In terms of historic use, the 6.5mm cartridge has not always been a big favorite of American gun enthusiasts. However, that has changed over the last few decades, and the 6.5mm bore continues to attract the interest of hunters and target shooters alike.
While there is a variety of 6.5mm cartridges to choose from, the two most popular are the:
- 6.5 Grendel.
- 6.5 Creedmoor.
Therefore, in our 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor review, we will be looking at both in detail. This should help you understand the differences and which cartridge best suits your specific needs.
An Overview of Both Cartridges
We will take an individual look at each cartridge first. From there, we will get into the similarities, differences, and things you need to be aware of with each. Hopefully, these pointers throughout the piece and our conclusion will help narrow down which type of cartridge best suits your needs
We will start with the:
Alexander Arms brought the 6.5mm Grendel cartridge to market in 2003. It was introduced to increase and maximize the performance of shooters using weapons from the highly popular AR-15 platform.
The design of this cartridge is based on a combination of the Soviet Union’s military M43 design (7.62 x 39mm) and 6.5mm PPC rounds. In simple terms, this development was achieved by putting a 6.5mm bullet into a 7.62 x 39mm casing.
A round that was capable of being effective beyond distances that the 5.56mm NATO or .223 Remington hunting bullets could achieve.
Are you the Designated Marksman?
Marketing hype means a lot to manufacturers, and the 6.5 Grendel is certainly no different. This highly effective cartridge was presented as being designed and tailored to a new role on the battlefield. You may have seen it advertised as “The Designated Marksman.”
The 6.5 Grendel sits in between the two NATO calibers of 5.56 x 45mm and the 7.62 x 51mm.
Accuracy that Counts
The reason behind “The Designated Marksman” term is because the 6.5 Grendel has proven more accurate when compared to the .223 cartridge at engaging targets up to and over 500 yards. Additionally, for our servicemen and women, its effective range is better than that achieved from standard AR-15 or M16 rifles.
How about Hunting Performance?
As seen by its continually increased popularity, the Grendel 6.5 cartridge is proving to be highly effective for hunters.
There is a good selection of bullet weights available. All are designed to retain additional terminal energy at extended ranges when compared to the 5.56mm or 7.62mm cartridges.
Different grains offer different benefits.
For hunters of smaller game species, using a polymer-tipped 6.5mm cartridge up to 125 grains is effective.
Loading Grendel cartridges that are heavier (130/140 grain) has proven highly effective for tactical shooters at longer ranges.
The 6.5 Creedmoor (6.5 x 49mm) was introduced four years after the 6.5 Grendel in 2007 by Hornady and Creedmoor Sports.
Similar to the 6.5 Grendel, it was also designed to replace a long used service caliber: The 7.62 x 51mm NATO. The original purpose of designing the 6.5 Creedmoor was for long-range target shooters; however, it has certainly found favor with long-range hunters.
What’s in a name?
The cartridge was named to honor the oldest and most famous shooting competition in the country: The Creedmoor Match. And since its introduction and use in competition shooting, the 6.5 Creedmoor has built its reputation on being a formidable round.
When compared to the long-established 7.62mm long-range bullet, two factors are evident. It affords shooters a better performance and gives a very noticeable advantage in terms of less wind drift.
Its diameter is not 6.5mm!
While the Creedmoor bullet is designated as a 6.5mm caliber, its actual diameter measures in at .264 inches (6.72mm).
We only mention this to highlight the fact that ballistically shooters will suffer from accuracy if chambering this bullet in sporting rifles in the 22”-24” barrel length. However, those auto-loading with rifles that have 28” barrels will find full performance is theirs.
Variable grain weights
In terms of bullet weights, the 6.5 Creedmoor offers a wide variance. Loaded grain can come in at around 90 to 160 grains. This makes the cartridge a flexible choice for hunters. Dependent on bullet weight chosen, it is suitable for taking down anything from varmints to huge Moose (and everything in between!).
To give an example of a mid-range bullet weight, you can buy a 6.5 Creedmoor ‘standard’ load A-Max cartridge. This comes in at 120-grain (8g), has a muzzle velocity of 3,020 feet/second and muzzle energy of 2,430 feet/lbs.
Duplicates Some Features – Outperforms Others
The latest offerings from Hornady’s new 6.5 Creedmoor range are slated as being an excellent choice for long-distance shooters.
Features to be aware of are the fact it duplicates .300 Win trajectory. It offers less recoil than .308 Win cartridges and gives performance levels that many shooters class as equal to the .260 Remington. And when it comes to accuracy over distance, it is seen to be more efficient than the .308 Winchester and the 7.62 x 54R.
