The 6.X Calibers for the AR-15 Get New Loads from Federal’s American Eagle Line of Ammunition

Long-time readers know that I have a distinct love for non 5.56 calibers for the AR-15. I do cede that the 5.56 and its .223 Remington cousin are excellent calibers, but one can always long for a slight bit more range and “oompf”. To that desire, both 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel were created to provide the extra reach. Unfortunately, the 6.8 SPC has seemed to have lost some steam in the last couple of years compared to the slowly growing 6.5 Grendel, but both received a boost when Federal Ammunition announced their latest new loads.

Federal has announced the expansion of their American Eagle Varmint & Predator lineup with simultaneous launches for both the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel. The new loads “combine accuracy, consistency, reliable performance on target and an affordable price tag to create the perfect round for the avid varmint hunter.”

Both loadings are 90-grain rounds built to Federal’s Tipped Varmint pattern. The Tipped Varmint reliably and explosively expands on impact for maximum lethality. The brass is “highly reloadable” primed with consistent Federal primers.

American Eagle Varmint & Predator offerings are sold in “bulk packs” in either 40 or 50 round SKUs. For the 6.8 and 6.5, both are 50 round SKUs. Pricing clocks in at $63.95 for the 6.5 Grendel and $53.95 for the 6.8 SPC. Not bad considering they are hunting rounds ready for the field.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Aono

    Same grain weight, virtually identical advertised velocity, but the 6.5 has better BC/SD/FF than the 6.8. Pretty much encapsulates the entire difference between these cartridges and that’s even with a short flat base.

    FIFY: “Fortunately, the 6.8 SPC has seemed to have lost some steam in the last couple of years compared to the slowly growing 6.5 Grendel”

    • randomswede

      The 6.5 comes out of wildcat rounds for competition.
      The 6.8 was designed to improve terminal effectiveness out of essentially the M4 especially at closer ranges and suppressed, with a bullet “not designed to expand”.

      For a civilian the 6.8 makes most sense with short barrels where it competes with the .300 blackout. 18″ of barrel or longer I don’t know any caliber that can compete with Grendel (out of an AR-15 magazine well).

      Either way someone will undoubtedly soon remind us what a waste anything but 5.56 is.

      • Aono

        6.8s entire appeal to the hunting crowd is “muh fudd-seventy short” and to the tacticool crowd it’s a venn diagram contained entirely in the the “mk262? wat” circle. Fragmentation is a function of bullet construction alone, not caliber.

        Which is to say that 6.5G still works if you shoot it from a short barrel.

        • randomswede

          6.8 has a slight edge from just plain physics (V = πr2h) in shorter barrels, but for a civilian I’d say .300blk is the better choice for a short barreled rifle.

          • Goosey

            6.8 seems to have equal or slightly higher velocities from short (8-9″) barrels. Similar max pressures… larger case capacity at work?

          • randomswede

            The physics of powder burn rates and chamber shape are probably relevant, but just the 0.3mm larger bullet diameter means that a 6.8 14.5″ barrel has almost as much volume as a 16″ barrel in 6.5 (just the simplest of math of cylinder volume, not real life).
            Of course a 1.5″ shorter barrel also means there’s less distance to accelerate over, larger diameter bullets have a larger circumference meaning more contact area with the barrel and thus more frictional drag, assuming the same bullet length etc. etc.

          • LilWolfy

            6.8 has zero advantages from short barrels. If you look at the actual numbers, it becomes pretty clear right away. There is no slight edge about it at all. BC overtakes it within 100yds in most cases, or sometimes even starts out with more energy from the muzzle with 6.5 Grendel.

            6.5 Grendel also has a better point blank zero for the hunter, with higher impact speed, better penetration, and more room for expansion due to ogive length, which easily overcomes the .007″ larger diameter of the .277 short.

      • gunsandrockets

        I like to think of my 6.8mm Mini-14 as standing in for the .276 Pedersen Garand that never was.

        • Aono

          Now that is some reasoning I can get behind.

        • randomswede

          (Assuming they’d still chosen the Garand and not the Pedersen.)

