My friends at the TargetBarn company – an online ammo and targets retailer – apparently thought that my previous review of Federal Syntech 130gr “PCC” 9mm ammo was not the worst thing in the world that they had ever read, and offered to sponsor another ammo review. We went back and forth for a bit, because it’s the ammo crisis, and I also didn’t really know what anyone would find interesting. Boring reviews don’t help them, and they don’t help you.
Poking around, I noted that they had some of the 145gr Wolf .300 AAC Blackout ammo. Despite my previous assertions that .300 AAC Blackout is a caliber with no real mission, I had built out a cheap-ish upper anyways because Wolf had (or would have) cheap steel-cased ammo, and I’m a sucker for such things. They agreed to provide some for review. Well, smash-cut to September 2021, and that cheap ammo is not looking so likely anymore. Now we have a different question: should you stock up on a bunch of this before it’s gone?
(Full disclosure: I received 260rds of this ammunition from TargetBarn for my review. Given that they were from a vendor and not the actual manufacturer, I don’t believe this prejudices the review of the ammunition itself too much. It does make me favorably disposed towards TargetBarn, but I don’t think that’s entirely unreasonable!)
First, let’s talk a bit about TargetBarn, who sponsored this review and provided the ammo. They’re one of the bigger providers of cardboard action shooting targets, and they sell quite a lot of ammo as well. They are well-regarded in the community, and they’re a vendor you can trust..
The ammo I’m looking at in this review is Wolf 145gr .300 AAC Blackout. This is supersonic ammo with a steel case, lead core, and bimetal (magnetic) jacket bullets. The use of a steel case and a bimetal jacket lowers the cost of the cartridge, but does promote more wear on your barrel. It also allegedly puts more wear on your extractor, albeit I’ve never seen real evidence that it contributes early extractor failure.
The proposed use case is not immediately obvious. I’m going with “target shooting”. But as long as your match director is cool with bimetal jacket bullets, there’s nothing stopping you from using it in a multi-gun match, either. Given the usual inability for a shooter to recover brass in such a match, using steel-case is arguably preferable, since you’re not paying for brass you can’t retrieve… assuming performance is acceptable. We’ll get to that.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: the decision to use 145gr bullets is rather suboptimal. .300 AAC Blackout cases don’t have much room in them, and heavier bullets means you’re giving up room that could be user for powder. While I don’t think speed is everything, velocity is definitely something, and if you’re going to try to go supersonic, you may as well get enough velocity to make it worthwhile. I have to assume that they were simply leveraging the 145gr bullets they were already using for their 308 line of ammo. In a perfect world, 110gr bullets would have been the preferred choice of projectile.
I posited in my previous review of Syntech that ammo has two real qualities it should be reviewed on:
- Reliability: does it feed, cycle, and eject correctly? This is doubly true of .300 AAC Blackout, where the form factor of the bullet can sometimes cause feed issues in some magazines.
- Accuracy: does it have acceptable accuracy? In this case, I’m looking for a minimum of 3MOA accuracy. 2 MOA would be better. 1 MOA is… unrealistic for the price.
Accuracy is easy enough to test – shoot a group at 100yds with a known-accurate rifle and see how the ammo does. But reliability is arguably much trickier, and requires using a few different guns to check out various scenarios:
- Does it work across different magazines? I have some .300 AAC Blackout-specific Lancers, but what about other, lesser magazines?
- Does the primer ignite reliably? Russian primers are known to be tough, albeit rifles tend to hit them with some real force.
- Does it cycle my gun every time, including with a suppressor?
My experience is that rifle ammo tends to be less finicky than pistol ammo, so I didn’t go into this review expecting too much in the way of drama, except for feeding.
The ammo I’ll be comparing it to are my 125gr Hornady FMJ reloads, backed by 17.8gr Lil Gun, loaded to the cannelure on the bullet. These reloads have been flawless performers for me. My gun is an 8.5″ AR-15 SBR using a CMMG barrel, fixed gas, and a standard carbine buffer. The optic on it is a Vortex UH1 Gen2. One reason this review took so very long was because this gun had an optics failure in December, and I had to buy a new optic, rezero, and wait for another good 3gun opportunity to come by. (Catching the ‘rona didn’t help, either.) Many thanks to TargetBarn for their understanding and forebearance.
With all of that laid out, let’s go to the results of my testing:
Specifications: The rounds I measured were 2.13″ in length, with a bullet profile that looked reasonably conducive to feeding. No cannelure on the bullet was in evidence. Maximum cartridge length for an AR-15 magazine is 2.26″, so you have a fair bit of margin in terms of them fitting into out-of-spec magazines. They gauged just fine in one of my gauging blocks.
You can see above the round compared to a 147gr reload of mine at the cannelure.
