6.8 – a different opinion

When the February 2011 issue of American Rifleman showed up in my mailbox a few days ago, I look at the cover and see “Shooting & Loading the 6.8 SPC“. Ooo! How apropos!

In reading the article I was taken aback. How much actual experience with 6.8 SPC did the author, Bryce M. Towsley, have? I know he’s been around, but I’m talking specifically with the 6.8.

The article isn’t overall bad, but it just doesn’t seem all that well-informed.

He says “The 6.8 SPC is not a ‘drop-them-in-their-tracks’ cartridge”. I beg to differ, having dropped a deer DRT just a couple months ago. I know others have experienced the same. He also mentioned that they rarely exited, but until that same deer hunt I have never recovered a bullet… all have exited, and this one didn’t purely because of the angle at which I shot the deer (all hail Barnes TSX performance). But I’ll give him a pass on this given the rest of the paragraph seemed to have been speaking of past performance, not modern 6.8 performance.

Then he says after testing a multitude of factory ammunition and handloads, he says didn’t find the 6.8 to be particularly accurate. Eh?


Ignore the ones in the center as I was still zeroing the rifle. This is from a Wilson Combat 6.8 upper using Silver State Armory 85 grain Barnes TSX “tac-load”. The 3 groups on the diamonds are not accurate?

If the data in the article is complete, then I’m not sure what to say. Either it’s your gun, your handloads, or your factory ammo choice. Try some Silver State Armory for factory ammo. For handloading, Silver State Armory’s small-primer brass is the best.

When it comes to performance when hunting, the article makes it sound like 6.8 isn’t good for much beyond varmints and whitetail deer. People are taking elk with 6.8, big mean hogs with 6.8. So, not really sure why 6.8 gets the brush-off from the author.

What’s more confusing? While the online article doesn’t have the sidebar, the print article has a sidebar on 6.8 by Bill Wilson (the “Wilson” in “Wilson Combat“). Bill has done a lot of testing and work with the 6.8, and here’s the proof. <– go on, click it. It’s not just the copy nor testimonials at the top of the page; it’s not just the guns listed in the middle of the page. Look towards the bottom of the page and the number of animals taken, and those are just the big trophy-like ones. Look how many big Texas feral hogs were taken with 6.8. And look all the way at the bottom at the steel plates and the grouping there at long distance.

Furthermore, Bill’s sidebar says:

My initial impressions of the 6.8 SPC were its accuracy potential, functional reliability and lack of recoil. Shot through quality barrels, it’s easy to get 1/2″ to 1″ 100-yard groups with bullets suitable for hunting. Few load combinations I tried shot worse than 2″.

One article contradicts the other article. So which is it? Is 6.8 accurate or not? Me? I’ll take Bill’s word for it because I know how much work he’s done in this area.

Bill continues:

But my personal reason for experimenting with the 6.8 SPC was not tactical or target shooting. It was hunting, specifically hog hunting. For those who have not hunted hogs, be aware that a 100-lb. hog is as tough to kill as an average whitetail, and a big, tough old 200-plus-lb. boar is as hard to put down as some elk-sized animals. They are tough, require good shot placement and deep penetration.

[…]

So how does the 6.8 SPC actually work on game? This little round has terminal performance way out of proportion to its size. At the time of this writing I know of more than 50 hogs weighing up to 270 lbs. that have been cleanly taken with the 6.8 SPC with neck and shoulder shots at distances up to 150 yards.

[…]

…my favorite [loads for hogs] being the 85- and 100-gr. Barnes TSX and the Nosler 130-gr. AccuBond. For predators and whitetails, I like the Barnes 85-gr. TSX, 110-gr. Sierra Pro-Hunter and the 100- or 110-gr. Nosler AccuBond.

Based on my hog and deer hunting experiences, however, I would not hesitate to shoot the largest hog, a large mule deer or a black bear with my 6.8 loaded with Barnes 110-gr. TSX bullets.

When you actually know what the history is of the 6.8, when you know what’s going on with the 6.8 and what it can actually do, you find it’s quite a fantastic and capable round. If you really want to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on with 6.8, or if you just want to learn more about it, 68forums.com is your best resource.

I got into 6.8 because I wanted something more capable than .223/5.56 for hunting, but didn’t add tremendous amounts of recoil. Something in the AR platform gives lots of versatility and flexibility of options. I wanted this so I could have something my kids could hunt with. Thing is, it’s becoming what I’m enjoying to hunt with. 🙂  I’d say the only downside is there still isn’t an inexpensive option for plinking rounds.

If this article can get more people interested in 6.8 SPC, that’s great. Unfortunately I wonder if people are going to read the article and blow it off due to the way the article was written. Hopefully people will pay more attention to Bill Wilson’s sidebar.

10 thoughts on “6.8 – a different opinion

  1. I’m almost certain I saw a TV segment (maybe American Rifleman Television, maybe Guns & Ammo TV?) where Mr. Towsley talked about the “clips” going into his AR. Mmm hmm.

    In the “you knew this was coming” segment, I was a burgeoning fan of the 6.8 until I started studying the ballistics* of it compared to 6.5 Grendel. Yes, I’m aware of the “open source” nature of 6.8 compared to 6.5 but the 6.8 seems to behave like 7.62 x 39 at longer ranges, while the 6.5 is more .308-ish (which was what I was looking for.)

    However, at “normal” distances (100 yards or less) I think 6.8 is a gem, and as a PDW round I think it’s the jam.

