The beginning of the 21st century was marked with significant progress in the ammo industry, mainly boosted by the US Military and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).
About the same time, several major and small ammunition producers have sought and independently developed cartridges with terminal knockdown surpassing .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO performance and .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO within the wildly popular AR-platform rifles.
These groundbreaking cartridges come in mid-bore 6.5mm, 6.8mm, and 7mm calibers and provide the increased capability of incapacitation and range over the existing 5.56x45mm NATO, 5.45x39mm, PRC 5.8x39mm, and 7.62x39mm cartridges.
Development of the 6.8 SPC
Although today, the 6.8mm SPC round is offered in its second and soon third generation, some background on the cartridge’s origins should be disclosed. Within the Enhanced Rifle Cartridge (ERC) program and at the request of Special Operations end-users, in 2002, Remington Arms developed the 6.8mm Special Purpose Cartridge, based on shortened commercial .30 Remington case.
Created to function in the AR-15 family of rifles with the end goal being ballistically superior to the 5.56mm cartridge in a Short Barreled Rifle (SBR)/Carbine, the 6.8mm Remington SPC is midway between the 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x39mm in bore diameter.
As a highly effective, yet lightweight cartridge, the 6.8mm SPC is becoming extremely popular as a hunting cartridge with the Black Rifle crowd. Combining a near-perfect balance of stopping power and recoil, it is a great round for small to medium-sized game, such as deer and hog at ranges out to 300 yards.
The 6.8mm SPC did get a following in the commercial market and major ammunition companies produced several different loads intended for home defense, hunting, and even recreational shooting.
As curiosity grew and only to justify its “Special Purpose” moniker, the Special Forces SPC team instructed the American ammo manufacturer to utilize specific powder, which contains an organic flash inhibitor in order to decrease muzzle flash in low light conditions.
Soon the 6.8 SPC was being used overseas against enemy combatants where it provided increased lethality and stopping power over the 5.56 mm cartridge.
The 6.8mm is explicitly made for use in short-barreled rifles, while it was initially planned to propel 115-grain bullets at an average speed of 2,600fps with 1,696 ft-lbs of energy on average, making it powerful enough to take out medium to medium/large-sized game.
On the other hand, when compared to the specialized 300 Blackout or with the full size 7.62mmx51mm NATO, the 6.8 SPC doesn't do any single job perfectly. In fact, it is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in the AR-15 world, but it does almost everything pretty well.
As a result, despite apparent advantages over 5.56mm, the 6.8 SPC was never adopted on a full scale in US Military or LEO, but a few foreign contracts have been already made with some Middle East governments.
Platforms for 6.8 SPC
While the 6.8 Remington SPC has evolved into one of the most available cartridges chambered in the AR-15 platform, some gun makers have offered their semi-auto 6.8mm iterations such as Ruger Mini 14s in 6.8 SPC or Remington modular assault rifle called ACR (Adaptive Combat Rifle). Even so, there are several companies manufacturing bolt-action rifles in this caliber.
Anyway, the most common rifle system that uses this robust little round remains the AR-15, mainly for converting an existing .223/5.56mm AR-15 to 6.8mm SPC, which involves only swapping barrels, bolts, and magazines or merely exchanging complete uppers.
Best 6.8 SPC Rifle: LWRC International - SIX8-A5 16IN 6.8MM SPC 30+1RD
While many AR makers are reconfiguring AR-15s to handle the 6.8x43mm round, the LWRC SIX8-SPR carbine is integrated with the 6.8 Rem. SPC caliber cartridge into the design process from the very beginning.
Maryland based, LWRC International Company developed a premium, piston-driven AR in 6.8 SPC by incorporating several patented components and features like the self-regulating, short-stroke, gas-piston system and ambidextrous controls, which includes the charging handle, magazine catch, safety selector, and bolt catch/release.
The SIX8-SPR is engineered with innovative caliber-specific internals resulting in a cleaner, cooler, more reliable system.
Being fully optimized for the 6.8 X 43mm SPC II cartridge the LWRC SIX8-SPR carbine is available with both 14” and 16” barrel length options. The cold, hammer-forged barrel is machined from 41V45 steel with a NiCorr finish and has a declared lifespan of 20,000 rounds.
The new LWRCI SIX8 family sported the bolt-carrier group with generous relief cuts and is protected by a nickel-boron finish. The enlarged ejection port and magazine well are longer and wider than that found on a 5.56 NATO carbine.
