January 08, 2021
The shooting world has had its collective eye on the .350 Legend cartridge since the round was first announced to the general public at last year’s SHOT Show. Shooters were intrigued by the .350 Legend, a brand-new cartridge with an ostentatious name built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of deer hunters living in straight wall-only states.
One man who had particular interest in Winchester’s new wünderkind cartridge was Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat. Wilson will always be best known for his 1911 pistols, but over the years he has lent his engineering eye to refining everything from big-bore revolvers to defensive shotguns and ARs.
Though Wilson came a bit late to the AR game, his rifles quickly gained a reputation for reliability and accuracy. Wilson Combat also offers the widest range of different AR caliber options on the market.
Want a precision AR in 7.62x40 WT? 6.8 SPC? .458 SOCOM? Wilson makes them all. He also offers his own superb .300 Ham’r and .458 Ham’r options, and that brought Wilson Combat’s catalog of AR chamberings to 23 by late 2018.
The 24th offering was bound to be the .350 Legend. When I visited Wilson’s Texas ranch last year, he was in the process of figuring out how the .350 Legend would work best in an AR. Not just work, either. He wanted the gun to be reliable and accurate enough for his demanding customer base.
Wilson was in the final stages of development of his .350 Legend rifles, and I had a chance to view some of his earliest prototypes. Wilson is a serious wild boar hunter and shot something on the order of a thousand feral pigs on his ranch throughout the course of development of the .300 Ham’r cartridge. So, not surprisingly, in addition to all the accuracy and function tests to which Wilson exposes his rifles during the course of development, they must also pass the pig test.
The .350 Legend is, at least on paper, a pretty ideal hog cartridge. Firing 145- to 180-grain supersonic loads faster than 2,000 fps, the .350 Legend can carry 1,000 ft.-lbs. of energy to almost 200 yards. Those aren’t PRS numbers, but it’s plenty of oomph to drop average-size pigs at moderate ranges.
What’s more, the 0.35-inch hole the bullet leaves behind a bigger hole for a better blood trail, and that increases the odds of finding a wounded pig. The .350 Legend produces mild recoil and is cheap to shoot, too.
While in Texas I had a chance to fire an early Legend prototype, a Wilson Combat Ranger, and it was similar to the gun I was later sent for testing and evaluation. Like all Wilson guns, the Ranger model is available with a variety of upgrades and personal touches, but the standard version is a well-appointed AR.
These rifles come with Wilson’s lightweight billet flat top upper and lower receivers, which are machined in Wilson’s Berryville, Arkansas, facility. The billet upper receiver features M4-style extended feed ramps, a shell deflector with the Wilson logo and an undersized bolt raceway for smooth feeding and chambering.
The upper is mated to a Wilson Combat Ranger match-grade barrel that’s also made in Wilson’s Arkansas plant. All Ranger rifles come with premium mil-spec bolts and bolt carriers that are magnetic particle inspected and NP3 coated.
The direct-impingement Ranger is equipped with an SLR Rifleworks click-adjustable gas block that allows you to tune the rifle for running with or without a suppressor. The 16-inch barrel is threaded 5/8x24 and comes with Wilson’s own Q-Comp hybrid brake/compensator. This muzzle device produces virtually no muzzle flash while helping control recoil and muzzle blast.
Standard Ranger rifles come with a 10-inch Wilson Combat M-Lok handguard with three Ergo rail grips with the Wilson Falcon logo, but the rifle I tested came equipped with a 12.6-inch Wilson Combat handguard.
Ranger rifles feature a six-position Wilson Combat Rogers Super-Stoc with a quick-release lever and reversible cam lock. The Super-Stoc has a sling loop and a QD swivel sling mount for maximum flexibility.
A Wilson Combat/BCM pistol grip, with Wilson’s trademark starburst texturing pattern, is standard on this rifle, and there’s a trapdoor on the base of the pistol grip that provides access to a waterproof storage compartment.
The Ranger also features Wilson’s M2 Tactical Trigger Unit, which is made with premium CNC-machined or EDM parts from bar stock for a smooth, crisp, four-pound break. The upper and lower receivers are hard anodized with Armor-Tuff finish, and each of these rifles sports Wilson’s Bullet Proof ambidextrous charging handle.
One of the .350 Legend’s selling points is it fits in an AR-15 magazine. But fitting and functioning aren’t the same thing, and while the Legend does indeed fit neatly in a standard AR, it doesn’t always function properly.
The rib in a standard 5.56 AR-15 magazine is designed to keep the cartridge properly oriented, but the 5.56-style rib isn’t optimal when shooting larger cartridges like the .300 BLK because cartridges begin to “nose in.” That’s why fans of the Blackout cartridge either buy mags modified for the .300 BLK or simply whittle down the internal rib to increase capacity.
