Recently, GunsAmerica has been diving into all things 300 Blackout. Today’s spotlight is on a very special set from Barnes Precision Machine–an AR-15 with uppers in both 5.56 and .300 AAC Blackout. Why two upper receivers? That is the brilliance of the Blackout. 300 AAC, designed from the ground up to work with all existing AR-15 components except the barrel. Magazines, bolt, and all the internal parts are identical. If it was easier to switch barrels in an AR-15, I could use any existing AR I own for 300. In fact, the company that provided the ammo for this test uses cut down 5.56 brass to produce its .300 AAC case. Also by design, you cannot easily chamber a 300 round in a 5.56, or vice versa due to case shoulder dimension. But that still hasn’t answered the question at hand. Why two uppers?
A CARTRIDGE FOR ALL OCCASIONS
5.56 and 300 AAC compliment each other across a wide range of tactical solutions. I believe Blackout will soon become the weapon of choice for law enforcement–it was practically purpose-built for urban use. Inside of 250 yards, there is not much difference in the trajectory of these two rounds. But the Blackout is packing, on average, twice the bullet weight. Inside of 100 yards (most every law enforcement shooting I have ever heard of is inside this range), you also have the option of subsonic ammo. 300 AAC is available in up to 220 grain subsonic, which is a lot of oomph for such a small package.
Subsonic, even without a sound suppressor, is surprisingly quiet. You would still want to wear hearing protection, but the sound is significantly less than standard velocity ammo in either caliber. As an urban combat round, Blackout truly shines. The only real down side to Blackout for this application (at the current time) is the price. Blackout averages out around 82 cents per round as opposed to 33 cents for 5.56. And Urban Combat training requires shooting. Lots of it.
That’s the first reason. It is easy to train with 5.56. By simplified math, it takes me 2 cases of 5.56 to pay for my second upper receiver. I specifically ordered my 5.56 and 300 uppers to be identical for this reason. I can train relatively cheaply with my 5.56 gun, and then slap on the Blackout upper and I am ready to go. All of my CQB training has been done with an identical gun, but I am packing a much harder hitting round when its time to ride the breech. This also saves wear and tear on my go to work gun. Upper receiver parts rarely break, but it can happen. At the end of the day, I would much rather go into harms way with a gun having shot 500 rounds instead of 5,000.
What if don’t see a lot of CQB action?
The same holds true for hunters. I shoot from the prone when I am accuracy testing a gun, but I have never shot an animal from that position. And very rarely a person. Unfortunately the real world doesn’t look like a golf course. Back in USMC sniper school, the instructors called it perfect world prone, and they were right. Once a gun is zeroed and we have learned how to pull the trigger, practicing the prone position doesn’t do a lot for us.
300 AAC is a better choice than 5.56 for any large animals such as hogs or deer, but I dislike spending close to a dollar per trigger pull practicing shooting positions. Recoil is very similar in these two platforms, so using the 5.56 for training and the 300 for hunting is a very viable option. As a hunting platform, you could also build an upper receiver for different occasions. An 18-20 inch 5.56 for varmint and longer range shooting, a 14.5 inch pinned flash suppressor (or shorter with SBR paperwork) 300 AAC for larger game. Blackout doesn’t depend on velocity so much as bullet weight, and as such is much more viable in a short barreled weapon. 300 AAC is hell on hogs.
Why not be ready?
From a survivalist standpoint this set up also makes a lot of sense. At a savings of 5 pounds ( for the lower receiver), you gain the ability to use two kinds of ammo. It would also make sense to set up the 5.56 receiver as a DMR style weapon with a scope, using the shorter 300 receiver with a red dot as your urban combat gun. Switch between uses only takes about 30 seconds. If you buy the second upper complete with a bolt (identical to both guns), switching over is even faster, and you are carrying the most needed spare parts in an AR-15.
Let’s go back to the question. Why two uppers instead of two guns? Price. Outside of the barrel and hand guard, what are the two next most expensive parts on a AR? The trigger and the stock. A good stock can set you back $200-300 dollars, and so can a trigger. I always put AR gold triggers into my guns, and next to the barrel the trigger is the biggest component of accuracy. Quality is not cheap though, and this is one place where you should not skimp. I have seen plenty of cheap triggers rattle apart in short order, and its never pretty. For any type of working gun, I want the best stock I can lay hands on, one that will take some abuse. My current favorite is the Magpul UBR, which retails for $265. Those two components together are not cheap, but you only have to buy them once.
BARNES PRECISION MACHINE
The BPM rifle used in this article is truly a thing of beauty. It seems like everyone under the sun makes an AR these days, but no one does it like BPM. Barnes Precision is famous around the Fort Bragg area for accuracy and tight tolerances, as well as taking care of the troops when they need something. I won’t bore you with group sizes, but both these uppers were well under MOA accurate. The fit and finish have to been seen to be believed. The uppers are so tight it actually helps to squeeze the two halves of the gun together to get the take down pins out.
My favorite part of the BPM gun though has to be the hand guard. A unique design of Andrew Barnes, the hand guard is perfect. It is small enough to grip hard in the modern thumb over manner, and only has rails on top to provide positive contact with your hand all the way around. Modular rail sections can be added where you need them, and the QD sling swivels are built into the hand guard itself. The hand guard is milled from one solid piece of aluminum, and is as hard as a coffin nail. Prized on both the race circuit and tactical market, it makes the gun feel like an extension of your body. Every machined part is built on site in Apex, NC, and every part in the gun is made in the USA. If you are in the market for a hell and back AR, give Barnes Precision a call.
And if you want to get the most out of your training, and hunting, and defensive preparations, check out the 300 Blackout.