The 300 AAC Blackout round may not be perfect for every application. But the one application that it is absolutely perfect for, specifically as a subsonic/supersonic combo for special forces soldiers, is the role it was born to fill. So when WIRED published an article via CNN about special forces soldiers looking for a subsonic round for the future, I was somewhat shocked that 300 BLK wasn’t mentioned. I mean, check this out…
Most bullets make small sonic booms when flying through the air, which to our ears sound like a loud, distinct “crack!” For the Pentagon’s special forces, that makes it hard to be sneaky about what they’re shooting. Now the commandos want to be sneakier with slower, quieter bullets.
In its latest round of small-business solicitations, the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, is seeking out subsonic ammunition. The reason, according to the solicitation, is to “provide superior covert and stealth capabilities” for not only the military, but police forces and the Department of Homeland Security.
Which is exactly the use case for 300 BLK rounds. Stealthy when you need them, not when you don’t.
At present, the Defense Department does not have subsonic bullets “classified for use in the calibers provided by any DoD service.” That doesn’t mean special operations forces never use them. Commandos have used subsonic bullets since World War II, though these are mainly effective in smaller guns like the .22 and 9 mm caliber pistols. Subsonic bullets and fairly large-caliber war rifles, on the other hand, don’t mix very well.
Interesting side note: DOD approved ammunition is issued a Department Of Defense Identification Code, or DODIC, which is a unique identifier for the specific caliber and load to be ordered. It helps keep the procurement process easier for the quartermasters, and helps range officers identify the type of ammunition being used on their range. DODIC A059 is 5.56mm ball ammunition, for example. 300 Blackout doesn’t have any assigned DODICs. Yet. That I know of.
But now that Federal is making 300 BLK, and since Federal runs the ammo plant for the U.S. Government, that might be changing soon.
So, if the pentagon is concerned about subsonic ammo and wants some, how does it plan to achieve that? Is there not some existing technology available for the government to use? Perhaps something made by an existing government contractor?
Instead, the Pentagon has one idea about how to build a better subsonic bullet. One solution could be using “polymer cased ammunition” as opposed to brass or steel. The Pentagon is somewhat vague about how this will work, but the idea is that polymer-cased bullets “produce a reliable and consistent powder burn.” More specifically, polymer obturates at lower pressures, which means it may be possible to shoot a heavy bullet with less propellant while theoretically not trading for accuracy and range. Maybe.
Wait, what? How, exactly, does making the cartridge case out of a different material alter the muzzle velocity of the round? And how does that fix the inaccuracy issue they were talking about earlier? What does polymer cases have to do with anything?
To do it, the Defense Department might want to go back to the future. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Army spent $300 million on a canceled project called Advanced Combat Rifle to replace the standard M16 rifle.
One proposed replacement, the Steyr ACR, used polymer cartridges, but supposedly suffered from inaccuracy due to the strength of the cartridges being inconsistent, though this could be conceivably solved by testing cartridges until they fire consistently. Perhaps SOCOM could do it better.
Yes, SOCOM can do it better. Since I’m pretty sure they already have some of Robert Silver’s children in stock. Which are already proven weapons that function and won’t cost hundreds of millions to develop or deploy.