Handloading Allows the 6.5mm Grendel to Shine

Sometimes you find a cartridge that really shines when it's handloaded, and it reinforces the notion that reloaders can improve the performance of their chosen cartridge and firearm. The 6.5mm Grendel is just such a cartridge. In fact, the fantastic performance my 6.5 Grendel handloads exhibit has helped change my view of a certain firearm platform.

I admit that from the first time I shot a firearm I've been a traditionalist at heart. Blued steel and a nice piece of walnut make me happy. And although I have acquired a few AR-style rifles — and handloaded for them and shot them — I tend to gravitate back to my comfort zone: blued-steel and wood-stocked rifles.

Over the years I've worked with — and have come to appreciate — some of the traditional semiautomatic-rifle cartridges, including .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, 7.62x39 Soviet, .308 Winchester/7.62 NATO, .30-06, and 6.5mm Grendel — but mostly only in bolt-action rifles. I don't own a Garand or an M14, and my Ruger Minis are still nearly unfired. Heck, my first experience with the 6.5 Grendel was in a rebarreled Savage bolt rifle.

There's no need to recount everything that's been written about the origins and relative merits of the 6.5 Grendel. Many scribes have earnestly spilled their guts with extraordinary rationales and statistics supporting the cartridge. Simply stated, it's a slightly enhanced 6mm PPC case necked up to load .264-inch bullets. The increased caliber allows the Grendel to launch bullets weighing from 90 up to 129 grains with exemplary results. According to several knowledgeable folks, it should have already replaced the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO rounds as the U.S. military's service cartridge.


Reloading the Grendel


As I said, my first experience with the 6.5 Grendel was in a rebarreled bolt-action rifle, but recently I used a Sun Devil SD15 AR-type rifle for a couple of handloading reports for the Hodgdon and Lyman reloading manuals, and because the Grendel was so accurate in my bolt gun, I purchased a 6.5 Grendel upper for my SD15 to see what handloads could do in it.

Handloading the cartridge for my new AR upper was pretty straightforward. I tried chambering a few cases I'd fired in my bolt rifle, but the headspace was a bit toomuch to ensure reliable functioning in the AR. So I selected 20 pieces of brass and, by trial and error, readjusted the sizer die until I achieved the proper chamber fit. Maintaining headspace is always important, but it's critical in an autoloading rifle. Unlike in a bolt action, chambering and extracting the cartridge/case is not augmented by muscle power. For reliable operation, the cartridge must readily "fit" the chamber and, when fired, must provide internal ballistics compatible with the rifle's self-loading operation.

In addition, managing the propellant gases for reliable operation is a primary consideration for an autoloader, and since it has been a few years since I handloaded for the 6.5 Grendel bolt gun, there are now several new propellants from which to choose. Hodgdon has CFE 223 and LeverEvolution. Alliant now offers AR-Comp and Power Pro 2000-MR. IMR-8208XBR also is a good choice. I'd previously used Accurate 2015, 2495, and 2520; Alliant Reloder 10-X and Reloder 15; and Hodgdon H335 and Varget. Some of my better Grendel recipes included Ramshot TAC and VihtaVuori N540.


As the load data chart below shows (click to enlarge), these propellants and several match bullets performed quite well in the Sun Devil rifle. The load consisting of theBerger 120-grain BT Target bullet over 27.5 grains of Accurate 2495 BR was the one that really changed my opinion of AR rifles. Five rounds grouping under 0.25 inch will get any casual shooter's attention.

I built additional loads with the same propellant charge and two different bullets, and groups still ran consistently from 0.75 inch to just under an inch. I couldn't measure pressures, but the primers and cases indicated cutting the charge a half-grain would be prudent.

I'll say it again. The performance of the 6.5 Grendel handloads in my Sun Devil SD15 has helped change my interest level in AR-15 rifles. I still enjoy handloading for and shooting my blued-steel/wood-stocked bolt actions, but now I know just how good these modern sporting rifles can be.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

Springfield Armory Saint Victor

The SAINT' Victor Rifle delivers a lightweight and agile rifle solution while maintaining effectiveness at extended engagement distances.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Is the SIG P320 9mm modular pistol the best polymer-frame high-capacity sidearm ever designed? Let's find out. Handguns

SIG P320 9mm Review

Joseph Von Benedikt - September 13, 2018

Is the SIG P320 9mm modular pistol the best polymer-frame high-capacity sidearm ever designed?...

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances. How-To

Accuracy: It's All Relative

Terry Wieland - May 09, 2019

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances.

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market. Rifles

Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

See More Trending Articles

More Reloading

The bottleneck 7.62x25 Tokarev is a fun cartridge, and handloading it increases the round's versatility. Reloading

Handloading the 7.62x25 Tokarev

Brad Miller, PhD - April 03, 2020

The bottleneck 7.62x25 Tokarev is a fun cartridge, and handloading it increases the round's...

Because case prep is the most time-consuming step in the handloading process, we say any tool that makes it easier is a bargain. Reloading

Case Prep Made Easy

Lane Pearce - May 29, 2020

Because case prep is the most time-consuming step in the handloading process, we say any tool...

With the help of two longtime reloading mentors and one R&D manager, Lane Pearce clears up the murky situation of Ackley Improved cartridge headspacing. Reloading

Ackley Improved Cartridge Headspace

Lane Pearce - April 23, 2020

With the help of two longtime reloading mentors and one R&D manager, Lane Pearce clears up the...

Special attention is required when handloading the .44-40 Winchester, especially when the loads will be fired in a rifle. Reloading

Reloading the .44-40 for Rifles

Lane Pearce - October 25, 2019

Special attention is required when handloading the .44-40 Winchester, especially when the...

See More Reloading

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now