The 7mm-’08 in a Modern AR Platform: Ultimate Hunting AR? – Firearms News

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“Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way” – Tom Freston (American Mainstream Media Executive) Freston’s take on innovation is precisely the bedrock upon which the 7mm-‘08 Remington was developed. The unlikely child of two existing things being Winchester’s iconic .270 and .308 cartridges. Of course, the tinkerer I am, I had my own 7mm-‘08 itch to scratch, pulling it into my own 21st century pursuits on an AR-platform hunting rifle. To better understand why I had to go there with the 7mm-‘08, it’s probably best to begin with a good look at the cartridge’s parents. 

Age Before Beauty: .270 Winchester

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The author after a successful night. The 7mm-’08 is already a well-proven cartridge on North American game. In an AR, it’s even better!

A century old, the .270 Winchester was developed in 1923 and unveiled in 1925 for Winchester’s Model 54 Rifle. While most folks may not know the .270 Winchester’s parent case is the .30-‘03 Springfield, and perhaps most won’t know much about the .30-‘03 at all, it’s quite similar to the .30-‘06 Springfield. The greatest difference being case length. Yes, .30-‘03 is the parent case for .270 Winchester as well as .30-‘06; in fact, it’s safe to shoot .30-‘06 in a .30-’03, and they both employ a .308 bullet (7.82mm). All three cartridges also boast a case capacity of 67 to 68.2 grains. With these similarities, what is the .270 Winchester’s draw? In short, recoil energy and effective range.


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Focusing on what shooters and hunters are more familiar with, the .30-‘06, Winchester’s .270 is much more comfortable to shoot, sporting roughly 25-percent less recoil and delivers roughly six inches less drop at 500 yards, depending on bullet weight. Of course, as a wordsmith, I also appreciate legendary Outdoor Life editor and writer Jack O’Connor’s affinity for the cartridge. “Assuming a cartridge can make its way on merit alone, that cartridge is the .270 W.C.F.” (Winchester Center Fire), said O’Connor. O’Connor’s first experience with the .270 Winchester was with a Model 54 he purchased in 1925. In 1959, he purchased a Model 70 Featherweight. While the .270 Winchester is quite a capable round, its popularity through decades was centered on O’Connor’s 50 years’ worth of endorsements. It was, by far, his favorite for good reason. “If the hunter does his part, the .270 will not let him down,” said O’Connor. Forty-seven years after Jack O’Connor left a void in outdoor communications, his unwavering endorsement of the .270 continues to impact its popularity. 

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This custom build includes a Wilson Combat barrel, JP Enterprises bolt, Geissele trigger, and a Watchtower Firearms UDR-10 Chassis. The build was topped off with a can from Dead Air.

The Less Enthusiastic .308 Winchester

Starkly contrasting O’Connor’s affinity for the .270 Winchester, he was not excited at all about the .308 Winchester, believing a .30-‘06 could do the job “somewhat better.” He wasn’t necessarily wrong. The best argument for .308 Winchester, launched in 1952, is likely to be found in little more than short-action versus long-action configurations. In fact, the military moved forward with its version of the .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO) because of the lighter, more compact fitment of the .308’s short-action case for M14 rifles. Of course, what’s not to appreciate about near .30-‘06 performance in a short action and with tad lighter recoil energy compared to the .270? As a side note here, the parent case for the .308 Winchester is the .300 Savage, while the parent case for the .30-‘06, as mentioned previously, is the .30-‘03. Today, .308 Winchester is arguably one of the world’s most popular big-game hunting cartridges, but suggesting it’s “better” than the .30-‘06 may be a bit of a stretch. That said, spending time in the gospels of .270 and .308 Winchester, a reasonable and advantageous marriage of the ideas behind both brings us back to the 43-year-old 7mm-‘08. 

7mm-’08: Hello World!

