I have been deploying, testing, and tinkering with a 300WM as a police marksman since the year 2000. As usual I have been quite contrary to the norm in this regard, but that has certainly never stopped me before. I have always believed that the ballistics of the 300 WM is an excellent compromise if you need to engage threats out to 300 yards. There is no doubt that the .308 is more than adequate for that task, but I find the flat trajectory of the 300WM, and its propensity to ignore the wind out to 500 yards an asset as well. Will I likely engage threats at 500 yards? Not really, this rifle was put together more as a means to provide information to my students. As I spend much of my time instructing this skill to other officers, I also try as many things as I can so they do not have to. Most importantly I get a kick out of trying different things, and that is the fun in this job. After 15 years of dealing with the less pleasant, and more mundane aspects of law enforcement, I am finally in a position to enjoy myself in this field, so I do. That being said, I do deploy this rifle and have done so on many occasions. I kind of figure if I have to shoot a bad guy with this thing at 100 yards, he or she won't be able to tell if it was a .308, or a 300WM!
There have been several drawbacks that have been attached to the 300WM system over the years. Various things have come out that deal with those concerns. The most common is recoil. Enter the suppressor. Unsuppressed, this is not a system for the faint of shoulder. When suppressed, this is no longer an issue. There are many high quality suppressors offered now that last a lifetime without maintenance, and they are more affordable, and more widely accepted in the "community". Also, every rifle I have suppressed [with the AWC Thundertrap] has resulted in either a slight increase, or at least no decrease in muzzle velocity. It has also often resulted in a lower standard deviation for whatever ammunition I use. The second concern has been ammunition cost, and barrel life. The cost of ammunition is still high by comparison. If you are sending 500 rounds a month downrange that is an issue, as is barrel life. I have heard anything from 1500 to 2000 rounds as a typical barrel life on these guns. Whether that is an issue or not, is kind of dependant on you. As to ammunition cost, I find that 500 rounds a year is more the norm in the police world, and correct or not, often less than that. That puts at worst a barrel life of 3 years, and maybe more. There has long been the belief that a long barrel [26"] was a requirement as well. I have been using a 20", medium contour barrel for years now with no adverse affect on accuracy, or bullet drop at distances to 1000 yards. The long action takes some getting used to, but I have no problem running the bolt with the best of them out there. With the advent of the WSM, that issue has also been addressed. Everything I have done with my 300WM should hold true with the 300WSM, and in fact maybe even better. I just started this project before its advent, and don't have one yet.
The other, and most applicable to the LE world is the "over penetration" issue. Frankly I find that to mostly be an issue for administrators and mathematicians. As an example, we recently had a marksman in our area shoot a suspect with a Federal Tactical 165 grain round. It went through the glass, the suspect, and a complete store rack of Halloween clothing, bounced off of the ground, and embedded itself in another rack several feet away. I doubt a 300 round would have done any better [or worse depending on your bent]. If your department wants a round that will not penetrate it likely won't let you carry a .308, so the 300WM is a non-issue. In most real scenarios there is no significant difference at close range. You still have to be certain of your target, backstop and beyond when you shoot someone with a .308, 300WM, or .223 for that matter. Another possible solution to that issue has been recent changes in ammunition, which is the real subject of this review. There is no doubt that the 190 grain GM Match is a bunch more penetrative than the 168 grain Gold Medal. However, we are now seeing departments move to the 175 grain round in their .308 caliber rifles. I have done the same thing, and find it more consistent in some of my rifles.
Which brings us to the ammunition I just tested. It will be described in length below, but it is only about 400 FPS faster than the .308 round out of the same barrel length. It is not significantly more "over penetrative", yet it is much flatter shooting, and still retains its ability to buck the wind. If you are a marksman working in a rural department, this could be of significant value to you [in my opinion of course]. I found that on a 200 yard zero I would be 1" high at 100 yards, and 2.5" low at 300 yards. I am only 6" up at 500 yards on this zero. That means that at any range from 50500 yards I would be able to hold center mass and strike my threat [at center mass], with little or no regard for the wind. That would be a pretty difficult task with a .308 round. I feel pretty certain that a 300 WM [or 300WSM] suppressed, with a short stiff barrel, is easily deployable as a police marksman rifle. In fact the advent of the "short fat 300 (300WSM)" was in part to facilitate similar ballistics with a shorter barrel. Is it for everyone, of course not, but for some it just may be the ticket. All this being said, here is my experience with this particular ammunition.
The rifle I used for this test started life as a Remington 700 Sendero, in 300 Winchester Magnum. It was built by Steve Barlow. Steve is a local gunsmith, and he owns Barlow's Custom Guns. His information is listed at the end of this review. He is an experienced rifle-smith, and has built many precision rifles for police officers in this area over the years. The action was trued, the bolt lapped, and a new Krieger barrel was installed. It has an M24 trigger with a very crisp 2lb trigger. It has a 20" barrel and it either sports an AWC Thundertrap, or an AWC Hyperdyne II muzzle brake. For the purpose of this test, the suppressor was not used. I have had this rifle since April of 2000, and have logged over 500 rounds through it. Unlike the review on the .308, this rifle is not unfired, and has exhibited excellent and consistent accuracy for years. It is a "same hole" rifle at 100 yards with 190 GM Match, and some 168 grain Hostage Rescue stuff I purchased for it years ago. That stuff works great, but he is out of business so it is no longer available. It is bedded in an HS precision stock, and sports an IOR 2.5 to 10-power scope that is mounted in Badger rings and a Badger one-piece base.
