A few years back, the Hornady Ballistic Development Group (BDG) embarked on a mission to optimize the AR-15 platform for enhanced long-range capabilities.
Their innovation culminated in the creation of the 6mm Advanced Rifle Cartridge (6mm ARC), a cartridge with a notably flatter trajectory than the 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester.
Furthermore, the 6mm ARC is tailored to fit more compactly and with reduced weight compared to the AR-10, and its integration into an AR-15 mandates a mere three supplementary components.
The 6mm ARC’s distinction extends beyond its technical merits. Its rapidly growing popularity among civilians underscores its versatility—although designed primarily for the AR platform, it delivers outstanding results when hand-loaded for bolt-action rifles, thereby positioning itself as a top-tier hunting cartridge option.
It’s worth highlighting that even before the public unveiling of the 6mm ARC, it was adopted by a prestigious entity within the Department of Defense, hinting at its potential usage within Special Operations. The U.S. military’s pursuit of superior long-range precision stems from invaluable battlefield experiences.
The unique culture of firearm proficiency in the U.S., rooted in a tradition of an armed citizenry, enables young Americans to develop marksmanship skills from an early age. Such a widespread culture of sharpshooting fosters a pool of talent, evident in events like the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) matches.
This environment ensures that the military is equipped with soldiers possessing an unparalleled understanding of precise long-range shooting. Although not every member of a Special Operations unit may be a sharpshooting expert, the presence of even a handful of such specialists can elevate the capabilities of the entire team.
Historically, a challenge faced by U.S. soldiers was the limitation of available cartridges for precision long-range shooting from standard-issue firearms.
The 5.56mm NATO’s effectiveness diminishes beyond 300 yards, and while the .308 Winchester offers a slight ballistic advantage, it introduces considerable weight in both weaponry and ammunition. The 6mm ARC’s inception addresses this gap, offering a solution that not only benefits the military but also the broader civilian populace.
The Hornady 6mm ARC (Advanced Rifle Cartridge) uses highly efficient, high ballistic coefficient bullets to deliver unprecedented performance from an AR-15/M4 rifle on the battlefield.
Commercial 6mm ARC offerings will feature bullets selected to deliver equally unprecedented performance for hunting and match shooting.
When considering the 6mm ARC round, one important consideration to remember is the 6mm ARC barrel. That can make or break the performance of your rifle.
What is the 6mm ARC Good For?
Is the 6mm ARC good for hunting? Accuracy and terminal ballistics are the cornerstones of Hornady Precision Hunter ammunition. Hornady engineers have developed superior, match-grade accuracy hunting loads that allow the 103-grain ELD-X bullet to achieve its maximum terminal ballistics.
The powder used in the Precision Hunter ammunition is clean burning and loaded for consistent shot-to-shot results regardless of the ambient temperature. This attention to detail provides the highest levels of accuracy and performance for the most demanding hunting conditions.
Is The Military Using 6mm ARC?
The identity of the unit that adopted the 6mm ARC is only known as "a notable Department of Defense entity" to the public. A notable Department of Defense Entity in no way means the Department of Defense proper. Special Missions Units can use whatever they desire, purchased with non-attrib funds. Those are funds that cannot be tracked or linked to a specific activity, person, or entity.
An issue that many of our infantry units faced was that the issued ammunition did not lend well to precision long-range fire from the issued M4 carbine or sniper rifle systems. The 5.56 NATO is a poor choice for anything past 300 yards, and moving to the 308 WIN only offers a marginal improvement in ballistics. With the significant weight increase in both firearm and ammunition, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. The 6mm ARC exists (and will thrive) because it solves this problem.
Why would select units within the military adopt the 6mm ARC? It has to do with studying and understanding our near-peer threats. Studying not only their small arms capabilities but their tactics as well. For example, the Taliban in Afghanistan knew that most of our military used the 5.56 NATO round, so if they kept their engagement distance to around 600 yards, there was no real need for them to worry about our small arms fire.