“I found out on the .350 Legend you don’t really need any rib at all,” Wilson says. Early in his .350 Legend project, Wilson began modifying Lancer mags to properly fit the Legend, and those magazines have become extremely popular because they improve both capacity and reliability.
The Ranger .350 Legend packs a lot of high-tech features into a familiar AR package. And despite its long feature list, the Ranger weighs in at just six pounds, four ounces. With a Trijicon 3-9x40 AccuPoint scope in place, the whole rifle weighed seven pounds, seven ounces. That’s lighter than many bolt guns, and with a collapsed length of just 33.5 inches, the Ranger in .350 Legend is an ideal gun for thick brush or when hunting from a blind or tree stand.
Wilson himself has said that with the abundance and availability of parts, most any shooter can cobble together an AR for $500. The Wilson Ranger .350 Legend, though, carries a price tag of $2,300. Is it worth it?
Like Wilson’s 1911 handguns, his AR rifles are extraordinarily refined. The first thing you’ll notice on the Ranger is how smoothly the bolt moves in the receiver. The Armor-Tuff finish on the upper and lower receivers is smooth and even, and the overall construction of the Ranger is outstanding.
Wilson applies the same level of attention that’s usually reserved for 1911s to the AR-15, and that’s what really sets these guns apart. You may cobble together that $500 rifle, but it isn’t going to look or shoot like a Wilson.
The Ranger’s TTU is an exceptionally clean two-stage trigger, breaking just at four pounds with a smooth take-up and a clean wall that alerts the shooter when just a few more ounces of trigger pressure will drop the firing pin. Its predictable operation makes it easy to shoot well, and I’ve shot several Ranger rifles that were accurate enough to shoot under an inch at 100 yards.
While the .350 Legend is a functional, low-recoiling round that’s perfectly suited for moderate range shots on deer-size game, it is not a precision cartridge. Most of the rifles I’ve shot in .350 Legend produced 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards.
The best group from the Ranger was 1.18 inches at 100 yards with Hornady’s American Whitetail 170-grain InterLock softpoint, and that load produced groups that averaged 1.28 inches, as you can see in the accompanying table. Winchester’s loads didn’t shoot quite as well, but they’re fine for deer-size game at the ranges the cartridge is intended for.
The Wilson Combat Ranger ran very well with all the ammo. Out of a bolt gun I’d put Legend recoil at less than a .243, and from the gas-operated, seven-pound Ranger, it’s mild enough for even a new, small-statured shooter.
I’m also a big fan of Wilson’s Q-Comp, and while I don’t pretend to know exactly how the engineering on the compensator/brake works, I can say it doesn’t have nearly the muzzle blast of a traditional brake. I even fired the Ranger .350 Legend under a metal roof at the range. Doing that with most ARs gives the impression of being inside a giant bass drum with each shot, but the Legend’s mild velocities and the Q-Comp work together to keep your brain from being rattled with each pull of the trigger.
The Ranger .350 Legend is billed primarily as a hunting rifle, and it’s a great choice for eastern whitetails because of its compact size and accuracy and because it’s a legal option in states like my native Ohio. But the Ranger would also make a great hog rifle, and with 20 rounds on tap, this is one of the best guns to have in your hands when you stumble upon a sounder of pigs. While the Legend wouldn’t be my first choice for a coyote rifle, it’ll get the job done.
Perhaps this gun’s most underrated calling is that of a personal defense firearm. The .350 Legend has plenty of knockdown power to neutralize a two-legged threat, and its magazine capacity and versatile configuration make the Ranger ideal for personal protection. Plus, that M-Lok handguard with slots at three, six and nine o’clock offers all sorts of space for attaching vertical grips, lights, lasers and any other defense accoutrements you fancy.
The Wilson Combat Ranger is a good representation of what the .350 Legend cartridge can offer to AR shooters. If you can’t shell out the $2,300 that this gun commands, you can outfit your current AR-15 rifle to shoot .350 Legend by adding the Wilson barrel and the modified Lancer magazine. From butt to muzzle the Ranger is a premium rifle that’s a great option for hunting, target shooting or personal defense.
Wilson Combat Ranger Specs
- Type: Direct-impingement AR-15
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO, 6.8 SPC, 7.62x40 WT, .300 BLK, .300 Ham’r, .350 Legend (tested)
- Capacity: 20-round magazine supplied
- Barrel: 16 in., threaded 5/8x24; Q-Comp brake/compensator
- Overall Length: 33.5–36.5 in.
- Weight: 6 lb., 4 oz.
- Furniture: Wilson Combat Rogers 6-position Super-Stoc, BCM Starburst pistol grip
- Finish: Armor-Tuff Black (as tested)
- Trigger: Wilson Combat TTU M2 two-stage; 4 lb. pull (measured)
- Sights: Full optics rail
- Price: $2,300 (as tested)
- Manufacturer: Wilson Combat, WilsonCombat.com
Wilson Combat Ranger Accuracy Results