When I first began using the 6.8 SPC II for hunting, there were not very many factory loads available. That has changed, but I still enjoy the benefits of loading my own ammo. As we all know, a particular barrel can be quite picky about what ammo it likes or doesn’t. Playing match maker between a finicky barrel and factory ammo at today’s prices can get to be pretty expensive. Many times a hunter will have to settle for an ammo that isn’t as accurate as one would like, or bullet construction or weight that is not ideal for its intended purpose. You get into the “it’s good enough” category. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of “good enough” hunting ammo.
Well, with handloading you don’t have to settle. You can roll your own, and pick the components that you like. With enough tinkering, you will eventually get the results you are looking for. I don’t get into near the tedium that some handloaders do, but I do have certain field performance standards that I want to achieve. You will occasionally have to change a component every now and then, but that is the exception, not the rule.
The Don’t Be a Moron Warning:
Before I get started, lets get something straight. Ammunition is a tiny explosion that happens under controlled circumstances. When shooting a firearm, that controlled explosion happens in very close proximity to your head, face, neck, chest, and hands. These are parts of a persons body that you probably don’t want to have blown off or turned into ground meat. The manufacture of ammunition is meant to be done by trained professionals. If done improperly in any way, you can kill or forever maim yourself or those around you. The information provided in this post is intended to show what the author of the post uses as his personal handload, which may not work in your particular rifle. If you decide to handload, then always have someone who is familiar with handloading advise you, and always start on the low side of the reloading data, and work your way up to a load, because you never know how your rifle will react to a recipe. The information provided herein is for entertainment purposes only. Use any part of the information provided herein at your own risk.
Lets start at the business end of this round, shall we? Okay, so I’m a fan of the Barnes Tipped Triple Shock (TTSX) bullets.
The Pros: I like that they are a solid (copper) bullet, and the penetration is phenomenal. I like that they open up like an evil copper banana, in many ways mimicking a projectile designed to expand rapidly, thus creating a large wound channel. I like that I can shoot a slightly lighter weight bullet than its lead counterpart, and still get the same or better terminal effects. I like that they’re very consistent in both weight and dimensions.
The Cons: They are expensive. They are priced at around twice the cost of what I would pay for a well made bullet from a company like Sierra (i.e. 115 gr Sierra Matchking HPBT). If I were plinking with this rifle, I would definitely be loading a different projectile than the Barnes for any high volume shooting.
I ultimately wanted a round that was accurate, moderately flat shooting for the selected cartridge, and was a strait up killing machine. I have achieved all of those goals shooting this round out of this particular rifle. I already had a fondness for the Barnes bullets, because I have personally seen the results in a variety of rifles from a .416 Remington rifle on big game in Africa (Cape Buffalo, Hippo, etc.) down to my humbly gritty 6.8 SPC II (Deer, Hogs, etc.).
This bullet doesn’t care what it is traveling through, it just wants to keep penetrating, and jacks stuff up like a Samurai with his ass on fire all the way through your intended victim. The people I personally know who have used this bullet have had the same story, just on a larger or a smaller scale depending on their rifle and animal of choice. The bullet’s petals open as intended, and preform as advertised, creating a significant wound channel, and tearing through flesh and bone along the way. One of my favorite things about this bullet from a meat collection standpoint is that you can darn near eat right up to the wound channel. It wreaks havoc inside an animal, but doesn’t have that pineapple grenade/shrapnel thing going on like many lead bullets do, so meat loss is minimal. Because it is an all copper bullet, there is no risk or danger of lead contamination in any of the meat you drag back to the cave.
I started off using the 110 gr Barnes TTSX, which I have loaded with great success in many a .270 Win, and my .270 WSM. However, I found the bullet length to be too long for the 6.8 SPC. I was losing case capacity, and the extra bullet weight contributed to a reduction in velocity. As a result I went with the slightly shorter 95 gr. Barnes TTSX, and haven’t looked back. For the animals I hunt with this rifle (primarily deer & hogs), the 95 gr TTSX is the perfect compromise between weight and velocity for this round. The heinous mixture of weight and velocity that this round provides has proven to be very effective at delivering energy at field ranges from 5 yards to 340 yards or so.
Be it known that there are two types of brass for the 6.8 SPC. There are manufactures who make brass with large rifle primers, (not as common any more) and those that manufacture their 6.8 SPC brass with small rifle primers. It looks like the small rifle primers won the popularity contest, because most of the brass I see available for purchase is of the small rifle variety, which thankfully is what I started out using. I use Hornady brass because it is of good quality, it appears to be the most commonly available type, and I also like shooting their factory loads when goofing off, so I can simply keep the brass to use for my hunting reloads. Brass is the weakest link when purchasing components to load for the 6.8 SPC. It is the most specialized component that is only used for this round, so it is naturally the most difficult to come by at a reasonable price. So, keep your brass if you ever intend on reloading someday (and if you don’t, then send your brass to me, and I will give it a good home!).
The Brass Specs: Hornady brass with small rifle primer; Trimmed to 1.676″. Brass tumbled in walnut media. Case lube applied. The cases were run through the resizing die, and old primers removed. De-burr tool used on inside and outside of lip of the case. Cleaned out primer pocket.
I use Federal Premium Gold Medal AR match grade small rifle primers (No. GM205MAR). I prime my rounds on my Forster Press because it doesn’t require an additional tool to do it, and I like the sensitive feel achieved with the press rather than a hand primer. Personal preference.
I started out using Alliant Reloader 10x (RL10x), because it seemed to be pretty popular among shooters/hunters at the time on the interwebs, and it was shown in the Barnes reloading data for the 6.8 SPC. At the time, there was not much data available out there, so 6.8 enthusiasts had to cook with what was available in the kitchen. Anyway, without getting off track, RL 10x was a good powder, but it wasn’t great. The best accuracy seemed to be at lower velocities, and when I pushed it higher, my groups opened up significantly.
I switched to the Accurate 2200 (AA2200), which was easier to meter because it is a ball powder, and provided excellent accuracy, and velocity. Bing, Bam, Boom, what’s not to like?
I used the Barnes reloading data provided in one of their printed reloading books, as well as what they provide on their website. I think its pretty cool in this day and age that you can get Barnes Reloading Data without having to purchase an actual paper & binding book.
Because AA2200 was not in the Barnes reloading data, I started out at or around the minimum load shown for RL 10x at the time (because it has a similar burn rate to AA2200), which was somewhere around 26.0 grains or so. I worked my way up in half grain increments until I reached 28.5 gr.
I used the case overall length (C.O.A.L) of 2.24″ which is what is recommended by Barnes. After loading a few different calibers I’ve determined that the Barnes’ recommended COAL data is usually the best to start with. Plus, if you are shooting the 6.8 out of an AR, then this COAL should fit in pretty much any magazine.
I achieved roughly 1MOA accuracy with five shot groups (which was my goal), and velocity just over 2900 feet per second (which exceeded my goal), out of a 16″ Bison Armory recon contour barrel with 1:11″ twist. I’ve heard of many people getting better groups with more powder, but I was afraid of pushing it any further, and was already getting good accuracy, velocity, and no pressure signs. At the yardages that I’m hunting, being 350yds and closer, this is perfect. Not much adjustment for elevation, and deadly effective.
The proof is in the puddin’:
This load has preformed well for me with plenty of kills on deer and hogs. I’m sure with some homework you can make something similar work for you.
If you want to check out just a few of the kills made with the bullets loaded from this article, then check out: