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6.5 TCU, A very well balanced caliber for medium game

December 14, 2013

By M.A. Hester

Lagom – this is an old Swedish word that has no real equivalent in the English language. Its meaning is normally translated as having to do with “just enough” or “the perfect amount of something.” The meaning is not the idea of having enough of something to just exist, but having the perfect amount of something to be utterly, completely and perfectly satisfied.

Ever since I was a little kid, I have unknowingly been involved in the caliber debate with my dad of what “lagom” is. It was always in a good-natured way but a debate nonetheless. I, being a young kid, always wanted dad to use his huge gun – the 30-06 – while he invariably would pick the .222 Rem for everything. Needless to say, he was a lot smarter than I was and chose much more wisely every single time.

Some years later, I began to think about my dad’s choosing that little “pop gun” over the much more powerful 30-06. He used this little rifle to kill everything from foxes and gophers to one-ton raging bulls that escaped from the local sale barn. With a single shot fired across the hood of the old F-100 Ranger, the critter would crumple and die before it hit the ground without so much as moving its legs.

I later came to find out when I bought my first chronograph that his loads were a 50 grain Hornady spitzer at 2750 fps – nothing to write home about. This was all he shot, for everything! I have gone through my phases of large guns and now find myself where my dad was all along.

Now I have little ones of my own and one has eluded to the idea of wanting to go hunting. Among all the questions and concerns that go through your head, the caliber choice is towards the top. As a gun builder it is just as easy to build a 338 RUM as it is a 223 Rem so which one is it to be? I settled on the 6.5 TCU on a Remington action.

The idea was to make a rifle with low recoil that is fun to shoot but can still be loaded to a decent power. This is it. The rifle weighs right around five pounds with the scope, and virtually matches the ballistics of the 6.5 x 54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer. I started with the Hornady 95 grain V-Max at around 2550fps and got incredible accuracy. The recoil of this load in the rifle is much like a 22 Hornet and the accuracy is around .3” at a hundred yards. But, the real question is how well will it work on large animals such as deer?

I had a chance to try it last week for a herd-management hunt. As luck would have it, I had the chance to shoot two does from a blind. One doe was about a hundred pounds and the other was a little less. They were both broadside at a little less than a hundred yards. I shot the first doe centered high on the lung; she jumped and ran. I worked the bolt and shot the other in the same place; she also jumped and ran.

I took my rifle and began to track the blood trail and found both deer about 35 yards away and within 30 feet from one another. I brought the deer back to where they were shot and looked at the wound channel on them both. The larger doe had an entrance wound but no exit, while the smaller had both entrance and exit wounds. As I turned to walk back to the stand, something bright red caught my eye on a small tree. Apparently this little tree was directly behind the smaller doe when I shot. It was struck by the bullet and received a large amount of lung tissue from the exit wound. I was a little surprised that the little bullets hit that hard.

Later, as were cleaning the deer, we saw the true damage from the little bullets. We recovered the bullet on the larger doe under the hide on the opposite side with two broken ribs. On the smaller we found also two broken ribs and a partial bullet jacket. The destruction was pretty massive and impressive for any caliber, but in light of such a small gun, it was even more impressive.

People tend to shoot comfortable guns better, which usually translates to better shot placement. The power of the 6.5 TCU is clearly enough, and with such low recoil it is very comfortable to shoot, even for a slight built eight-year old.

If you’re not careful, you might believe the myth that you need huge guns to cleanly kill medium game. My opinion is that companies have tapped into man’s innate insecurities and need to compensate with huge guns and their lack of ability to shoot well.

I am glad that my dad was secure in himself and showed me the way of “lagom” as it pertains to guns and hunting. I am now showing this to my kids. In the days of almost complete excesses of life, I consider this just a little win for the more balanced life and also an opportunity to pass on some valuable insight my dad gave to me. My Dad keeps getting smarter every day. When I shoot that little 6.5 TCU, I think of him and his great little rifle that performed like a giant in his hands.

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