The Beginner’s Guide to Using the 6.8 SPC for Deer Hunting

The 6.8 SPC (Special Purpose Cartridge) has become an increasingly popular choice for deer hunters in recent years. This flat-shooting, hard-hitting round provides excellent accuracy and terminal performance on medium to large game like whitetail deer.

This beginner’s guide will cover everything you need to know about using the 6.8 SPC for deer hunting, including a brief history of the cartridge, its ballistic performance, available rifles and ammunition, proper sighting in, and tips for safely and ethically taking deer with this versatile caliber.

A Brief History of the 6.8 SPC

6.8 SPC for Deer Hunting

The 6.8 SPC was originally developed in the early 2000s for military use to address deficiencies in the standard 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. Firearms manufacturer Remington later introduced a commercial version of the round marketed for hunting medium-sized game like deer, hogs, and antelope.

The “SPC” in 6.8 SPC stands for “Special Purpose Cartridge.” It was designed from the ground up to excel in short-barreled carbines and rifles—an ideal deer gun for hunting in thick brush or timber.

Unlike some wildcat cartridges, the 6.8 SPC achieved SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) certification. This means it meets certain standards for things like maximum pressure levels, ensuring reliable and consistent ammunition across manufacturers.

The 6.8 SPC quickly gained a following among deer hunters looking for an alternative to cartridges like the .243 Win or .30-30. It provided superior ballistics to the .223 Remington/5.56 NATO in a platform (the AR-15) that many hunters were already familiar with.

Ballistic Performance

6.8 SPC for Deer Hunting

Here is how the 6.8mm SPC stacks up ballistically against some other common deer hunting calibers:

CartridgeBullet Weight (grains)Muzzle Velocity (fps)Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs)Sectional Density
.243 Win10029602113.246
.260 Rem12028202226.246
.270 Win13030002709.279
6.8 SPC11525501879.268
.30-30 Win15023901902.294

As you can see, the 6.8 SPC shoots flatter and hits harder than historical favorites like the .30-30. The versatile 115-grain load used for deer has similar ballistics as seen in popular calibers like the .243 and .260 Remington.

The 6.8 shines in the “sectional density” category. This metric refers to a bullet’s weight relative to its diameter, which affects penetration. The heavier 115-grain 6.8mm bullets have excellent sectional density for deep tissue damage.

Overall, the 6.8 SPC provides outstanding performance on deer-sized animals out to ethical shooting distances. The fast, aerodynamic bullets shoot flat for precise shot placement. They also penetrate deeply and expand reliably with optimum deer hunting ammunition.

Effective Hunting Range and Trajectory

6.8 SPC for Deer Hunting

With modern hunting loads, the maximum effective range on deer for the 6.8mm SPC is generally considered to be 300-400 yards. Bullets lose velocity (and energy) past 400 yards, making it tougher to achieve reliable expansion and penetration. Wind drift also becomes a larger factor affecting precision.

Here is a sample trajectory table for a common 115-grain deer hunting load from the 6.8 SPC:

Range (yards)50100150200250300400
Bullet Drop (inches)0-1.5-4.9-11.4-21.8-37.2-79.7

As you can see, the 6.8 SPC stays quite flat out to 200-250 yards, after which bullet drop becomes more significant. Past 400 yards, the arched trajectory makes precision shooting on deer-sized targets more difficult.

Keeping shots inside 250 yards whenever possible is ideal. However, skilled shooters can consistently harvest deer to 300-350 yards with proper holdover or dialing of sights/scopes. Just be sure to carefully confirm distances and wind conditions before taking longer pokes.

Available Rifles and Ammunition

One perk of the 6.8 SPC is that it achieves its ballistic performance in standard AR-15-sized platforms. This provides access to a huge variety of rifles and parts on the market from manufacturers like Ruger, Savage, Wilson Combat, CMMG, and many more.

The cartridge fits in standard AR magazines (though it also has dedicated options as well). The only difference is you need a 6.8 SPC bolt and barrel rather than the standard 5.56mm/.223 Rem. Most companies sell factory deer hunting rifles chambered in 6.8 SPC. But you can also easily build a custom rig yourself from standalone barrels and bolts.

On the ammunition side, almost all major manufacturers like Hornady, Federal, Winchester, and Nosler now offer deer loads. There is a good variety of bullet weights and styles available including:

  • 100-115 grain Ballistic Tip or Polymer Tip bullets for maximum velocity and expansion
  • 120-130 grain Accubonds, ELD-Xs, or Interlocks for deep penetration
  • Heavyweight 140+ grain bonded options for hogs, black bear, and elk (at closer ranges)

Premium hunting ammo can be a bit pricier than standard target loads. But overall 6.8 SPC is only marginally more expensive to shoot than calibers like .223/5.56mm. Bulk plinking ammo is available for affordable practice to master your deer rifle.

No matter if you choose a factory 6.8 SPC deer gun or build your own, both rifles and ammunition are widely accessible. The 6.8 has matured into a versatile, mainstream cartridge beyond its specialty military origins.

