Ever since 6.5 Creedmoor entered the scene in 2007, it’s been gaining popularity with the inexorable momentum of a freight train. What was once decried as the latest in a long line of wonder cartridges destined to die on the vine has proven itself to instead be a worthy mainstay of the long-range shooting category.
The beauty of 6.5 Creedmoor is in its functionality; it delivers longer supersonic ranges, flatter trajectories, lower recoil, greater wind resistance, and at extended ranges, even superior terminal ballistics than the venerable .308 Winchester. It manages all of this while being relatively affordable compared to its peers and available with nearly as broad a range of commercial loads and projectiles as the .308 itself.
All this to say, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a heck of a cartridge, as capable at a hundred meters as it as it 1000. It’s a hunting round, a long-range precision cartridge, and, given its reliable performance in semi-automatics, even a tactical caliber all in one.
Sadly, this can make choosing an optic quite a challenge. Do you mount a big, powerful 6-36x to take maximum advantage of the potential for range, or slim 2-10x so you can take it on your next brush hunting trip? Or, if your 6.5 Creedmoor is something a little less traditional like the new MCX Spear with its short 16-inch barrel, you might even be inclined to opt for an LPVO.
Your optic will have a huge impact on your rifle’s capability, so it’s important to choose one tailored to your needs and firearm.
Understanding the 6.5 Creedmoor Scope
To have a meaningful conversation about rifle scopes, it’s important to understand the basics. If you’re not sure what magnification range or tube diameter are, we recommend starting with our guide on what the numbers on a scope mean.
A 6.5 Creedmoor is a rifle with intent. It shows forethought—research. It’s not a default cartridge like the .308, nor is it what you’re likely to receive if you walk into a gun store and say something like “I need a deer rifle.” If you’re outfitting a 6.5, you put some thought into the caliber of your rifle before you bought it—doing the same for your scope will ensure the former wasn’t wasted effort.
As a caliber, 6.5 Creedmoor doesn’t have many particular characteristics that make it more suited to one scope than the other. The same things that make a scope good for a .308 or a .270 or even a 5.56×45 make a scope good for a 6.5. Rather, the primary determinants in what makes a scope good for your rifle will be the rifle itself and how you intend to use it, and since 6.5 Creedmoor is such a diverse cartridge, there can be a lot of variety in those two factors.
That said, there is one exception. 6.5 Creedmoor is an exceptionally flat-shooting cartridge, at least compared to other commonly available factory ammunition. This means that unless you intend to shoot very far (as in, thousands of yards rather than hundreds) you probably don’t need to worry about internal elevation range. Most quality optics will have plenty of internal adjustment to compensate for the drop of a 6.5 Creedmoor out to distances beyond what most users even have access to.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Scope for 6.5 Creedmoor
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the attributes you do need to pay attention to when shopping for your next scope.
For the 6.5 Creedmoor, when it comes to magnification range, more is usually better. Regardless of whether you opt for an LPVO or a massive, purpose-built precision scope, we recommend looking for a wide magnification range.
6.5 is a versatile cartridge. Like the mighty .338 Lapua Magnum, it’s capable of ringing a gong at 1600 yards. Unlike .338LM, it’s also perfectly suitable for taking a deer at 40. Even if you don’t currently have any short-range plans for your 6.5, with such a capable cartridge, it would be a shame to limit yourself to only long-range shooting by buying a scope that won’t dial down enough for a 100-yard shot.
The inverse is also true—if buying an LPVO, we recommend selecting one that dials up to at least 8x, if not 10x. 6.5 Creedmoor has incredible reach; even if your rifle only has a 16″ barrel, it would be a pity to hamstring it with a 1-4x or 1-6x and leave so much capability on the table.
You can essentially imagine objective diameter as a sliding scale between image brightness and weight. A larger objective will, all else being equal, translate into a brighter image, which can be especially useful for hunting or any discipline in which the target is not sharply contrasted from the background. Glass quality will play a part here too, but that’s much harder to objectively quantify.
