Weatherby Gets Radical

A new 6.5mm cartridge and rifle from Weatherby demonstrates a big break from its storied past

Weatherby lengthened the .284 Winchester case and gave it a rebated base. The result is the 6.5 WBY RPM.
Weatherby lengthened the .284 Winchester case and gave it a rebated base. The result is the 6.5 WBY RPM.Weatherby

Weatherby wanted to do something dramatic after its big move from California to Wyoming. Here’s what it came up with for 2020: A new flagship rifle with new cartridge to match. Both are designed for the Wyoming mountains or anywhere else where a hunter would want a sub-5-pound rifle chambered in a magnum 6.5mm cartridge.

The Mark V Backcountry Ti and 6.5mm Weatherby RPM (Rebated Precision Magnum) will be in stores this spring.

“This is really the culmination of our Wyoming move,” says Luke Thorkildsen, Weatherby’s vice president of sales, marketing, and product development. “We’ve always been the fastest. But now we’re also the lightest in this high-velocity category.”

The new rifle weighs just 4.9 pounds, which makes it an excellent choice for backcountry hunting where ounces make pounds, and pounds make pain. The Ti stands for the titanium action, which makes it super strong and pretty much impervious to the weather and common wear. The action is also special because it uses Weatherby’s underutilized six-lug action, which it calls its standard action. Until now, you’ve mostly seen it in rifles chambered in .240 Weatherby Magnum. But it makes sense to use it in a mountain gun, as it’s narrower and lighter than the common nine-lug action.

But could it handle a magnum cartridge? Originally, no.

Weatherby uses the nine-lug action for its magnums. So the engineering team set out to create a new magnum 6.5mm round to match the new rifle.

The result is the 6.5 WBY RPM. Weatherby lengthened the .284 Winchester case and gave it a rebated base (i.e., the base of the cartridge is narrower than the case). That allows the gunmaker to use a smaller bolt face and a smaller bolt, but the case itself can still be of a magnum diameter. That means there’s room for a magnum amount of propellant. If there’s a downside to rebated cases, it’s that they have a reputation for extraction issues. The extraction claw has slightly less face to latch on to, pull, and eject. Still, rebated cases are nothing new. If you’ve ever shot a Remington Ultra Mag or Winchester Short Mag, you’ve extracted a rebated case.

Hunter standing over grizzly bear kill.
If your customer is the type who goes higher, farther, and deeper into the backcountry, they’ll appreciate the magnum power of the 6.5 WBY RPM in the lightest production rifle Weatherby has ever made.Weatherby

But in the case of Weatherby, the move to a rebated case is a big deal for two reasons. First, the Backcountry rifle now has a magnum round for its light, strong action. That’s a perfect combination for a mountain rifle. Second, a rebated case is very un-Weatherby-like. No Weatherby cartridge to date has had a rebated case. Roy Weatherby built his company’s reputation on creating magnum cartridges more powerful than any others on the market. So it’s a curious move for the company to go this route after 75 years.

It may be the Western spirit of the Cowboy State. Or maybe it’s just time to make a break from tradition. Either way, Weatherby also jettisoned its two other signature features: a venturi shoulder and a belted case.

Until now, whenever you looked at a Weatherby cartridge, you’d see a rounded shoulder, called a venturi or double-radius shoulder. It’s a classic look, a throwback to a California style of the 1940s. But now, the RPM has a straight, 35-degree shoulder. It’s a modern look, like most every other cartridge on the market.

Belted cartridges have a band around the base of the cartridge. They have been associated with magnums, especially shoulderless magnums, for many years. The belt helped make sure the straight-walled magnum cartridges stayed put in battery and didn’t slip into the barrel. Like the venturi shoulder, you could count on a belted case on each Weatherby cartridge. Until now.

Weatherby made one change that is less cosmetic and more of a move to improve accuracy: It tightened up the freebore so that there is less space between the bullet and the lands and grooves of the barrel. Like the 6.5 Creedmoor, the bullet protrudes from the casing and nearly touches the rifling. Generally, the less freebore, the less room for bullet movement before it’s pushed into the grooves; the result is more shot-to-shot consistency.

Hunter taking aim at target in the wilderness.
Weatherby shaved weight in the Backcountry through the use of a carbon-fiber stock, a fluted bolt, and a fluted barrel.Weatherby

“As we moved forward in manufacturing, we wanted to make a modern cartridge with newer technologies,” says Kevin Wilkerson, Weatherby’s marketing director. “So we were able to remove freebore, the belt, and the venturi shoulder. It closely resembles any modern standard cartridge on the market, very similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor.” The new RPM is designed to deliver 1,500 foot-pounds of energy at 500 yards and send a 140-grain bullet at 3000 fps or a 127-grain bullet at 3250 fps. That’s a touch faster than Precision Rifle Series Open Division competitions allow at the muzzle. So it’s not your cartridge for a PRS match. It’s all about hunting.

You might wonder if it’s faster than Weatherby’s most famous 6.5 magnum—the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum. Absolutely not. The powerhouse 6.5-300 is the king at 3500 fps. Sure, you can take that 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum on a mountain hunt. But you’ll also have to carry a 6- to 7-pound rifle such as Weatherby’s Mark V Ultralight. Many hunters have done so successfully. But if you’re the type who goes higher, farther, and deeper in the backcountry, you’ll appreciate the magnum power of 6.5mm WBY RPM in the lightest production rifle Weatherby has ever made.

To get it that way, Weatherby shaved weight in the Backcountry through the use of a carbon-fiber stock, fluted bolt, and fluted barrel. And that six-lug action weighs a full pound less than the nine-lug.

Given the rifle’s weight, one might wonder about recoil. Weatherby says not to worry. Each Ti, as well as the less expensive Backcountry (no titanium but a steel receiver), has a new recoil pad that engineers created from scratch. The 3D HEX has a hexagonal construction and is actually 3-D-printed, the first known instance of using that technology for a major production rifle. It’s light and porous and purpose-built for this rifle and this cartridge.

In addition to the recoil-soaking pad, Weatherby ships the rifles threaded with a new muzzle brake. Weatherby says the new version of the Accubrake, the ST, will reduce felt recoil by 50 percent. That’s quite a claim and tough to actually measure. But there’s no doubt a good brake reduces recoil. They’re just awfully loud on the range. On the hunt, you probably won’t notice the noise—or the recoil, for that matter.

By moving to a rebated case, a first for Weatherby, the Backcountry rifle now has a magnum round designed for its light, strong action.
By moving to a rebated case, a first for Weatherby, the Backcountry rifle now has a magnum round designed for its light, strong action—a perfect combination for a mountain rifle.Weatherby

Weatherby also made a break from tradition by going with TriggerTech triggers in these rifles. TriggerTech uses a free-floating roller between the trigger bar and the sear. The release is less of a slip and more of a clean, rolling break with very little over-travel. Many of the best custom rifle shops are using these types of triggers now. They can help a shooter improve accuracy and get a glass-rod break. The adjustable trigger will be factory set to 2.5 pounds, but shooters can adjust it to between 2 and 5 pounds.

The RPM has three initial bullet offerings: Hornady’s 140-grain Interlock (3000 fps, $50 per box), Nosler’s 140-grain Accubond (3075 fps, $65), and 127-grain Barnes LRX (3225 fps, $65). Weatherby ammo is loaded by Norma. SRP for the Backcountry Ti is $3,349. The Backcountry will list for about $800 less.

Booth #12729 (weatherby.com)

ADVERTISEMENT