350 Legend vs 6.5 Grendel, which should you get?

I have both a 350 Legend and a 6.5 Grendel. Both calibers are fun to shoot and easy to handle.

The 350 Legend is a straight-walled cartridge that shoots a 180-grain bullet at 2100 fps. The 6.5 Grendel is a bottleneck cartridge that shoots a 123-grain bullet at 2580 fps. 350 Legend is 35 caliber and 6.5 Grendel is 26 caliber. 6.5 Grendel has a longer effective range. Both have similar muzzle energy and very low recoil.

The 6.5 Grendel and 350 Legend are two polar opposites. The best choice greatly depends on your personal situation. I’ll lay it all out so you can make your best decision.

6.5 Grendel will Kill Deer 150-Yards Further than 350 Legend

The 350 Legend will kill deer out to 250-yards, but the 6.5 Grendel can work out to 400-yards. Up to 200 Yards, the 350 Legend is more effective, but the 6.5 Grendel holds energy better. The effective range of 350 Legend is limited by the loss of energy, but the 6.5 Grendel is limited by velocity. It needs over 1800 fps. to expand well.

6.5 Grendel200 yards250 yards300 yards350 yards400 yards450 yards500 yards550 yards
Energy1267 ft/lbs.1158 ft/lbs.1056 ft/lbs.961 ft/lbs.874 ft/lbs.793 ft/lbs.720 ft/lbs654 ft/lbs.
Velocity2180 fps2084 fps1990 fps1899 fps1811 fps1724 fps1643 fps1564 fps
350 Legend200 yards250 yards300 yards350 yards400 yards
Energy828 ft/lbs.685 ft/lbs.575 ft/lbs.494 ft/lbs.436 ft/lbs.
Velocity1429 fps1309 fps1199 fps1111 fps1044 fps
*Values in red indicate below the minimum threshold for deer hunting.

I tend to give a threshold of 750 ft/lbs of bullet energy as “the minimum” energy for a bullet to dependably perform on a deer. I’m willing to go down as low as 650 ft/lbs. Based on that, the max effective distance of a 123-grain hunting load (very common) would be about 550-yards. However, we have to take something else into account here.

The bullet design of most modern hunting bullets requires a minimum of either 1800 or 1900 fps to expand. Expansion is what causes the bullets to work. The same load in 6.5 Grendel has about 1900fps at 350-yards. at that point, it may or may not work. In fact, it has a good chance of failure.

If you wanted to play it safe and keep velocity at 2,000 fps, assuming we’re shooting a full-sized barrel, you’d have to back down to about 300-yards. I guess there are two main points here. First, if you want to max out any cartridge, you need to know your exact shooting range. Second, you need to know your rifle’s velocity.

Every gun is different in how it shoots and 100 fps variation between rifles is common. If you want to push it into the extreme, you need to know the bullet’s velocity. It can make all the difference in the world.

Hunting ammo in 350 Legend will expand at far lower velocities than the Grendel. Some 350 legend bullets will expand at velocities as low as 1100 fps, but popular bullets are closer to 1400 fps. The bullet drops below the energy threshold by that point. Basically, that’s about 250-yards max.

They’re both available in bolt action and in an AR. Although I’ve only ever seen one bolt action Grendel. I recommend both in an AR for ease of handling and versatility. I bought both of mine from Bear Creek Arsenal. If you already have an AR, you can just get a complete upper. Swap calibers in 20 seconds!

Here’s the links to look them over.


I wrote an in-depth review about the Bear Creek side-charging AR uppers. Check it out in the link below.

The 6.5 Grendel is Flatter Shooting

The 6.5 Grendel has half the drop and less than half the wind drift of a 350 Legend. It is capable of hitting bullseyes further than 800 yards. The Grendel has a bullet design that is more streamlined and offers less air resistance than the 350 Legend.

Windage 10mph crosswind200 yards250 yards300 yards
6.5 Grendel 123-grain4 inches6 inches8.5 inches
350 Legend 180-grain11 inches17.5 inches26 inches
Bullet drop200 yards250 yards300 yards
6.5 Grendel 123-grain4.5 inches10 inches16.5 inches
350 Legend 180-grain10 inches21 inches37 inches

According to those charts, being off in your distance estimation by 25-yards can cause a miss with the 350 Legend. If you estimated 200 Yards and it really was 250, you may get lucky and hit the spine, but will probably miss the deer altogether. But, not with the 6.5 Grendel.

