“Why do you need another gun? You already have one.” Love is blind, but I should have seen where things were headed after my practice wife asked that question soon after we were married when I brought home a dedicated predator rifle. I had plenty of deer rifles at the time and was doing pretty well on predators with a shotgun, but I wanted a rifle specifically for those red fox that responded to a call, but then sat coyly on the far edge of the fields tauntingly out of shotgun range. I’ve always liked dedicated guns — woodland deer rifle, heavy varmint rifle, mobile predator rifle, etc. — but there are some hunters who are happy with a multi-purpose gun that can handle a range of critters.
In the AR-15 size platform, one of the cartridges earning a reputation for its versatility on game is the 6.8 SPC. This cartridge was originally developed as a possible replacement for the 5.56 NATO round in short-barreled rifles. Its military advantages were that its .277-inch bullet offered greater knockdown power at longer ranges but was still small and light enough that a soldier could carry plenty of it, and recoil was mild.
It doesn’t look like things worked out with the military, but the cartridge has managed to find a following in the sporting rifle market, though even that acceptance hasn’t been without its challenges. The cartridge has been manufactured with large or small primers, there are no less than four different chamber variations and rifling twist rates range from at least 1:11 inches to 1:7 inches. Perhaps the biggest challenge was that the cartridge had more potential than provided by original loadings. Some handloaders and custom loaders have since seized that potential and now load the 6.8 SPC to higher performance levels.
Despite those birthing pains, things appear to have pretty much settled down for the 6.8 SPC. Many gun manufacturers have decided on the SPCII chamber variation with a 1:11-inch-twist rate. That combination lets you safely shoot a wide range of bullet weights in either original SAAMI-spec loads or the hotter “tactical” and near maximum handloads. Large SAAMI-member ammunition manufacturers load the cartridge to SAAMI specs, while handloaders and custom loaders tend toward hotter loads. Depending on the manufacturer, you’ll still find new ammunition with either large or small rifle primers, though it appears the trend is toward small. Factory loadings cover a wide range of bullet weights for the caliber and include lightweight expanding bullets for predators, full metal jacket bullets for optimum reliability, and bonded and solid copper bullets for deer- or hog-size game.
One of the many gunmakers that has decided on the 6.8 SPCII chamber and 1:11-inch twist is Daniel Defense, a company well known in the defensive rifle market with a reputation for quality. Daniel Defense offers a hunting-focused rifle in its Ambush line of rifles. Because many of the employees at Daniel Defense are also hunters, they wanted folks to hunt with the modern sporting rifles (MSR) they make and convinced the company to create the Ambush series. Today, the Ambush line has grown, and available chamberings are 5.56mm, 6.8 SPCII and .300 Blackout with finishes including basic black, Realtree AP and Mossy Oak Blaze Pink.
Ambush rifles are conventional direct-impingement MSRs with low-profile mid-length gas tubes and the traditional complement of features, such as brass deflector, dust cover and forward assist. Standout features begin with Ambush being a manufacturer, not an assembler, so they have total control over the quality of what goes into a gun with their name on it. Receivers are machined in-house, likewise with Ambush’s 18-inch cold hammer-forged 4150 ordnance-grade steel barrels. There are, however, some sensible aftermarket parts, such as the two-stage Geissele Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) trigger and BCM Gunfighter charging handle that has a little extra length to it for a more sure grasp with gloved, cold or sweaty hands.
If you’re not familiar with cold hammer forging, it’s a process that basically pounds the rifling into the bore by hammering the outside of the barrel down around a mandrel that has the reverse impression of the rifling on it. The results are superb and the bores so smooth that Ambush dismisses any notion of needing to break them in.
Other manufacturers, such as Steyr, are also known for super accurate hammer-forged barrels, but Ambush does theirs a little differently by forging the chamber and the rifling at the same time to eliminate any chamber variation from one gun to the next. That also assures perfect chamber/bore alignment. Barrels are threaded for muzzle accessories and finished off with a salt bath nitride treatment instead of chrome lining. With that treatment, you get all of the anti-corrosive protection and longevity benefits of chrome lining without the potential for accuracy degradation.
