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
|200 yards||300 yards||400 yards||500 yards|
|Energy||1267 ft/lbs.||1056 ft/lbs.||874 ft/lbs.||720 ft/lbs.|
|Velocity||2180 fps||1990 fps||1811 fps||1643 fps|
|Drop||4.5 inches||16 inches||35 inches||64 inches|
|Energy||752 ft/lbs.||561 ft/lbs.||410 ft/lbs.||269 ft/lbs.|
|Velocity||2482 fps||2144 fps||1833 fps||1556 fps|
|Drop||3 inches||11 inches||27 inches||54 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 |
|Energy||1297 ft/lbs.||1084 ft/lbs.||902 ft/lbs.||745 ft/lbs.||614 ft/lbs.||507 ft/lbs.||422 ft/lbs.|
|Velocity||2197 fps||1992 fps||1861 fps||1651 fps||1499 fps||1362 fps||1243 fps|
|Drop||5 inches||17 inches||37 inches||69 inches||114 inches||173 inches||231 inches|
|Energy||537 ft/lbs.||326 ft/lbs.||196 ft/lbs.||132 ft/lbs||103 ft/lbs.||85 ft/lbs.||72 ft/lbs.|
|Velocity||2069 fps||1624 fps||1266 fps||1041 fps||920 fps||836 fps||768 fps|
|Drop||3.5 inches||16 inches||40 inches||87 inches||166 inches||286 inches||456 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.
|Energy||615 ft/lbs.||505 ft/lbs.||413 ft/lbs||337 ft/lbs||276 ft/lbs.||223 ft/lbs.||196 ft/lbs|
|Velocity||1948 fps||1765 fps||1595 fps||1441 fps||1304 fps||1190 fps||1100 fps|
|Drop||31 in||59 in||97 in||148 in||217 in||306 in||420 in|
|Energy||1023 ft/lbs||876 ft/lbs.||747 ft/lbs||637 ft/lbs||543 ft/lbs||464 ft/lbs||401 ft/lbs.|
|Velocity||1935 fps||1790 fps||1654 fps||1527 fps||1410 fps||1304 fps||1211 fps|
|Drop||35 in||64 in||104 in||156 in||223 in||308 in||413 in|
This is how long it takes for the bullets to reach their target.
|(time in seconds)||500 yards||600 yards||700 yards||800 yard||900 yards||1000 yards|
|6.5 Grendel ELD-M||0.70||0.87||1.06||1.27||1.49||1.73|
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.