8.6 Blackout: A Subsonic Cartridge With Supersonic Capabilities

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Video 8.6 blackout max range

If you ask Kevin Brittingham why he created the 8.6 Blackout cartridge, he’ll describe a scenario in which the stars aligned. He’ll say that gun and ammo companies and the commercial market were all heading in that direction; they wanted to see a subsonic cartridge deliver a supersonic performance.

Since his company, Q, introduced the concept of the 8.6 Blackout, he’s done countless interviews, loaded 100,000 rounds for marketing, and hunted 200 animals around the globe with the round to promote it. While all that makes sense because that’s how you market a product, Q isn’t an ammo company. What’s even more curious is Brittingham open-sourced the design, so any company — any person — can manufacture it without paying him a cent.

It raises the question, why is Brittingham doing all of this? Why has Q invested so much money, time, and so many resources in 8.6 Blackout? And, what’s more, what will they get in return?

Learning From Past Mistakes

The answer has something to do with one of Brittingham’s past projects: the .300 Blackout. It’s the 8.6’s older, smaller brother — a .30-caliber cartridge designed to fire out of an only slightly modified AR-pattern rifle. The 300 BLK concept was born out of a military request. The client wanted to shoot .30-caliber bullets from an M4 carbine without changing the bolt or sacrificing any of the 30-round magazine capacity with better terminal performance than calibers such as 5.56 NATO.

After fulfilling the client’s needs circa 2009, Brittingham’s old company, Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC), introduced .300 Blackout to the civilian market — but before all the kinks were worked out. They and the public soon discovered an issue. AAC designed the cartridge to use a .308 bullet and .223 casing so that you could load rounds into a standard .223 magazine. However, the bullet shape didn’t comport with all magazine designs.

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Brittingham explained to Free Range American that for the client, they addressed the issue by modifying Magpul PMAGs so the ammo would feed properly. But that subtle design detail didn’t register with others in the company as a significant concern before marketing the ammo to civilians. As a result, the round’s fit and performance varied by magazine design and bullet weight. While the .300 Blackout received acclaim for what it could do downrange, it also gained a mixed reputation for reliability.

“I’ll take the blame for everything that went wrong with .300 Blackout,” Brittingham said. “But if you could, you would always redo it with the wisdom that you gained after you finished.”

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8.6 Blackout: From the Page to the Field

After releasing the .300 Blackout, Brittingham planned to make a cartridge you could shoot out of the AR-15’s big brother, the AR-10 platform. But that project got scrapped because his tenure at AAC and its parent company, Remington, abruptly ended in 2011.

About seven years later, Brittingham picked it up again with his new company, Q. They began testing and figured out they could make it work with a shortened 6.5 Creedmoor case and .338-caliber bullet. That’s how they created the 8.6 Blackout.

But Brittingham knew that creating it was only part of the project. To avoid technical issues, he wanted to educate the public — so to speak — through demonstrations and open-sourcing data so you would understand not just what the 8.6 is capable of doing but how to optimize its performance and your experience.

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If you go out right now to buy kit to shoot 8.6, you’ll find specific options such as barrels 8, 12, and 16 inches long, and they’re all built with a fast 1:3 inch twist rate. On top of that, you’ll find loads that match the barrel length.

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Fast-Twist Barrels

Why use these combinations and not longer barrels with more standard twist rates, such as 1:7 inch or 1:8 inch?

“Fast twist barrels give you rotational energy, which gives you much more energy on target,” Brittingham said in an explanatory video. He added that an 8.6 fired through a fast-twist 12-inch barrel would have more muzzle energy than a .308 out of a 20-inch slow-twist barrel.

Out of a fast-twist barrel, an 8.6 Blackout bullet spins crazy fast. It turns so quickly that it looks like a claw by the time it hits a target, and after it hits, it continues to rotate through it. Brittingham often compared it to a .300 Win Mag but without the recoil, weight, and noise of the .300 Win Mag.

On paper, a 160-grain 8.6 supersonic load out of a 16-inch barrel will deliver a muzzle velocity of 2,400 feet per second, according to ballistics testing by Faxon Firearms. And, with a 300-grain subsonic load, the muzzle velocity can get up to 1,024 fps. And Brittingham said it’s effective out to 300 yards.

Another way to say it is hunters could carry a hunting rifle that weighs significantly less than the standard fare. And to prove as such, Brittingham has killed a variety of big game, including Cape buffalo, zebra, kudu, eland, and more.

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Plus, using a silencer won’t spook everything around you, including your target.

“If there’s a herd, they won’t know what’s happened,” Brittingham said. “A lot of times, the animals that you shoot with subsonic, it’s like they don’t realize they’ve been shot.”

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8.6 Blackout: The End Goal

When I asked Brittingham what he and Q would get from creating the 8.6 BLK, he said his company would eventually make guns and silencers for the cartridge and maybe even make the ammo itself. But, his answer had more to do with challenging his engineers and brand equity.

“I try to view it like the space program. Who cares that we landed on the moon? Who gives a shit?” he said. “But an awesome thing [the space program gave us is] LED lights. We have Velcro. We have all this solar power conversion shit. There’s like a million things — fiber optics. It all came from sending these idiots to the moon.”

It’s hard to say what will become of the 8.6 Blackout. It could possibly slowly gain a positive reputation in specific circles like the .300 Blackout did. Maybe it’ll become the next big hunting round. Or maybe fast-twist barrels will catch on. These are all possibilities, and exploring what’s possible is what Brittingham is all about.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>