Reloading the .30 Remington AR
December 19, 2018
In the March issue I reported on hand-loading for two .30-caliber rifles I’d acquired. The rifles were chambered for different Remington big-game hunting cartridges, and as I stated in that column, ballistically the two rounds were substantially different. One of them was the .30 Remington AR (.30 RAR), and I was intrigued enough with it to want to spend more time trying some different handloads. The results of all that handloading and shooting show me it’s really unfortunate that the cartridge didn’t catch on with its intended market.
The .30 RAR has a relatively flat trajectory and the required terminal energy to make it effective on deer-size game at ranges up to 300 yards. The .30 RAR’s enhanced performance is achieved, despite the .30-30-size case capacity, by being loaded to a much higher pressure (55,000 psi MAP). Initial factory loads included 123-grain MC and 125-grain AccuTip bullets, but 125- and 150-grain Core-Lokt bullets were offered later.
The .30 RAR is a typical, rimless, bottlenecked rifle cartridge. The case shoulder angle is a modest 25 degrees, and the rim is slightly rebated. Reloading is accomplished with the usual step-by-step routine: clean/inspect, full-length size/degrease, trim/deburr, prime/charge, and seat a bullet. Full-length resizing is mandatory for the .30 RAR autoloader. Encountering a chambering or extraction mishap with a game animal in range would be disappointing. And fortunately, excellent load data is available from Hodgdon, Hornady, Lyman, and Western.
Unfortunately, the cartridge has a serious drawback. That’s because the .30 RAR case is unique in that there is no parent case to reform into this round. To add to this dilemma, Remington is the only source for ammo/brass, and the company ran the last production batch years ago.
You can make .30 RAR cases from .450 Bushmaster brass, but it has to be shortened before forming the neck and shoulder in several steps, and almost surely annealing and neck turning/reaming would be required. Because the .450 Bushmaster’s rim diameter is a bit smaller, the reworked cases still might not function properly in a .30 RAR autoloader.
When I bought my .30 RAR rifle, it came with 10 boxes of factory-loaded ammo. Additionally, I called a couple of my friends who have .30 RAR rifles and asked if they could spare some cases. Altogether, I received exactly 27 pieces of the very-scarce brass. Later, I received a generous supply of new, primed brass from an industry source, and I have sparingly experimented with some of my limited stores.
As you can see in the accompanying chart, I was able to duplicate and even exceed the factory-loaded 150-grain Core-Lokt ballistics. Depending on bullet weight, several propellants with different burn rates are suitable for handloading the .30 RAR. Speer’s new Gold Dot rifle bullets delivered excellent and repeatable performance, and Hornady’s 160-grain FTX bullet also performed well with several propellant/primer recipes.
When the .30 RAR was introduced in 2008, it was touted as being comparable to a .308 Winchester AR-10 but in a smaller and lighter-weight gun. The smaller and lighter-weight advantage is real; however, the .30 RAR cannot equal the .308’s ballistics. Case volume and MAP of the .308 Win. are 56 grains (water) and 62,000 psi. The .30 RAR’s are 44 grains (water) and 55,000 psi. The .30 RAR ballistics are more aptly described as the .30-30 on steroids. It essentially duplicates the field performance of the .300 Savage and .308 Marlin Express, which are excellent deer cartridges.
Bottom line: The .30 RAR is accurate and powerful enough to fulfill its intended purpose. If you come across an AR chambered for the .30 RAR for sale, don’t be shy about considering buying it. Like me, you just may take a shine to it.