DocTacDad Reviews Wolf 6.5 Grendel Steel Cased Ammunition

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One of the more interesting developments in the ammunition world from the past few years has been the growing interest in Russia for the 6.5 Grendel cartridge. Kalashnikov Concern’s new AK-12 rifle is rumored to have a 6.5mm variant, and the CIP standardized a Russian round in 2013 that appears to be a variant of the 6.5 Grendel designed to function in 7.62mm AK magazines. Most significantly for the US market, however, has been the production of inexpensive steel-cased 6.5 Grendel ammunition, marketed under the Wolf Performance Ammunition brand. This ammunition offers the 6.5 Grendel shooter a relatively inexpensive (approx. $0.35-$0.40 per round), plentiful source of ammunition to feed their rifles. The introduction of this ammunition has caused a modest resurgence in popularity for the Alexander Arms cartridge, so it’s worth a closer look at what this ammunition can and can’t do, as the video by DocTacDad does in the video below:

Most people will be interested in the accuracy the ammunition is capable of; in Doc’s review, it shoots groups a bit less than 3 MOA, which is standard for this kind of ammunition. Doc also takes the rounds apart, so viewers can see the fine ball powder the round is loaded with, as well as the cupronickel-clad steel jacketed lead-cored bullet, and its recessed base (an unusual feature for Western projectiles, but very common with Russian bullets).

DocTacDad has also covered his experiences with the 6.5 Grendel chambering in general in previous videos, embedded below:



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • HenryV

    Wow.

    • Steve Hose

      Several years ago I built a 6.5 Grendel on an AR platform using a Saturn barrel. Feeding it factory proved the inherent accuracy of the round. I hand loaded a lot of different bullets and powder for it but could not get the velocity that both Alexander and Hornaday were getting. When I was at the ILEA I talked with several of the Hornaday folks and they told me they use a propriety powder. I get great loads out of IMR8208XBR (.500″) at about 2500 fps but that is pushing it. A bolt gun would be nice!!

      • HenryV

        I think knowing this cheap ammo will persuade many to go to the 6.5 route. As the Doc says it isn’t for accuracy for bulk as it were. Let’s face it if crap hits the fan it will be more about how much we throw down range than accuracy. An AR for many is a dream purchase. A special 6.5mm gun even more so. This ammo will open up choices for a good number.

        • Steve Hose

          I understand…as a sniper I like to go the accuracy route…having said that I will justify it by saying I have also built a AR-10 in .308 Winchester and .260 Remy. Both will shoot under a half inch BUT will digest factory as well as unbelted M-60 ammo. I have yet to work up tables for 7.62 NATO but rest assured I will!

          Many moons ago to save my life and my many brothers we had to unlink M-60 ammo. I for one know what it’s like not to have enough ammo! So thinking of ammo availability is smart thinking!!

          • HenryV

            Well when I read about 3in groups or 5in groups or perhaps bigger at 100,200, or 300 yards I always think that I am a lot wider than 5in and one of those shots would get me. As I said not everybody can afford an AR, a premium bolt gun, and feed both of them This “cheap” ammo is a real enabler.

          • Steve Hose

            Roger that! When I taught pistol marksmanship I used to tell my students that as long as your sights were aligned that bullet will be somewhere in your “wobble” area!

          • HenryV

            Shooting is little more than throwing rocks in a very sophisticated way. 🙂

            I think too many of us are too worried about getting the ultimate tiny-teeny group at installer differences instead of being consistent with hitting a dinner plate at 200 yards and less, often a lot less. It is a bit like a car. Most of us only need so much car with so much performance. But we all know it easier to drive car with a little more performance than we need. That extra performance gives a cushion. To me this is where 6.5mm comes in over .308.

          • Steve Hose

            That is where I’m at at this point…I want to wring every last bit of accuracy out of my weapons but I still want reliability as well as availablity of ammo. I agree that 6.5 is better than 7.62…just look at the BC for the bullets for the two calibres. Now compare say the .260 Remington to the .308 Winchester. Need I say more…?

  • MAUSERMAN

    Biggest mistake on the part of Alexander arms is not coming out with a bolt gun for the Grendel. Just look what a bolt gun did for the popularity of the 6.5 creedmore.
    In many ways a Grendel bolt gun is more useful in everyday life of a gun owner. It can be used to hunt, taeget shoot, range fun, than a ar15 variant. For example, I can not hunt with semi auto in my state, which removes one of the biggest draw for the round for me.

