The last post was getting a little long, and the subject had plenty of material left, so I’m splitting it off into it’s own post. If I find enough of these little footnotes of history, I may make this into an ongoing series. Let’s begin.
.30-Caliber AR Cartridges
The .300 HAM’R is a .223 case, necked up to .308″, and designed to be shot out of a standard AR upper and lower, only requiring a barrel swap. That is literally the selling point of the .300 Blackout, except that Wilson Combat made their cartridge unusable with heavy subsonic loads and projectiles. Wilson Combat claims that this incompatibility makes their .300BLK-clone shoot faster than .300BLK, but I have my doubts as to how much they actually gain. Wilson Combat isn’t the first to do this kind of thing, either. In fact, this isn’t even their first time to do this. A few years ago they introduced their 7.62x40mm Wilson Tactical which was a .30-caliber projectile in a necked-up .223 case, only requiring a barrel swap on a standard AR to function. It never got any traction in the market. Remington introduced their .30 Remington AR cartridge a few years earlier than that, against the then-new .300BLK. The .30 Remington AR had a fat body which necessitated all kinds of components to be changed for it to work in a normal AR, or a whole new rifle to be bought. I don’t think Remington even chambers anything in it today.
.243 Winchester vs 6mm Remington
Another example of multiple cartridges trying to fill the same exact role also comes from Remington. In 1955, Winchester introduced the .243 Winchester. Also in 1955, Remington introduced their .244 Remington cartridge as well (now called 6mm Remtington). Both are necked-down .308s, both shoot the same diameter projectile. The reason that the one is chambered by basically every bolt action manufacturer on Earth, while the other is relegated to custom handloaders history books, is simple: they competed for the same niche. There was not enough to consider them to fill different roles, so they competed head to head. The .243 Win won that contest because of better bullet weights and corresponding barrel twists to stabilize them (Remington has a long history of not paying attention to their customer base), but it could have easily gone the other way.
In what I thought was an interesting move, Hornady has recently waded into this long-dead battleground with a brand new offering: 6mm Creedmoor. This may be a redundant cartridge (in my pinion), but it isn’t to the general buying public. .243 is seen as a classic, old-school hunting round, with less recoil than a .308. 6mm Creedmoor, on the other hand, is seen as a natural progression of the 6.5mm Creedmoor, and so it is a competition and long range cartridge. A good (and depressing) example is the Ruger RPR. The Ruger RPR was introduced in 3 calibers: .308, 6.5mm Creedmoor, and .243 Winchester. After about 6 months on the market, the .243 chambering was discontinued due to lack of sales. In late spring 2017, the RPR was available in a new cartridge: the 6mm Creedmoor. It’s sales aren’t anywhere near the level of the 6.5CM, but it has yet to be discontinued. Though this is a redundant cartridge, the 6mm Creed sets itself apart with it’s long range competition heritage, and fills a different role in the minds of the general buying public. Perception is reality.
.338 Federal vs 8.6 Creedmoor
The .338 Federal is a big game cartridge created by necking up .308 brass. Through modern developments in powders, Federal and Sako together developed a cartridge that shoots heavier bullets than .308 faster than .308. .338 Fed shoots a 210gr ~150fps faster than a .308 shoots a 185gr. It does all of this with a minimum of recoil and only requires a barrel swap. Same bolt, brass, mags, stock, everything but the barrel. Really an incredible achievement, but terribly marketed. This cartridge has floundered basically from the day it was introduced. There has been some renewal of interest in the last year or so, but not much.
8.6 Creedmoor is a joint effort between Hornady and Kevin Brittingham of Q. This is a 6.5 Creedmoor necked up to 8.6.. (.338 in) and designed to hold 300+ grain subsonic projectiles, as well as much faster supersonic ones. This is a .300BLK-style sub & supersonic, dual-purpose cartridge, but for .308-sized guns. Really, the 8.6 has all the advantages of the .338 Federal but was also made to be suppressed well. I’ll go further into the 8.6 and Kevin Brittingham in a future post.
Even though these two look to be redundant and overlapping, I’d say that the greater flexibility of the 8.6 Creedmoor makes it the subjectively better round. Here’s an article that goes into the differences between them in greater detail than I can because the author has actually had hands-on experience with both.
This is one that I didn’t think I’d write about, but then I came across this, the .22-Creedmoor. If you’ll remember to my last post about cartridges, I said that if a caliber is redundant is completely reliant upon how well you’ve defined the role for that cartridge. I also stated that hunters are as bad about this as anyone else in the community, and this is a great example. Big .22cal cartridges are short-action (read: .308-sized) cartridges that shoot .22 caliber projectiles. Think of the complete opposite philosophy of 8.6 CM and .300BLK. These loads are the definition of “overbore”, where the bullet-diameter-vs-case-volume ratio is skewed towards case volume. This entire group of loads is due to varmint/predator hunters. From the early days of .22 Swift to the newest contender, the .22 Creedmoor, this group has been created for the sole purpose of hunting varmints (prairie dogs, wood chucks) and predators (coyotes, bobcats). These cartridges are too light for anything but the smallest deer, and too short-ranged for long range competition. They are small, light, screaming fast bullets, that are really only suited for shots within a few hundred yards. That being said, they absolutely dominate everything within their operational envelope.
So, are these actually redundant or not? I’m actually going to say no. and yes. It’s complicated. To me, I’d consider them redundant. There is too much overlap for me to look at a .22-250 and a .22-.243 and be able to decide which is subjectively better. At that point, available barrel twists would determine my choice. The thing to remember is that I’m not the target audience for these rounds. These bullets are for serious, dedicated hunters who reload and are very serious about their work. I’m simply too much of a generalist. I’d personally go for a .22 Creedmoor because there is factory brass available, brass can also be made by necking down 6mm Creedmoor brass, and it seems suited for 75gr+ projectiles. I would get that and would never think about getting a .22-250 to compliment it.
Like I keep saying, whether a round is redundant is determined by how narrowly you’ve defined the role you’re trying to fill. Define your role, check your options, and narrow your search criteria if you need to. If you’ve narrowed it down sufficiently and are still overwhelmed by the options, tell me so I can get more material to write about!
See you next Friday