5 Best 6.5 Grendel Uppers [Hands-On 2019]

Maybe you want something a little different than the venerable .223 Remington/5.56 NATO in your AR.

What is a good cartridge that is a jack-of-all-trades? Look no further than the 6.5 Grendel!

grendelfirefight

Look no further…I test out 5 of the most popular 6.5 Grendel uppers out on the market today.

By the end you’ll know if you want a 6.5 Grendel (the answer is yes) and which one to get.

The Jack-of-All-Trades

The 6.5 Grendel has proven itself so far to be a great cartridge regarding target shooting and hunting within intermediate ranges. Its parent case is the .220 Russian, which it shares with the 7.62x39mm.

Unlike the 7.62x39mm though, this cartridge is built with speed in mind and drastically outperforms its cousin in ballistics and long-range performance.

With high quality, factory ammunition becoming more available, the 6.5 Grendel is a great choice for anyone that wants to push further. Offerings from Federal Premium, American Eagle, Hornady, and economical steel case ammunition from Wolf can be found at local gun shops and can easily be found online.

Lots of Choices

What 6.5 Grendel upper will fit your budget and your expectations?

I went about answering that question with 5 different companies that offer 6.5 Grendel uppers! All the mentioned companies offer different price points for the 6.5 Grendel ranging from $399 up to $549. All uppers tested had either an 18” or 20” 416R stainless steel barrel, and all of them were a “Type 2” 6.5 Grendel chamber.

The companies are as follow:

Testing in Hilly Western Pennsylvania

During my time with the 5 different uppers, I was able to do some accuracy testing to shoot groups at 100 yards and out to 400 yards.

If I could have gone further, I would have, but the fact remains that Western Pennsylvania is not amazing countryside for 1,000-yard shots. In my opinion, though, nearly a quarter mile can still show excellent accuracy capabilities for a rifle. All rifles were thoroughly cleaned before they were shot.

grendeluppers
All 5 Grendel Uppers sent to the author

The lower that was used is a typical, forged T6 7075 aluminum receiver with a rifle length extension, using a LUTH-AR MBA-1. The lower parts are from CMMG, but the drop-in trigger is the Timney AR-15 Competition Trigger.

Its no over-exaggeration to say that the Timney is one of the smoothest drop-in triggers I have handled with a very crisp trigger pull, and short reset. This is an excellent choice for precision shooting at longer ranges.

All shots were taken off a bench using Caldwell Shooting Bags.

timneytrigger
Timney literally sent me a Tootsie-Pop with my trigger. It was delicious.

The optic used for all 5 uppers was an ACME Machine 6-24×50 FFP with their TR-MOA reticle. I have used this scope with a few different reviews, and I can recommend this optic for anyone with a smaller budget for long range glass. 

acmescope
ACME Machine 6-24×50 FFP

Ammunition used for accuracy testing was sent to me by Hornady. It consisted of Hornady Black ELDs in 123 grain and Hornady Custom SST in 123 grain.

As always in my experience, the Hornady ammo performed great and was consistent with shot to shot. It is relatively inexpensive ammo regarding match grade, or hunting grade ammunition. I tend to shoot a lot of Hornady ammunition in my personal 6.5 Grendel rifle.

hornadyammo
Fat stacks of Hornady Ammo

Best 6.5 Grendel Uppers

1. ACME Machine 18” Upper

ACME Machine sells and manufactures just about anything that you could use to build or upgrade your rifle. They are a lower budget, bargain retailer that can sell a product at a surprising low cost, while still offering higher grade components like Ballistic Advantage, Aero Precision, Magpul, LUTH-AR, and their own line of products.

acmeupper1
AMCE 18″ Upper

ACME Machine’s entry into the 6.5 Grendel market utilizes a Ballistic Advantage barrel. The model that I received had an 18” fluted 416R stainless steel barrel. The bolt carrier group is a fully nitrided system that uses a 9310 Type 2 Grendel bolt.

Mechanically, the weapon fed and fired flawlessly using a 5 round ASC magazine.

acmeupper2

The upper receiver was an Aero Precision M4E1 and aesthetically provides a step up from the standard mil-spec world of forged receivers. This upper came with an included ACME Machine 17” free-floated handguard and phosphate gas block. To round it off, the upper came with an ACME Machine ambidextrous charging handle and phosphate 3 port muzzle device to tame recoil.

acme100
ACME Upper – 0.89 MOA at 100-yards

The Ballistic Advantage barreled upper from ACME Machine performed very well and shot under 1 MOA at 100 yards. The best 5 shot group measured in at .89 MOA.