Sighting In a 6.8 SPC Deer Rifle

Sighting in a 6.8 SPC properly is like zeroing any new rifle—you need to align the sights/scope to hit dead-on at a desired distance. 100 yards is common for deer guns using bullet drop compensating (BDC) reticles.

Follow these steps:

  1. Set up paper targets at 100 yards (or your desired zero distance).
  2. Use sandbags or firmly brace the rifle on a solid rest pointing toward targets.
  3. Take careful initial shots at the paper, adjusting sights between groups while maintaining proper form.
  4. Once bullet grouping is centered, fine-tune adjustments to get a perfect 100-yard impact.
  5. Confirm zero by firing 3-shot groups that all land in the same tight spot when sights remain untouched.

Your goal is consistent bullet placement that aligns the sights for dead-center hits at 100 yards (or another zero benchmark). If using a BDC scope calibrated for typical 6.8 ballistics, the lines below the crosshairs will show handy hold points at longer distances once sighted in.

I recommend sighting in and zeroing your 6.8 SPC deer rifle using the exact hunting ammunition you plan to employ in the field. Matching bullet weights precisely aligns the sights to the round’s ballistic arc. Sighting in accurately is crucial to ethical hunting using the 6.8 SPC.

Shot Placement for Quick, Ethical Kills

With good expanding bullets and proper shot placement, the 6.8 SPC delivers fast, humane kills on deer under ethical shooting distances.

Here are some tips for shot placement:

  • The best kill shot placement is through the heart and lungs. Aim low on the shoulder for broadside deer to enter this vital zone.
  • Position quartering away shots just above the back edge of the front leg pocket, penetrating diagonals through organs.
  • Avoid headshots or spine-only hits that risk wounding deer. Stick to vitals through the lungs/heart for clean ethical kills.
  • Let deer come fully into view before firing, confirming safe backdrops and avoiding risky obstructed shots through brush.
  • Pass on questionable opportunities outside your practiced skill range—no range estimation guesses.
  • Prefer clear broadside or quartering shots that angle through the most vital tissues; limit steep angles.

With good soft point or expanding rifle bullets, the 6.8mm SPC penetrates deeply and transfers energy rapidly into deer-sized animals. By mastering safe shot angles focused on the vital zones, you can harvest whitetails confidently and humanely.

Be patient and only take high percentage kill shots you know you can reliably make. Practice regularly at the range so positioning shots instinctually through the deer’s vitals becomes second nature when hunting pressure mounts.

Frequently Asked Questions About the 6.8 SPC for Deer

Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked about the 6.8mm SPC for deer hunting:

Is the 6.8mm SPC legal for hunting deer in my state?

Regulations vary by state, but most approve common rifle rounds like the 6.8mm SPC for deer hunting. Some states prohibit rifles for deer, allowing only shotguns, muzzleloaders, or straight-wall cartridge rifles. Always confirm your state’s exact regulations.

What is the maximum effective deer hunting range for the 6.8mm SPC?

The maximum ethical range for 6.8 SPC on deer is generally 300-400 yards. Bullets lose significant velocity past 400 yards, making reliable penetration and expansion tougher. Expert shooters can stretch it further in ideal conditions.

How much recoil does a 6.8mm SPC deer rifle have?

The 6.8mm SPC has very manageable recoil thanks to the intermediate cartridge design. Expect approximately half the felt recoil of larger calibers like the .30-06 or 300 Win Mag. The mild kick makes it great for youth and small-framed shooters too.

Will a 6.8mm SPC also work for hogs, black bear, elk, or other medium game besides deer?

With the right heavy hard-cast or bonded bullet loads, the 6.8mm can take hogs, black bears, caribou, and more at reasonable hunting distances. However, it’s marginal for elk or similarly thick-skinned big game past 150-200 yards. Stick to deer and smaller species.

Is a 1:11 or 1:10 twist barrel better for deer hunting with 6.8 SPC?

Most experts recommend a 1:11 twist rate for general deer hunting purposes with 115 grain bullets. However, a faster 1:10 twist can stabilize longer, heavier projectiles if you ever expect to target larger game. Either will work great for whitetails.

Final Thoughts on the 6.8mm SPC for Deer Hunting

The 6.8x43mm SPC has solidified itself as one of the best modern intermediate cartridges for deer-sized game. With AR platform compatibility and outstanding terminal ballistics, it balances power, versatility, and shootability beautifully.

Any hunter looking for a proven whitetail round with plenty of ammunition selection and mild recoil should consider test driving the 6.8 SPC. From short-barreled brush guns to lightweight stalking rigs to hardcore benchrest-capable setups, quality deer rifles abound chambered in this cartridge.

Whether buying a purpose-built 6.8mm deer rifle or converting an existing AR-platform gun, follow the guidance above regarding ballistics, sighting in, shot placement, and effective range. With smart setup matched to ethical hunting practices, the 6.8 SPC will serve as a superb, accurate tool for filling your tag each fall.