406 Inch (Official) Bull Taken with New Two-Seventy Cartridge: The 6.8 Western

The empty 6.8 Western cartridge used by the author to harvest a massive bull elk at 679 yards.

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.

Details and specs on the new cartridge.

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.

The 6.8 Western tested well, averaging well under three-quarter MOA accuracy from the Browning X-Bolt Western Hunter test rifle.

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.

The author and his big bull, taken with the new 6.8 Western cartridge on a public-land, DIY backcountry hunt.

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.

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Mark W, February 4, 2021, 9:46 am

    The writer told y’all where his shot was placed. He’s tired of trying to convince Negative Nancy’s, that’s why he hasn’t responded!

  • Frank February 3, 2021, 9:27 am

    “Apples and Oranges?”… Really? Guess that depends on one’s own objectives.

    Two near identically performing rounds (the 280 AI, & the new 6.8 Western), in two very different rifles (the Ruger Hawkey African, and the Browning X-Bolt) are reviewed in today’s email.

    On paper, the 6.8 may look a little better, but it looks like that Browning is wearing a 26” barrel. The Ruger Hawkeye “African” has a 24″ barrel. The Ruger also has controlled feed with a nice claw extractor… and it beats the snot out of the Browning in the looks department, (but that doesn’t necessarily make the round perform differently). The Ruger costs MUCH less.

    Considering ONLY the two rifles (in their respective chamberings) reviewed herein today, the question becomes “Will I spend over twice the amount of money to buy a platform which uses an unproven round, that will not be readily available for a long time… if ever (remember all the other WSM cartridges?) Or will I pick up the much more reasonably priced platform, chambered in a proven round that is ever-increasing in popularity?

    For me, it is admittedly a mute point, as I’m currently investing in ammo for the toys I already own, but if I had to buy one or the other… I’d have another one of Bill’s gems… chambered in 280 AI.

    • Aram von Benedikt February 3, 2021, 11:16 am

      I love the .280AI myself – great round. The rifle featured is Browning Western Hunter, which comes in at a significantly lower price point that you have assumed. And, it has a 24-inch barrel.

  • Marvin E Leonard February 3, 2021, 1:34 am

    Great bull and nice data about the 6.8 Western. I can’t imagine how someone can draw the conclusion that you made a bad shot from a photo but what is apparent is, he’s dead. A 679 yard shot is a tall order, I’ve watch some self professed experts take long range shots with some terrible results. I’ve seen several long range shots that dropped them in their tracks. I guess my point is, thanks for sharing.

    • Aram von Benedikt February 3, 2021, 11:31 am

      Thanks Marvin!

  • kent February 2, 2021, 7:35 pm

    I agree with just about all the comments. Please don’t do any more of these for a while… It just angers and divides us further. we’re an angry nation right now. And for good reason.

  • Gordon Cox February 2, 2021, 7:19 pm

    I’m proud winchester and browning haven’t tucked their tails and run for cover amid all the anti gun & hunting crap coming out of washington these days. More is better. Shot placement is very important with a.277 cal. or any other cal on large game. when you old farts get over the fact that it wasnt you that did the deed, then maby you could get over yourself and tell someone, congratulations. But, that ego is hard to get over. We all had better join together and ban the banners before we only have firearms to read and dream about.

  • Grant Stevens February 2, 2021, 1:49 pm

    I know the industry has to have “new” stuff to sell, but this seems like just another “solution” to a non-existent problem. A .270 Win. with 160-grain Nosler Partition handloads can be a deadly long-range performer. But every true hunter wants to stalk as close as possible before taking a shot to minimize the variables that lead to poor bullet placement. Aside from being lazy, long-range shooters tempt fate with every trigger pull. If they spent more time becoming better hunters instead of ballistics addicts they would enjoy greater success and reap more satisfaction from every hunt.

  • Rick February 2, 2021, 1:30 pm

    All in all, my idea of 800 – 900 yard shooting is fullbore, F-Class, Precision Rifle, etc, where a gutshot or broken legged target just hurts my feelings and my score. Target doesn’t feel a thing.

    With all the focus and celebration at taking animals at distances like that, where zero hunting skills are required other than finding an animal in view you think you can hit… they must all be perfect marksman!

    After all, I’ve never read a writer, this one or any other on any medium, write a story like “Yeah, I misjudged the wind, the animal moved, I actually muffed the shot… and the last I saw of the elk it went out of sight dragging a broken leg or with it’s jaw shot off. And it was too far away, across a canyon, in an inaccessible place to even think about trying to do some actual hunting and track the animal down.”

