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Tactical AR-15 Rifles

The Six-Eight Solution: LWRCI M6.8-A5 Review

by Tom Beckstrand   |  August 14th, 2013 17

LWRCI-M68A5_001

Few would argue that the AR-15 has become one of the most relevant rifle designs available today. There are many reasons it has become so popular. Generations of riflemen are familiar with its upkeep and operation, thanks to the fact that the platform has been in military service for more than 50 years. It requires no special tools to disassemble and maintain. The rifle’s ergonomics make it comfortable to shoot, even during prolonged range sessions, and there’s no end to the number of aftermarket items available for those desiring to customize it.

While AR-pattern rifles are extremely popular, they have reached a plateau where most new developments result in a negligible increase in quantifiable performance. Until recently, that is. Efforts by LWRCI, Magpul and ATK now provide the venerable Stoner design with its first significant performance increase in decades.

Each of the three companies tackled a crucial portion of the AR’s performance upgrade. LWRCI did some heavy lifting by redesigning the rifle to accommodate a cartridge offering more ballistic performance than the traditional 5.56 chambering. The round the company chose for its new rifle was 6.8 SPC. Optimizing the AR for a cartridge that falls between the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO is no small task. It called for taking the relatively small and light AR-15 platform and stuffing the larger 6.8 SPC round into it. And that’s just what LWRCI did.

Refining a Concept
LWRCI isn’t the first manufacturer to chamber an AR-15 pattern rifle to 6.8 SPC. Since the round’s introduction in 2004, several manufacturers have done so. The problem with maintaining the standard specifications for the AR-15 while chambering the rifle in 6.8 SPC is that the larger cartridge doesn’t want to fit through the 5.56×45-size mag well, nor does it particuarly like getting stuffed into magazines designed almost 50 years before the 6.8 was conceived.

The obvious step toward solving the problem is to enlarge the mag well and make a bigger magazine to put in it. LWRCI took the very sensible approach of looking at the AR-15 bolt carrier and determining how far they could enlarge the mag well without having to redesign the bolt carrier. That’s a smart move. Since the bolt carrier works just fine, it’s best to leave it alone. Once they enlarged the magazine well, they also added a small shelf inside the front of the mag well to prevent “overinsertion” of the magazine. This little feature ensures that no problems will arise should the shooter decide to use the rifle’s magazine as a rest to steady the rifle.

The new LWRCI M6.8-A5 also has a fully ambidextrous lower receiver that makes it possible to manipulate the rifle with minimal gun juggling. With traditional AR-15s, the shooter has to remove his firing hand from the pistol grip to pull the charging handle to the rear so that the support hand can manipulate the bolt catch and lock the bolt to the rear. This is the first maneuver for doing everything from loading and unloading the rifle to clearing malfunctions, so it gets repeated often.

With LWRCI’s new ambidextrous design, the firing hand can stay on the pistol grip while it manipulates the bolt catch, and the support hand pulls the charging handle to the rear. This small change to the rifle’s manual of arms might not sound like much, but it eliminates the most time-consuming step of switching hands around. Seconds might not matter to many shooters, but to citizens defending their homes, soldiers or law enforcement professionals, a few seconds can determine whether we live or die. There’s also the added convenience of having a rifle that both right- and left-handed shooters can easily manipulate.

The upper receiver saw some slight changes, too. The portion of it that mates against the lower receiver had to be opened up to accommodate the larger magazine. The upper also saw the addition of one of the sweetest ambidextrous charging handles I’ve seen on an AR. It’s unobtrusive yet still offers plenty of purchase. The way that the retaining arm rotates away from the charging handle shaft toward the perpendicular handle indicates that there is very little outward pressure placed on the pin about which the retaining arm rotates. When charging handles break, it’s usually because this pin gives way from outward pressure. I’m not sure you could break the LWRCI charging handle through normal manipulation if you made it a point to try.

The rest of the six-eight is classic LWRCI. It’s a piston-operated Stoner variation that’s been updated with all of the latest coatings and materials available to further refine the design. LWRCI has been making piston rifles for quite a while, and the company’s brain trust has long since figured out how to fabricate a premium product. The hammer-forged barrels are surface-converted with NiCorr, making the finish incredibly hard and durable, much more so than their chrome-lined and Parkerized competitors. The piston system self-regulates, so there are no wild variations in bolt speed (as is often the case with the traditional direct-gas-impingement system, especially when using a suppressor). The bolt carrier and bolt are coated with nickel boron, making them extremely slick and less dependent on lubrication for reliable operation.

