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Searching for an Effective Small Caliber Sniper Round

Most police snipers work from less than 50 yards and a .308 can be overkill.

August 12, 2010  |  by Dave Bahde

A Proven Round

The 6.8 SPC was designed from the ground up to work as an anti-personnel cartridge in a military environment. It was also designed to work in the AR-15/M16 platform. Given that many if not most agencies are using AR-15s or M16s for patrol and SWAT operations, having a sniper round that can be used in a close-quarter combat carbine is a huge plus. It provides a means for a police sniper to have a primary and secondary weapon in the same caliber.

Entries can be performed with the 6.8 SPC; that is what it was really designed to do. It was not a success in the military world as a whole but that's a bonus for police who want to use it. We don't have to compete with the military for supplies.

And fortunately, the 6.8 SPC has been a hit on the hunting market. The days of hard-to-find ammunition, and in only one bullet size, are long gone. The 6.8 SPC cartridge is now available in factory loadings in all kinds of variety.

Silver State Armory is loading bullets that range from 85-grain TSX to 115-grain OTM. About the only thing I could not truly find was honest match ammunition. Mostly at this point it's due to a lack of market, but getting it loaded to match specifications from a number of manufacturers is probably not an issue.

The last point to consider here is one of the most important. A sniper round must be field proven in its ability to kill quickly. The 6.8 SPC is proven for its ability to take game, and we are not talking about thin-skinned small game here. It can kill big mammals.

Most states won't even let you hunt deer with a .223; it is pretty well limited to varmints. Not so with the 6.8 SPC. On a recent hunting trip, myself and three friends bagged about a dozen wild hogs using ARs. Our prey ranged from 180 pounds to nearly 250 pounds, and all shots resulted in immediate incapacitation at ranges from 80 to 150 yards with a 95-grain TTSX bullet.

The Test Rifles

While I think a long-barrel AR chambered in 6.8 SPC can be used as a sniper rifle in some cases, most snipers prefer a bolt gun. So the final question a lot of snipers have about this round is: How does it work in a bolt-action rifle? To be honest, there aren't many purpose-built bolt-action police sniper rifles available in 6.8 SPC. So a custom rifle had to be used in this test.

I've had the opportunity to test the 6.8 SPC cartridge in several AR-type rifles. And generally they were pretty accurate and potentially very accurate. The 6.8 SPC ARs that I have shot are the Wilson Combat Recon in 6.8 SPC and a Barrett REC7.

The Wilson Combat was tested while hunting and on a range, and it proved to be incredibly accurate and ultimately reliable. The Barrett was actually fielded for quite some time where possible and has been used at every department qualification for the last year. This rifle was a bit pickier about what ammunition was most accurate but with the correct factory ammunition it was very accurate, producing groups well under an inch at 100 yards.

The last platform used in the semi-auto AR test was a Primary Weapons Systems upper that was just built for an upcoming class. This was used for comparison testing on the chronograph, as it has a 12.5-inch barrel.

As noted, the bolt gun is a custom job. It was built for me by Mike's Gun Sales and Service of Aransas Pass, Texas, on a Remington 700 SA and bedded into a McMillan stock. The barrel is a 20-inch stainless, and it is tapered to fit a suppressor that will be attached at a later date. It uses a standard Remington trigger and an AICS magazine inserted in Mike's custom-built bottom metal.

For optics, I fitted this rifle with a Night Force NXS F1 3.5-15x mounted in the company's fantastic rings. I have used this scope on a couple of other guns and it is very consistent. The sister to this rifle built at roughly the same time has printed .75-inch groups with hand loads at 320 yards, so it is as accurate as you can get with this platform.

Acquiring ammunition for this test was not difficult. Silver State Armory provided me with a box or two of all its tactical loads. Some Hornady custom was located for the test as well.

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

jhaataja @ 8/20/2010 8:24 AM

I've been a cop for over 24 years, a firearms instructor for 15 (sniper instructor for 5 years) and a police sniper with our municipal police department's (150 officers) part-time tactical team for 14 years. Before I would make a jump to the 6.8mm platform (from .308) I would like to see how much an issue over-penetration has been for agencies that have had shots fired by police snipers. Our last OIS with a sniper was from approx 75 yards. The suspect (who died) was shot through the left arm into the torso. The bullet (165 g Fed'l Tactical Bonded) did not leave the body, but stopped under the skin on opposite side of the body. Over-penetration may have occurred had not the bone been struck, but who knows for sure. This round has also performed excellently (no deflection nor fragmentation) through windshield glass at 100 yards. The .308 is a proven round. Data for it abounds as does a great selection of firearms and assorted ammunition. I, for one, would research different ammunition choices to prevent over-penetration before I switched calibers. Good articles. Keep them coming. They help to keep us from stagnating.

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