6mm ARC Ballistics

6mm ARC Ballistics

A look at what exactly Hornady’s 6mm ARC is all about including ballistic information for the few commercially available loads out there in this young caliber.

In the ammunition industry, there are a lot of new products that are advertised as the next great “innovation,” a product that will “revolutionize” the way people shoot.

Most gun owners, of course, are virtually immune to this hype. We usually view new releases as yet another mark on the long list of the long forgotten.

But sometimes a cartridge actually gets the attention of the shooting industry. It may not live up to overblown marketing hype, but it somehow manages to punch a hole, not just in targets, but in our natural skepticism.

The 6mm ARC from Hornady seems to have that potential.

Releases in the busy year of 2020, the 6mm ARC brings versatile performance to the AR-style platform. With ballistics similar to larger cartridges, the “six arc” appears to be (with legitimacy) a potential game changer for AR owners. So let’s explore the cartridge and get an idea of what it’s all about with a look at 6mm ARC ballistics and potential.

Building the 6mm ARC

Like many cartridges, the concept of the 6mm ARC started with a request from officials at the Department of Defense, who were seeking a multipurpose combat-rifle cartridge that could replace their weaponry, based on the 7.62x51mm cartridge with the AR-10 platform, with as light a package as possible.

Essentially, the goal was to deliver the performance of a 7.62×51 cartridge (or improve it) in a product that would fit an AR-15 platform instead of an AR-10.

The performance of the .223 Remington (5.56) was inadequate for both distance and terminal ballistics, so researchers at Hornady looked at the 6.5 Grendel. While close, it simply couldn’t defeat the barriers required, especially at a distance. (We compare the 6.5 Grendel to 6mm ARC in-depth in this article.)

So they went down to 6mm, which allowed for an increase in velocities and aerodynamics. This also allowed them to defeat the barriers while delivering effective range.

By taking a 6.5mm Grendel cartridge and using a 6mm bullet (.243 inches), researchers developed a low-recoil, high-accuracy round that delivers effective performance at distances of 500 yards and beyond.

6mm ARC Ballistics


Shooting a 6mm ARC rifle at the range

Hornady released 6mm ARC in 2020 and at the time of us writing this, they are the only large manufacturer currently making cartridges.

They currently have three options:

  • 103-grain ELD-X hunting round in their Precision Hunter brand
  • 105-grain BTHP target round from the Hornady BLACK brand
  • 108-grain ELD target round from the Match brand

These cartridges give us a window into how the 6mm ARC performs from the barrel to the target.

6mm ARC Velocity

6mm ARC AmmoMuzzle Velocity (FPS)200 Yd. Velocity500 Yd Velocity
Hornady - 103 Gr. ELD-X280024521979
Hornady Black - 105 Gr. BTHP275024171963
Hornady - 108 Gr. ELD Match275024211971

The statistics shown above demonstrate the advanced speed capabilities of the 6mm ARC. Coming out of the muzzle, it maintains speeds around 2,750 to 2,800 fps.

Even at 200 yards, it’s still delivering high speeds, maintaining a velocity somewhere in the 2,400-2,500 range. Once it reaches 500 yards, it has slowed but it’s still maintaining excellent velocities. With speeds almost 2,000 fps at 500 yards, the cartridge shows it’s abilities for long-range performance.

These speeds, however, may be slower than velocities delivered by many .223 Remington rounds, which is the most popular cartridge in the AR platform. But it compares favorably next to the 7.62x51mm rounds, which was the original intention of the cartridge.

How it fares for energy is even more important to the developers, as well as the users, of the 6mm ARC.

Energy Analysis

6mm ARC LoadMuzzle Energy (Ft-Lbs)200 Yd. Energy500 Yd Energy
Hornady - 103 Gr. ELD-X17931375895
Hornady Black - 150 Gr. BTHP17631362898
Hornady - 108 Gr. ELD Match18131405931

While it can’t be called the most powerful cartridge available (and it doesn’t try to be), the 6mm ARC delivers reliable power to distances around 500 yards.

Out of the muzzle, it has energies over 1,700 fps, which makes it more powerful than the .223 Remington. It does not, however, seem to match the muzzle energy of the .308 (7.62), which has energies above 2,500 for even the weaker products.

With energies around 1,300 at 200 yards and 900 at 500 yards, the 6mm ARC can clearly deliver effective results with a well-placed shot.

Trajectory/Bullet Drop

6mm ARC LoadDrop at 200 Yds (Inches300 Yd. Drop500 Yd. Drop
Hornady - 103 Gr. ELD-X0-7.6-43.7
Hornady Black - 150 Gr. BTHP0-7.8-44.9
Hornady - 108 Gr. ELD Match0-7.8-44.8

From a trajectory standpoint, the cartridge seems to perform fairly well out to 300 yards, then begins to drop quickly. This is, of course, common with a rifle cartridge, and it’s certainly not the worst drop you can find. From the standpoint of 0 to 300 yards, it seems that this is a fairly accurate cartridge, owing largely to the bullet design, which is relatively long and narrow. It has been tested at 500 and even 600 yards, and more report fairly good results.

Uses for the 6mm ARC

Hornady Black 6mm ARC ammo at the shooting range

The 6mm ARC really has two specific purposes: target shooting and hunting, although it would certainly make a reliable, if perhaps over-powered, home defense cartridge.

Target and Competition

Many shooters already use a similarly-sized bullet for their target shooting and competitions, but the 6mm ARC, which offers good distance and a smooth recoil, could give an added boost to your high-volume shooting.

Med-Size Hunting at Extended Range

With hunting cartridges already available from Hornady, the 6mm ARC is a reliable option for deer, black bear, and similar-sized game. If you are looking to up your ballistic capability with your AR-15, the 6mm ARC could do the trick.

Home Defense?

The 6mm ARC was made for punching through barriers, so it may have too much power to be a reliable home-defense weapon. Of course, punching through barriers like walls can be a significant risk for home-defense shooters. (If you live with other family members that could be injured or worse from an off-target shot.) That said, it would certainly be an effective tool when used appropriately, wisely, and safely.

How to Adopt the 6mm ARC

For most people with an AR-platform, adopting the 6mm ARC is going to be fairly simple. The 6mm ARC is a 5.56-platform compatible cartridge, similar to the 6.5 Grendel. It accepts all the same components as the Grendel, including the magazine and bolt, so all you need is a 6mm-specific barrel.

So adopting the cartridge should be, for many shooters, convenient and affordable. You won’t need to purchase an entirely new firearm; your AR likely has most of the components you need.

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