Jake Arnsdorff, Jamie Van Gilder and Jordan Hunter on a recent GunsAmerica hunt at Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish in Okeechobee, Florida. Jake and Jordan work for Daniel Defense and Ambush Firearms. These three took 12 hogs in two days with their Ambush Rifles on this hunt.
The rifle on the bottom is our original Ambush 6.8 SPC that we have had for just over a year. (see game pics below). As you can see, we keep a LaserGenetics green laser flashlight permanently mounted to the bottom rail, and the rail facing us usually has a mount for a Contour camer. The third rail has one of those amazing Limbsaver Grizzly slings we told you about at SHOT this year. The top rifle just came in from Ambush, also in 6.8, but with an SPCII chamber, which is rated for slightly higher pressure.
The most notable difference in the new version of the Ambush is the addition of a “forward assist” button. This allows you to make sure the bolt is seated after doing a “chamber check” for a live round. Even though we have now used the original Ambush successfully for a year, the added security of the forward assist is important piece of mind when you have invested a lot of time and money in a hunt.
The new Ambush also has a long charging handle extension so you don’t have to pinch grab under an optic.
Also, this is more of a cosmetic difference, the area under the charging handle doesn’t get drag marks like the previous version.
The uppers also also now marked with the caliber, which is a nice touch if you plan to buy one lower with extra uppers in the different calibers.
We shot the accuracy tests at 50 yards with the new gun because of the course reticle in the $70 Bushnell scope. At least nobody will say we are gear snobs right? As you can see, it still shot MOA or better. Four of the 5 rounds went into a ragged hole slightly larger than the .277 inch bullet. This was not the only group like this with Hornady 120 grain SST rounds.
Over the course of the year we have shot mostly Hornady and Silver State 6.8 ammo in our original gun. For this test we were able to get both 110 grain and 120 grain Hornady, and 110 grain HSM using a Hornady bullet.
It used to be that a hunting rifle was something you took out of the gun cabinet once a year, usually around the first week in November. Whitetail used to be synonymous with hunting, but that is no longer the case. Nuisance animals, with no natural predators who hunt them, have reached an epic proportion in America, and a lot of people hunt them for sport, while serving a useful cause for weary landowners. Hogs, coyotes, prairie dogs and even alligators have turned “hunting season” into a year round experience, one that is entirely different than whitetail hunting. Ambush Rifles is a project of Daniel Defense, makers of high end customizable AR-15 platform rifles. The Ambush rifle is an AR-15, and all of the parts are interchangeable with a normal AR, but that is where the similarity ends. Anyone can dip an AR-15 in camo and cal it a hunting rifle, but Daniel Defense has taken the Ambush a step higher, by fitting it with not only premium components and a hammer forged barrel, but also a shotgun like fore-grip and monolithic upper for sturdy performance from your optics. Most importantly, the Ambush isn’t only available in in 5.56 NATO. We have used a version in the devastating 6.8 SPC, and the hottest caliber out these days is the .300 Blackout. All three calibers carry an MSRP of $1749. Our experience with the first version of the Ambush for over a year now has been incredible. Take a look at the pictures. This is only a fraction of the game that has fallen to our 6.8 Ambush. The second version of these guns is now shipping, and they are even better than the originals.
All ARs are not created alike, and a lot are made from scrounged parts from other manufacturers. Daniel Defense makes their own guns, including nearly all of the steel and alloy components. They have to pay to dip the guns and license the camo patterns, and the Geissele triggers on the Ambush are bought, as are the Magpul stocks, but the core components of the gun, the upper, the lower, and the magnetic particle inspected bolt group are all made in Georgia by DD. These components, as well as their hammer forged barrels, are actually purchased by other manufacturers for use in their guns, so you are getting some very high performance components without the additional markup of a reseller. When it comes to “high end” components in an AR, it is hard to explain the significance. Something like magnetic particle inspection sounds good, but you don’t understand how important it can be until you pay $3000 for a prairie dog hunt in Wyoming, level a dogtown with three 30 round mags, and your gun doesn’t break. Or, like you see with our friend Gary Nelson in the game photos here, a 400 lb. trophy hog appears 160 yards away and you know you can’t get closer before he bolts or charges, and the extreme accuracy of your rifle, along with its comfortable balance and weight, allow you to take the animal at distance. The game photos really say it all. When our guide Dwayne Powell at Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish gives his clients the opportunity to the hunt with the Ambush, pretty much none of them say no.
