This isn’t another article saying the 6.5 Grendel is the best cartridge ever. I”m not going to say it’s more powerful than the .308 or that the 6.8 SPC sucks by comparison.
None of that is true.
But it’s still my favorite cartridge.
The 6.5 Grendel has it’s limitations. I don’t deny that. So before I get to why it’s my favorite cartridge, lets talk about those limitations.
6.5 Grendel Limitations
A lot of people compare the 6.5 Grendel to the .308 (including me in my 6.5 Grendel vs 308 article). The simple truth is the .308 has significantly more raw power than the 6.5 Grendel. There’s no denying it. the .308 throws a heavier bullet faster, which equals more power.
The Grendel has boast very good firepower for it’s size, but it’s no 308 power-wise.
If we are comparing the 6.8 SPC to the 6.5 Grendel, it’s very close. Out to 300-400 yards, there is almost no difference in firepower, accuracy, or trajectory. Beyond that the Grendel pulls ahead, but not enough to make the 6.8 SPC look weak in any sense of the word.
For most people, the factory loaded bullet selection will make more difference than the cartridge.
Yes, they are that close.
However, They both fall FAR short of a “full size” cartridge in their respective calibers.
The 270 Winchester easily outclasses the smaller 6.8. The .260 Remington or 6.5×55 Swede achieve velocities Grendel shooters can only dream of.
The 5.56 has roughly half the recoil of the 6.5 Grendel and is more affordable to shoot. The 5.56 has plenty of firepower out to 200-ish yards with good bullet selection.
With good ammo, the 5.56’s lower recoil and higher capacity makes it more capable than the Grendel in a close quarters combat scenario.
If you want a more affordable centerfire rifle cartridge, there’s always the 7.62×39. It hits harder than the 5.56 and is effective to about the same range. It also has some of the cheapest plinking ammo available.
The Grendel is an accurate cartridge, but it’s hardly the most accurate cartridge ever designed. The 6BR and others of it’s ilk have long held that honor.
It doesn’t shoot as flat as many/most 6mm cartridges or the larger 6.5mm & 7mm cartridges. It’s a flat trajectory for an AR-15, but many larger cartridges have up to half the drop & drift at long range.
The Grendel is also fairly easy to load for if reloading is your thing. But it’s not the only cartridge that can make that claim. There are other cartridges that are easier to hand load.
Some think it would make the perfect “one size fits all” military cartridge. I suppose that’s possible. Would it be powerful enough at long range? Possibly, but I’d guess not. Only a huge amount of (military) testing would tell.
If all of these other calibers beat the 6.5 Grendel, why is it my favorite cartridge?
The answer is versatility.
No the Grendel can’t beat – or even match – the 308 in power. However, it can take all medium game and some large game in North America cleanly. (why it can is indirectly spelled out in My Article on Terminal Ballistics and Stopping Power)
Proving the above point, one hunter killed an Elk at 400 yards with a 6.5 Grendel. And since most game is taken under 100 yards, I think it the 6.5 Grendel is certainly capable of anchoring any game the average hunter would hunt. (plus, Excellent 6.5 Grendel hunting loads are available here)
The Grendel grants that ability on the much smaller and lighter AR-15 platform versus the heavier 308 rifle offerings. Heavy rifles are fine for benchrest shooting.
Less so for hunting, combat, practical shooting competitions, and virtually any other application where you need to carry the gun for any length of time.
Then there’s the recoil.
No one would call the recoil of the 308 punishing, but it’s enough to make plenty of people flinch. The Grendel has mild recoil which is good for rapid, accurate follow-up shots and won’t cause a flinch.
Comparing the Grendel to the larger 6.5 cartridges (like the 260 Remington or the 6.5×55 Swede) is like comparing a Toyota Corolla to a Ferarri.
That said, the Corolla will take care of your everyday needs just as well as the Ferarri, in many ways better. Lighter rifles, less costly ammo, and the terminal performance on medium game inside normal hunting ranges is comparable.
Why not get cheaper and lighter when it’s just as effective?
Versus the 6.8 SPC, (including SPCII vs. Grendel II) I prefer the slight advantage of the Grendel at long range and higher sectional densities. The 6.8 shooters prefer their slight advantage at close range.
For about 90% of shooters, the difference is negligible. The 6.8 SPC is a VERY good cartridge, I just prefer the Grendel. (and btw, much of this article could be about the 6.8)
Versus the 5.56, It delivers more firepower at 2-3 times the effective range while still keeping recoil low enough for effective close quarters combat. It also make a FAR better/more lethal hunting cartridge.
The 7.62×39 is cheaper to plink with, but the cost gap versus the Grendel has closed significantly with the introduction of Wolf’s Steel cased 100gr FMJ ammunition.
That puts Grendel on par with the 5.56 cost wise.
Plus, the Wolf ammo is constructed to be highly effective even at low cost. The bullet was patterned after the highly lethal and effective “poison pill” 7N6 round of the 5.45×39.
The Grendel isn’t as flat shooting as many larger cartridges, but it bucks the wind better than the .308 with most loads, and doesn’t require a large heavy gun with lots of recoil to do it.
Are you starting to see my point?
The 6.5 Grendel is an EXCELLENT Jack-Of-All-Trades.
It’s not the best in any category, but it’s effective in virtually all of them.
There is nothing magical about the Grendel either. Other cartridges in the same class in terms of bullet weight, diameter, and velocity (like the 6.8 SPC plus a horde of wildcat cartridges) have similar Jack-Of-All-Trades characteristics.
The 6.5 Grendel (and others of it’s size) are the Multi-tools of the gun world. They can do a lot of things, but not as well as a dedicated tool. But, you’d need a lot tools to match what a single multi-tool can do.
You have to realize what you are getting with the 6.5 Grendel. It’s NOT a wonder cartridge that solves every shooting problem perfectly.
It’s simply an excellent compromise between recoil, power, weight and range. Nothing more, nothing less.
I think it’s near the ideal middle ground, but I also recognize it’s easily outclassed by more specialty cartridges
So if you have a specific purpose, pick a specialized cartridge and know you’ll easily outperform the 6.5 Grendel hands-down, no-contest every single time.
If you need a multi-purpose cartridge or aren’t sure what situation you might find yourself in, the 6.5 Grendel is a very good bet. It won’t be ideal for every situation. But regardless of the situation, you’ll have a cartridge you can count on.
That’s my $0.02.
Your mileage may vary.
P.S. to the 6.5 and 6.8 Fanboys: girls, you’re both pretty. Now can we stop bickering and move along?