HUNTING: .300 AAC Blackout for Deer?

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This is a big question around the whitetail woods: how well can the AR-15 serve as a viable hunting rifle when chambered for this round? Here’s one answer… Read on!

300 blackout

SOURCE: NRA Publications, American Hunter
by Philip Massaro

The AR-15 platform has been modified and fiddled with for quite a while, and has its own series of cartridges designed specifically to function within the parameters of the rifle. The 6.8 SPC, the .458 SOCOM, the .50 Beowulf — all were built to give the AR-15 a different level of performance than the standard 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem.

There is also no doubt that .30-caliber cartridges are, have been, and probably will remain America’s favorite. So many cartridges have been modified to hold .30-caliber bullets that I have almost lost count. The .300 AAC Blackout is the cartridge built to function in the AR-15 platform, and with its design comes a different mindset, as the cartridge is called upon to fill a special role.

As a hunting cartridge, the .300 BLK certainly doesn’t look like one of the usual suspects: it is a stubby little guy, definitely lacking the look of a long-range cartridge. That’s fine, because the Blackout was never designed to fulfill that role. Perhaps a bit of history is warranted:

The Blackout’s roots are spread in the soil of the U.S. Military, which was looking for a round that would give better sub-sonic capabilities than their suppressed 9mm carbines, especially for close-in work. With some modification of a wildcat cartridge — namely the .300 Whisper — the .300 Blackout was delivered by Advanced Armament Corporation. The case itself can trace its roots all way back to the .222 Rem., through the .221 Fireball case also formed from that platform. It was designed to fit in a standard 5.56mm AR-15 magazine in double-stack configuration, yet use the long 220-grain .308 caliber bullets for subsonic performance. The Blackout did just that — pushing those 220-grain slugs at 1010 fps — but also did very well with the lighter bullets. That short case will push 125- and 130-grain bullets to a muzzle velocity of around 2200 fps — certainly no speed demon, but enough to get the job done on military targets. It functions perfectly through the AR platform, with one caveat: any ammunition that uses the sleeker-ogive bullets will actually chamber in the .223/5.56mm rifles, and that can pose one helluva problem should the ammo be confused. Please keep them separated!

In the the deer woods, the .300 AAC is an acceptable choice. If ranges are kept around 100 yards — much like the .30/30 WCF — things should go right for you. Were I using a Blackout on a deer hunt, I’d most definitely choose a premium hunting bullet in the 125- to 135-grain range, as they’ll produce the proper terminal ballistics. Those heavy 220-grain slugs are simply moving too slowly to give reliable expansion, and will more than likely whistle on through like a solid, resulting in a wounded or lost animal. No one wants that.

AAC deer rounds
Author believes that, loaded with a suitable bullet, the .300 Blackout is suitable for use as an effective deer cartridge, as much so as are others with similar ballistics, such as .30/30 WCF.

Ammunition choices are pretty broad now. As said, you’ll want to keep your hunting distances within reason, and choose a bullet that will expand reliably at the furthest distance you expect to take an animal with the Blackout — the range where that bullet will slow down. I’m not one of those who gets hung up on energy figures — where the commonly accepted figure of 1,000 ft.-lbs. to kill a deer came from, I don’t know — but you definitely need reliable expansion in order to kill effectively. Looking at just a few, Hornady loads the 135-grain FTX bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,085 fps, and this will make a great hunting round. They also load their 110-grain GMX — an all-copper, polymer-tipped bullet — that will also get the job done well, again, providing you use it within reasonable ranges. Barnes builds their VOR-TX Blackout ammo around the 120-grain monometal TAC-TX bullet; Barnes worked very hard to deliver a bullet that is plenty accurate and yet gives good expansion and penetration.

The whitetail deer has suffered from guinea-pig status; I know hunters who seriously use calibers ranging from .17 Rem. all the way up to the .450 No.2 Nitro Express to make their venison, with varying levels of success. The whitetail is so prolific that, like feral hogs, sportsman tend to experiment with varying calibers and bullet weights. A good bullet, like that GMX or TAC-TX, at the lighter .30-caliber weights, will get the job done, and that’s been pretty well proven. Considering the Blackout’s trajectory, you’ll want to limit the range to 100 or 125 yards. To obtain a 200-yard zero with the Hornady FTX load, you’ll need to be 5 inches high at 100, which is a bit drastic. Perhaps a 100-yard zero, or 1 inch high at 100, where you’d be in vitals at 125 yards, makes more sense.

So, is the Blackout the perfect deer cartridge? It’s no .308 Win., but I that within 100 yards it’s a better choice than any .22-caliber centerfire. The choice is up to you, but if I were handed an accurate Blackout for a hunt in the northeast woods, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it, provided it was loaded with a good, sensible bullet.

