View Full Version : The 6.5 Grendel As a Hunting Round
I find this stuff interesting and valuable. It is from 65grendel archived web pages. If they ever get back online I will probably have to pull these but for the time being I want to be sure this stuff is not lost from the internet forever.
Images referenced in the article are attached below the article.
The 6.5 Grendel As a Hunting Round
May 16, 2005
The 6.5x55 Swedish cartridge was developed in 1894 and two years later it was chambered in the brand new Swedish Mausers. In Scandinavia, where it originated, the 6.5x55 Swedish is as traditional and popular as the American .30-06 is in the United States, and has earned its reputation as a solid and well-rounded hunting cartridge from its performance on Scandinavian moose. Modern powders, obviously, have allowed handloaders to take this cartridge beyond anything available to it one hundred years ago. However, most modern factory ammunition is still loaded modestly to traditional pressures to ensure safety in the plethora of surplus Swedish Mauser rifles available today. But the interesting thing is that the game-getting reputation of the 6.5x55 Swedish was made decades ago. Modern powders have been able to improve its trajectory, but they haven’t been needed to improve its lethality. And this is where it becomes interesting!
The new 6.5 Grendel, though it fits within the same overall length as the little .223 Remington series, can deliver performance similar to the traditional 6.5x55 Swedish, though the latter requires actions fitted to the .30-06 series! For example, the 6.5 Grendel launches the same 140-grain bullets as the 6.5x55 Swedish at 2450 fps, which means its point of impact is about two inches lower than the Swede at 300 yards, when both are zeroed to 200 yards. (Zeroed for 200 yards and using 140-grain bullets and 24" barrels, Remington’s 6.5x55 drops 9.7 inches at 300 yards, Winchester’s 9.8 inches, and Federal’s 9.4 inches — due to Federal having a muzzle velocity of 2600 fps compared to 2550 fps like the other two.) So if you’re used to hunting with the 6.5mm caliber, the 6.5 Grendel offers you a point-of-aim only two inches lower at 300 yards, and that is offset by the benefit of slightly less recoil and a much more compact cartridge size. The high sectional-density and high ballistic-coefficient bullets that the 6.5mms are known for give up little penetration and velocity at longer ranges, so the 100 fps muzzle-velocity difference can’t be any kind of handicap in the real world. Thus, the 6.5 Grendel gives you performance very similar to the traditional 6.5x55 Swedish, making for wonderful little rifles that can go anywhere all day and still carry a big punch — just ask any Scandinavian moose!
I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’ve paid good money for an AR15-style rifle, you might as well be able to do something useful with it. Since I’m not in the military or law enforcement, and since Minnesota hunting regulations don’t allow the .223 Remington for deer, plinking and paper punching are all we’ve got. And that’s fine for more than eleven months of the year. But then hunting season rolls around. . . . Having an AR15-sytle rifle in Minnesota during hunting season is like owning a sports car when the speed limit is 55 mph! So what if your car can do 200 mph, you have no (legal) outlet to let ’er go! And an assault rifle is the sports car of the rifle world. Sure, it’s damn cool to have one, but I want to put mine to the test, and that test is called big-game hunting. Enter Alexander Arms and AR15-style rifles chambered for the 6.5 Grendel; and they now offer what they call their “hunting” model, which has a 20" barrel.
The 6.5 Grendel has already been used hunting. As far as I’m aware, Brian Lukow is the first man in the history of planet Earth to take a big-game animal with the 6.5 Grendel cartridge. Last year on October 16, 2004, he shot a cow elk, and posted about his hunt in the Forum. Congrats to Brian! And for the rest of you, we all look forward to hearing about your adventures with the 6.5 Grendel in the hunting fields. Be sure to keep us updated in the Forum!
In related news, Swift Bullet Company tells me they’re due out in about a month with a 6.5mm 130-grain Scirocco, which should be a match made in hunting heaven for the 6.5 Grendel.
