My grandfather’s favorite tool was a hammer, and he had several. For finish carpentry he had a small one, for framing he had another, and for tearing $#!@ up he had a big one. Wilson Combat has a new hammer and AR 15 aficionados should be excited. It’s called the 300 HAM’R and it essentially duplicates the performance of the iconic 30-30 Winchester.
But first, a history lesson on the efforts to enhance the down range performance of the AR 15. Originally the AR 15 was chambered for the 5.56 NATO/223 Remington, but since the turn of the century we’ve seen a bunch of new cartridges, all purporting to be the next best thing to make the AR 15 hit harder. Arguably, it all started with the 6.8 SPC, and some thought it would supplant the 5.56 as the standard issue cartridge for the American Soldier. It didn’t and in fact has for the most part fallen out of grace with shooters.
The 6.5 Grendel introduced in 2003 is still little more than a cult cartridge. It has appeal, as did the 30 Remington AR, which was introduced in 2008. However, like with the 6.8 SPC, these cartridges require—as a minimum—a new bolt and different magazines for any AR chambered for the 5.56 that you want to convert. Between then and 2011 a variety of wildcat cartridges designed for the AR 15 appeared. Some had lots of merit but never really caught on. It was then that Remington went back almost 20 years and introduced a wildcat cartridge designed in the 1990s—the 300 Blackout.
The Blackout took the shooting world by a storm. It wasn’t long until almost every AR 15 manufacturer was offering a rifle chambered for it, and almost every ammunition manufacturer was loading 300 Blackout ammo. The timing was right and the name was cool, and the cartridges compatibility with suppressors rocketed it to stardom. But there was a problem; shooters soon found out that if they accidentally chambered a 300 Blackout cartridge in their AR 15 chambered for the 5.56, they could induce an explosive separation of parts.
While all this was going on Bill Wilson of Wilson combat was living at his ranch in Texas and hunting hogs with a vengeance. A faithful AR shooter, Wilson tried all these cartridges, looking for the ideal way to deliver maximum power down range, with minimal alteration to the AR 15 platform. After a short love affair with the 30 Remington AR – which Remington failed to market or support – he legitimized a wildcat .30-caliber cartridge, made by slightly altering the 223 Remington case, and called it the 7.62×40 WT.
The 7.62×40 worked well but was only marginally more powerful than the 300 Blackout, not enough so to steal shooters away from that cartridge or start its own following. After time Wilson began to dwell on the subject and figured he could increase the capacity of the 7.62×40, while still using a wide variety of .30-caliber bullets suitable for hogs, deer, human adversaries, and even critters as large as elk. He was having good luck with the cartridge but after discovering its fondness for Hodgdon’s CFEBLK powder, realized he had hit on something special.
Bill discovered that out of a 18-inch barrel his new cartridge would not only duplicate but better the performance of one of the greatest American cartridges ever produced. After initially considering naming the cartridge the 30-30 AR, Bill and his team at Wilson Combat settled on the 300 HAM’R. I don’t know how many feral hogs Bill and his associates have taken with the 300 HAM’R, but I’m betting its more than you have ever taken with any cartridge. The 300 HAM’R is field tested, proven, and it works.
Bill sent me one of his Tactical Hunter AR 15s chambered for the 300 HAM’R and I’ve shot it a lot. In fact, I’ve fired every round of ammo Bill provided me, and that included samples of all seven loads Wilson Combat offers for this cartridge. As you would expect, like any firearm from Wilson Combat, the rifle shoots very well; it is completely sub MOA capable. In fact, I fired a 10-shot group using two rounds each of five different loads, with bullet weights ranging from 110 to 150 grains, and the resulting group measured 1.56 inches. I’ll be you don’t own another rifle capable of ding that.
That’s a testament to the rifle and the quality of the ammo. What you are probably more interested in is if in fact this cartridge is an AR 15 version of the 30-30 Winchester. Based on my testing of more than a dozen factory 30-30 loads, and the seven 300 HAM’R Wilson Combat loads, it’s that and more. Not only will the more aerodynamic detachable magazine friendly bullets shoot faster and flatter out of the 300 HAM’R, they’ll hit harder down range because they retain their velocity better.
I can see a lot of potential for this cartridge. Those who like to hunt with their AR now have a powerful option, and all that’s required is a barrel change. The 300 HAM’R uses the same bolt and magazine as the 223 Remington. In a pure tactical environment, the 300 HAM’R will deliver more energy on target than the 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, 7.62×39, and the 300 Blackout, and there are lots of viable bullet options for a variety of applications.
Right now you can get your rifle and Wilson Combat has seven loads to choose from. The Hunting Shack and Black Hills will also be loading ammunition, and Hornady might be poised to offer one or more loads as well. Will the HAM’R replace the 5.56 NATO for the military or universal civilian and law enforcement use? I doubt it. But, it is one of the best general-purpose cartridges available for the AR 15.
