Why the .30 Rem. AR Matters

posted on March 25, 2011

The acceptance of AR-style rifles as hunting guns has been slow. This is partly due to the fact the cartridges they fire are best suited to small to medium game. It's also partly due to the fact that the AR doesn't look like daddy's deer rifle. To many hunters and non-gun owners, the AR is an intimidating firearm.

Rifts and disagreements exist in the shooting world just like everywhere else. Some with a tactical mindset look down their noses at hunters, often calling them Fudds. Meanwhile, some hunters distance themselves from tacticians because they're afraid the firearms they use represent a challenge to their sport—based on their military lineage and assault-rifle label of certain firearms. I'm like Grandma Hawkins in the movie "The Outlaw Josie Wales." I say, "that talk's worth doodly squat." We're all gun owners and we all need to stand together. The .30 Rem. AR is the cartridge that can make such a notion reality.

Why? Because we finally have a cartridge that works from AR-15-platform rifles capable of doing what the .308 Win. does for the hunter or the tactician. Sure, you can get a .308 Win. in an AR-10, but it's heavy. Few can shoulder the burden. An AR-15 weighs the same or less than many bolt-action sporting rifles and now, with the .30 Rem. AR, it offers a level of performance never before achievable from the AR-15 platform. For all practical purposes, the .30 Rem. AR duplicates the external ballistics of the .300 Sav., and for the first time since the M1903 Springfield, we have a sporter-weight, civilian version of a military rifle perfectly suited to a broad range of tasks.

I'm not just talking about hunting. If you're a 3-gun competitor interested in the Heavy Metal class, you can do it with a .30 Rem. AR. It has less recoil than an M1A and weighs less, too. If you're looking for an urban-survival rifle, but want more power than the standard AR-15, the .30 Rem. AR is an obvious choice. This cartridge/rifle combination also has merit as a law enforcement patrol/counter-sniper rifle, because you have near .308 Win. power from a semi-auto, short-barreled rifle—not to mention its suitability for officers in areas where they are required to deal with marauding black bears.

In the fall of 2008, Remington introduced the .30 Rem. AR to a panel of nearly 50 gunwriters and the reception was mixed. I was genuinely excited because it's rare we see a new cartridge with the ability to really transform the way we look at a firearm system. Well, 2009 came and went, and many speculated Remington couldn't make the cartridge work in an AR, or that it wouldn't deliver on its promise of a 125-grain bullet at 2,800 fps from a 20-inch barrel. I wondered, too, but also knew every manufacturer building ARs was working at capacity just to meet the unprecedented demand for current models.

In late March 2010, I finally received an R-15 in .30 Rem. AR with 300 rounds of ammunition. Currently, Remington offers 123-grain full-metal case, 125-grain AccuTip and 125-grain Core-Lokt loads in .30 Rem. AR. The company promises a 150-grain Core-Lokt will be available soon. The first thing I did after zeroing was fire three, three-shot groups with each load. The average size of all nine groups was 1.38 inches.

With some empty cases in hand, I began a handloading project using Ramshot X-Terminator and Alliant Reloader 7 powders. Using 110-grain Barnes Triple-Shocks and Sierra hollow points, I was able to approach 3,000 fps from the R-15's 20-inch barrel. I also pushed 150-grain bullets to 2,600 fps. Most groups were on either side of an inch—some as small as .5 inch. I'm still experimenting with different powders and bullets, but liked whatI saw enough to write Remington a check.

At his Circle WC Ranch in Texas, Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat has taken several hogs in the 150-pound range using 150-grain Speer Hot-Cor bullets from a .30 Rem. AR. According to Wilson, penetration has been complete and hogs went down within 20 yards. Wilson Combat will soon be offering its Recon AR in .30 Rem. AR. Seems I'm not the only one who thinks this new cartridge has promise.

If there's a cartridge that can put hunters and tactical shooters on common ground—with the same rifle—it's the .30 Rem. AR. The AccuTip and Core-Lokt serve both groups well for most chores. What we need now is for someone to offer the 110-grain Barnes TAC-X bullet for big-game and barrier-defeating purposes—this bullet will penetrate 2 feet in 10-percent ordnance gelatin. Barnes, are you listening? And, we need someone to load the 110-grain Sierra hollow point for coyotes and such. I live in both the tactical and hunting worlds and it looks like I have a new favorite rifle/carbine, tactical/hunting cartridge.


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