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Old June 13, 2006, 06:04 AM   #1
BlueTrain
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Big bore AR-15's

I alluded in another post that the wheel has come full circle and that there are now AR-15's chambered in cartridges that duplicate the performance of the .50-70. That in fact is pretty much the case and I did a little digging to flesh out the story.

I stated that there was even an experimental .50-caliber cartridge used in Vietnam. There was, it was developed by Frank Barnes and was called the .458x1 1/2-inch Barnes (none of this metric stuff!). It was however chambered in a heavy barrel bolt action rifle and was not well received by anyone that tried it, according the the story as written by Frank Barnes himself. It was based on a .458 Winchester magnum and it had a belt.

Today there are a few other similar rounds, all what you might call wildcats or perhaps proprietary rounds, which means you can't buy them at Wal-Mart. But if you shop at Wal-Mart, you probably won't be willing to buy the rifles either, since they are all more or less custom. I have only seen one in person but didn't handle it. It really looked like a fairly ordinary AR-15 type except for the barrel. I didn't see the ammuntion.

I think there are some interesting things here, even though it is highly unlikely any of these will be used by the military.

First, they all do really have energy figures and presumably ballistics similiar to the .50-70 and .45-70 of the Indian War period. There are about a half-dozen around, all developed from different cartridges and none interchangeable. One interesting difference is that all of them appear to have lighter bullets than would have been used originally. That appears to be the trend in cartridges of this class even though it hasn't been that long that a 405-grain bullet was about all you could get for .45-70. Oddly enough, there is a different trend with .357, .44 and .45 Colt of using heavier than standard bullets for certain uses.

It goes without saying that none of them use plain lead bullets and the quality of the case is much, much higher than when the Trapdoor Springfield was on issue. There were different loads for carbines and rifles back then, too.

Another interesting point is that all of this development has taken place using the AR-15 or copy as a starting point. I don't know of another weapon that has been played with the same way. At any rate, one of the design limitations was that the ammunition had to work using standard magazines. It isn't really the magazine that is the limitation so much as if it wouldn't work in the magazine, then the entire received would have to be redesigned. When the AR-10 was reintroduced, the receiver was in fact redesigned to allow the use of relatively common M-14 magazines. I have to doubt that M-14 magazines are all that common but that is another story.

All told, I doubt that any of this will have any influence at all on general small arms development but it sure is interesting.
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Old June 13, 2006, 09:22 PM   #2
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What I think is more interesting is that they sell the .50 Beowulf uppers in Cabellas, a store known more for hunting and fishing gadgets than target shooting supples. I like the 6.5 mm AR for deer but I can see a definite place for the .50 in places where black bear hunting is legal.
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Old June 13, 2006, 09:43 PM   #3
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I already told the old man that .50 Beowulf would be darn comforting in grizz country
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Old June 14, 2006, 05:30 AM   #4
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It is pleasing to know that Cabella's has such a huge variety of things, including both .50-90 and .577 Snider, and even 7.92 German intermediate for your MP-44. Surprising, too.
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Old June 14, 2006, 09:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Today there are a few other similar rounds, all what you might call wildcats or perhaps proprietary rounds, which means you can't buy them at Wal-Mart. But if you shop at Wal-Mart, you probably won't be willing to buy the rifles either, since they are all more or less custom. I have only seen one in person but didn't handle it. It really looked like a fairly ordinary AR-15 type except for the barrel. I didn't see the ammuntion.
I think you have confused your terms. Wildcat and proprietary are not the same thing, although wildcat loads may be proprietary by their nature. From Charles Petty,

Quote:
By definition, wildcat cartridges are not truly standardized and small variations can be found depending on the individual gunsmiths or shop making the chamber reamer. If a cartridge becomes reasonably popular, informal standardization arrives so dies and reamers can work together. This standardization does not extend to the reloader's critical element--a pressure barrel--so almost all loading data is derived by methods less than scientific.
Cartridges such as .458 socom and .50 Beauwolf are most definitely standardized and commercial. These are most definitely not wildcat rounds.

Are they proprietary? Sort of, but only because other makers haven't felt it would be profitable to manufacture the ammo. For a brief period, .45 GAP was proprietary as well until other companies jumped on the bandwago because they smelled profits.

Also, these are not custom guns. The .50 Beauwolf is anything but custom. It is unique maybe, but commercially so.

