6.5 Grendel vs. 6.8 SPC Head to Head: Which is Better?

6.5 Grendel vs. 6.8 SPC Head to Head: Which is Better?
June 20, 2022 Edited March 28, 2023 9567 view(s)
6.5 Grendel vs. 6.8 SPC Head to Head: Which is Better?

6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel have been rivals since they hit the market. With so much in common, it’s no wonder that you may not be sure what is right for you.

From the history of the cartridge to the ballistics, we’ve got all the information that you need!

 

A Bit Of History

Ever since the .223/5.56 NATO cartridges were invented, people have been trying to replace them. Don’t get me wrong, 5.56 NATO is a great cartridge and it covers a lot of ground. There are a lot of bad guys in the world who aren’t with us anymore proving the effectiveness of that little round.

But even on its best days, 5.56 NATO is a bit lacking when it comes to raw energy.

There have been a dozen or more attempts to solve this with a new cartridge, but few have come close to succeeding. Two that came pretty close are 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC.

 

6.5 Grendel

I always enjoy talking about this cartridge because it lets me say that it was invented by Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms and it was named after the monster that attacks Beowulf’s mead hall in the poem Beowulf.

While the cartridge is awesome, the story gets a little… weird after that.

Normally, when a new cartridge is invented (and you actually want anyone to use it) you submit the specs to SAAMI (the industry organization that standardized ammo and chamber specs) for approval and standardization. Part of that process requires that you release any copyrights and trademarks to the ammo and chamber design.

Bill Alexander didn’t do that (at the time) and chose to keep his copyright on the 6.5 Grendel.

To get around this, Les Baer slightly modified the barrel and bolts they sold so that they were not the exact same as the Grendel specs.

And then for reasons that I honestly don’t understand, the Les Baer version started to be called “Type 1” while the Alexander Arms version was called “Type 2”.

This has led people to think that maybe Type 1 is the OG… it isn’t.

Eventually, Alexander Arms got their head on straight and submitted 6.5 Grendel to SAAMI for approval and in doing so released their trademarks/copyrights.

This is awesome for us shooters since the Type 2 Grendel is the better, stronger, version.

While there are still Type 1 bolts and barrels floating around out there, it’s really uncommon to come across one.

Bear Creek Arsenal exclusively uses the Type 2 6.5 Grendel barrels and bolts.

6.5 Grendel Ammo on Workbench

 

6.8 SPC

With an objectively less cool name, 6.8 Remington Special Purpose Cartridge has a decently cool backstory.

Designed by Remington with the help of the Army Marksmanship Unit and Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the 6.8 SPC was commissioned because of special operation units requested a cartridge that hit harder out of their M4 rifles than the standard 5.56 NATO was able to do.

Basically, high-speed tactical guys in units like Army Delta Force and the Navy SEALs needed something to give their M4s a bit of a boost in lethality.

Keep in mind that 5.56 NATO was really designed for 20” barrels. While the M4 uses a 14.5” barrel and barrels even shorter than that are not uncommon within SOCOM.

While cartridges like 300 Blackout and 7.62x39 work wonderfully from a short barrel, 5.56 NATO loses a lot of velocity and energy from such short lengths.

6.8 SPC was one answer to this problem.

Sadly, the development was rushed and there were pressure issues during military testing that basically killed the project.

While there aren’t official results, there have been anecdotal reports from guys that used 6.8 SPC uppers in the field during the GWOT that liked the cartridge.

While it might have failed to be adopted by the US Army, LWRCI continued development on the cartridge and on a special AR-15 to shoot it resulting in their Six8 line of rifles.

The Six8 was adopted by the Royal Guards of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Sweden’s SOG (roughly equivalent to American Navy SEALs), the UK’s special forces, and by our own Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

6.8 SPC Ammo on Workbench

 

Pratical Applications

Because of how extremely similar these two cartridges are, we’re going to talk about both at the same time since they cover the same ground.

 

Hunting

Both 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel are wonderful AR-15 hunting cartridges. They deliver 30-40% more energy than 5.56 NATO does in similar barrel lengths and can take deer-sized game out to 250-300 yards with ease.

Both cartridges also have widely available ammo designed for hunting and taking down game.

 

Long Range Shooting

While 6.8 SPC was primarily designed to improve the lethality of the M4 at close range, it performs very well out of a longer barrel and with more velocity.

6.5 Grendel is another awesome distance plinker that stays supersonic out to 1,000 yards with a 24”ish barrel.

Both are accurate, do well in the wind, and offer little recoil to help you stay on target and track your shots.

6.5 Grendel has better ammo options and generally a higher ballistic coefficient.

 

Home Defense

While both of these cartridges can be used inside the home, I really would not recommend it unless you have zero concern for overpenetration.

For most of us, with our pets, family, and even neighbors nearby both 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC have too much potential for overpenetration for them to be good options in the home.

Both cartridges pack a punch at the muzzle even from short barrels, but both will sail through drywall.

