Bill Alexander (Alexander Arms - Radford, VA), working with Arne Brennan (CompetitionShootingSports.com - Houston, TX -- see his comments below); developed the 6.5mm Grendel cartridge with a claimed effective range of 1000-1200 yds* using a 123gr bullet. It can be fired in a standard-sized AR action rifle, and stagger-loaded in a standard-sized AR magazine [I'm still looking for how many rounds a mag can hold.]
Where's the advantage?
The main advantage the 6.5 Grendel has over the highly hoopla'd Remington 6.8 SPC, I'd guess, is the fact that it's shorter case leaves room for longer, more streamlined bullets which have much higher BCs. While the 6.8 SPC case probably holds more powder [according to a comment by Arne Brennan, it does not], the lower BC of its bullet causes it to lose momentum more rapidly. Another advantage is the 26in. barrel. Some gun magazine needs to do a head-to-head range comparison, using M4-length barrels (since that's what the troops prefer and the Marines and Army seem to be headed in the direction of short barrels). In a barrel that length, some of the powder of both rounds will be wasted burning outside the barrel, displaying the firer's position to the enemy (except to the extent it can be hiden with a flash suppressor), and not helping the bullet move downrange rapidly.
Here's the 6.5mm Grendel next to the standard .223 round, and in hand:
The new short magnum rounds are inherently more likely to develop stove pipe jams in semi-auto feed. To me, this round looks like it might be more likely than the current .223 or the new Remington 6.8mm SPC to have such problems. The developer says it does not. I'd like to see independent tests.
By using a stubby case; the 6.5mm Grendel can use long bullets with much higher BCs than the traditional 5.56mm round and the highly hyped new Remington 6.8mm SPC, resulting in (claimed) superior ballistics, despite the smaller case capacity. Bill Alexander, the developer, says:
"The 123-grain Lapua Scenar with a ballistic coefficient of .547 launched at modest 2600 fps muzzle velocity delivers outstanding long range performance out to 1200 yards. Accuracy levels were impressive with test rifles forming single digit groups at 1,000 yards and at 600 yards, tennis ball sized targets are easy prey with a scope adjustment of only 14 MOA with a 200-yard zero.
In ballistic gelatin tests, the Lapua 108-grain Scenar launched at a muzzle velocity of 2750 fps penetrated 22" of gelatin with a .43" diameter and 64% weight retention at a distance of 300 yards. As a more casual test, the Lapua 108-grain bullet consistently sliced through 4" pine posts at 900 yards.
Lapua produces 6.5mm Scenar 100 match bullets and 6.5mm Grendel brass
In the interest of game hunting, the 120-grain Nosler Ballistic tip at a 2600 fps muzzle velocity was tested in ballistic gelatin. This bullet penetrated 18" and expanded to .51" diameter with 75% weight retention at a distance of 300 yards."
Few things in firearms are actually invented starting with a white sheet of paper anymore, and that's certainly the case with the 6.5mm Grendel. It's basically a necked up 6mm PPC, a very accurate round popular with benchrest competitors, which was developed by Dr. Louis Palmisano and Ferris Pindell (the PPC guys) and based on the 220 Russian case, which is a variation of the 7.62 x 39mm (M43) Soviet military cartridge. Rifles were first chambered for the 6mm PPC back in 1975.
Alexander Arms contracted with Lapua of Finland to produce the brass (which costs $38/100). Lapua engineers lengthened the shoulder and shortened the neck to finalize the specs. Cartridgesare reasonable at $20/20:
Here are the 6.5 Grendel (left) and the 6 PPC (right) cases, side-by-side:
photo from top link
Here are Bill Alexander's own words on how he came to the design specs of the 6.5mm Grendel:
"The 6.5 Grendel is an evolution of the 6.5mm PPC optimized to seat 107- to 130-grain match bullets at an overall loaded cartridge length of 2.255 inches. Case length was kept to 39mm or 1.505 inches as in the original PPC. Studies found that using a slightly longer case would lead to seating bullets deep in the case and would at the very minimum limit the bullets usable to only a few offerings. The case body is perfect in length to stabilize the cartridge in the magazine and prevent tipping without having to resort to special and normally jam-prone followers. In addition, the case diameter is the maximum dimensions that allow a double column feed."
You'll find much more information at the site linked above, including this interesting and informative article on the historical worldwide search for the optimum service cartridge, written by Anthony G. Williams.
A number of 6.5mm cartridges have been wildcatted and manufactured over the years, and used by various armies as well as for competition shooting and hunting. Most have cases far too long for an AR action.
