6.8 SPC AR on the range

Best 6.8 SPC Barrels

The 6.8 SPC is a round that is designed to maximize performance out of the AR-15 carbine or rifle in ways that the standard 5.56x45mm NATO round cannot.

However, the performance of the 6.8 SPC round will really only be as good as the barrel itself is. That’s why when putting together your 6.8 SPC AR-15 rifle, the barrel will be one of the most important components that you can buy for it.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the very best barrels for your 6.8 SPC rifle that are available on the market for 2020.

Best Overall Pick: Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel 6.8 SPC II
Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel 6.8 SPC II

The Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel for the 6.8 SPC is a premium, match grade barrel option that is designed to truly maximize accuracy for the 6.8 round. This barrel is fluted so it’s lightweight and yet rigid, and has a very solid 416R stainless steel construction.

See on Brownells

Best Beginner Pick: Palmetto State Armory Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper With Barrel
Palmetto State Armory Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper With Barrel

The PSA Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper is the best choice for beginners because it comes with everything you need to complete the upper receiver for your 6.8 SPC AR-15, including a high quality, stainless steel barrel. All you need to do is attach this to your existing AR-15 lower, and you’ll be all good to go.

See on Palmetto State Armory

Best Value Pick: Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrel 6.8 SPC
Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrel 6.8 SPC

The Ranger 6.8 SPC barrel from Wilson Combat is a mil-spec style AR-15 barrel that is still fully capable of delivering ½ MOA accuracy at a hundred yard distances. If you’re looking for a slightly less expensive 6.8 SPC barrel from Wilson Combat, this is the way to go.

See on Brownells

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Why Go With The 6.8 SPC?

The 6.8 SPC is also known as the 6.8mm Remington Special Purpose Cartridge or as the 6.8x43mm, is a rimless intermediate cartridge that was developed by Remington for the United States Army Marksmanship Unit as a potential replacement for the 5.56x45mm NATO.

Obviously the 6.8 has not replaced the 5.56 and it likely won’t, but nonetheless, it has found a niche following among civilian shooters who desire to get better shooting performance out of their standard AR-15 carbine.

In terms of performance, the 6.8 offers ballistics in between the 5.56 and the larger .308 Winchester round. The bullet also has the same diameter as the .270 Winchester, a very popular hunting round ever since the 1930s.

The main advantage of the 6.8 SPC is the fact that it can deliver superior downrange ballistics than the 5.56 at longer ranges, to help bridge the big gap between the 5.56 and the .308. At the same time, the 6.8 can be fired out of the AR-15 platform without having to switch to the larger and heavier AR-10 platform that the .308 Winchester round uses. This means that many parts are fully compatible between the 5.56 and the 6.8 SPC. In fact, it’s possible to only own one AR-15 and then switch it back and forth between the 5.56 and the 6.8 SPC as you see fit. You should also check out our article about the best 6.8 SPC magazines.

When it comes to specifics, the 6.8 SPC can offer 44% more energy than the 5.56x45mm NATO round at ranges up to a thousand feet. This means that it will hit targets harder and sustain less bullet drop at those distances.

Therefore, you should be able to see the major advantage to upgrading the 6.8 SPC round from the 5.56, especially if you want to use your AR-15 as a competition rifle at long distances.

What Is The Best Barrel Length For The 6.8 SPC?

When it comes to simple bullet performance, there’s no question that the 6.8 SPC is superior to the 5.56x45mm NATO. However, the one component of the gun that will most impact the specific performance of your 6.8 SPC rifle is the barrel.

Therefore, the big question is: what is the right barrel length for your 6.8 SPC?

First and foremost, the 6.8 SPC was designed primarily to function best out of shorter barreled rifles.

The most common barrel length for an AR-15 for American civilians is sixteen inches, and the 6.8 SPC will function out of a barrel of this length just fine. Out of a sixteen inch barrel, a 6.8 SPC round with a bullet weight of a hundred and ten grains can fire at a rate of two thousand and five hundred feet per second.

