September 07, 2023
Bill Wilson, the founder of Wilson Combat, is well known for his exploits in the handgun world and beyond. What many don’t know is that Wilson is himself an avid outdoorsman. He has hunted worldwide, and these days spends a great deal of time chasing feral hogs on his Texas ranch.
Due to the sheer number of hogs in the U.S. and the laws regulating their taking, a hog hunter can get more action in a day than a deer or elk hunter might get in an entire season. Since he hunts hogs about 300 days per year, Wilson takes that to a new level. It was this mountain of real-world hunting experience that led him to develop his company’s new rifle, the Wilson Combat Ultralight Hunter.
Wilson does most of his hog hunting from his UTV, in an elevated blind, or on foot, and for this a lightweight and compact semiauto is ideal.
“Light and short is real important to me,” Wilson said. “The Ultralight Hunter turned out to be the perfect package. I got everything that I wanted.”
Part of that package is the .300 Ham’r, a SAAMI-approved cartridge that Wilson developed specifically for chasing hogs. You can read more about the cartridge in the accompanying sidebar.
The Ultralight Hunter is built on Wilson Combat’s flattop forged receiver set. It weighs in at five pounds, 2.5 ounces unloaded and has an overall length of 34 inches. Light and short, indeed.
The forged flattop receiver is fairly standard but conspicuously absent is a forward assist. In the past, I’ve found myself using a forward assist to load a rifle stealthily while hunting, so I was curious about why it was eliminated. In using the Ultralight Hunter, though, I could not make the bolt carrier stay out of battery, no matter how lightly I let down the charging handle, so it is a non-issue.
The Ultralight Hunter uses a mid-length gas system, which puts less stress on the bolt carrier compared to carbine-length setups. The low-mass bolt carrier is engineered specifically for this rifle and cartridge combination. Much of the carrier body is milled away to cut weight. Not only does this eliminate nominal weight from the carbine as a whole, but it cuts down on felt recoil since there is less carrier mass slamming itself into the buffer assembly.
Taking a hint from 3-Gun competitors, using a lightweight buffer, a well-tuned gas system and an appropriate weight buffer is an extremely effective way of keeping the sights on the target. The entire bolt carrier assembly is coated in nickel boron, which reduces friction and makes the components easy to clean. Carbon fouling wipes off with just a paper towel. Because the .300 HAM’R uses the .223 Rem. as its parent case, a standard bolt face is used. The bolt is fitted with a plunger ejector and an M16-style extractor.
One of the easiest ways to keep a rifle’s weight down is to decrease the contour and length of the steel barrel. With this in mind, the Ultralight Hunter is fitted with a 16-inch stainless steel, match-grade barrel with an extremely lightweight profile. The otherwise thin barrel flares outward in two key areas: where it interfaces with the low-profile gas block and again at the muzzle.
The muzzle flare is key because the barrel is threaded 5/8x24. These days, I am seeing a trend in threaded rifle muzzles mated with light-contour barrels, which can be a problem. A suppressor needs a solid shoulder to index against, and the Wilson barrel provides an appropriate surface. The rifle ships with a thread protector installed.
Also, an insufficient barrel wall can be a recipe for poor accuracy, since the thin steel section between the threads and the bore can open up, loosening the rifling’s constrictive relationship with the bullet. The profile of the Wilson barrel relative to the bore diameter eliminates this potential issue.
A key element in this lightweight equation is the fixed-length, minimalist carbon-fiber stock, made for Wilson Combat by Nevada-based Smoke Composites. This company has applied its expertise in building lightweight yet capable components for the aerospace industry to create some of the lightest rifle furniture available.
The stock, including the carbon fiber-wrapped buffer tube, weighs a mere five ounces. The 10.1-inch length of pull adds to the compact nature of the Ultralight Hunter. The angled section that connects the butt to the buffer has two M-Lok attachment points so a sling can be used. The butt is textured to create a non-slip surface. Smoke Composites also markets an adjustable cheekpiece that can be purchased separately.
The Ultralight Hunter uses a free-floating, M-Lok-compatible fore-end with a Picatinny top rail. Both a small M-Lok rail section and a QD-style sling mount are included with the carbine. There is plenty of real estate to mount additional M-Lok accessories, although too many add-ons may be counterproductive in terms of weight. The textured pistol grip is from Mission First Tactical, but any grip designed for the AR-15 is compatible.
From a controls perspective, the Ultralight Hunter is fairly standard AR, minus the forward assist. The safety/selector lever is on the left side only, which I prefer since ambidextrous selectors often bump my hand during recoil. The carbine uses Wilson Combat’s Tactical Trigger Unit M2. This single-stage trigger breaks cleanly at around four pounds. It was 3.75 pounds on my test model.
A great trigger is one of the key elements of a shootable hunting rifle, and this one fits the bill. Hogs often travel in sounders, so the trigger’s short reset—combined with the recoil-absorbing features described previously—may give hunters the opportunity to target more than one animal.
