If you want to improve the stopping power of your current 5.56 or .223 AR-15, one of the best ways to do so will be to upgrade the rifle to the .458 SOCOM round.
The .458 SOCOM is a larger and more powerful round designed to be fired through the AR-15, and it can be done simply by replacing the upper receiver on your existing 5.56 lower. Then, if you want to shoot 5.56 again later, all you have to do is swap out the uppers again.
Best Overall Pick: Wilson Combat .458 SOCOM Build Kit with Heavy Barrel
This Wilson Combat .458 SOCOM build kit comes with some of the highest quality materials on the market. The match grade barrel itself is built out of a durable 416R stainless steel material with a nice looking bead blasted finish. When it comes to both aesthetics and functionality, the Wilson Combat is hard to beat.
Best Budget Pick: Faxon Firearms AR-15 Gunner Big Bore Barrel .458 SOCOM
At just 10.5 inches, the Faxon Firearms Gunner Big Bore Barrel may be the shortest barrel in this list, and it’s also the most inexpensive too. The short barrel length is excellent for packing around in the brush (where the .458 SOCOM is probably most at home), and the button rifling and target crown help improve accuracy despite the shorter length of the barrel.
Best Value Pick: Brownell’s AR-15 .458 SOCOM Barrel
The Brownell’s AR-15 .458 SOCOM barrel provides you with everything that you will need in a barrel for your .458 SOCOM and for a price that is not at all outrageous.
When putting together the components for a .458 SOCOM upper receiver, one of the most important pieces (if not the most important) is the barrel, because the performance of your round is only as good as the barrel is. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the merits of the .458 SOCOM round and what it’s intended for, the top qualities that you will need to look for in a .458 SOCOM barrel, and then our picks for the top three best .458 SOCOM barrels on the market today.
Why The .458 SOCOM?
The .458 SOCOM is a round that was designed for one reason: to greatly increase the stopping power of the 5.56x45mm NATO round, and to do so in a way that enable it to still fit in existing AR-15 carbines and rifles and be fully compatible with existing AR-15 parts, including the magazines. As was noted previously, the .458 SOCOM upper receiver will fit on the 5.56 lower.
Designed and released at the turn of the millennium, the .458 SOCOM was intended for Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, who desired a round that could put down enemy combatants with only one round (US troops and special operations soldiers overseas were consistently having to shoot enemy combatants multiple times in order to take them down). In addition to being used by SOCOM units, the .458 was also adopted by the Coast Guard for situations where more punch than the standard 5.56 was needed.
Basically, the .458 SOCOM is very similar to the .45-70 Government. It offers a lot of knockdown power, although only within relatively moderate distances. Like the .45-70, the .458 SOCOM is not intended to be a long range caliber and it should be used within four hundred yards or so.
However, within those distances the .458 has quite a lot to offer, and can take down anything in North American such as deer, elk, moose, wild boar, wolves, mountain lions, or black or grizzly bear. The .45-70 Government is already a very popular round amongst hunting guides as defense against dangerous big game.
However, .45-70 is usually chambered in lever action rifles, which have a dramatically lower rate of fire. By using the .458 SOCOM, it would be very similar to using the .45-70 only as a semi-automatic, permitting fast follow up shots. If you’re ever out in bear country, having an AR-15 chambered for the .458 SOCOM would be excellent for self-defense.
In fact, you can even use your existing 5.56 magazines with the .458 SOCOM round. A twenty round AR STANAG 5.56 magazine will accept seven .458 rounds, and a thirty round 5.56 magazine will hold ten. Whereas 5.56 magazines can hold the 5.56 rounds double stacked, it will hold the .458 rounds single stack. You can read more about .458 SOCOM magazines here.
If you want to greatly improve the stopping power of your AR-15 and make it a suitable big game hunting rifle, then installing a .458 SOCOM upper on it would be a great way to do exactly that.
When assembling your .458 upper receiver, easily the most important piece will be the barrel because it has the most direct impact on your rifle’s performance. Next, we’ll discuss the most important qualities and features that your .458 barrel should have.
Buyer’s Guide To Finding The Best .458 SOCOM Barrels
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new barrel for your .458 SOCOM rifle:
Shorter length .458 SOCOM barrels are far more common than longer ones. The .458 is a powerful round but it has been optimized to be used in shorter length barrels measuring from 7.5 to 10.5 inches. You will need to abide to state and Federal guidelines in regards to how short of a barrel length that you can have.
The main advantage to a shorter barrel is it makes the rifle much more wieldy and maneuverable in tight conditions. If you plan on using your .458 SOCOM AR primarily for either home defense or for brush hunting.
That being said, a longer barrel will give you higher velocity and overall better performance. If you want to use your .450 SOCOM to touch targets at longer distances of three hundred to four hundred yards (which the .458 is more than capable of doing), then you should go with a barrel length of at least sixteen inches long.
In short, the barrel length that you choose for your .458 SOCOM should come down to your intended use for the rifle.
Your barrel should be built out of durable and quality components such as steel. Popular options include stainless steel or CMV steel. These kinds of metals will be able to handle the heavy power of the .458 round, and can also sustain and resist abuse (such as you accidentally dropping the rifle over a hard surface).
Furthermore, you should get a barrel that has a rust and corrosion resistant finish as well. Stainless steel is naturally a rust resistant metal, but additional finishes such as nitride or cerakote can greatly help to improve the durability and rust resistant properties of the barrel as well.
There are a variety of additional features that may not be truly necessary for your .458 barrel but that would still be nice to have.
For example, do you want to have the ability to add a suppressor to your rifle? If so, you’ll need the barrel to be threaded at the end. No, it’s not totally necessary to need to add a suppressor to your rifle, but it can still be nice to have the option.
