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Definitive History Of 6.8mm SPC - Is It All That?

Definitive History Of 6.8mm SPC - Is It All That?

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Published by Mago Invisivel

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Published by: Mago Invisivel on Jun 17, 2009
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05/11/2014

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It’s gotten plenty of attention and ink in the lastcouple of years. What can it do for your AR?
Robinson Armament produced the RAV02 and Knight’sArmament Corp produced the SR-47 in response to theUSASOC SPR-V solicitation.Ultimately, the SPR-V program was rolled into the U.S.Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Special ForcesCombat Assault Rifle (SCAR) project, and fell victim to poli-tics. Even though the project was canceled, Special Forces sol-diers had come to realize 7.62x39mm provided increased lethal-ity over 5.56, especially when penetrating barriers.Just as the War On Terror was getting underway, the U.S. ArmySpecial Operations Command (USASOC) created the SpecialPurpose Rifle—Variant (SPR-V) program to fill the need for amodular assault rifle capable of shooting 5.56 in addition to7.62x39mm.With barrel and bolt switched, it was to fire 7.62x39mm fromindigenous AK-47 magazines. It needed to retain the character-istics of the M4 and remain compatible with the SpecialOperations Peculiar Modification (SOPMOD) accessories.
By Zak Smith
S
S
ince the M16’s introduction, soldiers, sailors, airmen,Marines and civilians have criticized it for being under- powered, more suited for shooting prairie dogs than fight-ing wars. Although ammunition has improved, the .22 caliber ultimately limits the amount of lead that can be slung down-range.In spite of this, the M16 and M4 have become the standard bywhich assault rifles are judged, and the AR-15 has become theubiquitous American Sport-Utility Rifle.
The light weight and compact sizeof the 6.8 SPC carbine, opposedto a .308 battle rifle, is appreciat-ed when carrying the rifle afieldand employing it quickly.The light weight and compact sizeof the 6.8 SPC carbine, opposedto a .308 battle rifle, is appreciat-ed when carrying the rifle afieldand employing it quickly.
 
Troubling reports about 5.56 performance were coming back from the field. Several soldiers had been killed or wounded byTaliban fighters who had already been shot multiple times by theAmericans’5.56 M4 carbines. These failures to incapacitatespurred the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) to design an“Enhanced Rifle Cartridge” (ERC) to outperform 5.45x39mm,5.56, 5.8x42mm and 7.62x39mm.M/Sgt. Steve Holland (5th SFG (A)) and Cris Murray, servicerifle and R&D gunsmith of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit(USAMU) led the ERC project to provide optimum terminal per-formance from an M4 with minimal changes to the weapon. TroyLawton (Chief Ballistics Technician) and Cris Murray of theUSAMU assisted in developing loads and built the rifles for theERC project.Cartridge assessment began with the 6mm PPC case, necked up to 6.5mm. The 5th SFG soon discarded the fat PPC case because of poor magazine capacity and insufficient reliability inthe M4. Their attention then turned to the .30 Rem. case, whichis essentially a rimless .30-30 Win. Its body diameter is larger than 5.56 at .378", but smaller than 7.62x39mm’s .445".This thoroughly obsolete cartridge was chosen as the parentcase because its smaller rim diameter of .422" required lessmetal to be cut from the bolt head compared to the PPC or 7.62x39mm cases, which improves bolt service life.Several rebated-rim prototypes were created with an SPC body but 5.56’s rim (.378") to utilize unmodified M4 bolts.After trials, it was clear the full-diameter rim helped extrac-tion as compared to the rebated rim design.Once the case dimensions were tweaked to fit and work inM4-compatible magazines, the project team quickly turned itsattention to bore size. Derivative wildcats from 5.56mm to up7.62mm diameter, shooting bullets from 90 to 140 grains,were subjected to a battery of tests, and a sweet spot emerged.The 6.5mm bullets showed the best accuracy and the 7mm bullets were the most destructive, but the .277" bullets showed almost the same accuracy and trajectory as the 6.5mm and almost the terminal performance of the 7mm. When necked down to .277" and shooting 115-grain bullets, the .30 Rem.- based cartridge provided the best combination of combataccuracy, reliability and terminal performance for up to 500-meter engagements.This cartridge was designated 6.8 Remington SpecialPurpose Cartridge (SPC), because .277" is 6.8mm in the metricsystem and the .30 Rem. provided the parent case.
The 6.8 SPC is shown with other innovative fighting riflecartridges: .276 Pedersen, .280 British, 6.8 SPC,7.62x39mm, 7.92x33K. Photo courtesy Emily K. Fortier.The relatively new6.8 SPC cartridge(center) is similarin size to 5.56(right), but pro-vides terminal per-formance closer to.308 (left). EmilyFortier photo.The light weight and compact size of the 6.8 SPC car-bine, opposed to a .308 battle rifle, is appreciated whencarrying the rifle afield and employing it quickly.The PRI 6.8 SPC Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) is shownwith a Leupold 3-9x36mm M/RT scope, a SureFire M3 andan MSTN Q.C. muzzle compensator. Emily Fortier photo.
 
