Three long-range cartridges that promise flat-shooting precision and remarkable on-impact energy, the PRC trio is ideal for long-range target shooters and big-game hunters alike.

by Jace Bauserman

I geek out over rifle cartridges. I purchased a Kimber Mountain Hunter chambered in .280 Ackley when I was younger because I read a detailed article about the wildcat caliber. That rifle has proven to be deadly for me and sparked a fascination with wildcat/outside-the-norm calibers.

Recently, I jumped on the PRC train. PRC stands for Precision Rifle Cartridge. To date, there are three PRC calibers — all designed by Hornady. In 2023, I spent lots of time in June, July, August, September, and October learning the ins and outs of the 6.5, 7, and 300 PRC calibers. 

I’ve never had so much fun shooting in my life! 

The 6.5 PRC

My first experience with the 6.5 PRC was on the Colorado plains. My buddy Grafton Singer and I were hunting pronghorn, but we couldn’t help ourselves. The town was alive with prairie vermin. From a prone position with the rifle on a bipod, I sent a round from 320 yards. The result was flying hair and a dull thud. The 6.5 PRC performed exceptionally well in spite of the windy conditions and varying distances. 

Grafton, who was lying next to me, ranged another dog. The range was 576 yards. He reached up, turned the elevation turret, and said, “Send it.”

The instant I squeezed the trigger, a puff of red jumped into my scope. Two shots and two kills. 

I watched Singer send a 143-gr. ELD-X Precision Hunter from 826 yards in a stiff crosswind that afternoon. The result was a 10-ring hit on a hammer of a Colorado Pronghorn. 

6.5 PRC Quick Facts

Developed by Hornady in 2017, the 6.5 PRC was created for long-range hunting and target performance. A 6.5 Creedmoor on steroids, the 6.5 PRC sports an overall cartridge length of 2.955 inches and a case length of 2.030 inches. The 6.5 mm (.264 inch) diameter bullet is renowned for its remarkable downrange accuracy. The cartridge shoots flat and fast and retains much energy at long distances; however, the 6.5 PRC generates more recoil than the popular 6.5 Creedmoor but is not a shoulder wrecker. Depending on shooter skill and environmental conditions, the 6.5 PRC is a 1,000-yard cartridge and has become ultra-popular with the hunting and target crowd. 

6.5 PRC Field Test 

After my p-dog experience and watching Singer and his daughters smoke speed goats at long ranges, I had to get in the 6.5 PRC game. 

My rifle of choice was Browning’s X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten. I topped the rifle with Leupold’s VX-3HD 4.5-14×40. Loaded with Federal’s Custom Shop Terminal Ascent 6.5 PRC 130-gr. bullets, I was ringing steel out to 800 yards in no time. I loved the shorter bolt throw offered by this short-action rifle, and the shorter, stiffer action upped overall accuracy. 

The 24-inch barrel X-Bolt/Federal combo produced a muzzle velocity of 3,018 fps. Zeroed at 200 yards, the bullet’s drop was 39.4 inches at 500 yards. I had a blast shooting this rifle. For weeks, I punched punched paper and rang steel. I shot prone off a backpack, from a bench, off BOG shooting sticks, etc. I found the caliber remarkably accurate. 

Later that fall, from 300-plus yards, I hit the tuft of hair I was aiming at on a Colorado plains bull elk. No, the 6.5 PRC would not be my ideal elk caliber. I prefer a tad heavier bullet powered by a slightly larger caliber for wapiti. I used it on this hunt because I had maximum confidence in the rifle/cartridge combo and knew I could make a killing shot. The 6.5 PRC is, however, my go-to for pronghorn and other medium-sized big-game favorites. 

The 7MM PRC

The range was 467 yards. The man behind my Browning X-Bolt Speed LR was my hunting mentor. Bill, now in his late 60s and fresh off a botched knee surgery, couldn’t close the distance quickly enough.  

The good news was he didn’t need to. He was prone on my ALPS Elite +3800 Pack. I turned the CDS dial on the Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 scope to the appropriate setting and told Bill to squeeze. The rifle thundered, and the bull jumped forward and looked over his shoulder at the two other bulls that had also come to the call. Then, he tipped over. 

7MM PRC Quick Facts

Another Hornady wonder, the 7MM PRC, came hot on the heels of the 2017 6.5 PRC launch. Like the 6.5 PRC, the new Precision Rifle Cartridge was designed for long-range hunting and extended-range target applications.