The Alexander Arms site only says the "26 Grendel" (its name for the rifle which fires the 6.5mm Grendel) is "under development," which leads one to wonder why rifle introduced last May is not yet ready to be purchased. [I'll have to research that and edit this post when I find out.]
If benchrest competition is your game, for $1295 you can buy a "National Match" rifle (in black, blue, or red), built by Medesha Firearms Ltd of Mesa, AZ.
The military group which worked with Remington to develop the 6.8mm SPC reportedly looked at bullets from 6mm to 7mm, and found the 6.8mm optimum, for reasons not yet fully disclosed. They may not have looked at a short, fat round with longer bullets having higher BCs.
My friends all have Remington 6.8 SPCs. I must make amends.
If you're looking for a more potent and accurate AR (and don't have to worry about lugging lots ammo around and emptying a mag under fire), you might consider the "26 Grendel" rifle firing the 6.5mm Grendel cartridge (assuming it becomes available for sale soon). You should be able to shoot further and more accurately than your friends with rifles firing the 6.8mm SPC, if what we know about the ballistics of the two new rounds is anything close to correct.
Why the name "Grendel," you ask? Grendel is the name of a mythical beast, a vicious monster, from the epic poem Beowulf. Bill Alexander has apparently adopted that theme. His potent short range, big lead lobber, the .50 Beowulf, was recently covered in another ACE post. Get it to impress your friends if you'll be firing on ranges of 300 yds or less. It packs the biggest case you can cram into an AR mag, and lobs up to 385gr bullets at up to 2200fps. It also has a very authoritative sound.
Alexander Arms has not yet provided ballistics data, but Arne Brennan (the competition shooter from Houston, TX who had already developed a 6.5mm PPC wildcat when he found out Bill Alexander was working on a similar cartridge) has developed a chart which compares the ballistics of the 6.5mm Grendal to the .556 and the 7.62. Bill Alexander says the bullet does not go subsonic until 1400 yds.
UPDATE: Read the 25 MAR 04 comments of Arne Brennan (who was developing a similar 6.5mm wildcat when he found Bill Alexander was developing the 6.5mm Grendal - see first paragraph) for further information and clarification. Thanks to Arne for stopping by and providing that.
*1000-1200 yds seems a bit optimistic for effective range, given the velocity and weight of the round, but that is the developer's claim. It depends on your definition of "effective range" (See the continuation). By virtue of the high BC bullets, the Grendel is still supersonic out to 1000-1200 yds. But, for military purposes, with the exception of sniping, enemy combatants are rarely engaged at anything close to 1000 yds, so there's no sense quibbling over it.
Standard ACE disclaimer: I make no claims to be a firearm expert, but I do have a sizable armory and considerable experience; and I do thorough internet research and provide links, which can save you same time. Corrections/additions via comments are appreciated. Pls. include links. You are, of course, free to ignore my opinions, which are in italics, disagree with them, or add your own.
Here's what Arne (aka "TX65") said about effective range on a forum:
"In long range target shooting, the maximum effective range is generally considered the maximum distance where the bullet is still supersonic before dropping to a subsonic speed which is what the range numbers you discovered refer to. In the hunting world, the maximum effective range is considered the point when velocity has reduced to 2,000 fps to facilitate a quick ethical kill and proper expansion of a hunting bullet. The military maximum effective range calculation has to do with the retained terminal energy reaching a specificed threshold. I seem to remember that this threshold was in the area of 500-550 ft lbs."
On the www.longrangehunting.com forum on 04APR04, he said:
The 6.5 Grendel is best described as an improved version of the 6.5 PPC. The 6.5 PPC was created by Dr. Lou Palmisano (Dr. PPC) in the early 1980's as an expansion of the cartridge family created by Palmisano and Ferris Pindell in the mid-1970's. In 1998, I began working with the cartridge and succesfully built an AR15 in 6.5 PPC. Alexander Arms and I began working together in 2002 and the result of the effort is the 6.5 Grendel.
My original 6.5 PPC endeavor used off the shelf .223 and 7.62x39 parts and this required individual tuning of magazines for proper functioning. As the project progressed, key components such as barrel extensions, bolts and magazines were engineered to take the cartridge from a one off custom machine to a reliable production offering for anyone. The 6.5 Grendel is complete solution and rifles, uppers, magazines, ammo, brass and reloading dies exist and are available for order right now. Bullet choices include a wide range of offerings from 90-130s grain from Speer, Sierra, Hornady, Swift, Barnes, Nosler, Lapua and Norma.
While, the 6.5 Grendel does not bear the PPC name, Dr. Lou Palmisano and Ferris Pindell both have come out and given their full support to the project. In fact. Dr. Palmisano was at the SHOT show in Feb 04 to visably show his support for the 6.5 Grendel.