Check out AAC choices at Midsouth HERE

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9 thoughts on “HUNTING: .300 AAC Blackout for Deer?”

  1. I’ve taken over 100 deer with the Blackout/Whisper. Unlike this post, it is a long range gun and round nose bullets work quite well.
    Subsonic round nose kill by tumbling. The leave jagged exit holes and cause reasonably good internal damage.
    Distances? My longest groundhog kill with the subsonic Whisper is 250 yards and longest deer kill is 270 yards.
    The Whisper (invented by SSK owner JD Jones) and copied as the Blackout is an excellent round for those recoil sensitive or just wanting to try something new.

    1. Larry sorry to here that your subs tumble, I’m guessing that you have a 1:8 barrel probably a pistol gas system. I to have one of those. I don’t use that rifle for the subs only supers. Instead I use a 1:7 barrel either in the Ruger American or a modern sporting rifle that I converted the 1:7 barrel from a carbine gas system to a pistol system to get reliable functioning with sub ammo, some machine work required. Don’t know why manufactures insist on 16″ pistol gas systems having 1:8 it just isn’t fast enough for any of the subs in the 300 Blackout. A bullet that isn’t stable isn’t going to shoot accurately.

      I sight in at 50 yards, the Hornady 123gr SP (.310) over 16.5gr of LilGun are 3/4 high @ 100 and 0 @ 150. The sub is the 220gr Hornady Amax over 9.8gr of IMR 4227, again 0 @ 50 and 0 @ 120 suppressed. The Ruger is the nail driver when it comes to the suppressed subs.

  2. The subsonic G2 Research Trident is absolutely deadly on deer. The longest shot I’ve taken with it is 100 yards but I’m sure it would work to at least 150 yards. I wouldn’t push my luck after that. I’ve recovered 4 projectiles and each one is identical, looking like a grappling hook. The last deer I shot was at 100 yards and it hit the spine and dropped him where he was. The bullet penetrated about 16″ and was not disfigured at all by hitting bone. I would use no other subsonic bullet for wildlife. I do not work for them, either. My Hornady 220 grain ballistic tip penetrated about 20″ and didn’t expand at all at 20yds on a deer.

  3. Mr. Massaro gives excellent advice on limited range and using the right bullets for taking deer. The blackout is no super cartridge and has it’s limitations, but can be a good performer when used within them for hunting. A suppressed sub-sonic .300 is a whole different discussion and subject, but should never be used by an ethical hunter on deer. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

  4. I used the 300blk this year for deer season. My rifle is a Ruger mini 14. Used the VOR-TX ammo listed and at 50-100 yards it hit just as hard as my .308’s. I wouldn’t think twice about using it again on any short range deer or boar hunt.

  5. Been waiting for a trophy buck for a long time. Me and my cousin worked up a load for the 300 blackout. Barns TX 110 gain, H110 20.5, 2500 fps. If your capable you can get sub MOA @ 350 yards all day long. At 350 yards you will get double diameter expansion in about 20 inch penetration. Alot more people are understanding the potential of this load but you have to reload your own ammo to get this velocity and run adjustable gas block and then you will love this cartridge.

  6. Or you could just use 6.8 spc with much better bullets and much better performance, as long as you keep shoots under 300 yards, 200 yard zero is a huge difference more like a hunting rife, 1.5 in high at 100. With muzzle velocity fro 16 in barrel ranging from 2850-2900 with 85-90 gr bullets to 2450-2500 with 120 gr. Much better for hunting, but for some reason the big names in shooting industry and weighted want to kill this the best hunting round from ar 15 platform for whitetail, hogs to even 150yd elk and black bear round.

    1. I only use subsonic rounds in the Whisper. Used with a mildot scope, they are good to 300 yards. Subsonic rounds need to be very long to be useful in subsonic loads. They have to tumble to kill. Short .30 cal. bullets go through animals without tumbling.
      6.8 spc rounds are not long enough to be useful in subsonic rounds. They are not great at supersonic loads. I tested the 6.8 SPC for JD Jones before it was made public in a Contender. The original open point Rem. round was pathetic. Killed about 10 groundhogs and 10 deer. All the ‘hogs made it to the hole on good hits and every deer ran from 75 to 125 yds. on lung or shoulder hits. I gave up on the round. Maybe newer bullets make it work better, but it’s not an efficient or effective subsonic round.
      The original Whisper developed by JD (subsonic ammo, suppressor) is a very good deer round with the right bullets. Supersonic loads make it the .300 Screamer. Two different guns.

      1. The arrival is about super sonic hunting round for whitetail deer. If you are shooting only subs i would definitely recommend the 300 blackout/whisper or what ever. But I would not buy one for the purpose of shooting super Sonics for deer hunting, which is what shooting industry is trying to sell the 300 for and it is lacking all around for that purpose.

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