Larger objective diameters come at the cost of increased weight, though, so don’t simply buy the biggest bell you can find. Users who spend a lot of time carrying their rifles or shooting from offhand positions should think carefully about just how much glass they need.
If you plan to shoot your rifle exclusively from a bench, though, you can go ahead and get the biggest objective lens you see.
With the recent popularity of 6.5 Creedmoor rifles, quite a few caliber-specific BDCs have cropped up, creating a wealth of options for scope buyers. Of course, traditional grid-style reticles are still available in most scopes as well.
BDC reticles offer an advantage in speed and ease of use. As long as your ballistic drop profile is relatively close to the BDC, you can simply estimate range, hold to the corresponding hash or dot on the reticle, and fire. It’s a strong contender for hunters, time-based long-range shooters like PRS competitors, and many other uses.
But, these types of reticles don’t always align perfectly with real-world ballistics, meaning you will still need to practice with your rifle to determine your precise holds.
Grid-style reticles, on the other hand, are based on simple measurements like MOA and MILs. This makes them more versatile since they can be used with any caliber or barrel length, but also less intuitive. Those who select a grid-style reticle should expect to spend more time training with their firearm to achieve proficiency but are rewarded with a versatile skill that translates well across firearms, scopes, and even shooting disciplines.
If you’re not sure which type of reticle you prefer, we recommend reviewing our guide to Mil vs. MOA vs. BDC reticles before selecting your scope.
Durability and Quality
These two attributes typically go hand in hand. All users should expect a baseline of durability and quality, so long as they are buying from a reputable brand. However, not all scopes are made for all things. You can’t very well expect an entry-level scope designed for beginners to endure the same abuse as a high-dollar Nightforce.
The amount of durability required will depend almost entirely on the use case of the rifle. 6.5 Creedmoor is a softly recoiling round, so there’s little risk of recoil being a significant strain on the scope’s construction. Instead, most demands on your scope’s durability will come from outside sources: drops from the bench, bumps while being carried, etc.
It’s up to each user to decide how hard they expect to be on their rifle and how much durability is required to endure it.
As with all things, budget will play a significant part in this choice. While we would all love to have nothing but the best for our rifles, few among us are equipped to pay for it. In choosing your next scope, it’s important to maintain a realistic budget.
In days past, a general rule of thumb was
to to pay anywhere from 50-100% of the purchase price of the rifle for your scope. Luckily, as scope technology has progressed, high-quality scopes have gotten cheaper, so you may not have to spend quite so much to take full advantage of your rifle.
Best Hunting Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor
6.5 Creedmoor makes for an excellent hunting round, particularly for medium-large game. With the right scope, the cartridge can bag nearly any game in the lower 48, making it more than adequate for deer hunting.
For a hunting scope, you’re going to want to stick to something in the medium-power range—that is, something with a minimum power of between 2 and 4. The maximum power should be as large as the range practically allows to best take advantage of the 6.5’s capabilities.
A large objective diameter is a bonus, but ideally not so large as to add undue weight. An objective diameter of 40-50mm is usually ideal, with larger sizes simply being too heavy to be practical unless you hunt exclusively from a blind or other stationary position and don’t have a long hike to get there.
Our Primary Arms GLx® 3-18x44mm FFP rifle scope is a good example. With a minimum power of 3x, it can dial down just as low as most other mid-range rifle scopes for shorter shots, but unlike a 3-9x or 3-12x, it can also zoom all the way to 18x to take full advantage of the 6.5’s range.
With a 44mm objective and compact design, it’s svelte enough to add just 29.6 ounces to your rifle but still provides an exceptionally bright picture. Our GLx line offers incredible bang-for-your-buck for value-conscious customers as well, with steel-on-steel adjustments and premium glass despite the modest price tag.
