Aiming for the Australian market
Several years ago Hornady Manufacturing Company, US creators of reloading equipment and components as well as factory ammunition, saw a chance to market some of their most popular handgun calibres and loads under the ‘American Gunner’ label. The plan was to give shooters renowned load offerings in bulk packaging at an affordable price which in turn guaranteed quality and value to the end user.
At release the emphasis was on handgun calibres, catering naturally to the huge US demand, but more recently Hornady have repeated the concept with rifle ammunition via the introduction of five calibres to the American Gunner range in various load combinations. Recognising Australian shooters love a good deal just as much as their US counterparts, Hornady importer/distributor Outdoor Sporting Agencies sent Australian Shooter some American Gunner ammo for test and review purposes.
Of course we know the US sector is dominated by firearms (self-loaders) which are either extremely limited or totally prohibited for civilian Australian shooters, so some of the five American Gunner calibre selection might not be the biggest drawcards Down Under. Thankfully the array does cover our local top sellers in .223 Remington, .308 Winchester and the new-favoured long-range kid on the block in the 6.5 Creedmoor. Maybe more niche in this bracket the .300 Blackout and 7.62×39 calibres round out the options, though in bulk form they should prove popular with primary producers and feral animal controllers with Category ‘D’ rifles chambered in those groupings.
American Gunner rifle ammo comes packaged in quantities of either 50 or 200 rounds, the 50-round packs standing upright on a flat polystyrene tray ready for use on targets or in the field. The 200-round offering is loose packed in a tidy and reusable polymer ammo can, a bonus being the cans have two small ring tabs to accept a tiny lock for additional secure storage and transit – always check local legal requirements for compliance.
Ammo for review included a 50-pack in .308 Winchester and 6.5 Creedmoor as well as a 200-round can of .300 Blackout and while the first two calibres need little introduction, not everyone may be familiar with the .300 Blackout round, so indulge me a little.
The .300 Blackout is dimensionally close to, and in most cases interchangeable with, the .300 Whisper cartridge, both designed on a necked-up (from .224 to .30) .221 Remington Fireball cartridge, introduced by Remington in 1963 for their XP-100 pistol and mainly used in Metallic Silhouette. The .300 Whisper was developed in 1992 by J.D. Jones of SKK Industries, primarily as a more accurate subsonic pistol round firing heavier rifle bullets while also being ideal in suppressed rifles.
The .300 Blackout was built up in 2009 by Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) who’d been tasked by a military customer to expand a .30 calibre round to function in an M4 platform rifle using the same magazine and bolt face with no loss of magazine capacity. The client also required an ammunition supply to meet SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) standards.
The .300 Whisper wasn’t a SAAMI standardised cartridge so once the specification was finalised with the client (which does differ slightly from the .300 Whisper), AAC registered it with SAAMI as the .300 AAC Blackout and Remington produced the first factory ammunition.
Ballistically the .300 Blackout isn’t all that far off the venerable 30/30 Winchester round but in a more compact and modern rimless case design. It works well on medium game under 200m and is chambered by many rifle manufactures in bolt-action offering and, as a result, has also found favour with some Aussie hunters for close-up work on pigs and suchlike in solid bolt-action rifles.
The Hornady American Gunner .300 Blackout loading pushes a 125gr Match grade hollow-point projectile at 2175fps to deliver 1313ft/lb of energy at the muzzle. Factory-stated ballistics have it 3.9^ high (call it 100mm) at 100yds (90m) for a 200yd (180m) zero. The 125gr Hornady Match projectiles have a cannelure groove with solid factory crimp and I noted the primer’s pockets appear crimped as well, both valuable features on ammunition that may be used in self-loading firearms where authorised by licence.
At time of testing I had a Warwick Firearms WFA1 straight-pull rifle on hand with an upper chambered for the .300 Blackout round, an ideal calibre match for such a trim, fast-handling rifle. I started testing with a low-powered variable before moving to an EOTech zero magnification red-dot sight. Accuracy was well up to par from the WFA1’s short 14^ barrel and even at 200m on my rifle plate rack, positioning the dot on the top edge of each plate had them ringing and swinging with relentless monotony.
I’d already received the good oil on the American Gunner 6.5 Creedmoor loading when it was recommended by chassis manufacturer Southern Cross Small Arms. I’d asked for some loading data on the 6.5 Creedmoor and was basically told: “Just grab a box of that American Gunner stuff.” Turns out they’d experienced outstanding accuracy with it in their own chassis makes.
The American Gunner 6.5 Creedmoor load delivers a 140gr boat-tail hollow-point Match projectile at a muzzle velocity of 2690fps with 2249ft/lb of energy at the muzzle and a high Ballistic Coefficient of .580 (G1) keeps them flying soundly out to those extreme long distances where the 6.5 Creedmoor round excels.
For accuracy testing I turned to my recent Creedmoor chassis build using a Howa 1500 barrelled action in Southern Cross Small Arms’ TSP X chassis with a GCPD high efficiency three chambered muzzle brake. Typical groups achieved measured around the 0.5 MOA mark centre-to-centre and often included clovers of three to four shots into roughly half of that. In reality that’s about the best I can shoot on a good day with any equipment.
The American Gunner .308 Winchester offering is loaded with a 155gr boat-tail hollow-point Match bullet at 2700fps, making it reminiscent of the of the old ‘Palma Match’ target loading.
Ballistics printed on the box has the load 2.1^ high (53mm) at 100yds (90m) for a 200yd (180m) zero while muzzle energy of 2509ft/lb holds strong, still clocking up 1007ft/lb of energy at 500yds (457m). This time I reached into the gunsafe for my own Remington 700 Police which is well set up and I have great confidence in. Accuracy mirrored the 6.5 Creedmoor loading with five-round groups around the 0.6 MOA mark, groups in that vicinity always a good day in my book.
It doesn’t seem that long ago you could have spent hours fine-tuning handloads for this type of accuracy so to achieve such results straight out the box from reasonably priced factory rounds is impressive and testimony to the quality of modern factory-made ammunition. I’d note the American Gunner loadings were also reasonably mild and not pushing absolute maximum velocities or pressures, something I see as a plus as I’d gladly sacrifice 100fps in velocity if still achieving premium accuracy. This also makes the loadings simple to shoot and easy on equipment and importantly brass should you wish to reload the cases.
From experience, Hornady’s excellent boxer primed (single flash hole) brass is a breeze to resize and reload so even if you’re determined to reload long-term, American Gunner ammo can be a great place to start a new rifle. Grab 200 rounds to run in your barrel and when you’re done you have 200 Hornady level fire-formed cases to start working up reloads with.
American Gunner ammo is imported and distributed by Outdoor Sporting Agencies and available at all good gunshops. Check your local outlet for pricing. More at osaaustralia.com.au