The 7MM PRC has a bullet diameter of 7.2mm, a case length of 2.23 inches, and an overall length of 3.338 inches. Like the 6.5 PRC, the 7MM PRC promises ultra-impressive downrange ballistics. The long, heavy-for-caliber bullets shoot fast, flat, and hit with energy. The cartridge is a long-action with a SAAMI max pressure of 65,000 psi. The case sports a 30-degree shoulder and the twist rate is 1:8. 

7MM PRC Field Test

We started the 7MM PRC with a field test, but I want to go deeper. This is a bold statement, but I will write it because I believe it: The PRC is the best all-around big-game caliber ever created. 

Yikes! I can already hear my inbox dinging.

My reasoning for the statement is that though the caliber produces more recoil than the 6.5 PRC, it isn’t much more. It is exceptionally accurate and will work for all North American big game species. 

I paired Browning’s X-Bolt Speed LR with Federal’s 155-gr. Terminal Ascent ammo. This duo produced a three-shot muzzle average of 3,096 fps. Zeroed at 200 yards, I rang steel from 50 to 1,200 yards. This was the first rifle caliber I shot past 800 yards. The rifle built shooting confidence quickly and was a joy to shoot. 

Shortly after Bill smoked his bull, I snagged the rifle, got on the backpack, and dropped the second bull in his tracks at 482 yards. Neither bull traveled more than 10 yards. Upon further examination, both bullets caused devastating wound channels. Bill’s shot exploded both lungs and lodged in the offside shoulder. My shot shattered the scapula, cracked ribs, destroyed lungs, and was poking out the hide on the offside. 

Later that fall, using the same rifle and same cartridge, I shot the black bear of a lifetime. The bear was only 86 yards and was jogging slowly, but he was over 500 pounds. A single shot dropped the boar. Later, back at the Eichler Ranch, we put the bear on a digital scale. Total weight was 564 pounds. The caliber is ultra-accurate and hits like a ton of bricks. 

The 300 PRC

I received Browning’s new X-Bolt 2 Speed rifle in early October. I wasn’t thrilled to set up and sight in a new gun on the brink of my final elk hunt, but I was excited about Browning’s new build and the opportunity to test the final cartridge in the PRC family. 

The 212-gr. ELD-X Hornady bullets looked like missiles. After a quick bore-sight, I sent the first bullet downrange from the bench. The shot was on paper, which I was happy with. I was also delighted that the rifle didn’t kick like a mule. 

I’ve always been a fan of the .300 Win. Mag. My one complaint about the caliber is the recoil. The 300 PRC, though not as big of a long-action hammer as the .300 Win. Mag., still hits with insane energy and doesn’t throttle the shoulder and jolt the body.

Zeroed at 200 yards, I pinged steel to 600 yards. I would have extended the range, but the elk hunt was days away, and with four high-wind days forecasted, I cleaned the rifle, fouled the barrel, and prayed a past 600-yard opportunity wouldn’t present itself.

300 PRC Quick Facts

The final piece of Hornady’s PRC perfection puzzle, the 300 PRC is based on the 375 Ruger cartridge case. The non-belted cartridge uses a standard .532-inch magnum bolt face and headspaces off the 30-degree shoulder. Ideal for big game hunting and long-range target shooting, custom rifle builders primarily offered initial rifles chambered in 300 PRC. Today, several standard rifle makers have added the caliber to their lineups, and its popularity has expanded. 

300 PRC Field Test

I got my wish. The 300-inch bull elk was broadside at 376 yards. The 212-gr. bullet sizzled from the barrel at 2,857 fps. It hit the bull high-shoulder. Much like my 300-plus yard elk shot using the 6.5 PRC, the bullet impacted the tan tuft of hair I’d picked out. The bull crumbled to the ground. He kicked twice, and that was it.

The bull was a large-bodied elk. The Heat Shield Tip drove backward into the bullet to provide superior expansion. A large mushroom effect smashed the shoulder, paralyzed the bull, and caused incredible trauma. I have shot many bull elk over the years. I’ve shot calibers that have left a lasting impression, but none as devastating as the 300 PRC. 

 

Mtm Armar

Born and raised in southeast Colorado, Shoot-On contributor Jace Bauserman cut his hunting teeth chasing ducks, geese, quail, and pheasants near his southeast Colorado home. The seed that was planted stuck, and Bauserman’s outdoor pursuits grew. He started chasing elk and mule deer in the Colorado mountains with his 7mm Rem. Mag., and coyotes, fox, and bobcats across the plains. In 2003, Bauserman started writing about his adventures. Today, Bauserman is an accomplished outdoor writer. He has served as editor-in-chief of Bowhunt America and Bowhunting World magazines and has penned thousands of articles for top-tier outdoor publications.

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