 Numerous articles and Internet rumors have suggested that theSPC designation means 6.8 is good only for Close QuartersBattle (CQB), but not distant targets. This is incorrect, and con-trary to the intent of the project and capabilities of the cartridge.The SPC designation was assigned based on the intended inte-gration into the Mk12 Special Purpose Rifle (SPR).The SPC was designed from the ground up to provideincreased energy, barrier penetration and incapacitation from theMk12 SPR, from contact distance to 500 meters.Based on their experience with 7.62x39mm, the project teamset a velocity goal of 200 fps faster than the AK-47 ammunitionfrom the same barrel length, with a projectile that provided a bet-ter ballistic coefficient (BC) and terminal performance. This wasachieved very soon into the project using Sierra 115-grain and Hornady 110-grain Open-Tip Match (OTM) bullets.The team used Ramshot 1660 powder for initial development,and easily exceeded the 200 fps goal. Shooting from an 18-inchSPR barrel, these loads shot 2635 to 2650 fps, 300 fps faster thanthe AK-47.Unlike military-industrial-complex programs such as the XM-8, the ERC project was driven directly by Special Forces shoot-ers at the spear’s tip—men who had been on the giving and receiving ends of fire. The 6.8 SPC was developed with less than$5,000 initial investment of government funds; later develop-ment costs were paid for by industry. This is in stark contrast totop-down “next generation” programs costing the taxpayers mil-lions and rarely producing usable weapon systems.Following its commercial debut at the 2004 SHOT show, the6.8 SPC had a slow start in the civilian market becauseRemington did not deliver ammunition quickly. Producing a load meeting velocity goals without unsafe pressure proved difficultfor Remington. Inconsistent brass quality and powder clumping problems caused further delays. They sorted it out and shipped ammo in mid-2005, but the velocity was very slow at less than2500 fps.Although these supply problems caused a lot of “fear, uncer-tainty, and doubt” about the future of the cartridge, there was asilver lining. The strong interest in an intermediate cartridge withsubstantially more power than 5.56 spurred several ammunitionmanufacturers to produce their own brass and ammunition. Byearly 2006, three separate factories were making 6.8 SPC brass:Silver State Armory, Hornady and Remington; and five manu-facturers were shipping loaded ammunition: HSM, Load-X,Remington, Hornady and Silver State Armory (SSA).The future of 6.8 SPC in the military is clouded by high-level politics and big money. Many in the military-industrial complexhave been trying to figure out how to profit from this grassroots
H
ornady Manufacturing Corporation has been involvedwith the 6.8 SPC project from the beginning, whenM/Sgt. Steve Holland (5th SFG (A)) approached them todevelop a bullet specifically for the new cartridge. The bul-let needed to provide a high ballistic coefficient (BC) forlong-range trajectory and to carry more energy to the tar-get, and it needed to be legal for land warfare.Shooters are accustomed to hearing that “hollow-pointsare illegal” for military use. This dates back to the 1899and 1907 Hague Conventions, which outlawed the use ofbullets “calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.” In1990, U.S. Military lawyers published a Memorandum ofLaw which determined that “open-tip match” (OTM) bul-lets such as the 175-grain Sierra MatchKing are legalunder the law of war because they are designed for long-range accuracy, not for bullet fragmentation.The open-tip jacket design is a consequence of manu-facturing a bullet with a very uniform base, aiding accura-cy. Legal arguments aside, the result is that before a bulletcan be used in war by the U.S. Military, the JAG Corpsmust review and approve it. This is a critical step in gettingnew ammunition into the hands of U.S. forces.At Holland’s request, Hornady developed a 115-grainOTM bullet. It had a cannelure ring so the rounds could becrimped, to prevent bullet set-back in recoil or while feed-ing. Since its introduction, Hornady has been selling thesebullets to Remington for use in their factory ammunition.The 115-grain Hornady OTM was the first bullet for 6.8SPC approved by JAG for use in war.Hornady continued providing the 115-grain OTM bulletto Remington for several years, with no other involvementin 6.8 SPC. Known for doing exemplary product develop-ment, Hornady received many requests for 6.8 SPCammunition. In late 2004, the firm made a decision to goahead, and Hornady’s ballisticians started to look at all
Hornady built its 6.8 SPC ammunition from the ground up,manufacturing its own brass and designing a new 110-grain bullet for better trajectory and barrier penetration.
The Hornady 110-grain OTM ammunition usessmall rifle primers, and has crimped primerpockets for reliability in autoloaders. The head-stamp reads “HORNADY 6.8mm REM SPC.”
Barrett introduced a line of 6.8 SPC rifles at the 2004SHOT Show. Here Chris and Ronnie Barrett show off ashort barreled carbine. Photo courtesy of Emily Fortier.
Hornady
6.8 SPC
Hornady
6.8 SPC
Tames theTames the
Smith’s rifle is built on a standard lower with a MagpulM93B stock, 18-inch Douglas barrel, TA11 ACOG, Troy back-up sights, PRI float tube and Vortex flash hider.
Shown here fitted with a lightweight titanium JET soundsuppressor, the 18-inch 6.8 SPC rifle provides all thecapability of the SPR, but superior terminal performance.

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