When we put a new rifle together for competitions that was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor the desire to get out and shoot the rifle overpowered the patience required to get all the reloading gear together for a new caliber. The good folks over at Copper Creek Cartridge Company were nice enough to send in certificates for free ammo to put on the prize table at the 2013 Sniper’s Hide Cup. One stack of goodies we walked away from the competition with included a certificate for ammunition from Copper Creek. It seemed like as good a time as any to cash in the certificate so after a little research I ordered up some 6.5 Creedmoor ammo loaded with 123gr Hornady AMAX projectiles. The general consensus in the precision shooting community is that the gas gun platform prefers lighter projectiles with some cycling and pressure issues cropping up with 140gr projectiles. I plan to load 123gr Scenars for a competition load when I get all the reloading dies and components together so the 123 AMAX seemed like a logical projectile to go with.
Copper Creek prices the 123 AMAX load at $29.99 per box which translates to right around $1.50/rd which is about par for the course with factory loaded, match grade, precision ammunition. The questions in my mind would relate to whether or not it would live up to and earn the premium factory ammo reputation to go along with the price. One of the first things I did was zero the gun and run it over a chronograph to get some velocity data to use for generating drop charts for shooting at longer distances. I set up a CED M2 Chronograph with Infra-red screens at 15ft from the gun and put some ammunition through it. The ammo from Copper Creek Cartridge Company quickly began to show promise when I reviewed the chronograph data. I try to run a minimum of 5 rounds across the chronograph in a few different strings to get an idea how consistent it shoots.
As you can see from the picture above, the standard deviation for the Copper Creek ammo was 8fps moving at around 2750fps as reported by the CED M2. That’s pretty outstanding for factory ammo. I’m also going to clarify immediately that I can’t promise or even suggest your experience will be the same. There are a number of factors that go into how tight a given rifle load will perform over a chronograph such as barrel length, contour, barrel material, twist rates, the list goes on. I’ve read a discussion where employees from Bartlein Barrels stated that a difference of 100fps or more between barrels that came off the line sequentially is not atypical. However, Copper Creek Cartridge Company does provide details with each load as to the rifle they used to develop the load. In the case of the 123gr AMAX they use a GAP10 with a 22 inch barrel. The barrel on my 6.5CM rifle is a 22 inch Krieger. So while my velocity out of a new barrel was not quite as fast as the same load out of Copper Creek’s GAP10, the ammunition performed extremely consistently.
The next thing I did was a test of the ammunition, the rifle, and the shooter. I shot a few groups and I’ll be the first to admit, this rifle with this ammunition shoot quite a bit more accurately than I do. There were a number of tight groups I had going until I shanked a round and wrecked it. That’s on me for not getting out and shooting as often as I need to in order to stay sharp. There’s no doubt in my mind though that this ammunition in my rifle are capable of sub half MOA accuracy.
There’s a saying that three rounds test the ammunition, four rounds test the rifle, and five rounds test the shooter. Shooting sub half inch groups at 100 yards with three rounds is boringly easy with ammunition from Copper Creek Cartridge Company. Slightly more challenging is the five shot group and it quite handily pointed out the rust on my trigger finger but I still managed to capture a few five round groups that measured under a half inch at 100 yards. That’s quite accurate in my opinion and beyond what most people can do consistently ‘on demand’ at the range.
I broke out my calipers and reloading manual and grabbed 10 rounds at random from different boxes to check against my reloading manual to see whether the ammunition was loaded to specifications. I can say that of the random sampling of rounds they were all loaded to book specification, which for 6.5CM is 2.80″ for max overall length.
The next test of the ammunition is performance downrange. I initially had planned to see how the ammo grouped at distance but I caught word of a rifle match in Northern Colorado hosted by the good folks at Trigger Time Gun Club. It was a field style match with 10 stations and a variety of steel targets with wind from multiple angles. It was an excellent proving ground for down range performance of the Copper Creek ammo. The ammunition performed flawlessly all day resulting in zero malfunctions despite the blowing dust and dirt that bombarded the action on my 6.5 Creedmoor semi-auto. I was quite pleased with how it performed and the consistency was a plus since the match was a one-shot, one kill, style rifle match where you were only allotted one shot per target. No follow ups. You either get it done on the first shot or not at all.
