The 6.5 Grendel is my favorite longer-range AR-15 cartridge. I’ve tested and researched all options, but it’s by far my personal choice for hunting and tactical use beyond 200-yards with an AR-15.
The 6.5 Grendel has a max effective range of 400-yards for hunting, 1,000-yards for military use, and 1,100-yards for target shooting. Past 400-yards, hunting bullets will no longer expand. Past 1,000-yards the bullet lacks full penetration. Past 1,100-yards, the bullet goes subsonic and loses stability.
If you want to know how the 6.5 Grendel really performs, we have to compare different loads and see how they stack up. I’ve put together charts comparing all the loads I could find good data on.
I use 400 ft/lbs as the limit of military use because the bullet still has enough energy to tumble and likely make a complete pass through. 400 ft/lbs is about the energy of a 9mm load, which is still plenty to cause a likely lethal wound. Technically, the max target shooting range is a bit further than the 400 ft/lbs. mark.
I use the point at which a bullet drops below the speed of sound as the max target shooting distance. As it drops below the supersonic level, it basically goes through a reverse sonic boom which causes instability in the bullet, making it do all sorts of wonky things.
The hunting max distance is different for each bullet. It’s based on the lowest velocity the bullet will expand at. Usually 300 to 400-yards for the Grendel. That one took a bit more research. Well, here you go, a chart showing the max effective range of common 6.5 Grendel loads.
|Max Hunting |
|Max Tactical |
Range (400 ft/lbs.)
|Federal 120-grain SP||2600||0.346||300-yards||600-yards|
|Federal 120-grain OTM||2610||0.428||Not for Hunting||825-yards|
|Hornady 123-grain FMJ||2580||0.427||Not for Hunting||825-yards|
|Hornady 123-grain ELD Match||2580||0.520||Not for Hunting||1000-yads|
|Hornady 123-grain SST||2580||0.520||400-yards||1000-yards|
|PPU 110-grain FMJ||2756||0.411||Not For Hunting||825-yards|
|PPU 120-grain HPBT||2674||0.415||Not For Hunting||850-yards|
|*WOLF/Barnaul 100-grain fmj||2707||0.515||Not For Hunting||975-yards|
Those maximums don’t take into account the accuracy of the bullet. They are just an educated guess on the maximum expansion velocity and maximum effective power of each load. The numbers were rounded up or down a bit to make it easier to remember. This is just a basic reference and is by no means an idea of a bullet’s accuracy.
For sure, the PPU and Wolf/Barnaul ammo aren’t as accurate as the others. They’re just in a different league. Hornady’s bullets are probably the best on the list if you are looking for the utmost accuracy in 6.5 Grendel.
In order to keep it easy, keep all hunting shots within 300-yards. That should work, even for the copper hunting bullets that require more velocity to expand. For military use, any of the non-expanding options at 800-yards has plenty of energy left. All you have to do is hit the target.
So, just how accurate is the 6.5 Grendel? With good ammo and a good rifle, it’s as accurate as any other precision cartridge. It is a slower cartridge, so it will have more drop than faster loads like the 6.5 PCR, but bullseyes at 1,000-yards are certainly doable if you are a decent long-range shooter.
Is 6.5 Grendel a Long-Range Shooting Catridge?
The 6.5 Grendel is a long-range capable cartridge out to 1,000-yards. Many shooters are using the Grendel past 800-yards with the Hornady ELD-M ammo. There are cartridges more suited to shooting 1,000-yards, but the Grendel is the lightest recoiling 1,000-yard capable rifle.
The Grendel has on average, near 30-feet of drop at 1,000-yards. It starts t drop sharply past 500-yards, but most do. For target shooting at a known distance on a still target, that’s certainly doable. A good bullet, like Hornady’s match loads, still has enough accuracy at the distance.
All you have to do is read the wind well and know exactly how much drop to compensate for. Basic long-range stuff. I’m no long-range shooter. That’s not for me. I tend towards simplicity and don’t prefer to shoot past the max point-blank range of a cartridge (about 200-yards).
The Grendel has
Hornady 6.5 Grendel 123-grain ELD-M Balistics
|– Sound Barrier (1116 fps) –|
This load is the king of accurate long-range shooting with the 6.5 Grendel. It sets the mark for others to strive for. It’s also expensive, but that’s how it goes if you want world-class accuracy in a factory load. This is the line of ammo that shooters in the US tend to favor for long-range shooting with any cartridge.
The 6.5 actually comes out equal to 7.62×51 (the military 308) at 1,000 yards. It’s about the same speed and drop, but it actually penetrates better due to it’s skinnier, low-drag bullet design. It’s also better at penetrating armor after about 700 yards. Not that everyone has armor (I do).
Just because it’s the cheap option, I’d like to look further at the WOLF/Barnaul 100-grain load. Why not?
WOLF/ Barnaul 100-grain fmj 6.5 Grendel Ballistics
|– Sound Barrier (1116 fps) –|
It’s certainly not Hornady or Sierra. It’s cheaper ammo for a cheaper purpose. And, my chart doesn’t mean it will hit a 10-inch gong at 1000-yards. It just shows how much drop, wind drift, and energy you could expect on average. You have to add to that a variability of accuracy.
Barnaul put a lot of work into this bullet. I’m actually impressed. It’s not as polished and perfectly balanced as premium US bullets, but for a factory that is still using WWII equipment, that’s pretty impressive. As far as accuracy, it’s not all that bad. The bullet isn’t the most perfect and they do use a cheap powder, but the load is fairly consistent.
The extreme velocity spread is generally within 60 fps in a box. That’s actually impressive. That means the bullets will have a fairly uniform drop. Although, the less than perfect case and cheaper bullet will add some variability. Generally, Barnaul’s ammo will shoot 1-2 MOA. that’s good for 500-yard tactical engagements.
Barnaul Makes The best of the imported steel-cased ammo. My Mosin Nagant shoots 1MOA with their 203-grain SP load. It surprised me at first. I don’t mind shooting Barnaul. Even their brown lacquer-coated stuff isn’t that bad and runs better for me than the grey-coated Wolf and Tulammo stuff.
Here’s another article you might like: 6.5 Grendel vs 308 for Hunting