There’s a new cartridge on the block, and it’s one cool customer. Built to fulfill the desires of the classic .270 Winchester shooting crowd while meeting the demands of today’s long-range shooting and hunting protocol, the brand-new 6.8 Western steps into the arena and doffs its ten-gallon hat.
The Six-Eight is the brainchild of a collaboration between the engineers at Winchester and Browning. Its parent cartridge is Winchester’s own .270 WSM, with the shoulder pushed back to accommodate the long, heavy-for-caliber, aerodynamic projectiles that modern long-range shooters love to send downrange. Barrel twist rate in rifles chambered for the new cartridge is updated as well, to accommodate and stabilize those same high-BC bullets. The twist rate in traditional .277 barrels (.270 Win, .270 WSM) is 1-10, while the twist rate in new 6.8 Western rifles will be 1-8 inches. Most at home in short rifle actions, the 6.8 is a cartridge suitable for lightweight, fast cycling hunting rifles, as well as heavier, more stable platforms.
The 6.8 Western has proven to be accurate, efficient, and deadly (more on that in a minute). It’s not a barrel-burner, either, with factory ammo producing advertised muzzle velocities ranging from 2835 up to 2970 feet per second. Two loads are initially available: Winchester’s Expedition Long Range load features Nosler 165-grain Accubond Long Range bullets and sports a muzzle velocity of 2970 fps and a G1 BC of 0.620. Browning’s Long Range Pro Hunter load is topped with a new 175-grain Tipped Game King bullet from Sierra and offers a muzzle velocity of 2835 fps, with a G1 BC of 0.617. Additional loads will soon be available, including a “green” load topped with a 160-grain Winchester Copper Impact projectile, and a 165-grain Match Competitive Target round from Winchester.
Browning will make their X-Bolt rifle lineup available in the new 6.8 Western, and Winchester will chamber the new round in both their XPR and M70 rifle lineups.
I was able to get my hands on a 6.8 Western Browning X-Bolt Hunter early in the game. Only the Browning Long Range Pro Hunter ammo was available at the time – the one loaded with Sierra’s new 175-grain TGK bullet. Initial testing produced remarkable accuracy, with average three-shot group size coming in well under .75 MOA. Needless to say, I was impressed. Chronographed velocity on the factory ammo was initially a bit slow at 2780 fps, but after about 50 rounds the barrel broke in nicely and velocity was almost exactly as factory advertised at 2835 fps.
An early-season elk hunt found me afield with the 6.8 Western X-Bolt in hand. I had worked the rifle out to ranges approaching 850 yards, so while I hoped for a close shot I was prepared for a long one if it became necessary. A surprise encounter with a true monster bull showed up the second night of hunting, and with my son watching through a spotting scope I made a perfect first-shot kill at 679 yards, dropping the 406 6/8 gross (official score – just in) B&C bull in his tracks. Again, I was impressed.
Fast-forward to an Arizona border-country Coues deer hunt. I’d loaned my 6.8 rifle to writer and hunting buddy Jordan Voigt. He spotted a big buck at over 1,400 yards late one evening, and we made a fast stalk through the ocotillo, managing to close the distance to 496 yards. It was now or never, with shooting light fading fast. Jordan settled in behind the X-Bolt, dialed his scope, and dropped the buck with another perfect first-shot kill. Once again, I was impressed. The 6.8 Western has proven itself to be an accurate and lethal cartridge, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for use on everything from pronghorn antelope to Alaskan moose.