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.
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 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.
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.