Howa’s New Mini-Action in 6.5 Grendel – Review & Range Report – SHOT Show 2016

Many of the Howa rifles are available as packages, with scopes ready for sighting in.

Many of the Howa rifles are available as packages, with scopes ready for sighting in.

Check out more at Legacy Sports:

But a Howa Rifle on GunsAmerica:

The 6.5 Grendel is a hoped up little round that doesn't need a long action. Or even a short action. Thus the Mini-Action designation.

The 6.5 Grendel is a hoped up little round that doesn’t need a long action. Or even a short action. Thus the Mini-Action designation.

The 6.5mm Grendel was introduced by Hornady in 2009 as a commercial round and was designed specifically to be effective at 200-800 yards. This round was conceived in 1984 as PPC round, then–at the 2004 SHOT–show Alexander arms introduced it as a replacement for the 5.56 NATO round. This round has always appealed to me as an ideal game round. So, I jumped at the chance to test the new Legacy Mini Action Package in 6.5mm Grendel, as I had not yet had a chance to really work out the cartridge. This package includes a Howa barreled action, matched with a HTI stock in OD Green. Mounted atop the rifle is a Nikko Stirling Panamax 3-9X40 half mil dot scope.


Legacy is the exclusive world supplier of Howa rifles and barreled actions. Howa Machinery Company, Ltd. is a Japanese machinery manufacturer that was founded on February 9, 1907. The company is known worldwide for their production of military and civilian firearms. Howa has been in the armaments industry since 1940, when they began manufacturing the Arisaka rifles. During the early 1970s, Howa produced the AR-18 and AR-180 rifles on a license from Armalite. Howa currently produces a full line of civilian rifles in a wide range of calibers, and manufactures components for other firearm companies such as Mossberg, Smith & Wesson, and Weatherby.

The Rifle

The Legacy makes use of the Howa barreled action, which features a forged steel receiver and bolt. The bolt face is square to the barrel chamber. The extractor style and design are based on the M-16 extractor for 100% reliability. The barrels are hammer forged and chambered symmetrically at the center of axis for accuracy.

Despite the Mini-Action name, the rifle is a full-sized gun.

Despite the Mini-Action name, the rifle is a full-sized gun.

The Mini Action, open.

The Mini Action, open.

The two stage trigger was crisp and light with a consistent let-off, in my experience. This factory trigger allowed for accuracy right out of the box. The rife came equipped with a 3 position safety, which allows for the barrel to be locked down and also enables the action to be unloaded while on safe. The test rifle came with a detachable 5 round magazine, but there is an optional 10 round magazine conversion kit available as well.

The Optics

The Nikko Stirling Panamax 3-9 x 40 Rifle Scope has a half mil-dot reticle, designed to provide precise holdover and wind correction. The 1-piece, aircraft-grade aluminum matte finish tube on the scope is built with 3.5 – 4” eye relief. The waterproof lens has fog-proof protection for all weather use. The windage and elevation adjustments are in ¼ MOA clicks.

The scope is a great starting point for the gun, but the 3-9 x 40 lacks the magnification for the longer ranges that the 6.5 was designed for. So if you want that kind of performance, you could skip the package option and go for the rifle as a stand-alone.

Howa Mini Action STANDARD – WITH 3-9X40 PANAMAX
Caliber6.5 Grendel
Barrel Length & Contour22″ #2
Length of Pull13.87″
Overall Length41.5″
Weight7LBS 2.5 Oz
The scope proved sufficient for closer ranges, but limited accuracy at longer ranges.

The Nikko Stirling scope proved sufficient for closer ranges, but limited accuracy at longer ranges.

The magnification is easy enough to adjust without looking up.

The magnification is easy enough to adjust without looking up.

The scope rides close over the action, but doesn't impede ejection.

The scope rides close over the action, but doesn’t impede ejection.

On the Range

I had the opportunity to take this gun out for a few range sessions. By the end of the first session, I was so impressed with its performance at 100 yards that I knew I had to get to a 300-yard range to try the zippy little cartridge out. Prior to taking the rifle to the range, I did a cursory bore-sighting and got on paper at 50 yards. After moving the target out to 100 yards, I began to dial the scope in. I ran a couple of different Hornady rounds through the rifle, being careful to avoid over-heating the barrel. I quickly concluded that I was able to deliver 1 inch groups off the bench at 100 yards fairly consistently. These results sparked my interest in what this rifle was capable of delivering at 300 yards.

At 100 yards.

At 100 yards.

The Mil=Dot reticle of the Nikko Sterling.

The Mil=Dot reticle of the Nikko Sterling.

To satisfy that curiosity, I made arrangements to get access to a 300-yard range on a crisp January morning. Having confirmed my hundred yard zero, I immediately switched to my 300-yard target. I was able to use the mil dot holdover method that was recommended by Legacy Sports. After some experimentation, I was holding 3 ½ dots (using the hash below the dot) above and one dot to the side. This method allowed me to compensate for the 16 ½ inches of drop between the 100 and 300-yard distances. The group size that I was able to achieve was closer to two minutes of angle than the one minute of angle I had consistently achieved at 100 yards.

