6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!

I don’t recall when I first heard about the 6.5 Grendel.  I only remember thinking it sounded like a nice hunting round for the Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) platform.  I had become a fan of the older 6.5mm rounds many years ago when I was introduced to the 6.5×55 by some friends. The efficiency of the rounds and effectiveness of the bullets on game at what was considered rather lackluster velocities impressed me.  I obtained my first Grendel, 15 or 20 years ago when a friend won an M4 type upper at a multi-gun match and didn’t want the lightweight and short barrel.  He gave the M4 barrel to me and I assembled it onto a spare upper receiver I had laying around.  After playing with the round in the 14.5” barrel, it was obvious that greater potential could be realized by using a longer barrel or even a different action.   

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
The two primer sizes are evident here, Large Rifle and Small Rifle, performance is the same regardless of which type.

The majority of my experience with the round has been in the MSR platform, and until recently it was the only platform available.  Now several bolt actions are available in the caliber and they add a new level of performance by allowing longer overall loaded lengths as well as handling higher pressures better.  Two that have seen more use from me are the Ruger American and CZ527.   

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
The Ruger American and CZ527, are both excellent platforms for bolt-action Grendels.

The Grendel has been used for a variety of purposes, including long-range competitions, practical competitions, hunting, and for tactical use.  My use of it has been exclusively as a hunting round for culling operations during destructive animal abatement and as a general purpose hunting round for deer and feral hogs.  I have used a variety of 6.5mm calibers throughout my hunting experience, my most used and favorite has been the old 6.5×55.  So once I started loading for the Grendel I had a good idea of which bullets would work well and which might be worth avoiding.  

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
The Mrs. with a nice size pig taken with her Grendel, and 125gr. Nosler.

My favorite bullets for the Grendel have always been what would ordinarily be considered middle-of-the-road weights or even lightweight for the normal 6.5’s like the 6.5 Swede or 260rem.  I prefer 120gr. to 130gr. for my Grendel, and this weight is also my personal minimum recommendation for hunters coming to shoot feral hogs if they will not be using premium bullets.

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
My bullet choices for Grendel use, 87gr.Speer, 100gr. Nosler, 120gr. AMAX (with ground off tip), 120gr. Rem.CL, 120gr. GMX, and 125gr. Nosler.

I started my Grendel experience with Wolf SP factory ammo, I believe they were 123gr. semi spitzer configuration.  The velocity was not impressive, especially from the 14.5” barrel, but the accuracy was very acceptable.  Those two boxes of ammo were used to just see if I wanted to keep the M4 barrel or buy a replacement.  After spending the day at the range and seeing how well the gun shot out to 200yds., even with low velocity.  I decided a replacement barrel would be a good investment. A quick internet search provided me with a Satern 16.5” barrel that would come with a bolt.  I acquired 40 more rounds of factory ammo, this time Hornady.  This ammo differed from the Wolf, by utilizing small rifle primers instead of large rifle primers as well as using a 123gr. AMAX bullet.  The Hornady ammo combined with the Satern barrel proved to be much more accurate than the previous Wolf ammo and M4 barrel combination had been.  Velocity had also increased to a much more respectable 2500fps.  

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
Without an exit, this pig was almost lost. Luckily thermal imaging allowed me to see what direction he ran and he died just before making dense cover.

Once again, factory ammo was reduced to reloadable cases and taking both Wolf brass and Hornady brass I assembled loads using some 120gr. Hornady AMAX bullets I had on hand.  The ammo proved accurate and consistent regardless of which primer size was used.  I was able to easily get 2470fps and accuracy was hovering +/- MOA out to 200 yards.  The AMAX proved to be acceptable for feral hogs except that there was typically not an exit hole, which is something I prefer in a hunting bullet.  It is however not marketed as a hunting bullet, my next load would be with a pure hunting bullet.   

There is no arguing that the  Nosler Partition makes a good hunting bullet.  It is available in a couple of useful weights when it comes to the Grendel. The 100gr. and the 125gr. are both excellent choices for general-purpose hunting.  The 125gr. I’ve used for my 6.5 Swede, I figured the slower speed would enable the bullet to penetrate deeper than it had when I used it in the Swede, I was correct!!!  When shot at 2700fps, I might not get an exit on deer or hogs, but when shot at 2430fps, I’ve only recovered one bullet.  The Nosler has been used on 250+ pound pigs, and numerous Texas Whitetail deer, from 50yds. to 200yds.  The soft nose section of the Partition expands well even on game as small as coyote and the base provides the penetration needed for larger game.  The 100gr. Partition gets used in the bolt guns and continues to provide the same performance while providing 2600fps.