02-07-2011, 01:34 PM
The owner of LaRue Tactical took a 6.5 Grendel rifle out hunting and shot a bull elk at a measured 405 yards. The bullet went through and through and the elk dropped where it stood.
The whole story was posted on the original 6.5 Grendel forums. It may have been posted on a couple other forums too?
6.5 Grendel: The World’s Best Assault Rifle Cartridge
By Stan Crist
In 1892 the U. S. Army adopted its first smokeless-powder small-arms cartridge. Designated the .30 Army, the then-new round was fired in Krag-Jorgensen infantry rifles and cavalry carbines, as well as the multi-barrel, rapid-fire Gatling guns. Thus began the practice of having a single caliber for rifles and machine guns, a practice that continued for half a century.
With the advent of the Second World War, the American military developed and fielded the .30 Carbine round, the world’s first purpose-designed, intermediate-power cartridge to enter service. Although the .30-caliber M1 carbine was originally intended to be a personal defense weapon, augmenting the larger .30-06 rifle and machine-gun round, its minimal weight, compact size, and increased firepower caused the troops to use it as a de facto assault rifle.
That two-caliber small-arms system lasted through the Korean War, at which time the U. S. Army attempted to revert to having a one-caliber system by adopting the 7.62mm NATO cartridge, for use in the M14 rifle and M60 machine gun. Unfortunately, the ammo produced almost as much recoil as the .30-06 it replaced, causing the M14 to have poor controllability in full-auto fire, even in the relatively heavy M14A1 automatic rifle version.
Also, the M14 — which was originally intended to be a “light rifle” — was nearly as heavy as its predecessor, the famed M1 Garand. Because of the weight factor, the Air Force refused to adopt the M14, and in the early 1960s purchased the AR15 with its 5.56mm round, a rifle that was almost as delightfully lightweight as the obsolescent carbines then in its inventory. Not long after that, the Secretary of Defense directed the Army to also buy the AR15 (subsequently dubbed the M16A1) and discontinue acquisition of M14 rifles, thereby forcing the Army back into a two-caliber system that endures to this day.
Is there a way to avoid a two-caliber system? It seems clear that it cannot be done with a full-power 7.62mm round, as the power of the ammunition determines the size and weight of the weapon. The Chinese have recently made a valiant effort to combine low weight with high performance in their 5.8x42 intermediate cartridge, but long-range effectiveness of the 5.8mm round has reportedly been found unsatisfactory for machine gun use. To date, every nation that has adopted intermediate-power ammunition for combat rifles has found it necessary to also retain a full-power cartridge in the inventory for machine guns and sniper rifles.
This long-running conflict between the quest for minimum weight and maximum performance raises the thought, is a one-caliber family of small arms any longer even an achievable goal? Some have suggested that Alexander Arms' 6.5 Grendel cartridge might be a viable answer to that question. To confirm this idea will require taking a look at the desired characteristics of the infantry rifle, machine gun, and sniper rifle, and then see if the 6.5mm round is truly capable of filling those needs.
Some individuals think that performance of 6.5 Grendel (center) is so good that it has the potential to replace not only 5.56mm NATO (left), but 7.62mm NATO (right) as well.
Infantry rifle. The weapon should have a large magazine capacity, weigh as little as possible, and provide a maximum effective range of at least 500 meters.
Machine gun. Same weight considerations as for the infantry rifle, but with maximum effective range of 1100-1200 meters. Penetration of "hard" targets should be comparable to that of the 7.62 NATO M80 Ball round.
Sniper rifle. Weight of weapon and ammunition is not as important as accuracy and effective range, which should be at least 800 meters.
Perhaps the most logical start point for such an examination is the increased range advantage claimed for 6.5 Grendel. Unfortunately, full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition in this caliber is not yet available, so any comparison to 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO Ball would be somewhat hypothetical in nature. However, since Sierra MatchKing bullets are loaded in the 7.62mm ammo used by snipers and 5.56mm ammo of special operations forces (SOF), a comparison with 6.5mm MatchKing loads should be sufficiently “apples to apples” for a useful evaluation of relative performance.