Velocity: Using a Magnetospeed V3, I measured the velocity of the Wolf ammo without a suppressor. The result was an average velocity of 1669fps, SD of 54.5fps, and a min-max spread of 197fps. This wasn’t the result of a single outlier, either. (In case you care, my own (125gr) ammo had an average velocity of 1895fps, and it wasn’t a hot load at all.)
In my opinion, this is a somewhat poor performance by the Wolf ammo, and is about 50-100fps short from where I’d expect it to be. MPBR range does not exceed 150yds according to my ballistic calculator. This traces back to the questionable decision by Wolf to use a heavier projectile in .300 AAC Blackout, as mentioned above. In other words, if your 3gun match has a 200yd stage, be prepared to hold a bit high. And if it’s got a 300yd stage, be prepared to bring another gun. It is very adequate for self-defense distances, provided you’re OK with using FMJ for that.
Feeding test: While shooting for groups, I used the following magazines to test feeding:
- Magpul pmag gen3 30rd
- Magpul pmag gen2 30rd
- Lancer AWM 5.56 20rd
- Lancer AWM 300 30rd (control magazine)
- Lancer AWM 300 30rd w/ extension
.300 AAC Blackout is, nominally, supposed to work fine from 5.56 magazines. But the reality is that subtle differences in bullet geometry can lead to feed issues with some popular magazines. These tend to be the worst with the fatter subsonic bullets, but nothings truly safe.
Feeding was fine. No issues encountered.
Primer Testing: Russian (probably Murom?) primers are known to be a bit hard. My rifle had no trouble lighting them off, and I was using a fairly light trigger… with one exception. I had one round that didn’t light off on the first strike. I loaded it back up and it fired correctly. I would broadly consider this to be acceptable, especially since I was using a match trigger. This failure didn’t repeat itself in the remainder of my testing.
Cycling Testing: No problems with cycling when using the appropriate Lancer magazines. Rounds ignited, fired, and ejected appropriately. Not surprising, but you have to check. I ran a significant number of rounds with my Silencerco Hybrid attached, and function was also perfectly fine. In fact, I found it relatively gas-free, which was a nice change from getting gassed-out by 5.56 ammo.
Recoil: Recoil was not substantially different than my own ammo. This is sort of a subjective assessment, but it’s in line with the results of the chrono testing.
Accuracy Testing: I shot a few groups with a 1x optic at 50yds, and had trouble keeping groups closer together than 2″, and even 2″ was proving tricky. Now, it’s entirely possible you might have a rifle that groups better than mine did, but given the SD I got from it, I feel fairly comfortable stating that this is not precision rifle ammo. It’s about as accurate as most other bulk steel cased ammo.
In Action: I think the real crucible for any piece of shooting equipment is a match or a class, and one reason this review took so long was finding the right avenue to test this ammo “for real”.
Well, on May 1, 2022, I had my chance: the Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore 3Gun match. I ran the aforementioned rifle (no suppressor, just a flash hider), and my Sig P320 X5 Legion with Deltapoint Pro optic in the 2gun division. Maximum range was about 150yds on 2/3 IPSC plates.
On the field, the ammo held up really well. Practical accuracy was definitely there (I outperformed expectations on the sole distance stage), and reliability was perfect out of my 30rd Lancers with extensions. Recoil was on the heavy side due to not running a compensator, but the overall handiness of the 8″ barrel rifle made up for that on some stages. Combine that with taking Brian Enos’ advice to relax…
That’s right, I turned in my best multigun match placement ever (2nd place, with the fastest raw time) using a rifle I barely shoot (with a reflex sight to boot) and this ammo. Admittedly, a lot of that placement is due to my skills with an optics-equipped pistol, but make no mistake, the rifle and ammo were entirely competitive.
Conclusion: I know there are a fair number of points in this review that read like I don’t like the ammo. The funny thing is, that’s not true. It goes bang, and it hits about where I point at any range where it’s usable. At a cheap enough price, that’s more than acceptable. I’m fine with loading up some good stuff for the few shots that require a little more accuracy and not wasting a ton of money when you don’t need to.
But, let’s get it out in the open: this stuff isn’t as cheap as I think people envisioned when it was announced, owing in no small part to the ammo panic and the (upcoming?) Russian ammo ban. But if you look at in relative terms, it’s still the cheapest .300 AAC Blackout factory ammo you can buy. Thus, if you’re NOT reloading, this is your best bet for shooting as cheaply as you can in this caliber.
Many thanks again to TargetBarn for providing the review ammo. I want to especially thank them because this review took a long time due to a primary optic failure and personal life issues setting back my schedule. If you liked this review, I’d encourage you to buy from them, because they’re the ones who made it possible. Pick up some targets and pasters while you’re at it, too!