6.5 Grendel vs 223/5.56

Both 6.5 Grendel and 223/5.56 are awesome and I like them a lot. My personal favorite depends on what I’m doing at the time. I use both for shooting and hunting.

The 223/5.56 and 6.5 Grendel have very similar trajectories, but the Grendel is much more powerful downrange. There is a wider ammo selection for the 223/5.56. The 6.5 Grendel is much better for long-range and will take larger game than a 5.56/223. The Grendel has twice the recoil and twice the effective tactical range than .223/5.56

Let’s talk about what these cartridges can actually do. I’ll give you some personal experience, and real numbers.

6.5 Grendel vs 223 Ballistics

These two charts compare deer hunting bullets in 6.5 Grendel and 223/5.56

6.5 Grendel
123-grain SST
200 yards300 yards400 yards500 yards
Energy1267 ft/lbs.1056 ft/lbs.874 ft/lbs.720 ft/lbs.
Velocity2180 fps1990 fps1811 fps1643 fps
Drop4.5 inches16 inches35 inches64 inches
223 copper
55-grain CMX
Energy752 ft/lbs.561 ft/lbs.410 ft/lbs.269 ft/lbs.
Velocity2482 fps2144 fps1833 fps1556 fps
Drop3 inches11 inches27 inches54 inches

The red values indicate the point at which the bullets may fail to expand. hunting shots should be kept 100-yards shorter than that to ensure some level of expansion with common hunting rifles. If shooting a rifle with a shorter barrel or looser chamber, the max distance will be less.

Basically, the 6.5 Grendel is a great 300-yard deer rifle, and the .223 will work to 200-yards with good shot placement. The copper CMX bullet will actually show a little expansion down to 350-yards, but almost none. And since it’s a 22-caliber bullet to start, it really needs to expand wide to work well on a deer.

You might be surprised to see the .223 slightly outshooting the 6.5 Grendel in terms of having less bullet drop. Wel don’t. first off, this one isn’t a fair “apples to apples” comparison. I simply compared Hornady’e best hunting load in both calibers and the two bullet designs are completely different.

That .223 bullet is the latest and greatest thing from Hornady, and they put a lot of work into it. Whereas that 6.5 Grendel bullet is an older design. For the record, both bullets give outstanding performance and I wouldn’t hesitate to use either for large deer or hogs.

Now let’s compare military-style fmj loads in both calibers.

6.5 Grendel
123-grain fmj
Energy1297 ft/lbs.1084 ft/lbs.902 ft/lbs.745 ft/lbs.614 ft/lbs.507 ft/lbs.422 ft/lbs.
Velocity2197 fps1992 fps1861 fps1651 fps1499 fps1362 fps1243 fps
Drop5 inches17 inches37 inches69 inches114 inches173 inches231 inches
55-Grain fmj
Energy537 ft/lbs.326 ft/lbs.196 ft/lbs.132 ft/lbs103 ft/lbs.85 ft/lbs.72 ft/lbs.
Velocity2069 fps1624 fps1266 fps1041 fps920 fps836 fps768 fps
Drop3.5 inches16 inches40 inches87 inches166 inches286 inches456 inches

Here, we can start seeing a different story. Once again, I built these figures using Hornady bullets. I also used the data from Hornady’s Frontier line of ammo. The .223/5.56 is flatter shooting right out of the gate. But, by 400-yards the Grendel catches up because it has a more aerodynamic bullet. By the way, all these charts use a 100-yard zero.

With standard fmj bullets, the .223/5.56 has an average Ballistic Coefficient of .157 and the Grendel achieves .420, which is impressive. Basically, the higher the number, the more aerodynamic the bullet. The .223/5.56 starts out with less drop because it starts with more velocity (3240 fps vs 2580 fps) but its less aerodynamic design also slows down sooner.

Good downrange trajectory only comes from two things, speed, and aerodynamics. The aerodynamics are increased by increasing the weight of a bullet (usually by making it longer). Both increasing the weight and velocity will increase the recoil. But generally, increasing the velocity has a greater effect on recoil and a lesser effect on downrange trajectory.

Tactical Choises, Grendel or 5.56?

The .223/5.56 is better at creating incapacitating wounds on an un-armored target within 100-yards with a center-mass shot. If you’re thinking about tactical use with military-style fmj bullets, both have some potential.

Its primary wounding mechanism is the fragmentation of the bullet, which happens best at velocities over 2,400 fps. After 100-yards, the velocity begins to drop sharply. Below 150-yards, the bullet doesn’t penetrate very deep because it falls apart and loses its inertia carrying mass. Just something to think about.

By 200-yards, there shouldn’t be any real fragmentation going on. It pretty much fizzles out somewhere between 150 and 200, depending on your rifle. After that, the bullet still does some tumbling, but those wounds have been described by surgeons as “semi-clean puncture wounds as if from a large nail“.

The military fmj Grendel ammo does pretty well too. It’s got a tendency to yaw ,or tumble, pretty well. Because it’s going slower than the 223, it doesn’t fragment much so it penetrates deeper. and, because the bullet is much larger and more powerful than the 55-grain 223, it makes a bigger wound.

Here’s one video illustrating what I mean. This was Wolf 6.5 Grendel ammo, which tumbles more aggressively than most.