Sierra MatchKing projectiles: (l. to r.) 5.56mm 77-grain, 6.5mm 123-grain, 7.62mm 168-grain.
Ballistic coefficient (BC) is an indicator of how well a projectile retains velocity during its passage through the air. The higher the BC, the slower will be the rate at which the bullet loses velocity during flight, thereby making a correspondingly flatter trajectory. A list of BCs for applicable MatchKing loads is as follows:
5.56mm Mk262 77gr: BC = 0.362
7.62mm M852 168gr: BC = 0.462
7.62mm M118LR 175gr: BC = 0.496
6.5mm Grendel 123gr: BC = 0.510
When launched from a 20-inch barrel, the 6.5mm 123-grain MatchKing actually shoots a bit flatter than the 7.62mm sniper rounds, and its trajectory is considerably better than that of the 5.56mm Mk262. In addition, wind drift of the 6.5mm bullet is likewise superior to the other calibers. What this means is that an accurized version of the M16A4 rifle, chambered in 6.5 Grendel, would be capable of performing the precision-fire missions that are now done with two different weapons and calibers. The Marines employ the 5.56mm squad advanced marksman rifle (SAMR) and the 7.62mm Mk11 semi-auto sniper rifle, while the Army uses the 5.56mm squad designated marksman rifle (SDMR) and the 7.62mm M110 semi-auto sniper system (SASS).
An accurized M16 in 6.5 Grendel would be capable of precision engagements at long distances. (Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps)
Even when fired from the shorter, 14-inch barrels of the Mk16 combat rifle that the Marines are reportedly evaluating, and the M4A1 carbine that is currently in service, trajectory and wind drift of the 6.5mm MatchKing are nearly as good as for 7.62mm sniper weapons. Because of the superior ballistic efficiency, 6.5mm carbines sacrifice little ability to “reach out and touch someone” compared to their 5.56mm siblings. This is a matter of some importance, since the compact, fast-handling carbines are increasingly being used to replace M16 rifles. As a prime example, the Army decided in 2006 to pure fleet deploying Brigade Combat Teams with M4A1 carbines in “next to deploy” order as they prepare for assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The M4A1 carbine has been the subject of more than a few complaints regarding failures to incapacitate enemy fighters. Conversion to 6.5 Grendel would correct that deficiency, and also increase long range capability. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)
The primary mechanism for the lethality of 5.56mm ammo is the fragmentation that results when the bullet impacts soft tissue at high speed. M855 Ball does not attain sufficient velocity from carbine barrels to produce this effect beyond a short distance, so SOF units received approval to use the Mk262 round, a load that Black Hills had been manufacturing for service rifle competition. The 77-grain Sierra MatchKing loaded in Mk262 ammo offers a significant improvement in range and terminal performance, particularly for short-barreled weapons.
As might be expected, bigger MatchKings produce greater fragmentation and correspondingly larger wound cavities. In May 2006 ballistic gelatin tests were conducted for 6.5 Grendel ammunition loaded with 123-grain MatchKings, which penetrated 2.0-2.5 inches before yawing and fragmenting. The gelatin blocks were shot from a distance of 50 yards, using an Alexander Arms Tactical 14.5 carbine. With an impact velocity of 2385 feet per second, maximum penetration was a shade over 16 inches, and maximum permanent cavity diameter was more than 6 inches. The bullet broke apart into multiple small fragments with jacket pieces visible at 11 inches and 13 inches.
Gelatin block hit with a 6.5mm 123-grain Sierra MatchKing shows substantially greater disruption than blocks hit by 5.56mm projectiles.
After seeing the results of these tests, LCDR Gary K. Roberts (who performs terminal ballistics testing for the military) noted that 6.5 Grendel appears to offer outstanding terminal performance from 14.5-inch barrels “that is far superior to any 5.56mm loads.”
In urban combat, such as has occurred in Iraq over the last four years, machine guns will often be used to engage enemy personnel behind obstructions such as vehicles and building walls. The intense firefights in Somalia during 1993 first showed all too dramatically that the 5.56 NATO round was deficient at punching through such barriers, an important factor in adoption of the 7.62mm M240B machine gun.
