8.6 Blackout: Is Q’s New Cartridge All Hype And No Substance? 

Gun News

8.6 Blackout from Q is the new cartridge on the block, but what does it really bring to the table?

The 8.6 Blackout, aka 8.6 BLK or 8.6mm Creedmoor, is a new cartridge developed by Q, the company that brought us the Honey Badger, The Fix bolt-action rifle and the company’s own line of suppressors. 

The 8.6mm is .338 caliber, and while it’s an absolute wimp compared to standard .338 cartridges (.338 Win. Mag. laughs at your weakness!) it’s designed to make putting a whole lot of lead downrange much easier. 

So, is 8.6 Blackout all tactical hat and no cattle? Well, that sort of depends on what you might use it for…

8.6 Blackout Specifications

The 8.6 Blackout is actually a modern version of an old idea. 

In broad strokes, 8.6 BLK is an intermediate medium-bore cartridge. Those aren’t new. The .351 Winchester Self Loading and .35 Remington cartridges were the exact same thing and both pre-date World War I. 

That isn’t a bad thing, however, as .351 WSL and .35 Remington were very popular and for good reason. Within reasonable distances, they allowed you to smack something like a deer or hog with a heck of a lot of lead without beating up your shoulder too badly.

35-Remington
Left to right: .308 Win., .35 Remington and .223 Remington. Photo: Wikipedia.

However, 8.6 Blackout also has a particular angle in that it was created with suppressed shooting in mind, and indeed, is even optimized for it. That’s enough of a difference to essentially revitalize the old cartridge design ethos for the 21st Century. 

The 8.6 BLK cartridge uses 6.5mm Creedmoor as a parent case, with the case trimmed to 1.685 inches (the 6.5mm Creedmoor’s case, based on the .30 TC case, is 1.92 inches) and necking it to 0.338 inches so it can seat the same .338 caliber bullets as other cartridges of this caliber. Just like 6.5mm Creedmoor, the bullet is seated to a rather shallow depth in the case to preserve powder capacity. 

While ostensibly almost any .338-caliber bullet could be seated in the case, few factory loads are currently available. What is available is entirely from one ammunition manufacturer, Gorilla Ammo. 

Gorilla currently offers a 300-grain self-defense and hunting load with a copper flat hollow point, a 300-grain Sierra MatchKing subsonic, a 210-gr Barnes TSX and a 285-grain fracturing subsonic load which appears to be similar to the 300-grain self-defense/hunting load. 

Gorilla-86-Blackout
Gorilla 300-grain Sierra MatchKing 8.6 Blackout ammo.

You can order your Gorilla ammunition optimized for a 16-inch, 12-inch, or 8- to 12-inch barrel. The lone supersonic loading is the 210-grain Barnes TSX load that the factory advertises at 1,970 fps from a 12-inch barrel. 

However, Faxon Firearms and Q published some load data for a broader range of projectiles and loadings. According to their data, a 210-grain Barnes TSX would achieve 2,065 fps from a 16-inch barrel and 1,950 fps from a 12-inch barrel. Their 160-grain Hornady GMX load was advertised at 2,200 fps from a 16-inch barrel and 2,085 fps from a 12-inch barrel. 

The max velocity Faxon gave was 2,400 fps, which was a 160-grain Barnes TTSX bullet on 35.8 grains of Accurate 1680 from a 16-inch barrel.  

Q designed the chambering to have a blistering twist rate of 1-in-3 inches for maximum stabilization. The typical twist rate for .338 caliber rifles is 1-in-10. 

But how do these numbers translate to reality?

8.6 Blackout Ballistics

Based on these velocities and bullets, we can get an idea of the trajectory. All the following tables were calculated with ShootersCalculator using a 100-yard zero, a 2-inch height over bore (common with AR-platform rifles), 10 mph of 90-degree crosswind and no corrections for atmosphere.

The 300-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet has a G1 ballistic coefficient of .750 below 1,800 fps. Calculated using a velocity of 1,030 fps, here’s the 500-yard trajectory for this 8.6 BLK load: 

300-grain-Sierra-MatchKing

In this case, the bullet rises to over 3 inches above the point of aim at 50 yards and drops to almost 5 inches below the point of aim at 125 yards, and it begins to sink like a stone past 200 yards. However, it retains momentum incredibly well, with almost 90-percent of velocity (and almost 75 percent of muzzle energy) retained at 500 yards. 

That gives it excellent potential for penetration. While the trajectory makes .30-30 look almost flat-shooting, it still appears a very viable cartridge for hunting any game inside 200 yards—typical hunting distance for much of the country—with a short-barreled rifle or AR pistol whether suppressed or not. 