Although they differ in several respects, the .300 Ham’r is compatible with magazines designed for the .300 BLK, which means they are widely available. A 20-round Lancer L5 Advanced Warfighter Magazine is included with the Ultralight Hunter. My sample fed, fired and ejected with 100 percent reliability. Note that some states restrict magazine capacity while hunting, so act accordingly.
The aluminum components of the Ultralight Hunter are mil-spec, hard-coat anodized. Additionally, Wilson Combat’s own baked-on Armor-Tuff finish covers all but a few parts. The barrel on my sample was coated green, and the receiver and fore-end were sprayed with a green and brown camouflage pattern. Overall, the fit and finish were what you would expect from a company with Wilson Combat’s reputation.
I mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 3-9x42mm scope, ideal for low-light hog hunting, to the Ultralight Hunter. Two different loads of Wilson Combat ammunition were provided for testing: the 125-grain CC (Controlled Chaos) and the 130-grain HHC (Ham’r Hot Core).
The CC is a lead-free monolithic bullet designed to shed its forward section, creating a violent wound channel. The shank continues to penetrate, giving the hunter the best of both worlds in terms of terminal performance. The HHC uses Speer’s Hot Core bullet, which is a more traditional cup-and-core design.
Ultralight carbines can be great assets in the field, but aren’t always conducive to producing tiny groups on paper—there’s a reason that benchrest rifles are heavy. As with other rifles and carbines in this weight category, I found the Ultralight Hunter to be very sensitive to the relationship among the firearm, the rest and the shooter. For me, bearing down on the fore-end produced the best results.
Accuracy hovered just above one m.o.a. with both Wilson Combat .300 Ham’r loads used. The carbine grouped better with a suppressor attached, but the RifleShooter policy is to test without suppressors for baseline accuracy. Recoil was just a touch heavier than with a comparable .223, which is to say it was light.
Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to go hunting with the Ultralight Hunter, but 25 years of chasing pigs gives me little doubt that it is well suited to the task. Wild hogs are often targets of opportunity, and a light, compact and handy “truck gun” like this Wilson is ideal.
Large, heavy precision rifles are great tools for certain applications, but not for hunting in close cover, climbing in and out of stands or blinds or when operating from a vehicle. For these situations, a compact carbine such as the Wilson Combat Ultralight Hunter is the way to go.
This is not necessarily a do-it-all-carbine, but a well-thought-out design adapted to thrive in a specific role. That said, though it’s designed for feral hogs, this rifle could do double duty for hunting whitetailed deer at reasonable distances.
Forty-five years into the company’s history, Wilson Combat is still pushing the boundaries of firearm and, now, cartridge design. The Ultralight Hunter represents the culmination of many decades of hunting and firearm production experience.
Wilson Ultralight Hunter Specifications
- Type: Direct-impingement AR-15
- Caliber: .300 Ham’r
- Capacity: 20-round Lancer L5 AWM magazine, supplied
- Barrel: 16 in., 1:13 twist, threaded 5/8x24
- Overall Length: 34 in.
- Weight: 5 lb., 5 oz.
- Finish: Hard-coat anodized, Armor-Tuff
- Stock: Fixed Smoke Composites Carbon fiber
- Sights: None; Picatinny rail
- Safety: Two-position, receiver-mounted lever
- Trigger: Single-stage, 3.7 lb. pull (measured)
- Price: $2,250
- Manufacturer: Wilson Combat, WilsonCombat.com
A Real Hammer
As an avid hog hunter, Bill Wilson set out to develop the most powerful .30 caliber cartridge that can be fired from an AR-15 using a standard bolt. The result was the .300 Ham’r, a cartridge that exceeds the ballistic and terminal performance of both the .30-30 Win. and the .300 BLK.
The 300 Ham’r is essentially a blown-out .223 Rem. case with minimal taper and a 30-degree shoulder that creates a slight bottleneck. Though based on the same parent case, the Ham’r has 25 percent more powder capacity than the Blackout, and also runs at a higher chamber pressure (57,500 vs. 55,000 psi). Unlike the Blackout, the Ham’r is optimized for supersonic velocities and has a flatter trajectory.
“It dramatically exceeds what the .300 Blackout can do with the same bullet range,” Wilson said. “It fits a niche that no other cartridge does.”
Wilson Combat currently offers seven .300 Ham’r loads, along with component cases, bullets and reloading dies. Bill Wilson did the load development himself and personally tested the cartridge on hundreds of hogs. His conclusion has been that the .300 Ham’r offers better terminal performance than the 5.56/.223, 6.8 SPC and 7.62x39, as well as the .300 BLK. Available bullet weights range from 95 to 150 grains, with velocities from 2,800 down to 2,300 fps. Wilson feels the cartridge performs optimally with bullets from 110 to 150 grains.