    Odd how we never see those stories on YouTube, web pages, etc… All perfect shots.

    BTW, the rifle can’t be all that good. After all, hunters using longbows have taken elk as big and bigger with double blade broadheads with an effective range of about 20 – 30 yards.

    Rhetorical question: which one is the better hunter (we do call it hunting, not shooting, right?); the guy with the hunting rifle or the guy with the hunting bow?

    But hey, it’s legal and it’s a free country, so we all get to decide for ourselves what hunting and hunting ethics mean to us.

  • Frank February 2, 2021, 12:30 pm

    “Apples and Oranges?”… Really? Guess that depends on one’s own objectives.

    Two near identically performing rounds (the 280 AI, & the new 6.8 Western), in two very different rifles (the Ruger Hawkey African, and the Browning X-Bolt) are reviewed in today’s email.

    On paper, the 6.8 may look a little better, but it looks like that Browning is wearing a 26” barrel. The Ruger Hawkeye “African” has a 24″ barrel. The Ruger also has controlled feed with a nice claw extractor… and it beats the snot out of the Browning in the looks department, (but that doesn’t necessarily make the round perform differently). The Ruger costs MUCH less.

    Considering ONLY the two rifles (in their respective chamberings) reviewed herein today, the question becomes “Will I spend over twice the amount of money to buy a platform which uses an unproven round, that will not be readily available for a long time… if ever (remember all the other WSM cartridges?) Or will I pick up the much more reasonably priced platform, chambered in a proven round that is ever-increasing in popularity?

    For me, it is admittedly a mute point, as I’m currently investing in ammo for the toys I already own, but if I had to buy one or the other… I’d have another one of Bill’s gems… chambered in 280 AI.

  • Treestand III February 2, 2021, 12:10 pm

    700 yards out?? That out of my Comfort zone!! If he runs YOU have to cover 7 foot ball field and then some(The Hunting GOD was on your side) That day. Sir Your skills Don’t impress me,Your stuppity and lack of sportmen ship & Fair Chase dose.

  • Russ Havens February 2, 2021, 10:34 am

    It could have been a quartering away shot, downhill, that found the boiler room🤷

    • Aram von Benedikt February 3, 2021, 11:34 am

      Indeed it was! Well figured!

  • Richard Nizer February 2, 2021, 9:49 am

    Didn’t know gut shots were in the real kill zone. Sure it was dead by the time you got there.

    • Aram von Benedikt February 3, 2021, 11:20 am

      No gut shot. The shot was quartered away, and from an elevated position.

    • Aram von Benedikt February 3, 2021, 11:37 am

      Gut shots are not. However, quartering away shots can be. This one was taken from an elevated position , and quartered away. The bullet ranged forward and down, centering the lung and heart area.

  • Ron Page February 2, 2021, 8:45 am

    I doubt anyone is going to have positive comments on this new cartridge. I’m sure it’s a very versatile round and puts it in the middle of the big bores and the 6mm class, but it’s just bad timing. I have a 270 wsm with a 1:8 twist, so it’s pretty much the same thing. If the ammo market ever comes back, maybe there will be some interest in this round.

  • Olivio616 February 2, 2021, 8:40 am

    I don’t think that the elk died from the so called perfect shot. I think the animal drowned.

  • kerry purcell February 2, 2021, 8:38 am

    sounds impressive until you compare it to the 7mm wsm or the 7mm remington mag,,,,,what difference ? none whatsoever,,,i wish there were less new cartridges,,,,,and more ammo and reloading supplies,

  • frank e. anderson February 2, 2021, 6:01 am

    I cannot understand all this time and money being spent on NEW cartridges when we, the people, cannot get ammunition for tried and true cartridges that already do the job. I understand that the companies need to sell guns, but noone is going to buy guns if they cannot get ammunition for the guns they already own. The ammunition manufacturers are saying they are producing over capacity now and cannot keep up with demand. Why use those resources for more different cartridges!

  • CaptRon February 2, 2021, 3:42 am

    Hate to be critical, but if that’s the entry hole bleeding out, it’s not much of a
    hole and looks to be waaaaaay back and just about over the top. Lower appears would have been a messy gut shot. But if that was your aim point for a perfect first shot kill, I guess you were right on. Nice bull nonetheless. Not many like that running around on public land anymore. Antelope to Alaskan
    Moose, well ????????

    • kerry purcell February 2, 2021, 8:40 am

      i seen that too,,,,writer fails to go into the details on that,,,

    • Andrew Carter February 3, 2021, 8:52 am

      The .270 is plenty sufficient for everything up to Alaskan moose and even Bison

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