But what about a supersonic load? Using Faxon’s load data for 210-grain Barnes TSX (a velocity of 2,065 fps and G1 of .404), here’s what the trajectory would look like with the same zero and height over bore:

210-grain-Barnes-TSX

The bullet goes transonic past 625 yards, but it retains 1,000 foot-pounds of energy (the legal minimum in some states for big game) to 525 yards. The maximum point-blank range is short (less than 150 yards) and the big pill has dropped fully 5 feet at 400 yards…but it’s still hauling almost 1,300 foot-pounds of energy, more than 55-grain M193 from the muzzle of a 20-inch barrel.

Recoil energy is less than 20 foot-pounds so it will shoot softly even compared to .338 Federal, which is a pussycat at less than 23 foot-pounds compared to .338 Win Mag or the more unhinged .338 magnums. 

But what about its older yet smaller brother, .300 BLK? 

Using Sierra load data, here’s a trajectory table for 155-grain Sierra MatchKing HPBT (G1 of .443), at a typical trajectory (1,900 fps) for a 16-inch barrel. 

155-grain-Sierra-MatchKing-HPBT

Just like 8.6 Blackout, .300 Blackout supersonic loads will go transonic around 600 yards, and likewise begin to drop quickly after about 225 to 250 yards. However, .300 BLK drops below the 1,000-foot-pound mark just past 100 yards, and 8.6 BLK is carrying more energy at 400 yards than .300 BLK has at the muzzle. 

And here’s the subsonic trajectory using Hornady’s 190-grain Sub-X load (G1 of .437) at a velocity of 1,050 fps. 

Hornady-190gr-SubX-1

The 8.6 BLK subsonic loads have more energy at 500 yards than .300 BLK subsonic loads do at the muzzle, though velocities are within 100 fps of each other. So, it drops about the same as .300 BLK does in subsonic loading, but its bullet having a much higher mass the 8.6 carries much more energy into the target. 

But what does this ballistic profile portend? 

It will poke deep holes in things and poke them good and hard with a lot of lead for a rather soft-shooting cartridge. However, long-range is not its forte unless you have the right scope (you’ll need an awful lot of Christmas tree!) and you put in enough time behind the gun.

86-Blackout-Vs-300-BLK
8.6 BLK versus .300 BLK from Gorilla Ammunition.

Available 8.6 Blackout Rifles

Currently, 8.6 BLK rifles are available from Faxon Firearms as well as from Gorilla Ammunition. 

The Faxon Sentinel line includes an 8-inch AR-10 pistol, a 12-inch AR-10 pistol and a 16-inch carbine. Faxon’s Overwatch bolt-action rifle line includes a 16-inch rifle with a traditional stock, a 16-inch rifle with a pistol grip and a 12-inch pistol with a pistol grip.

Faxon-Sentinel-Pistols
Faxon Sentinel 8.6 BLK pistols.

MSRP starts at just under $2,300 for the Faxon Sentinel, and starts at $3,299 for the Overwatch series. 

Gorilla Ammunition offers their GF-10 8.6 Blackout carbine with an 8- or 12-inch barrel as well as their aptly named GF Bolt Action Rifle with a 16-inch barrel. These rifles start at $3,499 before options. 

Gorilla-GF
Gorilla GF bolt action rifle.

The cartridge was developed with bolt-action rifles and semi-autos in mind, so AR-10-pattern rifles and modern skeletonized/tactical bolt-action rifles are going to be the default offerings. 

So…Is There Any Reason To Bother With 8.6 BLK? 

New calibers are usually little more than the veneer of a blackguardly conspiracy to sell new rifles. Just because Q is a mainstay of Gun Culture 2.0 instead of Gun Culture 1.0 doesn’t somehow mean that there’s anything new under the sun in that regard. 

If that’s news to you, we have a pallet of 7mm Remington Express sitting on a bridge that we’ve got for sale. 

However, it’s not that 8.6 BLK is worthless. There’s a niche for it. The question is whether you live in that niche. 

The excellent velocity and energy retention would make it a serious brush gun. If you hunt in heavy timber or foliage and wanted a compact (and suppressed) rifle that will bash hogs or whitetails flat without kicking your head off…8.6 BLK looks like a perfect fit on paper. 

If you want to hit deer, hogs or what have you really hard and make them go down, 8.6 Blackout would seem to be a dynamite selection. 

At present, there isn’t enough information to say it’s an appropriate choice for personal defense. It would seem to have the potential for that role, but—again—it’s a little early to say much more.  

Gorilla-86-Expanded
Gorilla Silverback 8.6 BLK 300-grain self-defense/hunting ammo.

Given its excellent potential for barrier defeat, it could find a home with police departments and possibly even some military units as a better round for punching through vehicles, glass, or light structures. 

And, of course, it will make one heck of a “dinnnnng!” if you shoot a steel silhouette with it. For some, that’s reason enough to give the new round a try.

While 8.6 Blackout may not be a game changer, it certainly has good potential and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here.


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