At the SHOT Show there are definite demarcations In the LEO area: Everything is black. In the hunting area, everything—even the bikinis on the “booth babes”—is camo. So there I was, walking through the LEO area, when I caught sight of camo. What was that all about?
Simple, it was the latest Daniel Defense AR, but instead of a better-than-mil-spec tactical rifle, it was a better-than-mil-spec hunting rifle. I had to look at this. Daniel Defense created a hunting side called Ambush Firearms. Tactical tough, but hunting-oriented.
The Ambush Firearms 6.8 Hunter is an MSR that’s a lot more like the rifles deer hunters of the younger generation use. While mossy-backed dudes like me might prefer a Model 94, the newer generation wants a Mossy Oak-patterned rifle, and Ambush delivers. The heart of the rifle is a flattop AR-15 in 6.8 Remington SPC. However, Ambush takes that basic black rifle, and inside they put a Geissele Super Semi-Auto trigger, a beautifully clean, crisp trigger that breaks at 4½ pounds (with more than half that on the take-up).
The cold hammer-forged barrel is medium-weight, chambered in 6.8 SPC and with your choice of 1:10 or 1:11 twist. The muzzle is threaded, so you can install the flash hider or muzzlebrake of your choice, although it comes with a knurled thread protector. So if you’re not keen on flash hiders, don’t feel the need for a recoil-reducing brake or to mount a suppressor, just leave it as-is.
The stock is a Magpul MOE, but again, since the Ambush uses a mil-spec-diameter receiver extension, you can swap the stock for one of your choice, no tools needed. On a conventional bolt or lever-action hunting rifle, the stock is what it is. Too long? Too bad. The big advantage of the Ambush (indeed, all ARs) is that the stock can be set to any of six lengths.
The receiver has a Picatinny rail on top, so mounting a scope is a piece of cake. Scopes with integral rings bolt right on, and separate rings will allow you to put any scope of your choice up top. The forearm has its own rail on top, so you have a top rail the full length of the receiver and handguard.
The forearm is a clean tube, a design that free-floats the barrel and allows Daniel/Ambush to wring all the accuracy out of their top-notch barrels. The forearm also has three sections of rail on it, a curious addition for a hunting rifle. On a tactical rig you’d mount a light or laser there, both items the game warden will frown on. However, the fourth item on the handguard is very interesting. It is a sculpted hand grip, making the cylindrical forearm feel much more like the forearm of a traditional shotgun or rifle. If you’re switching from a more traditional rifle to the Ambush 6.8, this forearm addition is going to trick your forward hand into believing that no change at all has happened. And you can position that grip wherever you like on the forearm tube.
Two of the details of a hunting rifle that matter a lot to people are balance and weight. At six pounds even, before you put a scope or sling on it, one can hardly call the 6.8 Ambush porky. At that, it is lighter than a lot of the rifles that have been lurking around hunting camps since WWII. And as a bonus, the adjustable length of pull of the stock (from 311/4 inches OAL to 34.82) lets you easily adjust the rifle to the shooter, or the weather-dictated clothing, not vice-versa.
Now, when it comes to hunting rifles, the DNR can be a very humorless lot. If you’re going to go out into the woods with a self-loading rifle, it had best not hold more than five rounds. Ambush knows this, and each rifle comes with a PRI magazine for 6.8, holding five rounds. If you want higher-capacity magazines for range fun, PRI makes those, too, but for hunting, five is fine.
I tried a couple of different scopes on the Ambush 6.8. To wring it out and get a feel for handling, first I parked a new Aimpoint T-1 on top, their new two-MOA dot sight. With multiple settings for brightness, the Aimpoint lets you select the dot that is the right brightness for your needs. And, as a mere slip of a dot, just two inches wide at 100 yards, it is as precise as your eyesight. Light, compact, and wicked-fast on close targets or moving ones.
A lot of hunters prefer some magnification, so I tried a new scope in town, a Browe 4×32 Combat Optic. Yes, it is a bit tactical-looking for a hunting rifle, but the Browe has reticle options, plus a bonus feature that is almost giggle-worthy. When you turn on the Browe, you get an illuminated reticle. OK, no big deal, right? Well, the reticle adjusts in intensity, depending on the light. But not the light where you are, rather the light where you are looking. So if you are in a dark hunting blind, looking out at the brightening morning, the reticle will increase in brightness as the day progresses.
You don’t have to adjust anything, just view the field before you. The Browe will adjust the lit reticle to the scene downrange. Very cool.
If a titanium-housed combat optic, with its own built-in mount is too military, the Ambush receiver rail will accept plain old rings and a 3-9 hunting scope, no problem.
The 6.8 SPC cartridge is fully up to the task of bringing home the bacon. Or venison. The Hornady and Remington factory loads push a 110- or 115-grain bullet in the low to mid-2,500 fps range, a power level more than sufficient to bring down the biggest whitetail. In comparison with a couple of traditional deer cartridges, the .243 will push lighter bullets faster, while the .30-30 will push heavier bullets a bit slower. The 6.8 SPC is right there in the hunt. If you sight-in your 6.8 Ambush two inches high at 100 yards, a Hornady 110-grain BTHP bullet will be just below zero at 200.
Comparably, a .243, with a 100-grain bullet, sighted an inch and a half high at 100, will be zeroed at 200. The .30-30? To give it the best possible comparison, you’d have to go with the Hornady LeveRevolution with a 140-grain Monoflex pointed bullet. Starting three inches high at 100, it will be just below zero at 200. However, if you were a traditionalist and went with a 170-grain flatpoint, you couldn’t have both a 100- and 200-yard zero. If you were on at 100, you’d be 10 inches low at 200.
The 6.8 Hunter offers soft recoil, accuracy and a flat trajectory in a compact hunting rifle. And if you simply have to have your choice of finish options, then you can choose between Mossy Oak Breakup Infinity, Realtree AP or basic black. Given the “I don’t care” nature of anodized aluminum, you can take that black and paint it any way you want. Just be careful where you put one of these rifles down. It may take some time to find it again.