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6MM ARC vs 6.5 Grendel

Ballistics Performance Comparison of 6MM ARC vs 6.5 Grendel Cartridges

The 6.5 Grendel and the 6mm ARC are two high-powered calibers primarily used in the AR-15 platform. While the 6.5 Grendel has been a mainstay for AR shooters since it hit the market in 2003, the 6mm ARC is a new release that has caught the attention of many AR enthusiasts. Both calibers are descendants of the .220 Russian, but the 6mm ARC is a great long-distance caliber for hand-loaders, while the 6.5 Grendel is a strong all-around caliber.

6MM ARC vs 6.5 Grendel

The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 6MM ARC vs the 6.5 Grendel Remington based on bullet weight and various performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.

6MM ARC 105 gr vs 6.5 Grendel 123 gr Cartridge Comparison Table.
(Note: Bullet grain selection based on most popular hunting usage.)

6MM ARC 6.5 Grendel
Bullet Velocity (Muzzle) 2,750 ft/s 2,580 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds 2,580 ft/s 2,410 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds 2,417 ft/s 2,246 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds 2,260 ft/s 2,088 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds 2,108 ft/s 1,937 ft/s
Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds 1,963 ft/s 1,791 ft/s
Bullet Energy (Muzzle) 1,763 ft⋅lb 1,818 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 100 yds 1,552 ft⋅lb 1,585 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 200 yds 1,362 ft⋅lb 1,377 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 300 yds 1,190 ft⋅lb 1,191 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 400 yds 1,036 ft⋅lb 1,025 ft⋅lb
Bullet Energy @ 500 yds 898 ft⋅lb 876 ft⋅lb
Usage @ 0 yds Large Game Large Game
Usage @ 100 yds Large Game Large Game
Usage @ 200 yds Medium Game Medium Game
Usage @ 300 yds Medium Game Medium Game
Usage @ 400 yds Medium Game Medium Game
Usage @ 500 yds Small Game Medium Game
*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures takend from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.

Velocity

At short to medium distances, the 6mm ARC and the 6.5 Grendel are fairly evenly matched, with a slight advantage going to the 6mm ARC. Right out of the muzzle, the 6mm ARC is traveling at 2,750 ft/s, or 170 ft/s faster than the 6.5 Grendel. This difference stays fairly constant out to 500 yards, where the 6mm ARC is moving 172 ft/s faster than the 6.5 Grendel.

The 6mm ARC is able to be shot with higher ballistic coefficients (which relate to the caliber’s ability to overcome air resistance) than the 6.5 Grendel, for reasons we will detail in the Size Comparison section. Because of this, the 6mm ARC has a significant advantage in speed at longer distances. The 6mm ARC will arrive at a target at 1,200 yards nearly a quarter of a second sooner than the 6.5 Grendel will arrive.

Energy

But what happens when each bullet reaches the target? How much energy do they impart? Again, our calibers are extremely close. At close distances, the 6.5 Grendel takes a slight advantage: it has an extra 55 ft-lbs of energy right out of the muzzle. However, these calibers come neck and neck around the 300 yard mark, with the 6mm ARC coming in at 1,190 ft-lb and the 6.5 Grendel coming in at 1,191 ft-lb. After this point, the 6mm ARC pulls ahead, with an extra 22 ft-lb of energy at the 500 yard mark than the 6.5 Grendel has.

Trajectory

As the energy and velocity are so similar, so is the trajectory. The 6mm ARC does have a slight advantage here over medium distances. At 400 yards, you can expect the 6mm ARC to drop 22.2”, while the 6.5 Grendel will drop about 25.3”. Remember, using lighter or heavier bullets will also impact the trajectory: the lighter bullets of the 6mm ARC help to keep it more aerodynamic than heavier bullets of the 6.5 Grendel, but this will all depend on the specifications of the ammunition you are actually firing.

Versatility

The 6mm ARC is best used for medium game at medium distances. It is a favorite round for those who wish to hunt deer, coyote, hogs, and prairie dogs using the AR-15. The 6.5 Grendel is also a mid-range round, often used for deer and other medium game on the AR platform. However, the 6.5 Grendel does maintain more stopping power farther out than the 6mm ARC, meaning it can be used on medium game at slightly longer distances than the 6mm ARC can.

Price & Availability

The 6mm ARC is a brand-new cartridge. Manufacturers are still waiting to see how the market responds to this caliber before they all try to cash in. This means that there are only a few selections for the 6mm ARC at the moment. This could cause difficulties if your ammunition store does not carry your preferred brand, or if your rifle is picky with manufacturers and does not work well with the brands available. For this reason, 6mm ARC is more popular with hand loaders.

The 6.5 Grendel is a popular cartridge with many more options available from factory manufacturers. These options might be specifically tailored toward certain purposes, and they are generally cheaper (by as much as 25%) than the 6mm ARC options.

Size Comparison

The 6.5 Grendel and the 6mm ARC are both descendants of the same parent cartridge: the .220 Russian. Both calibers use the same magazine. They have very similar diameters, just 0.021-inches different. However, the 6mm ARC was created with a longer case so that it would be compatible with longer 6mm bullets, known for their higher ballistic coefficients. While 6.5 bullets can have higher ballistic coefficients as well, they are often not compatible with the AR platform – but the 6.5 Grendel can be used on the AR platform.

So, the shorter case and thinner diameter offered by the 6mm ARC actually gives it the opportunity to be fired with higher ballistic coefficient bullets. This means that the ARC has the advantage, since the two calibers can carry approximately the same amount of powder.

Rifle Type

Both of these cartridges are primarily used for hunters wishing to hunt with their AR-15. There are a few manufacturers chambering bolt action rifles in each of these cartridges, but they are hardly the norm. If you are interested in chambering in bolt action rifles, it’s worth noting that the 6mm ARC can be chambered in shorter “mini-action” bolt actions thanks to its compressed size.

Both offer mild recoil that can make big game hunting accessible to newer shooters, even when they are chambered in lighter rifles.

Which Caliber is Best?

Both calibers have many excellent applications for the AR-15 platform. If accuracy and power over long distances is important to you, the 6mm ARC has a strong advantage – as long as you are prepared to either live with one of the limited factory ammunition options available, or hand load your own ammunition. If you are not as concerned with long-distance shooting and just need a readily available, reliable all-around cartridge, the 6.5 Grendel might be a better fit.

Disclaimer: Sportsman's Warehouse assumes no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions of the information on this page. Although we strive to provide the most accurate information as we can the information contained in this page is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.