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For those who’re pondering the 6.5 Grendel vs. 5.56 NATO query, you’re almost definitely making an attempt to determine which cartridge your new fashionable sporting rifle (MSR) ought to fireplace, as these are two of the preferred chamberings provided for the AR-15. The 5.56 NATO is usually thought-about top-of-the-line tactical/all-purpose cartridges for the platform, and the 6.5 Grendel is usually touted as top-of-the-line for looking or for capturing at distance. To get a full understanding of the variations between the 6.5 Grendel vs 5.56, let’s have a look at their historical past and dig into the small print.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56 NATO Fundamental Comparability

First, a fast overview. Whereas the 2 cartridge are the identical total size, the 6.5 Grendel shoots heavier bullets and has a shorter, fatter case, with a bigger rim diameter. As talked about, each are suitable with AR-15 rifles, however due to its bigger rim diameter, the Grendel requires a bolt with a bigger face and makes use of totally different magazines. The 5.56 shoots lighter bullets at usually increased pressures. Right here’s a fast rundown of the bodily variations.

The 6.5 Grendel Overview

The 6.5 Grendel has an attention-grabbing story. It was created by Invoice Alexander of Alexander Arms and launched in 2003. Nonetheless, Alexander Arms didn’t submit the cartridge to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Producers Institute (SAAMI). SAAMI units the ballistic and manufacturing requirements for firearms and ammunition corporations to observe, and these requirements are what permits ammunition—no matter when it was made or who made it—to work in your rifle. With out SAAMI requirements for the 6.5 Grendel, rifle and ammunition manufactures had been reluctant to supply rifles and ammo for it. Due to this, up till 2010, when the Grendel was lastly submitted to and authorized by SAAMI, it had a largely cult-like following. However its recognition skyrocketed after 2010, and it’s now generally seen in ARs and even bolt-action rifles.

Box of 6.5 Grendel ammo with three loose cartridges on white background
Although there are solely simply over a dozen manufacturing unit hundreds for the 6.5 Grendel, most are appropriate for looking Richard Mann

The 6.5 Grendel was created by altering the 220 Russian cartridge case, which is a spinoff of the well-known 7.62×39 Russian cartridge of AK-47 fame. The case was necked as much as settle for a 0.264-inch diameter bullet similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor, however at a a lot slower velocity. You’ll be able to covert an ordinary AR-15 in 5.56 NATO or 223 Remington to a 6.5 Grendel, however you’ll need a brand new barrel, a brand new bolt, and totally different magazines.

The 5.56×45 NATO Overview

The 5.56×45 NATO cartridge is a navy spinoff of the 223 Remington, which was standardized by NATO in 1979. The 5.56 and 223 share the identical exterior dimensions, and it’s utterly protected to fireplace 223 Remington ammunition in a rifle chambered for the 5.56 NATO. Nonetheless, it’s usually thought-about unsafe to shoot 5.56 NATO ammunition in a rifle chambered for the 223 Remington, primarily as a result of 5.56 NATO ammunition is loaded to increased pressures. Nonetheless, some 223 Remington rifles have the hybrid “Wylde” chamber, and with it, it’s protected to shoot 5.56 NATO ammo in a 223 Remington rifle. (I wrote a full article about this and different 5.56 NATO vs 223 Remington concerns right here.)

Box of 5.54 NATO ammo with three loose cartridges on white background
There are greater than two dozen manufacturing unit hundreds for the 5.56 NATO, and several other are appropriate for looking. Richard Mann

There’s a wide array of 223 Remington ammunition, and although it may be safely fired in a 5.56 NATO rifle, the chamber in an ordinary 5.56 NATO rifle has an extended lead, and this can lead to lower than stellar accuracy. Additionally, the collection of 5.56 NATO ammo isn’t as intensive as it’s for the 223 Remington, and most 5.56 NATO hundreds are configured for leisure or match goal capturing. That mentioned, choices are increasing and extra looking hundreds for the 5.56 NATO are being provided yearly. Simply final yr, Hornady launched a brand new load for the 5.56 NATO that makes use of their new CX (copper alloy increasing) looking bullet, for instance.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56: Ballistic Comparability

As you’ll be able to see within the chart beneath, the 5.56 NATO wins the velocity race whereas the 6.5 Grendel hits more durable, and each cartridges have related trajectories out to round 500 yards.

