Mauser Hunting Rifles developed the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser cartridge in 1891 for testing and evaluation by the nations of Sweden and Norway. These two neighboring countries, United Kingdoms at the time, historically agreed on an ammunition caliber and then purchased firearms of their own choosing. This allowed for a level of logistical flexibility and interchangeability as both countries together provided for their common defense. The cartridge was used in military service until the end of World War II at which point Sweden changed to the 7.62x51 NATO. The cartridge was chambered in rifles and light and medium machine guns. Among the more famous machine guns which fired the 6.5mm Swedish include the Browning BAR, Bren Gun, and FN MAG.
The end of service in the military didn’t mean the end of this cartridge, however. The 6.5x55mm had gained popularity among hunters in Europe as it made for an excellent choice to hunt medium to large European game. Some characteristics that contributed to its popularity are the excellent accuracy, excellent penetration, and moderate recoil. The performance of the 6.5x55 is often compared to the .270 Winchester. The 6.5x55mm is mostly used by Scandinavian hunters to pursue moose and reindeer. The cartridge is somewhat well known among hunters of large and medium game in North America, but not to the same extent as in Europe. The cartridge is challenging to find, but not impossible. For the time being, there are no U.S. companies which manufacture rifles chambered for 6.5x55mm.
The 6.5x55mm, in addition to hunting, has also been used in competitive shooting. It was most commonly used by biathlon competitors who knew and respected the capabilities of the cartridge. It was a popular choice for biathlon competitions until 1975 at which point the .22 LR became the standard cartridge for the sport. The most common load fires a FMJ bullet weighing 140 grains and moving 2,400 feet per second. Remington, Hornady and Federal currently produce 6.5x55mm ammo, as do Wolf, Privi Partizan and others. Several European rifle manufacturers build 6.5x55mm rifles including: Blaser, CZ, Mauser, Sauer and Steyr. If you need a cartridge with great accuracy and mild recoil that will harvest most game in North America and do well at the range, the 6.5x55mm is worth consideration.