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Old December 14, 2012, 07:34 PM   #1
Adamantium
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Accuracy and my Howa 6.5x55mm

Before I bought my Howa 1500 in 6.5x55mm I read several postings on various forums about people complaining about their accuracy problems. Being a reloader I desided that I could probably overcome any possible issues by being able to taylor and tweek my loads. The Howa is also the best bang for the buck in a current production rifle, if you don't mind the weight of it. Since I am using this as a range gun I viewed the weight as a good thing over say a Tikka T3. Right now mine is set up with a one piece rail, 2.5-10x50mm Nikon Monarch and a 9-13" swivel bipod. IT is certainly on the heavy end of a general use rifle without a bull barrel. Anyway, on to my accuracy findings.

After having tested 3 different bullets, 2 powders, 2 primers and 4 different kinds of factory ammunition I think I have reached my conclusion about this rifle and accuracy. I think this also falls in line with what other people are seeing as well. This rifle isn't so much inherently inaccurate as it is bullet picky. Incredibly, indefensible, bullet picky. I wouldn't recommend this rifle to anyone unless they not only wanted to try a variety of bullets in it but also were completely willing to accept that the bullet they want to shoot probably won't be the bullet thier rifle will like. Now the 7 different bullets I have tested are all hunting bullets, and I am an 1 moa shooter. If my rifle could shoot 1/3rd moa in someone elses hand I still wouldn't be shooting that myself. I also think my expectations are reasonable for a $450 rifle. 2 moa with factory ammo and 1 moa with handloads. I'm not getting into target only bullets or premium ammo because thats really not my thing.

I have tried...

140gr Hornady Interlock with H4831 and Reloder 22. This bullet shoot 1.5 moa with H4831 and 1 moa with Reloder 22. Usually 4 out of 5 bullet holes are touching each other at 100 yards in its best loading.

140gr Speer Hot-cor with H4831 and Reloder 22. 3+ moa with ever load I have tried.

140gr Hornady SST. 3+ moa with every load I have tried.

I am on the road for a few months for work and have shot all my reloads so I only have pictures of the factory ammo I've bought.

139gr SP by PPU, pictured below. This is basically how good the 140gr SST and 140gr Hot-cor have shot in front of various powder loads of H4831 and R22.


140gr Moly coated SP by Federal, pictured below. (This group has 6 shots because while I am 99% sure the bullet to the right is a flyer, I just decided to shoot a 6th round anyway. Afterwards shooting at a 300 yard steel plate with the remaining rounds confirmed to me that this ammo produces flyers.)


140gr SP by Sellier & Bellot, pictured below.


131gr SP by Sellier & Bellot, pictured below. (This will be my go to load when I am out of reloads)


I plan on keeping this rifle for the long run but if anyone asked me for a recommendation I would tell them if they want a Howa don't get the 6.5x55 and if they want a 6.5x55 don't get a Howa.
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Old December 14, 2012, 07:41 PM   #2
mete
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Start looking for problems such as barrel not free floating ,receiver needs glass bedding etc.WHAT'S THE TWIST RATE ??
Remember that cartridge is noted for being accurate. It's still being used as a sniper rifle IIRC, Reminton once made their target rifle in that cartridge.
It really should be easy to get nice groups.
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Old December 14, 2012, 10:53 PM   #3
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I came really close to buying one of those when they were on sale a few years ago. Guess I'm happy I was too late. Maybe one of these days, I'll finish the Mauser 6.5x55 project I started 5 years ago.
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Old December 14, 2012, 11:12 PM   #4
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How is the trigger? More than likely you have some bedding issues with the rifle as well. I'd glass bed it and depending on the stock maybe add pillars. Get it off a bi-pod and get it resting on sand bags, with a rear bag under the butt of the stock.

