Sunday, January 14, 2007

Boomsticks: Why I went 6.8.

As some of you may have remembered (if you're very long-time readers) I had a yen to build a .300 Whisper AR. I had the lower (a Superior Arms) all put together, complete with MagPul M93B stock. I had a Leupold CQ/T scope on an ARMS throw-lever base all ready to mount on it. I ordered the .300 Fireball (nee Whisper) upper from Olympic...

In March.

Of '06.

Last week, after evicting yet another spider from its dusty magwell, I figured it was time to slap an upper of some sort on the completed lower, even if only temporarily as a means of keeping arachnids from taking up residence inside. I was considering one of the ultra-swoopy GG&G Dominator uppers we have at the shop, but a phone call changed my mind.

It was Wednesday morning and I was making my weekly call to one of my biggest distributors. We'd just sold our last case of Wolf .223, and the stock of Federal XM193 was running low, so I figured it was time to replenish the bulk AR fodder at the shop.

"So, Larry, do y'all have any XM855?"

"No, we're all out. Sorry!"

"How 'bout XM193?"


"Federal American Eagle? Winchester Q3131?"

"I have 10,000 boxes of the American Eagle on order, but I'm out of both."


"All out."



"So, basically, what you're telling me is that y'all don't have any cheap .223 in the house."

"I'm afraid that's about right."


Now, I have enough bulk 5.56 at home to resupply Task Force Ranger, but suppose I didn't? Suppose I'd unwisely shot up my stockpiles and needed to buy more? I'd be stuck buying premium .223, which runs $15-$20 (or more) a box.

You know what else costs about that, at least when bought by the box? That's right: 6.8mm SPC. And I can get all the bulk 6.8 ball ammo I want right now, and I can get it by the case lot.

And there is a DPMS 6.8mm AP4 flat top upper at work.

Well, scratch that... There was a DPMS 6.8mm AP4 flat top upper at work, because now it's pinned to my lower, with the CQ/T parked atop it.

The cartridge has always seemed a good idea to me, delivering a pretty good wallop while requiring minimal changes to the existing AR platform, and with Hornady and Remington both loading ammo, availability is good right now. (This also gives me an excellent excuse to pick up a 6.8 barrel for my Encore.) Since the lower required no modifications to work with the upper, when my .300 Whisper upper finally arrives (or should I decide to pick up another .223 upper) I can switch it out with two push-pins and not have to worry about the hammers, buffers, and mag blocks that make having a dedicated pistol-caliber lower almost a necessity.

So there you go. Only about two years after they hit the shelves, I've finally got a 6.8, and almost by accident at that. Who knows? If ammo prices and availability trends keep going like they have for the past two years, I may be converting my other 5.56 AR to the caliber before long as well...


Kevin said...

This is why I handload. I ran the numbers a while back. My pet load for the .223 is 23.5 grains of Varget under a Hornady 75gr BTHP Match bullet. I buy sized, trimmed & prepped cases from Sharch either primed or unprimed depending on what's available, and I don't bother to collect the brass after use. It costs me in materials about $259/1000. I think it costs about that for XM193. But XM193 doesn't shoot like this at 100 yards.

Goldwater's Ghost said...

If'n Oly ever coughs up the lower I ordered (in FEBRUARY of '06), it'll replace the Mega lower on my wife's 9mm.

I'm thinking real hard about putting a 6.5 Grendel upper on the Mega. Although it'd be an easier choice if Wolf would get their ammo on the market.

Anonymous said...

I don't handload. I stockpile.

If the bad guys stop the sale of ammunition, or tax it, I will be unaffected for years. I prefer the 40mm Grenade ammocans as a convenient size. Big enough to hold a lot, and small enough for a one man lift.

Les Jones said...

A cheer to celebrate Tam's newest:

Two, Four, 6.8
SPC is really great

Anonymous said...

I was at SHOT yesterday, and one of the things I asked around about was 6.8. The S&W guy I spoke with didn't have any info, suggested I speak with the Product Manager, who wasn't there. The Bushmaster guys pointed me to their in-production offerings, a few of which I saw at the Orlando gun show the week before. Rock River said "mid summer." Barrett, of course, has had theirs out for a while.

Bullets and dies have been widely available, as has been reloading info.

Ballistically, 5.56 stinks, the 6.8 is a big improvement. The one stumbling block to 6.8, and given availability of 5.56 it may not be, is availability. I'm still seeing dealers with stocks of 5.56, although they're smaller stocks and prices are quite a bit higher. Very few have any supplies of 6.8 on hand, which is probably chicken-and-egg: he's not selling many guns in 6.8, so he won't stock much ammo for it. He doesn't have
ammo in 6.8, so no one is buying guns for it.

I'm with you, Tam. Time to make the jump.

Anonymous said...

2 more things that I have to do to an AR as a wish/need to do ( made easier if I get out of Taxachusetts! ) :

1) This is the one that gets taken care of after the move. I have a RR post-ban barrel on the upper I bought at Camp Perry. I was basically making my variation of their DEA carbine with my choices for parts. When I get out, the correct barrel will be put on in it's place.

2) I'm hanging around again at Lightfighters forums and it has a good following for the 6.8 SPC. I just looked at a DPMS 6.8 carbine at a shop in RI and was impressed with the feel and the handling. I'm looking at the mid-length 16" upper from CMMG for $525 or so to have as another choice if cheap 5.56 dries up.

Joe R.

Anonymous said...

Tam, What ever happened to "The Arms Room"

Matt G said...

My Sig rep tells me that they're having a TOUGH time getting .223/5.56 right now. When Sig can't even get it...

There's a problem.

Anonymous said...

Wolf did their part in getting 6.5 Grendel ammo to the US. Now we are waiting on the flow through distributors to retailers.