Monday, March 19, 2012

Guest Blogger: Captain Tightpants

Shepherd K here. This evening, I have an extra special treat for you all: my first ever guest poster. Captain Tightpants, from the blog I Aim To Misbehave, was quite engaged in the comments on my last post and was concerned that he was hijacking the comments section with his thoughts on a particular caliber of ammunition. I suggested that he apply himself to the task of fleshing out his thoughts into a full blown guest post, and here are the results. For those not acquainted with the good Captain, he is former military (Navy if I recall correctly), current police officer (bomb squad...if you see this man running, please try to keep up), ardent Firefly fan and generally a nice guy. Enjoy.

The purpose of this is to simply explain why I chose to invest money, time & effort in a .300 Blackout rifle - not necessarily to convert you to my way of thinking. While I find that this round is going to meet a number of my needs & wants, your individual mileage and desires may vary. Also, I'm doing this as a short-barrel rifle (with a tax stamp transfer) and picking up a suppressor down the road... both of which are doable in my location without too much drama.

As any gun person knows, over the past 30-some years a number of "newest, bestest" cartridges have been introduced, all of which swore to be the next great thing. Some have had success (.40 S&W for one), some have achieved niche followings (10mm, 6.8 SPC), and some have faded into obscurity (.45 GAP). One of the latest rounds to burst onto the scene with some acclaim has been the .300 Blackout (.300 BLK) round, developed by AAC and more or less based on the .300 Whisper cartridge. Of important note with the round is that the company took the approach of getting it SAAMI spec'd & have gone out of their way to let others load it, market it etc. - which has been one reason for the explosive growth of this cartridge. A great number of manufacturers from the mid-range to the high end have jumped on the bandwagon with rifles, barrels, and ammunition growing by the day.

The .300 Blackout round (7.62x35mm) is designed with a number of considerations in mind:

- Function with minimal changes from a standard M4-style or similar 5.56x45mm platform. All you need to change is the barrel. It uses the same magazines, bolt, carrier, etc. for any of these weapons. This is a significant savings in materials if you're changing a weapon, and it greatly increases the availability of spare parts, weapon enhancements and such. Additionally, these magazines are capable of holding the same capacity as they do in 5.56x45, as opposed to reduced capacity in such rounds as the 6.8mm SPC.

- To provide a round which more or less matches the ballistic capabilities of a 7.62x39 (AK-47) style round for enhanced terminal ballistics, barrier penetration and such. While I won't get into a caliber-wars debate, it's hard to argue that a .30 caliber hole will be more effective in ensanguination than a .22 caliber hole. There are several M4 style rifles chambered in the 7.62x39 round it is true, but they require proprietary magazines, bolts and such - and have a poor history in terms of reliability to date.

- To provide a subsonic round with optimal sound and flash suppression when suppressed. For comparison, the .300 Blackout with 220 grain subsonic ammunition is quieter than an MP5SD, while firing a round almost twice the grain weight and 129% more muzzle energy. It also holds this energy to a greater range.

I can safely say that AAC met these goals. Now, let's discuss some of the other good points of the round.

- Reloading is inexpensive compared to the alternative rounds - in fact, you can take standard .223/5.56x45 brass and with minimal effort reload it as .300 Blackout. Much cheaper than having to buy specialized brass.

- If you're looking at things from a financial or a prepper standpoint - think about the cost savings. The only thing different is the barrel. Everything else from front to back is the same as an M4, ammo is reloadable as above etc. As opposed to having to find off-brand stuff or specialized tools & parts this is a big thing for me. Also, due to the lower pressures, internal ballistics and dynamics of this round barrel life and wear on the weapon is greatly reduced.

- Effective range and terminal ballistics are in line with what I need. Is this a 500-800 yard sniping weapon? No - but I don't expect that out of my 5.56 either. On the other hand, between point blank and 300 yards I can expect all the accuracy and performance I want out of a duty-type rifle, if not more. If I need to go out further that's what my bolt gun .308 is for...

- I like the thought that I am getting much better terminal ballistics out of an M4 platform, still in a low-recoiling round. Furthermore, in terms of hunting, the vast majority of places won't let you use .223 for things like deer - but the .300 is a perfectly good round. Again, now we've broadened our applications from one platform. Furthermore, the ballistics were specifically developed around the shorter barrels. 5.56 out of the Stoner-designed platform was originally built to work off a 20-inch barrel, and as you lose barrel length you have corresponding issues in loss of power, decreased reliability, and increased wear on the weapon. .300 BLK was spec'd for SAAMI out of a 16 inch barrel; out of a 10.5 inch barrel it has about 23% more muzzle energy than an M855 5.56 projectile does out of a 16 inch.