We didn’t review the original Ambush we received, back when the company was just starting out, mostly because the first version didn’t come with what is called a “forward assist.” That is the button on the right side of an AR-15 that allows you to use your thumb to make sure that your cartridge is seated all the way. Forward assists are ugly, and that is probably why they were left off of the first Ambush guns, but we have found that in a hunting situation a forward assist is extremely important. Unless you are very experienced with the sounds and feel of an AR, it is really, really, really, really, really hard to trust the fact that a round stripped from the magazine when you dropped the bolt. That generally leads to a “chamber check” to make sure a round is chambered. Without a forward assist, you have no way to heartily reseat the bolt, and you can end up with a “click” when you fire. This actually happened to us on the first outing with the original Ambush. A very experienced hunter who had never hunted an AR platform went click, and we knew that before we could suggest that you go out and buy an Ambush as your first AR-style hunting rifle it had to have a forward assist, which it now does. We probably should have done the review back then regardless, because we insisted on buying the gun anyway since we loved it so much.
We are not big fans of the term “Modern Sporting Rifle” here at GunsAmerica, because the 2nd Amendment is not about hunting, and today’s AR-15 is nothing more than the current technology of our time, just as the smooth bore flintlock musket was in the late 1700s at the time of the writing of the Constitution. But the Ambush, and the way we have used it, is a shining example of how our hunting rifles have evolved with firearm technology along with self defense arms. On a regular self defense AR-15, it can be a challenge to use all of those rails in the front of the gun without feeling silly. But on our Ambush, we use the top rail for the scope of course, and the other three rails are used for a sling mount, a LaserGenetics ND3, and a Contour camera mount (the latter was removed for these photos). Our Limbsaver Kodiak sling with that cool handle is indispensable on long stalk hunts, and the ND3 allows you to use your regular scope at night. It is a green laser flashlight that doesn’t seem to spook any game we have encountered. The Contour camera produced the footage you have seen in several of our past hunting articles. It is a small video camera that was made to go on the side of a firearm. Everyone loves being able to watch the video of their hunt and show it to friends and relatives. It is like they were there right beside you.
Each of the Ambush rifles has its own specs because of the different needs of the calibers. The 6.8 SPC model we have tested weighs in at just over 7 lbs. and has an 18″ barrel with a 1:11 twist for the 110-120 grain bullets of the 6.8. The new model of the Ambush of this gun comes with an SPCII (2) chamber, which is safe to fire any regular 6.8, but also the slightly higher pressure SPCII. However, there is no factory ammo we have seen in SPCII yet. All three calibers of the Ambush have mid-length gas systems with low profile gas blocks, and a free floating modular handguard. The camo patterns are REALTREE AP™, MOSSY OAK® BREAK UP® INFINITY™, or MOSSY OAK® BLAZE® PINK, but not all of them are available in every model all the time. Right now the guns come with a 5 round PMI mag that seems reliable, though we have had issues with larger sized PMI mags in the past. The 6.8 SPC magazine is standard AR sized on the outside, but the inside is slightly different and there aren’t a lot of good ones out there.
The most important aspect of our tests with the Ambush have been its trials under fire. Our original Ambush has never missed a day or a shot since that first one due to the lack of a forward assist. Everyone has learned to not “chamber check” the gun, and it has never failed to pick up a round. The nice thing about having the gun for a year before the review is that we can show you where the finish tends to wear off as you carry the gun. After heavy hunting for a year over dozens of hunters, she isn’t exactly ugly or worn looking, and sitting next to the new Ambush, there is only a small difference between the guns. We have had a number of scopes on our Ambush, the latest being the illuminated Tru-Glow you see in the pictures. For the new gun, on short notice we went to Wal-Mart and picked up a Bushnell with a similar camo pattern, and it is serviceable at the 30-100 yards that we see most game shots on the ranch in Okeechobee.