          What would the analog for an EM-2 in .280 be?
          RFB in 7mm-08?

      • iksnilol

        But the difference between 6.5 and 6.8 regarding “stopping power” is marginal at best.

        And the Grendel works decently out of short barrels (at worst as good as 6.8).

        So the 6.8 is truly pointless.

        • Goosey

          Hornady 6.5 SST, 123 @ 2350 (16″). Their 6.8 SST is 120 @ 2460 (16″).

          Federal’s 6.8 Fusion is 115 @ 2470 (16″). Their 6.5 Fusion is 120 @ 2600 (24″). Hornady tested their 6.5 Grendel SST load in both 24″ and 16″ barrels and the loss was 230 fps. So we can assume Federal’s 6.5 will make about 2370 from a 16″.

          Btw it takes 200 yards before the 6.5 catches up to the 6.8 SST in energy, and even past that for a good distance, the difference is slight.

          Using factory figures because lazy.

          The difference between 6.5 and 6.8 at normal hunting ranges is marginal at best. I would be more interested in performance of available bullets than 6.5’s BC.

          • Quasimofo

            You’re both beautiful! Why the needling between these two AR-15 caliber camps (seems to me the 6.5G crowd tends to start it most times, but whatever)? If you’re a typical medium game hunter, there’s really not much difference between two out to ~300 yards, so maybe go with the 6.8 because it has better commercial support. If you want long range target shooting, maybe go with the 6.5G with it’s better exterior ballistics. It’s all good. Regardless, I don’t see the appeal of these varmint loads for either caliber.

          • LilWolfy

            6.8 doesn’t have more commercial support. It doesn’t have steel case ammo available for $4.49/20, nor does it have any good target bullets that cut through the wind like 6.5mm, and there isn’t a single 6.8 load that does what 6.5 Grendel factory loads will do when looking at the 120-130gr projectiles, 123gr Hornady being the most popular.

            I don’t know what the count on factory available options is now for 6.8, but 6.5 Grendel has over 40 factory loads, including Federal Gold Medal Match with the 130gr Berger Hybrid OTM. I doubt 6.8 will ever have steel case or FGMM.

          • LilWolfy

            That Hornady data is from a 14.5″ Grendel with a pinned muzzle for 16″ length, and is slow for a 14.5″ as well. 2440-2470fps is normal for a 16″ Grendel with Hornady factory 123gr. 2390-2420fps is normal for a 14.5″ Grendel. 2350fps is 12.5″ Grendel territory.

            I’ve chrono’d a ton of the Federal loads already, and the 120gr HPBT is fast, about 2500fps from an 18″ barrel. I’m still waiting to get some 120gr Fusion, but you normally see factory 123gr 6.5 Grendel in the 2450-2520fps from a 16″.

            There is no catching up to the 6.8 with 6.5 Grendel, because it is already faster and retains more energy than it from the muzzle in most cases, same barrel lengths, same manufacturer, same bullet construction, then continues to surpass it as distance increases, with less wind drift.

        • randomswede

          I totally agree it makes little sense outside of the box defined by short barrel + suppressor & subsonic load + “bullets not designed to expand”.
          I’m also not convinced there isn’t a better round for that purpose but as this is 6.5 vs 6.8.

          To my mind both rounds are problematic in that they are designed to fit a weapon, of course I’m drawing a blank on who said it but the essence of the quote is that weapons should be designed to suit ammunition.

      • Ed Young

        270AR and 7mm Valkyrie surpass the 6.5 Grendel. But both are necked up
        6.5×47 Lapua wildcats.

  • Federal: “You know those rounds you like so much for hogs and whitetail?”

    Hunters: “Yeah…”

    Federal: “We just introduced loads for them that are really only good for yotes!”

    Hunters: “Ummm…”

    Federal: “And it can all be yours for the low low low price of $1.28 a shot!”

    Hunters: “…”

    • Blake

      yeah, I was kinda wondering why anyone shooting varmints with an AR would bother using a 90gr 6.5mm caliber bullet for the job when heavyish .223 rounds do the same job much cheaper (or if you really must have a bit of extra varminting reach, .204 Ruger or .20 VarTarg).