However, a big difference between 5.56 and 6.8 is that the performance of 5.56 will decrease significantly when you fire it out of shorter barrels (as is the case with most centerfire rifle rounds as well). However, since 6.8 SPC was designed specifically to function well out of shorter barreled weapons, the performance of it will not decrease significantly when you start chopping down the barrel length.

That being said, this doesn’t at all mean that you can’t use long barrels for the 6.8 SPC caliber, because you absolutely can. As with other calibers, the velocity of the 6.8 SPC round will also increase as you also begin to increase the barrel length. It’s just that you’re not losing as much velocity either with the 6.8 as other calibers when you lower the barrel length.

Why Upgrade Your 6.8 SPC Barrel

The biggest reason to upgrade your 6.8 SPC barrel is if you want to improve the performance of your rifle. Remember how we just stated that increasing your barrel length will allow for a small increase in bullet velocity? As a golden rule, you can expect to gain around thirty feet per second of muzzle velocity by upgrading from a sixteen inch to a twenty inch barrel.

A twenty inch barrel overall will actually provide you with better long range precision shooting because it will deliver slightly higher muzzle velocity combined with slightly lower bullet drop.

But again, a 6.8 SPC can still function very well out of a shorter barrel, such as a ten inch or twelve inch one. You may want to lower your barrel size on your AR-15 in order to make it more maneuverable in tight conditions, such as for home defense. If you want to maximize bullet performance out of your short barreled AR-15, the 6.8 SPC round is an absolutely superb way to go.

Another reason to upgrade your barrel is to invest in a barrel that’s simply higher quality regardless of the barrel length. A barrel that is built out of more durable materials, has a chrome lined barrel, or has a rust resistant finish will definitely be preferable to a barrel that lacks those features

These are qualities that we’ll discuss in the next section.

Buyer’s Guide To Finding The Best 6.8 SPC Barrels

These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new barrel for your 6.8 SPC AR-15:


The build materials used in the construction of the barrel have the most direct impact on the overall quality and longevity of the barrel. Stainless steel or titanium are examples of materials that are very durable, strong, and long lasting.

6.8 SPC II Chamber

Make sure that the barrel comes with a 6.8 SPC II chamber, as this is an improved version that offers better performance than the original 6.8 SPC chamber. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal, because the 6.8 SPC II Chamber is what virtually all manufacturers of 6.8 barrels offer today.

Rust Resistant Finish

The barrel is constantly exposed to the outside elements, and the structural integrity can become severely weakened if it rust and corrosion sets in. That’s why you don’t just need the barrel to be built out of durable materials, you also need it to be coated in rust and corrosion resistant materials such as cerakote or a nitride finish. Take note that stainless steel is already more rust resistant than most other kinds of metals.

Barrel Profile

You have a number of different options when it comes to the barrel profile, or the overall width and length of the barrel together. Pencil barrels, also known as A1 barrels, are the original design and great for single shots, but not the best for either fully automatic shooting or sustained semi-automatic shooting because they can overheat quickly.

For these purposes, the thicker and heavier SPR or DMR barrels will be a better choice. These barrels also usually have a longer length of eighteen to twenty inches, so you will sacrifice some maneuverability.

When it comes to the 6.8 SPC round specifically, a very common choice for a barrel profile is the Recon barrel. This is a 16 inch, stainless steel barrel with a wider circumference underneath the front guard, which will provide thermal mass to help absorb a lot of heat, thus enabling you to shoot constantly for longer periods of time.

Yet another barrel profile option is to get a fluted barrel, which is where materials is taken away from the outer surface of the barrel in the form of grooves, which makes the barrel lighter and also produces superior thermal efficiency.

Twist Rate

The twist rate refers to the number of inches the bullet needs to travel down the barrel in order to complete a full rotation. A 1:7 twist rate, for example, means the barrel needs to travel seven inches to complete a rotation. For the 6.8 SPC round, a 1:11 twist rate will be ideal.

