Season One With a 300 Blackout AR15

| November 24, 2014 | 16 Comments

I purchased my first AK-pattern rifle in 1998. I built my first AR15 in 2013. I didn’t do much training with rifles until 2010, but even then I had a lot of catching up to do with AR pattern firearms.

This season I trained almost exclusively with my .300 Blackout AR15 pistol, except for one class I took with my SBR PPS-43C.

Here are my thoughts on “Season One.”

Ignorance + Complexity = Failure

An AR is much more harsh at punishing ignorance than an AK. There is a lot to learn about the AR platform, and I made a lot of mistakes this year.

For example, I tightened the castle nut, but not enough. The castle nut came loose on both of our ARs this year during class. I put thread locker on my 300, but it was too much. Then I reinstalled it with just a little, but this time it wasn’t enough. Some have advised me to stake the castle nut, or buy an expensive buffer tube that doesn’t require a castle nut.

This pretty much sums up my experience with the AR this year. I got the critical parts right, but my ignorance of the nuance has tripped me up all season.

Is the AR too complicated? No. But in comparison to the other rifle systems I’ve owned, it is the most complicated. I also think it’s unnecessarily complex, and the more bits and pieces on a rifle the more there is to lose or break. There are way too many springs in an AR, and I’ve spent time finding the buffer tube retaining pin spring as well as the rear takedown pin spring in the lower.

In comparison, the AK is comically simple and easy to maintain and operate.


A little weight makes a lot of difference

The weight difference between an AR in .300 Blackout and an AK 7.62×39 doesn’t seem like a lot on paper (about 2.5 lbs with a spare magazine) but in everyday carry that weight adds up. My AR15 is just a little bit shorter than my Mini Draco AK47, so the size wasn’t a big change, but the weight certainly was.


Understand the LAW.

The Law Tactical folding adapter is a must-have for any AR15 that’s meant to be carried on the person. I think the 3rd generation adapter is a huge improvement over the 2nd gen, but even the second generation adapter is very serviceable and critical for those interested in EDC.

However, the second generation adapter has some idiosyncrasies. There was some fine-tuning in the installation process, and like the castle nut there was some experimentation with the right amount of thread locker / anti-vibration locker. In the end, I got frustrated and used way too much, which made removal difficult when I went to a Gen 3 model.

The biggest improvement between the Gen 2 and Gen 3 was the bolt carrier extension. I had a lot of problems in training with the Gen 2 rotating / vibrating loose and causing malfunctions. Since going with the Gen 3 I haven’t had any issues with the BCGE. The Gen 3’s set screw in the flange adapter is also a huge improvement for reliability.


.300 Handloads

This is where I learned the most, and made the most mistakes. I have reloaded thousands of handgun cartridges at various points of my life, but this was my first experience reloading rifle cartridges.

Here’s what I learned this season:

  • How to cut and resize 5.56 brass to .300 Blackout-sized brass
  • How to properly form .300 Blackout brass
  • Removing the primer crimp from Lake City 5.56 blank brass (and realizing that not all LC blank brass had primer crimps, which added to my inconsistent ammunition performance)
  • That M80 surplus bullets from .308 ammunition was inconsistently sized and weighted, and while this didn’t make a huge impact during use it sure made me sweat for awhile.
  • Problems with case length, shoulder dimensions and primer installation depth and orientation led to a great number of failures to fire — and while one or more of these variables added up to a failure to fire, none of them were consistent or obvious enough to demonstrate a clear root cause.
  • I can clear a jammed AR15 really, really quickly now thanks to the amount of practice I got this season.
  • Even my “practice” ammunition out of my “lower tier” ICE Arms barrel that at 6.75″ was “too short” for good accuracy was far more accurate than my 16″ barreled AK rifles shooting commercially loaded practice ammunition.

The first five things required a lot of embarrassing trial and error to expose, identify, and correct — but I believe everything is all squared away now. However, “getting there” wasn’t easy, and having 40+ malfunctions in a class in front of your peers was very humbling.



AR15 pistols help you make friends

I would often be the odd person out when I ran AK rifles at class. Aside from the occasional CETME, FAL or Tavor, every long arm in the class was either an AK or an AR, with ARs leading by quite a large margin. Firing an AK SBR got some attention, but people really wanted to talk to me about my AR15 pistol.

The overall length and “eyeball dimensions” of the AR15 pistol and my SBR AK47 were roughly the same, so it wasn’t that one was super small versus the other.

The AR15 is more accessible to those already running it, and it may make the journey into EDC easier for some folk. And that’s kind of the end goal of this blog, so I was happy to answer questions and get people excited about more portable AR15s. There have been quite a few converts this year.

I shouldn’t give up

By next season all of my problems — the vast majority of which were self inflicted due to my learning process — should be all squared away. I am going to give the AR platform another run next year, and hopefully I will have learned enough to match the out of the box reliability of my many AK rifles.

STD muzzle blast 300 blackout

The real question is going to be about what to do with The She Shepherd’s SBR AR15, but that’s not my story to tell.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

16 Comments on "Season One With a 300 Blackout AR15"

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  1. kyle says:

    I have run into some of the same issues as you this year, since I as well have started using a 300 pistol, with a law folder and sig brace.

