Should You Use the 6.5 Grendel for Elk Hunting?

This young woman decided to use her AR-15 chambered in 6.5 Grendel on a Colorado elk hunt. Do you think that was a good idea? 

Bill Alexander (who also designed the .50 Beowulf) developed the 6.5 Grendel to improve on the performance of the .223 Remington, but still function in an AR-15. He achieved that goal and the 6.5 Grendel is much more powerful than the diminutive .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. 

Does that mean the 6.5 Grendel is a good choice for elk hunting?

Well, this young lady and her uncle decided to try it out on an elk hunt in Colorado. She was carrying a rifle chambered in 6.5 Grendel using an Alexander Arms upper receiver with a 24" barrel loaded with 123gr Hornady SST bullets.

They spotted a very nice bull elk bedded on a hillside and closed the distance without the bull spotting them.

She got set up in a steady shooting position 390 yards from the bull. Watch the video to see how it all went down.

What do you think about that video?

As you saw, she ended up killing that bull with 3 shots from her 6.5 Grendel and he died just a few steps from his bed. It's not clear how long it took for the elk to expire, but he was clearly really hurting and didn't go far at all after her initial shot.

From the looks of things, she hit the elk with all three of her shots. The first and last shot in particular looked like they were placed almost perfectly.

The 6.5 Grendel is a good medium powered cartridge. It functions beautifully in a typical AR-15, has very mild recoil, and offers a big step up in performance over .223 ballistics.

While the 6.5 Grendel is great for hunting game like deer and feral hogs, I think it's on the light side for elk.

It clearly worked for her in this case, but things could have quickly gone south. Elk are very large and tough animals and it's not unusual for a big bull to weigh 3-4x as much as a big-bodied deer. There are also no shortage of stories about badly hit elk escaping into the next zip code with no signs of slowing down.

Yes, shot placement is extremely important, but hunters going afield after elk still must be adequately armed.

I know people use cartridges like the .243 Winchester to take elk each year. That doesn't mean hunting elk with a .243 or a 6.5 Grendel is a good idea though.

The hard truth is that many cartridges simply don't have enough juice to reach the vials after punching through the thick muscles and heavy bone of a big bull elk from certain angles, especially at ranges over 300 yards.

The 6.5 Grendel is absolutely capable of getting the job done on elk, but in my opinion, larger and more powerful cartridges are much better choices.

You don't need to go crazy and use something like a .338 Lapua on elk (though it will absolutely work). I think it's still a little on the light side, but the 6.5 Creedmoor does has quite a bit more horsepower than the 6.5 Grendel and is a better choice for elk hunting.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great ammunition options in the middle like the .280 Ackley Improved, 7mm Remington Magnum, the .30-06 Springfield, and the .300 Win Mag.

So, take all that for what it's worth. You can use the 6.5 Grendel for elk hunting if you want, but I personally prefer something a little bit more powerful.

Like what you see? You can read more great articles by John McAdams on the Big Game Hunting Blog. Subscribe to his show: the Big Game Hunting Podcast.