      For me at least, the whole point of these calibers (at least for hunting use) is to transform the AR15 in to a respectable CXP2 game rifle with the fewest changes.

      • JSmath

        I could see where the 90gr’s in either 6.5 or 6.8 would be more ethical of a shot on predators the size of wolves (or larger? I don’t go hunting mountain lions or anything), at ranges beyond 100yds.

        I think something a hair heavier would have made much more sense for the 6.8.

        • Aono

          In fairness Federal already sells a plated soft point 115 in 6.8 and 120 in 6.5. Demonstrating again how the 6.5G’s superior case design allows for heavier bullets despite being smaller caliber.

    • somethingclever

      The sole redeeming quality here is that more Grendel ammo in the marketplace is a good thing. Although, if it fails, I guess it might not end up a net positive after all.

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        I think Grendel will do fine in the long run. Maybe not be a runaway success, but probably remain available for decades to come.

    • LilWolfy

      They also introduced 120gr Fusion for 6.5 Grendel, 120gr HPBT, and 130gr Berger Hybrid OTM in Gold Medal Match.

  • 8166PC1

    I suppose the 5.56×45 lacks long range lethality hence the reason for 7.62×51 being issued, so these 6.5 and 6.8 spc might have a purpose.

    • ostiariusalpha

      And that purpose would be as efficient hunting rounds for use by civilians. 😆

    • Russ Kell

      6.5 works in your 5.56 lower, has (much) lower recoil than an AR10-pattern, and have excellent ballistics out the same range as x51. With an upper swap. About the same price for quality ammo. Bulk x51 much cheaper, of course 🙂

  • Just Say’n

    5.56 and .223 are cousins? I would say twins, not identical twins but still…

    Also, 90 grains is way light in 6.5 Grendel. 123 is the sweet spot. Wonder how these will group in 1:7 twist barrels.

    • DrewN

      Ha! I load these TNT’s into .264 WinMag Sendero all the time with hilarious results. Shockingly ,they shoot easily sub moa out to reasonable varmint ranges. Nothing on a .220 Swift, but fun nonetheless.

    • iksnilol

      Here in Europe they’re the same thing. Literally, the same thing.

      .223 is like the .38 if the 5.56 was a .357.

  • USMC03Vet

    These boutique rounds. What happens to federals budget line of steel cased?

  • ClintTorres

    And I would purchase this 6.5 ammo over Hornady’s ELD Black or SST because….???

    • Russ Kell

      ^^^ That.

  • d s

    For you rich and famous the Grendel (high price rifle and ammo) is a great option but for us poor folks that like punching holes in paper at 100-200 yards the 5.56-.223 great.

    • Russ Kell

      Why didn’t anyone tell me I’m rich and famous? I wondered why those photographers were stalking me. I thought it was just PIs sent by the wife.

      • d s

        Well,one person’s rich may be another persons poor. .223 = $.22 6.5= $1.30. Just saying.

        • Russ Kell

          Heh. The 6.5 comparable to the $.22 bulk runs about $.33 (Edit: Just found it down to below 24 cents per round this morning). Still 50% more in those terms though. 😉

          Over a buck is match/target ammo from Hornady. Similar .223 match/target is a few hairs less per box, but close enough to make little difference. I’m not making mag dumps with either of those.

          My grendel is cheap and dirty though. DIY with a Spinta barrel and Type 1 BCG. Accuracy is stupidly good though.

        • Russ Kell

          Looks like the bulk 6.5 Grendel is down to $.24 or less now. Found some at SPG this morning as I was poking about. Nice.

          • d s

            Yes I found them for $.22

    • Sunshine_Shooter

      Do a google search. Wolf WPA 6.5 Grendel ammo, steel cased, 500 rounds for $114.75, AKA $0.23/round before shipping. That is literally the first hit for “6.5 Grendel Steel Cased”.

      When Alexander Arms created the Grendel, they partnered with Wolf for the sole purpose of making sure that cheap steel cased plinking ammo was available from day 1, so that people like you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.