Chart comparing the ballistics of the 6.5 Grendel vs 5.56 NATO

As with most cartridge comparisons, nevertheless, these often-referenced ballistic numbers don’t inform the total story. So, let’s look a little bit deeper on the 6.5 Grendel vs 5.56 query to determine which one is definitely best for you.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56: Trajectory and Wind Drift

With most hundreds, you will notice a flatter trajectory with the 5.56 NATO, no less than out to 500 yards. Nonetheless, trajectory is just one consideration in terms of exterior ballistics, and it’s also the best to compensate for. Wind drift is what makes capturing at distance tough as a result of your means to right for it’s dependent in your means to estimate wind route and velocity. That is the place the 6.5 Grendel has a bonus. As a result of it fires bullets with the next ballistic coefficient (BC), at distance, you’ll be able to notice as a lot as 40 p.c much less wind drift with the 6.5 Grendel. This makes wind estimation much less important with the Grendel, which makes it a greater choice for long-range accuracy.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56: Vitality

Many take into account kinetic vitality an excellent indicator of a cartridge’s suitability for looking as a result of it speaks to the ability of the cartridge. To some extent that is true, however vitality alone—with out consideration of bullet design and efficiency on impression—doesn’t present sufficient data. Most 6.5 Grendel hundreds generate about 50 p.c extra kinetic vitality than the 5.56 NATO, and due to their increased BC, bullets fired from the Grendel additionally retain vitality higher. Nonetheless, impression velocities may be as a lot as 20 p.c slower with the Grendel, and this could rob a few of Grendel’s 50-percent vitality benefit when evaluating like bullets. That doesn’t imply the 5.56 is healthier; it simply implies that it’s good to take impression velocities and bullet design under consideration to ensure there might be sufficient bullet upset for fast kills at particular ranges.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56: Recoil

One factor muzzle vitality does correlate nicely with is recoil. You understand the previous saying, for each motion, there may be an equal and reverse response. As a result of the 6.5 Grendel generates about 50 p.c extra vitality on the muzzle, it’s going to recoil with about twice as onerous as a 5.56 NATO with rifles of the identical weight. Nonetheless, even with its hardest hitting hundreds, you’re nonetheless a recoil impulse of lower than 10 foot-pounds out of a 7 pound rifle. For many shooters, even these of smaller stature, this isn’t sufficient to matter.

Value to Shoot

The price of ammunition ought to at all times be a consideration when evaluating cartridges, as a result of the extra you’ll be able to afford to shoot a rifle, the extra you’ll be able to get pleasure from it. With leisure goal ammunition, you’ll be able to shoot a 5.56 NATO rifle about twice as a lot as you’ll be able to shoot a 6.5 Grendel for a similar amount of cash. With premium looking hundreds, 5.56 NATO ammunition costs will run between 15 and 30 p.c inexpensive than these for the Grendel. In relation to match high quality goal hundreds for each, the costs are extra comparable.

6.5 Grendel vs 5.56: Which Is Finest for You?

Box of 223 Remington ammo with five loose cartridges on white background
One benefit of a 5.56 NATO rifle is that it may possibly additionally fireplace 223 Remington ammunition. Richard Mann

For the leisure shooter, the 5.56 NATO has a bonus as a result of it’s extra economical to shoot and since it may possibly additionally use 223 Remington ammunition. As a personal-protection rifle for dwelling protection, the 5.56 NATO is greater than appropriate, and there are extra and higher ammunition choices in 5.56 NATO/223 Remington for that utility. For giant-game looking, the 6.5 Grendel might be authorized in a number of extra states, and for varmint or predator looking, each cartridges ought to serve you equally nicely. The Grendel’s actual benefit is at distance the place its higher-BC bullets make wind estimation much less important.

After all, similar to when evaluating most any two cartridges which are suitable with the extremely modular and adaptable MSR/AR-15 platform, you might have an entire higher receiver for each. This could can help you swap between the 5.56 and 6.5 Grendel rapidly and as your wants demand. Versatility like that’s the fantastic thing about the MSR, and one of many causes it’s so widespread.

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