LWRCI also takes the time to make its bolts out of 9310 steel, not the traditional Carpenter 158 or less expensive 8620 that are often used in other ARs. The 9310 steel has a little more nickel than the other two, making it less brittle and longer-lasting. No single part takes more of a beating in an AR than the bolt, so it’s important to have as stout a one as possible. I prefer that my bolts be made from 9310 even though they’re more expensive (and are standard in all LWRCI rifles).

New Magazines…
Part of the AR-15’s popularity comes from the inexpensive 30-round magazines that feed the rifle. Many of us remember the 1994–2004 magazine ban and like to keep plenty of magazines around for our ARs. This has been no problem for those whose rifles are chambered in 5.56, but it has been hugely problematic for those with rifles chambered in 6.8 SPC. Up until Magpul’s intervention, the only viable choices for 6.8 SPC magazines were Barret and PRI. These magazines cost approximately $40 each, so keeping several on hand quickly became an expensive proposition.

As part of a joint venture with LWRCI, Magpul designed a new version of its popular PMAG to fit the newer, larger magazine well. While the COL of the 6.8 SPC is 21/4 inches, the new PMAG offers 2.32 inches of internal volume. This enables bullet manufacturers — and reloaders — to use longer bullets with better ballistic coefficients, further stretching the effective range of the cartridge.

The 6.8 SPC PMAG accepts 30 rounds and fits snugly in the magazine well. It is approximately half an inch taller and one-tenth of an inch wider than its 5.56 stablemate. And it fits just fine in magazine pouches designed for the 5.56 mags.

…And New Ammo
ATK also participated in the project by developing a few new loads for the 6.8 SPC. In an effort to drive down the cost of 6.8 SPC to make it more competitive with the 5.56, ATK has devoted an entire production line to loading 6.8 SPC. Assuming the economy-of-scale principle applies, this will result in a significant price decrease. Current retail pricing for the new ammunition still hovers at around $1 a round, but I expect that price to drop once the new line generates some inventory.

The two new ATK products supporting the 6.8 SPC are an American Eagle loading with a 115-grain FMJ and a Fusion load with another 115-grain bullet. The American Eagle ammo should be great for range use, and the Fusion load with its expanding bullet should be ideal for hunting and self-defense.

Range Time
Shooting LWRCI’s new rifle was a pleasant experience. I’m sure the 6.8 SPC recoils more than a 5.56 carbine, but neither generates enough backthrust to ever be uncomfortable. The rifle I evaluated is one of the first ones produced, so I anticipated a minor problem or two.

That was not the case. The rifle functioned flawlessly. I was able to shoot two different Hornady loads through the rifle. Five-shot groups for the 110-grain Hornady Tap averaged 1.7 inches, with the best group measuring 11/2 inches. The Hornady 110-grain BTHP load would consistently put three shots into one to 1.3 inches, then the next two rounds would open up the group to right around two inches.

My Oehler 35P had the TAP load moving at 2,567 fps out of the 16-inch barrel. The 110-grain BTHP had a muzzle velocity of 2,393 fps.

What LWRCI, Magpul and ATK have done is take an AR-15-pattern rifle and bump its combat-effective range from 200 meters to 400 meters. This change is possible thanks to the 6.8 SPC chambering. Along the way they’ve addressed the problem of expensive and heavy magazines and costly ammunition. The efforts of these three companies has breathed new life into the 6.8 SPC.

LWRCI-M68A5_002

LWRCI’s 6.8A5: Piston performance plus improved ergononomics. The fore-end extends out past the adjustable gas block. This allows the shooter to push the support hand out toward the muzzle to better control the rifle in a variety of positions.

  • lee1001

    They need to come out with a folding stock. To me, that is one of the weaknesses of the AR15.

    • Frank Hennefer

      Want a folding stock join the Seals or less expensive and safer… check out Brownells. I like your idea though!

    • BLACK

      There are piston kits that do not use the buffer tube and manufacturers that make a folding stock to fit the lower receiver.

  • Woody61

    6.8 SPC really? I’d rather have 6.5 for superior bullet selection. 6.8 SPC is dying, with Grendel and .300 cal choices, this .270 caliber shortie is falling behind.

    • Rifleman

      False.

    • John Roberts

      Your an idiot

    • Don

      Yep an idiot. Stick with your long range paper punch. I will stick with my 6.8 all around hunting/defense rifle. I’m not scared of paper 1000 yds away.

      • Thor Gustafson

        6.8 is a compromise round.COMPROMISE. If you want horsepower and range, go 308 (anything worth a shit is chambered for this and not 7.62×51, just like 5.56 is preferred over 223 for versatility, they can shoot the other load safely, not the other way around). 5.56 or .308 WIN, 6.8 SPC is the El Camino of AR Rounds. 5.56 & .300 AAC Shoot from the same bolt, hell same upper if you have a barrel, an adjustable gas block is nice, and half a brain.

