The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge, which was introduced in 2008 and became incredibly popular because of its success in Precision Shooting competitions, was made for long-range shooting. Its bullets are long and skinny and designed for minimal wind resistance. That means that the shot won’t be affected as much by crosswinds over long ranges. The aerodynamic bullet shape also allows the cartridge to carry more velocity farther down range. That’s why it has become one of the most popular calibers on the long-range competition circuit.
Here’s the thing. Many 6.5 Creedmoor rifles are bolt-action designs. The rigidity and consistent lock-up of a bolt-action rifle generally mean that it’s going to be more accurate than a semi-automatic rifle. Semi-auto rifle actions move all around between shots during the process of ejecting the spent cartridge case, re-cocking the bolt, and loading a new cartridge into the chamber, so there’s some natural inconsistency of part alignment from shot to shot.
The folks at the Smith & Wesson Performance Center decided to try and bust that stereotype by making a semi-automatic rifle capable of taking full advantage of the cartridge’s inherent accuracy. The result is the new Smith & Wesson M&P 10 6.5 Creedmoor.
Why did they come out with such a rifle? Well, “Why not?” is always a good enough reason! But seriously, the Performance Center folks wanted to build a multi-purpose AR-style rifle that was equally at home on the hunting and competition fields.
“It’s for shooters who want to hit long-range targets, as well as for hunting,” said Tony Miele, General Manager at Smith & Wesson’s Performance Center. “This cartridge lends itself to both categories nicely.”
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge packs enough punch for much North American big game, and from longer ranges given its distance-optimized characteristics. As for competition, the red-hot Precision Rifle Series now has a gas gun division. This rifle is a shoe-in for the Open Division in that sport.
Let’s take a look at the special accuracy features of the rifle, then we’ll break down how it performed at the range.
Made for Sharp Shooting
The upper and lower receivers of the Smith & Wesson M&P 10 6.5 Creedmoor begin life in the Smith & Wesson factory, like those of any other M&P 10 model. Then, the Performance Center team, which has a private manufacturing area buried in the middle of the factory, gets those parts.
It’s a neat setup: The Performance Center folks “shop” the factory and its associated selection of stock rifles and pistols, then they decide how they can create high-performance versions of those by applying upgraded parts and custom-shop manufacturing processes.
For example, this 6.5 Creedmoor version gets a barrel that’s longer than the standard 18-inch tube on other M&P 10 rifles. The muzzle on the 20-inch 6.5 Creedmoor model barrel is also threaded to allow easy attachment of things like muzzle brakes and suppressors. The barrel has a 1:8-inch twist rate that helps stabilize the longer 6.5 Creedmoor projectiles.
If you look inside the hand guard, you might notice that the gas block is farther forward than those on typical AR rifles. That’s because this M&P 10 has the gas port farther down the barrel towards the muzzle. That gives the hot gas cloud a little extra time and distance before it enters the gas tube and makes its way back to the receiver to cycle the action. The result to the shooter is a smoother and more mellow recoil sensation.
The hand guard is a Troy Industries Alpha 15-inch free-floated model, so there is plenty of room for accessories as well as placement of the shooter’s support hand. (With a free-floated barrel, the hand guard doesn’t contact the barrel anywhere. The idea is that pressure to the hand guard from your grip, a sling, or a bipod doesn’t interfere with the movement of the barrel as a bullet travels its length. Barrels flex and vibrate when a shot is fired, and if you can find ways to allow the process to happen unhindered and in the exact same fashion for every shot, you have a more accurate gun.)
The hand guard features the M-Lok system. That means the surface of the hand guard is free of sharp rails. To attach components like sights, lights, lasers, or bipods, you add M-Lok rail segments only where you need them. This rifle ships with one such two-inch aluminum rail segment, so you can attach your first piece of gear without buying any additional parts.
Grip and Stock
The grip and stock are upgraded too. The pistol grip is a Magpul MOE Plus model. Unlike the hard-plastic mil-spec grips, this one has a nice, grippy, and slightly flexible texture with ridges on the front and back. It does a much better job of providing a solid hold for sweaty or gloved hands.
The butt stock is a Magpul MOE fixed model. Most AR-type rifles have adjustable stocks, but for a rifle like this, the fixed stock is a better option, in my view. The typical user of this rifle won’t be using it with body armor or adjusting the stock size for close-quarters use, but for longer range precision shooting. The fixed stock provides a better and more consistent platform to establish a consistent hold and cheek weld. Speaking of cheek weld, the top of the stock is wide and well rounded, offering a comfortable and stable platform. The stock also features multiple sling attachment points, rear monopod attachment points, and has a hollow body in case you want to stow away parts, cleaning materials or some extra bacon jerky.
The Performance Center adds an upgraded match trigger. While the trigger won’t increase the mechanical accuracy of a rifle, a smooth and consistent trigger makes it much easier for the shooter to get maximum accuracy. The right trigger helps the shooter break the shot without moving the rifle, and that means more consistent groups down range.
The trigger is a two-stage model. The first stage of the trigger movement is a half-inch of effortless travel. At the end of that movement, you’ll feel a hard stop. That allows you to exert slight pressure to prepare to break the shot. From that stop point, exactly 3 3/4 pounds of pressure will fire the gun, with perhaps 1/16th-inch of additional trigger travel.
