January 27, 2021 - 10:29 am
There is a moment in hunting camp that is almost magical. It happens when the campfire begins to burn low, sap pops loudly against the still of the night, and the conversation begins to wane.
It is a quiet time when tellers of tales quietly reflect on the memories brought to life once again by the stories they shared, and the hearers silently wonder how much of what they heard is reality and how much is sprinkled with exaggeration.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter. Since all hunters tell tales, we have come to accept that antlers grow wider and taller with time, their points become more numerous and the animal that carried them puts on weight. Mountains grow taller and steeper, canyons become deeper, and shots that secure the game we seek become longer with time.
Then as if on cue, someone inevitably interrupts that magical moment by sharing their thoughts about the best rifle caliber for taking big game. Someone else takes the bait and speaks in favor of the firearm they feel is best, while another counters with a declaration that the lever-action .30-30 is the ultimate deer rifle and has filled more freezers with venison than any other. And there goes that magical moment of quiet contemplation.
As long as hunters and recreational shooters dream of what the ultimate rifle caliber should be capable of doing, manufacturers will strive to design both the cartridge and the firearm that will fulfill that dream. And as they do, they will continue to provide more fodder for those campfire discussions.
One big game cartridge that is sure to be on the agenda at deer camp this fall is the 6.8 Western, a new hunting round developed cooperatively by the folks at Winchester and Browning. Introduced virtually during the 2021 edition of the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the cartridge is built on the .270 Winchester Short Magnum case. Only the case has been shortened to make room for longer, heavier bullets, with higher ballistic coefficients than have been available in traditional .270 offerings.
The ballistic coefficient is a numerical expression of a bullet’s ability to cut its way through the air. The higher that number the less drag a bullet will experience in flight, which means it will maintain its speed and energy over a longer distance. Of course, you still need a quality projectile to get the job done when it gets there.
Through the years, the .270 has proven most effective with rounds ranging from 130 to 150 grains. The 6.8 Western is coming to market with cartridges available from Winchester and Browning in 165, 170 and 175 grain configurations, weights found in .30 caliber territory. The heavier bullets will translate into increased downrange energy as well as improved penetration.
The two companies are billing their new cartridge as the caliber that will provide both long range ability and knock down energy at distances common to hunting big game in the West.
“When people think of the perfect long range rifle cartridge, they want many key features — good precision, flat trajectory, large downrange energy and manageable recoil,” said Kyle Masinelli, Winchester’s Director of New Product Development, in a promotional video. “There’s many good calibers that do many of these things, but none of them combine all into one.”
Winchester and Browning believe the 6.8 Western does just that, and both are offering multiple rifles chambered to fire it. More information is available at the manufacturers’ websites.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at email@example.com