.338 FEDERAL TACTICAL HUNTER
Wilson Combat’s WC-10 Tactical Hunter is built from the ground up as a hunting rifle. We put its .338 Federal to the test hunting tough, 500-pound Texas nilgai antelope.
The first and only time I ever went antelope hunting, I packed a Wilson Combat ARWC-10 Tactical Hunter chambered in .338 Federal.
It wasn’t overkill.
In fact, after I saw my first bull, I wondered if Bill Wilson’s personal rifle was enough gun? (Seeing a 500-pound antelope can raise some doubt.)
NOT YOUR NORTH AMERICAN ANTELOPE
If you want to give your speed goat hunting buddies a chuckle, tell them you know where there are a few hundred herds of these 500-pound antelopes. Then, take them to south Texas and watch their jaws drop when you introduce them to “blue bulls.” Known officially as “nilgai,” these transplanted antelope from India can—and, more often than not—weigh over a quarter-ton. At more than 500 pounds, these stout beasts aren’t quite as dainty as the much-faster American pronghorn, but they’re still “speedy,” considering they can get up to 30 mph and sustain it for miles.
“The nilgai were brought to Texas around the 1930s, and they flourished here,” said Weston Koehler, a wildlife biologist with the King Ranch. “All of their senses are good, and they’re all better than a deer’s. I’ve had them spook and wind me at 600 yards and farther. They’re not curious animals. If they sense danger, they simply turn around and go. They’re bigstructured animals with big horns—not antlers—a thick hide and a strong will to live.”
Nope; antelope hunting with a .338 Federal semiautomatic rifle wasn’t too much gun. As it turned out, it was just enough.
What exactly is a .338 Federal? It’s not a white-collared cartridge with a cushy government job. Rather, it’s a neckedup .308 Winchester developed by Federal and Sako, so it uses the same receivers, bolt and magazines as the wildly popular short-action .30 bore. Get this: The peppy little short-action non-magnum cartridge packs more muzzle energy punch than a 7mm Remington Magnum.
“The .338 Federal and the .358 Winchester are substantially more powerful than the .308,” Bill Wilson explained. “Both are underrated for what they’re capable of, and I don’t know why they’re not more popular.”
Long before I set foot in Texas to hunt nilgai, I got familiar with Wilson Combat’s WC-10 Tactical Hunter rifles at a media event in Colorado. There, the perfectly machined, round-where-it-
KNOWN OFFICIALLY AS “NILGAI,” THESE TRANSPLANTED ANTELOPE FROM INDIA CAN—AND, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT— WEIGH OVER A QUARTER-TON.
should-be, solid-where-it-must-be semiautomatic rifle shot as a Wilson Combat firearm should: perfectly.
ABOUT BILL WILSON AND WILSON COMBAT
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wilson Combat and its founder, Bill Wilson, all you need to know are two things: Bill’s a perfectionist, and he’s been in the firearms business since 1974.
Actually, you need to know one more thing, and it’s my favorite part of knowing him: He’s a hunter; and, when you mix all three qualities together, you begin to understand how he can make a rather healthy living building firearms with hefty price tags. His guns are worth it.
His line of semiautomatic rifles is no different. The .338 Federal I carried in western Texas comes in three flavors—the Ultimate Hunter, the Ultralight Hunter and the Tactical Hunter.
As I mentioned earlier, I hunted with Bill Wilson’s personal .338 Federal in a Tactical Hunter. It sported an 18-inch barrel with a 4-pound, two-stage tactical trigger unit. To suite Bill’s tastes, the barrel was crowned and not threaded. The rifle, itself, utilizes Wilson Combat’s lightweight, in-house-machined BILLet-AR receivers and their match-grade barrels, T.R.I.M.
... THE NEXT DAY
... I REDEEMED MYSELF WELL BEFORE 9 A.M. BY ANCHORING THE LARGEST ANIMAL I HAVE EVER KILLED ... WITH ONE WELLPLACED SHOT FROM BILL’S .338 FEDERAL WC-10 AT ABOUT 125 YARDS.
hand guard rail and crisp, reliable Tactical Trigger Units. In other words, Wilson Combat goes well beyond MIL-SPEC.
“The primary goals of the AR-10 project were to make the rifles as light as possible while still retaining stellar accuracy,” Bill pointed out. “I personally shot thousands of rounds optimizing the accuracy of the barrels used in the Hunter series [in order to] to optimize them for accuracy with hunting bullets.