Several guys took negative point scores on one stage that featured four hostage flapper targets where the shooter had to engage the flapper without hitting the large IPSC ‘hostage’ in front. A hit on the hostage taker flapper was worth a point, a hit on the hostage would subtract a point from your score. 2 out of 4 hits on the flappers felt like a decent job with no negative point hits. On one particular stage engaging targets out around 715yds I noticed I was hitting a little high and landing just over the target. I don’t believe this was the ammo, I believe it was the barrel. I’ve read quite a few accounts of new Creedmoor barrels picking up a bit of speed as they break in and that would account for rounds landing a few tenths of a mil high at 700+ yards.
A week or two later I started load development with the new rifle and one thing I did was fire a string of my last 7 Copper Creek rounds over a different chronograph. I used a Magnetospeed V2 the second time around and came up with some interesting results. The results of the test were as follows:
- Shot #1 – 2896fps
- Shot #2 – 2890fps
- Shot #3 – 2858fps
- Shot #4 – 2860fps
- Shot #5 – 2832fps
- Shot #6 – 2870fps
- Shot #7 – 2834fps
- Average – 2862fps
- SD – 24fps ES – 64fps
The barrel absolutely picked up some speed as it broke in. It was averaging about 100fps faster when measured the second time compared to the first run when the gun only had a few rounds through it. Also worth noting here is that there are only really two rounds in the 7 round string dragging the numbers down, shots #s 5 & 7. If you take those two out of the running the average speed bumps up to 2875fps and the SD/ES numbers tighten up more. 2875fps is about 35fps off what is written on the box and what the guys at Copper Creek Cartridge Company came up with doing load development on their rifle. Mine may still pick up speed as time goes on but I’m out of their ammo now so I may have to see if they’ll toss a box my way in another few weeks to see where everything settles with more rounds through the barrel. This highlights why the folks at Copper Creek Cartridge Company can’t guarantee a muzzle velocity or how tight the chrono numbers will be on any given rifle. It doesn’t take much variation in any number of variables to produce different results. The difference in my muzzle velocity explains why I was hitting high at 715yds at the match, the barrel was probably pushing the rounds almost 150fps faster at that point than when I measured the muzzle velocity and generated my drop chart.
I also wanted to throw a quick note in on their packaging. Its really nice. The ammo ships nose down in a styrofoam tray which protects them from damage in shipping. The brass was new Hornady brass with the factory head stamp. The boxes themselves are gorgeous, I like the colorful box and it stands out when you are pulling them out of your bag. Its obvious who’s on the range pulling rounds out of a Copper Creek box. They include lot numbers and the barrel length and velocity results they used during load development to give you an idea what the ammunition is capable of, though your own results may vary a bit.
All in all I’d have to say we rate the ammunition loaded by the Copper Creek Cartridge Company quite highly. While they can’t guarantee muzzle velocity with differences in the variables we discussed earlier, their ammunition is definitely loaded to specification and extremely consistently nonetheless. The consistency part is important for obvious reasons. If you want repeatable performance down range you need consistent ammunition and the Copper Creek Cartridge Company should be on your list of sources to acquire some if you aren’t rolling your own. I exchanged a few emails with the folks at Copper Creek Cartridge Company and I can say they responded to my questions quickly, politely, and thoroughly! As I mentioned my initial dealings with Copper Creek were because I received a free certificate for $100.00 worth of ammunition. Copper Creek Cartridge Company supports the precision shooting community, they contribute to it with their ammunition, and they give back to the shooters at competitions in the form of prizes. That means a lot to us and we hope it means a lot to you. There are big ammo companies out there that are often looked at as the benchmark for rifle ammunition but I haven’t seen certs with their names on prize tables. If a company supports us, we should try to support them in return. If you need some precision rifle ammunition and you aren’t loading your own, I highly recommend at least reaching out to the guys at Copper Creek Cartridge Company and seeing if they can help you out with what you need!