The ammunition for this review is loaded at the TTI Ammunition Factory in Draper Utah. It is a 178 grain A-max bullet loaded to typical factory match grade specifications. As I stated in a previous review, I am not into "loading my own", so the specifics such as powder, brass, powder weights, bullet lengths and the like I will let you get from Ryan at TTI. All I care about is how it shoots, and whether it does so consistently. This particular lot was loaded with both the standard case, and the Low Observable case. I was mostly interested to see if it had the same problems I experienced with my Robar [.308], and if it changed the consistency of the load. Neither was coated in Moly for this test. For this test I fired the round out to a distance of 1000 yards.
The vast majority of the testing of this ammunition was conducted at the FARM training facility in Utah. As I am a staff member I have access to this range, and it allows me many options. All of the testing is at an altitude of about 5000 feet above sea level. The ranges are all confirmed with a laser. All of the testing was done from prone, lying on a drag bag, either in the gravel, in the dirt, or on the snow. All testing was done with a bipod. Once again, as I have yet to have anyone provide a shooting bench for me on an operation, I do not test from that apparatus. Everything was done from what would typically be an operational shooting position.
After zeroing the scope to the ammunition I commenced to "shooting groups". This is mostly to test the consistency of the load. The first group out of the rifle was a cluster of five rounds measuring about a half an inch [see picture above]. That is about as good as it gets with this system. I fired several five shot groups with both the Low Observable, and the standard case. It all held easily within less than three quarters of an inch. I then fired two groups, one after another, on the same target, using both cases. It was essentially a 10 round group measuring once again, well under one inch. There was absolutely no difference in POI with either case. As it was the same lot, it was to be expected, but it clearly was loaded not only to match specifications, but very consistently.
I was able to fire five true cold bore shots with this ammunition. As I have stated in previous writing, this is where the rubber meets the road for me. It has to go where I aim it, on the first shot, on a clean cold bore. I made certain I followed precisely the same cleaning regimen each time so as to test the ammunition's consistency. Of the five rounds three were the LO cases, the others were standard brass. There were not any real significant changes in temperature, and they were all fired at the same place, and at the same target. This ammunition performed well here as well. I fired at a one half-inch circle, charted on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper at 100 yards. On every occasion it either went dead center, or cut part of the circle. That essentially means it held its zero about as well as can be done when shooting from operational positions, and under operational conditions.
We have had unusually clear weather this year, so some very ideal conditions existed for this part of the test. The temperature was 55 degrees, it was overcast, and there was a wind at 11MPH that fluctuated between a one quarter, and one half value. The target I was shooting at was a "flash target" constructed by a local target maker. It sports a massive 8" circle to shoot at. I determined this was a pretty good way to get the proper elevation on this round. To put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, I put no windage in the scope at any of these ranges. For the purpose of comparison, if using 175 grain Gold Medal at 500 yards, an 11mph wind would typically require a 2" adjustment at 100 yards . As that is a 10" correction at 500 yards, it may be an issue on an 8" target. Also to be fair I used no "Kentucky Windage" when shooting at any of these ranges. Everything was a center mass hold. This was designed to point out if there was truly an advantage to the 300 WM in fighting the wind.
What I wanted to know here was how the "dope" for this round would compare with the information I had on the 190 grain bullets. The question for me was, do I give up long-range advantages for the lighter bullet weight. As the BC for the A-max round is superior to the BTHP round, I was thinking it might offset any disadvantages. In my case at least this proved to be true. I started each session at each range with the information I had for my 190 grain GM round, and adjusted for impact with the 178 grain load. This should eliminate any comparisons by barrel length as all were fired from the same rifle. I was very pleasantly surprised. At every distance it was within one inch of the 190 grain load. It actually seemed to get better at about 500 yards and held exactly the same dope out to 800 yards. At 900 yards I put in 24.75 MOA in my scope with the 190 grain round. With the 178 grain round I put in 25.50 MOA. At 1000 yards I put in 29.50 MOA in the scope for the 178 grain load, which is less than an inch difference. As I now use a scope with half-minute dials, they may have been even closer. The short of it is there was no significant difference out to 800 yards, and it actually shot flatter out to 500 yards. Once again, I am not a bench rest guy, so the difference is in fact not significant to me. The guy at the end of the bullet at 1000 yards likely could not tell me it took another 10" of bullet drop to get there. With this scope I shoot out to 900 yards with less than one turn of the dial, and that is fine with me.
Once again, I am pleased with this ammunition. It is as consistent as any match grade ammunition out there, and since it is a factory load I can actually use it "on the job". In this case the LO Observable case provided absolutely no feeding problems. I will again caution you, that if you are using the LO case for real work, you will need to either Moly coat the bullet or similar. I set this rifle out in the weeds with the ammunition in the pouch and the case cannot be seen. The bullet though was as clear as a bell. I tried it with the .308 Moly stuff and I could not see it. If you are not a "Moly guy" then OD 100mph tape where the rounds protrude may be an option. I am sure someone out there has already come up with solutions to that issue. Although this is a test of TTI armory ammunition, it seems to prove the validity of the 178 grain A-max bullet in this application. That being said, there are few places available to us such as TTI Armory. They can load "factory ammunition" to useful specifications, at a reasonable price. So far everything I have used that they build is great stuff. It is not that the Gold Medal ammunition is not great, it has just been all we could use in the police world for some time. Although there are a number of other options now available, none seem to be as versatile as TTI Armory, at least in this part of the country. I will continue to use their product, and would encourage anyone who wants to try something different to give them a call, and give them a try.