The ergonomics of the gun were reliable, consistent and easy to use. The bolt was quick and short, and the two stage trigger was easy to predict and control. I am a big fan of the box magazine in particular. Although I never had a failure (in terms of operation from the box magazine), I did have issues with it locking in place. I also experienced several accidental magazine releases while handling the rifle.

Avoid hand contact with the mag release, or you may accidentally dislodge the mag.

Avoid hand contact with the mag release, or you may accidentally dislodge the mag.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this rifle chambered in the 6.5 Grendel. I think that the long-range accuracy of this particular package was limited more by the optic than the rifle or caliber. I felt that the scope was adequate for the hundred-yard range, but doubling the distance pushed this optic, as well as my spotting scope, out of its comfort zone. I’m interested to find out how others experience this rifle with a different optic- I think that change would definitely make this rifle a “one minute of angle” rifle at 300 yards.

Prices for the Mini Actions all have MSRPs below $800, and should sell for less than that.

Running out to 300 yards required more than 16 inches of hold over.

Running out to 300 yards required more than 16 inches of hold over.

The scope that comes with the package is ideal for closer ranges.

The scope that comes with the package is ideal for closer ranges.

The safety.

The safety.

An affordable package that provides respectable out-of-the-box accuracy.

An affordable package that provides respectable out-of-the-box accuracy.

The trigger was solid. No complaints.

The trigger was solid. No complaints.

HOWA Mini Action 2


{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Brent Wayne Sample May 8, 2018, 2:01 pm

    I like the How a 1500 mini action i have a 204 ruger,
    I have problems with the magazine.
    I hate to have to take it in place.
    Doesn’t look good.
    Rather have a flush magazine even if it holds 3 shells.
    What do y’all think?

  • Ron September 12, 2017, 8:26 pm

    I am new to 6.5 grendel. Have a 16 iin and 18 inch upper. Looking at the Howa mini.

  • charles c patterson April 24, 2017, 12:44 pm

    use asc 30round 7.62/39 no trouble at all with c/mags for 6.5 grendal nothing but trouble ben useing 5.6 grandel since moses was A cropel

  • charles c patterson April 24, 2017, 12:36 pm

    I use asc 7.62/39 mags how no prouble at all have trouble with c prouduck charles c patterson

  • Rick Thomas March 19, 2017, 10:27 pm

    I have a 6.5 Grendel ,with a 1/8 Twist Shilen bbl,and have had it for almost 3 yrs and it rocks. What a good caliber and is proving itself almost everyday with the hunting public and will continue to prove to the hunters that try it . Lots of options for the handloader with numerous choices with different bullets weights and powder choices.
    I am glad they are starting to make it in bolt action rifles and that will increase the popularity of this caliber and handloaders will love exploring all the options as they start testing different loads .
    I also have a 6.5-06 AI with 26″ Shilen 1/8 twist bbl,and it is outstanding ,I really like the 6.5 caliber and both of these calibers shoot well within MOA very easily

  • Gil Thompson December 18, 2016, 10:50 am

    Have played with this new Howa and like it very much. Have not yet taken it past a 100yds. That said zero to a hundred the 123gr. factory shoots flat and inside a 1/2 inch group. Scoped with the Redfield 3×9 tactical. My one and only issue is the mag release. If not careful you will lose a mag in the field.