I would recommend this any day for hog hunters, and even for tactical use if it shoots well in your rifle. The main issue with this Wold ammo is that it’s made by Banrul in Russia. It’s dirty, and not super accurate. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That really depends on your gun. For the record, Baraunl is the best steel-cased ammo.

In just a minute, I’ll compare the most aerodynamic, longer-range bullet for each caliber. But, let’s talk about recoil first.

223 vs 6.5 Grendel Recoil

The .223/5.56 has around 4-5 ft/lbs. recoil and the 6.5 Grendel has 5-6 ft/lbs. of recoil. The 223, 5.56, and 6.5 Grendel all have about the same recoil. The 6.5 Grendel usually has about 20 percent more, which does feel marginally stronger. Both are great low-recoil options for hunting and shooting.

Rifles chambered in 6.5 Grendel tends to weigh just a bit more than the .223, just because it’s got a bigger barrel. That has a very slight effect on lessening recoil. Really, it’s just a comparison of slow and heavy vs light and fast. Both are similar-ish in feel.

Personally, My .223 feels a lot lighter on recoil than my 6.5 Grendel. Part of that is because it’s heavy. My AR in .223 weighs 10 pounds unloaded, which I came to find out is heavy for an AR. most are between 6.5 and 7.5 pounds when set up. With both guns set up the same, recoil will feel just a bit stronger on the Grendel, but not harsh at all.

The recoil is very well within the ranges of what small children can handle. Both will allow you to get on target quickly for follow-up shots, and be fairly manageable with rapid-fire.

6.5 Grendel vs 223 for Long-Range

Let’s compare Long-Range bullets in both calibers.

73-Grain ELD-M
Energy615 ft/lbs.505 ft/lbs.413 ft/lbs337 ft/lbs276 ft/lbs.223 ft/lbs.196 ft/lbs
Velocity 1948 fps1765 fps1595 fps1441 fps1304 fps1190 fps1100 fps
Drop31 in59 in97 in148 in217 in306 in420 in
6.5 Grendel
123-grain ELD-M
Energy1023 ft/lbs876 ft/lbs.747 ft/lbs637 ft/lbs543 ft/lbs464 ft/lbs401 ft/lbs.
Velocity1935 fps1790 fps1654 fps1527 fps1410 fps1304 fps1211 fps
Drop35 in64 in104 in156 in223 in308 in413 in

This is how long it takes for the bullets to reach their target.

(time in seconds)500 yards600 yards700 yards800 yard900 yards1000 yards
.223 ELD-M0.680.861.051.271.511.78
6.5 Grendel ELD-M0.700.871.061.271.491.73

Not any real difference there. With the standard military fmj, there’s a big difference in bullet flight. But, not when we include the specialty bullets like Hornady’s ELD-M.

6.5 Grendel and 223 Ammo Cost

6.5 Grendel ammo is 2-3 times more expensive than 5.56/223. Even the cheaper imported 6.5 Grendel ammo runs $1/per bullet. There is no cheap ammo for the 6.5 Grendel. Many Grendel shooters get into reloading to keep costs down.

This is really a heartbreaking moment for many considering the 6.5 Grendel. It’s such an incredible little round, as you’ve seen here. The problem is that it never became popular. It came out early in the AR-craze, and no manufacturer ever really marketed it well.

The result is expensive ammo and less of a selection to choose from. Usually, there are only three or four different Grendel loads I can find in stock online at any one time. For such an awesome cartridge, it’s a pain in the rear.

Because it’s not popular, no one makes much ammo for it. Manufacturers have to temporarily convert a line in their factory to make 6.5 Grendel, then convert it back to produce more common ammo. That’s a lot of extra work and time involved.

I hope and pray that I can be part of popularizing the 6.5 Grendel. It’s a near-perfect round for most situations. We just need it to become mainstream so ammo will be cheaper. For the record, if I could only have one rifle for hunting, I’d seriously consider my Grendel.

How Far will a 6.5 Grendel Shoot Accurately?

The 6.5 Grendel has a max accuracy range of over 1,000-yards. With good ammo, it remains supersonic to 1100-yards. Most shooters claim a max range of 400-yards for hunting and 600 to 800-yards for target shooting. It depends on your skill as a shooter.

What is a 6.5 Grendel Good For?

The 6.5 Grendel is amazing for hunting medium and large game up to 300 pounds. It’s awesome for benchrest shooting with an AR-15, and it has good potential for tactical use. It’s also capable of long-range shooting.

223 vs 6.5 Grendel for Deer, Grendel wins

The 6.5 Grendel is significantly more effective in deer than a .223. with nearly the same recoil, it has twice the max range, deeper penetration, and causes larger more incapacitating wounds than the .223 does. The 6.5 Grendel is very similar to handle and shoot, but all-around more powerful and more versatile than a .223.

The 223 is Better than 6.5 Grendel for Coyote Hunting

The .223 is better than 6.5 Grendel for hunting coyotes because it’s flatter shooting to 350-yards. Both the .223 and 6.5 Grendel can be used for predators and varmints like coyotes. There is good varmint ammo available for both cartridges.

Will 6.5 Grendel Work in a 5.56 Magazine?

6.5 Grendel will not feed properly in a 5.56 magazine. With only 4 to 5 bullets loaded, it may feed somewhat, but the bullets may get marred, and may tend to nose-dive in the chamber causing jams. The 6.5 Grendel functions best with a dedicated 6.5 Grendel magazine that’s fitted to the longer bullet and specific case taper.

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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