Same thing with windage. If you are off by 25-yards, the 350 Legend can blow off by a good 3-inches or more while the 6.5 Grendel will only move the point of impact by an inch. The big takeaway here is to watch the wind and know what a 10 mph wind feels like.

How far do you want to shoot? With the right bullets and a fast shooting barrel, you can go to 400 yards with the Grendel. With the 350 Legend, it takes a good shooter and a range-finder to make a 250-yard shot.

For the record, with a 16-inch barreled 350 Legend, you can sight it in at 175-yards then not have to compensate for drop to make any hit from 0 to 200-yards. That’s called “max point-blank range”. With the 6.5 Grendel, you can sight it in at 200 for a point-blank range of 250-yards.

At point-blank range, the bullet should never be more than 3-inches up or down from the bore axis. That’s what makes it point-blank, or point-shoot.

Scopes I Recommend for Both Calibers

I wrote an in-depth review of them after owning and using both for years. See the Article below.

6.5 Grendel is more powerful than 350 Legend, sort of

Both 350 Legend and 6.5 Grendel have the same initial bullet energy. At 200-yards, the Grendel has 50 percent more energy than the 350 Legend. The 6.5 Grendel is significantly more powerful downrange than a 350 Legend.

If we are talking about bullet energy at the muzzle, they’re too close to call a real winner. But, the 6.5 Grendel really comes out ahead in short order. Even at 100-yards, we can expect to see around 30 percent more bullet energy in the 4.6 Grendel than in the 350.

The 350 has a very bad ballistic coefficient. The highest I’ve seen is a value of .221 on the BC scale. the Grendel on the other hand has a ballistic coefficient of around .400, which is fairly significant. Ballistic coefficients mean the bullet is aerodynamic and won’t slow down quickly.

I think it’s safe to say that the 6.5 Grendel is clearly a more powerful gun in some sense. After all, it does clearly have more power at most ranges. The reason both of these are so amazing in my opinion is that they have 6 pounds of recoil or about a third of the recoil of a .308

350 Legend is more effective within 200-yards

up to 200-yards, the 350 Legend is more effective as a medium game hunting cartridge. It tends to cause significantly more damage than a 6.5 Grendel does at that range. But, at ranges in excess of 200-yards, the 6.5 Grendel is a better choice for hunting deer and small bears.

The reason it tends to make a larger wound is that it’s a bigger bullet. That’s really why it’s sp effective. the .357 caliber (9mm) bullet of the 350 Legend expands to between one-inch and three-quarters of an inch. That’s a pretty serious piece of copper and lead.

Bullets wound (destroy tissue) in two ways, first, it causes a crush cavity. That is, the actual tissues that a bullet tears as it crushes through. In the days before smokeless powder, bullets primarily only ever created a crush cavity because they were so very slow. Fast bullets create much more damage.

The second point of a bullet’s wounding principles is called stretch cavity, or hydrostatic shock. That is when energy is transferred from the bullet into the surrounding tissue. It causes the tissue to stretch away from the impact site. If the stretching is fast enough and severe enough, it can tear and destroy tissue.

The larger frontal surface area of an expanded 350 Legend hunting bullet allows it to tear a lot of tissue even if it doesn’t have a lot of hydrostatic shocks. At 200-yards, it’s still hitting significantly harder than the hottest 357 Magnum load.

The 6.5 Grendel is faster but it has the same bullet energy behind a much smaller frontal surface area. I tested this out by shooting ballistic targets at 100, 150, and 200-yards. At 100 yards, the 350 shows substantially more damage. There was still significantly more damage at 150-yards. By 200-yards, both cartridges performed fairly similarly.

You can get a crude visual of the differences in damage by shooting water jugs, then looking at the amount of tearing in the jug. It won’t be to scale, but a bullet that will tear more tissue will also tear a water jug up more. It’s just a fun and simple way to compare two cartridges.

350 Legend Shoots Much Heavier Bullets

The 6.5 Grendel Shoots bullets from 90- grains to 130-grains. The 350 Legend shoots bullet weights from 145-grains to 180-grains. The difference in weight, along with the larger surface area allows the 350 Legend to be more effective at creating devastating wounds.

For the 350 Legend, heavier bullets are the ones that tend to penetrate deeply, retain more downrange energy, and cause the most amount of tissue damage. My personal favorites are the Winchester Power Point 180-grain bullets. They are not the most accurate, but one of the most reliable performing and deep penetrating on store shelves.

All-coper bullets like Barnes TSX and Hornady GMX tend to penetrate significantly deeper than the copper-jacket lead bullets, but are less aerodynamic and slow down quickly.