The GLx 3-18x is available with both a 6.5 Creedmoor BDC reticle (ACSS® Apollo®) and our grid-style ACSS Athena® BPR MIL reticle, allowing users to pick their preference.
Long-Range Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor
With the 6.5 Creedmoor, long-range starts to take on a new meaning. Users have landed accurate hits at distances of over a mile, so there’s no such thing as too much magnification for this cartridge.
To see the target clearly at that distance, you’ll want the biggest objective lens with the best glass possible. Weight is something of a non-factor in this case; if you’re looking to stretch the legs of the 6.5, you’re going to have to do so from a stable position. No one is making mile-long shots offhand.
In that instance, the added weight can be beneficial, helping to soak up energy and reduce felt recoil. It can also help seat the rifle more solidly on the bench and provide a more secure firing position.
Lastly, you’re going to want the best glass and the highest quality construction you can afford. You’ll need a clear image and utterly perfect adjustments to make accurate hits at these distances.
For a long-range 6.5 Creedmoor scope, we like the EOTech Vudu 8-32x. It’s packing a 50mm objective and EOTech’s XC High-Density glass for a bright, crisp image. The 8-32x magnification range gives you plenty of room to really reach out and make the most of the 6.5 Creedmoor, too.
Short-Range Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor
Short-range may seem like an odd use case for the 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s one that the cartridge handles quite well. The 6.5 Creedmoor’s low recoil makes it a competitive alternative to .308 Winchester for AR-10-style semi-automatic rifles, albeit a more expensive one. Recent offerings like Sig Sauer’s MCX Spear demonstrate the value of a short, handy rifle that can still strike a target at 800 yards or more.
For a short-range scope, you’ll naturally want to go with an LPVO; that all but mandates a 1x minimum power range. For a 6.5 Creedmoor, though, you’ll want something with a maximum power on the high end of the category.
Weight is paramount for this type of use. Large-frame autoloaders are never light rifles, so it’s important to shave ounces wherever possible.
For this use case, we wholeheartedly recommend our PLx Compact 1-8x rifle scope. It’s an engineering marvel that offers exceptional glass quality, utterly rugged construction, and fast, intuitive reticles all at less than 17 ounces.
While 1-10x scopes exist, and may slightly increase the effective range of a 6.5 Creedmoor compared to an 8x maximum power, they typically come with tradeoffs to image quality or eye relief. While we want to be able to take advantage of the range of the 6.5, we also don’t want to compromise the short-range efficacy to do so.
With our industry-leading 1-8x, you can have short-range excellence and medium-to-long-range efficacy all in one pint-sized package.
Budget-Friendly Scopes for 6.5 Creedmoor
Not everyone is looking to break the bank on a new rifle scope, and that’s okay. Not every rifle or situation demands it. Luckily, for the more budget-conscious, there is still a wealth of options.
In a budget-friendly scope, the primary things we’re looking for are quality and reliability. Buying a scope that’s heavy on features but light on build quality is a recipe for disaster, so we recommend sticking to established companies with solid reputations in this category.
One reliable option is Vortex’s Strike Eagle line of optics. Vortex is one of the major names in the optics industry, having built a reputation for exceptional warranty service that provides confidence in every purchase.
Their Strike Eagle line of rifle scopes provides a wide variety of options for various use cases, ranging from 1-6x and 1-8x LPVOs up to 5-25x precision scopes, all without hitting your wallet too hard.
Choosing the right scope for your 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t the same as picking a bipod or a trigger. There are more than a few choices, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Finding the right one requires just as much thought and consideration as choosing your rifle did.
Of course, the above recommendations are hardly the entirety of the options for the best 6.5 Creedmoor scopes—there are many more offerings available from trusted brands like Trijicon, Sig Sauer, and Leupold.
As with all equipment, mission dictates gear. Start by considering how you will use your 6.5 Creedmoor, then evaluate the best options for that category, keeping in mind the unique peculiarities of the 6.5 Cartridge.