Because of the dreadfully thick reticle on the Bushnell scope, we decided to test the accuracy with the new at 50 yards instead of 100. The middle dot on the 1.5-4x Bushnell more than covered the target at 100 yards on 4x, so it would have been impossible to test it further. Surprisingly, with such a coarse reticle, the Ambush came in at about a one half inch dispersal at 50 yards. That is approximately 1 MOA, or Minute of Angle. If you look at the target with the Hornady 120 grain bullets, 4 of the 5 shots went into one ragged hole slightly larger than the .277 caliber bullet itself (6.8mm = .277 inches). We had never bench rested our original Ambush, but in casual rested shooting it has always been a tack driver. This bench rest test proved it out. The only other ammo we could get right now is called HSM, and they also use a Hornady bullet, and that was only slightly outside of 1 MOA. These Ambush Firearms rifles are every bit as accurate as guns costing two to three times as much.
Take this for what it is worth, but it would be crazy to not share a little secret with you that we have learned about the 6.8 SPC with our Ambush. Hornady makes both a 110 grain and a 120 grain bullet in the Hornady Ammunition brand. The 6.8 SPC caliber is, again, a .277 bullet, the same as a .270 Winchester. Dwayne had noticed over time that the Hornady 120 grain ammo was head and shoulders more devastating a round than the 110 grain, very close to what he has come to expect over the years from his .270 Winchester Model 70. Well surprise, surprise, when we chronographed the 120 grain, it came out at a fairly consistent 2550 feet per second, almost 100 fps faster than it says on the box, which is supposed to be through a 24″ barrel. This is an 18″ barrel. That is only about 100 fps under a .270, also through a 24″ barrel. Unless our chronograph has a chronic case of calibration calamity with this round, something is a little confused. For now, we’re going to stick to the 120 grain. There are no signs of pressure problems, and it kills everything it hits.
If you haven’t entered the game of year round hunting but you have that hunting itch, definitely give it a try. Many parts of the US are overrun with hogs, coyotes and prairie dogs. If you are going to hunt year round, you really need a “working rifle” that shoots fast and often, travels small and light, and can withstand just about any weather you can throw at it. The Ambush, in our experience, is the ultimate “Modern Sporting Rifle” on the AR-15 platform, and though it is a little more pricey than your standard AR, you are buying the additional high end features at essentially wholesale cost from the manufacturer. Right now it is still tough to get any Daniel Defense or Ambush Firearms rifle because of the artificially political demand, but once they catch up, see if you can get your hands on an Ambush. For the year round hunter on the go, from what we have seen, there is no better rifle.
6.8 SPC is about as oddball a round as you will find. Hornady uses small rifle primers but everyone else seems to use large rifle primers, including Remington, for whom the cartridge is named in SAAMI specs.
Big surprise on the chronograph with the 120 grain Hornady rounds. They came in at almost 100 fps over the box rating through an 18″ barrel. Dwayne has noticed that they are devastating in the field.
If you make this picture larger you will see what your gun will look like after a few dozens outings of hard hunting in the Florida outback. The wear on the finish is not ugly.
Young hunter Jacob Cooper with Dwayne Powell of Kissimmee River Hunt & Fish, first hog with the Ambush.
Gary Nelson with his 400 lb. trohpy hog taken at 160 yards with the Ambush 6.8 SPC.
A whole bunch of ham night hunting with Sean Pankalla and the Ambush rifle.
Jamie Van Gilder took this almost 10 foot gator with the Ambush using those 120 grain Hornady bullets.
A red trophy sized hog with Jake Arnsdorff and his Ambush.
Dwayne with Jake and Jordan on a couple more good sized meat hogs.