The U.S. Military continues to test this cartridge with favorable results. They are considering the introduction of Creedmoor ammo to fill the ‘range gap’ that is present between standard M16/M4 rifles, LMG’s (Light Machine Guns), and the long-range precision rifles snipers currently use.
What are the Similarities?
You may be surprised to learn that this will be a short section! The reason for this is that there really are few similarities. They do utilize same-size bullets and could be classed as being similarly named, but that’s about it.
What are the Differences
We certainly get a little more ‘meat’ here. There are various differences between these two cartridges. Here are some significant ones:
As we touched on, the 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor set out to achieve different goals. Both have done so in impressive fashion.
1 Different Target Market
The 6.5 Grendel has proved advantageous for hunters using the AR platform. Thanks to its pinpoint accuracy, those shooters after larger size prey appreciate the fact that this cartridge works very well.
The ‘target’ market for 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges is exactly that. Many competition shooters roundly praise it. Shooters who prefer the smaller short-action platform find it highly accurate.
In terms of what both of these cartridges set out to achieve, they have certainly done so, and more.
2 Cartridge Comparison
As mentioned, for both 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor, the bullet size is the same. They both use .264 inch bullets. However, there are big differences in each of these cartridges.
The 6.5 Grendel is shorter than the 6.5 Creedmoor. The reason for this is because the original Grendel design was for use with AR-15 weapons. This platform can only take cartridges with a maximum length of 2.26 inches. This is the length of the 6.5 Grendel cartridge; hence it fits into an AR-15.
The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge comes in at 2.825 inches in length. This means it needs a larger rifle for use, one that can accommodate a .308 Winchester size cartridge – such as an AR-10.
4 Rim Diameter
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a rim diameter of .473 inches. This is larger than the 6.5 Grendel which comes in at .441 inches
5 Case Capacity
Taking the length and rim capacity comparisons of both makes it clear that the 6.5 Creedmoor has a significantly larger case capacity.
In terms of maximum average pressure between the two. The 6.5 Creedmoor is also loaded higher. It comes in at 62,000 psi (Pounds per square inch) against 52,000 psi of the 6.5 Grendel.
6 Which is faster in the 6.5 Grendel verses 6.5 Creedmoor comparison?
There is no argument that the 6.5 Creedmoor is faster for those shooters wishing to reach .300 Win mag distances. In this case, it is 300 fps (feet per second) faster than the 6.5 Grendel.
However, for those shooters who want to perfect the art of longer range accuracy, the 6.5 Grendel is more effective than the 5.56 NATO (it’s predecessor).
7 Shot Grouping Accuracy
Using the 6.5 Grendel should see shooters achieving small, regular groups in the .35 range. Taking the 6.5 Creedmoor at around .4 to .6 MOA will produce tighter groups at a longer distance. For those handloading shooters, there is even greater accuracy.
8 Barrel Quality
In the main, a Creedmoor barrel is manufactured from higher quality material than the Grendel. While this means you may pay less for the latter, it also increases the possibility of problems down the line.
There is a solution for those shooters looking to reduce such potential issues with Grendel assemblies. When purchasing parts, look for those that are manufactured by Alexander Arms.
In terms of barrel length, both the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor are highly effective in barrels of 20-22 inches with twist rates between 1:8 and 1:8.5 inches.
6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor – Points for Consideration
When looking at these two cartridges, there are several points worthy of consideration. By weighing up these differences, it should help shooters decide whether the 6.5 Grendel or 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is best for their specific use.
Be aware of the difference in recoil
The 6.5 Creedmoor fares well in terms of being a reasonably powerful cartridge that shoots relatively flat. It is also more than acceptable in terms of resistance to wind drift. However, shooters should expect bigger recoil from the 6.5 Creedmoor than they will receive from the 6.5 Grendel.
While the difference is certainly noticeable between the two, we should also put it into perspective. When comparing the recoil of the 6.5 Creedmoor against that of the .308 Winchester, the Creedmoor is noticeably lighter and the 6.5 Grendel lighter still.
You get a wider bullet selection advantage with the 6.5 Creedmoor. It was specifically designed for the longest, heaviest bullets. Bullet weights of the 6.5 Creedmoor generally come in the 95 to 160 grain range, with 120, 129, 140, 143gr being the most common.
The lighter bullets for the 6.5 Grendel means 130 grains is around the top end with 120 and 123 grain ammo the most popular.
We have touched on this, but it is worth reiterating. The 6.5 Creedmoor is seen as being superior in ballistic terms. For example, ballistically, the 6.5 Creedmoor is better when shooting inside 300 yards, but at closer ranges, the difference between the two cartridges is much smaller. However, this difference becomes more apparent, the further your shooting distance.
