There are a few intermediate carbine cartridges that either compete with the 5.56mm or attempt to fill the gap between 5.56mm and something larger with more range like a .308.
The 6.5 Grendel falls into the latter category. It’s based on the .220 Russian cartridge, and it packs more punch than a 5.56mm.
But there’s already stiff competition in this area.
The 5.56 has a lot of staying power simply because AR-15 parts and 5.56 ammunition are so ubiquitous.
The .300 Blackout is a better option if you’re looking for a straight over replacement for the 5.56mm with better tactical performance.
And the 6.5 Creedmoor is the cool round in the long range game right now.
So, what does the 6.5 Grendel have to offer? And, could it be the next big thing?
Here are five reasons why Grendel could make a run for it.
This is a big one. If there’s a demand for firearms chambered in a certain cartridge, firearms manufacturers will usually build guns to meet that demand. And it’s hard to generate demand for a round if nobody can afford it.
This is good news for the Grendel because the round has become far more affordable in the last 10 years. Now, the cheapest steel case 6.5 Grendel ammunition costs about the same per-round as cheap 5.56mm. And 6.5 Grendel is often less expensive than .308 ammunition.
Additionally, 6.5mm barrels have gotten much more affordable since the 6.5 Creedmoor became so popular —making the cost of building a 6.5 Grendel rifle comparable to the cost of building any other AR-15.
So, the 6.5 Grendel could continue to gain popularity as people look for a round that fits AR-15 pattern rifles but offers better long range performance at about the same price as 5.56mm.
Long Range Performance
The 6.5 Grendel is not the long range precision powerhouse that 6.5 Creedmoor is. However, 6.5 Grendel offers surprisingly strong performance out to about 800 meters.
The 6.5 Grendel could be pushed to 1000 yards. But, the round isn’t ideal for that sort of extreme long range shooting.
It’s a legitimate option for DMR type rifles that require better long range capabilities than a standard AR-15, without adding too much weight to the platform.
The 6.5 Grendel also works as a medium range round for bolt-action rifles. However, it’s best suited to semi-automatic rifles.
Basically, the 6.5 Grendel is built for those who want a round that has a longer useful range than the 5.56mm, but isn’t as heavy as a .308 or as specialized as a 6.5 Creedmoor.
We’ve mentioned it indirectly, but the 6.5 Grendel can be fired out of an AR-15 pattern rifle. Obviously, you need the correct upper receiver parts.
And you need caliber-specific magazines (300BLK beats 6.5 Grendel in that area).
But, in the end, you can shoot 6.5 Grendel out of an AR-15 type rifle. This gives the 6.5 Grendel a lot of longevity because the AR-15 is so popular.
Also, an AR-15 chambered in 6.5 Grendel offers similar magazine capacity (26 rounds) and recoil to a standard AR-15.
So, the rifle feels and operates much like a standard AR-15, but it has better long range ballistics.
The 6.5 Grendel is a legitimate hunting round.
It may not be great in a bolt action rifle, but you could build an AR-15 for hunting around the 6.5 Grendel. It would have longer range and better terminal ballistics than a 5.56mm AR. And it would be a true modern sporting rifle.
Nobody could argue that.
It’s not 5.56mm
This might sound silly, but many people simply want a round that’s not 5.56mm.
Maybe they’re hipsters.
Maybe they’re contrarians.
Who knows. But a lot of people just like alternatives to the mainstream options. And, the 6.5 Grendel is a legitimate alternative to the 5.56mm.
But Is It the Next Big Thing?
In short, no.
The 6.5 Grendel certainly isn’t going anywhere, and it will likely continue to get more popular.
However, it’s not as good for just straight-up shooting as the 5.56mm. It’s not as tactically specialized as the 300BLK. And it’s not as capable of long range precision as the 6.5 Creedmoor.
It’s an affordable hunting round that shoots well from a semi-automatic rifle. That’s a cool niche. But, it’s not a major niche that turns a round into a core cartridge.
Also, there’s been very limited military adoption of the 6.5 Grendel. And — even though the military uses guns very differently than civilians — rounds that have widespread military deployment tend to be the most popular.
So, in the end, the 6.5 Grendel won’t be the next big thing. But, it’s still a very capable round that’s popular enough you’d have no problem finding a rifle and ammunition if you wanted to load it up for your next trip to the field.