Both the upper and lower receivers are built of durable 7075-T6 aluminum alloy as well as a slim-line, free-float handguard.
The SIX8-SPR carbine comes with a standard Magpul pistol grip and a few proprietary LWRC parts like Skirmish Back-Up iron sights, compact six-position buttstock, and LWRC ambidextrous-sling mount.
While the reliable magazines for the 6.8 cartridges were a major drawback, LWRCI solved the problem by using a new 30-round, 6.8 Rem. SPC magazine, made by Magpul.
Best 6.8 SPC Upper: AERO Precision - AR-15 Stripped Upper W/Marking No Forward Assist
This AR-15 stripped upper receiver without forward assist is one of Aero Precision’s most popular products which provides you with an opportunity to select each component down to the smallest detail in order to build your own personalized 6.8mm SPC rifle.
This Aero Precision Stripped Upper comes with the ejection port cover already installed and with M4-type feed cuts inside for reliable feeding.
This economic stripped receiver, also known as a "slick" upper, is forged from 7075-T6 aluminum for superior strength and is machined to mil-spec tolerances for a solid, tight fit on the standard AR lowers.
If you don't see the need for a forward assist but wish to save weight, the Aero Precision Stripped Upper Receiver is the perfect solution for you.
Manufactured by Aero Precision this "slick side" sports laser-engraved T-marks and an American flag on the Picatinny rail.
While this AP reasonably-priced stripped upper is ideal for a minimalistic build approach, there are quite a few issues in reference to their finish and quality control.
Best 6.8 SPC Barrel: Wilson Combat - AR-15 Recon Barrel 6.8 SPC II
Although Wilson Combat boasted of a great reputation in 1911s, they haven't been building AR's as long as they have 1911's, however, the WC is heavily investing in equipment to expand their barrel line. Currently, Wilson Combat produces over 40 different variations of barrels that span six popular calibers.
Unlike some heavy barrels that make your rifle a single purpose gun, this handy 16" fluted Recon Barrel can handle a range of tasks, making your AR a general-purpose rifle.
As the most popular WC offering, the 16" Recon Barrel is ideal for AR-style rifle builders who want one rifle for training and plinking but also want to use the same rifle for hunting and field carry.
As a leader in sporting rifles, all Wilson Combat AR-15 barrels chambered in 6.8 SPC II are precision-crafted from high-quality American-made 416R rifle-rated steel. The fluted barrel provides an increased surface area, which allows greater cooling for rapid-fire while enhancing the rigidity of the barrel and slightly diminishing the weight of the whole gun.
6.8 SPC for Hunting
Surprisingly, the 6.8 SPC has become a popular hunting cartridge and an attractive alternative for AR hunters who need more oomph and power.
Actually, the energy of the standard 6.8 SPC 115-grain projectile is about 44 percent higher than a 55-grain, 5.56mm bullet at 100 to 300 meters. It means that these larger-caliber rounds offer more versatility and potential for hunting game larger than coyotes with a minimal increase in recoil.
6.8 SPC Ammo For Deer Hunting: Remington - Premier Match Ammo 6.8MM Remington SPC 115GR BTHP
While using the .277 bullet, the 6.8 SPC is really just a “.270 Short” and represents a fantastic whitetail cartridge chambered in the AR-15 platform. The 6.8 SPC has a wide offering of commercially available hunting ammo, which allows you reliable, ethical kills on deer at closer ranges of less than 300 yards, depending on the operator.
The Remington Premier Match 6.8mm SPC round is a 115-grain projectile, perfectly made to target medium game, like whitetail deer. This uses 115-grain Sierra MatchKing Boat Tail hollow point projectiles (BTHP) developed and loaded to exacting tolerances for precision accuracy at long range.
The Premier Match ammo line features premium, reloadable brass cases and non-corrosive primers.
With a muzzle velocity of 2,800 fps and muzzle energy of 2,002 ft-lbs, the Remington 6.8mm SPC Premier ammo is not only an excellent choice for hunting deer but is also an attractive option for competition shooting, making sub-moa five-shot groups at 100 yards.
6.8 SPC for Hunting Boar: Hornady - Full Boar Ammo 6.8MM Remington SPC 100GR GMX
Hornady's new Full Boar ammunition has been tailor-made to take on dangerous game—of the two or four-legged variety. Besides the 6.8 SPC, this Full Boar ammo lineup is available in several other popular hunting chamberings.
