FIRST Military 6.5 Grendel Rifle? – 6.5mm Zastava M17 AK DMR in Testing by Serbian Army

Earlier this month, the Serbian Army debuted a new 6.5 Grendel weapon system, developed by Zastava. The rifle, called M17, is a heavily modified variant of the M70 AK family that has been developed by the company for decades. It incorporates a number of significant new features and improvements detailed below. The new rifle comes as part of an infantry upgrade for the Serbian Army which includes new 7.62x54R rifles, optics, helmets, and load-bearing equipment. This development marks the first adoption of the 6.5 Grendel round as standard by a national military force. The new rifle is advertised to be half a kilogram lighter than the previous rifle, although it’s not clear whether that is supposed to be the 7.62x39mm M70 or the 5.56x45mm M21. Reportedly, the rifles and the new caliber have not yet been adopted, but are still in testing.

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Is Serbia the First Nation to Adopt the 6.5mm Grendel?

The 6.5 Grendel is in many military small arms enthusiasts’ eyes the ideal military caliber, in theory combining the best characteristics of both 7.62mm and 5.56mm rounds. However, in the thirteen years since the round’s introduction, it has found little if any traction with actual military users – until now. It seems that the Serbian government has quietly adopted the “slow and steady” six five earlier this summer. From Novosti Online:

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Modern Intermediate Calibers 004: The 6.5 Grendel

One of the most ballistically interesting intermediate calibers ever developed is the 6.5 Grendel, developed by Arne Brennan with the assistance of Bill Alexander, and promoted heavily by the latter’s company, Alexander Arms. The 6.5 Grendel is interesting because it combines a wide case head based off the 7.62x39mm parent case with a short case length and ample room for long, slender bullets with low drag coefficients. As a result, the 6.5 Grendel is, very unusually for an intermediate caliber, well-designed for retaining energy at long distances.

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How Much Would It Cost for the Army to Adopt the 6.5 Grendel?

This subject has come up in my comments recently, and I thought I would explore it in a post proper. To adopt the 6.5 Grendel (or, as we’ll see, something like it), the US Army would need to develop and procure new complete upper receivers, magazines, buffers, and possibly other small components, as well as the ammunition itself. How much would that cost? It’s impossible to say for sure unless it happens, but with a little napkin-math, we should be able to get some idea:

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WPA Steel Case 6.5 Grendel Ammo

It seems like WPA and Alexander Arms have been working on a steel case 6.5 Grendel forever. When it was finally released about a year ago, the steel case 6.5 Grendel was hard to find. Alexander Arms told me that when they received a shipment, it usually sold out in 2 days. Recently that all had changed, the WPA steel case 6.5 Grendel is now more common.

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DocTacDad Reviews Wolf 6.5 Grendel Steel Cased Ammunition

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:

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