Try some Sierra bullets, I find most rifles shoot them very well. I'd try some different powders as well most 6.5X55's like H4350, RL22 and H4831 seem a little slow for the 6.5 Swede.
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Old December 15, 2012, 12:22 AM   #5
Adamantium
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The barrel is free floated and action is pillar bedded from the factory. I'm not modding my rifle and didn't really make this thread looking for ideas on what to do about my rifle. My rifle shoots a nice group, albeit with a single bullet. This thread is more of a follow up to things I read about the Howa 6.5x55 before I bought it. Its just in none of those discussions had someone tried multiple types of factory/handloaded ammo and reported their findings. Those were simply someone saying they were getting poor groups with their Howa.
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Old December 15, 2012, 07:24 PM   #6
reynolds357
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The 6.5 X 55 is a picky cartridge. A half grain of powder or a different powder can mean .5 MOA shooter or a 2 MOA. OAL is extremely critical in them as well.
IMR 4350 is the best powder I have found in the Sweede for 140's.
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Old December 18, 2012, 12:42 AM   #7
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I enjoyed your post, Adamantium. Your Howa 6.5x55 experience echoes my own. My Howa 1500 shoots okay with Hornady 140 gr SP and Hornady 129 gr SP. It doesn't seem to like lighter bullets at all. 120 gr bullets (Nosler BT, Sierra MK, Speer SP) sometimes shoot okay, but attempts with lighter bullets Speer 90 gr TNT, Nosler 100 gr BT were all over the paper or even off the 8 1/2 x 11 target at 100 yards off a sandbag rest. I originally hoped to load the Nosler 120 gr Ballistic Tip at around 2800 fps for deer. Sadly, consistent accuracy was not achievable with this bullet, and neither was 2800 fps. Best accuracy with my Howa seems to be achieved at low velocities. It seems to shoot best at around 2400 fps with the 129 gr Hornady and around 2300 fps with the 140 gr Hornady. I really don't care for packing a 150 yard cartridge, so I probably won't hunt with it. Also can't say 5 shot groups of 2 inches or so isn't exactly confidence inspiring, either. The Howa action is very smooth, and it has been very reliable feeding and firing and extracting. It just isn't very accurate or high performing. For all that, I still can't bring myself to get rid of it. I still dream of finding that load that will be decently fast and accurate. And it is pleasant to shoot off the bench. (I even ordered a laminated Boyd's stock for it and glass bedded the recoil lug. Something I have not had to do before or since with other rifles in other chamberings.)
So if you do hit on a "magic load", be sure to post it, as I would be willing to try almost anything just to see if a consistent load could be put together.
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Old December 18, 2012, 07:11 PM   #8
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Before condemning the Howa's accuracy or assigning bullet pickiness to the 6.5 x 55, I think I would make sure that shooting technique is completely ruled out as a reason for less than adequate results. And I mean no offense, but often we make judgements on the basis of too little shooting, or hasty shooting. Your rifle is equipped with a swivel bipod. Were you shooting off the pod with no support at the buttstock but your shoulder? Were you prone on the ground or at a bench? Your groups show a tendency to give vertical stringing. No well-supported, pillar-bedded, floated rifle should do that, especially with a cartridge as accurate as the 6.5 X 55. The indication is that something other than the gun or cartridge is involved here. A weak mainspring or rough channel for the striker could give erratic ignition also leading to vertical groups.
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Old December 18, 2012, 10:28 PM   #9
Adamantium
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On shooting skill. The last Steel Challenge rifle match I shot had an 8 inch stop plate at almost 100 yards. My time was 25.74 seconds (21.28 seconds won it) using my pre-ban mini 14 w/ iron sights. Doing stuff like that makes shooting off a bi-pod and sand sock, with an optic, from a bench and at my own pace childs play. I may not be lighting up the F class world but shooting moa is repeatable with my best load.

Also I would think that some gun related defect which would cause poor groups, would cause poor groups in a consistent manner. It would not know when I am shooting one specific bullet, which shoots no worse than 1.5 moa using two different primers and a dozen different powder charges, and suddenly go away. I am on my second box of 140gr Hornady Interlocks and have always shot good groups with that bullet. Certainly a defect would manage to show up like it does every single time I shoot 140gr SSTs or Hot-cors, which I tried extensively so make work in my rifle.
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Last edited by Adamantium; December 18, 2012 at 11:55 PM.
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Old December 19, 2012, 12:10 AM   #10
reynolds357
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I have shot three different 6.5 X 55 Sweedes extensively and they are all picky. If I can shoot 1/2" at 200 yards with load A and 4" at 200 yards with load B, the problem is not me.
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Old December 19, 2012, 01:05 AM   #11
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I can't speak of a Howa but I can tell you there's nothing 'picky' about my Tikka 6.5x55SE.
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Old December 19, 2012, 07:23 PM   #12
reynolds357
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I have never seen a cartridge that has the bullet shallow seated like the Sweede that is not picky. Your rifle I am sure will probably shoot good with many loads, but I guarantee you it has a pet load.
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Old December 20, 2012, 12:49 AM   #13
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Using your logic, every rifle and cartridge would be picky.
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Old December 20, 2012, 07:24 PM   #14
reynolds357
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Not really. Many cartridges shoot decent with most ammo fed through it. The Sweede and the 6.5 X 284 are the only two I have ever seen that literally shoot 1/3 MOA with one load and 4 MOA with a similar load.
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