While Jack O’Connor had an affinity for the .270, my appreciation for ballistic tinkerers can’t be overstated, and the 7mm-‘08, forged from a 7mm-308 wildcat cartridge, first developed in 1958, is a splendid example. As its wildcat name implies, the 7mm-‘08, officially adopted by Remington in 1980, is comprised of a .308 case necked down to a 7mm (.284) bullet. The result? Well, for the past 43 years, perhaps one of the respected bolt-action hunting cartridges for North American big game hunting. In a nutshell, the 7mm-‘08 Remington boasts the best from both – ballistic performance on par with the .270 and the short-action case benefits of the .308. 

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The custom 7mm-’08 ran incredibly well on the range and in the field.

With my eyes on the 7mm-‘08 prize, I began the hunt for AR system components compatible with the iconic cartridge. A quick search led me to Wilson Combat. As one who thought I was on this road alone, I was surprised to find Wilson Combat already offered an affordable, match-grade, 416R stainless-steel, 18-inch, 7mm-‘08 barrel with a 1:9-inch twist ratio. Additionally, I understood the 7mm-08’s parent case of .308 Winchester, and slightly less SAAMI chamber pressure (61,000 psi compared to the .308’s 62,000 psi) meant I would be fine with a standard .308 bolt carrier group. However, in case I decided to tinker with the 7mm-‘08 load on my own down the road, I opted for JP Enterprises’ enhanced high-pressure bolt. Along with the JPE bolt and Wilson Combat barrel, I also opted for Wilson Combat’s adjustable gas block and rifle-length gas tube, as well as Luth-AR’s always-reliable buffering system, the stock tube included. While I am a huge fan of single-stage triggers, I opted to give Geissele’s two-stage Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E) model a try, and I’m glad I did. While Geissele reports a 2.9- to 3.8-pound trigger pull, I was pleasantly surprised. Using a Wheeler trigger gauge through six consecutive pulls, I averaged precisely 2 pounds, 12 ounces, perfectly fitting my preferred hunting-trigger weight. 

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The Geissele trigger is light with a clean break, helping make this custom 7mm-’08 highly shootable.

With a handful of parts collected, I hunted for a premium, aggressively styled large-frame AR receiver and handguard set, ultimately finding the perfect fit and form in Watchtower Firearm’s UDR-10 chassis, dressed out in a cool, matte-anodized Urban Camo finish. It’s flashy enough to turn heads yet muted enough to fit my night-hunting bill perfectly. Reaching out to Watchtower Firearms turned out to be a boon, “Send us your parts and let us finish it up for you!” So, what is a guy to do? Naturally, I shipped the parts. A couple of weeks later, I opened the case to find quite a jaw-dropping rifle system, much nicer than I had envisioned when the project began. Along with Watchtower’s ultra-cool UDR-10 chassis, they added a polished black Durabolt bolt carrier, ambidextrous charging handle and selector switch, sling QD mount receiver plate, premium American Built Urban Sniper Stock and a billet aluminum, paracord-wrapped pistol grip complete with finger grooves. It ranks among the most comfortable pistol grips I have used, providing ridiculously positive, tactile gripping. I finished the build off with a Picatinny rail section, upon which I planned to mount my Accu-Tac PC-4 Bipod. 



Trigger Time

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For a nighttime field hunt, the custom 7mm-’08 was topped with a Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro thermal scope. If you’ve never hunted with thermal, it’s a game-changer.

For testing, I employed Hornady’s 139-grain SST Superformance ammunition” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>Hornady’s 139-grain SST Superformance ammunition, a Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30×50 first-focal-plane riflescope, Accu-tac PC-4 Bipod and my trusty LabRadar chronograph. For shooting comfort on the range and in the field, I also chose a Dead Air Silencer Nomad .30-caliber, direct-thread suppressor. Full disclosure here, I appreciate the faster installation and removal of suppressors across rifle platforms, so for hunting, as you’ll read below, I later installed a QD muzzle device and employed Dead Air’s Sandman-S in the field. 