Grandpa would have liked it, that I’m sure of. He had a general-purpose hammer he kept handy for just about everything. He also had a 30-30 Winchester he kept around for the same reason. I learned allot from Grandpa. Like when you find a hammer you like you better spend the money and then hold on to it. This rifle now lives with me!
There’s an assault on those who shoot and hunt, or own firearms for recreation, self-defense, and the protection of liberty. Because of that assault, there’s a lot of talk about which companies should be boycotted. Over the weekend there was a chill over YETI coolers—like I’m sure hoards of gun owners were on the verge of buying a $300 plastic box. And, Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods recently pissed off shooters with their decision not to sale certain firearms. This of course made the cliché, “don’t be a Dick,” more relevant than ever.
Having been a “Dick” all my life—I was named after my father and with “Dick” being the nickname for anyone named Richard, after I was born my father became known as “Big Dick.” You can guess where that left me—and I found that offensive. So offensive in fact, I decided to just forget about it, and get on with my life.
And maybe that’s what we all should do. I’m not suggesting supporting companies you feel have betrayed the liberty we hold so dear. What I am suggesting—no, encouraging—is the support of companies who are on our side and not afraid to say it. I’d like to see social media posts about companies who help the NRA. Contact companies you’re considering purchasing from and ask them, “What are your recent contributions to the NRA?” Below is an example of what you can learn if you ask/check:
I asked YETI, and their response was, “Nothing.” That may be enough to justify your boycott. However, according to my source, YETI has, “Bought ads in AH [NRA’s American Hunter magazine] attended [NRA] Annual Meetings as exhibitor and worked with them [the NRA] on preferred vendor program.”
I’m just a simple hillbilly and my mind works in mysterious ways, but I’m reasonably certain if gun owners stop shopping at Dick’s or Wal-Mart, or never buy another YETI cooler, those companies will still be making money—lots of money. But, I’m also reasonably certain if you buy from companies who give to the NRA, every gun owner in America will benefit. All of this is why I’m donating a portion of the proceeds from my latest book to the National Rifle Association. Like me, that donation may not amount to much, but I’ll give a little bit of the little bit I have.
The cold, hard, truth is if I can do that on gun writer’s wages—with three kids, two car payments, and a mortgage—surely major outdoor companies, making lots of money off gun owners, can do as much…unless they really don’t care about us.
A lot of folks are outraged about various big box stores like Dick’s and Walmart discontinuing the sale of ARs, or upping the age of purchase to 21. I guess they feel like these monster corporations have betrayed them, and that we should boycott or punish them for not supporting the Second Amendment. Well, um, we should have never started buying our gun stuff there in the first place. We abandoned real gun stores for convenience, and to save a couple dollars, they went out of business, and here we are.
I could care less. In fact, it would not bother me if Dick’s and Walmart stopped selling guns, along with gun and hunting related accessories, all together. Neither have ever been a real gun store anyway. Though I’m sure there are exceptions, those behind the counter are, in most cases, not qualified to sale or even handle a gun. And based on my experience; their enthusiasm for customer care almost equals my interest in cat videos.
When I was growing up there was a local bait & tackle/gun shop about two miles from my house. On weekends—during my paper route—I’d stop there on my bike. The guy behind the counter would let me look at and fondle the guns that interested me, and he even knew a thing or two about firearms…and young boys. I could usually talk him out of some part I needed, that was just lying in the clutter on his workbench. (If you grew up near my hometown—and are older than 50—you will remember Ray’s Bait Shop. I’d rather go back there for one hour than spend a day in Cabela’s.)
We’ve seen the death of the local gun shop. With that, we’ve lost places where real and practical knowledge could be dispensed. Dick’s, Walmart, and others have contributed to this near extinction; they retail firearms so cheap, the local guy cannot compete. (Few realize how small the profit margins are on guns.) What they fail to deliver is service—service before, during, and most importantly, after the sale. And those conducting the sale do not have the experience to get that feeling when someone is trying to buy a gun, with possible bad intentions in mind. (You do realize an FFL dealer can deny a sale to anyone they think might be a danger don’t you? Local gun shop owners take this serious.)
And then there’s the knowledge they do not have to share. Local gun shops are operated by folks who are experienced with, and passionate about, what they do and the things they sale. That passion carries over to the customer. The absence of that passion is like a cancer to the gun and hunting industry. It’s why Dick’s and Walmart could care less about your firearms or hunting interests—they have none of their own. It’s also the reason some gun manufactures are struggling; they hired management types from other industries who lack our passion.
Be mad at Dick’s and Walmart if you like, I could care less what they sale. When I buy gun stuff locally, I’m going to buy it from a guy who smells like Hoppe’s #9, a guy who was installing a trigger on a rifle that morning, a guy who closed his shop early yesterday to go to the range, a guy who frequently has a shop full of like-minded folks bitching about anti-gunners, a guy who knows what a pre-64 model 70 is, who Jeff Cooper was, and who actually gives a shit if I hit what I shoot at, or ever come back in his shop again.