    My biggest problem is that when I look at 6.x cartridges, I keep realizing that .308 does everything I wanted the 6.x cartridges to do – except fit into a standard AR15 rifle’s form factor.

    *http://shootersforum.com/attachment.htm?s=d4eab35d71e1a7659c7624a7933da857&attachmentid=446&d=1076081272

    • Clips. ’nuff said.

      I will agree that 6.5 Grendel is great when it comes to longer distances. But for the need I was going for (kids, hunting, within 200-yards, AR-form factor, lightweight gun and recoil, etc.), 6.8 SPC was the right fit. Now that there’s a 1000 yard range in the area tho, you get to thinking about what to get for that. 🙂

      Of course I still adore my .308’s. Can’t deny it.

  2. I was at Heritage just a couple days ago and Tom brought up the 6.8 our of nowhere. He mentioned how he thought it was great round and the way of the future.

    • It’s not perfect (consider what Exodus wrote above), but I do think it’s a fantastic round.

      Man… I need to get back to the reloading bench…..

  3. John-

    Just read this article as well and I’m interested to hear about your positive reviews of the 6.8SPC. That’s on my short list for future purchases. That said, my biggest complaint with the article was also the “6.8 is not a drop them in their tracks cartridge…” This is such an unquantified statement that it can hardly be taken seriously. What is he shooting at? Even the size and durability of whitetail can differ greatly within the U.S. Those two deer in your picture would be considered very small in other parts of the country, so I don’t know if that’s the best counter-point. However, I was just part of an aerial game management project last month and I was dropping hogs up to 300-350 pounds with .223 55 gr SP all day long. Just like handguns, there is no magic caliber. It is shot placement that is key. If that .223 will drop hogs that size, then the 6.8 should be even more effective. Either way, both cartridges can take any game in Texas and most of the country with the right shooter. Furthermore, the 6.8 ballistics are comparable to the .270 Winchester, what has long been a very highly respected hunting cartridge.

    It’s my experience in 20 years of hunting that many hunters try using large calibers to compensate for a lack of shooting skill. The fact is that a well-placed hit from a lesser cartridge bits a marginal hit from another cartridge any day.

    • I agree the two does I shot aren’t huge. But that was my own “DRT” experience with 6.8 (it’s still new relatively new to me). More than enough other people have had DRT experiences with 6.8, that I’m just not where where the author was coming from. But like I said, the tone of that article paragraph seemed to imply that’s how the cartridge WAS but now isn’t. I could accept that, given a lot has progressed in the 6.8 SPC realm since its inception. Heck, the Barnes TTSX 95 grain is specifically made for 6.8 SPC (i.e. it’s not just a general .277″ bullet, but specifically a 6.8 SPC bullet), and was only introduced within the past year… but after much positive field testing.

      But you hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Shot placement matters more than anything. Sure, the caliber, the bullet, the overall cartridge, they can and do matter… I’m not going to try to take a moose with a .22 LR nor am I going to use a .300 Win Mag for squirrels. But in the end, it’s more about the software than the hardware… you gotta do your part.

      Anyways, any time you head up this way, let me know. You’re welcome to check out my rifle.

  4. My 6.8 I built from a stripped lower. From the ground up. It was intended to be my hog hunting gun so I mounted a cheap 4X fixed power scope but I’ve been so impressed that it has become my rifle for everything, including home defense. I have since mounted a Bushnell Elite 1.25-8X scope that effectively allows me to use it for anything. I’m a reloader and I already owned a Savage 270 so it was an easy transition. I prefer barnes TSX 110 gr bullets with 28.5 grains of H322. It’s a “do anything” load. I’m taking it to Texas in September for more hogs.
    I was a medic in the Army for 6 years. Gunshot wounds are more than a hobby for me, and this is my caliber of choice.
    As for the 6.5, it’s designer keeps a short leash on it. Too short for my liking. Although it has better performance out to 900 yrds, as a soldier I’d have ask, “Why am I engaging something out that far?”

    • The 6.8 SPC was purpose built and while I don’t think it’s as “jack of all trades” as .308 Win, I still think it’s quite a good and versatile cartridge. I’ve not been able to get to the reloading bench to get to handloading some Barnes TTSX 95 grain bullets, but it looks like Wilson Combat made some loads that work well. This reminds me I need to pick up a couple boxes well before deer season comes around so I can see how they perform out of my gun. 🙂

      Good luck and have fun on your hog hunt. We’re overrun by hogs here so take all you can! 🙂 Your 6.8 with those 110 TSX’s will drop ’em just fine.

  5. Could i get some opinions on the barnes 85gr tsx bullets for the 6.8 spc? I shoot a t\c encore and usaully use 110gr v-max i reload and was wondering if anyone liked the 85 or 95gr barnes bullet..thanks any info or opinion would be appreciated…or u could call me 304-916-6083

    • The 95 grain TTSX were purpose built for 6.8 SPC, whereas the 85g and 110 TSX were just .277″ bullets. The 85 and 110 TSX’s work just fine of course, but the 95 TTSX was made precisely to fit with all the joys of 6.8 SPC.

      As a general sweeping notion, the 85 will shoot flatter but have less “energy” (since it’s lighter), whereas then the 110’s have more arc and more energy. Generalization here. The 95 TTSX is just shy of being the best of both worlds. It shoot pretty flat (tho not as flat as the 85) and has a lot of energy (tho not as much as the 110). And like all Barnes bullets, does its job quite well.

      If you have a particular need you might choose one over the other, but generally speaking the 95 TTSX should perform great.

      If you haven’t, check out the 68forums.com. It’s one of the best resources for such matters.

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