What the hell is 8.6 Creedmoor?
It’s the .338 Federal, right? No. Similar, but no. Let’s start with where it is similar: It shoots a .338 projectile, or 8.6mm if you like. Past that, not much.
Taking a quick little look from 30,000 feet…
8.6 Creedmoor, if you’ve never heard of it, is a joint effort between Q (an innovative company making products from silencers, to the Honey Badger in 300 Blackout, as well as their completely reimagined bolt action rifle, The Fix) and Hornady (the massive ammunition manufacturer). Additionally, because of Q’s ties with Noveske (a high-end rifle manufacturer), they’ve barreled a Noveske pistol in 8.6 Creedmoor to test reliability and function in gas guns.
Let’s look at how the cartridge is made. Rather than starting with something like a .308, the way the .338 Federal does, we start with a 6.5 Creedmoor. We then cut the case down and neck it up. Is that confusing? It took me a minute to wrap my head around it too. Here is why it is done though…
The case length of the .338 Federal is 2.015” where the 8.6 Creedmoor case is 1.685” in length. Why does this matter? Well, if you want the ability to run heavy subsonic loads, 280 to 360+ grains, the longer 338 Federal case will put the ogive of the projectile back inside the case. This is bad, your bullet will not perform.
On top of that, while starting with that “smaller” case capacity, it offers more consistent ignition. Especially with those heavy subsonic loads, in turn, giving you better performance shot to shot.
Due to the cartridge length, 8.6 Creedmoor will feed out of .308 Winchester magazines. What does this mean? It will fit all of your magazines. Be they SR-25 patterned, AR10, Accuracy International, or even the magazine on your TIKKA rifle. And, here is where it is pretty magical since the cartridge uses the same bolt face as a .308, it is just a matter of swapping barrels.
And speaking of barrels, all of the .338 Federal data for SAMMI is collected from a 24” barrel with a 1/10 twist. Nope, hard pass. A 1/10 barrel can never stabilize heavy subsonic rounds. The twist rate is too slow, the same problem that plagues subsonic 308 / 7.62 NATO. That slow of a twist rate will fire heavy bullets, but without the stabilization of a faster twist rate, they won’t be accurate at all.
The 8.6 Creedmoor is being designed around a fast barrel twist. Q is still kicking around prototypes anywhere from 1/3 twist to 1/5. The 1/3 does an amazing job of stabilizing big heavy bullets and providing the shooter with good accuracy. It also performs well with light supersonic loads depending on the bullet type. Poorly made bullets will twist apart in flight. So, Q is finding the sweet spot with respect to heavy and light .338 projectiles.
As to barrel length and the 24” 338 Federal… Again, no. The 8.6 Creedmoor is designed around a short barrel. About 12.5” to be exact. Why? Because it sucks dragging a 24” barreled firearm through the woods, a doorway, the trunk of a car, or pretty much any other space you can think of—let alone if you want to thread a silencer onto said barrel. So, the 8.6 Creedmoor is being optimized for a short barrel.
Does this mean you will have to pay a $200 tax to the NFA for a short barreled rifle? Yes, or you can purchase a pistol. SB Tactical makes some amazing pistol braces which can greatly increase one’s ability to use a pistol if needed. Q will be releasing their Fix Rifle as a 12.5” barreled 8.6 Creedmoor pistol, utilizing an SB Tactical folding pistol brace when the round becomes available.
And speaking of availability, Hornady is leading the charge. In recent years they have done an amazing job bringing some great high-quality cartridges to market. As a result, you will probably end up with easy access and availability to the 8.6 Creedmoor cartridge.
We probably could have started this whole article with the question of “Why?” Why bother with 8.6 Creedmoor? That is a fair question. And the answer is because it provides an amazing melding of supersonic and subsonic performance for the .308 platform. If it helps, think of it as .300 Blackout’s big brother. We are taking a cartridge, cutting it down and putting a larger projectile into it, and optimizing it for a shorter barrel. That gives us better super and subsonic performance out to a moderate range than was previously available.
Now I guess you’re wondering if it does in fact perform. I’d say so, out of a 12.5” barrel the 8.6 Creedmoor with a 155GR bullet at 2500FPS brings 2,100 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle. With supersonic loads, it will outperform a 18” barreled .308 Winchester out to 300 yards.
Using 300+ grain expanding subsonic loads, the 8.6 Creedmoor generates 650+ ft. lbs. at the muzzle and is still maintaining 550 ft. lbs. out at 600 yards. For reference, that is more energy than a 45ACP at the muzzle…
Bolt action or semi-automatic? Yes. The 8.6 Creedmoor performs equally well out of a bolt action rifle as it does out of a gas gun. I’ve shot the 8.6 Creedmoor out of a Fix Rifle as well as a Noveske AR10 Pistol. The 8.6 Creedmoor had no issues cycling the Noveske or locking back on an empty magazine while shooting supersonic and subsonic rounds.
Is the 8.6 Creedmoor quiet when running it through a silencer? Absolutely. Like with any supersonic round, you will have the associated crack while firing the round. But the real magic is in the subsonic loads. Out of a bolt action, it is about the same report as a .22 LR suppressed. That’s ridiculously quiet considering the projectile you’re sending down range. Subsonic rounds through the gas gun are quiet, but suffer the same as any other round. You have a fair bit of noise coming from the ejection port and the cycling of the gun. But it is still quite pleasant to shoot.
Again, circling back to the why. While some of my friends have dropped large game, including elk, with shots at over 1,100 yards, that’s not the norm. If you have the capability, good on you. Most hunters lack not only that skill to take an ethical shot at that range, but frankly the opportunity. Most game is taken anywhere from 50 to 250-300 yards. By way of example, the elk I shot last year was just over 100 yards away. Just about the maximum distance I could have shot. Why? Because up in the part of Idaho where I live the only shots you get are in clear cuts. In the trees, a deer or elk could be 20 yards away and you’d be hard pressed to see one, let alone get a shot.
Not to mention who wants to walk through the woods with a 24” barreled rifle? How about a suppressed 24” barrel so you don’t end up with permanent hearing loss? Nope. The 8.6 Creedmoor will allow a shooter to carry around a much smaller and lighter weapon system. How about a 12.5” barreled Fix with a folding pistol brace? Climbing up to a tree stand, crossing a stream, hiking into the mountains? All the performance needed by most sportsman in a nice compact package.
Is this the perfect cartridge? No. Is it the perfect cartridge for supersonic and subsonic performance out to medium ranges with a short barrel, the ability to run in bolt actions and semi-autos, feeding out of standard .308 magazines, with the option to run it with silencers for incredibly quiet supersonic performance? Yes, it absolutely is.
Will the 8.6 Creedmoor be called 8.6 Creedmoor? Possibly, but who knows. It may end up as the .338 Creedmoor, .338 Blackout, 8.6 Blackout… Time will tell.
I guess the last question is, when can you buy one? Probably in 2019. Hornady and Q are working to finalize the cartridge as well as the optimized barrel (twist rate, length, etc.). Those should be wrapped up in 2019 so that the 8.6 Creedmoor can get put into production. Personally, I’m really looking forward to this cartridge.