The 6.8 Western looks poised to become the hottest new round for 2021.
The new year may have just begun, but Winchester and Browning are already starting things off with a bang. Literally. In news that's already taking the hunting and shooting world by storm, they have unveiled the all-new 6.8 Western cartridge.
Let's take a closer look at this new round and some of the practical applications this fascinating new cartridge will bring to hunters in 2021.
What is 6.8 Western?
It seems the 6.8 Western is a short action round that takes some of the best features of many popular forms of hunting ammo and mashes them all into one compact package. According to Winchester, the 6.8 has longer bullets to help give accuracy at a distance. At the same time, this sports heavy bullet weights that top long-distance favorites like .270 Winchester Short Magnum, 6.5 PRC, and the ever-popular 6.5 Creedmoor.
Even though these are heavier bullets, they also say recoil is much lower than the .300 Win Mag, .300 PRC and the .300 WSM cartridge. At the same time, the 6.8 is said to deliver more energy to the target than a 6.5 PRC, 6.5 Creedmoor or even a 7mm Remington Magnum.
Because it is a short action rifle, Winchester & Browning say they were able to reduce the weight of the guns chambered for it even more. We must say, we're intrigued. A light rifle that doesn't compromise on distance or stopping power? Sign us up. Winchester has already released a highlight reel of a variety of big game being taken down by the round. You can see it in action in the video above. In many of the shots, you can see the blood flow almost immediately on impact. Looks like some impressive expansion from the .277 caliber bullets being used by the new round.
Ballistics Data and Initial Ammo Offerings
So, we're liking what we're hearing so far. More energy than 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem Mag and 6.5 PRC, with less recoil than a .300 Win Mag? Sounds like these companies have a winner on their hands already. Let's talk ballistics. What can you expect the first time you take one out to the target range. The long bullet, short case and 35-degree shoulder on the bottleneck do give the 6.8 Western something of an odd appearance that may be a bit deceiving of the round's capabilities on first glance.
It appears Winchester is coming out of the corner swinging by offering the 6.8 in three of their higher-grade ammo lines. Even though we and probably many others are going to see the 6.8 Western as primarily a hunting round, they're offering a 170-grain version of the bullet in their "Match" line intended for competitive target shooting. According to Winchester's data, expect 2,910-fps out of the muzzle and 2,762-fps at 100 yards delivering about 2,879-foot pounds of energy at that distance.
Next up is the popular mid-price range Ballistic Silvertip line. Once again, it's a 170-grain bullet with an alloyed lead core, contoured jacket and a boattail design to help stabilize those long-range shots. Expect speeds of 2,754-fps at 100 yards, delivering about 2,862-foot pounds of energy.
Finally, Winchester is offering the 6.8 Western in their Expedition Big Game line in a 165-grain, bonded lead, alloy core bullet. It features an engineered boattail and polymer tips to help aid in expansion on the target. According to Winchester specs, expect to get 2,902-foot pounds of energy and 2,815-fps speeds at 100 yards with this one.
Browning is also offering their own bullets for the new cartridge. Their offering is a 175-grain bullet in their Long Range Pro Hunter, Sierra Tipped Game King Line. For that bullet, they are giving specs of 2835-fps delivering 3,123-foot pounds of energy. Not bad at all.
The first 6.8 Western Rifles
As to be expected with this kind of partnership, a Browning is slated to be one of the first rifles released in 6.8 Western. More specifically, the Browning X-Bolt. Coming in at a trim six pounds, 12 ounces, this is a mostly carbon fiber, short action rifle. They're offering the 6.8 Western with a 26-inch stainless barrel with a 7 ½ twist rate. The barrel and receiver are finished with Tungsten Cerakote to help the gun stand up to even the nastiest of weather conditions.
Expect a magazine capacity of three rounds. The X-Bolt line has a 60-degree bolt lift to help cycle the gun faster. This line of rifles is famous for the "Feather Trigger" system which allows adjustments on the pull between three and six pounds. Browning also fits these rifles with nice Inflex recoil pads to help soak up the gun's kick.
According to Browning's website, the MSRP for the Browning X-Bolt in 6.8 Western is $2,469.99. We anticipate the street price will be much lower than that, however.
Of course, Winchester is also releasing one of their classic Model 70s chambered for the new round. Right now, it appears the Model 70 Extreme Weather MB is the first 6.8 Western that will roll off their factory floors. This rifle features a 24-inch stainless barrel, receiver and trigger. The stock is composite with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. This rifle has a hinged floorplate-style magazine that holds three rounds. At 44 ¼-inches, this rifle is shorter than the Browning, but weighs slightly more at seven pounds even. The receiver is already drilled and tapped for your favorite scope. This rifle should stand up to the elements of a backcountry hunt quite nicely. The price is a little more affordable too. They have a $1,599.99 MSRP listed.
We're sure more 6.8 Western rifles are coming soon. There already seems to be a lot of interest in this new round. See Winchester and Browning's websites for more info on the 6.8 Western and keep it here at Wide Open Spaces for all the latest new gun announcements of 2021!