Each year at SHOT Show a product catches everybody's attention and usually signals the beginning of a hot sales trend. In his weekly video podcast Michael Bane identified the compact single stack 9mm, like the newest one from Ruger, as the hot ticket for 2011.
While this category of concealed carry pistol will no doubt sell extremely well in 2011, it is perhaps not a gun but a new caliber that will mark the beginning of a larger trend in the industry. That caliber is the 300 AAC BLACKOUT from suppressor makers Advanced Armament Corp., one of the Freedom Group companies.
The 300 ACC BLACKOUT, designated 300 BLK, is a 7.62x35 round that was developed in response to military requests for an M4/HK-416 platform to launch 30 caliber rounds both subsonic (suppressed) and supersonic. AAC's new caliber offers loadings ranging from 110 grain for hunting and self defense to 220 grain for suppressed weapons - AAC's undisputed area of expertise.
You can learn more about the 300 BLK at http://www.300aacblackout.com/. But the question for consumers and dealers is what makes this caliber any different than those in the past, like the 6x35mm, that were not widely adopted?
Well, unlike the 6x35mm developed by Knights Armament which was not made available as an open standard (meaning there was no SAAMI specification to follow) the 300 BLK is open standard and SAAMI certification is expected shortly. AAC wisely sought to share the new caliber's specifications as early in the process as possible.
Additionally the 6x35mm wasn't designed for the standard AR magazine and standard M4 bolt increasing the costs of adoption by military units or law enforcement already equipped with AR rifles.
For any new caliber to reach commercial viability it must meet production levels high enough to bring the cost to consumers in line with their current expectations. To hit the production numbers needed requires buy-in from the military, and in the case of the 300 BLK that's already begun with the darker side of the special operations community ordering "unspecified" quantities.
Adoption by iconic military units - most of which are the basis for video games, television series and feature films - insures this round will top the must-have lists for all those wanting what the 'cool kids' shoot.
You can't sell ammo without guns though. One of the most important features of the 300 BLK is that it uses a 223 Rem (or 5.56 NATO) casing necked up to 30 caliber. That means it can be used in existing AR magazines - without giving up capacity - in existing AR platforms with the only a change of the barrel.
Can you say ease of manufacture?
And how interested are manufactures in this new 30 caliber round that fits existing ARs and can deliver performance equal to the 7.62x39 depending on the load? Well, insiders say to expect eight or nine new rifles announced at SHOT. The popularity among manufacturers is said to be significant with one manufacturing supplier already producing a record number of reamers for this new caliber to supply ammo and gun makers.
It is even rumored that Hornady, which currently supplies the aforementioned "dark groups", is rushing to bring a commercial load to SHOT Show that may be sold under the AAC brand.
Yes, the notion of Hornady rolling out ammo for AAC instead of sister company Remington does seem odd. This development, if it does pan out, certainly won't be viewed favorably by Freedom Group executives, but considering that AAC has not lost a military contract in the last four years, and they are a revenue generating juggernaut for the IPO bound company, it's unlikely that Cerberus executives will impede AAC's efforts and will likely fully support them to insure the new caliber's success.
So when SHOT Show opens keep an eye on the AAC booth. Because when you combine the performance characteristics of an AK with the ease of manufacture and wide availability of a standard AR, throw in the über-cool factor of the black SOF community's buy-in, it looks like you have a winner. Wrap all that up in an Advanced Armament bow and you have the makings of a real trend.