If you live in a home that doesn’t have these concerns, both cartridges offer a major boost in energy on target without a major increase in recoil or handling.

 

Ballistics

Bottom line: 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel perform almost identically given comparable barrel lengths and bullet design and bullet weight.

6.8 SPC vs 6.5 Grendel ballistics chart

6.5 Grendel shooting Hornady 123gr SST from a 16” barrel flies at around 2,450 FPS.

6.8 SPC shooting Hornady 120gr SST from a 16” barrel flies at around 2,460 FPS.

At 16” these cartridges are neck and neck with each other. However, once you get shorter or longer things change slightly.

For a short barrel, let’s say 12”, 6.8 SPC starts to gain an advantage and sends that 120gr SST at around 2,380 FPS. 6.5 Grendel sends the 123gr SST from a 12” barrel at something around 2,250 FPS.

But on the other end, 6.5 Grendel tends to gain more velocity from longer barrels. Again, the 123gr SST out of a 24” barrel moves at around 2,580 FPS. 6.8 SPC sends a 120gr SST from a 24” barrel at just 2,520 FPS.

While 6.8 SPC performs “better” with short barrels and 6.5 Grendel performs “better” from long barrels, these differences are barely noticeable.

The biggest difference is when using a short barrel, if you want the most punch at closer ranges 6.8 SPC is a better choice. But honestly, I very much doubt that anything you shoot will go down to ~1500 ft.lbf when it wouldn’t go down to ~1,400 ft.lbf.

 

Ammunition Choices

The real world biggest difference between these cartridges is basically that the market has decided that 6.5 Grendel is more popular.

For whatever reason, 6.8 SPC just never really caught on. And while it took 6.5 Grendel a minute, it has really taken off.

Maybe it’s because there is already a boatload of super popular 6.5mm cartridges and projectiles on the market, or maybe it’s because Grendel is a way cooler name than Special Purpose Cartridge.

Either way, the bottom line is that 6.5 Grendel has a LOT more variety in ammo choices.

From super cheap steel-cased plinking rounds to high-end match-grade long range precision rounds and every flavor of hunting bullet ever made, 6.5 Grendel has it.

You can even find it in stock at most local brick-and-mortar stores.

6.8 SPC has a fairly impressive selection of hunting rounds that are pretty easy to find in stock, but that’s about it. The low-end cheap ammo doesn’t exist for 6.8 SPC and the high-end match-grade ammo is really hard to find.

Prices between the two cartridges are fairly even if you’re looking at similar ammo, but 6.8 SPC tends to be slightly more expensive in general.

 

Build Or Buy

If you’re looking to build an AR-15 for either cartridge, you’re in luck because it’s super easy.

Both 6.5 Grendel and 6.8 SPC only require a new barrel, new bolt, and new magazines. They are not interchangeable with each other, but they are used for some other cartridges thus making them a bit more popular and easier to find.

Cartridges like 6mm ARC use the same bolt as 6.5 Grendel while .224 Valkyrie uses the same bolt as 6.8 SPC. So if you already have one or the other, you’re halfway home to making a new upper!

Make sure the barrel is made for the cartridge you want, the barrel and chambers are not interchangeable with any other cartridge.

If you’re looking to just buy a new upper… then do it! As with most things, AR-15, a new complete upper, and some new magazines and you’re god to go.

6.5 Grendel Benchrest Shooting

 

What Is Best For You

Maybe I’m a bit biased, but unless you’re just really interested in 6.8 SPC for some reason -- 6.5 Grendel wins in my mind.

6.8 SPC isn’t bad and it has some very respectable strengths, but for whatever reasons it simply hasn’t caught on like 6.5 Grendel has.

Both cartridges offer very comparable ballistics, both are wonderful platforms for reloading to really maximize what they can do, both have decent magazine and parts support.

But 6.5 Grendel has a lot more reloading and a lot more factory ammo options. Since 6.5 Grendel does 99% of what 6.8 SPC does, but has an order of magnitude more options to meet your needs, Grendel is just a better overall option.

 

Wrapping Up

Both of these cartridges are pretty awesome and both will serve you well. The biggest difference is simply that 6.5 Grendel is more popular and has more support. If you want to buck the trends, get a 6.8 SPC and have at it.

For ease of components, ammo, and rifles 6.5 Grendel wins hands down. Grendel also has a cooler name, so let’s face it -- that’s really what matters most.

