The AR-15 is an interesting platform. Although it holds the title of America’s best-selling firearm, it suffers an effectiveness malady that simply cannot be ignored. While the firearm is undoubtedly accurate and reliable, the 5.56 NATO cartridge is severely underpowered. So much so that the military has sought to replace it virtually from the start. This issue paved the way for the 300 AAC Blackout, but that too suffered from inadequacy issues. The problem with this one was that it was designed for slinging long, heavy bullets at subsonic velocities. The trouble comes when it’s time to reach out beyond contact distances to deliver some hate.
Wilson Combat Elite Protector in .300 HAM’R
Bill Wilson wasn’t numb to this issue and dealt with it several times when hunting hogs, which, in turn, led to the creation of the .300 HAM’R. By trading case neck for case body, Wilson Combat was able to increase powder capacity without sacrificing the use of popular 30-caliber bullets. The end result is an outlandishly powerful AR-15 cartridge that throws subsonic use to the wind for what really matters, more downrange energy. The cartridge rolled out with plenty of worthy irons to sling it, but none are more distinguished than the Wilson Combat Protector Elite Carbine.
The Protector Elite Carbine is built on the familiar AR-15 platform but is anything other than ordinary. Building off the success of the original Protector, the Elite is crafted from a billet receiver set as opposed to one that is forged. This clamps down even harder on tolerances and also serves as a host for a more refined feature set. This was apparent after firing just half a magazine through it at the 2023 Athlon Rendezvous. In short, it ran like a dream, and I was making steady hits out to 300 in the offhand position, demonstrating outstanding balance and overall shootability. From its crisp trigger to its near non-existent recoil, I knew I was going to need one back home to put through its paces.
Because the Athlon Rendezvous is so deeply laden with new guns and gear, you never seem to get the full amount of time it takes to appreciate all the iniquities of each product. For instance, I didn’t realize the clever stock system the Protector Elite came with. Known as the Rogers Super-Stoc, this six-position collapsible unit features a locking lever that eliminates any jiggle that is associated with this design. Furthermore, once you hit the adjustment lever, it automatically disengages, staving off any possible hang-up when the chips are down. Eliminating unwanted movement is a major part of accuracy and, to some degree, functionality. It was nice to see this idea also carried over to the receiver set, as the two fit together far tighter than others in this class.
With the gun now on my workbench, I contemplated which optic to use. Red dots suit the typical AR-15 quite well; however, when one is chambered in .300 HAM’R, it is served with far more utility. This cartridge makes one heck of a home-defense round, so I didn’t want to sacrifice rapid target acquisition, but at the same time, I wanted to ensure that I could use the same setup to dispatch pigs for when I venture down south or out west to “assist” with that problem.
That pointed me squarely in the direction of LPVOs, and I had an EOTech Vudu 1-6x sitting on the shelf that was perfect for this rifle. Its illuminated SR2 reticle is set in the first focal plane, allowing for quick use of the holdovers created for 7.62 NATO. Wilson’s .300 HAM’R cartridge can closely mimic these ballistics with the right load, so it should be close enough for the occasional distant pig slaying.
For the short game, the 1x setting displays EOTech’s famous speed ring, which will be familiar to anybody who has used their holographic optics. This zooms completely out of the field of view when the ocular lens is twisted beyond 5x. Warne makes an XSkel cantilever mount with a burnt bronze finish that complements the rifle’s Forest Camo Armor-Tuff coating. It’s advertised as the “ideal height” for an MSR, and after using them for more than a decade, I can confirm that claim, as I have yet to find something more comfortable.
.300 HAM’R Ammo Options
It’s true that the .300 HAM’R is less popular than the 300 Blackout, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of ammunition offerings to cover a wide variety of usages. At the time of this writing, Wilson Combat catalogs nearly two dozen unique loads with various buying options to suit budgets and quantitative needs. To some extent, it made selecting three for testing a bit of a task. I narrowed it down to a featherweight, midweight, and heavy-for-caliber projectile to span the rainbow and encompass as many applications as possible.
I chose Wilson’s 95-grain Controlled Chaos load to represent my solution for critters like foxes or coyotes. Lehigh Defense (recently acquired by Wilson Combat) loads a 125-grain version of the same pill, sufficing my testing needs for whitetail- and antelope-sized game. And lastly, I selected Wilson’s no-BS 150-grain Bonded Speer ammo to cover hard-to-kill creatures like wild hogs and two-legged beasts that might want to bring the party to you.
With gear in hand, I headed up the hill to put lead to paper and grab some more structured data. Putting the 30-round freedom stick to the side, I popped in a 20-round Duramag to allow for unobstructed bench shooting. I dialed in on a gong at 100 yards before fine-tuning on paper. This process allowed for a better opportunity to get a feel for the trigger. Banging away at steel might help one to appreciate the reset, but precision paper-punching is the only way to observe a good break.
The Protector Elite comes with Wilson Combat’s Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU), which broke at a measured 5.5 pounds. I consider this the perfect weight for a hunting and defensive firearm, as it’s not so light that one finger slip will lead to an ND, and it is miles away from a mil-spec trigger. Moreover, it broke like a dried toothpick and was dead-repeatable every shot. Overall, I printed some excellent groups with the gun, but for those looking for consistency at all costs, look no further than the 125-grain Lehigh Defense load.
With formal accuracy testing complete, I retrieved the 30-rounder, reloaded and walked further up the hill while engaging a bevy of steel targets on the move and from around cover. Again, the Elite excelled, and I found it quite nimble to maneuver through thick brush and around man-made barriers. Although the .300 HAM’R provides a bit more kick than the .223 Remington, the Q-Comp did an amazing job at redirecting the recoil and keeping the muzzle on target as I dumped entire magazines. This is when I first noticed the beveled mag well, which made resupplying from something as simple as a pant pocket remarkably hasty.
Having It All
When the next iteration of gun-history books is written, it will bewilder me if Bill Wilson isn’t mentioned alongside inventors like John Moses Browning and Eugene Stoner. Cartridges like the .300 HAM’R are indeed revolutionary and answer the age-old question of how to get more energy out of the AR without sacrificing capacity. Loaded into the Protector Elite, it creates quite possibly the most useful AR-15 on the planet. I found it deadly accurate with the fortitude and stability of a well-built precision rifle while somehow retaining its agility for tactical work. There are few instances in life when you can have it all. Wilson Combat dedicates itself to creating more of them. For more information, visit wilsoncombat.com.
SPECIFICATIONS: Wilson Combat Protector Elite Carbine
- Caliber: .300 HAM’R
- Barrel: 16 inches
- Overall Length: 33.25 – 36.25 inches
- Overall Weight: 6.9 pounds (empty)
- Stock: Rogers Super-Stoc
- Sights: None
- Action: Semi-auto
- Finish: Armor-Tuff
- Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: $2,325
PERFORMANCE: Wilson Combat Protector Elite Carbine
|Lehigh Defense 125-gr. CC||2,368||0.62|
|Wilson Combat 95-gr. CC||2,694||1.84|
|Wilson Combat 150-gr. HB-N||2,255||1.44|
This article first appeared in the October-November 2023 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your digital or print copy or subscription at OutdoorGroupStore.com.