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One Year In: The 6.8 Western's Current Standing

A closer look at Browning and Winchester's collaborative 6.8 Western.

One Year In: The 6.8 Western's Current Standing

Just a year ago Browning and Winchester’s collaborative new 6.8 Western cartridge hit the scene. What’s its current status in the hunting and shooting world? Surviving? Thriving? Failing?

Even if I had access to sales records of 6.8 Western ammo and rifles (which I don’t), those records would be biased and skewed, thanks to the current drought of supplies for all things shooting. Instead, let’s take a subjective look at the cartridge and it’s positioning. The first sign that things are well in the 6.8 Western world is that nearly everybody’s aware of it. Some shooters may scoff and call it an answer to an un-asked question, but hey, they’re talking about it.

In part this is due to the sizable splash the cartridge made in shooting and hunting media. Every outdoor news venue with a toe in the western hunting scene covered it. Why? Partly because of good marketing strategy by Browning and Winchester. Partly because it’s interesting.

Being smack dab between the 6.5 PRC and the 7mm Rem. Mag. in recoil but providing ballistic and terminal performance nearer “Seven-Mag” level, it’s not just interesting, it’s darned interesting. Savvy gun scribes cottoned on early, and continue to promote the cartridge because it’s a good round.


It helps, of course, that the 6.8 Western is a .270-diameter cartridge, and thus is endowed with historic hunting cool factor. However, it’s worth noting that only one .270 cartridge has ever succeeded, and that was in large part thanks to Jack O’Connor’s enthusiastic discipleship. The .270 Weatherby Magnum, .270 WSM, 6.8 SPC, and others never got a significant toehold on the market. Time will tell, but early indications are that the 6.8 Western will stick. I can tell you this: If Mr. O’Connor was alive today, he’d be a fan.


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The author with a great Whitetail buck taken later in the year with his 6.8 Western

Another reason nearly every hunter and shooter in at least western America knows about the 6.8 Western was pure lucky timing: For a while, the only ammo regularly seen on the shelves of your local sporting goods store was 6.8 Western. In a strange but serendipitous turn of events, ammo shipped nationwide in quantity before rifles chambered in 6.8 Western did. Gun guys and hunters with a yen for more ammo or a fresh shootin’ iron wandered the aisles between bare ammo shelves and curiously opened boxes of 6.8 Western ammo and coon-fingered the cartridges.

Like other hunting journalists, I’ve hunted with and written about the 6.8 Western. To date, I’ve shot a caribou, a whitetail deer, a Sitka blacktail deer, a coyote, and a Kodiak Island cross fox. Distances have ranged from 20 yards to 608 yards.

My experience with it has been exemplary. As a result, my writing and podcasting about it has been enthusiastic. A startling number of readers and listeners have written, asking me where they can purchase a rifle in 6.8 Western Early on, rifles were scarce as hen’s teeth, thanks to supply chain issues lingering after the Panic-demic of 2020. All I could do is recommend haunting one’s local shops and perusing listings on gunbroker.com.
Based on those letters, I can’t help but conclude that the demand is there. And now that rifles chambered in 6.8 Western are slowly becoming more available, ammo is getting vacuumed off dealer’s shelves—another indication.

Last fall, about 10 months after the 6.8 Western was introduced, I hunted with Travis Larson, owner and operator of Alaska Premier Sportfishing and the best Kodiak Island Sitka blacktail transporter I know. His son had a spanking-new Browning X-Bolt Mountain Pro in 6.8 Western. I had a spanking new X-Bolt Pro McMillan in 6.8 Western. We had a good time comparing notes. I’ll say this: A Browning 175-grain Long Range Pro bullet through the boiler room kills mature, blocky-bodied blacktails startlingly fast.




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The author with a nice Sitka Blacktail buck taken on Kodiak Island with his 6.8 Western

You may be thinking, “Where’s the data?” Candidly, as mentioned earlier, it’s hard to pin down. Here are a few hard facts that I can tell you: As of this writing Browning offers just the one factory load, but it’s excellent. Winchester, on the other hand, offers five: a 162-grain Copper Impact, a 165-grain AccuBond LR, a 170-grain Power Point, a 170-grain Ballistic Silvertip, and a 170-grain Match BTHP for long-range target shooting. 

I’ve not seen any other big manufacturers announce 6.8 Western ammo, but rumor has it that several have their R&D teams working up loads. Similarly, several bullet manufacturers are developing long, high-BC projectiles for the new fast-twist .270.

As for rifle makes and models available in 6.8 Western, Browning offers at least 18 different versions of the X-Bolt. Winchester makes 10 different versions of the legendary Model 70, ranging from the classic Super Grade to the cutting-edge Extreme Hunter. Plus, for the Winchester man on a budget, there are 14 different versions of the XPR.

Recommended


Guns & Ammo magazine gave the 6.8 Western the “Cartridge of the Year” award for 2021. It was well deserved, and is one additional fact pointing to the “Six-Eight’s” potential.

We’re just one year in, but indications are the 6.8 Western is here to stay.

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