October 15, 2020
By David M. Fortier
Does the world really need another .30-caliber cartridge? I suppose that is the real question when one considers Wilson Combat’s new 300 HAM’R. This is especially true when you notice it was developed for use in the AR-15. Does it really bring something useful to the table? I think the answer to this question will depend upon your intended use. If you hunt with your AR-15, it is certainly a cartridge you will want to consider.
My first introduction to Bill Wilson’s work came while attending an Advanced Defensive Rifle course at SIG Arms Academy some 20 years ago. One of my fellow students was carrying a Wilson 1911, and I can remember being impressed by its handsome looks, fit, finish, accuracy and reliability. I had read about Wilson Combat 1911s, but this was the first time I had actually seen and handled one. I came away impressed.
Bill Wilson, the founder of Wilson Combat, is one of those legends of the industry who began building custom firearms way back in the big-mustache days of the 1970s. Like many, he had a humble start. It’s interesting to note he started customizing 1911s and S&W Model 10s working in the back of his father’s jewelry store. I doubt his father had any idea what destiny had in store for his son. Due to the quality of his work, his grasp of the industry, and a whole lot of sweat and toil, his business steadily grew and expanded. Today Wilson Combat is known for much more than just its handgun work. In 2000, he had grown to the point where he was able to purchase Scattergun Technologies. In doing so, he kicked the door in on the shotgun market and proceeded to make a name for himself there.
Wilson also recognized the rise of the AR-15 and entered that market. At this point in our story, I will admit that I was not overly impressed by the first Wilson Combat AR-15 I saw. It was what they called an M-4 Tactical Carbine, and while quite expensive, it didn’t really seem very different than any other AR-15 of the time. I frankly expected more from a rifle with the Wilson Combat logo and price tag. Perhaps Wilson recognized this, or perhaps he simply needed time to put his own touch on this design. It wasn’t long though before his AR-15s evolved and took on a distinctive look more befitting their name.
The Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter seen here is an example of what he currently offers. It’s a handsome piece which exudes the look, fit and performance of what you’d expect from this respected brand. But what makes this handy self-loading rifle really interesting is the .30-caliber cartridge it is chambered for, the 300 HAM’R. Bill Wilson’s 300 HAM’R cartridge is an interesting option for those looking for a step-up in performance over the 300 AAC Blackout and 7.62x39mm. While many love the 300 AAC BLK, others have found its terminal performance on game animals to be a bit ho-hum. In the same vein, many have found the 7.62x39mm less than ideal for use in the AR-15 due to feeding/magazine issues.
What if there was a harder-hitting .30-caliber cartridge which fit neatly into a standard AR-15 and even used a standard 5.56x45mm bolt? Well, not only does the 300 HAM’R do this, but it also cranks up the volume, providing an additional 300+ fps over the Blackout. It packs more punch than the 300 AAC BLK without adding any unwanted complexity into the mix. More than that though, it is intended to offer a useful increase in terminal performance over other popular intermediate cartridges such as the 6.5mm Grendel, 6.8x43mm Rem SPC and 7.62x39mm as well. Wilson’s goal was for the 300 HAM’R to be a very effective hunting cartridge for use on hogs, deer and similar-size game inside 300 yards.
Looking back in history at other similar-sized .30-caliber cartridges, you will find the .300/.221 Fireball (.300 Fireball), which, as its name implies, was based upon Remington’s .221 Fireball cartridge. This was a very efficient design capable of driving a diverse range of bullet weights. One person to take note of the .221 Fireball case was J.D. Jones of SSK Industries (SSKIndustries.com). He also necked up the .221 Fireball case to accept .308-inch projectiles.
J.D. felt the cartridge would be very useful when used to launch very heavy 200- to 250-grain bullets at subsonic velocities in conjunction with a sound suppressor. At the same time, light 100- to 130-grain bullets could be driven at supersonic velocity. J.D. trademarked the name ‘.300 Whisper®’ decades ago and went on to offer the cartridge in a variety of platforms, including the AR-15. Trademarking the name prevented anyone else from marketing a firearm in .300 Whisper® unless they signed a licensing agreement. To get around this, some companies simply referred to the cartridge by a different name. This led to various names and different chamber dimensions for the same basic Wildcat cartridge.
