6mm ARC: Is it Worth the Hype?

It’s not at all uncommon for ammunition companies to launch what they promise will be the new hotness. Whether for handguns, shotguns, or rifles, that kind of claim tends to be met with some suspicion. After all, everything can’t be the latest and greatest. So when Hornady announced the 6mm ARC, people had mixed reactions. It looked interesting, but would it really be worth it? Is it worth it today? Here’s our take on the 6mm ARC and whether it’s worth adding a rifle chambered in it to your collection.

hornady 6mm arc
Hornady officially launched 6mm ARC in 2020. (Photo credit: Hornady)

What’s the 6mm ARC?

Hornady officially launched 6mm ARC in 2020, but the rollout was slower than expected thanks to pandemic-related issues. Even so, things got moving, and that same year, reps began promoting the ammo and doing demos with guns chambered in it. The cartridge’s parent case is the 6.5 Grendel. It’s designed to be a superior flat-shooting round for the AR-15 platform. If you’re wondering about the specificity of that statement, we have the answer to why the cartridge was made that way.

6mm ARC might have hit the commercial market in 2020; however, the military used it before then. Hornady simply says it was adopted by a “notable” entity within the Department of Defense. So before we even had the chance to get our hands on it, the 6mm ARC saw military use — and the military liked it. While that might not sound like a ringing endorsement for civilian applications, it’s a good sign that it performs well and gets the job done. That’s always a good thing.

What’s so great about the 6mm ARC?

Setting aside the 6mm ARC’s ballistics for a moment, consider that this cartridge was specifically made for the AR-15. It isn’t that common for a cartridge meant for a flatter trajectory and longer-range shots to be made for the AR-15. If it’s going to do those things in an AR platform, it’s generally with the AR-10. However, the military needed a cartridge that offered impressive ballistics in a lighter platform. Of course, that meant focusing on the AR-15. When you consider reasons the 6mm ARC is a solid option for gun owners, this is definitely an important point. It’s lightweight, portable, and user-friendly.

Another great part of the 6mm ARC is that guns chambered in it have a longer barrel life than other long-range options. A good example is the 6.5 Creedmoor, which has an approximate barrel life of 3,000 rounds before you need to start considering replacement. The 6mm ARC’s barrel life is around 5,000 rounds, so it lasts significantly longer. This is cost-effective and also flat-out more convenient.

Hornady has described the 6mm ARC as advanced, versatile, efficient, and effective — and those are great descriptors for it. This cartridge delivers a high ballistic coefficient and relatively flat trajectory. In fact, its drop and drift rate is far better than most comparable cartridges made for the AR-15. It far outdoes the 5.56 NATO and delivers superior performance to the .224 Valkyrie as well.

cmmg rifle
6mm ARC is a solid long-range option in a lightweight platform. (Photo credit: CMMG)

Is it versatile?

The 6mm ARC is fantastic for just about everything. It’s good for hunting, home defense, range use, and long-range shooting. Regarding long-range use, it has an effective range of approximately 1,200 yards on steel. If you want to use it for longer shots while hunting, it’s best to keep it under 500 yards. As for self-defense use, it’s highly effective and makes good sense as a home defense rifle or truck gun. Basically, this is the caliber you could use as your do-it-all rifle.

Is it worth it?

Investing in a whole new caliber can seem daunting. After all, you’re talking about at least one new gun and all the ammo to go with it. If you handload — which is a great way to get the best possible ballistics, that entails a lot of extra components. Despite the expense of adding yet another caliber to your collection, the 6mm ARC is one that’s well worth it. From negligible felt recoil to stellar results down range, it outperforms expectations. You might not want to love it at first, but you’ll end up finding out it really is one of the best cartridges in recent years.

The 6mm ARC is well worth it due largely to its ballistic superiority to other AR-15 chamberings. You might like your classic 5.56 NATO or find the 6.5 Grendel fits your needs well, but there’s no denying this is a better option for long-range shooting. It doesn’t even have to be that long-range. Furthermore, if you don’t like the AR-15, there are also bolt-action rifles available in 6mm ARC. As time goes by, an increasing number of models hit the market. The options are constantly expanding.

6mm arc ammo
Although the majority of ammo is made by Hornady, there are some loads available, like this one, that use Hornady’s bullets. (Photo: Black Hills Ammunition)

Should you get a 6mm ARC?

Based on my personal experience with the 6mm ARC, which started when it launched, I’d say it’s a good idea to seriously consider this one. I went into it skeptically and came out the other side, admitting it’s a fantastic cartridge. Of course, I now have a few myself. This proven round works for all sorts of things, including hog hunting. My only complaint is it’d be nice to see a greater number of available load options, but that should improve with time.

Currently, Hornady makes most of the available ammunition for the 6mm ARC. The ammo maker offers it as part of their Black, Match, Precision Hunter, and V-Match lines. There are some loads out there, like one offered by Black Hills Ammunition, which utilizes Hornady’s ELD-X bullet. This is really the one downside to 6mm ARC: it’s a pricier cartridge to run in your guns. You’re not going to find a bunch of affordably priced target rounds out there — not yet, anyway. Of course, that means what you do find is going to be good-quality ammo. Just be prepared for the greater ammo costs with this load.

6mm ARC makes a solid addition to any gun owner’s collection. It might be your first AR-15 or your tenth, but it’s one of those cartridges that earns its place. If you go the bolt-action route, you might be able to get a bit more precision out of this already precise round.

Do you have a 6mm ARC? Tell us about it in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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