    • ostiariusalpha

      A mag fed Grendel bolter would truly make Jeff Cooper’s Scout Rifle concept a more practical weapon for actual field use also.

      • MAUSERMAN

        I actually own a 6.5 Grendel ar few years ago. It was a glorified range plinker.
        Couldn’t use it to hunt in my state, so I sold it and use the money to buy 3 guns. A 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser for deer, coyote, hog, a interstate 981 (870 knock off) for turkey, and finally,
        Used Mak90 AK for fun at the range. I may buy another 6.5 Grendel gun if they come out with a bolt gun or a AK variant in Grendel.

    • ClintTorres

      Guys are building bolt-action grendels with CZ 527 7.62×39 actions.

      • MAUSERMAN

        Yes, but you miss the point. Custom home made or gunsmith build will not improve the popularity of the Grendel round. When there are factory 6.5 creedmore bolt guns and 6.5×55 howa bolt gun out there.

        • ClintTorres

          Not to argue with you at all but I think you’d have to admit that the AR platform is as popular as they come. No doubt, however, it would be great if some manufacturer[s] offered an off-the-shelf-bolt-action grendel.

    • El Duderino

      A super lightweight 16-18″ barrel 6.5 “Scout Rifle” would be excellent. No hunting with .223 in my state and already have a .308. 5lb w/o scope and a plastic 5rnd mag should be pretty easy.

  • Just say’n

    He’s getting better groups than I do with that ammo. Best I’ve seen is about 2 3/4″ horizontal spread, 1/2″ vertical. I’m sticking to 123 grain Hornady A-max (target) SST (hunting) for now until I get a good hand load worked-up. Even though it cost 4X per round, it’s 4X more likely to hit the bulls-eye.

    I’ll take the 5.56 for ringing steel at the range.

  • Mark

    Having had 2 bolts shear lugs off the Les Baer bolts. The first sheared with sub-maximal handholds; the second sheared within 30 rounds of Privi Partisan 120gn MPT. I went to the Alexander Arms “hard use” bolts and so far (300 rounds later) have had no problems.

    Especially in view of the very thin rim of the 6.5 Grendel bolt, I would not use cheapo steel case ammo. Years ago I was standing next to a catastrophic failure of a valuable MG42 from shooting cheapo ammo. I learned from that “penny wise, pound foolish.” If you have a rifle that is worth owning and shooting, why risk shooting inferior ammo?

    • Wolfgar

      Hey Mark, I have been running Alexander Arms 25 round mags and they have been completely reliable. Were the mags that you were having problems with the lower capacity mags? I have shot around 300 rounds of the steel case ammo with out a hitch so far in my shorty barrel but I have found some cracks in some of the empty steel cases which does concern me a little. I have some Lapua brass that has over 10 reloads on it and it still looks good. It is ironic that many will pay a small fortune for a firearm yet will run some of the ugliest, questionable cheep ammo through them.

      • Mark

        Most of the problems were with non-AA mags, but I have not found even the AA mags to run flawlessly except for the 10 rounders.

        A third problem that I didn’t mention: Alexander Arms’ archaic and immensely inefficient sales department, the worst I have ever experienced in any industry.

        You are spot on. Why pay thousands for a fine rifle and then risk it with cheap ammunition to save a few bucks?

        • ClintTorres

          I’d have to second your experience with AA’s sales dept. I was treated with, what seemed like, utter contempt throughout the order process back in the run-on-guns period that was 2012-13. “Thank you” was just not in their vocabulary. Ended up cancelling in disgust.

          • Mark

            Perhaps they have revised their acknowledgments since that time, but I found their order acknowledgment emails particularly offensive. In my opinion, the emails could have been summarized in a one-liner: “Shut up and wait.”

            The fan boys on the Grendel forum made lots of excuses for them.

          • ClintTorres

            Yeah, seriously. The form letter I received upon cancellation was not prefaced with any form of “We’re sorry that you weren’t satisfied…how can we win your business back?”.

          • Mark

            During that period I patronized MANY other companies that were under the same stress and NONE of them exhibited contempt.