Although the .300/.221 Fireball and .300 Whisper® were highly regarded by a few, they did not appeal to the masses. The AR-15 was viewed differently years ago, and the lack of inexpensive factory ammunition and the Assault Weapons Ban didn’t help matters. Years and then decades went by, and while there was a small and dedicated following of handloaders and hunters, mainstream shooters were occupied elsewhere. During this span of time, the Assault Weapons Ban expired, the AR-15 exploded in popularity, and a variety of new cartridges for this platform were introduced.
Then, in 2010, Robert Silvers, the Research and Development Director of Advanced Armament Corp. (AAC), was contacted by a government customer with a requirement for this concept. He was asked if AAC could produce firearms with Remington Defense manufacturing .300/.221 Fireball-type ammunition. This request would lead directly to Silvers developing what became the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge. It was intended to provide .30-caliber performance while remaining compatible with standard 5.56x45mm bolts and magazines.
And just what was the new cartridge developed for and intended to do? The goals of Rob Silver’s ultimately hugely successful project were fairly straightforward:
- Create a reliable .30-caliber cartridge compatible with the AR platform.
- Create the optimal platform for sound- and flash-suppressed fire.
- Develop supersonic ammunition which matches 7.62x39mm ballistics.
- Provide the ability to penetrate commonly encountered barriers.
- Utilize existing M16 magazines at their full capacity.
- Encapsulate these capabilities in a lightweight, low recoiling yet durable package.
Bill Wilson though wasn’t looking to develop a cartridge for government use where subsonic ammunition/sound- and flash-suppressed fire was a priority. Rather, he began a journey in 2005, looking for the optimal AR-15 hunting cartridge for pigs and deer-size game. This began with J.D. Jones’ .300 Whisper®, but Wilson was unimpressed with its terminal performance in the hunting field. So he switched to the 6.8x43mm Rem SPC and found it to perform very well. In his own words he, “…killed a LOT of hogs and deer.” While he likes the 6.8x43mm Rem SPC, he yearned for something which launched larger-diameter .30-caliber projectiles. So he tried the .30 Rem AR and liked how it performed on game, but there were other issues, including a lack of factory support from Remington. So he tried Rob Silvers 300 AAC Blackout, but didn’t find it to offer any advantage over his tried and true 6.8x43mm Rem SPC.
Next, he not only tried but brought to market a cartridge called the 7.62x40mm WT, which was developed by Kurt Buchert. This was designed to accept virtually all 110- to 135-grain .30-caliber bullets. This in turn limited the overall case length to 40mm, which in turn hindered case capacity and thus the performance potential for the cartridge, in Wilson’s mind. While he liked the 7.62x40mm WT, he eventually decided to redesign the case, adding capacity. He ended up adding .040 inch to the case and ordered a chamber reamer which arrived in early January 2018.
With the reamer in hand, he began testing to optimize the barrel twist rate and to see just how well the new cartridge would perform. After thousands of test rounds, a 1 turn in 15 inches rate of twist was decided upon. Hodgdon Powder Company’s CFEBLK powder was selected as providing excellent accuracy and higher-than-expected velocity. The new cartridge was then field tested on some 200 wild hogs. Terminal performance was better than hoped for. While he originally planned on calling the new cartridge the .30-30 AR, he changed his mind and eventually dubbed it the 300 HAM’R.
Currently, Wilson Combat offers a variety of AR-15s chambered in the new 300 HAM’R cartridge. The one seen on these pages is the Tactical Hunter. This model features a lightweight billet flattop upper receiver. This has a distinctive look to it, which separates it from the rest of the AR-15 crowd. The flattop design facilitates easy mounting of day/night optics and iron sights. Riding inside is a Wilson Combat Low Mass bolt carrier with Nickel Boron finish. A BCM GunFighter charging handle is standard.
Fitted to the front of the receiver is a Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter Match grade barrel. This is a light contour piece available with or without fluting. My review sample was fluted, and barrel length came in at 18 inches with a Mid-Length gas system. Twist is one turn in 15 inches, and while the muzzle is threaded, it came with a thread protector only. Surrounding the barrel is a Wilson Combat 14.6-inch M-LOK Rail. This allows accessories such as a white light, bipod or sling swivel to be easily mounted. Included with the rifle are three 3-section Magpul Type 1 rail covers.
The upper receiver pins onto an equally distinctive-looking lightweight billet lower receiver. Inside this, you will find a Wilson Combat TTU (Tactical Trigger Unit) M2 with a four-pound pull. Inside the receiver extension is a standard-weight buffer and a 43 coil chrome silicon flat wire buffer spring. A Wilson Combat/BCM Starburst Gunfighter Grip is standard, along with a Rogers Super-Stock.
