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.300 AAC Blackout

.300 AAC Blackout
This new round is very capable in many different hunting and self-defense scenarios as built by daniel defense in the m4v5.

Designed in 2010 by Advanced Armament Corporation, the .300 AAC Blackout won full SAAMI recognition in January 2011. Elements of the Military wanted a .30-caliber cartridge that would be entirely compatible with the AR-15 and perform more effectively than the 5.56mm NATO round particularly from short barrels with or without suppressors.

Various wildcats and the proprietary .300 Whisper had demonstrated that .30-caliber cartridges based on the body and head dimensions common to the 5.56mm could match the performance of the 7.62×39 Kalashnikov round while maintaining full compatibility with the standard AR-15 magazines and bolt. The standard case diameter eliminates feeding issues that sometimes arise with larger bodied cases. The AAC Blackout is, of course based on the 5.56 cartridge shortened to 35mm with a cartridge overall length common to the NATO cartridge. As with the Whisper, the small capacity case is well suited to subsonic loads for use with suppressors.

The Whisper and the Blackout cartridges are very similar and the Advanced Armory Corp. people early on sounded a cautionary note about considering them interchangeable, Smith & Wesson now deems them fully compatible saying that their AR chambered in Whisper is good to go with the Blackout as well. Individual manufacturer recommendations should be followed.

Various wildcats and the proprietary .300 Whisper had demonstrated that .30-caliber cartridges based on the body and head dimensions common to the 5.56mm could match the performance of the 7.62×39 Kalashnikov round while maintaining full compatibility with the standard AR-15 magazines and bolt. The standard case diameter eliminates feeding issues that sometimes arise with larger bodied cases. The AAC Blackout is, of course based on the 5.56 cartridge shortened to 35mm with a cartridge overall length common to the NATO cartridge. As with the Whisper, the small capacity case is well suited to subsonic loads for use with suppressors.

The Whisper and the Blackout cartridges are very similar and the Advanced Armory Corp. people early on sounded a cautionary note about considering them interchangeable, Smith & Wesson now deems them fully compatible saying that their AR chambered in Whisper is good to go with the Blackout as well. Individual manufacturer recommendations should be followed.

Another artifact of the 21st century is the Daniel Defense Company of Black Creek, Ga. Many gun owners learned about them from the exiguous torture tests they perform on their rifles on the Hook & Bullet Cablevision channels. DD parts have a sterling reputation and large following—the handguards for example, being standard for some US and Canadian military forces. The complete carbines are regarded as top tier among AR cognoscenti. The firm is fully equipped with modern CNC tools and is one of a handful of companies with barrel forging capabilities. The Daniel Defense barrels are cold hammer forged of Chrome Vanadium Steel and finished inside and out with the salt bath nitride process that markedly reduces bullet friction and materially extends barrel life.

Currently, DD offers the AAC Blackout round in the M4V5 Carbine and several variations including the .300 ISR Integrally Suppressed Rifle combining a 10.5-inch rifle barrel with a permanent suppressor. The M4V5 is a general-purpose rifle, suitable for defensive and sporting purposes with silencer-compatible threading under the Daniel Defense flash suppressor. Daniel Defense shares DNA (not to mention physical location and production facilities) with the hunter-oriented Ambush Arms Company offering its innovative rifle in .300 AAC Blackout with the top quality Geissele trigger, and other refinements geared toward the outdoor enthusiast.

Our sample M4V5 arrived with the standard 16-inch barrel free-floated in the proprietary rail, a Daniel Defense Vertical fore-grip, and the standard Magpul 6-position adjustable stock. The magazine holds 30 rounds and is also from Magpul. The lower unit and lock work are standard to all DD AR rifles and the trigger is strictly Mil-Spec weighing in at 6 pounds, 8 ounces on my Timney Trigger Pull gauge. The alloy handguard is 12.5 inches in length with Picatinny rails on all four sides and an abundance of sling swivel sockets. There is an additional 6 inches of Picatinny rail over the receiver for traditional optic placement. The rifle weighs just under 7 pounds absent sighting equipment.

Our package contained a set of non-folding accessory sights adjustable in the usual AR-15/M16 fashion and of the high quality associated with Daniel Defense products. Mounting the Burris 1-6×42 MTAC (30mm tube diameter) riflescope brought the total weight to 8 pounds give or take a few ounces—the package being comfortably portable via Blue Force Vickers sling.

Suitably compact at one foot in length and two ounces under a pound, the Burris MTAC scope has a number of elements desirable in a close quarters battle sight. It is primarily intended for rapid use at short and intermediate ranges. Nevertheless, the “Ballistic” element of the “Ballistic CQ” reticle provides holdover points out to 600 yards corresponding with either the trajectory of the 5.56 NATO 62-grain ball load or, as is the case with our sample, the 150-grain 7.62 cartridge. The principal could also be applied to the .300 AAC or any other cartridge for that matter.

