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Review: Wilson Combat .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter

Review: Wilson Combat .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter

Most people I know get their bacon from the grocery store. Me? I get my bacon from Wilson Combat. Not only was I one of the first gun writers to shoot the Wilson Combat Ultimate Hunter AR rifle, chambered in the company’s new .458 HAM’R cartridge, I also got the opportunity to hunt with it in southwest Texas, much to the dislike of the Lone Star state’s feral hog population. Does it work on hogs? You bet your sweet armadillo it does. Let’s learn more about this gun and the new .458 HAM’R cartridge and how they came to be.

Here’s what you need to know first and foremost: Bill Wilson, owner of Wilson Combat, is a hunter. He’s not a weekend, hunt when his wife lets him, maybe twice a year kind of hunter. He is a hunt anything, anywhere, at practically anytime kind of hunter—and he’s remarkably good at it. He knows what he’s doing, and eventually he wanted to do it with an AR-10 platform. He learned everything he could about the current AR-10 MSR-style hunting market, and then created his own line of AR-10s called WC-10s in three versions: The Ultimate Hunter, the Tactical Hunter, and the Ultralight Hunter. Note, Wilson Combat firearms aren’t just built to shoot well, but to last longer, and their newest venture into the AR community includes attention to durability details, like using S7 tool steel for the bolt stops on their AR-10s. Because Bill Wilson is a perfectionist, he created what is known as a WC-12, which isn’t quite an AR-10 in size and is a little bit more than an AR-15 kind of gun to chamber the brand new cartridge he invented called the .458 HAM’R. Yes, I said HAM’R, not SOCOM.

The .458 HAM’R Cartridge
What’s wrong with the .458 SOCOM, you ask? Nothing—but Bill Wilson wanted more. “I've hunted with the .458 SOCOM for years, and it's a great cartridge out to 140-150 yards, but past this range, the go-to hunting bullet—the Barnes 300-grain TTSX—fails to expand, even on big game like elk or zebra, based on my actual experience,” said Wilson. “I've taken elk at 185 yards, hartebeest at 200 yards and zebra at 220 yards with the .458 SOCOM, and in all cases, the bullet didn’t expand. Based on this experience, I felt if the effective range of the SOCOM could be increased to over 200 yards, we'd have a much more versatile cartridge. The primary reason for creating the .458 HAM’R was more velocity, flatter trajectory and longer-range bullet expansion.”

So, technically speaking, how is the .458 HAM’R different from the .458 SOCOM? According to Wilson, “the shoulder of the cartridge is .040-inch forward of the .458 SOCOM dimension, primarily to prevent it from chambering in a SOCOM while still retaining the same overall length of the SOCOM for proper bullet location in relationship with the case mouth. It has a small rifle primer, which enables the case to handle more pressure without the primer pockets loosening up. Engineers calculated the bolt thrust at 46,000 psi to equal that of a .308 Winchester, so we set the pressure limit there, even though I have loaded it much hotter with no issues. The .458 SOCOM has a pressure limit of 35,000 psi, due to its much weaker bolt and barrel extension.”

.458 HAM'R vs. .458 SOCOM

"From experience on game, I think the Barnes TTSX stops expanding reliably when impact velocity drops below 1500 fps," said Wilson. "So, as you can see, the SOCOM is maxed out at 125 yards and the HAM'R at 200 yards, which is a 75-yard gain in effective range with 2.5 inches less drop at 200 yards. The HAM'R has the same retained energy at 200 yards that the SOCOM has at 125 yards."

The .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter Rifle
Wilson’s ballistic tweaking led him to create a completely different AR platform as well-known as the WC-12, as opposed to the WC-15 and the WC-10. According to Wilson Combat, the .458 HAM’R uses a purpose-designed, hybrid-length receiver, bolt carrier groups which are ¾-inch shorter than a standard AR-10 and fed from a Lancer AR-15 magazine. But that’s not the only way to get a .458 HAM’R, according to Wilson. “The .458 HAM’R doesn't necessarily require the shortened receivers; weight savings was the primary reason. It can be made to work with any AR-10-sized upper with a lower designed for the AR-15-size magazine. The critical components here are the AR-10-size bolt and barrel extension to handle the extra chamber pressure and bolt thrust.”

As a gun writer, sometimes you get to review a gun at the bench, and sometimes you get to review a gun in the field. Here, it was trial by fire for both the .458 HAM’R and me. The target wasn’t a piece of paper sitting patiently at 100 yards, but a grunting, tusked, nasty, foul-smelling, Texas feral hog. It was precisely the right kind of pressure that this kind of rifle—the WC-12 in the Ultimate Hunter model—with its 18-inch barrel, four pound, two-stage trigger and Trijicon Accupoint 3-9x40mm riflescope, was built to handle.

The rifle carried light and it carried well. Wilson Combat built the Ultimate Hunter with all the metal where it was needed, and nowhere else. The gun was balanced, especially for an AR-style rifle—it pointed instinctively and recoiled unnoticeably. I had one shot opportunity to test the rifle’s accuracy, and it came on a plump pig leading a squad-sized hog march through the western Texas brush. When they aren’t seduced by feeders, wild hogs are alert, savvy and fast. The .458 HAM’R was faster, especially with that sunburn on my pupil-bright Trijicon scope. After I spotted the group, the pigs darted across a ranch trail road into some thick brush. I flanked the pigs and waited for them to squirt out of the brush. They did, and I put the crosshairs on the lead pig’s shoulder, squeezed the trigger and watched several hundred pounds of swine invert instantly from the powerful persuasion of the .458 HAM’R and its 300-grain Barnes TTSX bullet. Oink. Boom. Flop. Bacon.

.458 HAM’R lovers can choose two different styles of WC-12 rifles; the Ultimate Hunter, with its lightweight stock and crowned muzzle, or the Tactical Hunter model, with an adjustable stock and threaded muzzle. A kit option with a Leupold VX-R 2-7X33 scope and its 30mm Ultralight AR scope rights is available for an additional $590.

Technical Specifications
• Barrel Length: 18” Fluted
• Overall Length: 36.5”
• Weight Empty: 7 lbs. 4 oz.
• Magazine Capacity: 7- or 9-rnd. capacity
• Lightweight Flat Top Billet Upper
• Billet Lower Receiver
• Wilson Combat Ultimate Hunter Match-Grade Barrel
• Mid-Length Gas System with SLR Rifleworks Adjustable Gas Block
• Crowned Muzzle
• Wilson Combat 14.6” M-LOK Rail with Three Falcon/Ergo Rail Covers
• Smoke Composite Carbon Fiber Closed Shoulder Buttstock with Limbsaver Pad
• Wilson Combat TTU (Tactical Trigger Unit) M2, 4#
• Premium Bolt Carrier, NP3 Coated
• Custom Length Buffer
• Mission First Tactical Pistol Grip
• Armor-Tuff Finish applied over Mil-Spec Hard Anodized Upper/Lower Receivers (Green/Black Standard—Other Colors and Camo Optional)
• MSRP: $3,065; wilsoncombat.com

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