6.5 Grendel Howa MINIACTION MDT LSS Chassis Gun: The little Grendel that could

A few years ago the 6.5 Grendel burst onto the rifle scene.  The AR-15/M16 M4 shooters of the world wanted a cartridge that could reach out farther than 5.56.  At the time, a few different cartridges, the 300 BLK, 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel, were all gaining steam for a variety of reasons.  Despite their differences, they all had one important feature in common, the ability to fit into a standard sized AR-15/M16 M4 rifle without changing too many parts.

AR-15/M16 cartridge line up (left to right): 223 Remington/5.56mm NATO, 6.5 PCC virgin brass, 6.5 PCC fire formed brass, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 300 AAC BLK, 7.62×40 WT and 30AR. Note the relatively short (.145″) neck on the 6.5 PCC.

I’d say of those three cartridges the clear winner was the 300 BLK, undoubtedly due to the proliferation of suppressors.  The 6.8 SPC is a still a great round, but at some level has fallen into obscurity.  The Grendel is alive and well because it was marketed as a long range cartridge.  While it may not be as popular as the 300 BLK, or its big brother the 6.5 Creedmoor, it offers shooters a nifty little cartridge that can function in both a gas gun and bolt action rifle.

The Grendel has an interesting background.  Developed by Bill Alexander, the 6.5 Grendel was effectively a 6PPC necked up to 6.5mm.  Well, the 6PPC is a 220 Russian necked up to 6mm… and that 220 Russian is a 7.62×39 necked down to 22 caliber, you could refer to it as a 6.5-7.62×39 Russian and not be far off.

I think the comparison to the little Russian cartridge is important.  For one, if a gun can function with 7.62×39 ammunition, magazines and cases, it can likely also function with the 6.5 Grendel.  Also, the case capacity of both cartridges is on the small size for center fire rifle cartridges, so despite what the interweb tells us, the little Grendel may not be as fast as you want it to be.  But that is OK, see it for what it is and you’ll be a happy shooter.

Left to right, 6mm Norma BR, 6×47 Lapua, 243 Winchester, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5×47 Lapua, 6.5 Creedmoor 120 A-MAX, 6.5 Creedmoor 142 SMK, 260 Remington, and 308 Winchester

I’m not new to the Grendel.  I’ve been shooting it for close to four years.  About 3 years ago I wrote a review of the 6.5 Grendel in an 18″ gas gun.  In it, I published actual data on 30 different handloads.  My feelings then and now are that the Grendel is a nifty little cartridge that shouldn’t be confused with its larger 6.5mm brothers, the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua and 260 Remington.  Those cartridges are in another class of performance.

The published velocities I’ve always seen for the Grendel look really good on paper.  In my mind, shooters are either really optimistic, shooting through a broken chronograph, or shooting from the top of a mountain somewhere at extremely high elevation (I shoot with a MagnetoSpeed, at sea level, typically in the cold).  I’ve never been able to come anywhere close to the published velocities of a Grendel and I am OK with that.  I see it for what it is and don’t want to pretend it is something it isn’t.

Legacy Sports International started importing the HOWA 1500 MINIACTION in 6.5 Grendel just abut two years ago.  Externally, the Howa MINIACTION is about the same size as a Remington Model Seven.  Unlike the Model Seven, the MINIACTION doesn’t allow for as much bolt travel.  This gives the action a slicker feel with less binding (if you own a Model Seven retract the bolt and push it to one side and you’ll see what I mean).  The downside to the limited travel is it only fits smaller cartridges, making it an ideal candidate for the Grendel and 7.62×39 Russian.

I was one of the original beta testers back when it was introduced.  Since then it has taken on quite a following.  I decided it was time to revisit the Howa MINIACTION and the Grendel.  Barreled action in hand, I just need a stock!

Modular Driven Technologies (MDT) now offers a LSS chassis system for the Howa MINIACTION  so I ordered a barreled action with a threaded muzzle.  No sense in paying for a stock just to throw away.  The barreled action has a heavy 20″ barrel threaded 5/8-24.  It includes polymer bottom metal with a detachable magazine, everything you’d need to slip it into a stock.

Unlike the larger versions of their chassis systems, MDT uses the factory Grendel magazine in their LSS chassis.  This is a good thing, especially since I’ve had great results with the factory magazine.

The MDT LSS is a great entry level stock that I’ve been using on various platforms since its introduction.   It allows the use of any AR-15/m16 M4 carbine style.  Traditionally, I’ll run a MAGPUL CTR stock with a cheek riser.  It is cost effective and gets the job done but it lacks the adjustability associated with more complex chassis systems.  For this rifle I’m using a another product from MDT, the Skeleton Carbine Stock.

The Skeleton Carbine stock is based on an AR style buffer tube, but adds an adjustable butt stock and cheek piece.  I’ve found it to balance and handle well on this little rifle, plus the adjustments make the rifle fit you better; it doesn’t feel like a collapsible stock as much as it feels like a fully fitted rifle stock.  This is a pretty neat trick for something that interfaces a carbine extension tube.

Adjustment of the Skeleton Carbine stock requires the use of an Allen wrench, but once everything is in position, it locks up nice and tight.  The check-piece also moves fore and aft on the stock.

Also note the Zeiss V6 Conquest scope.  This is a 3-18x50mm optic that has MOA adjustments, a nice compact package for a smaller rifle like this.  You can learn more about them here.    

The rifle looks good, but how does it shoot?  The answer is pretty well.  I’ll be reporting back with more detail in the future, but the best 5-shot 100 yard group I had on my first trip to the range…

The group was shot with the new Sierra 107 gr. Tipped MatchKing (TMK), it measured .675″ (.645 MOA) center to center.

The 107 gr. TMK is at the lower end of the weight spectrum for 6.5mm bullets (above, left to right: 107 SMK, 107 TMK, 123 SMK, 130 TMK and 142 SMK), however it is prefect for smaller cartridges like the 6.5 Grendel.

My little Grendel isn’t a gas gun and doesn’t have a very long barrel.  It is a neat little bolt action rifle in a small chassis system.  Guess what, I really get a kick out of shooting it.  In upcoming posts I’ll be reporting back on load development with the new Sierra 107 TMK, discussing the MDT Skeleton stock and Zeiss V6 3-18x50mm scope.