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Kevin
June 22, 2022
I see you've already edited your article to tone down the Grendel worshipping. Where do you find "lots more" factory grendel than 6.8? The on line retailers I shop have about the same options for both and Grendel is slightly more expensive. I wouldn't count the recently banned cheap Russian ammo as a plus for the Grendel any more. Both cartridges are similar and the only plus I see for the Grendel is that Bear Creek stopped making 6.8 uppers.
Albert Urban
June 22, 2022
Does BCA plan on making 6MM ARC barrels and complete uppers? There's currently a company that makes them at a price range that is equal to what BCA has put out, but they have a 60 day warranty. BCA puts them to shame with its lifetime warranty and pricing.
Clifford Schaefer
June 23, 2022
Does BCA plan on making any more 6.5 Grendel Pistols? If so, I'd like to see a "light weight " 6.5 Grendel pistol with a 10.5 inch m-4 fluted profile, rear charger with dust cover would be a nice option. I'm a 100% disabled vet who likes to deer hunt. A light weight 6.5 Grendel pistol that can withstand the hunting conditions / elements would be a great option.
Brian
June 23, 2022
I don't think the type 2 bolt for the Grendel is stronger. It was designed to have a longer extractor to grab the rim better. You have 1 die hard Grendel fan that is on every forum twisting the truth about things and so it's spread as gospel. He also makes money off Grendel stuff. Also factory ammo isn't that great for either. The steel case is gone for the Grendel and the spec 1 chamber on the 6.8 killed factory ammo for it. 6.8 has a lot more going for a hand loader. You will get 100 to 150 fps faster and hits a lot harder than the 6.5. I have 2 Grendel's and 1 6.8. only the 6.8 goes deer hunting.
Kevin
June 23, 2022
Where do you find "an order of magnitude" more factory ammo options for the Grendel? The online places I shop have about the same number of options for both grendel and 6.8. The two are close enough you could flip a coin to decide with no regrets. The only advantage I see for Grendel is that BCA doesn't sell 6.8 uppers any more.
Ronald Love
June 25, 2022
The reason something isn't made is because not enough demand exists to make a profit.
Paul Migliaccio
June 28, 2022
If that is the case, then why are there so many new carriages developed or released over the past 20 years?
PM
June 24, 2022
6.5 Grendel ammo is scarcer then bend teeth. Reloading components ( bullets, cases) are not only scarce but very expensive when found. Try finding powder for peak efficiency handlords, good luck. In short a 6.5 Grendel looks good on paper but without ammo it's all a day dream.
Planet Smasher
June 27, 2022
This really is a comparison of muzzle energy vs efficiency (high BC/low drag). 6.8spc providing higher energy while Grendel has better down range performance due to better aero. That said, I'd say what's chosen simply depends on what's most important to the user. Personally, Grendel get's my nod. A lot more energy than 223 in close and better performance than 6.8 at extended range. The only issue with Grendel (which is a nod in the direction of 6.8) is the bolt. OTOH, a lot of people have reported good bolt life by running adjustable gas blocks.
Ddeininger
June 27, 2022
I own several of both the Grendel and the 6.8SPC rifles in AR and bolt action flavors and have used both for deer hunting and hog hunting and both preform great when used to their strengths. My Grendel I use for deer hunting in areas that area 200 to 500 yd ranges and My 6.8 for up to 200 yds. 6.8 is accurate and will also do a good job out to 400 yds but I just prefer 6.5 for that range and move to my Creedmoor when I have a good place that I am just going to sit and shoot long range. My Mark II Ruger creedmoor is just to heavy for moving. As far as damage and knock down the Grendel and 6.8 are about equal. It all comes down to which one you like and shoot and handle better. Either one is a good choice
taylor
September 11, 2022
I can't even find grendel where i live but i can find 6.8 spc at most places. better start making 6.8 spc uppers again. I really wanted a grendel but no point if I can't find ammo.
PM
September 28, 2022
Been a year since I bought a 6.5Grendal and I have yet to shoot it. Factory ammo must be invisible along with reloading components. I wish that I can reconsider that purchase a year ago. P.S. In NY State buying any ammo is now treated just as a firearm sale with forms to fill out. Many small gunships no longer carry ammo and the box stores have low stock of common calibers and shot shells.
Billy
October 1, 2022
I have one major reason to go 6.8 SPC over Grendel. There are 6.8 specifically designed receiver sets from LWRC and New Frontier Armory and 6.8 SPC specific magazines from Magpul....that means reliability. There are no Grendel specific receivers or Grendel mags, (except for the 2A Amend Grendel mags that have lots of poor reliability reviews), that are designed from the ground up to run Grendel. This means nowhere near the reliability of the LWRC / New Frontier Armory and Magpul Six8 mags. I know because I have all 3 rigs.
MN
January 7, 2023
IMO there is no factory 6.8 ammo that is loaded at its potential. IIRC its because its loaded to 6.8 SPC I specs not SPC II which is what the original SAAMI spec was. Factory Hornady 120g SST runs about 2450 fps in my 18" ARP barrel. My handloaded 120g SST runs 2670fps from the same barrel. That's a pretty substantial difference IMO over the 6.5 Grendel. Seems that all the data used in these comparisons only tell half the truth.
Will
January 27, 2023
Grendel just sound cooler.. hand down! Lol.
Nerka Dude
January 12, 2024
I have previously read where cartridges based on the 7.62x39 tend to break bolts more often than tne normal 5.56 case head due to there being less metal around the bolt face. Is this true and if so, does the smaller case head diameter of the 6.8 confer a bit of improved reliability or margin of "safety" for the bolt?
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