November 30, 2021
By Payton Miller
Back in 2001, Winchester introduced the .300 Winchester Short Magnum, which, along with Remington’s Short Action Ultra Mag family, opened the floodgates for a whole mess of short-action, high-performance cartridges. Some faded, some thrived. A year after the .300 WSM came the .270 WSM, which just happens to be the parent case of the company’s new 6.8 Western, introduced at the beginning of 2021.
Whereas the .270 WSM employed such standby 0.277-inch bullet weights as 130, 140, and 150 grains, the new metrically monikered 6.8 is designed for the heavier throw weights of 165, 170, and 175 grains. And the “way downrange” boost in performance is impressive, as you might expect from the jacked-up ballistic coefficient (BC) of such heavyweights. Factory-ammo muzzle velocities range from over 2,800 fps to just under 3,000 fps, depending on bullet weight and style.
In fact, with a 165-grain AccuBond, the 6.8 Western is claimed to significantly outperform—in terms of delivered energy—the 143-grain 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6.5 PRC at 500 yards.
As anyone who’s ever attended a S.H.O.T. Show can tell you, new cartridge intros are part and parcel of each new calendar year. And the claims of “The Greatest Ever” are all part of the promotional hoo-hah. But I really can’t remember when anything had the model support of the 6.8 Western right out of the gate.
Okay, these rifle intros are—at present—pretty much a Browning/Winchester show. But the sheer bulk of them is impressive. I mean, when you take into consideration the number of models of the Browning X-Bolt and the Winchester Model 70 and XPR, we’re talking a mess of high-zoot bolt guns encompassing the Browning X-Bolt line and Winchester’s Model 70 and XPR lineup. That’s a whole mess of SKUs to be sure.
Granted, most of the variants are differentiated by barrel length and configuration, stock design, and camo pattern and such items as muzzle brakes, suppressor threading, and whatnot. Still, with such a laundry list of models, the 6.8 Western looks to be an “instant contender.” The burning question is this: Will it surpass the splash made by the 6.5 Creedmoor a couple of years back? Time will tell, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, you can peruse this rundown of rifles chambered to this long-yardage barnburner. I’ve listed the MSRPs as a range in most cases due to pricing difference that may take into account optional features.
Two abbreviations I’ve used in many instances are “SR” for “Suppressor Ready,” indicating a threaded muzzle and “MB” for “Muzzle Brake.” In deference to age, I’ll start things off with Winchester’s revered flagship bolt gun.
Winchester Model 70
1. M70 Extreme True Timber VSX MB
Tungsten Cerakote Finish, Bell and Carlson synthetic stock, jeweled bolt body, Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. Pre-’64 action, three-position safety, controlled-round feed, MOA Trigger System. 24-inch barrel. 6 lbs., 12 oz. MSRP: $1,649.99.
2. M70 Long Range MB
This one also features a Bell and Carlson stock but with a vented fore-end to promote cooling of the braked 24-inch, free-floated, fluted barrel. MSRP: $1,549.99.
3. M70 Extreme Weather MB
This “to heck with the elements” item features a charcoal gray Bell and Carlson synthetic stock with a sculpted cheekpiece and a 24-inch braked sporter-contour barrel. MSRP: $1,609.99.
4. M70 Extreme Tungsten
A Tungsten Cerakote finish, MOA Trigger System, Pre-’64 action, charcoal gray Bell and Carlson synthetic stock, and free-floated 24-inch barrel (with muzzle brake) are hallmarks of this premium 6 lb., 12 oz. sporter. MSRP: $1,549.99.
5. M70 Super Grade
This one is still a classic after all these years and still the epitome of the term “deluxe” as far as production rifles go. Grade V/VI fancy walnut stock with shadow-line cheekpiece and 20 lines-per-inch checkering. Highly polished blued finish. MSRP: $1,489.99
6. and 7. M70 Super Grade Maple, French Walnut
Okay, not everyone interested in a Super Grade in 6.8 Western is going to be happy with conventional walnut, no matter the grade. For those lovers of the exotic, Winchester’s M70 Super Grade can be had in Maple or French Walnut. Both feature 24-inch barrels and MSRPs of $1,799.99 and $2,029.99 respectively.