With the help from Dick’s and Walmart, the local gun shop can once again be real. With all the new gun owners in our ranks, they’ve never been needed more than right now! You think Dick’s and Walmart are a gun stores? Well, bless your heart. You’ve never been in a real gun store have you?
For 2018 there will be a new feature at Empty Cases. It’s called “Ask the Gunwriter” and it’s sponsored by Mossberg. I receive gun or hunting questions every day and I do my best to answer them all. But I realized there might be other folks with the same question, looking for an answer. So now, when someone submits a question—a good question—I’ll crate a video response and post it on the Empty Cases website and on social media. If I do not know the answer, I’ll reach out to other—smarter—folks in the industry for help.
The really cool aspect of Ask the Gunwriter is that if you submit a written question your name will entered for a chance to win a Mossberg Patriot Revere chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor. But even better, if you submit a video question, your name will be entered 10 times! In October, I’ll draw a name and announce the winner. For instructions on submitting a question, click HERE
But, before this all gets kicked off I thought I’d save some folks some time and tell you what questions not to ask; remember, to be selected your question has to be good.
The guns, gear, and gadgets will all fawn over are interesting, but the real stories – the good stories – are always about people. Those are also the stories I like to write the most. Here is one direct from the pages of the January 2018 issue of Gun Digest magazine. For those who may not know, I write the handgun column for Gun Digest and generally contribute a feature each month. Under the new editorship of Luke Hartle – yes, he is a yankee, but I think there’s enough redneck in him to balance it out – Gun Digest is becoming an excellent version of a modern firearms periodical. I’d suggest you check it out. You can subscribe HERE
The old man shuffled to a cabinet on feet that’d carried him for almost 80 years. He grinned, leaned close enough I could smell cows, corn, and diesel, and said, “This here’s the good drawer.” It contained a hoard of shot shells. He picked up a candy stripped example, handed it to me, and said, “This’ns worth five hundred dollars.” Marv had my attention.
Marvin “Marv” Briegel worked hard all his life, but the only paycheck he ever received was during his three years in the Army. Marv is a farmer, always has been, always will be. He’s damn proud of it too, because he knows it’s a profession too good for most. Marv’s also a hunter. On his farm along Nebraska’s Republican river he once used a 270 Winchester to put a Boone & Crocket whitetail on his wall. That wall, by the way, is in a vault that’s part of Marv’s otherwise inconspicuous farmhouse.
Inside it’s the Marv Show, and it starts with a four-bore shotgun. “I ant shooting that!” I said. Marv grinned, “I ant letting ya.” Then there are the near dozen lesser gauges, Herter’s rifles, and an example of every Knight muzzleloader made. But the Marv Show is mostly about cartridges. I spent hours fingering through drawers of paper-patched cartridges, all-brass shot shells, and other munitions I’d never seen, all while Marv gave John Madden-like color commentary. “Now here’s a shell you don’t see often. I got that’n from an old boy in Oklahoma. That’s a window shell. You know what a window shell is?”
As editor of Gun Digest’s 13th Edition of Cartridges of the World, I’m sometimes referred to as the, “ammo guy.” Amazingly, while deer hunting in the no-stop-light town of Arapahoe, Nebraska, I’d uncovered a physical manifestation of the encyclopedia I’d worked so hard to publish. Historical cartridge collecting is a niche but serious endeavor. Marv’s passion likely exceeds that of Trump voters and, yes, even turkey hunters. He’s even been to Germany to scavange ammunition antiquities.
I asked how a fellow might start cartridge collecting. Marv said, “My first was a 45/100 Pacific Ballard,” Nudging me with his elbow, “but rimfire cartridge boxes are where a guy should start. They’re affordable and easy to find. Just make sure they’re full”
But most of Marv’s collection is shot shell related and I asked why. “With shot shells the information is printed on them, and it matches what’s on the box. It’ll tell you gauge, shot size, and so on. With rifle and pistol cartridges all you got’s the head stamp and no idea bout much else.” Then, with the intensity of a stock trader sharing his first inside tip, Marv leaned in, looked around like, to see if anyone was watching, and whispered, “Robin Hood. Any Robin Hood shot shell is good and the boxes are better-n gold.”
I left Marv a signed copy of Cartridges of the World and a .25 caliber wildcat cartridge I’d based on the 6.5 Creedmoor. Marv gave me something a bit different; a little, but well endowed, bobble-girl off the dash of his – dirtier on the inside than outside – pickup truck.
Passing through the vault door I looked back and Marv was fondling the cartridge I’d given him. He’ll put it in a drawer and someday show it to some guy like me. The bobble-girl? She’ll go on the dashboard of my truck, just to remind me who the real ammo guy is. I named her Casey.