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350 Legend Vs 6.5 Grendel: Which Is The Better Caliber For Hunting?

Unlike common calibers and classic rounds from the previous century, modern cartridges are primarily designed to offer ballistic improvements over the standard, well-established chamberings.

These new cartridges brought a few upgrades from a ballistics standpoint, trying to improve the terminal lethality – or lack thereof.

While quite a lot of the rounds came with that vision, some newer cartridges, besides improved performance, were also designed to comply with hunting regulations in some U.S. states.

What is it really about?

350 Legend vs. 6.5 Grendel Which You Should Get?

.350 Legend6.5 Grendel
Bullet125 to 280 gr (8.1 to 18.1 g)90 to 130 gr (6.1 to 8.4 g)
Bullet diameter
.357” (9.07mm).264” (6.7mm)
Case length1.71” (43.4mm)1.52” (38.6mm)
Maximum overall length2.26” (57.4mm)2.26” (57.4mm)
Rim diameter.378” (9.6mm).438” (11.1mm)
Max Pressure (SAAMI)55,000 psi52,000 psi
Muzzle Velocity150gr/ 2,250 fps120gr/ 2,378 fps 
Muzzle Energy150gr/ 1,801ft-lbs120gr/1,802ft-lbs
200yds Bullet Drop (inches)7.6”0.0”
Powder load24.4 gr26.0 gr
Rifle Weight7.0 lbs.6.0 lbs.
Free recoil energy 10.06 ft-lbs.9.12 ft-lbs.
Case capacity 36.5 gr H2O35.0 gr H2O

Due to the densely populated hunting areas, several mid-western states (Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan) have specific regulations for deer hunting by restricting deer hunters to use only muzzleloaders or shotguns with slugs during a firearms season.

While the laws in these states prohibited bottleneck calibers for hunting, recently, they have changed the rules allowing rifles chambered in straight-walled centerfire cartridges to be used in the so-called “limited firearms deer zone.”

Additionally, the hunting regulations in those states requested rifle cartridges of at least .35 caliber with cases between 1.16 and 1.8 inches in length.

Early contenders were .450 Bushmaster and .444 Marlin, but it is beyond question that they are more potent than necessary for hunting whitetail deer. Along with overkill energy, the other downsides are a higher price tag and a fair bit of recoil.

.350 Legend

Considering the entire situation, Winchester Ammunition offered a new medium bore cartridge to the North American hunting community to address a specific need. Introduced in 2019 at the SHOT Show, the .350 Legend met those requirements while also being capable of reliably and cleanly taking white-tailed deer.

As a relatively specialized centerfire rifle cartridge, the straight-walled .350 Legend has an effective range as that of a rifled shotgun – around 150 to 200 yards at a maximum. Explicitly designed for deer hunting, the .350 Legend can still ethically take down a deer out to 200yds.

However, beyond that, a heavy-hitting .350 Legend is not recommended to use because the bullet begins to fall more quickly, dropping at 300 yards for more than 28 inches.

As a distant cousin of a .223 Remington, the .350 Legend (9×43 mm) is based on the same case with the .378-inch rim diameter blown out straight to accept .355 caliber bullets.

The most important thing is a variety of bullets weights ranging from 125 to 280 gr, making it a highly versatile cartridge with many end uses.

The case without shoulder is a unique design, but the .350 Legend is similar to the .223 Remington in appearance, sharing the same .223’s headspaces and a maximum overall length of 2.26″.  Featuring the same base, this straight-walled cartridge can be used in the AR-15 platform, only having to change the barrel on your .223 AR-15 carbine.

Firing the standard 150-grain loads at 2,325 fps, the .350 Legend will generate 1,800 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at the muzzle, delivering excellent performance on deer-sized game at short to moderate range.

Best of all, the Legend produces light recoil, maybe a little sharper than 5.56, making it a good option for young hunters or recoil-sensitive shooters. The .350 Legend generates around 9 foot-pounds of energy in a seven-pound rifle, about half as much as a .308 Winchester.

The new Winchester offering is designed primarily for Modern Sporting Rifles (MSR), but it was initially offered in Winchester XPR bolt-action rifles.

6.5 Grendel 

After three years of development, Alexander Arms released the 6.5 Grendel in 2003 as a more powerful alternative for the .223 Remington that could surpass the 5.56 performance at a longer distance and slip the wind better.

Compared to the hunting round .350 Legend, the 6.5 Grendel was initially designed for military applications and used in the M16/M4 rifles. Still, with the growing popularity of the AR-15, the 6.5 Grendel continued to gain followers among hunters and shooters.

The 6.5 Grendel cartridge has a 6.5mm PPC case as a parent case which in turn descends from the .220 Russian and the 7.62x39mm cartridges. With an overall length of 2.26″, the 6.5 Grendel is created to be an effective STANAG magazine-length cartridge for AR-15 firearms. 

While designed to be within the AR-15 magazine length constrictions, the 6.5 Grendel`s fat case drastically limits 5.56 magazine capacity to only 24 rounds, not 30. 

Compared with .350 Legend and AR compatibility, you will need to swap out your upper receiver for a 6.5 Grendel Upper, and many recommend using a specific magazine for that caliber.

The primary difference is that the .350 Legend fires a 0.355″ diameter bullet from a straight-walled cartridge, whereas the 6.5 Grendel fires a .264″ (6.5mm) diameter bullet from a bottleneck cartridge. The 6.5 Grendel ammunition typically has bullet weights in the 90-140 grain range.

Using the 130- or 140-grain game bullet, the 6.5 Grendel was designed for hunting medium-sized game such as deer at 300-400 yards. The 6.5 Grendel is a flatter shooting round without drop at 200yds. In fact, it can effectively reach out to 300-400 yards, but it takes a skilled sharpshooter.

While the 6.5 Grendel has a much flatter trajectory and similar recoil, the .350 Legend has significantly more kinetic energy than the 6.5 Grendel at shorter hunting ranges.

Final thought 

Unlike some mainstream choices for medium-bore AR cartridges, both rounds can be ideal for deer hunting, enabling you to avoid the less svelte AR-10.

As an added bonus, both cartridges offer decreased recoil, which is a great feature, especially for younger and smaller-framed shooters.

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