25 Creedmoor: The Best of the Creedmoor Family? -  Inside MDT

Posted by Marcus Hom on 2024 Feb 15th

25 Creedmoor: The Best of the Creedmoor Family? - Inside MDT

The Story of the 25 Creedmoor started over 100 years ago, around 1915. Savage wanted to create a new wiz-bang cartridge to chamber in their Model 99 lever gun. Working with a middle-aged lawyer/ inventor, Charles Newton, they shortened and necked down the new at the time, 30-06, to accept .257 caliber bullets and fit them into their lever action rifle. The end result was a cartridge that was able to propel an 87-grain projectile past the 3000-foot-per-second benchmark. This was the first commercially offered cartridge to reach these speeds. Savage was so proud that they included it in the cartridge's name, and thus, the .250-3000 was born. Later, this case would just come to be called the .250 Savage.

Don't feel bad if you have never heard of the .250 savage. While it has always had its fair share of diehard supporters, a few issues have plagued the cartridge, most notably slow twist barrels that lead to insufficient projectile stabilization and poor accuracy. Additionally, in the later half of the 1900s, it was displaced by cartridges like the .243 Winchester, which ran at higher pressures and thus achieved higher velocities. Finally, the quarter bore, called as such due to the projectile diameter being so near to a 1 ⁄ 4 inch, has always been underserved by projectile manufacturers. This effect is evident when looking at one of the .250 Savage's offspring, the very popular 22-250. This is basically the same case but necked down to accept .224 caliber bullets and once again rated to run at much higher chamber pressures. Because of the plethora of 22-caliber bullets, the 22-250 is useful on targets ranging from prairie dogs to deer.


For the full history of the genesis of the 6.5 Creedmoor, I recommend listening to the Hornady podcast episode 83. To sum it up, a couple of shooters were at a competition and brainstorming some of the attributes that would make for the perfect competition cartridge. At this time, the 6.5 mm or .264 caliber projectiles were very popular for their high Ballistic Coefficients (B.C.) and lighter weights. This makes for a bullet that slows down less, drifts less in the wind, and recoils less when launched. So they started there. It would need to fit into a short action even when utilizing the longer high B.C. projectiles, and the shoulder of the case would need to be placed far enough back that even when loading this long projectile, the base of the bullet would stay above the case, body leaving plenty of room for powder. Now is a good time to mention a cartridge is more than just the shape of its brass. It is also the specifications for its chambering, recommended barrel twist, and acceptable pressure limits. In this instance, the Creedmoor incorporated a purpose-designed throat, lead geometry, and an 8-twist barrel, allowing it to shoot the new crop of long, high B.C. bullets accurately. It was a huge success.


A wildcat cartridge is a custom cartridge not commercially available or approved by a governing body such as SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute) or CIP (The European equivalent). That being said, there is always someone willing to color outside the lines to try to gain some incremental improvements. We refer to those individuals as "wildcatters ."P.O Ackley was one of the most prolific. He created his cartridges by slightly oversizing an existing chamber and firing conventional brass. This process of "fire-forming" would cause the original case to form to the modified chamber. The result would be a case with a steeper shoulder and less body taper. This allowed for more powder capacity within the fire-formed case. The increase in powder created higher velocities (and pressures). Ackley's cartridges are often referred to as "Ackley Improved" or "A.I." and are easily recognized by their steep 40-degree shoulder angle. The cartridge most shooters would be familiar with is the 280 AI. Based on the 280 Remington, this cartridge was so popular it eventually gained SAMMI approval. On the topic of Ackley Improved cartridges, P.O Ackley himself stated in one of his books, that the .250-3000 was among the cases that benefited the most from the "Improved" geometry.

Knowing this, it isn't hard to imagine that the Creedmoor case was tinkered with and necked down to .257 caliber before the 6.5 was even formally introduced. However, the lack of high B.C. bullets in the quarter bore meant that although a shooter could get higher velocities, the performance downrange would fall behind the sleeker 6.5mm (.264 caliber) bullets.

I used a 1:7 twist barrel for my 25 Creedmoor project.

This changed in 2018 with the introduction of the 131 Ace projectile from the now-defunct Black Jack bullets. Those projectiles were manufactured for Black Jack by Sierra Bullets. Sierra used the same 27 caliber ogive design as implemented in the other heavy for caliber high B.C. bullets across their line. This resulted in a 131-grain .257 caliber projectile that had similar B.C.s to the heaviest .264 diameter bullets, but the lighter 131s could be launched faster and with less recoil. Of course, these longer projectiles required a faster barrel twist to stabilize. Nothing crazy like the specified 1 in 3 twist of the 8.6 Blackout I spoke about here, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:7 to 1:7.5. Eventually, due to internal issues, Black Jack Bullets stopped offering the 131 Ace. But the genie was out of the bottle. Hundreds, if not thousands, of home brew wildcatters (myself included), had already ordered barrels from custom companies like Preferred Barrel Blanks, necked down some of our existing 6.5mm Creedmoor Brass, and started launching these new pills. I really saw the benefits. Faster (2850 fps) and lower recoiling than the 6.5, better B.C. than anything, the 6mm Creedmoor was slinging, and with more barrel life, the 25 Creedmoor was the Goldilocks cartridge. Together with an initial push from Black Jack, we had all proven the incremental gains, and the demand was there. Berger and, shortly after, Hornady saw this rising demand in the quarter bore space and released the 133 Elite Hunter, 135 Long Range Hybrid, and the 134 Eld-M, respectively.

Berger and Hornady are making some excellent bullets.


What does the future hold for this modernized version of a cartridge initially developed over 100 years ago? Well, that is up to the manufacturers of brass and bullets. It is sort of a chicken or egg scenario, but the egg has already hatched, and the first chick has emerged. We, the shooters, will also determine much of the 25 Creedmoor's fate. Personally, I am optimistic. Barrels with the correct twist rate and chamber geometry are available. Three high B.C. projectiles are currently on the market, and more to come, assuming demand continues to rise. Top quality 25 Creedmoor head stamped brass from both Peterson Cartridge Co. and Alpha Munitionsis is available, and the cartridge uses the common Creedmoor powder and dies. Although the 25 Creedmoor is still a wildcat cartridge, it is a relatively easy proposition. It runs great with the common H4350 powder. Any Creedmoor sizing die with interchangeable neck bushings will work for making or resizing brass. I use a bushing around .286, depending on the neck wall thickness of the brass. I strongly recommend to any prospective handloader of the 25 Creedmoor that once you have determined a projectile that shoots well in your rifle, buy enough to last the rest of your barrel's life (around 2500). Yes, I know this is a large initial expense, but like all precious metals, bullets aren't getting any cheaper, and this insulates you from market fluctuations. More than capable of harvesting large deer and offering match-grade ballistics rivaling any other cartridge being used, the 25 Creedmoor may be the best Creedmoor yet.



Marcus Hom is a shooter through and through. Born to a pistol-packing mama, he has spent his entire life around firearms. Marcus spent much of his adulthood guiding hunts in Alaska, teaching CCW and precision rifle courses, competing in national-level matches, conducting research and development, and gunsmithing. Marcus is a former Federal Law Enforcement Officer.


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