First shots always are exciting. The custom Watchtower 7mm-‘08 rifle proved to be incredibly comfortable out of the gate, and while I seasoned the barrel, I began to multitask, adjusting the gas block and recording muzzle velocity. With comfortable recoil and cases ejecting between and 3 and 3:30 on the directional clock, I began shooting for groups. My best five-shot group measuring a hair under half-MOA (.463) at 100 yards. The rifle’s accuracy was a great testament to the crisp trigger, precision-machined barrel, bipod and squeeze-bag support, field of view and maybe even a little luck with respect to the guy behind the rifle. In testing, Hornady’s Superformance ammo performed exceptionally well. Through 10 shots, muzzle velocity averaged 2,834 fps, standard deviation was quite tight at 9.0, extreme spread was 28 and muzzle energy was 2,479 ft-lbs. Further, with a G1 ballistic coefficient of .486 in pristine weather conditions, I was able to hammer a 6-inch group at 600 yards, effectively shooting MOA at the longer distance. Of course, my primary purpose for this 7mm-‘08 project was hog hunting with shots averaging within 100 yards. 


Build It and They will Fall

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To break in the Wilson Combat barrel, a Sightmark Pinnacle 5-30×50 first-focal-plane riflescope was attached and match with Hornady’s 139-grain SST Superformance ammunition.

While it’s easy for guys like me to geek-out on ballistics, most folks want to know how it performs in the field where all of this mumbo-jumbo truly matters. After all, hunting is much ado about relying on skills and equipment, confident shooting and quick kills, even when your simply hunting to eradicate an invasive species like our feral hogs, responsible for more than $400 million in damage in my home state of Texas annually. Taking my custom Watchtower Firearms 7mm-‘08 AR to task meant a quick drive to Wills Point for a nighttime thermal hog hunt. Retired police officer, fellow U.S. Marine Corps veteran and hog-hunting outfitter Raymond Keener had been observing a sounder of hogs coming into a secluded field on a 750-acre ranch near his home and invited me to help. I’m sure he just wanted to shoot the 7mm-‘08. I was determined to let him if it meant a night out making bacon with a good friend. 

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Accuracy data with Hornady SST 7mm-’08.

For the hunt, I swapped optics to a Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro thermal scope, added the Dead Air Sandman-S suppressor and sighted in at 100 yards. With Raymond donning his PVS-14 helmet-mounted night vision, I grabbed the UDR-10 7mm-‘08 and we rode off into the fading light. Raymond also had a suppressed AR as a back-up rig in the UTV’s rack. Using Raymond’s PVS-14 and my own handheld thermal monocular, we spent hours scanning for pigs and coyotes across expansive hay and crop fields. My watch was leaning into 1 a.m. when Raymond hit the brakes, killed the motor and whispered, “We got something!” In the moonlight I could see his hand motion forward in the 2 o’clock direction. Peering through my thermal monocular, I could clearly observe a sizeable feral hog rooting in the field near a fence line, roughly 400 yards away. Soon after, we had slipped across the open field to within 100 yards of the rooting pig, set up on our tripod gun rests, powered up our thermal scopes and were ready for action. 

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The custom Watchtower 7mm-’08 turned in sub-MOA groups at 100 yards and shot 1 MOA to 600 yards.

Raymond counted down, “Three, two, one.” On one, I squeezed the trigger, and the hog was immediately anchored. Poor Raymond never got a shot off. To say the 7mm-‘08 made short work of the pig was an understatement. The entrance was precisely in the hog’s left earhole and, by chance, exited the right earhole. Oddly enough, as UTV lights illuminated our impromptu photo shoot and we relived the hunt in conversational voices, I noticed Raymond lower his camera and rush toward me. “Five more pigs just came out not more than 60 yards behind you.” As quickly as he broke the news, I loaded again, turned behind us and rolled three more pigs with three shots, and to be honest, missed two more as they ran into tall grass. Within just a few minutes, a photo shoot with one hog quickly morphed into photos of four. That’s quite an attestation to the 7mm-‘08, perhaps my new favorite, large-frame AR hunting cartridge. 


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