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What those in-country have discovered about the .223 Remington/5.56x45mm NATO cartridges, hunters back home have known for a while. The .223/5.56mm round is a fantastic predator cartridge for up to coyote-sized game, but it is a bit anemic on larger game like whitetails. (Of course, the boots on the ground were hunting two-legged predators, but the fact remains the same.) Reports from the field stated that, in some instances, enemy fighters were hit multiple times with the 5.56mm from the M4 carbine yet continued to fight. The .223/5.56mm does not provide the knockdown, terminal performance required in a combat scenario nor in hunting medium-sized game. Hit a deer in the wrong spot with the .223/5.56mm, and you have some tracking to do.

The 6.8 Surge
The 6.8 SPC came into being via an unexpected route. When then-President George W. Bush declared the War on Terror, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command started a program to create a special-purpose modular rifle that could fire both 5.56x45mm and 7.62x39mm ammunition. The ammo program was eventually shelved, but what was discovered from it was that the 7.62x39mm had an edge over the 5.56x45mm in terminal performance. The Special Forces group continued to explore solutions with the Enhanced Rifle Cartridge program, and with the help of Remington they used a shortened .30 Rem. case with a .270 bullet—basically the same bullet used in the .270 Win. cartridge. The .270 bullet offered a good ballistic coefficient, meaning it met less air resistance in flight than other bullet calibers and types. The 6.8 SPC also had good accuracy and downrange energy. Since the bore diameter of the .270 bullet is close to 6.8mm, the cartridge was dubbed the 6.8 Remington Special Purpose Cartridge. Today, most users simply call it the 6.8 SPC.

In engineering the 6.8 SPC the Special Forces wanted to ensure the cartridge length would fit in the AR-15 platform. Modifications were made to the AR’s bolt head and magazine. Of course, a new barrel was also needed. Remington initially produced 115-grain rounds for the military and law enforcement only. In 2004, the 6.8 SPC became available to civilians, and like many military cartridges of yore (the .30-40 Krag, .30-06 and .308 Win.), the 6.8 SPC began to make its way to deer camps.

SPC Considerations
The 6.8 SPC easily falls between the .223/5.56mm and .308 Win./7.62x51mm NATO in terms of bullet diameter and velocity. Compared to the 5.56mm, the 6.8 SPC has 44 percent more energy at 100 yards and is accurate to 1,640 feet. The 6.8 SPC also has about 80 percent of the performance of the .308 Win. When comparing the 6.8 SPC to classic deer cartridges like the .30-30, .243, 6mm, .250 Savage and .257 Roberts, you soon find the 6.8 SPC will do anything these deer rifle calibers will and with less recoil. A 115-grain 6.8 SPC at 2,700 fps has 8.8 foot-pounds of recoil in a scoped AR platform, compared to a 100-grain .243 clocked at 2,960 fps with 10.4 foot-pounds of recoil on a scoped bolt-action rifle. And when compared to the 150-grain .30-30, the 6.8 SPC beats the downrange energy of that old-school cartridge at 100 yards and farther.

Going Stag
The 6.8 SPC was designed for use with 16-inch barrels. ARs purpose-built for hunting, like the Stag Arms Model 7, have 20-inch barrels and can squeeze a bit more speed and energy out of cartridges than shorter 16-inch barrels. The SSA 110-grain Nosler AccuBond Tactical loads are factory clocked at 2,630 fps, but the Stag Arms Model 7 ekes out another 71. Hornady factory 110-grain V-Max clock at 2,550 and the Stag Arms rifles squeeze out 30. Granted an extra 30 to 70 fps isn’t an overwhelming amount of power, but it does give the longer barreled ARs a slight edge over short-barrel ones. The Stag Arms Model 7 barrel is free-floated with a medium contour that tapers down to 0.7 inches and an 11-degree crown at the muzzle. The bore is Spec II with four grooves and a 1-in-11-inch twist rate.

The Stag Arms Model 7 Hunter’s lower receiver is constructed from a forging of 7075-T6 aircraft-quality aluminum. The retro A2-type buttstock (circa 1980s) has a fixed swivel and butt-trap. The soft Hogue pistol grip fills the hand and is comfortable to grip with or without gloves. The lower also sports a nice two-stage trigger, which facilitates accurate shooting. The flattop upper receiver has a long Picatinny rail, which provides a lot of leeway when mounting a scope. The upper also free-floats the 20.77-inch stainless steel barrel inside a Hogue overmolded aluminum handguard, which completely covers the rifle-length gas tube. The gas block has three Picatinny slots for mounting a front sight. A front sling swivel or bipod can be attached to the handguard. The Stag Arms Model 7 also comes with one five-shot magazine, making the gun compliant with hunting laws in some states. I mounted the Leupold VX-R Patrol 1.25-4x20mm scope with an illuminated red-dot reticle on the Stag Arms Model 7, using Leupold’s one-piece IMS mount with 30mm rings. The IMS is built for AR platforms and positions a scope at the height required.

At the range, with a benchrest the Stag Arms Model 7 was easy to shoot. The two-stage trigger broke at 5 pounds and the VX-R scope made it simple to get on target fast. The Stag Arms Model 7 and Leupold scope are a good combination. Recoil was nil and allowed me to concentrate on the target. While shooting from a standing position, like I do when I shoot at jumped bucks in the hardwoods, I came to appreciate the round Hogue handguard and how fast the rifle could get into action.

The 6.8 SPC has been my go-to deer rifle for a number of years now, and the deer that I tagged were killed with one shot: at distances of 50 yards, the 6.8 SPC will typically pass through the beast. The last small buck I jumped was killed with a double-lung pass-through. He ran about 20 yards before sliding nose first into the leaves. For more information, visit stagarms.com or call 860-229-9994.

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