The AR-15 is America’s rifle in a very personal and individualist way—and in a manner no rifle has been since the Winchester ’73. The AR-15 may be modified, adapted, and built from scratch to suit the user. The rifle can be surprisingly affordable, or it may be as expensive and extensively modified as the user wishes. The rifle that was built as the subject of this review is in the middle of the road for expense, but at the top of my list for performance and versatility.
The rifle was intended from the inception as a .300 Blackout. The basic criteria were a low recoil and low muzzle blast rifle suitable for recreational use, hunting, and personal defense inside of 100 yards. The rifle had to be reliable above all else. Next, came fast handling in tactical situations. Practical, rather than bench rest accuracy, was stressed in the original design parameter. As it turned out, the rifle is quite accurate well past 100 yards.
The parts were a well-chosen mix of quality components from top makers. The upper and lower receivers are from Aero, a respected maker of AR-15 parts. A .093 gas port compliments a pistol length gas tube. The barrel wears a Gamma 7.62 muzzle brake and the KeyMod floating rail is from Seekins Precision.
The primary benefit of the Seekins handguard is that the handguard does not contact the barrel and apply pressure to the barrel at all. Pressure on the handguard from the support hand or rest should not affect the barrel and the point of impact on the target. That is what free floating is all about.
The handguard is mounted with the usual barrel locking nut and eight attachment bolts. The rail mounting system allows attachment of many types of optics, lasers, and a combat light. The rail also allows better cooling during firing. Seekins has done an excellent job with the M LOK slots and vents.
The surfaces are not likely to abrade the hand. The rail slightly overlaps the receiver in a pleasing look. There is nothing choppy about this set up. When firing from a rest the flat bottom handguard allows for excellent stability.
The Caliber Option
The .300 Blackout was chosen for many reasons. Low recoil and muzzle blast are among the criteria. The .300 Blackout has proven reliable and accurate, and no experimentation is needed to keep the rifle running properly. Heavy bullet loads—up to 220 grains—offer excellent accuracy in suppressed firearms. For my use, the standard 110- to 150-grain loads were preferable. The .300 Blackout is roughly comparable to the 7.62 x 39mm cartridge used in the AK-47 rifle but with greater accuracy. The receiver and bolt carrier are the same as the 5.56mm rifle. The rifle was used with the same PMAG magazines as the 5.56mm rifle. Function was perfect with 5.56mm magazines—a design goal of the .300 Blackout.
Once assembled and proofed, the rifle proved accurate using iron sights for initial work at 50 yards. The rifle handles well and the handguard proved a credible option in offhand fire and firing from a rest. Most of the initial work was done with Fiocchi’s clean burning, affordable and accurate loading.
The initial work up proved promising. Afterward, I mounted the TruGlo tactical riflescope with illuminated reticle for accuracy work. I fired the superbly accurate Gorilla Ammunition loads, and found the rifle would group thee shots into one-inch on demand at 50 yards. This was satisfying accuracy. However, the role of the rifle was better complimented with a red dot sight.
I mounted a 30mm TruGlo red dot and have enjoyed excellent results in speed shooting. Coupled with the SIG Sauer 120-grain load, this would be a great rifle for hunting wild boar at moderate range. Accurate, powerful, and with the capability for an instant second shot, this would be a good combination for field use.
I have been able to test three of Hornady’s .300 Blackout loads at this date. The 110-grain A Max load exhibits 2,350 fps velocity from my rifle and expands rapidly—stopping in about 10 inches of gelatin. This is a credible home defense loading.
Recoil was light. Muzzle blast is much less than the 3,000 fps 5.56mm cartridge. The 125-grain American Gunner, at 2175 fps, is an affordable loading that offers good performance. I found it reliable and accurate—as expected from Hornady. The Hornady Black loading uses a 208-grain A Max bullet at 1050 fps. This loading is particularly inoffensive in muzzle blast. Recoil is low.
At 25 yards, the loading cuts one ragged hole time and again in personal defense practice. I am leaning toward the 110-grain loading for wound potential; however, the low muzzle report of the 208-grain load is desirable for home defense. As you may note, this load mimics the energy of the .45 ACP handgun, but capable of much more accurate delivery.
The rifle is a great all-around shooter, and shows how careful integration of well made parts result in a rifle that offers real utility. I respect the budget but did not cut corners, and the rifle is put together properly. The Aero parts are credible workhorse receivers. I could have spent less on the handguard, but the handguard is in many ways the stand out feature of the rifle—and the single improvement that sets it apart from standard rifles.
TruGlo optics are a great choice for personal defense. I am still experimenting with loads for each chore, and that is a luxury. We have several outstanding loads to choose from. The project has been interesting, and the rifle is proving to be a much-used firearm.