The New Innovations of the AR-15 and Olympic Arms
By Dustin Vaughn Warncke, Mac & Prowler Pro Staff
Much can be said about the innovations in the “Black Rifle” industry concerning the AR-15 and its many calibers and variations. I did not used to be a fan of the AR-15 platform for hunting or target shooting purposes. I often thought these rifles were too expensive compared to the myriad of other rifles and various calibers available on the market today. I respected these guns for their reliability, magazine capacity, accuracy, and other attributes, but just never saw myself owning one. That was the case until I encountered Olympic Arms and their impressive line-up of AR-15’s after joining Team Mac & Prowler.
One of the issues I have had with the AR-15 platform is using the .223 cartridge for anything larger than prairie dogs, coyotes, and other small game. That being said, I go on a weekend management whitetail deer hunt every fall during deer season here in the Central Texas Hill Country with my father-in-law on some family property owned by a friend of his. Both my father-in-law and his friend religiously hunt with a 22-250 and.223 WSSM (Winchester Super Short Magnum), respectively. Both men believe in only taking neck shots on bucks or does with either of these rounds as they can be anemic for behind-the-shoulder shots as can the regular .223. That being said, I had toyed with the idea of purchasing an AR in .223 since ammo is cheap and plentiful for target practice and many strides have been made premier hunting bullets for this caliber. The .223 was still not my first caliber choice for a deer or wild hogs or anything potentially larger than that. I wanted more versatility and the confidence of a more substantial cartridge like my rifles chambered .308 or .270 calibers already in my arsenal.
The UMAR Series from Olympic Arms
Olympic Arms came out with the UMAR (Ultimate Magnum AR) series of AR-15 Rifles in recent history and what they came up with, in my humble opinion at least, is a game changer in the AR-15 industry. You now have the opportunity to use a semi-automatic AR-15 in “hunting specific” calibers. The lightest of these is the 22-250, which is unique to the Black Rifle world since it is a longer cartridge than what usually comes in an AR-15 platform. The lower and upper assemblies compensate for this and the fit and function is truly remarkable. From there we get into an M&P all-time favorite, which is the 25 WSSM. This is a super short magnum cartridge and Olympic Arms was the first rifle manufacturer to bring this caliber to an AR-15 rifle. This caliber is roughly on par with the venerable 25-06. My grandfather and dad both swore by the 25-06 during their respective deer hunting years in South Texas in the 1970’s and 80’s. The 25 WSSM is a capable cartridge for virtually any sized game animal in North America and the versatility is fantastic out of an AR rifle. This cartridge has been around for a little while but the ability to chamber it into an AR rifle is revolutionary and Olympic Arms brought the heat with this rifle being that it is reasonably lightweight, accurate, and reliable as a Sherman Tank.
Now we get to one of the most innovative rounds that has captivated my attention lately and that is the Olymic Arms 300 OSSM (Olympic Super Short Magnum), exclusively chambered in the UMAR series of rifles. This is basically a 25 WSSM necked out from a .25 caliber bullet to a .30 caliber bullet. What is so revolutionary about this idea? Plenty! In the past, the only way to get a true high-powered .308 bullet out of an AR platform was to purchase an AR-10 chambered in .308 WIN. Two issues with the AR-10 was the weight of the rifle, which is considerably heavier than the AR-15 and cumbersome to carry all day, and the cost, which was substantially more than an AR-15. The 300 OSSM on the ballistics chart falls between the power of a .308 Win and a 30-06 but edges pretty close to the 30-06 on the spectrum. This reminds me of one of my other old stand-by calibers of similar power, the Russian 7.62x54r, made famous with the Mosin Nagant and Draganov Sniper Rifle. The 300 OSSM, on the other hand, is a much shorter cartridge than the .308 Win, 30-06, or 7.62x54r, but it packs a big rifle punch. With some loadings and grain weight options, you can even get ballistics between a .30-06 and a .300 WinMag! Out of an AR platform? Yes! With Olympic Arms UMAR series, you get performance of a true high power .30 caliber rifle and save the money you would normally have to spend on an AR-10 platform, not to mention, having a lighter and more versatile set-up. Currently, Hornady manufactures ammo for this caliber, with more companies sure ley to follow, but reloading is always a less expensive and viable option as well. One can easily neck up 25 WSSM brass to 30 caliber with a die set and easily load ammo from there.
The 300 AAC Blackout
One innovation that is relatively new to the AR community is the 300 Blackout. Throughout the years, many new calibers have been designed to shoot from the standard AR platform by just switching out the upper barrel assembly. Among these are the 50 Beowulf and the 458 SOCOM, which use larger projectiles that move slower than the standard .223 but are better suited for hunting applications. Other calibers have also been designed to work in this capacity such as the 6.8 Special, 6.5 Grendel, 7.62x39, 5.45x39, pistol calibers, and more.
What sets the 300 Blackout apart from the rest of the pack as the new kid on the block is that it functions from the same .223 cartridge basis, using the same standard .223 magazine capacity, bolt, etc. The only change needed to take an AR to this new caliber from the standard .223 caliber is a new upper assembly chambered in the 300 BLK. Basically, this round is a standard .223 case, trimmed and necked out to take a .30 caliber (.308 diameter) bullet. The really neat thing? You can load up to a 220 grain .308 bullet and the ballistics are similar to the 7.62x39 or the old fashioned 30-30. Now, that being said, unlike the 300 OSSM, you will not get 308 Win. performance due to the limitations of the .223 parent case. This round will move slower but hit hard. It is a true hunting bullet and is as accurate as a .223 in most cases out to about 300 yards or so. I would personally stay underneath 200 yards for hunting with this round, however.
Another nice attribute is that the 300 BLK is that it can shoot sub-sonic so it can be easily suppressed and save your ears from ringing in the field and at the gun range where hearing protection is concerned. Suppressors are now legal for hunting here in Texas so I have been seriously thinking about getting my Class 3 license so I can own one and take this set up out to the woods for deer season. I think this is a great option for hunters who currently have a .223 AR-15 and want to seriously beef up their hunting capabilities without having to purchase a new rifle. Olympic Arms manufactures uppers and complete AR assemblies chambered in 300 BLK.
So, my opinions of the AR-15 have dramatically changed over the recent past. I have told many people I “talk guns” with lately that we really are in the “Golden Age” of the firearms industry with gun manufactures constantly pushing the envelope and providing better products and performance out of both firearms, ammunition, and more!
We all win in the hunting and shooting community because to the fantastic innovations that are being made today and I for one am so excited about what the future holds. My gunsmith calls the AR-15 components “Adult Legos” since you can change parts and accessorize this rifle to your heart’s content. Check out all the awesome AR Rifles available from Olympic Arms at www.olyarms.com. See some of our hunts using the standard .223, the versatile 25 WSSM, and more on our website! Dustin Vaughn Warncke is an avid hunter, outdoor industry consultant, and Pro-Staff for Mac & Prowler and several other outdoor industry product and guide service businesses. E-mail Dustin at email@example.com