MAKING FRANKENSTEIN: DPMS lower, SSK upper, .300 Whisper caliber barrel, SSK suppressor, Harris bipod, a VLTOR CASV-EL free floating hand guard, a VLTOR Enhanced ‘Clubfoot’ Modstock, Insight Techgear infra-red illuminator and a U.S. Night Optics D-760 night vision sighting system.
Note: When the author used this firearm in the article as described he used a military grade Aimpoint together with the ITT PVS-14 night vision monocular and not the U.S. Night Optics sight shown.
There were four of us stalking covertly over the worked ground of a soon-to-be-planted western Oklahoma wheat field during a late August evening. Two of us were armed—one of us had a semi-auto AR-10 type rifle in .308 Winchester and I was armed with my ‘Frankenstein’ suppressed AR-15 in .300 Whisper. We were preparing to ambush a large group of feral pigs in the midnight darkness and no one had any allusions about this being a ‘Marcus of Queensbury’ sport hunting adventure.
Our intent was to ambush and kill as many of these wild pigs as possible in as short a time as possible. We moved quietly all the while checking our position versus theirs through use of thermal-imagining goggles and a PVS-14 night vision scope.
For the uninformed, feral hogs have become an agricultural nightmare for many grain operations in the South and their menace is ranging as far west as western Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s DNR does not allow night hunting of any kind for any reason; except for those agricultural operations that apply for a night hunting depredation permit after proving significant crop loss and financial damage from these pests. We were operating under a state-issued permit because the feral hogs on this 20,000-acre operation were destroying five or more acres of wheat every single day, day in and day out. With wheat approaching $8 per bushel and an average yield of 30 bushels per acre, the numbers were starting to add up. These animals had moved way beyond the nuisance stage.
My hosts told me, “Ten years ago there were no feral hogs in these parts.” When you ask these farmers where these hogs came from, the universal response is “Texas! These hogs have been following the rivers north in their migration and now we got ’em bad.”
Hogs Runnin’ Wild
What my hosts were complaining about were not Russian boars or any other version of a wild boar. They were not the small Javelinas that are native to the American Southwest, but rather an animal that has resulted naturally from an odd combination of events. For decades prior to the invention of barbed wire, livestock operations in Southern states operated with free-ranging livestock. There were no fences. Those with domestic swine just let them run free and they were trained to return to the homestead through use of feed (slop) and hog callin.’ It was a system that worked well for a long period of time, excepting of course when someone was audacious enough to fence off a water hole or spring with that new-fangled wire with the sharp points braided in.
Sometime prior to WWI, some Einstein sportsman, who gave no thought to the eventual repercussions, imported Russian razor-back wild boars for game hunting. Of course, they too were turned loose or eventually worked themselves free from fenced enclosures. With their native intelligence they became a formidable quarry for any hunter under any set of circumstances. However, as time went on nature took its course and the free ranging, but relatively speaking ‘dumb’ domestic pigs were soon inter-breeding with the far more wily and wary razor-back wild hogs.
The result is a pig that is far larger and closer to the size of a normal domestic pig, but with the intelligence of the truly wild and non-domesticated animal. The resulting animals do two things extremely well. They eat copious quantities of row-crops and other grains and reproduce in unusually large numbers for any non-native, non-game feral species. Some think the sexually mature females are averaging 6-piglet litters, twice a year. Most all examples tested so far throughout the South have been found to be positive for just about every swine disease known to man up to and including brucellosis, a bacteria-borne disease that can seriously affect humans who come into contact with it.
Hogs are not native to North America. They were brought here by the first Spanish explorers centuries ago, so it’s hard for any state DNR department to claim they are a natural, native game animal. Additionally, since they are not a native game animal, the question has been raised by more than one farmer; “Who exactly is responsible for all the financial damage they are causing me and my farm?”
In my case the use of the suppressor was legal, as was the thermal-imagining goggles and the night-vision sighting device. While it is possible to hunt with hogs during daylight hours, my Oklahoma hosts have learned they achieved greater success if these animals were hunted off bait and during the dark night hours. These animals are becoming increasingly nocturnal and farmers have adopted tactics that match the pig’s changing habits.
The DPMS lower receiver is the basis for the author’s rifle. The setup has provided him with exceptional service.
The gun I was using was referred to earlier as a ‘Frankenstein’ firearm. It is comprised of various components that came together over a period of years, not days, weeks, or even months. The lower receiver was manufactured by DPMS and the upper receiver is from SSK Industries, as is the barrel and suppressor combination. The caliber is .300 Whisper and the removable, registered suppressor from SSK Industries was designed from the get-go to work with this cartridge and firearm.
For those who came in late, the .300 Whisper was designed by J.D. Jones expressly for use with suppressed weapons and the AR-15 format. SSK Industries has a whole line up of Whisper cartridges; some that work with the AR-15 format while the bigger members required the use of a solid bolt action rifle. Suppressed rifles have always been a contradiction. The speed of sound is approximately 1,156 fps at sea level, so any bullet traveling faster than that velocity is going create its own sonic crack, which more or less defeats the whole purpose of the suppressor.
