The world of firearms and ammunition is ever-evolving, with constant innovations aimed at enhancing performance and addressing the needs of various hunting applications. One such recent development is the 8.6 Blackout hunting cartridge.
The cartridge was introduced in 2018 by firearms and ammunition manufacturer Q, LLC, in 2022 barrels and rifles started being manufactured.
This 8.6 Blackout article provides ballistic graphs (energy, trajectory, velocity, and recoil) of the new wildcat cartridge (subsonic and supersonic) and how they compare to mainstream cartridges including its main rival – the 300 Blackout.
From these graphs, you can quickly see what the 8.6 Blackout is made of. Pros and cons are drawn from conclusions based on this information.
Information in this article is for educational purposes and should be used only as preliminary information.
Table of Contents
Why The 8.6 Blackout Cartridge
There are three main goals of this cartridge:
- Fill a niche in the hunting cartridge market using big, subsonic, high-performance bullets in a lightweight, compact rifle with a short barrel and ideally a silencer for ultimate stealthiness
- Have the ability to shoot supersonic in addition to subsonic
- Improve upon the popular 300 Blackout cartridge
Specifications of the 8.6 Blackout
The 8.6 Blackout is a necked-up version of the popular 6.5mm Creedmoor cartridge. The cartridge’s overall length is similar to that of the 6.5mm Creedmoor, allowing it to be chambered in rifles designed for that cartridge with minimal modifications.
It features a large caliber projectile, measuring 8.6mm or .338 inches in diameter. Although a large bullet, it was designed for compatibility with compact AR-10-style rifles and MR25 magazines. Because of this design, the bullet is about the same length as the cartridge case which gives it an interesting look.
The bullet weight for the 8.6 Blackout ranges from 155 to 350 grains with subsonic or supersonic options ranging from about 1000 to 2400 fps, offering a variety of options for hunters. The cartridge operates at moderate pressures, contributing to increased barrel life and ease of reloading.
8.6 Blackout Ballistic Graphs (Supersonic & Subsonic Comparisons)
Subsonic Energy Compared to Other Cartridges
From the graph below you can see that the big, heavy, slow-moving subsonic rounds don’t have a lot of energy but they retain their energy extremely well.
Although the 300 Blackout seems like it could be slightly better at retaining its energy, the 8.6 Blackout has much more energy within 0-200 yards, which is realistically the far end of the range for this gun (more on that later).
Supersonic Energy Compared to Other Cartridges
From the graph, you’ll also see that the 8.6 Blackout supersonic rounds have a lot more energy, which is to be expected with a faster bullet.
It is much more powerful than the comparable supersonic 300 Blackout cartridge. It also beats the time-tested 243, and the 30-30 Winchester by a lot, especially after 75 yards.
Energy is a big deal when you’re talking about what kind of animals you can take with a particular caliber, but it’s not the only thing to consider. Let’s move on to the bullet trajectory of this big heavy round.
Subsonic Trajectory Compared to Other Cartridges
You can see from the trajectory graph (below) that the two subsonic rounds are pretty darn obvious. They drop off fast compared to the supersonic cartridges. Now for the sake of this graph, I have every cartridge zeroed at 200 yards, but you probably would want to zero these subsonic rounds around 75 yards because you’re likely not going to be shooting long distances at animals with these subsonic rounds.
Comparing the subsonic 8.6 Blackout to the subsonic 300 Blackout you’ll notice that the trajectory is about the same, with no real advantage to the 8.6 Blackout within its shooting capabilities.
Supersonic Trajectory Compared to Other Cartridges
Supersonic is a bit of a different story. Out to about 200 yards, both the 300 Blackout and 8.6 Blackout are flat shooting. At about 250 yards they start to separate off from the rest of the pack, with the 8.6 performing slightly better, especially at longer ranges.
Even when shot supersonic the 8.6 has a more arced trajectory than the more traditional rifles on this chart. That said, it does beat the well-known 30-30 cartridge. It’s able to do this with a 210-grain bullet vs the 30-30’s 150 grain which is impressive.
