September 29, 2020
It’s hard to believe just how fast time goes by the older you get. Time seems to pass in a flash at this stage of my life. Looking back it doesn’t seem possible that 15 years have elapsed since the introduction of an impressive little cartridge called the 6.5mm Grendel. Officially introduced at the 2004 SHOT Show by Alexander Arms, the 6.5mm Grendel went on to beat the odds and not just survive but thrive. Keep in mind, the 6.5mm Grendel was introduced at the exact same trade show where Remington rolled out their 6.8x43mm Rem Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC) for the commercial market. Like the .30-’06 Government and .270 Winchester, the 6.5mm Grendel and 6.8x43mm Rem SPC were star crossed and destined to pit their proponents against one another. Most in the industry felt Big Green’s new cartridge, which had originally been developed as a military project, would quickly squash its arch nemesis. After all, Alexander Arms was a small, almost unknown shop with little for financial resources. More importantly, American shooters had never truly embraced a .26-caliber cartridge. While the Grendel did indeed go through some rocky years, it persevered. Over time more and more shooters were impressed by its performance until it eventually surpassed its arch rival.
Two years ago, I stated, “2017 could rightfully be called the year of the Grendel.” Despite being a very tough year for the firearms industry overall, sales were brisk on 6.5mm Grendel rifles, pistols, barrels and especially ammunition. Growing interest in this cartridge turned into a veritable deluge some two years ago. This was partially due to the success of the 6.5mm Creedmoor, and was certainly aided by a flood of economical Russian steel case ammunition marketed by Wolf Performance Ammunition. Many shooters who previously had zero interest in the 6.5mm Grendel suddenly wanted one. This included an explosion of interest in short barrel Grendels.
While there was a time when some referred to the 6.5mm Grendel as a “boutique” cartridge and others said it was not long for this world, today the intermediate .26 bore is hugely popular. Two weeks ago all the major domestic ammunition manufacturers attended an annual editorial event put on by Firearm News’ parent company. One comment was heard over and over, “We cannot make 6.5mm Grendel ammunition fast enough.” There are exciting new releases on the way for 2020, including by one company I would never have dreamed of some 15 years ago.
And what of the company which breathed life into the 6.5mm Grendel? While the company’s founder, and the man behind the cartridge, Bill Alexander, has moved on, Alexander Arms continues to roll out new products. The rifle seen here is an example of their latest offering, the Blitz. Intended to be a general purpose rifle, it incorporates Precision Rifle Competition (PRC) influenced features into the build and layout. My first opportunity to spend time on the range with an Alexander Arms Blitz came during our recent Editorial Roundtable in Grinnell, Iowa. The rifle was mounted to a tripod via its Catalyst Arms Fast Track ARCA Precision Rifle Handguard. Standing behind it I picked out a steel target on the 500 yard line, guessed the wind and popped a shot off. I was rewarded by a pleasing “THWOK”. So, my first introduction to the Blitz was positive.
This new model is built around an 18-inch fluted barrel. This is a great length as it remains fairly handy, even with a suppressor mounted, while still providing enough velocity to “reach out there”. In the early days the belief was a Grendel needed a 24+ inch barrel, but that was shown to be rubbish years ago. The barrel fitted to this model is a medium profile which has been fluted to reduce weight and is threaded at the muzzle. Speaking of muzzle threads, in the “old days” Bill Alexander cursed the Grendel with an oddball muzzle thread. Thankfully those days are over and the Blitz features standard 5/8x24mm threads on the muzzle allowing you to easily mount the muzzle device of your choice. The rifle comes with a thread protector nut fitted, nothing more. Barrel twist is a fast 1 turn in 7.75 inches allowing use of a wide range of modern, efficient projectiles. I typically reload everything from 95s to 140s for my Grendel, the Blitz should handle them all nicely.
Surrounding the barrel is a 15-inch Fast Track ARCA Precision Rifle Handguard by Catalyst Arms. This is a modern design intended to aid the rifleman with putting lead on target. It features a wide flat bottom to be stable on bags or a rest. Unlike a traditional handguard this one will not try to “roll” on you. It features M-LOK slots for easy mounting of accessories such as a sling and bipod and is backward compatible with MIL STD 1913 Picatinny rail sections. There is no MIL STD 1913 top rail to provide additional clearance for low mounting optics with large 50/56mm objectives. It is tapped though, so if the rifleman wishes to add a rail it’s easy to do, but the intent was to be without a top rail.
What really makes this handguard pop is the addition of an Arca Swiss style rail along the full length of the bottom of the handguard. The Arca rail system was originally developed for interfacing expensive camera equipment onto a tripod, but due to its usefulness has migrated over to the shooting world. This rail allows mounting to tripods, or attaching accessories, which can then be quickly slid forward/backwards as the shooting situation dictates. The integrated rail is a non-snag design, so it will not hang up on gear or catch on things while sliding the rifle back and forth getting into position.
The barrel and handguard are fitted to a flattop upper receiver. This features a case deflector and forward assist. Operation is traditional DI and the bolt carrier assembly features the 6.5mm Grendel bolt they pioneered on their .50 Beowulf. An ambidextrous Radian Raptor charging handle is standard. The lower receiver is fitted with a three-pound Trigger Tech trigger. This features a clean break and a very short reset. Mounted onto the rifle length receiver extension is a Luth-AR adjustable stock. This has an easily adjusted cheek riser and is adjustable for length of pull. It features multiple sling mounting points and has a non-slip rubber pad. The rifle measures 36.2 inches in length and weighs just 7.5 pounds without magazine or optic. Finish is a Cerakote FDE.
