Presently, there are only two 6.5mm-caliber cartridges that have gained ground on long-range target shooters and hunters in the United States--the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor.
While some Eastern European countries adopted the 6.5 Grendel for military roles, American special operations forces, on the other hand, acquired an “assault” machine gun and sniper rifles in the 6.5 Creedmoor.
TL; DR: 6.5 Grendel vs 6.5 Creedmoor
While can be loaded with the same bullets, 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor are definitely not interchangeable. And as common sense dictates, each cartridge has its own pros and cons.
For instance, Grendel is intended to be used as a hard-hitting tactical option more suited to work on 600-yards, whereas the 6.5 CM can accomplish the feat past 1,300 yards. Below is a table for further comparison.
Shorter overall length
A flatter trajectory
Smooth and light recoil
More wind drift resistance
It can be used in lighter AR-15 platforms
Pushes heavier bullets faster
More effective at short distance shooting
Slightly larger case capacity for powder
Bullets stay supersonic out around 1,100 yards
Use bullets with higher Ballistic Coefficients
Less resistance to wind drift
It generates more recoil
Limited choice of expanding bullets
For optimal performance need longer barreled and more cumbersome weapons
Military operators range competitors up to 800 yards and ordinary hunters
Designed for serious competitive shooters, military snipers, and avid long-range hunters
When Did the 6.5 Grendel Come Around?
Although .223 Remington/5.56x45 NATO has been known and used for more than six decades, many shooters and hunters particularly had doubts regarding the stopping power of the diminutive round.
Using the same weapon as 5.56 NATO ammo, the Grendel 6.5 is better for longer practical ranges giving big game hunters and tactical shooters pinpoint precision with the AR-15 rifles.
When chambered in the smaller short-action platform, the Grendel can produce tighter groups at longer ranges than its predecessor, the 5.56 NATO.
The growing popularity of Modern Sporting Rifles based on AR- and AK-pattern drove the development of the 6.5 Grendel in 2003.
Ammunition designer Bill Alexander and ballistician engineer from Finnish Lapua developed the 6.5 Grendel as a high-performance intermediate round for the AR-15.
They created the 6.5 Grendel by modifying a 6.5mm PPC case, which is in turn parented by the .220 Russian and the 7.62x39mm cartridges. While the 6.5 Grendel offers more downrange potential over the 5.56 NATO, with metric dimensions of 6.5x39mm, it is obvious this cartridge is considerably shorter than the 7.62x51 NATO (the same as .308 Winchester).
The goal for constructing this super-short action cartridge was similar in size to .223 Remington/5.56mm enabling it to be fired from an AR-15 platform while surpassing the 5.56 NATO ballistically in nearly every way.
What Did the 6.5 Creedmoor Come Around?
While the six-and-a-half cartridges were below the radar in the United States for a long time, these days, the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor are by far the most widely adopted rounds of 6.5mm bullets diameter.
No other 6.5mm (.264") cartridge has made even a tiny blip on the North American market as a Hornady's 6.5 Creedmoor when it hit the shooting arena in 2008.
Originally designed from the ground up for competition and also known as a 6.5x49 Creedmoor or 6.5 CM (named in honor of the Creedmoor Matches), this round is loaded with extremely long, heavy-for-caliber bullets like 120 to 147 grains.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is based on a .30 Thompson Center (.30 TC) case that was necked down to 6.5mm to accommodate high ballistic coefficient (BC) .264″ bullets.
The basic concept for 6.5 Creedmoor development was creating a cartridge that will improve upon the .308 Winchester in certain aspects.
Similar by overall dimensions to the 7.62mm NATO, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a standard short action length round that operates at standard .308 Winchester pressures of 62,000 psi.
As a derivative of the .308 Winchester, the 6.5 Creedmoor is predominantly found in bolt-action rifles and AR-10 style platforms.
Relevant Characteristics Between 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor
Making comparisons between the 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor is like comparing the .223 Remington and the .308 Winchester since the former two are created to improve characteristics of legendary two-two-three and 30 ought 8.
Besides the fact that they both use .264″ bullets with a sleek aerodynamic profile, the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 Grendel cartridges are physically different, with a pretty big difference in their ballistics.
90 to 129 grains
95 to 147 grains
Muzzle Velocity for 129 grain
Velocity (per 200 yards)
Energy (per 200 yards)
Trajectory at 500 yards (200-yd zero)
A 10-mph wind drift at 500 yards
Maximum average pressure
A rim diameter
Similarities and Differences
If you are hesitant in choosing a 6.5 Grendel or 6.5 Creedmoor, you are obviously misguided, as these cartridges were developed with many different goals in mind.
Technically a 6.5 mm bullet would measure out to .256 in diameter, but the 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 Grendel shoot the same .264″ bullets, and that is basically where their resemblance ends.
6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor Differences
Despite sharing the same bullet diameter of .264, the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridges are different in virtually every way.
With a goal to offer better performance than the .223 Remington, the Grendel is designed for small frame AR-15 rifles.