When better penetration or longer range is required, the 7.62mm M240B machine gun is called into action. However, a light machine gun chambered in 6.5mm Grendel may be able to provide comparable "punching power" and effective range, without the weight penalties of the larger caliber weapon and ammunition. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)
The capability of a bullet to penetrate “hard” targets is determined by several factors, including impact velocity, core hardness, jacket toughness, and sectional density. All other factors being equal, a bullet with greater sectional density will have superior penetration capability. The potential of the 6.5 Grendel in this regard was dramatically illustrated during a May 2004 demonstration at the Blackwater training facility. Lapua 6.5mm 144-grain full metal jacket bullets fired from an Alexander Arms rifle punched through a 1.575" thickness of glass armor that was designed to stop 7.62mm M80 Ball.
Lapua’s 6.5mm 144-grain FMJBT bullet (left) exhibited better penetration of armor glass than did 7.62mm 147-grain M80 Ball (right), despite a 400 fps slower muzzle velocity.
This was quite an impressive accomplishment, and indicates that 6.5 Grendel may very well be capable of matching, if not exceeding, the performance of 7.62 NATO against targets taking cover behind trees, walls, cars, etc. However, final conclusions cannot be reached until testing is done with lighter bullets, since 144 grains is widely thought to be excessively heavy for a 6.5 Grendel general purpose combat load. FMJ projectiles of 110-120 grains in weight are said to be in various stages of development, but won’t likely be in production in the near future.
One minor drawback of 6.5 Grendel is the weight of the ammunition, some 30% heavier than that of the 5.56mm Mk262 cartridge. This means that for a basic load of ten magazines (nine in pouches, plus one in the gun), there is a slight increase in the carry load, as well as a decrease in the number of rounds immediately available to the rifleman.
5.56 Mk262: 10 x 30-rd mags = 300 rds @ 11.2 lbs
6.5 Grendel: 10 x 26-rd mags = 260 rds @ 13.6 lbs
Although this difference could conceivably be critical in some isolated instances of sustained combat where resupply is not possible, the reduced quantity of ammunition must necessarily be balanced against the increased per round terminal effects. Lethality, penetration, trajectory, windage, and other factors are likely to be far more important in most “close encounters of the hostile kind.” Superiority of 6.5 Grendel over 5.56 NATO in these areas is so great that it might outweigh the difference in ammo load. Anecdotal reports from Iraq say that often multiple hits are required with 5.56mm to incapacitate an opponent. If use of 6.5mm reduces the number of hits needed to neutralize a threat, the “stored kills” would effectively increase in spite of the reduction in magazine capacity.
The Army had a logistically sound idea in trying to create a one-caliber, small arms system in the 1950s, but the 7.62 NATO cartridge was simply too powerful to be compatible with a lightweight combat rifle. As a result, today we have a two-caliber system with a relatively short-range, low-power 5.56mm cartridge for use in infantry rifles, carbines, and light machine guns, and a long-range, high-power 7.62mm round fired in sniper rifles and medium machine guns.
Can we have it all? That is, can we have a lightweight, fast-handling weapon like an M4 carbine, and still have the long range “punch” of an M14 rifle? Has ammunition technology grown to the point where we don’t have to choose between minimum weight and maximum performance? The answer, in the form of the 6.5 Grendel, seems to be a resounding, “Yes!”
The 6.5 Grendel flanked by 7.62 and 5.56 NATO. It shoots flatter and drifts less than both.
02-13-2011, 03:01 PM
Doc, the range on this shot does not appear to be very long. But its a shot into a buffalo. How much does a buffalo weigh? Something tells me that 10 whitetail deer weigh less than 1 buffalo.
YouTube - 6.5 Grendel vs Buffalo
02-13-2011, 03:07 PM
Not sure what the range is across the valley and up the hillside but these look to be very long shots on fairly small wild goats.