Utilizing precisely measured propellants for every round, the Hornady Full Boar load launches 100gr 6.8mm Gilding Metal Expanding (GMX) bullets at an average muzzle velocity over 2,550 fps with a muzzle energy of 1,444 ft-lbs.
A cavity beneath the polymer tip allows expansion of the round upon contact but with a uniform, controlled expansion unmatched in similarly constructed ammo. Along with deep penetration, the GMX bullets feature maximum weight retention after impact and formation of the permanent cavity achieving some of the most impressive statistics on the market today.
The monolithic-style GMX bullets are made of a unique, homogeneous copper without a lead core, so they are compatible and approved in eco-friendly regions that require the use of non-traditional bullets.
6.8 SPC for Hunting Varmint: American Eagle- Varmint & Predator Ammo 6.8 Remington SPC 90GR Hollow Point
Federal Premium Ammunition expanded its American Eagle lineup in 2016 by introducing the Varmint & Predator series that includes a 6.8 SPC cartridge. Topped with 90-grain jacketed hollow point (JHP) projectiles, these new, hotter loads are built to Federal’s Tipped Varmint pattern and provide the best features for 6.8 SPC from standard 1:11" twist rate barrels.
American Eagle Varmint & Predator loads with 90gr hollow-point bullets have an MV of 2,990fps, whereas it generates 1,786-ft-lbs of muzzle energy.
The JHP bullets expand explosively on impact while achieving maximum lethality, making it the perfect round for the avid varmint hunter.
The Varmint & Predator round uses Federal's reliable primers and new reloadable brass casings.
This flat-shooting and affordably-priced load features dependable expansion capabilities to take down varmint and other game.
6.8 SPC For Other Purposes
Besides the ability of the 6.8 SPC to turn your AR into a serious hunting rifle, its ballistic performance also makes the 6.8mm caliber perfect for those looking for a dual-use cartridge. As you may expect from a 6.8mm, the SPC would be a good choice for home protection and in close quarters fighting, but with low-priced bulk packs, it also allows shooters to practice in a much more affordable way.
6.8 SPC For Target Shooting: UMC AMMO 6.8MM Remington SPC 115GR FMJ
The full metal jacket, or metal case (MC) bullets, as called by Union Metallic Cartridge Company have been a proven target load for a long time.
Remington UMC manufactures quality ammunition in popular rifle calibers for an affordable price. The Remington UMC 6.8mm Remington Special is loaded with 115gr FMJ bullets in reloadable brass cases with large boxer primers.
These UMC 115-grain rounds deliver a mild recoil, providing marksmen with an excellent value for target practice either for competition or when preparing for a major hunting season without shelling out money on expensive premium rounds.
While perfect for high volume activities like training and plinking, the affordable UMC bulk ammo may have light discoloring (not corrosion) which of course doesn't affect reliability and user safety.
6.8 SPC For Home Defense: NOSLER, INC. - Defense Ammo 6.8MM Remington SPC 90GR Bonded
The best choices available for self-defense ammunition in AR platforms include two main constructions: fragmenting projectiles and solid-bonded bullets for controlled expansion. The Nosler DEFENSE 6.8 SPC is an excellent go-to home defense round because it is loaded to the strictest of tolerances for maximum knockdown power, consistency, and dependability.
Loaded with a Bonded Solid Base 90-grain point bullet, the Nosler Defense Rifle ammunition features a polymer tip design for reliable feeding in semiautomatic rifles.
The bullet style called BSB, or Bonded Solid Base, means that all projectiles have a tapered jacket and have passed through the AccuBond bonding process to prevent fragmentation and provide almost 90% weight retention and maximum barrier penetration.
While initially, the 6.8mm Remington SPC provided excellent terminal, reliability, and accuracy performance out to 450 meters, it was not designed to be a plinking rifle. However, with increased popularity, greater availability of factory ammunition, and a wider choice of AR-15 platforms, the 6.8 Remington Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC) is continually growing and thriving in the civilian gun community.
Besides being outstanding hunting projectiles touted by some of the biggest names in the hunting world, we are even seeing affordable plinking ammo offered in bulk packs perfect for high-volume shooting, as well as long-range, quality ammunition, hitting the shelves.
Therefore, for individuals and agencies that require a caliber larger than .223, that will function reliably in an AR-15, the 6.8 SPC is an excellent ammo choice. As we've said before, if the military adopts the round, the general public will naturally follow suit. Just look at the 30-30, 30-06, 5.56, or .308. However, from the current perspective, it may never have the success of the 5.56/223, but it’s still a cartridge that can hold its own.