The 6.5mm Grendel (or 6.5x39mm) cartridge was an instant success, at least with shooters. As it should be, since it’s a flatter-shooting intermediate cartridge with less recoil and better ballistics than the .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO. But it had, past tense, had one hangup.
Taking a step back, the Grendel is the end product of a project by Bill Alexander to create a truly all-round cartridge. Something that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to make, something that shoots straight and is effective at very long ranges. And he nailed it. The 6.5mm bullets are established, the x39mm cases are ubiquitous—the Grendel’s parent case is the 7.62x39mm Russian cartridge—and he wound up with a downright beautiful chambering. AR rifles chambered in 6.5mm Grendel have proven to be sub-MOA-accurate out past 1000 yards—and the bullets still supersonic. (Some tests indicate that it can be .3 MOA-accurate, even past half a mile.)
Clearly, the Grendel isn’t an awkward compromise between the 7.62 and 5.56mm NATO cartridges. It is in a class of its own.
The main reason for this is very high ballistics coefficient of the 6.5mm bullets. They are superior to the 5.56 and both NATO and Russian 7.62mm bullets, which means that they shoot flatter and are less affected by crosswinds than the other intermediate rounds. And the bullets, although more slender than 7.62mm ones, are long and still quite heavy, overlapping somewhat in mass; 6.5mm bullets can be between 90 and 144 grains (7.62 NATO, 150-174gr, 7.62x39mm, 123-154gr, and for reference, 5.56 NATO, 62-77gr).
At close ranges, yes, the big NATO bullets arguably have better effective power, at close ranges. But all that goes out the window past a few hundred yards, where the 7.62x51mm bullets start to lose steam; Grendels just keep going. And they completely trounce 5.56mm and 7.62x39mm.
So why aren’t all guns shooting this magnificent cartridge? Well, Bill Alexander wasn’t ready to release the trademark; but as of now, he has. All manufacturers can make 6.5mm Grendel bullets, and no longer will only boutique builders be in the Grendel rifle business.
It just keeps getting better and better: Wolf, longtime-friend of the 6.5mm Grendel, doubtlessly because of their mad piles of 7.62x39mm machinery, has been one of four manufacturers making the ammo. (Alexander Arms, Black Hill, and Hornady also made 6.5mm Grendel bullets.) But Wolf has a lot of sway in the COMBLOC weapons industry, and are currently in the process of nagging armories Izhmash and Molot to start making 6.5mm Saigas and Veprs, respectively.
We’ll take one of each, thank you.
Here’s a little more about the 6.5 Grendel from Tactical-Life:
“The 6.5 Grendel, on the other hand, was intended as a long-range cartridge that could be fired from an AR-type rifle. The fact that the 6.5 Grendel became a ‘de facto’ competitor against the 6.8mm SPC came from misunderstanding the different purposes of the two cartridges and the fact that commercial deliveries of 6.8 ammunition were sporadic until recently. This, coupled with the 6.5’s superior long-range ballistics, has caused some to consider the 6.5 Grendel as a potential candidate to supplant if not replace the 6.8 SPC. Regardless, in an in-depth comparison in Infantry Magazine, it was noted that in terms of long-distance shooting, the 6.5 Grendel overshadows the 6.8 SPC. Even at closer ranges, the 6.5 has superior ballistics.”
And also from Jeff Quinn at Gunblast:
“Since this load had proven to be so accurate at 100 yards, I also shot it for accuracy at 300 yards. The air temperature was 58 degrees, with a gentle crosswind from the left. My normal shooting range has a maximum distance of only 110 yards, so I had to improvise a shooting range for 300 yards. I did not have the use of a sturdy bench or the Model 1000 rifle rest, but shot from an elevated deer stand and rested the forearm on the rail. It was difficult, but I finally found a comfortable position and got the crosshair to settle in, and fired a three shot group that measured right at one inch. I was very pleased, to say the least. I then fired another three shot group that printed the same. I quit while I was ahead. That is one-third minute accuracy from this AR-15, from a deer stand! I was ready to hunt.”