Aiming to develop the superior ballistic over the .308 Winchester, the Hornady originally designed the Creedmoor for large frame AR10/308AR modern sporting rifles.
Because of cemented "Cartridge Overall Length", that will fit in an AR-15, the maximum size of Grendel's cartridge is limited to 2.26″.
At 2.825″ long, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a much longer cartridge designed to fit a standard .308 magazine length, like the AR-10.
As AR-15 platforms can only accommodate rounds up to 2.26″ in length, the 6.5 Grendel can be loaded only with lighter bullets in the range of 90 to 130 grains, with 120 and 123-grain bullets most common.
The 6.5 Creedmoor, on the other side, is specifically developed to utilize the more elongated and heavier .264 caliber bullets available.
It means the 6.5 Creedmoor can shoot really long and aerodynamic bullets ranging from 90 grains to 147 grains.
Due to the larger case capacity, the 6.5 CM delivers greater muzzle velocity and generates more energy at all practical distances.
The 6.5 Creedmoor shoots heavier bullets faster than the Grendel with significantly less bullet drop at longer ranges.
The 6.5 Creedmoor has a flatter trajectory, projectiles of higher Ballistic Coefficients, and better wind resistance at the cost of greater recoil. Actually, the Grendel generates about 30-40% less free recoil energy than the 6.5 CM loads.
As a big-game cartridge, the accurate and potent 6.5 Creedmoor is making its way into the world of hunting.
Utilizing a plentiful selection of expanding hunting loads, the 6.5 Creedmoor is the perfect cartridge for hunting thin-skinned, small to medium game at short to moderate range. Still, it is not suitable for shooting the largest non-dangerous game.
With 1,086 ft. lbs. of energy at 300 yards, the Grendel has developed a reputation for excellent deer-sized game performance.
This "lovely little caliber", as some deer hunters called it, can produce relatively wide wounds out to ranges of around 350 yards because it retains at least 1,000 fps at 300 yards that is twice as much as the sheer majority of deer hunters fire these days.
However, this bullet cannot take a larger-sized game on in a humane manner, but neither can the 6.5 CM with heavier projectiles.
6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor Similarities
There are much fewer similar features between these two calibers than differences.
The main similarity shared by 6.5 Grendel and 6.5 Creedmoor is the same, .264 (6.5mm) bullet diameter.
As for the accuracy, at 100 yards, both cartridges can print nice little 1/2- to 3/4-inch groups all day long, making them a quality option for long-distance shooting matches.
Though shooting inside 300 yards or at realistic hunting ranges nearly put 6.5 CM on par with shooting 6.5 Grendel, the 6.5 Creedmoor has a longer practical effective range.
Both cartridges see great success when fired in 22 to 27-inch barrels with 1:8 to 1:8.5” twist rates.
What About the 6.5 PRC?
If a 6.5 Creedmoor was Hornady’s baby, then a 6.5 PRC is a Hornady’s muscular stepson.
Along with a 6.5 Grendel, .260 Remington, 6.5-284 Norma, and the .264 Winchester Magnum, the 6.5 PRC completed the offer of "Six-five" long-range wunderkinds.
As an incarnation of the 6.5mm cartridge, the new 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge (6.5 PRC) is basically a magnum version of the 6.5 Creedmoor.
It came on the scene in 2018 as a result of the collaboration of George Gardner and Hornady. The 6.5 PRC was designed as an upgrade of the 6.5 Creedmoor, offering a 200-250-fps velocity boost over 6.5 CM.
While the 6.5 Creedmoor is 2.825″ long to fit rifles using .308 Winchester length magazines, the 6.5 PRC is slightly longer with an overall length of 2.955″, making it an ideal round for the long-action bolt rifles.
Although both cartridges share the same .264” bullet diameter and use long, heavy, high BC bullets, the 6.5 PRC factory loads are most commonly available with either 143gr or 147gr bullets.
Due to the larger .532″ rim diameter (the case head diameter of the magnum H&H cases), the 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge has considerably more case capacity than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
It also has a higher maximum pressure of 65,000psi compared to 62,000psi for the 6.5 Creedmoor. Combining larger case capacity with moderate sub-3,000 fps velocity and a bit of ballistic alchemy, the 6.5 PRC loads boast a flatter trajectory, more retained energy, and less wind drift than the 6.5 Creedmoor.
At the price of slightly larger recoil than the 6.5 Creedmoor, the new 6.5 Precision Rife Cartridge will make a good choice as an all-around cartridge for doing double duty.
As we mentioned above, the Europeans first embraced the 6.5 calibers as early as in the dawn of smokeless powder. For the Americans, it takes much longer to really catch on and discover the advantages of the 6.5mm bore.
Both cartridges fit many short-action rifles/magazines and offer terminal performance superior to 5.56 and 6mm cartridges.
While some 6.5 cartridges faded a bit, both Grendel and 6.5 CM have grown in popularity among the outdoorsmen and top Precision Rifle Series (PRS) shooters.
The 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5 Grendel are solid cartridges, easily mastered and useful from range to field, with the potential to remain the best centerfire cartridges for the next hundred years.