During the 1970s, E.F. Hutton was a leading brokerage firm that became known for the advertising slogan, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” When it comes to gunfighting, one could say, “When Paul Howe talks, people listen.” Howe spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, with 10 of those years in the special operations community assigned to 1st Special Forces Operations Detachment-Delta. Howe was a Delta team leader during the Battle of the Black Sea, also known as Black Hawk Down, and recently partnered with Panteao Productions to produce an intense three-hour after-action narrative on the Somalia operation, which was reviewed in TW November 2013. Howe has also produced videos dealing with leadership, firearms training and responding to active-shooter situations.
After leaving the Army, Howe founded his own training and consulting business, Combat Shooting and Tactics, or CSAT. Howe’s experiences are the basis for a very simple and result-driven training curriculum. To quote from one of his online articles:
“I remember servicing a bad guy one night at about 7 yards with night optics. I was trained to do double-taps throughout my military career. I punched him twice with two 5.56mm rounds and stopped for a split second in my mind and on the trigger, looking for a response from the bad guy. The problem was that he was still standing with an AK-47. I hit him with two more rounds before he began to fall to the ground. To my amazement, he stood back up before collapsing a second time. Lesson learned: Shoot until they go down. Not one, not two or three. I now teach ‘five in the chest, one in the head’ failure drills with the rifle. Why five? It may take the human body that long to react to the amount of trauma you are inducing. At the time of this incident, we were using military green-tip ammo, and the energy transfer was minimal. Realizing we had a stopping power problem, we developed a drill that would work on any determined individual and made it part of our training package.”
Anyone who takes a class from Howe or has watched his videos will quickly realize that he has very strong opinions that are based on his experiences. He is a pragmatist who understands the real world and the difference between competition, training and surviving a gunfight. In his classes, Howe stresses individual competency and reliable equipment.
Howe recently collaborated with Wilson Combat to develop a signature rifle, a true multipurpose 5.56 workhorse. To quote Howe, “Were I to have the choice of only one gun, this is the gun it would be. I can do short-, intermediate- and long-range work with this one rifle. It is like having one golf club to play the entire course.” I was fortunate to receive one of the new Howe carbines for evaluation.
Howe Awesome Is It?
The Wilson Combat Paul Howe Tactical Carbine (PHTC) comes as a complete package that includes an optic, a Vickers Tactical sling with quick-detach (QD) swivels and a quality soft case. Opening the case, the first thing one notices is the striking camouflage Armor-Tuff finish. The finish is specifically designed to blend in with multiple environments and consists of a Flat Dark Earth base coat accented with dark green and federal brown. By design, the overlay patterns do not cross the seam between the upper and lower receiver. According to Wilson Combat, the finish reduces the IR signature and keeps the rifle cooler in high temperatures.
As with other Wilson AR-platform rifles, the PHTC features a match-grade, stainless steel barrel with a 1-in-8-inch twist rate and chambered in 5.56mm NATO. The barrel is 14.5 inches in length, has machined lightening flutes and features a permanently fixed Wilson Accu-Tac flash suppressor that brings the overall length to a legal 16 inches. The modular Wilson Combat TRIM free-float handguard is one of the sleekest on the market. The handguard is machined from a 6005A-T5 aluminum extrusion and has threaded holes along the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. This allows short sections of Picatinny rail panels to be installed to meet the individual user’s needs.
The upper and lower receivers are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum and machined to Wilson’s specifications. The Wilson logo and model information is cleanly engraved on the magazine well. The fire control consists of a two-stage Wilson Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU) that has been upgraded with heavy-duty, mil-spec springs. The trigger pull on my sample rifle measured 4.5 pounds with a clean break and no excessive overtravel. The bolt is machined from Carpenter 158 steel, shot-peened and MPI tested. In addition, a mil-spec extractor O-ring buffer has been installed. The carrier keys have been properly staked, and the entire bolt carrier group has been NP3 coated by Robar. The operating controls consist of the standard, non-ambidextrous, M4 components and, again, reflect simplicity and functionality. The operation of the bolt on the PHTC is almost as smooth as on one of Wilson Combat’s CQB 1911s.