  • Clint Johnson February 27, 2016, 11:08 pm

    Its really great to be watching the public discuss this caliber. What I mean is, the 6.5 Grendal has so much untapped potential that is just starting to be realized. But there are still so many arrogant fools who spout complete nonsense when it comes to projectiles/ballistics/real world information. Remember this round was mostly developed to take on the 7.62×51 and it comes so very close to .308 performance and in a much lighter ar-15 (and finally) an affordable bolt gun. As a matter of political timing this round was held back for about 3 years as everyone’s focus (after the white house tried yet another democrat gun grab) was to purchase ar-15 rifles and obviously 223/5.56 cal . Now that things have calmed back down and ammo supplies are somewhat back to normal, people are once again looking at other -and better- options for their ar-15’s and their other hunting and shooting needs. Do some research, listen to Bill Alexander, and you will begin to see the likability of the Grendal. For simple comparison sake lets compare the 6.5 grendal to 2 other historic super cartridges that have “been there and done that”…I.E. the 6.5x55SWD. and the 30-30WIN. these 2 calibers never have to prove themselves, as they have killed everything around the world for over 100 years. Ballistic evidence shows the 6.5 grendal has damn near the same energy delivered down range as a 30-30 and or a factory loaded 6.5×55 EXCEPT the 6.5 grendal carries the 30-30 type energy to a much greater distance than the 30-30 and it offers the SAME bullet options as the 6.5×55 in a new cartridge that can handle much higher pressures than a 100 year old mauser rifle was made to handle- So the Grendal ammo can be pushed right to the edge out of the box. (NOTE hand loading 6.5×55 in a newer rifle such as Tikka can produce outstanding results) But not everyone wants a long action bolt gun (not aware of any semi auto 6.5×55?) and or not everyone wants to handload, and just about everyone has thought of some type of hunting with their ar-15 but some states (like Washington) dont allow .22 cal for hunting deer size game…So what to do? how about getting 30-30/6.5×55 energy in your ar-15? Say hello to 6.5 grendal! But some people just dont want an AR…So what to do? See Howa! Now that the Grendal hasnt even really been an option for 10 years yet is catching the attention of everyone from the guy on youtube shooting a milk jug at 1,500+ yards to the Western antelope hunters to the midwestern deer camps and southern Texas hog hunters, its obvious this is going to be a true super giant of a caliber. I myself know a friend who just purchased a 24″ barrel Colt HBAR Elite in 5.56 because it was a good deal- But he has immediate buyers remorse, if your going to get a 24″ barrel AR, and shoot the heaviest 223 cal bullets in an effort to maximize the performance of the platform why on earth would you limit yourself with a 5.56??? Alexander Arms has several complete and upper only AR’s to choose from in a 18″-24” barrel version that will kick a 223’s ass all day every day and never look back. With all that being said we havent even tapped into what a great cartridge this is going to be for women and youth shooters as well. Savage would be wise to add this to their “Lady Hunter” rifle, Savage could also add this to the “hog hunter” so we can get open sights. Ruger and Tikka would be wise to add this to their “compact” rifles in both the T3 and the American. Mossberg can easily add this round to their MVP line in 16″and 24″barrels. I really think Ruger has the most to gain from the 6.5 grendal as it would make the Mini-14 a dominant choice for hunting and farm work, they could offer it in an all weather version of American rifle for guys like me who want to deer hunt in any storm, and they could certainly add it to the “predator” and “Ranch” versions of the American rifle. Thats enough of my opinions, do your own research on this fantastic caliber.

  • Rafterman February 2, 2016, 10:16 pm


    What the hell do you know about the Grendel? Have you any experience with the caliber. Or are you talking out your ass? I have built several rifles in this caliber, and I reload for it. It is exceptionally accurate, and packs a whallop. So come back when you learn a little. Rafterman

  • jp February 1, 2016, 1:36 pm

    I would have liked a nice quality wood model in 6.5 06 or at least the 6.5 mm Swedish military round. Now those are great calibers not some anemic pip squeak 6.5 Grendel, what a joke of a caliber for hunting.

    • Wolfy February 3, 2016, 6:25 pm

      You get 150yds of additional performance from the 6.5×55 Mauser or .260 Remington when looking at the same bullets and barrel lengths.

      Anemic? Hardly. It’s been killing everything, to include elk, even at distance. Performance on game is like other center fire rifle cartridges with much more recoil and larger, heavier actions.

      69% are DRT.
      89% go down within 25yds
      96% go down within 50yds
      98% go down within 75yds

  • JohnP February 1, 2016, 10:23 am

    Is the magazine proprietary? It looks as if it is. AR-15 magazine compatibility would be nice.

    • Mark February 1, 2016, 11:45 am

      Unreliable feeding from AR15-based magazines (with a Grendel follower) has been one of the main problems with the Grendel. The other main problem is sheared AR bolt lugs.

      • Wolfy February 3, 2016, 6:20 pm

        Unreliable feeding?

        I haven’t seen that across scores of AR15 6.5 Grendel’s over many years now. 14.5″, 16″, 18″, 20″, 22″, 24″, and 28″.

        CProducts, ASC, and now Elander mags have all worked great for me. Maybe I just got lucky thousands of times, in desert, rain, and snow.

        Haven’t seen any sheared bolt lugs in 6.5 Grendel. I have seen broken bolts in 5.56 though. Buy from a reputable manufacturer and bolt longevity isn’t an issue. Buy some no-name after-market fly-by-night company, and bolts will break in any chambering in the AR15.

        Alexander Arms really ironed out the bugs with 6.5 Grendel within the 1st few years of testing and development

  • RJFixer February 1, 2016, 7:28 am

    A well written and objective article and I am grateful for the data. Especially the further introduction of this remarkable round into the civilian traditional bolt action. I am hoping that Legacy Sports can offer a package including the much better suited 4×16 Nikko Sterling for them to support the goal of 200-800 yard targetting. Whitetail and antelope hunters will appreciate this round in long range plains stalking.
    There’s no reason to expect that, since you were able to achieve 1 MOA at 100 yards, your shooting would somehow degrade to greater than 1 MOA when trying for longer ranges.
    My favorite platform for this distance is the Savage Hog Hunter in .308 and I find it essential to have at least a 14 to 18 power scope to maintain 1 MOA, but that’s also my older Mark I eyeball.

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