We now have energy and trajectory under our belt, now we’ll dive into another important component – velocity.
Subsonic Velocity Compared to Other Cartridges
Based on the graph, you can see that the subsonic rounds barely lose velocity from 0 to 500 yards. They retain their velocity much better than the supersonic bullets. That said, they don’t start with much velocity to begin with.
Here’s the science behind it:
- Kinetic energy: It’s the energy of an object in motion, calculated as 1/2 * mass * velocity^2. So, for a constant velocity, the heavier the bullet, the higher its kinetic energy.
- Air resistance: As a bullet travels through air, it experiences air resistance, which acts as a frictional force trying to slow it down. This force is proportional to the bullet’s surface area and the square of its velocity.
- Mass and surface area: Heavier bullets generally have a smaller surface area relative to their mass compared to lighter bullets. This means the air resistance acting on them is proportionately less, allowing them to lose their velocity (and hence kinetic energy) at a slower rate.
Supersonic Velocity Compared to Other Cartridges
The supersonic 8.6 Blackout cartridge interestingly starts slower than the 30-30 Win, but quickly catches up at around 175 yards because it can retain speed better. What is also interesting is that the 8.6 blackout, even though it is a lower velocity bullet within the first 175 yards it still has more energy than the 30-30. So, speed isn’t everything in this case.
Comparing apples to apples, the 8.6 Blackout has more velocity in both supersonic and subsonic rounds than the 300 Blackout.
1:3 Twist Rate and Rotational Energy
The 8.6 Blackout has a 1:3 twist rate which means it completes one rotation every three inches! This is 2-3x faster than traditional rifles and was born out of necessity to stabilize the large, slow-moving, subsonic bullets during flight.
Another benefit of the fast twist rate is when the bullet expands it creates a ‘blender effect’ as it goes through the target supposedly improving terminal performance.
Recoil Compared to Other Cartridges (Supersonic & Subsonic Comparisons)
First, let’s define recoil energy vs recoil velocity because both are good to know:
Recoil Energy: The “kick” from firing, depends on gun weight and bullet power.
Recoil Velocity: How fast the gun jumps back, affects the sight picture and follow-up shots (how fast the kick is).
Below is a comparison chart showing 8.6 Blackout supersonic and subsonic cartridges compared to other common cartridges:
8.6 BLK Subsonic Recoil
From the bar graph, you can see the subsonic rounds are incredibly light on recoil, which makes sense because there’s not a lot of gunpowder in these cartridges. The 300 Blackout does have less recoil than the 8.6 Blackout. The subsonic 8.6 BLK recoil is about equal to the 300 BLK supersonic cartridges.
The subsonic cartridges have about 60% reduced recoil compared to the supersonic counterpart in this graph. Additionally, it’s an 80% reduction in recoil from a 30-06 Springfield!
8.6 BLK Supersonic Recoil
The supersonic 300 BLK also has less recoil than the supersonic 8.6 BLK. The subsonic 8.6 BLK has about the same recoil as the supersonic 300 BLK.
A great comparison is the 30-30 Winchester which has almost identical recoil to the supersonic 8.6 BLK, yet the 8.6 has a better cartridge than the 30-30 Win in just about every other way. This means it seems the 8.6 is a more efficient round than the 30-30.
The supersonic 8.6 cartridge has about 50% reduced recoil compared to the 30-06 Springfield cartridge used in this graph.
8.6 Blackout Hunting Applications
8.6 Subsonic – What You Can Hunt
The subsonic rounds are big, heavy, and slow. This means they are not ideal for long-range shooting. They’ve got quite an arch as shown on the Trajectory Graph when zeroed at 200 yards, so 100 yards is probably the max for hunting for most people. I’d recommend sighting these in at 75 yards and hunting within 100 yards.
Since the bullets fly slowly there is a bit of a delay from when you pull the trigger to when the bullet hits its mark. So, you’d need to be sure the animal won’t be moving if you’re shooting at further ranges.