          • ClintTorres

            I guess it was some form of kismet because I ended up building my first complete upper(in 6.5 grendel). It turned out to be a great learning experience and the guys on the grendel forum, among others, were of great help.

          • Wolfgar

            There definitely are some fan boys on the Forum and is probably why I get called a Grendel fan boy when I support the cartridge on other venues LOL. I have a good friend who was on the forum that would agree with your opinion on AA customer service. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. Customers don’t forget. I have also experienced forum members who will go out of their way to help with any kind of problem that may surface. The positive side of AA customer service is other business’s have been filling the need for Grendel bolts and barrels AA couldn’t supply. I love the Grendel round and hope it continues to grow with better mags, bolts, ammo choices and even other rifle platforms.

          • Mark

            I had done research into converting a CZ527 to 6.5 Grendel…. and then I picked up a scoped 6.5 Creedmoor Rem 700 action in a super light stock with Seekins DBM and AI magazines that weighs about 7 pounds loaded with sling. All my interest in a bolt Grendel vanished.

        • RogUinta

          I ordered (and received) two .264 LBC-AR barrels from Black Hole Weaponry and three bolts from Les Baer before the 2012 rush. Got everything within 2 months. Over a year later the 6.5 Grendel barrel I ordered from AA arrived. Long live the .264 LBC-AR!

  • Bill Alexander

    To get the best accuracy out of this type of ammunition requires that the rifling type is set up for the jacket construction. This usually means that you should use a regular style rifling. The target types with canted transitions between the land and groove or polygonal riflings do not do so well in wringing accuracy from the steel cased ammunition. The projectile will slip in the chamber throat unless engaged rather abruptly. Such an effect may be observed in the 5.56 caliber. M855 requires the same approach and it is not infrequent to see very sub standard accuracy from what may otherwise be regarded as a match barrel.

    I believe the readers who see the utility of this caliber in a bolt action weapon may be a little more happy following next years SHOT show. We (Alexander Arms) do not manufacture a bolt action weapon and our scale would make such a unit prohibitively expensive.

    To comment on the perception regarding bolts which seems to rear its head frequently on the internet. The caliber, including the steel cased variant runs with operating pressures that are well inside the fatigue limits of the weapon assuming one designs and manufactures said weapon correctly. Correct bolts are very far from a 5.56 unit opened up, both in structure and also geometry.

    • Mark

      And yet…. more than a mere “perception,” there is no shortage of testimonies of bolt failure, including some Alexander Arms bolt failures.

      As well, there is no shortage of complaints about AA’s customer service.

      • Just Sayin’

        Many of the bolt failures are Les Baer’s and 6.5 Sporter bolt, the later just being a 7.62×39 bolt not suited for the more powerful Grendel cartridge.

        • Mark

          To belabor the point, owners also report failure of Alexander Arms bolts. It’s not like owners around the internet had a meeting and decided we’d prevaricate about the Grendel.

          There are three major Grendel problems:
          (1) bolts
          (2) magazines
          (3) customers who are legitimately disgruntled.

      • Winter

        Strange, I’ve had my Grendel a few years now and read most everything I come across related to the cartridge and I’ve read very few first hand reports about bolt failures. One of the few I’ve read were from one person repeating his story across multiple forums. I’ve read countless second hand stories though, most often repeated by 6.8 fanboys who are quick to try and discredit their rival caliber just as the 6.5 fanboys do to the 6.8 when the opportunity arises. There’s rarely, if ever, any investigation into cause. What there are however, are countless first hand reports of Grendel’s functioning perfectly from low round counts to very high round counts.

        Lemon’s happen and I have no doubt bolts have broken but it’s far from systematic or common. It’s not uncommon however for gun owners to declare a particular gun, or it’s manufacturer, complete junk after getting a gun that breaks. I’ve seen folks on most every gun forum I read claim that everything made by Colt, Ruger, S&W, Walther, Hk…is complete junk because they got a gun that was flawed in one way or another. You’ll often see their “horror story” repeated by them or others across several forums. You can find a few first hand stories of Grendel bolts breaking across the internet just like you can with any gun but, if you look, you’ll find the vast majority of 6.5G/.264LBC owners are extremely happy with their rifles. Just depends on what you’re looking for.