Lastly, the Daniel Defense Ambush rifle has a unique “shotgun”-style forend grip that will feel more familiar to hunters used to hunting guns of the past century. You can position it anywhere along the free-floating MFR 12.0 (Modular Float Rail) forend for that “just-right” feel, or you can remove it completely. The collapsible buttstock has six positions so you can adjust length of pull to your clothing thickness, while a cushioned buttpad and soft-touch overmolding on the cheekpiece offer just enough grip that the gun doesn’t slide around when sweaty or cold and dry. Those features, combined with the soft contoured pistol grip, make the Ambush one of the more comfortable MSRs you will find.
The upper receiver has a full-length Picatinny rail for scope mounting, and there’s a full-length top rail in the forend for adding any accessories forward of the scope. The forend’s top rail is integral, not removable, so note that you might have to use higher-than-normal rings when mounting a scope with a large objective bell or it could contact the rail before bottoming out in the lower ring halves. I found that with medium-high rings, a 3-9x40mm Trijicon AccuPoint cleared the rail with about 1/8 inch to spare. That put the scope a little higher than I usually like, but I was still able to use a solid cheekweld and still have my eye centered in the scope.
There’s an attachment point in the buttstock for a push-button QD swivel that will work for a single-point type sling, but if you want to mount a two-point sling, you’ll have to add an attachment point to one of the three forend accessory rails. Rail sections are at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock at the front of the forend and can be located almost anywhere along the forend.
On The Range
Hornady’s 110-grain V-Max loading is the most common predator-type load for the 6.8 SPC, so I made sure I had some for the range. Muzzle velocity and energy are 2,550 fps and 1,588 ft./lbs., and at 300 yards those numbers have dropped to 1,893 fps and 875 ft./lbs. I also brought along some of Hornady’s 120-grain SST as a representative deer load. It starts out at 2,460 fps with 1,616 ft./lbs. of energy and drops to 1,862 fps and 923 ft./lbs. at 300 yards. With a 200-yard zero, both loads have bullet paths within the margin of error of each other, meaning so long as they both shoot to the same point of aim when you’re zeroing, there’s no need to remember a different trajectory between a predator and deer load.
Ambush notes that, “At a very minimum, you should be able to cover a five-shot group at 100 yards with your fist.” The 110-grain V-Max averaged an acceptable 1.3-inch with five-shot groups, but with the 120-grain loads it was a struggle to get three-shot groups that small. As Ambush notes, “each rifle is going to perform a little differently, so we recommend trying a few different types of ammunition to find what shoots best.” There’s a pretty good selection of hunting loads available for the 6.8, so finding one that shoots well shouldn’t be difficult.
There were no malfunctions of any kind. The supplied five-round magazine is easily swallowed up by the flared magazine well, but its abbreviated length requires a little more deliberate effort if using the slap-pull seating method, plus, it’s unique to the 6.8 cartridge, so you can’t simply use 5.56 magazines you may already have.
Trigger pull was smooth and very good. Ambush reports that the initial take-up stage is 2½ pounds pull, plus the breaking stage is an additional 2 pounds, for a total 4½-pound trigger pull. On the sample, the take-up measured 2.8 pounds and the trigger broke at 4.3 pounds pull, making it overall one of the better off-the-rack MSR triggers I’ve used lately.
Fully outfitted for predator hunting, the whole package weighs all of 8 pounds 11 ounces unloaded. That’s easily in the sporter weight rifle category, and the MSR platform is inherently versatile, modular and adjustable.
Aside from simply making a quality and reliable product, Ambush has gone some extra steps toward making it easy to own one of its guns. For example, all models can be had in a California-compliant configuration using a bullet button. Ambush offers financing so you can pay for your gun over time, and also has military and law enforcement discounts. There’s even easy online ordering, and Ambush will ship to any FFL or help you find a dealer in your area.