The primary sighting element is a prominent dot centered in a ring subtending 2.4 and 25.2 inches respectively at 100 yards. The ancillary “ballistic” elements including the down-range aiming points and ranging indices are not a bit distracting when employing the sight at close remove. Sight adjustment is deemed “repeatable” with 80 MOA of vertical and horizontal adjustment in 1/4-inch increments. The narrow range of eye relief across the 1.5-6X power range—7/10-inch from one extreme to the other and a wide field of view promote instant and instinctive target acquisition at normal ranges.

The center dot is likewise, easily picked up and affords a reasonable degree of precision. The 42mm objective is optimum for light transmission making it likely this sight will be more practical with gun-mounted illumination frequently used by nighttime hog and varmint hunters than is true of most tactical optics. The Ballistic CQ reticle features graduated illumination with the handy feature that every other click of the dial turns the unit off—less complicated than several other lighted scopes. Battery power is via CR2032 3v, and should provide for long lasting and trouble-free operation. The Quick Detachable Burris, PEPR mount places the MTAC 2.7 inches above the center of the bore and provides a firm platform for the sight.

The 1.5-6x42mm Burris MTAC scope with illuminated Ballistic reticle is securely held to the M4V5’s rail in Burris P.E.P.R. rings. The acronym stands for “Proper Eye Position Ready” and is the ideal height for an AR, providing up to 2 inches of forward scope positioning for optimum eye relief and full field-of-view.

Shooting

Our editor found a variety of ammunition for the Blackout. No mean feat in the largest gun and ammunition-hoarding scrape in the history of the World. Quantities are sufficient for a reasonable overview but not so prolific as to permit shooting at extended ranges to find out how useful the 7.62-calibrated aiming points might be with the smaller cartridge.

Barnes 110-grain lead-free bullets are used in two of the loads. The Barnes company deems them Tac-Tx and loads them in their VOR-TX ammunition line while CorBon calls the same projectile the “DPX” or “Deep Penetrating X Bullet.” Barnes has tested the round for expansion, penetration and weight retention out to 300 yards in standard and short-barrel arms. While Barnes stops short of applying the popular neologism “Barrier Blind Bullet” others do not and there is a broad consensus that the Tac-Tx is excellent for military/police operations as well as medium game hunting.

Performance-wise the Barnes and CorBon loads are virtually identical. Both produced groups of under 2 inches at 100 yards and actually produced higher velocity from the Daniel Defense rifle than advertised on the Barnes site. Not surprisingly, the slowest burning of the pistol propellants are the powder of choice for full-velocity handloads. Barnes suggests Hodgdon H110 but others mention Lil’ Gun and WW 296.

The full-velocity loads displayed the expected consistency with extreme spreads of from 30 to 50 feet per second. All were functional in the M4 rifle fulfilling the expectation of working perfectly with standard .223 magazines. The 125-grain CorBon BT load featuring the Nosler Ballistic tip boattail bullet turned in a group on the bottom edge of 2 inches and one slightly larger. The two heavier bullets—a PNW weighing 155 grains and the 220-grain Remington Subsonic produced groups of 3 inches and over. I had two experienced competition shooters fire groups with these loads just to make sure that shooter fatigue or some other issue wasn’t monkey-wrenching the results.

Mike Parsons has participated in the 50/50 precision rimfire matches and is a reliable shot. John Ridlehuber is a multidiscipline shooter, instructor and custom gunsmith who knows his way around AR rifles of all kinds. All of us grouped the loads in the 3- to 4-inch region. Whether the seeming preference of the gun/cartridge combination for the lighter weight bullets holds up with repeat observation remains to be seen.

Auxiliary backup sights are available as an accessory for the M4V5. Machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and mil-spec hard anodized, the fixed front and rear sight combo installs on any M1913 rail and secures with a slotted fastener threaded into a self-locking stainless steel thread insert.

Some commentators compare the Blackout round with the .30-30 Winchester Cartridge. This would seem to be quite a stretch given the near 2,400 fps published expectation for the 150-grain jacketed roundnose factory loads derived from 24-inch barrels. Several years ago I chronographed some 150-grain Winchester Western loads at 1,960 fps from a 20-inch Model 94 barrel. This is a near match for the results obtained with the PNW 155-grain AAC Blackout loads that have a more streamline bullet enhancing downrange potential.

