Ask Foghorn: The Dog that Didn’t Bark

Eric writes in with a rather depressing truth:

It’s now been over a month since the Las Vegas Shot Show and the one bit of news I did expect to come out of there, or shortly thereafter, has not done so.

With all of the excitement, build up, and hype surrounding the 300 Blackout round, I was expecting one of the Russian “cheap ammo” groups to announce they were manufacturing that specification. With the common parts the 300 Blackout is composed of, I thought this would have been a simple tool-up for them if they believed it was a going concern.

Since Bear, Wolf, and Tulammo haven’t offered 300 Blackout ammunition, does this indicate that said round is currently headed towards being yet-another boutique round rather than growing in wider commercial acceptance?

Yeah, I know, this question doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the typically technical articles, but someone asked and it was a legitimate question. So answer I will.

The single biggest drawback for the .300 AAC Blackout round has been the lack of readily available (and cheap) commercial ammunition. Manufacturer after manufacturer rolled out brand new .300 BLK rifles at SHOT this year, but it seems like none of the regular players have started making ammo besides Remington. Sure there are a ton of smaller manufacturers making .300 BLK, but they don’t seem to have the same capacity as Wolf. And the reason is that everyone is waiting.

For the major ammunition manufacturers (Winchester, PMC, Wolf, Tula…) getting into .300 BLK right now would mean setting up brand new machines. Sure they could re-tool existing machines, but with the current state of the ammunition market (where every last round is being bought, even if it’s 8mm Lebel) it doesn’t make financial sense to take a profitable machine offline to make it just as profitable making something else.

So what they need to do is invest in new equipment, but .300 BLK isn’t quite established enough in their minds to create the kind of demand that would keep a machine buzzing 24/7 cranking out ammunition. It seems like they expect .300 BLK to go the way of every other boutique round and fizzle out. But the difference between .300 BLK and some of the other strange rounds that have come out is that it has the force of Remington and Freedom Group behind it.

The one thing missing from the previous calibers was a champion, a company (or set of companies in this case) that would keep pressing forward with a cartridge even if the rest of the industry is too risk adverse to jump on board. That’s exactly what’s happening with Freedom Group, and I think it’s all part of their master plan.

They’ve created the demand for .300 BLK guns through evangelists like myself telling people how well it works for hunting or self defense or competition shooting, and they feed that demand using their Remington, AAC and Bushmaster properties to prime the pump and counting on other companies to pitch in as well (Noveske and Daniel Defense spring to mind).

Now that there’s demand for ammunition thanks to all the new .300 BLK owners, Remington has already tooled up to produce just enough ammunition to keep a few rounds on the shelves, assisted by some of the smaller ammunition companies in coming close to meeting the demand. So not only has Remington currently cornered the market on .300 BLK ammunition (and can basically charge whatever they want) but they’re able to keep the .300 BLK owners shooting while their numbers grow and demand gets bigger.

This is where others failed, and Remington’s ability to keep the ammunition flowing even when the other major players aren’t in the sandbox with them may prove to be the deciding factor in its sustainability.

Once the market has been established, Freedom Group then has the ability to up-sell their existing customers with things like silencers; expensive pieces of equipment that become addictive. Which explains Freedom Group’s recent surge towards mass legalization of silencers for hunting as well as recreational shooting. They see an opportunity to squeeze a couple grand more out of a market that has proven that they’re willing to drop a couple grand on a rifle and then even more money to keep it fed with expensive ammunition.

To me, .300 BLK is Freedom Group’s attempt to be the Apple of the firearms world. They want their own little ecosystem of devices (guns and silencers in this case) that they can keep selling to their customers at a higher price than the standard fare. And while in theory anyone can jump into the .300 BLK arena (as it’s an open standard freely available to use) the reality is that the barrier to entry in terms of the cash required is still to high compared to the potential market.

I believe that one day I’ll be able to walk into Walmart and buy some Wolf .300 BLK rounds, but the reality of the moment is that the market is too small for the mass production behemoths to make a profit.

So, in short, while at the moment it really doesn’t make sense for Wolf or PMC to get in on the .300 BLK craze the good news is that Remington and Freedom Group seem to be willing to carry the torch until the market is big enough to sustain itself.

Or, in other words, I’m not worried. And, worst case scenario, I can always make my own ammo.

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