Don’t dismiss the 6.5 Grendel, though. It is still more than powerful and accurate enough for hunters whose target is prey of medium size in the short to moderate distance range.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor is also up to that task, it is not in the ‘heavy hitting’ cartridge league. Examples being the 300 Win Mag or 7mm Rem Mag.
Again, this point has been touched on but is worthy of more detail. By taking the following into account, it should help you decide in your 6.5 Grendel verses 6.5 Creedmoor decision.
We know the 6.5 Creedmoor was specifically designed for competition shooters. It shoots very long, aerodynamic bullets. But, the 6.5 Grendel is no slouch in the competition shooting world. A major reason here is its advantage found in the recoil stakes.
Whatever people may say (or think!), recoil plays a major part in accuracy. Assuming you are a competent shooter and all other things are equal, you will shoot better when using a cartridge that gives softer recoil.
This consideration relates to both hunters and target shooters. If the weight of your weapon is an important factor, then bear in mind that using the 6.5 Creedmoor will be a minimum of 2 to 3 pounds heavier than the same size 6.5 Grendel caliber barrel.
Therefore, if you are a hunter, will this impede progress and enjoyment as the day lengthens? If you are shooting at targets, will this extra weight weigh on you in terms of steadiness as those rounds continue to fly?
The vast majority of shooters will have an AR15 rifle in their collection. The AR 308 platform is far more scarce.
When ‘building’ a weapon for 6.5 Grendel use on the AR15 platform, the requirements come down to a barrel, BCG (bolt carrier group), and required ammunition. Building a Creedmoor means you will need an AR 308 set up. This means for most shooters that the Grendel will be a far cheaper option.
While we are on the topic of cost. Here are some comments on both platforms:
6.5 Grendel Platform
Those who have weapons from the AR platform that take the 6.5 Grendel parts will find a very healthy aftermarket choice. With such a choice, you should be aware of two factors. Accessories and parts are available at different prices. They also differ in standards as far as quality is concerned.
This means you should read reviews on the parts and accessories available before jumping in. These reviews are available from gun sites, users, and manufacturers. Through research, all shooters will benefit when it comes to making an informed decision on what best meets their personal needs.
The parts required if you have the standard AR-15 (5.56 NATO) are a different barrel, bolt, and magazines. You also need to pay particular attention to the difference between Grendel ‘types’. They come in Type I and Type II.
When considering this point, you will find two manufacturer specs. This is in relation to the bolt and barrel chamber in reference to differences in head spacing. For most shooters, Type II is what you will be after. It is seen as the original Grendel type and is also the most popular choice by far.
However, Les Baer Custom is another manufacturer. Their Type I has adjusted dimensions specific to their design.
We mention this because you cannot mix and match Type I and Type II parts without risking weapon damage.
6.5 Creedmoor Platform
While it still has some way to go to overtake the 7.62 NATO cartridge in the AR-10 platform, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is rapidly gaining in popularity. Bear in mind that the 6.5 Creedmoor was designed with longer barrels in mind. This is where you will see the best performance. You should also note that you can’t run it with a 16” barrel (example; a .308 Win).
Aftermarket parts are increasing in availability. This is seen by the number of manufacturers who are adding barrels to their portfolio. When it comes to large-frame AR-10 rifles, it is easy to see why. Shooters who own these rifles often find that to use this cartridge; it only requires a barrel change.
You will also notice an increase in manufacturers who offer the 6.5 Creedmoor weapon as a standard choice.
No apologies for keep banging on about this, but recoil has to be a major factor. It will affect some shooters far more than others.
As we have stated, the 6.5 Creedmoor is around 300 fps faster than the 6.5 Grendel, but the recoil is also that much greater.
Cost of Ammunition
The 6.5 Grendel ammo is cheaper than that for the 6.5 Creedmoor. You also have a much greater choice in terms of ammo variation.
Want to find out more? Then check out our in-depth 6.5 Creedmoor review, as well as our Palmetto State Armory AR 15 review, the Best AR 15 Charging Handles, the Best AR 15 ACOG Scopes, and the Best Aimpoint for AR15 currently available 2020.
6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor Conclusion
In our opinion, when looking at the 6.5 Grendel vs. 6.5 Creedmoor choice, it really does come down to “horses for courses.”
Due to the benefits, which include lighter weight, lower conversion costs, and variation in ammo, the 6.5 Grendel is arguably a better choice for hunters. Particularly those shooters who are after medium sized prey targeted over medium distances.
On the other hand, the majority of competitive shooters and hunters who target prey at longer distances will largely benefit from the 6.5 Creedmoor. This is due to the fact it gives better clearance and holds accuracy at increased distance.