The 3 Best 6.8 SPC Barrels For 2020

Now that we’ve covered what to look for in a 6.8 SPC barrel, here are the top choices for a 6.8 SPC barrel for 2020:

Palmetto State Armory Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper With Barrel

Palmetto State Armory Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper With Barrel

First of all, this is not just the barrel itself but actually a complete 6.8 SPC upper. The convenience here is that as you assemble all of the pieces you need for your new 6.8 SPC AR-15, you can get the entire upper receiver in one package so you don’t have to buy and assemble everything separately yourself.

The barrel that comes with this upper receiver, however, measures eighteen inches long and is built out of 416R stainless steel. This is a very rust and corrosion resistant metal as we talked about previously, and it’s also quite durable. The barrel also has a twist rate of 1:11, which is perfect for the 6.8 SPC in order to maximize performance. It also comes with an A2 style flash hider.

All in all, the PSA Mid-Length 6.8 SPC II Upper with the 416R stainless steel barrel is a solid choice if you need a complete 6.8 SPC upper receiver for the 6.8 SPC along with a good barrel to go with it. Of course, if you only desire the barrel, you can always just take the barrel itself when you buy the package and then place all of the other components in a storage bin.

See on Palmetto State Armory

  • Durable
  • Rust and corrosion resistant
  • 1:11 twist rate maximizes performance for the 6.8 SPC
  • Stainless steel 416R construction
  • Good for beginners because it’s the complete upper receiver
  • Complete upper receiver, so not good for customization

Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel 6.8 SPC II

Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel 6.8 SPC II

Wilson Combat is a brand name that simply screams quality. They make high quality components for a variety of different weapons, with the most notable examples easily being the 1911 and the AR-15.

This Recon barrel for the 6.8 SPC is a flued barrel that helps to make the barrel more rigid and lightweight, while also helping it to cool down faster after extended firing sessions. It’s also a match grade barrel that is machined and hand polished with M4-style feed ramps to maximize accuracy over long distances on the range.

As with all Wilson Combat barrels, the Recon Barrel has very crisp CNC markings over the surface and has gone through a very rigorous inspection progress to confirm that it’s good to go.

In addition, Wilson Combat also gave this barrel a 1:11 twist rate, which is the perfect twist rate to maximize performance out of the 6.8 SPC round. The 416R stainless steel construction is also quite durable and rust and corrosion resistant.

Although it may command a premium price point, you’re also buying a product from a premium manufacturer when you get the Wilson Combat AR-15 Recon Barrel. This is a match grade barrel that is designed to maximize accuracy for the 6.8 SPC round, while also designed to be as rigid and yet lightweight as it can be.

See on Brownells

  • Match grade barrel
  • 1:11 twist rate is perfect for the 6.8 SPC round
  • M4 style feed ramp
  • Designed for a mid-length gas system
  • Four groove precision button rifling
  • Fluted barrel enables it to cool down faster
  • 416R stainless steel construction
  • Expensive

Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrel 6.8 SPC

Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrel 6.8 SPC

The Wilson Combat AR-15 Ranger Barrel is another barrel option for the 6.8 SPC round from Wilson Combat. The Ranger barrel is designed to ensure good performance for the 6.8 while also cutting down on weight at just twenty seven ounces. This will certainly prove its worth to you for when you’re packing your 6.8 AR-15 out in the woods or on the way to the range.

This is a mil-spec style of barrel that is built out of 416R stainless steel and has a standard .750 inch gas block journal, which will accept most AR-15 gas blocks on the market. The barrel has also been machined to function best with a mid-length gas system.

The standard 16-inch length of the Ranger is standard for the AR-15 in general and a solid offering for the 6.8 SPC. The feed ramps are standard M4 style, which is the same style of feed ramps that the military uses.

Thanks in large part to the six groove button rifling and the 1:11 twist rate, the Ranger barrel is fully capable of delivering sub ½ MOA shot groups at one hundred yards despite being intended to be a standard mil-spec style of barrel from Wilson Combat.

As with all Wilson Combat barrels, the Ranger has very crisp CNC machining markings and has undergone a serious inspection progress before being sold on the marketplace.