        I admit I got a bit irritated with AA’s customer service during the time of the big ammo and mag shortage (iirc it was around Christmas 2013). I couldn’t get calls answered and emails took forever but in hindsight, I got the same, or worse service from other companies during that time. Alexander Arms, is a relatively small company and they were far less equipped to handle such a situation than larger companies with bigger CS departments. I know that Bill brought in extra help to man the phones and email as fast as possible and extra phone lines but it was kind of a no win situation. Imagine hiring temporary folks to answer phone calls one after the other from people asking technical questions, often times irritated already but not having the ability to train them about the company before throwing them to the lions. The production folks were working crazy hours to try and meet demand and unable to quit working to answer customer questions coming in during the constant phone calls. What do you do? Reduce your production so those folks can talk to customers on the phone and email or focus on getting their orders out? Either way you are making the customers angry. Obviously new phone answering folks are going to catch hell for not being as knowledgeable as they would be in a normal situation and they probably didn’t always respond “nicely” but it was a bad situation all the way around.

        That aside, AA’s customer service has always been pretty good including Bill A. himself. Bill personally took time to help me work out some issues I was having with a new .264LBC rifle despite knowing it was purchased from another company. If people have an issue with a customer service employee, get that person’s name and date/time you called and then call/ask for a manager. From what I can tell of Bill A. he takes a lot of pride in his company and will take care of it. I had an issue there once, I can’t remember what it was anymore but it was related to an order I made and emailed the company with my “complaint”. I got an email back the next day from Bill himself telling me he personally took care of it and an apology for any inconvenience. Problem solved.

        It’s fortunate I guess that myself and all the other 6.5G/.264LBC owners/shooters I know online and personally aren’t experiencing all these problems with “bolts, magazines and disgruntlement” that you claim are so common. I wish I could afford a couple more of these problem guns, I’d love to add an SBR and a 24″ to go with my 18″. I’m sorry you had a problem with your bolt but only a tiny percentage of 6.5G/.264LBC rifles have been reported to have this issue while the vast majority haven’t had any problems. Sounds like a problem with occasional flawed bolts finding their way into the system and not the bolts standard design or strength.

        • Mark

          One could offer the same silly “one person” conspiracy theory to explain the appearance of multiple fan boys—”one person” with multiple screen names and multiple ISPs posting on multiple forums to vindicate the Grendel bolts, magazines, and AA customer service.

          The problems are real and not yet solved.

  • Mark

    When the bolt isn’t broken, my AR Grendel is great to 1200 yds, but my experience with broken bolts, finicky mags, and the testimonials of others with broken bolts and finicky mags prompted this:
    (1) I keep a spare bolt in the Magpul grip and
    (2) I would never trust an expensive hunting trip, my life, or a loved one’s life to the reliability of a Grendel.
    Admittedly it is fun and accurate when it is working, but I just can’t trust it.

    • Wolfgar

      My box of empty brass would say different. My 25 rd AA mags have worked perfectly and I’m still using the original AA and Maxim bolts. Our freezer gets filled every hunting season using Grendel AR’s. I’m sorry you have had such problems with your Grendel but I and many others have not had the same problems you have experienced. I’m not using Les Baer bolts which may be a clue to your problem. Of all the problems people have on the Grendel forum, broken bolts has not been a major one and Les Baer bolts if memory serves was the one that seemed to be mentioned most. If my broken bolt Grendel is found next to my bear killed corpes try not to laugh too much 🙂

      • Mark

        I get your joke, but that would be a tragedy. Never would I find anything humorous in your death, by bear or otherwise. In fact, one of my objections to the Grendel forum is common to many gun websites, a bond of callous militarist bloodlust that does not value all human life.

        • Wolfgar

          I know you wouldn’t Mark, I was just making fun of myself. There will always be the wanna be cold blooded, Rambo hero’s on gun forums but I just ignore them and focus on hunting and target shooting. I apologize if you took my joke as anything other than what I intended , “a joke directed at myself”. I have been wrong before and probably will be again.That was all I was trying to say with my joke.

          • Mark

            I can only hope that many good people like you live in my neighborhood. 🙂

          • Wolfgar

            Thank you,same to you.

  • Dan Hermann

    If you want to see a fun video. search youtube for 6.5 Grendel on Steel II. You can see the trace of the bullet and then splash on target at 300 and 400 yards. You can hear it on 500 but can’t see it.