Over the last 2 years myself and a few close friends have put in a ton of effort to hunt and learn as much about hunting predators as we can. At the end of 2022 I found 6mm ARC and decided that I wanted to test and push the performance out of a 16 inch AR15 platform for predator hunting. My original goal was to have a rifle capable of making accurate and consistent shots on a coyote out to 400 yards. I know we already have calibers capable of doing this but there is one specific thing I was chasing with 6mm ARC, FT LBS of energy. I wanted better terminal ballistics at distance than what 223 was capable of. Out of all the factory options on the market for ammunition none of them gave me the performance that I was chasing with a short barrel. After hours of punching numbers into a ballistic calculator and looking through reloading manuals I had found the projectile that I wanted to use, the Hornady 87 grain VMAX. I picked this bullet for 2 main reasons. First of all the weight of the bullet gave me the projected velocity that I wanted to achieve a higher level of terminal ballistics. Secondly it had the highest ballistic coefficient of 5 or 6 projectiles that I looked at which means at distance this bullet in a nutshell has the ability to buck the wind better and stabilize more efficiently.
Lets get to building
At this point all I needed to do was shoot more factory ammo to get brass for reloading and start load development. Well that was before I decided that I needed to gut my rifle and start over. So as of now we know I want to be able to shoot 0-400 yards accurately and consistently using an 87 grain VMAX out of a 16 inch barrel. I started my build with a few key parts in mind, the trigger, barrel, and optic. I did a lot of research on barrels and found that many people like the Proof research barrels but I was not ready to drop that kind of money on this project. With more research I found that CMMG made a 16 inch barrel with rifle length gas that had a 1/7.5 twist rate just under the $200 mark. It had great reviews and a twist rate that would allow me in theory to shoot anything from a 58g VMAX up to 110 grain match bullets. At this point I was beginning to get lost in information with my search for a good trigger. There are more trigger options on the market than I think there are people on the planet. You can get single stage, 2 stage, pink or green, and just about any option you can think available in a trigger. My co-worker and hunting buddy had to talk a little sense into me and showed me a trigger he was actually getting rid of made by Velocity. I installed the trigger and was immediately impressed. The trigger had an adjustable shoe, is single stage, and had a clean break of just under 2.5 pounds.
I could do an entire blog on optics with all of the options on the market but will try to stay focused on the task at hand. While searching for glass I had a few criteria that the scope had to meet. First I wanted a magnification range of 2-10, 2-12, 3-15, or 3-18. My reason for this was that I needed to have a larger field of view on a lower magnification for scanning while hunting and the added capability of closer shots. Next I needed two other options in the same scope, locking turrets, and first focal plane. In the past I have had optics that did not have locking turrets that failed or were moved when taking the rifle in and out of the case or just loading and unloading in my vehicle. First focal plane was needed in my opinion so that if I had to make a quick shot with out making a turret adjustment I could just use the reticle regardless of the magnification the scope was set on. After 3 different scopes I found a used Athlon Helos BTR gen II 2-12x42 FFP. This scope had locking turrets, first focal plane, and was in the magnification range that I wanted for hunting. The only downside that I could gripe about was the BDC reticle that came with the scope. I have no use with this cartridge and the provided BDC but can make it work I think.
With a lot of research I chose the components that I thought were best to give me more of a precision fit and the performance that I was looking for. With all of the parts and components put together I have my MK12ish style rifle chambered in 6mm ARC to go along with the fad of the tactical communities. Next question, does this setup perform? Over the next 90 days of this journey I was able to find a load using Leverevolution powder and the Hornady 87g VMAX at roughly 2780-2800 feet per second. This gave me a max effective point blank range from 0-225 yards where I had to make no turret or hold over adjustment. In Kansas this is great for predator hunting because you do not always have the time to make an adjustment when a coyote presents you with a shot.
Once the rifle was assembled and the load was developed I had to test the capability but still needed more data and the ability to get a baseline for holdovers or turret adjustments out to 400 yards. My hunting partner and I went out to collect data and the fun and chase for 1000 yards has begun. I know what your thinking, up until now my goal has been 400 yards and in for the purpose of predator hunting. That was and still is the initial goal but why not push for more? The cartridge is capable, the data looks good, does it all add up? We started at 50 yards with our rifles to confirm zero and gather velocity data with a chronograph.
Once zeroed and velocity data collected I used the free Hornady ballistic calculator to input the data and start building my holdover chart. I input the caliber data, weather data then started at 250 yards working my way back to 400 yards in 50 yard increments towards my original goal. Once we reached the 400 yard mark I was excited with the performance that was being witnessed. All 1st round hits and good grouping on the target, we could not have asked for more, but we did. Can we push accurately to 1000 yards? We started from 500 working our way to 1000 yards in 100 yard increments checking wind and data collected as we went. The further we pushed back the more impressed and excited I got, 1st round impact at 500, 600, 700, and 800 yards! Once we hit the 900 yard line I checked the elevation on turret ( 29.5 MOA) and sent the 1st round. I missed! I took a deep breath and got back on target, I missed again and yet again. After 4 misses in a row and not being able to see trace or splash to call for an adjustment I stopped to re check my data input. I found it, I found the error. When moving from 800 to 900 yards I reset my windage turret back to zero. The last 4 shots made had no wind adjustment for a 3-5 mph crosswind. We re checked the wind data and I adjusted the windage turret, double checked my elevation hold and made impact at 900 yards!
Finish line or just the beginning
After a few weeks of research, rifle building, and load development we made it to the 1000 yard line. We took a break to run down to the target and re paint it and double check all previous data collected to ensure at the 1000 yard line we were not just slinging lead. We finished prep and set up, checked wind and adjusted 36.8 MOA of elevation. I was very confident all the way up to this point. I had to give myself a little pep talk for 30 seconds prior to taking the shot. Took a deep breath, focused on the silhouette, and 1st round impact at 1000 yards!
Filled with excitement and new found confidence in my rifle build I still could not believe how simple it seemed with this cartridge out of a 16 inch gas gun. I have shot 1000 yards, 1350 yards and in between a few dozen times with magnum cartridges but never anything this small in comparison. I think this is just the beginning for upcoming projects and goals. A lot of things went into 1 shot and I think as a team here at American Cash Exchange we are going to explore more into the topics of reloading, ballistic calculators, scopes, calibers, and many other topics that brought this experience together.
In closing it should be noted that this rifle was built with the purpose of predator hunting accurately and efficiently 400 yards and in. It does not have to be limited to those perimeters! If you have a rifle and want to push the limits with, enjoy the chase! With modern technology of projectiles and firearms as a whole the capabilities are almost limitless. Get outside, test your gear and equipment and enjoy the one season of life that we get! Stay tuned for a youtube series from the team here at ACE covering a lot of the side topics and some of the challenges from this experience.
Tools and gear used
Armageddon Gear rear bag
Hornady 4dof ballistic calculator app (free version)
American Cash Exchange