- In terms of the suppressor side of things. Instead of thinking "I need a suppressed weapon, so I'm stuck with a 9mm instead of a full-sized rifle," now I can do both with one platform.

As for the most common comparison round - the 6.8mm SPC round (which is a perfectly viable round and I'm not badmouthing it) - here are the issues.

- 6.8mm SPC requires a different bolt, magazine etc. - which beats the advantages I discussed already for the .300BLK.  Plus it has a reduced magazine capacity. Buying 13 dollar P-mags vs. $25+ specialized mags is a big price difference. And I can use the same parts, magazines etc. in both my rifles now as opposed to just one.

- Ammo cost is significantly different. Going with the low-end practice stuff (Remington UMC) 6.8mm SPC at Midway, the 6.8mm SPC is 16.99 a box, while the .300 BLK is 11.99 a box. That's a third less per box - it adds up, and that's also not even counting the advantages of being able to reload 5.56 brass if needed.

- 6.8 doesn't have the breadth of application in terms of subsonic to supersonic rounds and performance.

- For whatever reason, the various manufacturers haven't jumped on 6.8 even after a number of years like they have the .300 BLK. In fact, a few large companies this year stated they were dropping 6.8 from their product line due to it not being a good financial return right now. Personally I believe this stems from the fact that the Freedom Group (who owns both AAC and Remington) has put their horse behind the .300 BLK cartridge, and is minimizing the corporate support for the 6.8.

- In 6.8 SPC's defense - it is generally a flatter shooting round, and does have a slightly longer effective range. However this really doesn't come into play where I work and live - it's only an issue beyond 300-400 yards or so, and there are very few places here I even have that kind of visibility, much less a clean shot at something.

So - what are the downsides to .300 BLK right now? The two big ones I can think of are:

- At the moment it doesn't have quite the breadth of available rounds that something like the .223 or .308 has, so choices in hunting and defensive loads aren't as broad. I expect this to continue to improve throughout the next year.

- Again, due to the relative newness of the round, there is a lack of documented terminal ballistic effectiveness reports. As above, time will tell on this.

And for the record on what I'm acquiring? A 10.5 inch barrel Noveske rifle and an AAC suppressor to go with it. Unfortunately the paperwork and ATF involvement means I won't actually get hands on with it for about six months...


  1. Shiny writeup Captain.

    I don't know enough to open the ballistic advantages can o'worms.

    The .300 certainly doesn't make the mistake of over-reaching. Alas that doesn't always mean commercial success, the 6.5 Grendel had magazine and receiver compatibility with the 5.56 going for it but alas not enough.

    Still being able to home convert .223 brass and reload 30 caliber bullets is reassuring.

    1. Odysseus, I'm with you. I don't know enough to open that can o' worms, but it does give me quite a bit of food for thought.

  2. wow! what an awesome guest-poster! i will be sure to check out the Captain's blog. i don't know anything about this topic so i will keep this short and sweet!

    wow! good job Captain! i learned a lot from this very informative post!

    Shepherd - i love the idea of guest-posters!

    your friend,

    1. kymber, I have to admit that I am shamelessly lifting the guest blogger idea from others. I'll be making more guest blogger offers in the future when need/desire requires (hint, hint).

    2. teehee. question: does The Queen know that you are a shameless hussy?

      now i must retire to bed. exit without turning, bowing to The Queen!

    3. kymber, yes. The Queen knows all too well that I am an incorrigible sinner. She's spent the better part of 15 years trying to reform me to no avail. To borrow a line from Firefly, "I wasn't always a Shepherd."

  3. #1 - you got Captain Tightpants?! Let me bow down to your greatness now :)

    #2 - I love learning new stuff and I just learned a whole heap of it. While I've been spending a lot of time recently at the gun shop, it's been to pack up - we haven't been talking about anything other than what to put in which box and which box to put in which truck. Loved this! Thanks, Captain.

    1. GunDiva, no need to bow. It just kinda evolved in the comments. I'm just thankful that he took the time he did to go into such depth on the topic.

  4. Thanks for the feedback folks - I was glad to share my thoughts and grateful to the Shepherd for letting me use his pulpit for them.

    1. Captain, you are welcome anytime.

    2. Captain - we have much to learn from you, Sir. thank you so much for introducing me to a topic that i was unfamiliar with.


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