YouTube - Goat headshot 3 in a row
02-13-2011, 03:09 PM
Here is the 6.5 Grendel against Javelinas. These are small wild pigs native to the south of the US and Central America. They are often considered an invasive pest species.
YouTube - 6.5 grendel vs javelinas
And everyone's favorite pest species . . . the coyote! A long distance, wary and hard to kill pest predator that is really causing problems in many areas as their populations have exploded in some parts.
YouTube - 6.5 Grendel vs. Coyote
Good video's Bob. The way it brought down that Buffalo was impressive, and those were some great shots on the goats and coyote. :thumb: :clap:
02-13-2011, 05:22 PM
The .338 Lapua is just too expensive to shoot IMHO. The .416 Barrett is the best long range sniper caliber IMHO; at least it is for me. I don't particularly care for the .338 or .300. I can't say why, I just don't. Along the same line, I personally see no benefit of the 6.5 Grendel over the century (or so) old 7mm mag. I guess I'm missing the lure of the Grendel round. It seems to fall somewhere between the big .50 BMG & .416 and the little .556. There are a LOT of calibers between those; most rather expensive to shoot.
02-13-2011, 05:42 PM
Brent, you are comparing grapes (6.5 Grendel) to Pumpkins (338/416).
The 6.5 Grendel is the same length as the little 223 round with only very slightly more recoil than the 223. It fits in the ultra short semi-auto action of an AR15 and costs of factory loads are as low as 60-cents a shot (I used to get them for 50-cents). It is literally small enough to double stack in an AR15 magazine.
The 338 Lapua and 416 Barrett are literally 3 times the size of the Grendel, require 6 times the powder, and have recoil that is akin to being hit by small truck.
The attraction to the Grendel is that it maximizes the AR15 platform and allows it to be practically used for hunting most north American game, while the recoil is mild enough for my daughter to comfortably shoot.
02-13-2011, 07:59 PM
The 338 Lapua and 416 Barrett are literally 3 times the size of the Grendel, require 6 times the powder, and have recoil that is akin to being hit by small truck.
That, I've noticed. However, surprisingly, I think they are better long range cartridges. I guess I'm looking at it from a different perspective; I'm starting to get into trying to make 1000 yard hits going 'old school' on just using good optics and none of the high dollar electronic aids. My .416 performs better than my .50 BMG.
02-14-2011, 07:18 AM
That, I've noticed. However, surprisingly, I think they are better long range cartridges. I guess I'm looking at it from a different perspective; I'm starting to get into trying to make 1000 yard hits going 'old school' ...
Absolutely there are better cartridges. But the Grendel is all about maximizing the AR15 platform potential. It does not argue that it is a magic bullet. It argues that out of the ultra short action, within the confines of the limits of feeding through the mag well of an AR15 sized rifle, it is as good as you can get. And with that it will do 1000 yards, it will also work as a CQB rifle, and it will bring home game in between those ranges. That is what the Grendel is about.
06-17-2011, 03:00 PM
I think the the 6.5 Grendel is a great hunting round. In the US maybe not Afreica. Would not want to hunt polar bear or siberian tiger with one. But for the US hunter who hunts on his way home from work or maybe after church on sunday; who wants a low signature weapon thats accurate lite and enough gun out to as far as we can hit game. The 6.5 Grendel has not failed me yet with hogs, deer and smalish bear.
06-17-2011, 03:29 PM
I think the the 6.5 Grendel is a great hunting round. . . The 6.5 Grendel has not failed me yet with hogs, deer and smalish bear.
Its been pretty well documented as a good round for ELK as well, out past 400 yards there are documented 1 shot "through and through" Elk kills with the Grendel.
I think anything in the Lower 48 states, except for Brown & Grizzly Bears and probably also to exclude Moose, would be reasonable for the 6.5 Grendel.
06-22-2012, 12:14 AM
I personally see no benefit of the 6.5 Grendel over the century (or so) old 7mm mag.
I've seen alot of old Remington Model 700's but none over a century old. Are you sure you're refering to the 7mm magnum?
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