Another feature that will be nice to have is a target crown, which helps to protect and preserve the rifling inside the bore, which in turn means that your rifle will be kept more accurate over the long term.
Another nice feature that could be nice is to have a fluted barrel, which means that grooves have been cut into the outside of the barrel to decrease mass and increase surface area, thereby promoting faster cooling and permitting extended firing sessions.
You don’t have to have these kinds of features in your .458 barrel if you don’t want to, but at the very least, they are worth considering having.
Best .458 SOCOM Barrels
Here are the top three best .458 SOCOM barrels on the market:
Brownells AR-15 .458 SOCOM Barrel
The Brownells AR-15 .458 SOCOM barrel measures sixteen inches in length, making it a carbine length barrel and gas system. This is a very practical and convenient length overall, and for American civilians 16 inches is actually the most popular barrel length.
Brownells machined this barrel out of 416R stainless steel and also built it to mil-spec standards, which means that it should work just fine with other mil-spec AR-15 components and can be installed into an upper receiver by you without needing the services of a gunsmith.
The nitride finish that has been applied to the surface of the barrel is also very rust and corrosion resistant, although the matte black look is overall not the nicest looking (although it is definitely effective at keeping the reflection from the sun at bay).
As an added bonus, Brownells installed a target crown onto the end of the barrel. A target crown is designed expressly to protect the interior rifling, thereby preserving accuracy over the long term. The rifling itself on the inside of this barrel is the tried and true land and groove rifling design. The muzzle has also been threaded in order to allow suppressors to be attached if the user so desires.
As a whole, the Brownells AR-15 .458 SOCOM barrel is durable, effective at what it does, and designed well. It comes with a number of features that you would expect to be on a higher end model, making the Brownells an overall great value.
- Built out of 416R stainless steel
- Nitride finishing is very rust and corrosion resistant
- Eleven degree target crown helps improve accuracy
- 16 inch barrel is practical and versatile length overall
- Built to mil-spec standards
- Utilizes traditional land and groove rifling
- Muzzle is threaded to allow suppressors
- Matte black finishing look is not the most aesthetically pleasing
Faxon Firearms AR-15 Gunner Big Bore Barrel .458 SOCOM
The Faxon Firearms AR-15 Gunner Big Bore Barrel for the .485 SOCOM is easily the shortest barrel on this list at just 10.5 inches. This short length will make packing your .458 AR-15 out in the thick brush and woods a breeze, as the shorter barrel is much more maneuverable.
Of course, to get that shorter barrel you’re also going to be sacrificing bullet velocity and performance, especially at longer ranges. Fortunately, Faxon Firearms took action to increase the accuracy potential of the Gunner Big Bore Barrel as much as possible, including adding button rifling to the inside of the barrel and an eleven degree target crown.
The barrel itself is built out of a durable 4150 CMV steel and with a black nitride finish applied to the surface that is very rust and corrosion resistant. As a pistol length barrel, the Gunner Big Bore Barrel has a 1:14 twist rate with button filing.
The end of the barrel has also been threaded in order to accept suppressors. Since the barrel is already short at just 10.5 inches, this means that adding a suppressor to the end of your rifle will not add nearly as much length as if you were using a full or mid length version. You can actually add a suppressor while you’re out hunting, and if you find wild game to shoot the noise will be dampened significantly. Alternatively, if you’re going to be target shooting where other people are in close proximity, using a suppressor will be much more courteous.
If you’re looking for a short barrel that is maneuverable in the brush or other tight conditions, you’ll definitely want to consider the Faxon Firearms Gunner Big Bore Barrel. Even though it’s only 10.5 inches, Faxon has added features onto it to improve its accuracy as much as possible.
- Short 10.5 inch barrel is excellent for hunting in thick brush
- Built out of durable 4150 CMV steel
- Button rifling
- Muzzle is threaded to allow suppressors
- Black nitride finish is very rust and corrosion resistant
- Eleven degree target crown increases accuracy
- 10.5 inch barrel is unwieldy and maneuverable, but also sacrifices bullet velocity and performance at longer ranges
Wilson Combat .458 SOCOM Build Kit with Heavy Barrel
First of all, this is not just the barrel for a .458 SOCOM but an entire kit that you can use to help assemble your .458 upper. Besides the barrel, the kit also consists of a bolt carrier assembly, adjustable gas block, gas tube, accu-tac flash hider, and a blue print that outlines how you can install these components in an upper.
Built by Wilson Combat, which manufacturers some of the best AR-15s on the market today, the barrel that comes with this kit is a match grade barrel built out a very durable 416R stainless steel material and with a nice looking bead blasted finish.
The barrel also has a gas port that has been optimized by Wilson Combat for reliability, a precision muzzle crown to ensure accuracy, and a hand polished bore on the inside of the barrel.
It’s hard to beat what Wilson Combat has to offer here. While you’re definitely going to pay a premium price if you want this kit, you’re also going to be getting very high quality components and a match grade stainless steel barrel that has been optimized for maximum reliability and accuracy.
- Comes as part of a kit with other upper receiver components
- Built out of durable 416R stainless steel
- Match grade barrel
- Gas port is optimized for reliability
- Nice bead blasted finish
- Precision muzzle crown to ensure accuracy
- Hand polished bore on the inside of the rifle
And that includes our list of the top three best .458 SOCOM barrels on the market today.
Not all .458 SOCOM barrels are created equally, and the specific barrel that you choose is going to have the biggest impact on the performance of your rifle. By choosing one of the three barrels that we have discussed today or by choosing one that meets the qualities we discussed earlier as well, you can be rest assured that you will have a solid barrel for your .458 SOCOM AR-15.