Whereas the Recon barrel that we looked at previously is a match grade 6.8 SPC barrel from Wilson Combat, the Ranger barrel here is a mil-spec barrel option that is still capable of delivering sub ½ MOA groups at a hundred yards.

See on Brownells

  • Lightweight
  • 416R stainless steel construction
  • M4-style feed ramps
  • Built to mil-spec standards
  • Can shoot sub ½ MOA groups at 100 hundred yards
  • .750 gas block journal will accept most market standard AR-15 gas blocks
  • Standard 16 inch barrel length
  • Expensive (as with most Wilson Combat products)

Wrapping It Up

And that concludes our list of the top three best 6.8 SPC barrels for 2020!

In many ways, the barrel is the beating heart of your rifle because it’s the one component that directly impacts the shooting performance of your rifle more than anything else. And even though the 6.8 SPC round is designed to greatly improve the shooting performance of your AR-15, you’re going to need a good barrel to go with it like one of the ones that we’ve covered here today.

Featured image by Ammoland

1 comment
  1. For 6.8 barrels, look to ARP (https://www.ar15performance.com/) for 3R and 5R barrels with 3rd generation cambers that produce higher velocity and improve accuracy.

    It is unfortunate that Remington screwed up the 6.8 when it went to SAMI. The 6.8 in SPCII or ARP chambers in either 1/11 or 1/10 twists are capable of greater velocity than what Remington spec, but ammunition manufactures will only produce factory product that meets the **very** sedate velocity and specifications. Today, the 6.8SPCII is very much a re-loader’s cartridge.

    Why get the 6.8SPCII? Because it does everything well and can be used in multiple roles simply by changing ammunition. As a general purpose, defense, law enforcement, or hunting rifle it is very hard to beat its versatility.

    That said, it is not a specialty rifle. If you own rifles like some people own golf clubs, you can certainly find a more specific tool for very specific tasks in your gun safe. Everything has a give and take. The 6.8 is one cartridge that will perform in each of the following areas well, even though there are specialist cartridges that dominate their own specific domain.

    While there are many AR15 cartridges that have much more power, they lack capacity because the cartridge size is so large diameter. The 6.8 maintains capacity, as 30 round magazine is only slightly larger than an AR magazine.

    The 6.8 has greater case capacity than any 5.56 variants. This means more powder to drive the bullet. The diameter of the cartridge case was chosen to increase power, yet retain a degree of engineering overhead in the bolt and receiver extension used in the AR15 and maintain magazine capacity.

    You should expect about 2900 fps from 90 grain bullets. You can do significantly better than factory ammunition with a modern 3R or 5R barrel with SPCII or ARP chamber, and hand loading. Heavier bullets up to 150 gr are possible with 1/10 barrels, with velocity about 2300fps using handloads (there are no factory 150 loads).

    Long Range Performance:
    While there are other AR15 cartridges that are optimized for long distances, they outperform the 6.8 SPC only by a small margin at very long range because they employ longer bullets (improved BC) as a result of shorter cartridge cases. At more moderate ranges, the 6.8 utilizes it’s greater case capacity to put more energy on target. Accurate fire at 600 yards is common with the 6.8. With everything there are limits; if you think you need to make 1000 yards, bring an AR10 in 6.5CM.

    There are also other AR15 cartridges that are optimized for very short barrels, suppressed use, and maintain magazine capacity because they are based on the 5.56mm cartridge case. These pistols and short barreled rifles are super quiet in very compact packages, and are useful for very specialized circumstances. While you can shoot 6.8 with a suppressor, it will generally be at supersonic velocity and not Hollywood quiet like the heavier/subsonic bullets of suppressor optimized cartridges. The 6.8 has greater case capacity than anything based on the 5.56 case and will out perform these cartridges in every other category, including short barrel use.

    What does it take to convert:
    It is true you will need a new bolt, barrel, and magazine. The price of a bolt or magazine is trivial compared to the overall cost of a rifle, and shouldn’t drive the decision one way or another.

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