It seems that just about every tactical rifle built these days is chambered in the ubiquitous .308. I understand the allure of the cartridge from a logistical perspective. It’s everywhere — you can find .308 ammunition at the corner drug store, under the seat of most pick-ups and at just about every law enforcement agency/military organization in the United States of America. While it is easy to find and some of the least expensive ammunition out there, the .308 is a ballistic pig. Compared to some of the other cartridges available to today’s shooter, the .308 is about as aerodynamic as a bowling ball.
Gasp! How dare a gun hack blaspheme our nation’s pet tactical cartridge of choice! I didn’t say that I hated the .308, I’m saying I don’t “love” it. The .308 is a fine choice for short-range work and really offers a lot for marksmen shooting out to 600 meters. The short action is nice for rapid bolt work and the .308 is easy on barrels. However, if you want to shoot farther than 600 meters or so, there are many calibers that would make a better choice. One of my favorites is the 6.5-.284, the cartridge chambered in the Nighthawk Tactical rifle here.
The 6.5-.284 started off as a wildcat cartridge from its parent, the .284 Win. Necking the .284 down to 6.5mm proved to be a winning combination for long-range enthusiasts searching for mild recoil, high muzzle velocities and high ballistic coefficients. The 6.5-.284 proved to have all three in spades and has become the darling of serious long-range shooters for almost a decade.
The reason the 6.5-.284 is such an excellent choice for long range shooting is that it combines high muzzle velocity with exceptional ballistic coefficients. The higher the muzzle velocity of a cartridge, the flatter it will shoot. A flat shooting rifle is more forgiving to a sniper who fudges his range estimation because the flatter the trajectory of the bullet means that the bullet flies closer to the sniper’s line of sight. In a perfect world, bullets would fly along the line of sight and we wouldn’t even need to estimate range. Alas, we live in a world of gravity where bullets have to be lobbed to their targets. The less parabolic the lob, the less precise we have to estimate our range. Flatter trajectory is always better. The 6.5-.284 has, on average, a 300 feet per second (fps) faster muzzle velocity than the .308.
Where the 6.5-.284 really makes me weak in the knees is when we start looking at its ballistic coefficient (BC). 6.5mm bullets commonly fired in the 6.5-.284 have ballistic coefficients from .595 – .627. BCs of the .308 hover between .488 and .505. While it might not look like much, the higher BC of the 6.5-.284 offers a tremendous advantage to the long-range shooter. The higher BC bucks the wind better, so the sniper has a greater margin of error with his wind calls. For example, the .308 rifle I was issued when I was in the service would have required 7.6 minutes of correction for a 10 mph wind at 900 meters. This Nighthawk Tactical rifle featured here would have only required 5.6 minutes of correction. As a rule, the more aggressive a correction required to compensate for the wind, the higher a probability of a botched wind call.
Nighthawk Tactical has been making custom 1911s for a long time now and has earned the reputation of being one of the finest manufacturers available. They recently started making tactical rifles and, from what my experience has been with this rifle, they’ll soon be known for their quality custom rifles as well.