The 6.5 Grendel has a deep penetrating profile. But, that’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. the real factor in penetration is in bullet construction, not the shape or profile. Most of the ammo for both 350 Legend and 6.5 Grendel is made for deer. Deer are shallow animals and don’t need deep penetrating bullets as long as you take a good shot.

As a point of reference, a friend shot a small deer with my dad’s 7mm Mag. The bullet was Winchester’s Deer Season XP. at 100-yards, the bullet entered through the ribs and into the lungs and never exited. I had the same results shooting Deer Season XP with my .223.

it seems as though ay caliber in one particular line of ammo tends to penetrate to a similar depth. My pal Jim over at Backfire.com has seen the same sort of thing. If a particular loading is marketed as a deer hunting load, I would generally advise against using It on bigger animals.

If you want a deeper penetrating round, I would strongly suggest going with one of the all-copper hunting bullets. The darn things just penetrate deeper than you’d expect. It has to do with how the sharp copper petals cut through soft tissue better and holds together better through bone than lead does.

What Will a 6.5 Grendel kill?

The 6.5 Grendel will kill deer, antelope, and black bears. It’s a great option for animals up to 400-pounds. Some have used it for elk and with the right bullets it can work, but it is not considered suitable for elk. The only bullets that can work for the larger animals are copper bullets like Hornady GMX and Barnes TSX.

The Grendel is also commonly used for varmints and small-game. It’s highly effective on coyotes, well outperforming the .223, and rivaling the 22/250 in terms of flat shooting. It has a bit less recoil and a lot longer barrel life than cartridges like 22/250 and 220 Swift.

In fact, both the 350 Legend and the 6.5 Grendel both have very high barrel life. Precision shooters usually don’t notice any difference in accuracy until around the 5,000 to 8,000 round mark with the 6.5, and the 350 Legend should perform about the same. Practical accuracy (2.5 MOA) should remain to 10,000-12,000 rounds with a decent barrel.

The 6.5 Grendel has noticeably less energy than a .243, but it fires a heavier bullet. The .243 fires a 95-grain bullet at 3200 fps and the Grendel shoots a 120-grain bullet at 2600 fps. just as a way to know where it sits, the 6.5 Grendel is about 15 percent beneath the .243 with a given load. The 243 is considered the bare minimum for elk.

I would shoot any animal up to 400 pounds with a 6.5 Grendel using good ammo and taking only a good broadside shot. I would be more than happy to hunt deer with the Grendel with pretty much any hunting load.

Both can be fine options for a general-use rifle, tackling anything from rabbits to bears. The 350 Legend has a few lightweight, faster fmj loads that I’d consider usable for small-game. It’s a bit overpowered on a rabbit, but the fmj won’t tear it up too bad. I’d use it for coyotes any day and in a pinch, it would take bigger animals.

They’re about 145-grains going 2500 fps. None too shabby eh’? Some of it is pretty cheap too. It’s the sort of ammo you might keep in a farm truck to handle the odd critter tearing up a field, or just for plinking.

The 350 Legend and 6.5 Grendel fall into a similar category of light-recoiling, mid-power rifles. if you want to shoot to 350-yards, go with the Grendel. But, if you are okay keeping shots inside 200-yards, the 350 Legend will outperform the Grendel and have the same amount of recoil.

Ammo Cost and Availability

350 Legend and 6.5 Grendel are equally hard to come by. Both are niche cartridges and there isn’t a lot of demand for either. I’m hoping to change that. The big difference for me was that I had to pay more for 6.5 Grendel ammo. I’ve been paying around $1.50 a shot for good 350 Legend ammo, and over $2.00 a shot for 6.5 Grendel.

One other difference is that there is some imported steel ammo for 6.5 Grendel. It’s often a bit pricey for what it is, but it’s a far cry cheaper than fancy hunting loads. Currently, I see it going for $1.00 a round. that’s steel-cased ammo imported by WOLF and made by Barnaul (makers of Brown Bear ammo).

The thing that keeps the 6.5 prices high is the lack of popularity. we need the hunting community to find out about this awesome cartridge with half the recoil of a .243 and 350+ yards effective range for deer. It’s a great option, but most don’t even know about it.

Ammo for the 350 Legend is just cheaper to produce. That was part of the reasoning behind creating it in the first place. Winchester knew they could make it cheaper than the competing low-recoil cartridges so they went all in and bet heavily on it. I am a fan.

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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