After the barrel fouled, it tightened up more when I reached out to 400 yards. This upper was able to print a .74 MOA group that measured in at 3.1” at 400 yards. I have had personal success with Ballistic Advantage before, so this did not surprise me.

acme400
ACME Upper – 0.74 MOA at 400-yards

2. Atheris Rifle Company 20” Upper

Atheris Rifle Company produces a multitude of calibers in complete rifles and upper receivers. They are well known in smaller circles of the 6.5 Grendel Cult to have well built, accurate rifles that won’t kill your bank account.

atherisupper1
Atheris Rifle Company 20″ Upper

The upper that Atheris Rifle Company sent to me was barreled with a 20” Atheris barrel with a thread protector. It uses a mil-spec, forged upper receiver with Strike Industries parts for the dust cover, and an Atheris ambidextrous charging handle. The bolt carrier group is a nitrided system with a 9310-steel bolt. Just like all the other uppers, it performed flawlessly during my tests.

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What really drew my eye to this upper is the aesthetics of the free-floated handguard. It is a 15” lightened MLOK handguard that is 100% American made. It is a slim handguard that gives plenty of grip for your hand but still has Picatinny rails on the end of the handguard toward the muzzle for attaching any accessory that you may want for the AR15. By design, the handguard also uses an anti-rotation system for a rock-solid mount.

atheris100
Artheris Upper – 0.62 MOA at 100-yards

The Atheris 6.5 Grendel upper stepped up the competition at this point. Its best 100 yard 5-shot group measured in at .62 MOA. Once the barrel fouled from previous zeroing shots and at 100 yards, it began to tighten up at 400 yards. This upper’s best 5 shot group at 400 yards measured .5 MOA at 2.09”. Atheris Rifle Company’s experience really shines through with their 6.5 Grendel. At $549, this upper is a shooter and seems to be capable of sub .5 MOA!

atheris400
Artheris Upper – 0.5 MOA at 400-yards

3. Grendel Hunter 20” Upper

Grendel Hunter is another great company that is well known within the Grendel community. If you are a fan of the 6.5 Grendel, you probably know or have spoken with Andy Hobein, the owner of Grendel Hunter, on forums or on Facebook pages. He has a wealth of knowledge about the Grendel and is always willing to share.

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Grendel Hunter 20″ Upper

The Grendel Hunter upper that was sent to me uses a 20” Satern Liberty barrel with a Grendel Hunter designed slanted 3-port muzzle device. The free-floated handguard is also designed by Grendel Hunter and has a slanted angle cut that matches the muzzle device perfectly. The muzzle device is highly efficient in my experience.

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Grendel Hunter 20″ Upper

The receiver is an Aero Precision M4E1 upper and is built up with Strike Industries parts, including their dust cover, forward assist, and a Strike Industries charging handle. On the Grendel Hunter website, upgrading is easy with their drop-down menu, allowing customers to customize what they want.

gh100
Grendel Hunter Upper – 0.43 MOA at 100-yards

The Grendel Hunter upper was an absolute tack driver during testing. With the Satern Liberty barrel, its best 5-shot group at 100 yards printed a .43 MOA, with one round that opened the group. Once I stretched its legs out to 400 yards, I was able to shoot a .44 MOA, 1.85” group. A sub .5 MOA complete upper at nearly $650, in my opinion, is well worth it. Grendel Hunter has a winner on their hands.

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Grendel Hunter Upper – 0.44 MOA at 400-yards

4. Palmetto State Armory 6.5 Grendel 18” Upper

Palmetto State Armory’s offering that was sent to me uses a mil-spec, forged upper receiver.

Best Goldilocks 6.5 Grendel Upper
360
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The bolt carrier group is nitrided and uses a 9310-steel bolt with “6.5 Grendel” laser engraved on the carrier. The upper uses mil-spec parts for the forward assist, charging handle, and dust cover. The handguard is a free-floated, 15” MLOK and is a solid design with an integrated QD attachment point.

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Palmetto State Armory 18″ Upper

The 18” 416R stainless steel barrel is manufactured by PSA through D.C. Machine and in my experience, they are typically great shooters for the price. The muzzle device is a typical A2 style muzzle device threaded for a 5/8×24 TPI barrel.  I personally was able to stretch out to 1,000 yards with a PSA 6.5 Grendel rifle while in WY with PSA on a media trip.

psa100
PSA Upper – 1.16 MOA at 100-yards

While shooting the PSA Grendel, I was able to shoot a respectable group at 100 yards measuring in at 1.16 MOA. After the initial zeroing and fouling shots, at 400 yards the barrel did prove to be sub-MOA putting out a 5-shot group at .86 MOA measuring in at 3.58”. At its price point, usually being sold at under $400, it is a solid choice for anyone looking for a hunting or recreational long-range shooter.

psa400
PSA Upper – 0.86 MOA at 400-yards

Plus…we at Pew Pew Tactical love their regular AR-15 Uppers (full review).

PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde
PSA 5.56 & .223 Wylde

What’s your take on the PSA Grendel?

Readers' Ratings

4.91/5 (88)

Your Rating?

5. Sanders Armory 20” Upper

Sanders Armory offers multiple offerings in varying calibers. Kelly Sanders, the owner, can be found on multiple pages dedicated to ARs on Facebook and is always willing to help people with information. While this is getting more normal with social media, in my opinion, when an owner of a company is active on social media, that speaks volumes of their customer service.

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Sanders Armory 20″ Upper

The upper that was sent to me has a 20” Sanders Armory barrel in 416R stainless steel with a 3-port stainless muzzle device. The upper is a mil-spec, forged receiver using a nitrided BCG. The handguard is a free-floated 16.5”, clamp-on, key-mod design. It felt very solid running off the shooting bags or when I had mounted a bipod on it.

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Sanders Armory 20″ Upper

At 100 yards, this upper was able to print a .57 MOA group. After the other uppers tightening up a bit from all the zeroing shots, and 100-yard groupings, I had high hopes that this upper would do the same. It did not disappoint. Out of all the uppers, the Sanders Armory 20” upper’s best 5 shot group at 400 yards measured .37 MOA and 1.56”.

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Sanders Armory Upper – 0.57 MOA at 100-yards

This complete upper is priced at $488 currently, so I feel the need to reiterate IT GROUPED 1.56” AT 400 YARDS! While this upper does not look as flashy as other models, and I personally like MLOK over Key-Mod, this upper is a workhorse that can put up solid results in the accuracy department.

sanders400
Sanders Armory Upper – 0.37 MOA at 400-yards

The Run Down

In my opinion, all 5 of these uppers are great buys depending on what you want. With that being said, all barrels are different, and YMMV.

Depending on your budget, and what you expect from a rifle, either of these 5 choices could be a viable option. I can’t honestly pick “the best” choice without the expectations of the shooter and their budget.

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All 5 Grendel Uppers Sent to the Author

But in the end, hopefully, with the information in this article, you can make your best choice with the money you have.

It is safe to say though, that if you want a long-range cartridge for your AR15, the 6.5 Grendel is a fabulous choice and will get the job done for your paper punching or hunting needs!

What 6.5 Grendel upper do you run? Take any game with it? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to get some glass to go with your new rifle with our Best AR-15 Optics!

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Optics

24 Leave a Reply

  • Christopher

    Atheris (Like the spiked bush Viper) Not Artheris. Excellent uppers btw. By far the best bang for the buck.

    3 weeks ago
  • David

    I see a lot of suggestions as to better but nobody listed their 100 yd group size. I dont expect everyone to have a 400 yd range but at least post a sample of your 100 yd group. I have a Sanders 18" fluted match upper and I have .65 " to .75" 100 yd groups and I am 67 years old and a cancer survivor with hands that go numb at times through out the day. Others at my club have gotten better results than I did. For the money (half of a 18 " AA upper) I would find it hard to believe that a AA can shoot .35" 100 yd groups with the same ammo. If it can then you got what you paid for but I dont have $1000+ to spend on a hog hunter and part time target rifle. It has yet to fail and after using some accuracy oil recommended by Rex Tibor my groups are coming down in size. Maybe the title is wrong and should be the best for under $750. But I can see spending $500 more for a AA upper when mine does all I need and then some.

    3 months ago
  • ThePoorsAreAtItAgain

    5 best? Well your credibility just went to shit. All of those listed are complete trash lol ACME Machine? They source half their crap from China and act like it a great value. Just because 5 awful companies sent you free uppers, doesn’t mean they are the best. Kids, save your money and buy a nice 6.5 barrel. Not this crap. Because yours won’t be free, and they aren’t worth their weight in the Chinesium they are “forged” from.

    4 months ago
    • Boyd

      I'm with jp64. The groups speak for themselves. Just because you have unending $, doesn't mean the rest of us do. My old 788 is one of the best shooting .223's I've seen. Now that is a "CHEEP" gun.

      2 months ago
      • Trollygag

        They cherry picked the best groups out of who knows how many by their own admission. That's not nearly the same thing as proving the upper. What's the average of everything it shot? I've had uppers that would barely hold 2 MOA but would occasionally shoot 0.5 MOA groups.

        1 second ago
    • jp64

      Crap? The groups say differently. Take your meds and calm down

      4 months ago
    • AwwwImPoor....

      Weird flex but OK.