Howe prefers a fixed front sight that “can be used as an impact weapon when up close and personal…as an offensive or defensive impact tool for less-lethal and lethal tactical situations.” For the Wilson PHTC, he specified the Daniel Defense front sight tower, which is perhaps one of the strongest fixed front sights on the market and features a concave radius on either side of the base that can serve as a thumb rest. It also allows easy access to the switch of a weapon light that is mounted in front of the sight tower.
The PHTC also comes with Howe’s CSAT rear sight. The CSAT blade features a traditional round aperture for a 100-yard zero and a U-notch that is designed to provide point-of-aim/point-of-impact hits at 7 yards for CQB applications. The system is simple, intuitive and eliminates the issues of remembering holdover at close ranges. The rear sight is mounted on Wilson’s backup iron sight base and arm.
Wilson equips the PHTC with the Bravo Company Gunfighter grip and the Rogers/Wilson Super-Stoc. The textured BCM Gunfighter grip has a reduced angle for improved ergonomics and a modular insert that fills the gap between the triggerguard and the grip. The base of the pistol grip is hinged to allow access to an internal storage compartment. The Super-Stoc features a cam-lock that secures the stock to the buffer tube and removes any play. The stock is “locked” by rotating the cam-lock lever upward. The cam-lock automatically disengages when the stock adjustment lever is pressed. In addition, the buttplate of the Super-Stoc is designed to eliminate any slippage during firing. Wilson ships the PHTC with one Lancer 30-round magazine.
In keeping with its multipurpose intent, Howe also specified that the PHTC come with the 1-6x24mm Leupold VX-6 scope with the FireDot illuminated reticle. The VX-6 features Leupold’s DiamondCoat 2 coating that increases light transmission and provides protection from abrasion. The combination of the 1-6X magnification and the FireDot illuminated reticle gives the carbine the capability of both CQB and precision applications at distance. Wilson mounts the VX-6 on its excellent Accu-Rizer scope mount.
Carbine Test Fire
I was anxious to get the PHTC to the range and give it a workout. I started out with a couple of magazines of Hornady 55-grain FMJ ammo to become accustomed to the trigger and optic. I then settled down to see how the rifle shot at 100 yards. I tested the Howe carbine with three performance loads that are suitable for both sporting and duty/personal defense uses. Hornady’s proven 55-grain TAP load is a favored load for law enforcement, as it provides a combination of medium barrier penetration and good terminal ballistics. The 55-grain TAP load averaged 2,814 fps and produced a group that measured 1.65 inches. Stan Chen’s ASYM Precision 70-grain TSX load consists of a Barnes solid-copper bullet that is a proven design. The ASYM load averaged 2,666 fps with a group that measured 1.1 inches. The final load was a 75-grain match boat-tail hollow point from HPR that averaged 2,539 fps and produced a 1.11-inch group.
The bright optics of the Leupold VX-6 allowed me to shoot later in the evening, and as the sun set, I had an opportunity to use the FireDot illuminated reticle. The FireDot has multiple brightness settings and is activated by pressing the center of the left turret. I have to agree with Howe that the 1-6X magnification, when combined with the FireDot, is an excellent multipurpose optic for either hunting or tactical use.
To further expand the capability of the PHTC, I mounted an EOTech EXPS3 holographic weapon sight. It is powered by a single transversely mounted CR123 lithium battery, which reduces the overall length of the optic. This is critical when using the MK18 or other SBR uppers. Thirty brightness settings, along with 10 night-vision settings, provide proper illumination under all conditions. I also used the G33.STS 3X magnifier with an integral side-flip mount. The EOTech was extremely fast at CQB ranges, and the 3X magnifier helped me shoot sub-1-inch groups at 50 yards easily.
The final accessory tested was the WML from Inforce. The WML is an extremely compact light that is only 4.1 inches in length and weighs only 3 ounces (without batteries). The WML is molded from a tough polymer and features a programmable multifunction activation button. Powered by a single CR123A lithium battery, the WML produces 125 lumens and a two-hour run time on the high setting. The low setting produces 30 lumens with a run time of 10 hours. The slanted switch is very ergonomic, and a rotating guard prevents accidental activations. The WML has an integrated rail mount that is simple and compact.
The WC Paul Howe rifle is billed as a multipurpose platform, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from it if you buy one.
Editor’s Note: For exclusive video of Howe shooting this new carbine for Panteao Productions’ upcoming DVD Long Range Hunter, see www.tactical-life.com.
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