Insight Tech-Gear’s lamps, when fitted with an infra-red filter, are invaluable for the ‘extra’ illumination they provide.
In order for the suppressor/gun combination to remain truly quiet it is necessary to keep all projectiles velocities below the speed-of-sound muzzle velocity. That limits the traditional source of power for any rifle/carbine long gun—velocity. Most have tried to compensate for this deficiency by going to a large-diameter bullet like the .45 ACP. A good example from years past was the British DeLisle Carbine during WWII. Unfortunately, the ballistic trajectory of the heavy 230-grain FMJ round is extremely limited past 100 yards.
The author has put thousands of rounds through his SSK suppressor and it remains quiet, efficient and effective….all without a major cleaning of any kind.
J.D. Jones, in cooperation with a well known bullet manufacturer, used a computer to find a solution to this dilemma. He found it with traditional 1,000-yard match bullets; the heavy, .30-caliber Sierra 220-grain and 240-grain Match-King long range target bullets. By keeping these .30-caliber bullets at subsonic velocities out he was able to create a round that is superbly accurate. Due to their tendency to tumble violently in soft media upon impact, he created a round that was devastating in terms of its terminal ballistics. In order to stay within the specifications of the AR-15 envelope—magazine length and size, bolt face diameter and other critical dimensions—he initially packaged this round in the .221 Fireball case. It has the same case-head diameter as the 5.56x45mm military round or the .223 Remington cartridge, so no modification is needed to the bolt head or bolt carrier.
Owning The Night
Feral swine are an evasive species that are not native to North America, nor are they considered a ‘game’ animal by many of the affected state’s DNRs.
This was exactly the round I was using as I approached a large group of three big animals and a whole bunch of smaller ones, possibly as many as 20. I was watching them through the PVS-14 night-vision device while they fed in the darkness on the miller’s grain bait. This specific load was handloaded and consisted of a Sierra 240-grain Match-King bullet over 8.7 grains of Alliant 2400 smokeless powder with a Winchester small rifle primer in a cut-down, reformed and resized military 5.56 rifle case. My chronograph said this load averaged just above 1,000 fps at 10 feet beyond the suppressor’s muzzle and was both quiet and accurate. It would easily put five rounds inside three-quarters of an inch at 100 yards and sometimes, if I was really on, it would shoot even tighter groups.
In my mind, the big question was whether J.D.’s research was on the mark in terms of terminal ballistics because these were the first large animals I had ever shot with this system?
Like most who first venture into the arena of night-vision, I initially tried to do it on-the-cheap. What I quickly determined during these experiments was the need for a long upper receiver top rail to accommodate the various sighting systems used in my experimentation. My SSK Industries .300 Whisper had an older style AR-15, non-flat-top, upper receiver where the suitcase handle had been removed before mounting the necessary sight attachment points. Not wanting to purchase a separate flat-top upper receiver that would have to be rebarreled and rechambered, the solution was found in VLTOR’s product line.
VLTOR has the CASV-EL free-floating hand guard which worked perfectly. It consists of a lower and upper half and five different length accessory rails that can be mounted where need be for your specific application. The entire unit is made from aluminum alloy, except for the stainless steel mounting hardware and adds less than a pound of overall weight to the entire gun.
ITT PVS-14: My first night-vision device was the ITT PVS-14 monocular and it is very good. Its performance is well beyond that found with other less expensive foreign-manufactured units. Unfortunately, what I tried to do at first was combine with it with a conventional cross-hair reticle scope. Even though the scope was of exceptional quality it simply didn’t work since the light amplification required was beyond the capability of the ITT unit. What I finally wound up doing was dismounting scope and replacing it with a military-grade, red-dot Aimpoint scope. That system worked wonderfully well as I will explain in a moment.
VLTOR MODSTOCK: Another VLTOR product added to my Frankenstein AR-15 prior to this hunt and that was VLTOR’s Enhanced Modstock. It has a number of good features including but not limited to battery storage tubes on the stock (up to eight CR123 batteries for the various infra-red illuminators), buttplate with negative cant, and it has an adjustment range from 11.5 inches to 14.75 inches. The thing I like best about this stock is its rectangular storage compartment with the butterfly latch. The after-market sighting devices and associated infra-red illumination accessories each require a hex-head wrench to secure their mounting points. The storage box is the perfect place to keep hex-head wrenches cut to fit this box. If something works loose during the night, there is no down-time.
The First Shot
Deadly combo! The author found the combination of the .300 Whisper’s accuracy and the suppressor’s efficiency more than adequate for ‘quiet’ population control.