You’re looking at about 700-800 ft-lbs of energy between 0-200 yards, which isn’t much but is enough to kill deer and hog-sized animals with good shot placement.
8.6 Supersonic – What You Can Hunt
The supersonic rounds are still big and heavy, but they’re around 2x faster. This increase in speed drastically increases the bullet’s energy, going from 750 ft-lbs (subsonic) to about 1750 ft-lbs (supersonic) out to 100 yards.
This means you can hunt at much longer ranges more effectively. With the significantly less bullet drop and increased energy, shooting out to 300 yards is perfectly fine, you still have 1400 ft-lbs of energy at that distance. Based on the Trajectory Graph, After 300 yards it starts to drop off fairly quickly.
With the increased energy, velocity, and trajectory you have a much more lethal round. Based on the graphs the supersonic 8.6 Blackout has a similar trajectory as the 30-30 Winchester with the increased energy of a .243. However, you get these values with a BIG .338 caliber bullet increasing entrance and exit holes.
You should feel comfortable shooting anything with the 8.6 Blackout that you would shoot with a .243 Winchester out to 200-300 yards since the 8.6 is an all-around more powerful round. Specifically, we’re talking about hunting animals like deer, hog, and close-range black bear.
Just keep in mind the 243 Win trajectory is much better due to its high velocity, so past 200-300 yards the 243 is likely a better choice despite it having less power.
Who’s It For?
8.6 Blackout Subsonic – Who’s It For?
Beginners – Kids and Women
One of the best applications I can think of for the Subsonic 8.6 Blackout would be for kids and women who are new to hunting and shooting and want to start on a gun that is powerful enough to take down large animals at close range but not have the loud bang and recoil of a supersonic round. This will reduce flinching which leads to having more fun behind the gun and improved accuracy.
I think there are a few uses for the Subsonic 8.6 Blackout cartridges. It would be a great silence hog hunting, close-range predator hunting, night hunting, and nuisance animal removal in populated areas. Basically, all of the uses of the 300 Blackout, but the 8.6 will do it better.
Let’s be real, it would be so fun to shoot such a small, compact, and quiet rifle. It’s the type of quiet that puts a smile on your face and it won’t give you a headache or a sore shoulder. Check out “The Fix” gun by Q,LLC, you can imagine how much fun shooting these would be.
8.6 Blackout Supersonic – Who’s It For?
The supersonic loads are for someone who is looking for a short to medium-range rifle (0-200 yards) that has a little more energy than a 243 Winchester, but not as much as a 6.5 Creedmoor but would benefit from bigger entrance and exit holes.
This could be someone who has been using a 30-30 Winchester but is looking for something more powerful, especially in those 75-200-yard ranges without adding more recoil.
The design philosophy of the 8.6 Blackout results in a cartridge that is better than its main rival, the .300 Blackout, in every way except in recoil. This includes supersonic and subsonic applications.
The ballistic analysis of the 8.6 Blackout reveals its strengths. The cartridge excels in short to medium-range hunting scenarios offering two distinct options: a quieter subsonic round for stealthy applications and a more powerful supersonic option for increased lethality. Its fast twist rate of 1:3 enhances both accuracy and likely terminal performance.
Despite these advantages, the 8.6 Blackout is not without its limitations. It’s not ideal for flat shooting, especially with its subsonic rounds, and is limited in long-distance applications. Furthermore, being a relatively new cartridge, it faces challenges in terms of availability and broader acceptance in the firearms community.
Future of the 8.6 Blackout
Looking ahead, the 8.6 Blackout has the potential to carve out a niche in the hunting market, especially for those seeking a high-performance, big-bore cartridge in a compact and lightweight platform. Its future success will depend on overcoming current limitations and gaining wider acceptance among hunters and firearm enthusiasts.
While challenges like cost and limited rifle availability remain, the growing community and manufacturer support suggest the 8.6 Blackout is more than just a niche interest. With continued refinement and increased adoption, this innovative cartridge may well find its way into the hunting landscape, proving that big things can come in small packages.