6.8 to 6.Great! Part 1: Upgrade to the Wilson Combat Barrel

Wilson combat 6.8 barrel

Over the years I’ve built some great AR style hunting rifles. The styles vary by size, caliber, color and most importantly their intended use. On many hunts I’ve taken multiple rifles due to unknown distance and terrain. It’s fun to have choices, but I’d really like to have that one platform, that versatile firearm system which will serve all my tactical training, home defense and hunting needs. My imagination took off and shortly after I realized that the answer has been hanging on my gun rack all along. My 6.8SPC is that one platform and it’s successfully harvested numerous wild hogs in the Florida swamps and participated on a few deer hunts too. Until now, I’d not considered it as trainer or for self-defense, but after doing some research and speaking to Wilson Combat’s product development team, apparently many others in the firearm industry share my thoughts. My next step was obvious and Wilson Combat offered their support. A complete upgrade was now officially in the works to transform my 6.8 to 6.great. You might say it’s time to make 6.8 great again!

It’s possible that many of you have never heard about this amazing cartridge. The 6.8mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge has a .277in (7.0mm) bullet diameter. With some subtle differences it’s also known as the 6.8SPC, 6.8 SPC II and 6.8x43mm. It was developed by Remington Arms in collaboration with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) and the United States Special Operations Command to possibly replace the 5.56×45 NATO cartridges. It was designed to address the deficiencies in terminal performance of the 5.56×45 NATO and provide an alternative to the 7.62x51mm NATO. The 6.8SPC is a great compromise which only requires the replacement of the barrel, bolt and magazine to convert a standard AR-15.

upgrade your 6.8 barrel

First and foremost, the 6.8SPC is not the ballistic equal to the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge, but it offers much less recoil, is lighter to transport, easier to carry by operators and it’s much more manageable in rapid fire. Furthermore, the 6.8SPC delivers 44% more energy at the muzzle than the 5.56mm NATO, making it an amazing alternative for LE, Military and civilians.

Hunters will also greatly appreciate the 1,759 ft/lb of muzzle energy the 6.8 SPC produces with a 115g bullet. In contrast, the 5.56NATO generates only 1,325 ft/lb of muzzle energy with a 62g bullet. This clearly defines the ballistic advantage of the 6.8SPC cartridge. For those considering shooting the 6.8SPC in their short barreled rifle (SBR), you’re in for a treat. The 6.8SPC was originally designed for SBR use. In fact, you’ll only get an extra 30fps per inch past the standard 16” barrel up to approximately 22”, so there is no material ballistic loss with a SBR. No observable gain or loss in accuracy either. 

The development of the 6.8 SPC II was a direct result of Remington’s initial push of the 6.8SPC firearm platform. It’s been said, the initial chamber reamer blueprint was not in spec with the round designed by the AMU. As a result of this oversight, the chambers Remington developed for commercial use were not in spec with the AMU cartridge design. Unfortunately, this design was submitted to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) for approval prior to recognizing this error. As a result, the improperly cut chambers caused lower velocities during AMU cartridge development. The lack of performance and bad publicity put an end to the 6.8SPC’s progress.

Years later, a few likeminded 6.8SPC enthusiasts redesigned the cartridge and the 6.8SPC II was born. Only rifles chambered in 6.8SPC II with a 1:11 twist can safely use the “SPC II” higher pressure ammunition. Rifles using the original SAAMI specs should only be used with the standard commercial cartridge specified by SAAMI.

how to upgrade 6.8 rifle

Eager to get the project moving I focused on the one key upgrade to optimize down range accuracy. Without hesitation, Wilson Combat barrels came to mind. Bill Wilson and Wilson Combat’s product development team have been producing high end 6.8SPC II rifles and barrels for years. He is an innovator and leader in the firearms industry and has been since the late 1970s. Wilson Combat is well known for their custom high performance 1911 pistols, tactical long guns and firearm accessories. Their superb craftsmanship, undisputed reliability and keen sense of customer service have made it one of the most well respected firearm manufacturers in the industry. The 6.8SPC II platform is one of Wilson Combat’s premier projects and offerings.

Wilson Combat has been testing the capabilities of the 6.8 SPC II for years and offer several 6.8SPC II models, such as the Recon SR Tactical, Urban Super Sniper, Recon Tactical, SBR Tactical and the Tactical Lightweight. The cartridge’s ballistics and long range capability make it a formidable hunting platform, home self-defense solution and a proven asset for SRT/SWAT teams. They know the 6.8 SPC II probably better than anyone that I’ve heard of which is why I reached out to them on this project in the first place.

Wilson’s complete rifle systems are brilliant, but I needed to stay on task. My eyes were focused on the crown jewel of the project, the Wilson Combat precision crafted stainless steel-fluted 18” match grade Recon Tactical barrel chambered in 6.8 SPC II with a 1:11 twist. All of Wilson Combat’s barrels are match grade and crafted from 416R rifle rated steel on computer controlled equipment to proprietary specifications. The feed ramps and bore are hand polished and the bore goes through a lapping process which improves accuracy. Other features include a precision muzzle crown, optimized chamber and gas port and clear CNC markings. Wilson Combat has several more barrels in 6.8SPC II available. Barrel lengths are available in 11.3”, 14.7”, 16” and 18”. All the barrels feature a 1:11 twist. No matter if you’re running a short barrel rifle, carbine or long range rifle, there is a match barrel option for you.

Wilson Combat

While I was at work a few weeks ago, I received a text alert on my phone confirming the barrel delivery. I imagine I broke a few traffic laws on the way home. I felt the anxiety of a child the night before Christmas as I opened the door and spotted the package on the kitchen counter. The Wilson Combat packaging tape mocked me as I wrestled with the box. Finally, I drew the barrel out like King Arthur freeing Excalibur from the stone for the first time. The polished stainless steel shined brightly in the light. The fluting was flawless in its design. Wow! I was in awe over the brilliance of this barrel.

Without question, the Wilson Combat match barrel is the center piece of this project and the sub moa groups it produces justifies why I went with Wilson Combat from the start. I’d imagine with a little more time behind the trigger, I can get the groups even tighter. Moreover, the team was kind enough to add a Wilson Combat adjustable gas block too, which adds to the accuracy of the match barrel. The gas block’s Chromoly steel and melonite finish provides durability under the harshest conditions and the locking hex screw design is a step up over the click design. The proprietary design provides optimal flexibility for the hand loader looking for precision gas tuning. It also benefits the shooter by reducing recoil, reducing stress on other operating parts and produces less carbon build up which enhances reliability and accuracy.

6.8 accuracy

The Wilson Combat Match Barrel is a brilliant choice and it shoots like a dream, but the challenge I have now is the rest of the rifle. Don’t get me wrong the original Rock River Barrel, Magpul furniture and Spikes Battle Trigger are nice, but we need to go BIG! Anything less would be a disservice to my Wilson Combat barrel. To make the 6.8 to 6.great, the one platform for training, home defense and hunting, I need to match the quality of all the individual parts to that of the barrel. The project just got more interesting. So much more to come!

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