hunting bullets: Fusion, Edge TLR and Trophy Bonded Tip.