8. and 9. M70 Featherweight/Featherweight Compact
For a lot of M70 fans “of a certain age” this is the rifle. Here you have a 24-inch barrel, black walnut stock with Schnabel fore-end, and a 6-lb., 12-oz. weight. MSRP: $1,049.99. If you want things a bit lighter and 4 inches shorter, try the 6-lb., 8 oz. Featherweight Compact with a 20-inch barrel.
Designed and introduced in 2015 as an economical alternative to the flagship Model 70, Winchester’s XPR lineup offers several 6.8 Western chamberings. Hallmarks of the XPR line are the MOA Trigger System, two-position thumb safety, and button-rifled free-floated barrel. Here are the XPR models currently housing the 6.8 Western:
First off, there’s the standard XPR with a 24-inch barrel, black synthetic stock, and detachable box magazine. MSRP: $549.99.
11. XPR Compact
The XPR Compact is tailored for smaller shooters and features a shorter length of pull, a 22-inch barrel, and 6.8-pound weight and also goes for $549.99.
12. XPR SR
The XPR SR features a shorter 20-inch barrel and is, as the “SR” implies, threaded for a suppressor. This one looks like a natural for the whitetail woods. MSRP: $669.99.
13. XPR TrueTimber Strata MB
The XPR TrueTimber Strata MB features a braked 24-inch barrel, Flat Dark Earth metal finish, and a composite TrueTimber Strata Camo stock with an Inflex Technology recoil pad. MSRP: $719.99.
14. XPR Hunter Mossy Oak DNA
The XPR Hunter Mossy Oak DNA features a 24-inch sporter-contour barrel and a composite Mossy Oak DNA camo finish stock with textured panels to keep your grip when things get wet and slippery. MSRP: $629.99.
15. XPR Extreme Hunter TrueTimber Midnight MB
Out of the ordinary camo patterns are well represented in 6.8 Western-chambered XPRs. The Extreme Hunter TrueTimber Midnight MB features a braked and fluted Tungsten Cerakote finished 24-inch barrel. MSRP: $749.99.
16. XPR Renegade Long Range SR
The XPR Renegade Long Range SR should get the most out of the 6.8 Western. It features a Grayboe Renegade Long Range stock and suppressor-ready 24-inch barrel. MSRP: $1,099.99.
17. XPR Stealth SR
The XPR Stealth SR is a 16.5-inch-barreled suppressor-ready shorty that may well be the handiest 6.8 offering for those who don’t mind giving up some fps. And a can may just make the blast tolerable. MSRP: $669.99.
18. XPR Thumbhole Varmint SR
Another “long reach” variant is the XPR Thumbhole Varmint SR. Also with suppressor-ready 24-inch barrel, this one features a thumbhole gray laminate stock. MSRP: $829.99
19. XPR Scope Combo
The XPR Scope Combo comes with a Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X variable scope already mounted in Weaver rings and bases. This bargain combo features a black composite stock, 24-inch barrel, and matte blue finish. MSRP: $729.99
20. XPR Sporter
Traditionalists may prefer the XPR Sporter, featuring a Grade 1 walnut stock and 24-inch barrel. It uses a single-stack detachable box magazine. MSRP: $629.99.
21. XPR Hunter Scope Combo in TrueTimber Strata
Then there’s the XPR Hunter Scope Combo in TrueTimber Strata, a package that includes a Vortex Crossfire II 3-9X scope mounted with Weaver rings and bases. MSRP: $799.99.
Since its introduction a little over 13 years ago, the Miroku-manufactured X-Bolt platform has pretty much ascended to “flagship bolt gun” status in the company lineup. It’s no surprise that the 6.8 Western is heavily represented in the array of X-Bolt variants. This makes sense when you stop to consider how many X-Bolt variants are specifically designed for long-range shooting. Which is precisely what the 6.8 Western was designed for.
22. X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Max Long Range
Composite Max stock with adjustable comb, length-of-pull spacers, and A-TACS AU (Arid Urban) Camo finish. Recoil Hawg muzzle brake. Heavy sporter-contour fluted barrel threaded for a suppressor, Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish, extended bolt handle. MSRP: $1,429–$1,559.99.