I had equipped this ‘Frankenstein’ AR-15 with a long-legged Harris bipod and as we got into position approximately 50 yards away from the feeding and squabbling animals, I silently lowered its legs. I sat on the ground and scanned the herd with the night-vision device as the other shooter assumed his position. Since I was working with a suppressed firearm we had agreed to let me shoot until the herd became alarmed and started to scatter. The gun was extremely quiet and we assumed I would be able to really work the situation to our advantage before they became wise to what was happening. Oh, how wrong we were.
We had to augment my night-vision arrangement with a faint red hand-held lamp in order for me to acquire a good sight picture through the tradition reticle scope. I was worried it would alarm the wary animals, but accepted the risk because realities dictated we had little choice in the matter. It turned out the faint red lamp really had little effect on the pigs, but things did not go as planned after that first shot.
Each animal was consuming as much of the stinking meal as it could. I scanned the three large animals a second time and set up the shot as if I were going to shoot moving bowling pins. It was a good thing I did.
I picked the largest of the three as the focus for my first shot and at the shot, we all were rewarded with a solid Thwaack! as the bullet struck soft flesh. That pig went down as if struck by lightning, but it was the reaction of the remaining pigs that surprised everyone in our group. At the shot, they bolted for cover.
There was no indecision. They knew immediately what that sound was. Without hesitation I moved to the second pig and placed a round into its ribcage as it tried to run away. Down it went as well. I transitioned to the third, some distance off now, and just as I broke the shot, the overall silence as well as my eardrums was shattered by a loud KA-BOOM! The guy with the .308 opened up on the third pig just as I broke my shot. We both hit him and he never moved another step even if my ears were really ringing. By this time however all the smaller members of this tribe had made it to the pucker-brush and were doing their best to establish distance between them and us.
Our stalk had been both successful and a failure. We had closed the distance on a large group of these feral animals and had ambushed them successfully. Yet, we failed to take the number we had envisioned because we never imagined the simple sound of a powerful bullet impacting soft flesh would be such an alarm signal to them. Later, we theorized these pigs had been engaged at distances sufficient to obscure the muzzle report, but still the marksmanship had been sufficient to eliminate or injure members of their party. They had learned the hard way what the sound of a bullet strike meant. In all the pages of firearms lore I’ve read, I never encountered a recorded instance of this phenomenon.
.300 Whisper Effectiveness
What we saw in this first instance was reinforced the next evening at a water-hole next to a Milo field. The next day I removed the scope and mounted the Aimpoint red-dot. After sighting it in at 100 yards I felt quite confident we could dispense with the use of the visible red-lamp auxiliary lamp and rely instead on the infra-red, non-visible illumination, Insight Tech-Gear tactical lamps I had mounted on the VLTOR fore-end.
The Milo was just about a week short of harvest maturity, but the pigs didn’t care. We got into position well after dark and could hear them having one hell of a good party over in the middle of this field. We were prevented from trying to move on them by the dryness of the Milo. It would crackle the moment we brushed against it, so instead we positioned ourselves beside a nearby stock watering pond and waited for them to quench their thirst, so to speak.
After a couple of hours, my host was scanning with the thermal-imagining goggles when he picked a solitary individual ambling straight toward us and down the ravine which ended at the earthen dam pond. It was a large boar, but he was by himself. My host alerted me by squeezing my arm and at approximately 150 yards I picked him up in the PVS-14 and put the red dot on the center of his forehead. He never knew we were there or watching him and just kept coming straight toward us. I was debating when to take him, but decided against an early shot because he kept getting closer the longer I waited. Finally at a distance of 65 yards and at the water’s edge he turned to his left, my right. I put the red dot just behind his ear and pulled the trigger. He dropped like the proverbial bag of wet-socks, laid there and kicked for a few seconds—all in total and complete darkness with the absolute minimum in terms of audible sound.
We waited for a couple of more hours for the others to join him, but they never did. For some reason they just stayed in the Milo field and never came to water.
The Final Whisper
The AR platform is extremely adaptable for use in animal depredation situations like these under low- or no-light, conditions due to the wide variety of accessories available from the military and law enforcement sector. In my view, the 240-grain Sierra Match-King subsonic .300 Whisper bullet is an extremely effective cartridge and projectile for animals up to 250 pounds when engaged at distances under 150 yards. The value of the suppressed weapons is open to question if you’re hunting animals that recently have been hunted hard at extended distances. We were surprised by their ability to recognize the sound of bullet impact.
That doesn’t mean I will discontinue using suppressed weapons in feral hog elimination forays. I’m just going to search for the uneducated herds and see what their reaction is. My suppressed .300 Whisper Frankenstein rifle is now sporting the Night Optics USA D-760 night-vision scope because it gives me far more range in totally black conditions. I will continue to fight this growing threat to agriculture and you can be sure it will involve a rifle of some sort based on the AR-15 design.
MAKING FRANKENSTEIN: DPMS lower, SSK upper, .300 Whisper caliber barrel, SSK suppressor, Harris bipod,…
by Tactical-Life.com / Apr 5, 2010