The Energy Effect of Winchester’s 6.8 Western

Tech Talk: Does the 6.8 Western stack up?

Casey Keefer

I’ll start off by clearly stating this up front: each one of the following calibers has its place in the world. Because they’re similar in stature and service I’m specifically talking about the 6.8 Western, the 6.5 PRC and the 270 WSM. The latter of which happens to be one of my all time favorite calibers. So what’s the big deal with the 6.8 Western? For me it comes down to energy on target at distance – and that’s where the 6.8 Western seems to be the clear winner. So, I’m only going to talk energy here and not all the factors that go into energy.

As of this writing, the heaviest bullet you can shoot out of the 6.8 Western is 175 grains. If you look to the  6.5 PRC the top of the scale reads 143 grains. Slide into the 270 WSM and you’re looking at 150 grains. I’ll spare you all the math and give you a simple readout of what I determine that means : The 6.8 Western holds the advantage at almost all distances when it comes to Energy (ft-lbs). Sure, from the muzzle until about 100 yards the 270 WSM runs neck and neck with the 6.8 Western in terms of its energy, but from that point on the 6.8 Western leads the pack. Carry the distance out to just over 400 yards and suddenly both the 6.8 Western and the 6.5 PRC are now pushing more energy down range than the 270 WSM – a trend that continues to widen as distance increases.

Nowadays it’s certainly a matter of opinion what “long range” means, and I’ll save those gory details for another day – but I think we can all agree that 500 yards is a reasonable hunting distance across any western style hunt, and certainly can be in the whitetail world as well – so let’s look at the energy comparison specifically at that distance.

At 500 yards a 165 gr. Accubond LR from a 6.8 Western  is pushing 1,804 ft/lbs of energy. So how does that stack up? Well that’s 12% more energy than a 143 gr. ELD-X from a 6.5 PRC (1,604 ft/lbs), 16% more energy than a 140 gr Accubond out of the 270 WSM  (1,555 ft/lbs) and just for kicks a whopping 57% more energy than a 140 gr. BST from a 6.5 Creedmoor (1,111 ft/lbs). Again, this margin is pretty well maintained as distance increases. Those numbers are a telling tale if energy is what you’re after.

There’s a million other things to consider when choosing the right caliber for the hunt but when it comes to energy the 6.8 Western certainly has an edge. To me it’s a fantastic long-range hunting cartridge that sports heavy for caliber bullets with high ballistic coefficients that are constructed for big game hunting.