Just because Wal-mart carries a product does not make it proprietary, wildcat, or custom.

It goes without saying that none of them use plain lead bullets and the quality of the case is much, much higher than when the Trapdoor Springfield was on issue. There were different loads for carbines and rifles back then, too.

As for not finding homes in the military, I believe you will find the .458 Socom used by the Coast Guard and maybe also the Beauwolf. The Beauwolf apparently does duty as an embassy gun for troops guarding US embassies overseas. Both situations are suited for fairly short range highly powerful rounds.
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Old June 14, 2006, 09:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
As for not finding homes in the military, I believe you will find the .458 Socom used by the Coast Guard and maybe also the Beauwolf. The Beauwolf apparently does duty as an embassy gun for troops guarding US embassies overseas. Both situations are suited for fairly short range highly powerful rounds.
The big-bore AR Coast Guard thing is quite an interesting little bit of a mystery. I've heard it claimed that they use .50 Beowulf uppers (one of the gun rags a couple years back), .499 Leitner-Wise (from their website) -- this is the first I've heard about them possibly having .458 SOCOM uppers or rifles. The consensus seems to be they have some big bore rifles, the specific identity seems less clear.

I'd not heard about the USMC using Beowulfs for embassy security, but some contractors pulling site security and PSD jobs in Afghanistan in 2002/3 carried .50 Beowulfs or .499 L-Ws ARs (not sure which, but think they were the L-Ws).
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Old June 14, 2006, 11:34 AM   #7
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I realize, Double Naught Spy, that wildcat and proprierty and not the same and that's why I used both words. I don't know exactly how many of these big bore AR-15 rounds there and I think I have seen reference to at least four and maybe five and I was not attempting to be exact regarding how many there were or what status they might have had. In fact, some ammunition, including some of fairly recent origin, is now considered obsolete, yet it is still available if you look for it. Again, I'm not sure what makes something obsolete, especially if you can still buy newly manufactured cartridges.

There is a local DJ that has a program on which he plays "obsolete music."

I was considering proprierty ammuntion as something only manufactured by, say, a single manufacturer and not generally available over-the-counter, especially from mass marketers like Wal-Mart. There is also something called custom ammuntion but that usually means nothing more than custom loaded. I wouldn't consider any of these terms to be cut and dried or permanent. They definitely can move from one category to another. And also, after a little thought, none of this necessarily has any bearing on the general availability of a given round. I have always thought that .45-70 was surprisingly hard to find in the store.

Otherwise, I take your point.
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Old June 18, 2006, 06:37 PM   #8
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What suprises me is not that they`re making modern day big bores but that they`re not making the most obvious one! Take a .308 case and blow the neck out to .458",stuff it with 300gr. Barnes HPs and shoot them in converted FALs,G3s,M1As,AR10s etc. Ballistics could be hotter than .458 Socom at even lower pressures due to the larger case volume and it could headspace on the case mouth like the .50 Beowulf. The cool part is that with few mods to the magazines if any you should be able to load a full 20 of them in the mags rather than say 7. Now,if someone with the clout to get this done smacks themselves in the forehead and says "DUH! Why the hell didn`t we do this before?" and runs with it I want it named .458 Marcus and I`ll take mine in a 16" FAL with Para stock thanks. Marcus
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Old June 18, 2006, 09:36 PM   #9
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Old June 19, 2006, 09:28 AM   #10
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Quote:
What suprises me is not that they`re making modern day big bores but that they`re not making the most obvious one! Take a .308 case and blow the neck out to .458",stuff it with 300gr. Barnes HPs and shoot them in converted FALs,G3s,M1As,AR10s etc. Ballistics could be hotter than .458 Socom at even lower pressures due to the larger case volume and it could headspace on the case mouth like the .50 Beowulf.
The AR-15 was, I think, the initial focus for this sort of stuff because of its modularity as well as it's widespread use and such. An FAL would be a bit more of a pain to convert (not so much on the mechanical side, as you could replace the upper just like an AR, but more on the legal side, since you could not just order a big bore FAL upper receiver in the mail, since the upper is the ATF restricted component on that weapon) . . . but perhaps the AR-10 is starting to play catch up with the AR-15 in terms of modularity.

At the Teppo Jutsu website (same guys who developed the .458 SOCOM) check out the ".500 Phantom" in their products section.