Knowing that went into the decision-making process for adopting the 6mm ARC. The unit that adopted that round can now make devastatingly accurate shots out past 600 yards with a lightweight AR-15 patterned weapon system. There was now no need to move into a heavier AR-10 rifle chambered in 308 WIN.
6mm ARC Compared to Other Cartridges
How does the 6mm ARC bridge the gap between the other well-known and well-proven cartridges?
6mm ARC vs 6.5 Grendel
The 6mm ARC delivers comparable performance from a wider array of loads, making it a more versatile choice. The terminal ballistics of the 6mm ARC outperform the 6.5 Grendel at distance.
6mm ARC vs 308
The 6mm ARC delivers substantially less felt recoil allowing shooters to call their own shots. The 6mm ARC is also lighter in weight compared to 308 and boasts a higher magazine capacity.
6mm ARC vs 5.56
The 6mm ARC ballistics outpace the 5.56. With a flatter trajectory, the ability to buck the wind better, and hold tighter groups out to 1,000+ yards make it a far better performer than 5.56 when shooting out past 300 yards.
6mm ARC Ballistics | How Fast is the 6mm ARC?
The Hornady 6mm ARC cartridge was developed to fill the gap between the 5.56 and 308 WIN cartridges. Typically to get the velocity and energy of a 308 in an AR15 package, you had to get into a larger AR10 patterned rifle.
6mm ARC allows you to stay in an AR-15 platform along with increased velocity and energy on target out to 1,000 yards…and beyond.
6mm ARC Ballistics Chart With Real World Data
Hornady 108 grain ELD with a 100-yard zero fired from an 18" barrel at a muzzle velocity of 2,635 fps.
|Range (yards)||Velocity (fps)||Elevation Hold (MILS)|
What is the best barrel length for 6mm ARC
There are different lengths of 6mm ARC barrels available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a barrel length for your firearm, it’s important to consider what you want to achieve with it.
For example, you’ll want maximum accuracy and range if you’re a long-range shooter or hunter. Longer barrels (over 20 inches) will provide superior muzzle velocity. A higher velocity will improve your accuracy and range because the bullet can travel further before gravity pulls it off course.
On the other hand, shorter 6mm ARC barrels offer less range and velocity, but they are lighter and easier to handle. This maneuverability makes short to medium-length barrels better for combat, home defense, and other situations where speed and mobility are important.
Common 6mm ARC Barrel Length Options
- 16-18 inches: A good choice for mid-range combat or hunting, this barrel length provides enough velocity to get the job done.
- 20 inches: This length is ideal for prey or target shooting, with an impressive velocity that can help you hit your mark.
- 22 inches: If you want even more velocity, consider a 22-inch barrel. You’ll get a bit more speed than with a 20-inch barrel.
- 24 inches: For maximum bullet velocity and accuracy at distances over 500 yards, go for a 24-inch barrel.
No matter your barrel length, the 6mm ARC rounds have a high ballistic coefficient. This means that the bullets can maintain their velocity over longer distances. As a result, the bullets can hit targets with significant force at distances greater than 500 yards.
Who Makes The Best 6mm ARC Barrel?
Faxon has been in the rifle barrel game for a while now and knows a thing or two about optimizing barrels for peak performance and longevity. So it’s no wonder their 6mm ARC barrels are some of the best in the industry.
Faxon Match Series 16" Gunner 6mm ARC Barrel
The Gunner profile is a blend of two of the best-performing profiles of all time, Gov’t and Pencil. Faxon’s Gunner profile combines the durability of the Gov’t profile with the weight savings and maneuverability of the Pencil profile.
The Gunner profile brings the balance of the rifle back towards the shooter’s body, limiting fatigue, and allowing for shooting, training, or hunting all day long.
Manufactured in-house from gun-barrel-quality bar stock, the Match Series starts with 416-R in 5R rifling. 5R is a hybrid rifling, with lands opposite grooves and reduced sharp angles that reduce jacket deformation increasing velocity and easy cleaning.
After rigorous testing, this 6mm ARC barrel is Nitride treated inside and out, locking in the bore, improving barrel life, and keeping the elements at bay.