November 2011

30-Caliber Carbines: SSK’s 300 Whisper Speaks Volumes

The SSK, based on the AR-15, was effectively two guns in one. The Colorado Shooting Sports AK-47 Gen 2 updates a warhorse, but Ruger’s Mini-Thirty could use a better stock, we thought.

Despite the long-standing availability of the AR-10, 30-caliber semi-automatic rifles continue to be less popular than the 5.56mm/223 Rem. AR-15 little brother. But just like the high-capacity 9mm pistol led to the popularity of more powerful high-capacity handguns, we’re still interested in finding a good 30-cal carbine.

Our latest acquisitions in this quest began with Ruger’s newest 7.62x39mm Mini-Thirty carbine, the $921 No. 5854. We wanted to see if shortening the barrel to a hair over 16 inches would make it a better choice. For the AK-47 adherents, we added a $1270 Colorado Shooting Sports Custom Combat Gen 2 AK-47 that featured the addition of a Lightning Bolt and Lightning Lever for improved combat readiness. Our third gun chambered the 300 Whisper, a round designed to be fired through a suppressor. Built by SSK Industries, this was a $1300 AR-15 platform capable of shooting both high-velocity and subsonic velocity rounds with the twist of a screw in the handguard.

Since our primary interest was close quarters battle, our accuracy tests were limited to benchrest shooting from the 50-yard line. But we also challenged the SSK Industries 300 Whisper to longer distances to learn more about this cartridge.

In addition, we had some very specific questions to answer that had more to do with the general "shootability" of these carbines, including rapid fire. We got some help practicing for shots of record from a couple of new products from Battenfeld Technologies.

They were Caldwell’s $130 Dead Shot Field Pod and the $170 Magnum Rifle Gong. The Field Pod is an ultra lightweight collapsible shooting rest with a carry sling. We especially liked the gong because its frame broke down to 5 easy-to-carry pieces plus the durable AR550 steel plate. Ringing the gong gave our test evaluators immediate feedback and we didn’t have to paste up targets. It was a lot of fun for our testers, too.

For optics we mounted the same Springfield Armory 3-9X40mm A.R.T. IV variable power scope on both the Ruger and SSK Industries carbines. The Colorado Shooting Sports AK-47 utilized a forward mount with an Aimpoint CompML2 with 4-MOA red dot mounted and sighted in by CSS. It seemed ideally suited to the weapon and was a better choice than any long-relief scope we could supply. In view of our relatively short test distance, we chose to leave it in place.

For ammunition we utilized four different rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition. They were 124-grain soft point Wolf Military Classic, 124-grain FMJ American Eagle, Remington UMC 123-grain Metal Case, and Winchester 123-grain full-metal-jacket rounds. Our 300 Whisper ammunition consisted of three Cor-Bon rounds and three Hornady rounds. The Hornady rounds were the 110-grain VMax, 208-grain AMax, plus a handload topped with a Hornady 169-grain hollowpoint boattail bullet. The Cor-Bon rounds were 125-grain jacketed hollowpoint rounds, 220-grain Subsonic rounds and a 150-grain jacketed soft point. Unfortunately, we had difficulty chambering the 150-grain JSP rounds and returned them to Cor-Bon for analysis.

Here’s how our 7.62x39mm and 300 Whisper competitors performed when we took them to the range:

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