At the Range
I took this rifle to the range with several boxes of American Eagle’s brand-new 140-grain Open Tip Match ammo. In other calibers, I’ve found the American Eagle ammo to be amazingly consistent in terms of velocity, and therefore accurate, especially considering the price. This new load didn’t disappoint.
This rifle ships “optics ready,” meaning it has a full-length rail along the top that extends all the way to the end of the hand guard. Technically, the rail is two pieces, made up of the receiver top and the top of the rail, but they mate perfectly to form a continuous segment on which you can mount sights and/or optics. I chose to use a Hawke Optics 10X tactical scope and mounted that using a Leupold one-piece base and scope ring unit. The fixed 10X Hawke optic with its fine crosshairs and mil-dot reticle gave me a great sight picture for precise shooting, especially at the relatively short distance of 100 yards.
Since the barrel is threaded and ready to go, I tested the M&P 10 6.5 Creedmoor with two types of suppressors. Why? A couple of reasons. First, even when shooting a large-caliber rifle such as this one with supersonic ammunition, noise can be reduced to hearing-safe levels. Also, a suppressor tends to smooth out the recoil sensation, generally making it easier to shoot more accurately. A suppressor shouldn’t have any mechanical impact on accuracy, it’s just friendly to the shooter.
Thanks to some help from our friends at The Silencer Shop, I had a new suppressor on hand to test. The Gemtech Tracker .30 caliber rifle suppressor is a hunting model. It’s lightweight, to facilitate easy all-day carrying, and designed for relatively light shooting volume. The all-aluminum construction is plenty durable as long as you don’t shoot too much before letting the unit cool down. The rule of thumb is to let the suppressor cool to the ambient temperature after ten or so shots. For a rifle like this, designed for situations in which shots will be deliberate and precisely aimed rather than rapid fired, it could be a great option. The Tracker has a direct thread mount that screws right on to the threaded barrel of this M&P 10 rifle.
I also used a SilencerCo Specwar 762 suppressor. This one, unlike the Tracker, is a heavy-duty suppressor designed for plenty of abuse. It’s heavier and great for higher shooting volumes. You also don’t need to worry about letting it cool down periodically.
I set up my Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph 15 feet downrange to check the average velocity of the American Eagle ammo. That turned out to be 2,550 feet per second.
To check accuracy, I placed targets at 100 yards and set up front and rear rests, then weighed down the front rest with a 25-pound bag of lead shot. The whole setup sat on a concrete shooting bench, so I had a nice, stable shooting platform.
I tested two types of ammunition with this rifle, with and without suppressors attached. The first was American Eagle’s 140-grain Open Tip Match. The second is a handload I use that’s proven to be exceptionally accurate in precision, bolt-action, 65 Creedmoor rifles. It uses a 140-grain Hornady Extremely Low Drag (ELD) bullet. I shot all groups from 100 yards and fired five-shots per group. Here are the group sizes recorded, in inches:
American Eagle, unsuppressed: .63, .96
American Eagle with Gemtech Tracker suppressor: 1.25, 1.26
American Eagle with SilencerCo Specwar suppressor: 1.40, 1.82
Handload, unsuppressed: 1.17, .88
Handload, Gemtech Tracker: .83 (I was running low on this ammo, so I only shot one group, with the Tracker)
Handload, SilencerCo Specwar 762: .56, .72
I should note that one of the groups using American Eagle and the Specwar had four shots in a .59-inch group, with one odd flyer. Was that due to the shooter or the ammo? Got me.
You might notice some apparent inconsistencies, meaning that ammo seems to behave differently with different suppressors. That might be possible, but there’s not nearly enough data to draw conclusions. Group sizes vary, even from the same rifle, same ammo, and same suppressor. That’s why it’s important to shoot a lot of groups and average the results over time. We simply wanted to get an idea of how this rifle shoots, so we just did a couple of groups with each configuration.
The conclusion you can draw, looking at all the groups, is that this rifle will shoot.
To put the results into perspective, I’ve found that most quality AR rifles will shoot 100-yard, five shot groups consistently in the one- to two-inch range. Many rifles will shoot a great three-shot group and the occasional impressive five-shot group. True accuracy is exposed by shooting multiple five-shot groups and averaging the results. With that type of testing, results in the 1.5-inch range are considered good, and this rifle was better than that.
The Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P 10 6.5 Creedmoor is an excellent rifle. The choices of aftermarket upgraded parts are spot-on for the intended uses of this caliber. I mentioned the fixed stock on this rifle, and after shooting it, I’m absolutely in favor of that feature. This isn’t a rifle designed for situations in which a shooter would typically adjust the stock length for different shooting scenarios. The rigidity of the fixed setup helps you shoot more consistently. I also really like the long, rail-free handguard. I didn’t add the rail segment for testing, but it’s nice to have the option. If I choose to buy the rifle, I’ll probably add a bipod, and that’s it.
|Smith & Wesson M&P 10 6.5 Creedmoor|
|Magazine Capacity:||10 rounds|
|Safety:||Ambidextrous manual safety levers|
|Grip:||Magpul MOE Plus|
|Barrel Material:||Carbon steel|
|Barrel Twist:||1:8″ RH – 5R rifling|