      4 months ago
  • Chuck

    18” Alexander lite barrel/bolt on a Smith and Wesson M&P donor rifle. 15” MI Mlok rail. Ebay muzzle brake lol ( it works really well). Geissele SSA-E trigger. Magpul PRs gen 2 and heavy buffer. Warne 20 MOA cantilever base with Leupold VX5HD 3-15x44 CDS ZL. My hunting load which has dropped every critter in their tracks with perfect heart shots including a 200+ pound whitetail at 321 yards (dialed 6.25 MOA) is 26.9 grains of H4895 in starline brass, CCI 450, 129 Accubond long range (1300 fps minimum velocity), 2.260” OAL. It’s not a barrel burner but it’s always 1/2 MOA at 2285 fps. Start low and work up. Who needs CM velocity when you can expand a bullet at 1300 fps. I’ve taken that load out to 820 yards on steel and it still impacts hard. I’ve tried the Grendel II chamber but my love is with the Saami spec chambers from the ones that started it all.

    4 months ago
  • Notalima

    16" Ballistic Advantage Premium Fluted assembled on a M4E1 'Enhanced' upper w/12" 'Enhanced' rail. Suppressed running a Sentry7 Adjustable Block. Peccary hunting. Great setup with a 1-8 Strike Eagle. Also a 12.5" BA Hanson build. Grendel still has excellent ballistics at that short of BBL length. A bit over-gassed since I'm using the pinned block rather than an adjustable (when suppressed). Going to take it next season to the reservation for Peccary hunting.

    4 months ago
  • DaveR

    Check out the Bear Creek Arsenal Grendel...they now have a side charging receiver.....

    4 months ago
  • Alan Berryhill

    As for the PSA, I have found they have a good product, but over torque the barrel. Take it apart and resemble at proper spec and you will be amazed. Should get equal or better performance than the Grendel Hunter.

    4 months ago
  • Felix Rocha Jr

    How's your experience with Bear Creek Arsenal 20" SS non fluted Uppers in 6.5 Grendel?

    4 months ago
    • Jim

      Spend a few buck more and save time(and money, spent over $100 on ammo to try get BCA to work), I had to return 3 BCA 6.5 Grendel uppers, short chamber problems. My experience BCA upper is 2-3MOA with Hornady factory ammo. The problem only seems to be the Grendel barrels, other chamber types seem to be good, 300bo, .223 Wylde, NATO and 7.62x39.

      2 months ago
    • DaveR

      I have the 18", which I've read is the optimum length barrel, and it's spot on! I've got no complaints with BCA,and have 7.62x39, and .223 Wylde uppers.

      4 months ago
    • Ben

      I can speak from personal experience with a Bear Creek 16" M4 profile 6.5 Grendel barrel I built an upper with. 3-4 MOA at 100 yards with starting loads in hornady brass with 123-gr Nosler BTHP's. Had to work to find a load that brought those groups to just over 1 MOA. Lot of hassle. Don't buy Bear Creek. (Slightly) more expensive brands like Ballistic Advantage and Satern offer better barrels that shoot around MOA, usually better, right of the bat.

      4 months ago
  • Harold

    Odin Works 20” Barrel is what is use.

    4 months ago
  • Reid

    I have an 18" Odin Works upper. This past season took a mule deer buck at 150, antelope doe at 250, coyote at 285, cow elk at 450. Slapped a 14" square steel consistently out to 625. Not sure how much better you could get.

    4 months ago
    • ray thompson

      what is your rifle twist rate and weight of bullets. In Calif. we can not use lead and have to have longer bullets to get and weight to them.

      4 months ago
      • Reid

        I believe Odin runs 1/8 twist. I was shooting 130gr Sierra Tipped Gamekings, PowerPro Varmint powder at around 2400fps. Not much help on the "no lead" rule. You could move to America where we are free to shoot the lead back into the ground. I wonder if anyone voting this lunacy in questions where we found the lead to start with?

        4 months ago
  • Jim

    Can only read the first few paragraphs before the popups and subscription offers show up and cover most of the screen...

    4 months ago
  • David

    In testing 6.5 Grendel uppers why wasn’t Alexander’s upper in the group since he was the major designer of the Grendel round? After all you were looking for the best upper!

    4 months ago
    • Charles Miller

      Exactly, I’ve tried a Saturn barrel and I’ve tried a Ballistic Advantage barrel they didn’t impress me like the 18” Alexander barrel I’m currently running. It’s Saami from now on with any Grendel builds I do.

      4 months ago
  • Cory G

    Best uppers I've seen come out of Fort Worth, TX with sgtofarms it's an aero frame jp internals and t-box barrel pulling one hole groups at 100.

    4 months ago
  • SKelt

    Great write-up. I'm getting into Grendel myself but I'm building a 12" pistol first with a longer range setup later. Will refer back to this post in the future.

    4 months ago
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