Remington is the only company offering .30 Remington AR ammunition. Until other ammunition manufacturers realize that the .30 Remington AR might be the most important AR-15 cartridge since the .223 Remington, we’ll have to handload to optimize performance. Luckily, there are plenty of components that will work with the .30 Remington AR.
Dies & Powders
Redding and RCBS both offer .30 Remington AR dies. In fact, I worked with Redding a bit to help them put their .30 Remington AR dies together. Early sets indicated the cartridge would use a No. 1 shell holder because initial reports were that it was based on the .284 Winchester case with a .473 rim diameter. That’s not correct; SAAMI specifications call for a rim diameter of .492, but most case rims will measure .486. The correct Redding shell holder is the No. 33. Another issue with early Redding dies was a short seater-plug, which proved too short to work with some bullets. Newer Redding dies should ship with a longer seater-plug.
RCBS offers a full-length die set and a small-base sizer die for the .30 Remington AR. After assembling many loads with the RCBS full-length sizer die, I haven’t seen a need for the small-base die yet. But, as with the Redding seater die, I also found the RCBS seater-plug too short for some bullets. The correct RCBS shell holder is the No. 30.
Unlike some cartridges that will work with a broad range of powders, the .30 Remington likes powders on the fast side. Hodgdon lists extensive load data information on their website for the .30 Remington AR. I’ve not tried all the powders they suggest, but I have found that Benchmark, H322 and H335 work very well. Another powder I have just started experimenting with, and the one that might be the best in the .30 Remington AR, is Accurate 2200.
Sweet Spot Science
Hodgdon used Remington 7.5 primers to work up their data and that is the primer I used for all loads listed. Cartridges were loaded to an overall length of 2.279 inches or less, and beyond bullet substitution, I didn’t get creative with the handloads or try to go where no man has gone before. However, the only Hodgdon data for 110-grain bullets was with H4198. I worked up to 40.2 grains of Benchmark and H322, and velocities were right at the 3,000 FPS (feet per second) maximum listed for H4198.
Hodgdon lists the 125 Nosler Ballistic Tip at 2,931 FPS over 40 grains of Benchmark. This load averaged 2,892 FPS out of my R-15, and cases showed no case-head wipe from the ejector. This is something that can occur when you get into an overpressure or an out-of-time situation with an AR. What happens: The gas begins to unlock the bolt before the expanded case is released from the chamber. As the bolt rotates and moves rearward, the plunger-style ejector protrudes and mars the case head.
Case-head swipe can be a sign of over-pressure but not always. Variations in bullet weight and powder burn rate can cause an AR to operate at a different speed. If the bolt is unlocking too soon, you can get case-head swipe. By itself, case-head swipe is just an indicator of overpressure, not verification.
When the 150-grain Hornady SST bullet reached 2,600 FPS over 35.2 grains of H322, case-head swipe was excessive, and I experienced one pierced primer. There was no Hodgdon data for this bullet, but 35.5 grains was listed as the maximum for the 150-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. A reduced charge or a different powder would be advisable in this situation.
An interesting load involved the 160-grain FTX bullet Hornady uses in their .30-30 Winchester LeverEvolution ammunition. This bullet is designed to take impacts as fast as 2,500 FPS, but at 2,537 FPS, with 35.7 grains of Benchmark (0.3 grains less than the maximum load listed), I blew a primer. The primer became lodged between a bolt lug and the receiver.
This occurred because I was trying to seat these heavy bullets out as far as I could, but they were edging forward in the case when chambered and engaging the lands of the rifling. The result was an overpressure situation. This would probably be a great load, but this bullet needs to be seated so you can crimp on the cannelure to prevent bullet set-out during chambering. As a matter of fact, this might be wise with any bullet weighing 150 grains or more with this cartridge.
This prompted a call to Nosler with the suggestion that they alternatively offer their 150- grain Ballistic Tip and AccuBond bullets with a crimping groove. Both would be perfect for the .30 Rem. AR. We also discussed the possibility of a new 130-grain AccuBond specifically designed for this cartridge, which I believe is an exceptional idea. Most of the other heavy bullets I tried in the .30 Rem. AR, like the Hornady 150-grain SST, Interlock Round Nose and the 170-grain Nosler Partition, had crimping grooves and there were no issues with bullet set-out.
Data for 15 different bullets between 110 and 170 grains is provided. The 125- and 150-grain bullets generated about the same muzzle energy, but the more aerodynamic 150-grain bullets will retain more energy downrange. The best balance of velocity, trajectory and energy is probably the 125-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. It will penetrate around 20 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin, and you can expect about the same from most of the 150-grain bullets. The 110-grain Barnes Tipped Triple-Shock bullet will drive about 20 percent deeper. For plinking and practice, the 110-grain Sierra Round Nose, purpose-built for the .30 Carbine, is an excellent choice and the Sierra 110-grain Hollow Point should be perfect for varmints.
Last year, I used the Remington R-15 in .30 Rem. AR to take a pronghorn, mule deer, whitetail and black bear at ranges between 60 and 400 yards. The bear and antelope were taken with handloads. A 150-grain AccuBond literally stomped the black bear, and the 110-grain Tipped Triple-Shock was used on the pronghorn.
Remington executives told me they will soon offer brass for this cartridge so reloaders will not have to shoot up factory ammo to make handloads. I suggested they work with Barnes Bullets about offering .30 Rem. AR ammunition in the Barnes VOR-TX line. Until then, those who want to get the most performance from this cartridge will have to keep building their own ammo. The good news is that this cartridge is easy to load, very versatile and accurate.