The cartridge that originated in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq the past decade is now roaming the North American game fields. And MasterPiece Arms is among the most recent entrants into the 6.8 SPC market.
The Georgia-based manufacturer unveiled the MPAR 6.8 at the 2014 SHOT Show. And while the caliber is familiar, the delivery system might be a bit different than almost any other 6.8 on the market.
That is because, MasterPiece Arms MPAR rifles follow different branch of the AR family tree than most modern sporting rifles. The firearm is much more AR-180 than it is AR-15.
The company, better known for its MAC-style pistols and carbines, introduced the MPAR a year ago, chambered .223/5.56 NATO. The MPAR 556 drew some interested sniffs, for good reason. The AR-180 elements give the rifle some unique characteristic.
The three that most quickly jump out, even to the untrained eye, are the rifle’s left-handed side charger, folding stock (there’s no buffer tube) and stamped metal upper and lower.
Get inside the rifle and the departure from many of today’s ARs is even more striking. The firearm’s blocky bolt carrier (triangular in shape) and forward-running guide rods are worlds away from the cylindrical carriers and buffer tubes that have become commonplace in the AR world.
The most striking aspect of following the AR-180 template, however, is not the engineering, but what the engineering reaps – an affordable short-stroke piston rifle.
Where the MPAR 556 turned heads at SHOT 2013 was its price tag, it hit the market with an MSRP around $1,000. Presently MasterPiece Arms lists it at $950 on their website. The MPAR 6.8 is equally light on the pocketbook, the MSRP for a black phosphate finish model is $1,028, it's another $75 for the camo coating.
While the MPAR 6.8 definitely has personal defense and tactical applications, it’s hard to miss MasterPiece’s attempt to get a chunk of the hunting market with the larger-caliber MPAR. The Vista Camo Coating option is a tell the company envisions users hammering hogs, deer and varmints with its new rifle.
Besides some of the aforementioned features unique to the MPAR and other rifles of AR-180 lineage, MasterPiece's 6.8 has a few other goodies. It comes decked out with a two-piece aluminum hand guard with user located Picatinny rails and QD Mount. It has a front hand guard cap to keep debris from the internal elements of the rifle.
The locked-bolt action is side charged, its non-reciprocating handle is also the rifle’s forward assist and it boasts a built in dust cover. The 16-inch barrel has a four-groove 1:11 twist, conducive to most high-pressure loads. The safety is located on the left at the thumb position and the rifle has a standard AR magazine release. It also has a six-position butt stock.
MasterPiece has incorporated some AR-15 features into the rifle, namely the fire control and the gun's compatibility with AR-15 magazines. These are solid features given these are two of the more popular aftermarket upgrades.
From an initial scan of reviews and specs, the MPAR does have some bugaboos. Outside of triggers and magazines, there might not be a ton of other aftermarket AR-15 upgrades for the rifle. This might not win fans among the tinkering crowd of AR fans. And while the gun can be fired with the stock folded, it swings to the right of the rifle and appears to make it difficult to reach the trigger for right handers.
Chambering 6.8 SPC has it problems too. When the round was rumored to become a military staple it was relatively cheap, since the prices have gone way up. A quick survey of retailer’s websites has the round at two to three times the price of .223/5.56 NATO.
Left unanswered at time of writing (though posed to the company’s media liaison) was whether the MPAR 556 and MPAR 6.8 uppers are interchangeable. If they are it would be a big plus.
With that said, the MPAR 6.8 is intriguing and unique addition to the AR family. And it is yet another example that technology never really dies, sometimes it just changes manufacturers.
MPAR 6.8mm SPC Specs
Caliber: 6.8mm SPC
Barrel: 16″; 1:11 twist
Stock: Side Folding Telescoping Stock
Action: Semi-automatic short stroke piston; Side charger with forward assist
Capacity: 30 Round Magazine
- Full Feature Handguard
- User Locateable Side Rails
- Handguard Mounted QD Mount
- Stock QD Mount
Editor's Note: Sorry, no video on the MPAR 6.8 was available, but here's a look at the MPAR 566 from the 2013 SHOT Show from the Military Arms Channel. It gives a good idea what the rifle system is about.
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