In the 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor battle royale, is there a cartridge that definitively comes out on top? It all depends on what you're looking for.
How Do The Grendel And Creedmoor Stack Up Against Each Other:
- The Creedmoor delivers greater muzzle velocity and downrange performance.
- It is capable of shooting heavier, thus higher BC bullets.
- The Grendel is more suited for work 800-yards in.
- It excels as a hard-hitting AR-15 option.
The 6.5 Creedmoor. Unless you’ve cloistered yourself in some off-grid bungalow for the past decade, you’ve likely heard of it. The latest and greatest wonder cartridge can do everything, from shoot a country mile to cook you breakfast in the morning, and fix a flat tire in a pinch. It seems the cartridge’s potential knows no bounds. Nearly a brass, copper and lead second coming, at least to hear the greater gun world go on about it.
Hyperbole aside, it is a solid cartridge, easily mastered and useful from range to field. However, there’s no mystery behind the Creedmoor’s success. Europeans have known the advantages of and used to great effect the 6.5mm caliber for more than a century. It just seems it took a spell before we Yanks caught up. And while the 6.5 Creedmoor presently dominates the choice in chamberings, it doesn’t stand as the lone option.
Presently, it and the 6.5 Grendel constitute the majority of six-and-a-halfer rifles. Which means there is a choice out there. But in the battle of 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor is there a clear winner?
That depends. The cartridges were created with much different goals in mind, in turn excel at different tasks. While there is performance crossover, they are not interchangeable. Thus, if your answer to the question 6.5 Grendel or 6.5 Creedmoor isn’t “One of each, please!” then you need to evaluate your objectives and figure out which will best achieve them.
A Much Too Brief History
Despite sharing the same bullet diameter (.264), the 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor were originally developed for much different purposes.
Bill Alexander (of Alexander Arms) and Janne Pohjoispää designed the 6.5 Grendel in 2003 as a high-performance intermediate to long-range round for the AR-15. The idea was an option that hit harder, was more accurate, with more downrange potential than the 5.56 NATO. At the same time, as mild a shooter as the AR standby and requiring minimal modification to the platform. They succeeded wildly.
Utilizing the legendary 7.62x39mm case (with a nod to its PPC progeny), Alexander and Pohjoispää created a cartridge that surpasses the 5.56 NATO ballistically in nearly every way. Perhaps the one edge the small bore maintains is in the capacity department. To enjoy the benefits of the Grendel, all an AR shooter need do is switch barrel, bolt (basically the upper) and magazines. No big shakes for the highly modifiable firearm.
Learn More About The 6.5 Grendel:
- Why Buy A 6.5 Grendel?
- 6 Top Performing 6.5 Grendel Ammo Choices
- 6 Top 6.5 Grendel Upper Options For Every Budget
- A Brief Overview Of 6.5 Grendel Ballistics
- 4 Excellent 6.5 Grendel Barrel Options For Your Next Build
On the other hand, the 6.5 Creedmoor’s birth in 2008 was in the competitive arena. Dave Emary, then senior ballistics scientist at Hornady, and Dennis DeMille, a two-time NRA High Power Rifle Champion, were going over the shortcoming of the then hot long-range round—the wildcat 6mm XC. The ballistic brain trust penciled back-of-the-envelope engineering of what would make the perfect competitive cartridge. These attributes included: exceptional ballistic coefficient (BC) bullets, higher velocity than other 6mm and 6.5 cartridges, low chamber pressure, low recoil, easy to reload and able to fit in an AR-10 and short-bolt action. Again, success beyond most folks wildest dreams.
The unsung hero in the 6.5 Creedmoor story is its parent case, the .30 TC (Thompson Center). A derivative of the .308 Winchester, it has a few key aspects that made it perfect for the 6.5 project. Chiefly, it’s slightly shorter, has minimal body taper and a 30-degree shoulder angle. This added up to a cartridge that didn’t compromise on capacity—maintaining velocity—yet had wiggle room to work in the cramped confines of an AR-10.
Ballistics: 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor
Plenty of shooters push the 6.5 Grendel past the 1,000-yard mark, even get into the cartridge to do so. But this isn’t exactly the range where it excels. Roughly, the 6.5 Grendel is best 800-yards in, a function of its smaller case capacity and lighter bullet selection as compared to the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Depending on the manufacturer of the bass, most Grendel cases hold around 35 grains of water. Compare that to the Creedmoor, which holds around 52 grains. More capacity means greater velocity and more downrange performance. While the Grendel will stay supersonic out to around 1,100 yards, the Creedmoor can accomplish the feat past 1,300 yards.
Nosler provides us with an excellent opportunity to form a performance picture with its Trophy Grade line, offering both 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor loaded with the same 129-grain Long-Range bullet (BC: .530). In the case of the 6.5 Grendel, the listed muzzle velocity is 2,350 fps and the Creedmoor 2,850 fps, for a difference of 500 fps. This extra velocity does a number downrange.