My review rifle came with an optional camouflage pattern Armor-Tuff finish, which is applied over Mil Spec hard anodizing. This model measures 33.5 inches in length with the stock collapsed and weighs a very handy 6.1 pounds without mag or optic. All in all, it is a very good-looking piece.
Wilson Combat’s Tactical Hunter is very aptly named. It is light, even after you mount a sling and optic. It carries well, is very quick to the shoulder and lively in the hands. It swings quickly and stops on a dime. The handguard feels good in the hand and the stock locks solidly in place with zero movement. The test rifle arrived with a 20-round Lancer 300 AAC BLK magazine. This inserted easily and dropped free with the push of a button. The trigger was fairly light and crisp and well suited for hunting.
To support this new cartridge, Wilson Combat carries reloading dies, unprimed brass and case gauges. Reloading dies start at $39.95, and a bag of 100 unprimed brass are $30. It also offers a surprising number of 300 HAM’R factory loads. These range in weight from 110 to 150 grain and include:
- 110-grain Lehigh Defense CC at 2,600 fps
- 110-grain Sierra HP-V at 2,600 fps
- 125-grain Speer TNT at 2,525 fps
- 125-grain Sierra PH at 2,540 fps
- 130-grain Speer HP at 2,420 fps
- 130-grain Speer HC at 2,510 fps
- 150-grain Speer HC at 2,240 fps
- 150-grain Hornady SST at 2,260 fps
- Note, all velocities are from an 18-inch barrel.
While Wilson Combat offers eight different loads, I only had one, its 125-grain Sierra PH, available for testing. Before hitting the range, I mounted an old Zeiss Conquest 6.5-20x50mm scope. After a quick bore sight, I got to work firing four 5-shot groups from the bench at 100 yards, while recording velocities.
Accuracy was quite good, averaging .8 inch. Velocity averaged 2,516 fps, which is 24 fps less than the advertised 2,540 fps. While I do not have a 300 AAC BLK with an 18-inch barrel, I do have a 16-inch gun. Out of that, a 300 AAC BLK Remington 125-grain Accutip averaged 2,234 fps. That’s a difference at the muzzle of some 282 fps.
Moving from the bench, I fired a five-shot group prone at a Shootsteel.com silhouette at 100 yards. Aiming for the head, the Wilson Tactical put all five shots into a knot. Moving to 280 yards, I took aim at another silhouette. I wasn’t sure what my drop would be, so I held at the top of the head. All five shots dropped neatly into a 2.5-inch group in the upper chest. It was just off center due to wind. Next, I tried my hand at 500 yards. At this distance, I could keep my shots on a full-size silhouette, but not on a 10-inch plate. The wind was simply getting the better of me. Walking down to check targets, I noted the Kansas wind was blowing a bit more than I had thought. Even so, I was still impressed by how the 300 HAM’R did. Recoil is mild enough I could spot my own shots at 500 yards. It remained sub-MOA at 280 yards.
Throughout testing, the Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter plugged away without issue. It fed, extracted and ejected flawlessly. Ejection was to 4 o-clock. Zero issues were encountered. In my opinion, it carried nicely, shot well and looked good doing it. It is a pleasant piece to fire. If Bill Wilson’s 300 HAM’R interests you, the Tactical Hunter is priced at $3,145 for the non-fluted barrel and at $3,195 with a fluted barrel. If that sucks the old wind right out of your sails, Wilson Combat also offers 300 HAM’R barrels so you can build your own. Will the 300 HAM’R take the world by storm?
I doubt it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent choice for hunting wild pigs or deer.
Wilson Combat Tactical Hunter Specs
- Caliber: 300 HAM’R
- Operation: Direct gas with rotating multi-lug bolt
- Barrel: 18 inches, 1-15 inch twist
- Muzzle Threads: 5/8x24
- Handguard: Wilson Combat 14.6-inch M-LOK Rail
- Trigger: Wilson Combat TTU M2
- Overall Length: 33.5 inches with stock collapsed
- Weight: 6.1 pounds without mag or optic
- Stock: Rogers Super-Stock
- Sights: None
- Finish: Armor-Tuff
- MSRP: $3,195 with fluted barrel
- Manufacturer: Wilson Combat
- Contact: WilsonCombat.com