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January 12, 2005

The new 6.8mm Spec Ops round.

Before I launch into this discussion - I reload now and again, but it's vanilla, using standard data. I gunsmith, but I'm not a designer, I'm a repairer of milsurp (hell, anything, if you ask me to), nor do I do custom work. I'm looking at starting to build my own guns - but they will be older guns, originals of which are unobtainable with my projected lifetime income, and the ones available shouldn't be shot, anyway. I'm talking hand gonnes, wheelocks, matchlocks, etc. There are several manufacturers out there who will provide castings and forgings, rough finished stocks and (interior at least) finished barrels that the home crafstman will have to fit, temper, harden, polish and assemble. It's the only way I'm going to push the holdings of the Castle much farther back in time, as reproductions. But that oughta be cool, as well as fun - and since you can get all the pieces individually, if you screw it up, you can order a new part and start over and not go broke.

I bring that up because unlike at many other gun-related sites, I don't get into the technical bits about ballistics (I can write a nice treatise on interior, exterior, and terminal if you'd like) but I'm just not into it like that.

One reason for that is, I don't hunt, and I don't precision target shoot. My interest in shooting has always been from a practical perspective. I was more interested in being technically competent, and able to hit man-size targets from whatever position I was in, preferably behind cover, and knowing when to use area fire to reduce risk. Combat shooting. I've never been one of those guys who takes his shooting rest, sets up on the bench, shoots through his chronograph, and takes calipers downrange to measure his shot groups. If everything was center of mass at my aiming point, I was happy. Which is a good thing - my preferred weapon for recreation is a surplus military firearm... shooting surplus military ammo. I could lock that in a shooting vise and still have irregular groups, so if all my shots are in the center of mass at 100 yards and over, that usually is pretty competent shooting. I was also a paintball wizard in my day - that kind of snapshooting is a useful skill, if it doesn't truly give you a proper appreciation for cover versus concealment.

So, if you ever come across me on the range - I'm usually shooting faster than the other guy, unless he's just playing like I am. If I can, I'll have multiple targets at different ranges, and engage them in sequence, or randomly.

Because that's the kind of shooting that kept my ass intact, those very few time I needed it. I don't have a 10th the firefight exposure most combat troops in Iraq have.

So - I do collect cartridges, in that I like to have at least one to match each weapon in the arsenal here at the Castle, and there is much to learn (or to teach, when cracking open skulls and pouring in data) and having the artifacts makes it both easier to learn and to teach.

The parent cartridge for the 6.8mm Rem SPC is the old .30 Remington, which is essentially a rimless .30-30. Left to right: .30 Remington, 6.8mm Rem SPC, .308 Winchester, .223 Remington.

Where was I? Oh, yeah - the new 6.8mm round. CAPT H, my Canuckistanian Compadre, sent along a link to this article on the new round, written by one of the guys involved in its development.

Why develop a new round? There are actually lots you who read me who know more about it (or at least have stronger opinions, based on the comments) but the .223 round fired from the M4 just doesn't have the oomph, especially at range, we'd like. I hate it when I shoot someone and they get back up. That means I have to divert my attention from the other guy I'm shooting and re-engage a target that doesn't have the good sense to stay down. Never mind the fact I expected my soldiers to behave the same way if they (or I) got shot - the fight's not over just because you got unlucky...

I have never been a fan of the M16, though I found the M4 handy as a field grade officer, and vastly superior to the Beretta. Yeah, I'm one of those guys who would come into a division TOC with an M4. I'd still pack the M92, as well, or, if I was in a friendly environment for that sort of thing, I'd have my Remington-Rand M1911A1. I'm curmudgeonly that way. And I got in trouble now and then with more conventional bosses... Hell, when I was a battery commander, I traded my VTR (Vehicle Tracked, Recovery - a tracked tow truck) driver my .45 for his M3 Grease Gun. I figured if I needed to influence a fight personally, a subgun was going to do better at that than a .45, at greater range, and with less likelihood of sight problems with someone else's no-longer-needed, sighted-for-them M16. And yes, you really can shoot one of those things accurately enough - just don't hold down the trigger!

But I'm a big guy, and my favorite rifle continues to be the M14 - even though I know why it didn't last, except as a sniper weapon. But that's instructive, too - it survived as a sniper weapon because it was accurate, reliable - and the cartridge had good combat ballistics.

The new 6.8mm round seems to be the good compromise here. Virtually the same flight characteristics and lethality as the .308, yet still small enough for the M16 receiver, bolt, and gas system.

I'll look forward to getting a chance to pop a few caps. Too bad I don't know anyone in the MTU at Benning... I probably could have scored a shot at it when I was down there last November. And mebbe I'll hold off on getting a semi-auto M4 clone until they come out in 6.8mm for the civilian market.