Whereas the Grendel requires 502 inches (14 mils) of elevation adjustment at 1,000 yards, the Creedmoor only needs 321 inches (9 mils). Wind drift is equally as dramatic. In a 10 mph crosswind, the Grendel will wonder 108 inches (3 mils) off point of aim, the Creedmoor 83 inches (2 mils).
As you can well imagine, closer in the Grendel’s performance is below par compared to the Creedmoor. At 500 yards, the trajectory and drift don’t spit majorly, about a 28-inch difference for the former and 6 inches for the latter. But the Creedmoor’s extra oomph delivers a deer-scapula splitting 1,181 ft-lbs of energy at that distance, 424 ft-lbs more than the Grendel.
It’s All About The Rifle
So there it is, our little ballistic comparison proves there’s no reason to pick up a 6.5 Grendel while the 6.5 Creedmoor roams the earth. Not so fast.
While velocity, energy and ballistic coefficient are important factors to consider when evaluating a cartridge, they’re not the end-all, be-all. There is also a little matter of the gun that shoots it. And if you’re like most Americans, you’ve likely got a love affair with the AR-15. If so, then the Grendel has you covered.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is predominantly found in bolt-action rifles, though there are plenty of AR-10 options on the market. And the AR-10 certainly isn’t the AR-15, despite sharing the same operating system. In most examples, the AR-10 is heavier and longer barreled than the AR-15, plus highly proprietary, which makes upgrades and conversions a bit more of a hassle. If you’re humping stand to stand calling coyotes or shimming up to a tree stand for whitetail, you appreciate the more svelte AR-15.
Though, you must do your homework and truly consider what you want out of the 6.5 Grendel AR-15 before jumping that direction. As is the case with most cartridges, the 6.5 Grendel performs better out of a longer barrel. Bill Alexander himself suggests a 20- or 24-inch option for hunting, as going shorter will surrender velocity. That said, if mobility is key in a system that delivers fast follow-up shots, a 16- to 18-inch 6.5 Grendel AR-15 will get the job done. Just don’t expect the build to ring steel at 1,000 yards like it was going out of style.
Some of the similar constraints hold true for the 6.5 Creedmoor. While there are certainly 18-inch barrel models on the market, they’re not exactly long-range wunderkinds. There you’re looking at a 22-inch barrel and up to get the maximum performance, which as in the case of the Grendel, adds up to a substantial rifle—maybe one you wouldn’t want to drag through the bramble.
Recoil-wise, the Creedmoor is certainly a mild-mannered shooter, but it’s nothing compared to the Grendel. Chances are in a blind shooting test you’d have difficulty telling the difference between the Grendel and the 5.56 NATO. You definitely could between the latter and the Creedmoor. In turn, if you need a rifle where shot-to-shot accuracy is at a premium, something where your cheek weld won’t break after each trigger pull, the Grendel will deliver. A major advantage when a sounder it tearing up that deer plot you worked on all summer. Or if you’re looking for a hard-hitting tactical option.
On the flip side, if you’re more of a bolt-action aficionado and your sights are set at the horizon, the 6.5 Creedmoor is on target. Yes, there are Grendel bolts and the cartridge performs well out of the style of rifle. But its selection pales to the Creedmoor. Particularly when it comes to specific setups. Burning through the gun world like a prairie fire has meant the Creedmoor comes in nearly every conceivable bolt configuration—from lightweight backwoods rifle to boat-anchor precision chassis systems. As far as Creedmoor AR-10 options, they’re fast and accurate. But, overall, nowhere near as mild and convenient as a Grendel AR-15.
Brief Word On Ammo
Presently, it seems 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor ammunition options are heading in opposite directions. While not a scientific survey of the market, it appears there are few factory choices in Grendel and more in Creedmoor.
For Grendel fans, the good news is the cartridge has gotten a shot in the arm with some Eastern European countries adopting it for military roles. Thus, there are some of those extremely affordable Russian and Serbian factory loads available. These actually nearly put it on par with shooting 5.56 NATO when it comes to ammo affordability.
The flip side, 6.5 Creedmoor is somewhat expensive to shoot, at least for those who chew through hundreds to thousands of rounds a month. Those of us who consider sofa change a revenue stream should keep this in mind when picking a 6.5 option.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor is presently in the stratosphere with no sign of descending, this doesn’t mean it’s supplanted the 6.5 Grendel. Both have a place in the modern shooting world and a dedicated 6.5 fan would do well to have one of each in the gun safe.
If that’s not in the cards (and the bank account), then a hard look at your objectives and the assets required to accomplish them efficiently and effectively will lead you down the right path. Properly applied, 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor both come out as winners.