When Alexander Arms began designing the 6.5 Grendel, their stated goal was to create a STANAG magazine-length round with an effective range of 200 to 800 yards. Did they achieve that goal and today, what should realistically expect as a distance for 6.5 Grendel effective range?

How Grendel Stacks Up

Looking down the scope of a rifle at a shooting range

6.5 Grendel’s long-range performance sits squarely in between the 5.56×45 and the 7.62×51, which would certainly be practical for combat. And as of March 2020, Zastava Arms was developing a 6.5 Grendel modular assault rifle for the Serbian armed forces.

Defining “Effective Range”

But what exactly is “effective range?” According to the US Department of Defense, it is “the maximum distance at which a weapon may be expected to be accurate and achieve the desired effect.”

As a cartridge designed for warfare, we can assume the 6.5 Grendel’s “desired effect” is disabling an enemy combatant. The US Army has determined that a bullet carrying as little as 60 ft lbs of energy is capable of inflicting a disabling injury.

6.5 Grendel Effective Range

Shooting 6.5 Grendel at the range from behind cover

In theory 6.5 Grendel ammunition is capable of delivering that much energy at ranges beyond 3,500 yards. Of course, determining the 6.5 Grendel’s effective range solely according to how much energy it can transfer would be to ignore the “expected to be accurate” criterion of the Army’s definition of effective range. (You would have to fire the cartridge in zero gravity to hit a 3,500 yard target!)

In fact, Alexander Arms designed the 6.5 Grendel for accuracy within 800 yards. However, a very skilled shooter firing a high-end rifle can group shots in a 1,000 yard target. So, under ideal conditions they could reliably place at least half of their shots in a human-sized target well beyond 1,000 yards. But is that something you should shoot for?

Let’s do our own math to get a better look at the 6.5 Grendel’s effective range. We’re interested in the distance at which the cartridge transfers 1,000 and 260 ft lbs of energy. We use 1,000 ft lbs because that is the generally accepted minimum energy for ethical whitetail hunting. We’ll rely on 260 ft lbs because that falls in the middle of the 220 to 300 ft lbs range advised for personal protection.

 Muzzle Velocity (fps)G1 Ballistic Coefficient1,000 ft lbs Range (yds)260 ft lbs Range (yds)
Federal 120gr SP26000.346280951
Federal 120gr OTM26100.4283501182
Hornady 123gr FMJ25800.4273481192
Hornady 123gr ELD Match25800.524241453
Hornady 123gr SST25800.524241453
Prvi Partizan 123gr SP26570.3543191018

Data Based Conclusions

  1. Self-Defense: The 6.5 Grendel consistently transfers at least 260 ft lbs of energy at all points throughout the range it is designed to be accurate over. In short, if you can hit a human-sized threat with a 6.5 Grendel, you can count on neutralizing it as well.
  2. Hunting: The range at which the 6.5 Grendel can humanely kill a whitetail depends heavily on its bullet. A simple soft point may fall short of 300 yards, whereas a match grade polymer tipped hunting bullet like the SST can deliver the recommended 1,000 ft lbs well beyond 400 yards. (We must add that with proper shot placement, a hunter can anchor a buck with considerably less than 1,000 ft lbs of energy. Plenty of old-timers have taken deer with the 22 LR, which has a muzzle energy less than 200 ft lbs.)

So, What’s the Range of 6.5 Grendel?

Wolf 6.5 Grendel ammo at a shooting range

What is the effective range of the 6.5 Grendel? We answered that question right at the start: up to 800 yards. Whether you can extend its effective range to 1,000+ yards depends entirely on your skill, rifle and ammunition. But for deer hunting, we advise you to keep your range within 300 to 400 yards. (For the deer’s sake as well as your own conscience.)