23. X-Bolt Max Long Range
Composite black-and-gray stock with adjustable comb. Free-floated, 26-inch, heavy sporter barrel. Recoil Hawg muzzle brake. Detachable rotary magazine. Extended bolt handle with 60-degree lift. Feather trigger, X-Lock scope mounts with four-screw base design. MSRP $1,339.99–$1,399.99.
24. X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed A-TACS AU Camo
This “mountain rifle” configured sporter weighs 6 lbs., 5 oz. with a 24-inch fluted barrel (threaded muzzle). Still with the 60-degree bolt lift and rotary magazine of the Max Long Range. Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish. MSRP: $1,259.99–$1,359.99.
25. X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range
The 26-inch fluted barrel of this detachable rotary magazine model should give you everything the 6.8 Western can give. A-TACS AU camo stock, Burnt Bronze Cerakote metal finish. And the barrel/brake is threaded. MSRP: $1,279.99–$1,389.99.
26. X-Bolt Western Hunter
Features a 24-inch barrel with removable brake. A-TACS AU camo stock with adjustable comb system. Weight: 6 lbs., 5 oz. Barrel/receiver finish: matte blue. MSRP: $1,069.99–$1,219.99.
27. X-Bolt Western Hunter Long Range
Same features as Western Hunter but with a 26-inch barrel.
28. X-Bolt Hunter Long Range
Walnut checkered stock with adjustable cheekpiece. 24-inch matte black barrel and receiver. Weight: 7 lbs., 11 oz. MSRP: $1,299.99–$1,379.99.
29. X-Bolt Mountain Pro Burnt Bronze
Carbon-fiber stock with accent graphics. Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish. 24-inch, spiral fluted and lapped, sporter-contour barrel with threaded muzzle. Removable Picatinny accessory rail. MSRP: $2,399.99–$2,459.99.
30. X-Bolt Mountain Pro Burnt Bronze Long Range
Same features as Mountain Pro Burn Bronze except features 26-inch, lapped, heavy sporter-contour barrel. MSRP: $2,439.99–$2,499.99.
31. X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten
Features 24-inch, spiral fluted and lapped, sporter-contour barrel with threaded muzzle. Weight: 5 lbs., 14 oz.—one-quarter pound less than previous Mountain Pro. MSRP: $2,399.99–$2,459.99. Also available with 26-inch, heavy sporter-contour barrel as Mountain Pro Tungsten Long Range.
32. X-Bolt Pro
Cerakote Carbon Gray Elite Finish on barrel, action, and bolt. Skip-fluted, 24-inch barrel with Recoil Hawg muzzle brake. Natural finish carbon-fiber stock. Detachable rotary magazine. Weight: 5 lbs., 14 oz. MSRP: $2,139.99–$2,189.99.
33. X-Bolt Pro Long Range
Same features as X-Bolt Pro except with 26-inch, heavy sporter-contour barrel. MSRP: $2,179.99–$2,229.99.
34. X-Bolt Pro McMillan
McMillan Game Scout stock with Sonoran Carbon Ambush finish. 20-MOA Picatinny optics rail. 24-inch barrel. MSRP: $2,599.99–$2,669.99.
35. X-Bolt Pro McMillan Long Range
Same features as X-Bolt Pro McMillan except with 26-inch, heavy sporter-contour barrel. MSRP: $2,629.99–$2,669.99.
36. X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Long Range McMillan Left Hand
McMillan Game Scout stock in A-TACS AU camo. 26-inch, threaded barrel. Cerakote Burnt Bronze finish. Left-hand configuration. MSRP: $2,269.99–$2,339.99.
37. X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed McMillan Left Hand
Same Game Scout stock and A-TACS AU camo finish as Long Range model except with 24-inch barrel and “Speed” bolt configuration. MSRP $2,269.99–$2,339.99.
38. X-Bolt Max Flat Dark Earth Long Range
Matte black 26-inch barrel. FDE composite stock w/adjustable comb. MSRP $1,199.99–$1,239.99.
39. and 40. X-Bolt Stalker Long Range
This specialty item features a 26-inch, heavy sporter-contour barrel threaded for an included Recoil Hawg muzzle brake or suppressor. Black composite stock with adjustable comb. Removable magazine. Extended bolt handle. Non-reflective, matte blue finish. Also available in Flat Dark Earth. MSRP $999.99–$1,029.99.