A quick look at 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, the 6.5mm pioneer.
Jointly developed by Norway and Sweden in 1894, this cartridge was adopted by both countries as an official military chambering. Originally, both countries loaded and used essentially identical ammunition. Later, the Swedes modified dimensions and loaded it to a higher pressure for use in their Mauser rifles, while the Norwegians kept the original version for use in the Krag rifle.
In 1990, the National Rifle Associations of Denmark, Norway and Sweden agreed on a standardized set of drawings and specifications, renaming the cartridge 6.5×55 SKAN. It’s quite popular throughout Scandinavia for hunting all types of game, including moose. It’s also a popular choice for 300-meter target shooting and other forms of rifle competition.
Prior to World War II, the 6.5×55 Swedish was almost unknown in the United States. After the war, Canadian and U.S. sportsmen became acquainted with this chambering through the thousands of surplus Swedish Mauser rifles sold in North America. Canadian sportsmen were first to appreciate the virtues of this cartridge in the 1950s and 1960s. U.S. sportsmen arrived at the same conclusions in the 1970s and 1980s.
Other than imported rifles from Scandinavian countries, few sporting rifles in this chambering were available in the U.S. until the 1990s. This has changed, as Winchester has offered its Featherweight M70 rifle and Ruger its M77 rifle in this chambering and Barrett, CZ, T/C, Mauser, Howa and Sauer & Sohn have also chambered bolt actions in this round.
The 6.5×55 was one of the first 6.5mm cartridges to catch on in the United States. For many years, Norma of Sweden was the only manufacturer of this cartridge, until 1991-92, when Federal Cartridge Co. added it to its Premium product line. The cartridge continues to gain popularity, as surplus Swedish Mauser rifles are still being imported.
Two reasons for its growth in popularity are low recoil and superb accuracy. It’s an excellent deer and antelope cartridge, and it’s also suitable for bear and elk under good conditions at moderate ranges. Because of its flat trajectory, it’s an outstanding choice in lightweight rifles for hunting sheep and goat in mountainous terrain.
Lack of suitable bullets and handload data handicapped the full potential of this cartridge for many years. This has changed, as good bullets and reloading data are now available from most component manufacturers. The 140-grain bullets are best for most types of hunting and are also the most accurate. The 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser case is not related to typical Mauser cartridge cases.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt of Gun Digest’s Cartridge’s Of The World.
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