That said, I like your idea about .458 conversions of .308 rounds -- seems like an idea that is so sensical and relatively painless that someone should be doing it . . .
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Old June 19, 2006, 09:47 AM   #11
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One of the points I was making in my lead post was that it has been the AR-15 that has been used for these modifications. It had already been used for other calibers already, though the 9mm may have been the only one.

Concerning the FAL models, are any of them newly produced from scratch? Or are they basically reworked surplus guns? That might be one reason no one has tried that approach. Everyone seems to be making an AR-15 copy these days. Interesting that someone should mention magazines. They certainly are a critical part of the system and the magazines or lack thereof has caused no end of problems for certain guns.

It is also interesting that no one is turning out bolt actions for these big bore cartridges, though there are a number of lever actions for similiar or (usually) more powerful cartridges.

As a side note, in doing my brief research on these cartridges, I noticed that already in the early 1960's, short magnum cartridges were already around, even if the .223/5.56 wasn't (in 1962). But there were all sorts of hot .22 centerfires people were fooling around with, some now forgotten.
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Old June 19, 2006, 10:56 PM   #12
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Some good points about why the AR-15 is such a popular platform for big bore conversions. The Mr. Potatohead thing.

There are a few big bore bolt action carbines being done here and there. A company in England (of all places!) does .44mag. and .50AE conversions (as well as .45ACP and 9mm) on Enfields. Rhineland Arms just released a .45Win. Mag. conversion for Mausers using M1 carbine mags and one well known smith who`s name escapes me at the moment is doing .50 Beowulf conversions on CZ`s little 452 (?) carbine. The case head dia. of .50 Beowulf is the same as 7.62x39 one of the standard chamberings for that gun so it makes a lot of sense. There is also an obscure wildcat similar to the .30-06 based .411 Hawk but based on the .308 case. That should be a very easy conversion in most bolt actions. Marcus
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Old June 20, 2006, 12:18 AM   #13
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I have one question for folks who use AR's in "non-standard" calibers.

Do you have trouble chasing your brass down to handload?

I keep dreaming about a 6.5 Grendel. Hunting brass is the only fly I can imagine in the ointment. Maybe my fear is based on shooting an AK and a CETME, both of which will throw brass clean off to the right of the firing line--when you're on the far left lane!
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Old June 20, 2006, 06:14 AM   #14
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To Dave R., if you are worried about the brass, use a single shot without an ejector (extractor only). Seriously though, I ran into the same problem with .38 Super, it not being a real common round and I would lose maybe 10% every session. Of course, at the time my loss percentage on .38-Special was approaching that from split cases.

Ruger has already made a .44 magnum bolt action, which may or may not still be in production. You also used to hear about converting Siamese Mausers to .45-70 but I don't know what made the Siamese Mauser particularly suitable for that. It also occurs to me that big bore cartridges were the norm in military bolt actions before the small bore craze hit around 1890. Where will it all stop?

One of the big bore AR-15 cartridges was based on the .50 AE cartridges and has a rebated rim and supposedly makes a conversion a little simpler. Converting calibers has been going on for a long time and there have even been Winchester lever actions converted to .45 ACP. A funny thing which I have mentioned before is how you read in very old acticles about using chamber liners to permit a smaller cartridge to be used in a rifle. I believe such things are still around but I've never read anything about anyone actually using them.

Finally, I still like the idea of a Lee-Enfield converted to .45 ACP. But we are off track now.
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Old June 20, 2006, 09:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Concerning the FAL models, are any of them newly produced from scratch? Or are they basically reworked surplus guns? That might be one reason no one has tried that approach.
The DSA rifles are new production, if I am not mistaken (or at least the majority of components, including receivers, are?), and offered in some non-308 calibers, but only ones based off the .308 case and necked down for smaller bullets (again, if I am not mistaken).

My understanding is that their rifles pretty much sell as fast as they can ship them (or faster -- I hear they have lots of backlogs and such), so they may not be at a point in the market yet where the effort of reworking something for a big-bore sort of round is worth it for them financially.
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Old June 20, 2006, 04:03 PM   #16
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Old June 21, 2006, 08:13 AM   #17
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Big bore AR-15's

The US should send 5,000 of these "458 diameter" guns to Iraq.
That would knock them on their ass.
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