    I have not reloaded my own ammo, and instead have been buying reman ammo. I have been using Freedom munitions, for 9mm and 5.56 for a while with great results so I went back to them for my 300. I have had problems…
    I was intermittently having failures, where my bolt wouldn’t go all the way forward. I would be stuck mortaring (or field stripping in some indoor ranges.) I was worried the law was causing me issues, but after loads of testing, and hair pulling I thought maybe the ammo. I bought a slotted gauge from sheridan engineering and found that about 5% of the ammo was NO-GO. I am in the process of informing them to see if/what they will do to help the situation.

    Also something I have read from you is the difference in safety manipulation. I don’t have safeties on my handguns, and have always used my rifles in the manner of safety off when I grab it, and back on when slinging or putting it down. The last class I took was heavy on safety on till sights on target and ready to fire. Back on when sights off, following finger on the trigger principle. I see the merit of this, but found it hard (just a practice, and time issue.)

    I would also like to ask you about spare parts for the law folder. I keep a baggy of spare bits for my ar encase of failure, or I loose one to the black hole I call my garage. The ones that seem most important to me are modified buffer tube retaining pin/spring, and the o rings for the bolt carrier extension piece. I wrote law an email asking if they offer a spare parts kits, or if i could buy above mentioned parts. I have gotten no reply What have you done about this?

    As always an interesting read, from someone doing something similar to me. Thanks for the help from your blog along the way.

  2. @kyle I just bought a couple of spare buffer tube retaining pins directly from LAW. It took them a while to fullfill the order, but eventually I got them.

  3. B R KURTZ B R KURTZ says:

    Yes a AR is appears complex next to a AK. There are also some 50 year old errors in the system, like too many “nipples” that require roll pins to hold other parts in place. The “nipples” are fine till you get the idea to replace parts and get just a tiny bit sloppy with the hammer and punch. Also Ive yet to hear a good explanation why the M4 buffer tube “needs” a castle nut and the rifle buffer does not.

    All that being said, the AR is still a good system and its complicated rap is well over stated. Honestly Ive NEVER had a problem that wasn’t lube (or operator) related besides bad mags and that includes a long time in uniform (green and blue). In fairness I never assembled my guns.

    The AK by comparison isn’t so much less complicated, as much as it uses bigger parts. Ive seen AKs fail as well, I even saw one glued together with Gorilla Glue.

    • Cymond says:

      On an M4-style stock, the stock attaches directly to the buffer tube, so all of the torque/rotation on the stock transfers directly to the buffer tube.

      On a A1/A2 style stock, the stock itself has a pin that inserts into the receiver, where the receiver endplate sits on a M4-style stock. That prevents the stock from rotating. The buffer tube inside the stock isn’t really subjected to any rotational forces at all, so it doesn’t require anything to stop the rotation.

      You may note that even on a stock like the ACE AR-UL, there is a bracket that sits at the base of the AR/A2 buffer tube to prevent it from rotating. KAK Industries makes a buffer tube for pistols that has a shoulder like a rifle buffer tube, and just tightens down without a castle nut. However, KAK now makes a version that uses a castle nut due to popular demand. They had a problem with the shouldered version coming loose.

  4. Cymond says:

    Question: If you already have a SBR AR-15, then why the pistol build? Also, you could put a LAW folder & 300 Blackout upper on the SBR.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Primary reason : the SBR AR belongs to the She Shepherd. I also don’t like the travel restrictions of SBRs and needing ATF approval before I go anywhere.

  5. Kobie says:

    How is your accuracy with the ICE barrel? They could not fill my order, so I took a PSA 8″ stainless and cut it to 6.5″. Just as I started to sight it in, I ran into the issue of not having a heavy enough buffer. The only 3 shot group I was able to produce at 25 yards, I got about a 1.5″ grouping with 110gr Hornady factory loads. Are you doing any better or worse than that? If accuracy is an issue, I’ll most likely scrap the barrel and go back to a 9″ or longer since this isn’t going to be an EDC backpack gun, but rather an experimental toy.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Even with my irregular M80 surplus bullets I was getting 1.5″ groups at 40 yards unsupported and offhand.

      Later in the season I shot from a military prone with 150gr commercially produced projectiles and was getting 1″ groups at the same distance.

      Hitting 12″x10″ targets at 90 yards is easy and consistent, and that kind of accuracy is suitable for my EDC purposes.

      I have also not had any buffer weight problems.

  6. James says:

    Saw that you (Shepherd) are using a AIM Surplus Nickel Boron coated BCG. I run these as well in a few rifles and pistols. During testing I did notice that my 7.5″ 223 pistol (rad arms upper from primary arms)ran best with the AIM BCG and a std carbine spring and buffer setup. I had another phosphate BCG that ran slightly slower, and a used BCG that would not function (maybe 1/2 travel on ejection, likely bleeding gas from the rings) in the pistols but would run fine in the 14.5″ and 16″ rifles. So a tight gas system seems to be the way to go. And for 99 bucks the AIM BCG is a great deal! An adjustable gas block is also a good idea…

  7. Ty says:

    Have you used any subsonic 220 grain 300 blk out of the 6.75 ICE barrel. I am curious about accuracy with the lower velocity and the 1:8 rifling.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi there, I sure haven’t. We can’t have suppressors here, so I haven’t messed around with any of the heavier subsonic loads. I’m sorry I don’t have better information for you.

  8. Jack says:

    Do you carry your ar pistol with a round in the chamber? After carrying a rilfe in the Marines, it always feels like those pesky selector levers do what ever they want

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      I do not have a round in the chamber on any of my bag carried firearms, AR or otherwise.

      Thanks for commenting!

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