The plan was to take my wife on a romantic getaway up the coast of California. Mother nature had other plans, though. A rockslide consisting of millions of cubic feet of mountain had not only covered U.S, Highway 1, it added over 15 acres to the California coastline by filling in the ocean. What to do? Looking on the map, I noted that the detour route would take us right through Paso Robles, California—home of the last and arguably most storied firearm manufacturer in the state, Weatherby Rifles.
A quick call to the factory set up my visit.
Less than 100 yards from Weatherby headquarters is open pasture and hills as far as you can see. It is wide-open country where an accurate, flat-shooting rifle would be of great value to the sportsman. It is easy to see where, at least part, of the genius of Roy Weatherby came from. A name revered in the minds of many big game hunters and riflemen for the past 70 or so years, Weatherby’s motto is “Nothing shoots flatter, hits harder, or is more accurate.” I have always been a fan of Weatherby rifles and, after my visit to Weatherby’s factory, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.
Back in the day, the success and performance of a bullet on wild game was largely a result of two factors—size and speed. Most bullets were made of lead, therefore, shooting a larger bullet at a faster rate equaled more success on game—and especially so against large or dangerous game. There came a point, however, where the increased velocity was such that the lead bullet was propelled at such velocity it would “skip the lands” or fragment—at best, it was a decreasing performance as velocity increased beyond a certain point.
With the advent of smokeless powders allowing substantially increased velocity, there was quite the dilemma in projectile performance. The invention of the jacketed bullet by the Swiss in the late 1880s helped to solve this problem. By placing a jacket of copper over a lead core, both velocity and overall accuracy of firearms increased. The process and development of bullets entered a steep curve of improvements, with “bonding” processes and new chemicals and alloys producing the most durable bullets ever seen. This led to great advancements in rifle performance and accuracy.
Roy Weatherby, however, took rifle performance to a much higher level.
One of Roy’s favorite things to do was to wildcat cartridges. He would take an existing cartridge, change the dimensions, use a smaller bullet in a larger case, and see what results he could produce. In the beginning, the .300 H&H was the parent case and modified to become the .300 and .375 Weatherby Magnum. The now slightly shortened .300 Weatherby case—with smaller bullets—became the .257, .270, and 7mm Weatherbys. The last caliber to use that casing was the .340 Weatherby Magnum. As history progressed, Weatherby added the .224, .240, .378, and .460 Weatherby Magnum. Around the early 1960s, Roy began tinkering with a 6.5mm bullet. More on that later.
Finally, after Roy Weatherby passed, under the leadership of his son, Roy E. Weatherby, The .416 Weatherby Magnum, .30–.378 and .33–.378 Weatherby Magnum came to be, despite having been in development for years. In the case of the .30–378, (1959) and .33-.378 (1960), official factory ammo launches resulted in 1995 and 1998. It would be almost 20 years before the next caliber product launch.
The 6.5 Creedmoor
In 2007, Hornady released the 6.5 Creedmoor—a new take on an old caliber that proved to have tremendous accuracy due to its relatively high sectional density and high ballistic coefficients. In short order, the Creedmoor was winning long-range accuracy competitions and became widely adopted within a few years. It was an easy move into the hunting world where it carved out its own niche on deer and other big game animals.
The 6.5-.300 Weatherby
In 2016, and in typical Weatherby fashion, Weatherby looked at existing calibers on the marketplace and determined it was time to introduce a cartridge that had been in development by Roy Weatherby since the early 1960s—the 6.5-.300 Weatherby Magnum.
This caliber, quite simply, does everything that the 6.5 Creedmoor does, and does it better. An increase in speed of over 500 fps is just the start. At the other end of the shot, the 6.5-.300 produces over 1000 ft-lbs more downrange energy—all while maintaining the sub-MOA accuracy that Weatherbys are noted for.
The Weatherby Vanguard
Original rifles, produced by Roy Weatherby when he founded his company, were built on Mauser actions from several European manufacturers. In 1958, the Mark V bolt action was developed and built entirely in-house but moved again offshore for a time. While Weatherby was making an excellent case for producing the finest hunting rifles in the world, the Mark V was out of reach of many hunters because of its premium price tag.
In 1970, Weatherby announced the production of an updated Vanguard—a Weatherby rifle built around an action based on the Howa 1500 and produced in Japan. This provided a Weatherby alternative to buyers in the market for a Winchester Model 70 or Remington Model 700.
Through the entirety of its production, and until recently, the Vanguard was only offered in standard calibers.
Starting today, it will be chambered for one of the fastest, hardest hitting, and most accurate 6.5 mm caliber on the market and is well within the reach of most shooters.
The line forms behind me.
Are you a fan of Weatherby rifles? Do you own a Weatherby? How about the 6.5 cartridges? Share your answers in the comment section.