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calendar   Thursday - January 16, 2020

Little Big Gun

The Wildcat .375 Raptor: Big Bear Medicine For An AR-10

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Big heavy bullets at moderate velocity: the one gun hunting solution without tremendous recoil. And it will work in a full size “assault weapon” with just a barrel swap. Or in a regular bolt gun. Without spending a ton of money.

In 2014, the 45 RAPTOR brought Big Bore performance to the AR10 / LR308 rifle platform and extended the range of Big Bore Modern Sporting Rifles to 200-yards. 
Not one to rest on our past accomplishments, we continued our research and the result is the 375 RAPTOR – an evolutionary step forward in Modern Sporting Rifle performance delivering Big-Bore hunting performance out to 400 yards while eliminating proprietary rifle parts or ammunition components.

The 375 RAPTOR is created using abundant commercial 308 Winchester or military 7.62 NATO brass. The process is easily performed by any hand-loader using common loading tools.

There are hundreds of different designs of rifle cartridge out there, and since these things were invented back in the early 1870s, probably at least a thousand have come and gone. But sometimes a niche exists that the factories don’t fill. And that’s what wildcatting is all about: build your own from the ground up, or have some custom gunsmithing done and use one of these oddball rounds other folks have figured out. Whatever else, there’s a strong sense of individuality involved.

Back in the 80s and 90s, all the young guys drove Mustangs and Camaros. Popular. Ubiquitous. Great fun, but rather common. “Another pathetic sheep, following the heard.”, as “Joe Isuzu” used to say in the commercials.  I had 2 Mercury Capri RS in those days. Same performance as a Mustang GT, but a totally different look. In the 14 years I drove those cars, I saw only 1 other car just like mine, once. I liked that feeling. Now I have a Soul Red Mazda 3 GT. It’s a great car, awesome paint, and when I bought mine it was a rare bird. So rare that I had to order it from Japan. Nowadays you can’t go around the block without seeing a bright red Mazda, and every vehicle they make looks the same. At least mine is a GT, with the parchment white leather interior and a manual shift. So it’s a common car, but an uncommon build.

I like pushing the envelope. I like the unusual. I like “orphan” guns that look good and shoot well but are in cartridges that are rather overlooked or forgotten. I spent a number of years doing load development for the “level 3” .45-70, using a gorgeous Browning 1885 Highwall rifle. I wore the barrel out, and now it’s a wall hanger. But I learned a whole lot, and I tried to do the work in an intelligent manner, using the Quick-Load software package, tons of online research, a good chronograph, and some common sense. What I found was that, in a big heavy long barreled and very strong falling block rifle, with the chamber reamed for a half diameter long tight parallel throat and a low angle leade, I could safely create ammunition that would launch a 300 grain bullet at 2600 feet per second. Recoil was significant, even after I had filled the Browning’s hollow walnut stock with birdshot, giving me an 11lb rifle with scope. 300 grains at 2600fps is what a .300 Holland & Holland Magnum safari rifle can do, and that kind of power is sufficient to hunt the largest creatures on the planet. In any kind of normal weight gun, the recoil is phenomenal.

One thing that I did learn is that painful recoil, which can be calculated, is not really related to the strength of the recoil impulse, but to the impulse velocity. You won’t really notice a recoil impulse of 10 feet per second or less, even if the strength of the impulse is well over 20 pounds. But if that impulse gets over 15 feet per second, the “shove” becomes a “sharp kick” and then if the impulse strength gets up over 35lb it becomes “I just got punched by Mike Tyson with an axe”. And that is not a pleasant thing. Been there, done that, trust me. So keep the impulse strength to 20lb or less, and try and keep the impulse velocity below 15 fps. And the way to do that is with a heavy rifle. Get a good walnut stock, not a plastic one. Use a thicker contour barrel of a normal length. If you want to shoot heavy rifles, you need the mass. 9lb is a starting point. But if your plan is to make your own little junior hot rod, like this .375 Raptor, and you don’t load it to the ragged high edge, you can get away with 7 1/2 or 8lb. The used gun racks are full of flyweight superloudenboomer short barrel magnums for two reasons. Evil recoil and hearing loss. You’re not fighting house to house in Fallujah. You don’t need a 16” barrel. 22” or 24” is right, and adds another 12 ounces or so of mass. Happy gun for happy hunting.

This wildcat round is all about filling the gap. Oh, and making a stubby round you can use in an AR-10, which is the man sized version of the AR-15. While the AR-15 “poodle shooter” fires the 5.56 NATO cartridge or it’s civilian brother called the .223, the AR-10 is a bigger, heavier rifle that shoots the 7.62 NATO round, and it’s civilian brother called the .308. Night and day difference in bullet mass: the 5.56 tops out with bullets of about 70 grains, while the 7.62 starts with bullets of about 168 grains. It’s a lot more powerful.

So, the “gap”. A very long time ago there was a blackpowder cowboy cartridge called the .38-55. About a century later a modern version hit the market called the .375 Winchester. It could shoot a .375” diameter bullet of relatively light weight at about 2200fps. Moderate here means 220 grains, which is light for a .375 rifle but at the very heavy end of bullets for a .308 rifle. So there’s a big gap between what the .375Win can do and what the .300 H&H can do. And the .375 Raptor fills that gap, depending on how you load it.

230gr at up to 2625fps
250gr at up to 2465fps
300gr at up to 2250fps

Ok, it “fills the gap” not quite in the middle, but a bit towards the .38-55 end. If you want to fill the gap more towards the .300 H&H end, another version exists called the .375 Hawk-Scovill, which is based on the .30-06 cartridge, which is the longer, older, parent of the 7.62 NATO round, and it won’t fit in an AR-10 no matter what. .30-06 rounds are 3.34” long, .308 rounds are 2.8” long, .223 rounds are 2.25” long, .300 H&H is 3.6” long, and the venerable .45-70 and .30-30 are 2.55” long). So the .375 Hawk needs a standard length action, and that usually means a bolt action rifle.

OTOH, velocity equals range, power, and recoil. A 230gr bullet in .375 is plenty for deer at any distance, but loaded down to 2300fps it should be good to 200 yards - a responsible hunting distance - and not break your shoulder or burst your eardrums when fired. Similarly, a 250gr bullet is plenty for bears, and 2450fps is (marginally) manageable recoil in an 8.5lb rifle. That one gives you 2200lb/ft of impact energy at 200 yards, moving at 2000fps. Plenty of bear flattening power and enough final velocity to ensure proper bullet performance. If you shoot enough already to own you own reloading equipment, building this rifle won’t cost much more than ordering a good barrel, buying a short action bolt gun, and having your gunsmith rent a reamer and put it all together. 


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/16/2020 at 12:48 PM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun Control •  
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