The Escadrille – Best AR Cartridge Ever!

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Not too long ago I decided all this silliness with trying to invent a new and better AR cartridge needed to stop. So, I decided to devise the best solution to the problem with a goal that the new cartridge must utilize standard AR-15 magazines, while maintaining standard capacity. That it must deliver at least 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy at 300 yards, offer supersonic and subsonic performance, work with a wide selection of bullets and must serve competitive shooting, hunting, and tactical applications.

The .300 AAC Blackout accomplishes this with the .223 Rem. case and a larger-caliber bullet, so the .223 Rem. as a parent case was not an option. Larger-diameter cases like the 7.62×39 mm were no good, because they reduce magazine capacity. The 6.8 Rem. SPC case seemed perfect since the diameter of its parent case, the .30 Rem., still allowed for standard capacity, and 6.8 Rem. SPC bolts are readily available.

Thirty caliber seemed the obvious choice, but most .30-caliber bullets are designed for velocities unachievable from an AR-15. This is true for almost every caliber larger than .223 with one exception: .311. And, with a bore of .311, .32-caliber pistol bullets could be used. The advent of the .327 Fed. Mag., and the amazing Gold Dot bullets designed for it, adds welcome versatility to the search for a better cartridge. With the plan to neck the 6.8 SPC up to .311 and to duplicate the ballistics of the ancient but effective .303 British cartridge, I contacted some of the smartest folks I know.

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Mike Cyrus of Lehigh Defense is a master wildcatter. He chose 6.8 SPC cases with large primer pockets, worked the brass and developed the loads. He also consulted the grandson of World War I Lafayette Escadrille fighter ace Raoul Lufbery’s ground mechanic, a man who wishes to remain anonymous. Lufbery and his mechanic mastered the Lewis machine gun and its use of the .303 British cartridge fighting the huns.

One rifle was built on a Bushmaster MOE platform with a 16-inch barrel, the other on a DPMS Hunter with a 20-inch barrel. Accuracy with both .311 rifle and pistol bullets is spectacular and .308-caliber bullets shot nearly MOA, too. Subsonic loads drove tacks out to 200 yards, and both rifles were unfailingly reliable—even without adjustable gas blocks.

For proof of concept, I contacted an old friend from my Special Agent days with the Railroad Police: Semaj Dnob is an Israeli-born, British-based operator, who works covert government contracts. He’s the guy all tactards want to be. After 12 months in the field and with more than 15,000 rounds fired in training and in anger, Semaj told me our new cartridge was, “Like nothing I have ever seen in action.”

That was inspirational for the design team, but we needed to know if the cartridge would work for hunters. Working in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina in 2005, I ran into a man who goes by only “Jameson.” He was there killing feral animals terrorizing the parish and town. Jameson is an Irish national who travels the world killing critters for governments and individuals who don’t know how, or who are too wimpy to try. He doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid of, “You gotta have a big gun,” so I knew he was the man for the job. After whacking everything from wild African dogs to grizzly, Jameson said of our creation, “Bloody unbelievable!”

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The project has been two years in the making and we’ve finally conducted enough testing to tell the world, but the cartridge needed a name. Suggestions included: .309 Death Dealer, .311 Whiteout, .30 ARC (Awesome Rifle Cartridge), .30 Tactard and .310 BARCE (Best AR Cartridge Ever).

Though I did little of the work, the concept was mine, so I chose the name. In honor the brave Americans of the Layette Escadrille, like Lufbery, who fought the airborne Huns of World War I with the .303 British Lewis Machine gun attached to the upper wing of their Nieuports. The decision was made to simply call the cartridge, “Escadrille.”

From a 16-inch barrel it will push a 125-grain bullet to almost 2,800 fps. A 20-inch barrel will add about 120 fps. It hits like a .30 Rem. AR, but its magazines hold more ammunition. At more than 3,000 fps, 100-grain Speer Gold Dots deliver massive tissue damage with no over-penetration concerns. In addition, rifles run as reliably with subsonic ammo as with supersonic. The blended-powder charges, developed by the nameless man who helped Cyrus, keeps the rifles clean and pressures low. The Escadrille is the final answer to the AR.

Where can you get one? You can’t.

As a group we’ve decided to not release the cartridge’s dimensions or loading data. We simply do not want to drastically alter the AR landscape and make other AR cartridges obsolete. So, the entire design team has unanimously decided to offer the following advice for interested AR aficionados: If you want an AR for multipurpose use, get one chambered in .223 Rem.

NOTE: This is a condensed versions of an article that appeared in the April 2014 issue of NRA’s Shooting Illustrated.