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
A recovered 125gr. Partition, great expansion in front and the rear continues for penetration.

That said, I have recently loaded some new ammo to try since manufacturers have given us a plethora (yes I said it) of new bullets suitable for the Grendel.  One of the new loads uses Hornady’s 120GMX, now replaced with the CX version. I’ve ground off the red tip to keep the long bullets from encroaching too much on powder capacity, and still fit in a magazine.  The GMX/CX provides more penetration and thus allows for larger and tougher animals to be effectively taken with the little round.  An Internet forum member used a similar bullet, a Barnes 120gr. TTSX to take a bull elk at just over 100 yards.  His velocity was 2610fps from a 24” barrel, and the bull took two hits and moved only 5 yards after being hit.  I know some of the Hornady crew went to Africa and used a Grendel to take Gemsbok which is notoriously tough.  

If reloading is not your cup of tea, a quick search of ammo available through MidwayUSA shows 16 different loads from 6 different manufacturers.  The ammunition available should be suitable for everything from varmints to big game, and long-range competitions.  There are also some available using mono-metal bullets, in case you have plans for hunting in a green area.

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
Left: 7.62×39 case, Center: 7.62×39 case run through a Grendel die and necked down, Right: A converted 7.62×39 into a Grendel case and fireformed

One issue I’ve noticed about the Grendel is that brass can be a bit elusive to find at times, and expensive as well.  A little trick shared by a fellow Grendel user is to simply run well-lubed 7.62×39 brass through a Grendel die and load them up.  For my fire forming load, I use a 95gr. VMAX or 87gr. Speer bullet and a middle-of-the-road load and shoot them on varmints.  Once the brass is fire formed it’s ready for big game loads, 7.62×39 brass is cheap and plentiful.  I mentioned earlier that 6.5 Grendel cases come with large and small rifle primers. This issue is important simply to keep the differing cases separated and avoid the aggravation of the two during priming operations.  I’ve noticed no difference in load performance between the two primer sizes.

A couple of years ago I hosted a group of friends from Scandinavia.  Most of the group wanted to hunt with an MSR, since it was something they could not do back home.  My two MSR Grendel’s became loaners, one my 16.5” gun and the other a 20” gun.  Both were used to take all manner of Texas game, deer, feral hogs, and coyotes, all with the 125gr. Partition.  There were no issues with performance or results.  The new small 1-6x and 1-8x scopes are right at home on these guns, they are in my opinion perfectly sized for this round and platform, mine wear Burris scopes.  Hunting medium game at reasonable distances of 250 yards and less, there really is no need for more magnification.   

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
My Scandinavian friend with a nice trophy buck was taken cleanly at 200 yards, with a 125gr. Partition.

The one powder I use for all my Grendel reloading is Accurate Arms 2520.  It has proven consistent in every important aspect of making ammunition, accuracy, velocity, and velocity with regard to temperature variations.  The 100gr. Noslers are being shot from the bolt guns and so far the performance has been typical Nosler partition performance.  Overall performance for the Grendel’s, on everything from varmints to feral hogs, has been exceptional, almost boring, in that it just works.  Its small powder charge makes it a good fit for suppressor use.  It also makes a pound of powder go further, and in this age of rapidly changing availability, that is a comfort.  

6.5 Grendel,….Little Giant!!!
L to R: Grendel, 260rem, and 6.5×55. The Grendel fits well into the 6.5 family.

The round performs just like its much older brethren, it’s easy shooting and makes a good all-around caliber for medium game and smaller.  If you choose proper bullets and select your shots carefully, they can be used successfully on larger game.  If you’re looking for another caliber to add to your small frame MSR lineup, or something younger shooters can get a lot of use out of, the Grendel makes a great choice.









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About the author: Retired Firefighter of 28 years, and a lifelong shooter, competitor, hunter, and outdoorsman. Currently an outdoor bum, taking advantage of all my free time, and enjoying our great outdoors.

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  • Stan October 4, 2022, 7:26 pm

    Can you use a standard 5.56 or 223 cal. lower with this upper? I have worked up different uppers using a 5.56/ 223 lower.

    • Trapr Swonson October 8, 2022, 4:35 pm

      Yes a standard small frame (ar15) lower.

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