Anyone using a 6.5 grendel for deer hunting? I have the opportunity to pick one up. Curious what some think of the cartridge for deer hunting.
I’m not looking for caliber recommendations.
FJW , said it. You already can't find ammo for it anymore. In a few years you will be paying much more , if you can find it at all. The ballistics say it's ok,,,, 123 gr. @2500 fps is ok,,, ya ya ya, but why? What does it have over the .243Win., a 7MM-08?? Nothing at all. I would not even buy a 7mm-08 cause every time I look, the ammo is considerably more and it has nothing over a 308 Win... We go around and round for 50 yrs. asking these questions . I am 59 now. The question was 50 yrs. ago , is a 30-06 better than a 30-30? Yes, everyone said. For Wis. deer? There is no difference in the woods. Then came the magnums. The 300 Win. Mag , 7mm mag, and I even started seeing 338 Win. mag cases at the gravel pit ... ... That gave way to the Super Short mags., The 325 Rem Short?? Where is the ammo for it ??? For $80 a box somewhere. Now it is the smaller calibers. The .223 Rem. is getting popular for deer and hogs. Hard to believe They actually work well. Google up .223 Rem for deer. You will get arguments by the hundreds. Why would you use one? I dont know, only cause the bullets are slightly cheaper , I guess. It's all in the bullet. I use A .243 Win. I do cause I want a very light gun cause I hunt all public and sometimes I need to go to 3 or 4 stands to not see orange, so a light gun is in order and I dont want it to kick so bad when I shoot, so a Ruger compact 18" barrel was in order. We only got 2 deer with the .243 Win . but was amazed how fast they went down. I can find .243 Win. almost anywhere but load my own at around $10 a box at most.
Just my 2 cents worth, but as you probably already found out 6.5 grendel ammo is pretty much non existent lately. I build a few rifles for my self and friends. Two years ago I put together a grendel for a friend. Then ammo was easily available, now not so much. This year I did a 350 legend and like posts above ammo is all over . It is truly a great caliber in my opinion. Hopefully I get to truly test it this deer season.
Tinkertoyed a pair of 350 Legend rifles for a pair of buddies. Both have 16" M4 barrel contours and both are very lightweight with Aero scope mounts and Leupold 1.5-4X optics. The one I was able to test from the bags at 100yds using factory Win/Olin soft point ammo and Hornady soft point ammo. Both brands shot right at 1 MOA, which is plenty more than adequate. Either cartridge will deliver just over 1000 ft/lbs at 150 yards, about as far as anyone can pick a shot through a mature hardwoods. Recoil was very modest.
That particular rifle harvested a doe in 2019 (or 2020, the first year of production) at about 50yds. He hit her dead center in the lungs standing broadside. The deer traveled 40-50 yards before going down. Complete pass-through and left a tracking trail a blind man could have followed.
Another possible option.
I thought about going with a 6.5 Grendel two years ago for deer hunting in our woods. Ballistics were pretty decent at reasonable ranges, but it struck me as a long range "plinking" round for guys that wanted to shoot long range without the recoil. Then I compared it to the new 350 Legend and ended up going that route for a few reasons:
1. Energy. Not retained energy, but rather energy transfer. The 350 Legend shoots a heavier, larger diameter bullet that will transfer more energy to the target (deer). We only have 28.5 acres, so my shots are usually well inside 150 yards. The larger bullet not only dumps more energy, but also produces better blood trails due to the larger entrance wound. I blood trailed a lot of deer shot with a .243 Win...if you didn't get an exit hole, have fun tracking!
2. Ammo availability. Both cartridges are new, but the 350 Legend was designed and heavily advertised in the deer hunting community. Wisconsin is not a straight wall state and most guys will not opt for a 350 Legend over a bottle neck cartridge like a .243, .270, .30-06, 7mm, etc. Almost every store I have gone into the past 2 years has had 350 Legend ammo. I have only seen 6.5 Grendel ammo a couple times and it was steel case FMJ, which is not legal for hunting here, and even so it was considerably more expensive than 350 Legend ammo.
3. Recoil / Shootability. I have two kids. The low recoil of both the 6.5 Grendel and 350 Legend are appealing for young or small-statured shooters, but the forgiveness the 150 or 180 grain projectile offers a novice shooter tips me in favor of that cartridge. An amped-up kid shooting their first deer at 75-100 yards may miss by a few inches and shoot into a shoulder...that 150 or 180 grain bullet at 2100-2300 fps will hold up against a leg bone or shoulder much better than a 120-ish grain bullet travelling a few hundred fps faster.
4. Barrel length / Ballistics. As mentioned already, the 6.5 Grendel was designed around 22-24" barrels. Whack 6" off that barrel (think AR platform) and you will lose a LOT of velocity (an energy) as a result. The 350 Legend was designed around shorter barrels and has very little velocity change in longer vs. shorter barrels.
I know you said you were not looking for recommendations, but for others reading this now and in the future, I shared my decision making process more for educational purposes than recommending a caliber. In my opinion there are better deer calibers than the 6.5 Grendel for whitetails, especially in the Midwest. I think a 123 gr. SST in a 6.5 Grendel would make a FANTASTIC coyote round at 2500ish fps. At the end of the day, I think the 6.5 Grendel was developed as a long-range target shooting round which could be loaded with hunting bullets and the 350 Legend was developed specifically for hunting Midwestern whitetails, which it seems to do very well! I originally bought an 18" AR upper in 350 Legend, but liked the round so much, I added a bolt action to my collection as well.
ETA: I should also mention I was not worried about the 200+ yard ballistics (or lack thereof) of the 350 Legend, as I also have a .243 Win, .270 Win and .30-06 SPRG for longer range hunting.
If you look at the ballistics of Hornady ammo (they were the manufacturer that really pushed the marketing of the Grendel), the performance of the Grendel is based on a 24 inch barrel. Ever played with an AR having a 24" barrel or lugged one around in the woods? Not very practical nor fun.
Once you get down to a more practical barrel length for hunting (16-18"), the Grendel suffers dramatically in performance.
It's why I went to a 16" carbine in 6.8SPC in 2012. My carbine is 7# without the optic and will deliver over 1100ft/lbs at 200yds with a 120gr SST. The trajectory using a scope mounted at "battle sight height" is 2" high at 100yds and 2" low at 200yds (verified on paper more than once). To be very fair, I cannot pick a shot through a mature hardwoods that far. If I can pick a clean shot through the woods with that 6.8SCP, the deer is in huge trouble.