        • Ed

          Hogs don’t lie…, I’ve seen so many hogs run after being shot with a .300 AAC. Same for 5.56. 6.8 drops them every time. .308 works well too. Just way to heavy to carry and heck of lot more recoil. At 80% of the power of a .308, my 6.8 goes hunting with me and the other just sit in the gun cabinet. Federal’s 90 gr XM Gold Dot ammo is devastating on hogs.

    • Maxx Traxx

      Not hardly, you are way behind the information and Facts curve, the 6.8 is the fastest growing AR cartridge other than the 223/556 of course.

    • Lakan Kildap

      32 + companies making ammo and rifles, and it is dead? it’s the VHS of alternative AR cartridges.

  • John C Sell Jr

    C Products Defense also makes 6,8 mags and in my experience are cheaper and yet more reliable than the PRI mags. Never had a Problem with my C Products mags but the PRI had several failure to feeds from the get go, It seemed to improve, slightly, after three or so mags full but even then, every so often it would fail to feed all with different types of ammo. I would really like to have a 6.8 made by LWRC but I’m not sure this is it. I wish they would continue to make their M6A2 version (or at least the upper) as well. I already have to switch up to a different platform for .308, I really don’t like doing that with 6.8, especially if the new gun might not take my existing mags. And in my opinion, the 6.8 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It fills the bill it was intended to fill quite nicely.

    • Maxx Traxx

      CPD mags $9 -14 and ASC 12-14…available for the last 2 years or more. The Pmag is nice but not available for the standard AR platform and that fact has not slowed the outstanding growth of this round. I think there are 56 or so factory loadings for the 6.8. I noticed the article mentioned the 115 FMJ, which is not available commercially yet, but the 115 Fusion and the 90g GD (which was not mentioned)are, we appreciate both of these loadings. The 6.8 did not need a new breath breathed into it, nice to have the ammo though…I like what LWRC has done, hate that it is a proprietary platform and not compatible with millions of existing AR’s in the field but there will be a niche market for those that can afford the doubling in price of a standard AR…..Thanks

  • Razor

    Personally I will take a Bulgarian milled receiver AK-47 in 7.62×39. Just as accurate, a much more dependable and rugged platform, and a more powerful cartridge for hunting and defense. Especially with the 154 grain soft point now available from Cabelo’s and Wolf.

  • Lakan Kildap

    this is almost a re-reading of Eric Poole’s earlier article

  • BLACK

    As nice as it is to see articles about the 6.8×43, this addition to the ranks is not breathing new life into anything. Everything about this rifle is exclusive to itself aside from the bolt but i hear even the extractor is proprietary and expensive to replace which is what turned me away from using the advanced combat bolt in my rig….I gladly went with the “superbolt” from ARperformance instead.
    I love the comparisons to the .300 BLK and 6.5 Grendel and even the .308, which I am sure tickles alot of peoples pickle but if you read “time for a change” you will have an objective reason to seriously consider the 6.8 as an “all purpose” cartridge…and you will definitely see why so many of us “serious shooter” still cling to our and continue to build new configurations in this caliber.
    There is nothing dead or dying about this round just a bunch of people with their heads in the sand refusing to face the music. Check the stats as someone previosly mentioned, the 6.8 is only second to the 5.56 in poularity.
    Oh, and the FUD about the mags is just that and someone already mentioned the manufacturers of inexpensive and reliable magazines that are not proprietary to one manufacturers lower receiver.
    http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2008Intl/Roberts.pdf‎
    Black

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    The amount of ignorance in these comments is ridiculous. Where do some of you get your information, Future Weapons?

    1. Any Bulgarian rifle doesn’t have jack on a modern weapon like this, no matter what the category. x39 is incredibly inferior ballistically to the 6.8, and don’t even get me started on the obsolete handling characteristics of the AK. The moronic nostalgia has to stop in the firearms community, it’s gonna get you killed. And it is NOT just as accurate, not by a long shot.

    2. 6.5 has problems of its own, including overpressure, heat issues and FTFs during high round count. It has a very small niche and was never intended for combat, look up Bill Alexander talking on the subject if you don’t believe me.

    3. The 6.8 is about as much of a compromise round as the .50 BMG is an intermediate round. Anything you can push out to 600 yards with iron sights is NOT compromising.

    4. If you want a folding stock so bad get an ACR and be done with it, they’re overrated and for 98 percent of shooters, pointless.

    Yes, this system is proprietary. Yes, it’s expensive. No, you can’t frankengun it with the rest of your second-hand garbage. But you can sure as hell bet that the handling, fit/finish and performance are gonna blow away the competition.

    Disclaimer: I don’t work for LW; just a fan who hates ignorance.

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