The single available box of subsonic loads is a Remington loading of a 220-grain bullet. There were no failures to function with or without a suppressor in place in our limited observation. The velocities obtained from the 16-inch barrel both suppressed and unsuppressed, were interesting and, taken at face value, quite deceptive. Without the silencer, all rounds were subsonic—averaging a few feet per second slower than those fired through the Yankee Hill Suppressor. The suppressor, as is sometime the case, actually added significantly to the velocity. The average velocity through the suppressed barrel averaged under 1,100 fps but only because the lowest velocity was 170 fps slower than the highest which was 1,159 fps. Two of the rounds were borderline transonic at 1,120 and 1,125 fps. Only two of the five rounds were beneath the mach threshold. The extreme velocity spread does not seem to be a fluke as another five rounds clocked through the bare barrel showed an extreme spread of 120 fps. My best 100-yard group was taller than wide but no single bullet strike could be blamed for the overall size. It appears the Remington load should be reliably subsonic fired through the combined length of 10.5-inch barrel and 8-inch suppressor.

The most telling and largely subjective impression of a given shooting system (and often the most difficult to convey to the reader) comes when the evaluator steps away from the bench rest and chronograph and applies the weapon toward something approaching its intended use. This can happen in the game fields or on the range. Wrapping up a range session, I took time out to do some standing-offhand shooting on B27 Targets at 100 yards. I swapped back and forth between the Daniel Defense with its light overall weight and heavy mil-spec trigger and a much heavier varmint-scoped Bushmaster Predator with its 2-stage match trigger.

My first group with the Daniel Defense and a group with the .223 Predator were both well-centered but the second 5-round string with the Blackout landed dead center in a 4.7-inch spread. My 100-yard offhand groups don’t get any better than this. The scope turned up to full magnification hung steady on the center of the silhouette and the 6 pound, 8 ounce trigger proved completely (and surprisingly) controllable. Recoil with the CorBon 110-grain Ballistic Tip was no more significant than from a .223/5.56 and the report is quite a bit milder. Altogether it was a gratifying experience confirming my high opinion of the DD rifle and its compatibility with the .300 AAC.

The .300 AAC Blackout and Daniel Defense M4V5 are a winning combination sure to claim a large following among the most discerning devotees of the modern rifle.
By Mike Cumpston
Photos: Robbie Barrkman

John Ridlehuber shooting the Daniel Defense M4V5 with the Yankee Hill Titanium Phantom suppressor. John knows his way around sound suppressors and chose this top of the line model for his own use.

Yankee Hill Phantom Titanium .30 Caliber
Quick Detach Suppressor

John Ridlehuber, proprietor of John’s Guns near Lott, Texas, is the Central Texas Renaissance “Man of the Modern Firearm.” A certified repair station for Metro Arms, he deals in NFA tax stamp items, does custom pistolsmith work, teaches the Texas Concealed Handgun course and is a past president of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association.

That John uses the lightweight Yankee Hill QD Phantom on his own hog-control rifles is adequate testimony to its overall quality. John made his personal range and a great AR-specific Caldwell Lead Sled rest available to check out the Daniel Defense M4V5 .300 AAC Blackout with the premium Yankee Hill Suppressor. The manufacture deems this suppressor usable with any .308 cartridge stipulating that it should be allowed to cool down if used on full-auto fire. They consider this unit to be ideally suited to the .300 AAC Blackout rating it acceptable with a minimum barrel length of 8 inches with 10.5 inches being minimum for most other rounds. The Quick Detach suppressor is coupled with a flash suppressor that must be installed by a certified gunsmith to preserve the warranty. John fits this bill nicely and confirmed that the threads on the DDM4V5 are compatible with the unit. These QD flash suppressors are caliber-specific to prevent any inadvertent attempt to squeeze a .308 bullet down to a .223 through one.

Our nominally subsonic load proved to be transonic with the combined length of the barrel and 8.5-inch Phantom. Nevertheless, the report, even under the high metal roof over John’s shooting bench was nicely subdued. Even with full velocity Barnes VOR-TX the report at the muzzle was muted and no additional hearing protection remotely needed. John said suppressed rifles frequently show improved accuracy and my best 100-yard bench group was shot with the Barnes VOR-TX with the Phantom suppressor in place.

Titanium .30 Cal. Q.D. Phantom Suppressor
Maker: Yankee Hill Machine
20 Ladd Ave., Ste. 1, Florence, MA 01062
(877) 892-6533
www.gunsmagazine.com/yhm-co

Licensed Installation: John’s Guns
County Rd. 305, Lott, TX 76656
(254) 224-8246
www.johnsgunsetc.com

Caliber: .308, 7.62,
Overall Length: 8.5 inches,
Diameter: 1.5 inches,
Weight: 15 ounces,
Suppression Level: -32dB, Material: Titanium and heat-treated Inconel 718,
Finish: Natural matte,
Method of Attachment: Q.D. Flash Hider,
Price: $1,177

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