The Blitz arrived in a soft case and a cursory examination revealed no flaws or issues. The rifle looked serious, so I rummaged around for a serious scope to complement it. I ended up mounting a Hensoldt ZF 4-16x56mm FF scope with Mil adjustments and a Front Focal plane illuminated Mil reticle. This is an older scope I pirated off one of my personal rifles for this test, and while the Mil Dot reticle is indeed dated, it’s still a wonderful piece of glass. I attached it to the Blitz via a LaRue QD mount, and then added a Harris bipod.
As this rifle is well suited for a variety of tasks including competition, hunting and recreational shooting I selected an assortment of loads to try through it. These ranged in weight from 100 to 130 grains and included offerings from Alexander Arms, American Eagle, Federal, Hornady and Wolf Performance Ammunition. Testing began with a quick zero and then four consecutive 5-shot groups were fired from the bipod at 100 yards. Velocity was recorded with a LabRadar Doppler chronograph at an ambient temperature of 85 degrees F.
When I first dry-fired the Trigger Tech trigger I’ll admit I didn’t much care for it. As I began to shoot it though I noticed it’s very short reset. The more I shot it the more I appreciated it. Recoil is fairly mild and I quickly felt at home behind the Blitz. Accuracy proved quite good, but the Blitz showed a definite preference for some loads over others. Best accuracy was obtained with Federal’s 130-grain Gold Medal Berger Match load. This averaged an impressive .5-inch at 2,345 fps. Right behind it was American Eagle’s 120-grain OTM which averaged .6-inch at 2,517 fps and Hornady’s Black ELD-M which averaged .6-inch at 2,520 fps. So the Blitz can certainly post some nice 100 yard groups for an out of the box semi-automatic rifle. Even Wolf’s economical 100-grain steel case FMJ-BT turned in a respectable average of 1.7 inches at 2,598 fps.
Moving from the bench I tried my hand at shooting from various positions you might encounter in a PRS match or varmint hunting. For this portion of testing I added a LaRue TranQuilo sound suppressor. Firing off railings and posts I worked my way out to 500 yards engaging various size steel plates. Recoil proved mild enough to allow me to spot my shots and the wide flat bottom of the handguard proved a welcome asset. Hitting an 11x20 inch LaRue proved no challenge, even at 500 yards.
Moving to prone I tried my hand engaging some swinging round plates. These measured 10, five and three inches. Load in the gun was Alexander Arms’ 123-grain Lapua Scenar OTM. I dialed three Mils into the gun and then adjusted for wind and fine-tuned my elevation using the reticle. I put 10 rounds onto the 10-inch plate getting a feel for the rifle while enjoying myself. For such a small intermediate cartridge the Grendel does very well in the wind. It’s a very enjoyable rifle to shoot whether very fast or taking your time. You can indeed make very rapid multiple hits at 500 yards with the Blitz. Moving to the five-inch plate I shot underneath it with my first shot and then connected with my next two. Moving over to the tiny three-inch plate I adjusted my hold, slowly broke the trigger and shot just below the bottom of the plate. I held up slightly, fired again and was rewarded with a solid center hit. Hitting a three-inch plate at 500 yards with an out of the box gas gun and factory ammunition is pretty good in my book.
About this time Todd Jaderborg who is a field editor for our sister title, Be Ready!, showed up. He dropped behind the Blitz and was quickly putting 120-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips on steel at 500 yards. I observed the rifle while he enjoyed himself. It fed flawlessly with consistent ejection to 3 o’clock. The magazine inserted easily, locked into place securely and all the controls operated as they should. Jaderborg also commented on the trigger’s short reset as he made the 500 yard LaRue dance on its chain. At this distance the Grendel’s visual and audible impact on steel is noticeably more pronounced than a 77-grain OTM from a 5.56x45mm.
I enjoyed my time behind the Blitz. It shot very well at distance and had zero issues of any kind. The bare rifle is fairly light, so even after adding a fairly heavy scope, bipod and suppressor the Blitz remains pretty maneuverable. This model will certainly appeal to someone looking for a more “technical” rifle. While the 6.5mm Grendel is not ideal for PRS competition, this model can be used for much more than just that. Sure, the Grendel lacks the raw horsepower of the 6.5mm Creedmoor, but it fits into a much smaller and lighter AR-15 rather than an AR-10. If you find the Blitz of interest it has an MSRP of $1,870.
Alexander Arms Blitz Specs
- Action Type: Semi-automatic via Direct Gas
- Caliber: 6.5mm Grendel
- Capacity: 10/25-round detachable box magazine
- Barrel: 18 inches, 1-7.75 inch twist
- Overall Length: 36.2 inches
- Weight: 7.5 pounds without optic or magazine
- Stock: Luth-AR Adjustable
- Length of Pull: 13.75 inches
- Finish: Cerakote Flat Dark Earth
- Trigger: Trigger Tech, 3-lb pull as measured
- Sights: None, 1913 rail
- Safety: Two-position
- Price: $1,870 MSRP
- Manufacturer: Alexander Arms, 540-443-9250, www.AlexanderArms.com
Alexander Arms Blitz Accuracy Results