“The Ultimate Hunter and Tactical Hunter are basically the same rifle, with the exception of the threaded muzzle and the buttstock. The Ultralight Hunter is designed to be the lightest we can build it while still retaining stellar accuracy and be a
fast-handling carbine. I was the lead on all the design work and personally did all the testing for the Hunter series project. A lot of different components were tested to optimize the system, and I personally shot thousands of rounds of factory and handloaded ammunition in testing for function, durability and accuracy. The end result is rifles that are totally reliable, durable and extremely accurate with common hunting bullets, especially with hand loads.”
Bill developed the AR-10 platform, known at Wilson Combat as the WC platform, because he wanted a semiautomatic rifle good enough to meet his standards.
NO EXPENSE SPARED
“We have spared no expense in development, testing and production of these rifles,” said Bill. “If we could build a better one, we would! A big advantage Wilson Combat has is the fact that I’ve been a serious hunter since the early ’70s and have a very keen personal interest in Wilson Combat making the very best ARs on the market, whether for hunting or tactical use. I’m shooting and testing AR products virtually on a daily basis.”
In fact, the rifle I used on this hunt benefited from just this kind of attention from the shooting legend, and Bill explained why the Tactical Hunter was sighted-in using a 1-inch Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40mm rifle scope to shoot his handloaded 210-grain Nosler Partitions, which he pushed with 42 grains of Benchmark powder. It wasn’t an afterthought.
“Here at the [Wilson Combat] ranch, we are fortunate to have shooting ranges out to 800 yards for extensive accuracy testing,” Bill pointed out. “Also, I hog hunt at least 325 days out of the year, and I’m also deer hunting more than 120 days a year of those 325 days, with annual harvests of 200-plus hogs and 50-plus deer—all with ARs. Who else proves out their product like that?”
Wilson Combat goes to great lengths to make sure the rifle its folks put in your hands works, is accurate and, above all else, is reliable.
TASTE OF HUMBLE PIE
During my first and only nilgai hunt, I had the opportunity to shoot at not one, but two, trophy nilgai bulls. Why? Because I’m the gun writer who is brave—or stupid—enough to admit and publically write about the fact that you can absolutely miss with a custom-built, customer-handloaded, properly scoped, world-class semiautomatic rifle on a guided hunt. Because that’s exactly what I did.
You see, I yanked the crisp, gorgeous trigger of that .338 Federal so hard when I shot at my first nilgai bull that I’m pretty sure the only thing I hit was ozone. The only blood I drew was from my pride. But, the next day, with a breakfast belly full of humble pie, an optimistic guide and a can-do attitude, I redeemed myself well before 9 a.m. by anchoring the largest animal I have ever killed not named “Bullwinkle” with one well-placed shot from Bill’s .338 Federal WC-10 at about 125 yards.
Just because it was my second chance, God saw fit to give us a heavy dose of low, thick coastal fog while we hunted. But the blue bull didn’t stand a chance, because on this day, like Bill, I was a perfectionist, and I had no intention of going home empty handed.
To learn more about the Wilson Combat line of WC-10, WC-12 and WC-15 line of semiautomatic modern sporting rifles, visit WilsonCombat.com. GW
SPARED NO EXPENSE IN DEVELOPMENT, TESTING AND PRODUCTION OF THESE RIFLES,” SAID BILL. “IF WE COULD BUILD A BETTER ONE WE WOULD!”
Author Jay Pinsky shot his first nilgai on the King Ranch in Texas as a guest of Bill Wilson andWilson Combat. He used a Wilson Combat TacticalHunter WC-10 semiautomatic rifle chambered in .338 Federal. One wellplaced shot from therifle anchored the “blue bull,” getting full pass-through on the animal at about125 yards.
One key design of the WC-10 is how the firearm is rounded in all the right places to facilitate easeof-use and smooth operation.
The Tactical Hunter barrel, whether fluted or not, is tuned to be used suppressed or unsuppressed.
The Tactical Hunter uses Wilson Combat’s mostadvanced manufacturing processes and decades of hunting experience to give discriminating gun owners one of the finest semiautomatic rifle platforms in the world. The billet receiver uses a flattop rail to enable optics to be mounted on the rifle.The WC-10 is available in 7mm-08 Remington, .300 HAM’R, .308 Winchester, .338 Federal, 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, .260 Remington, .204 Ruger, .458SOCOM and 6.8 SPC.
The WC-10 Tactical Hunter is made of premium parts. Here, it is field-stripped.
The days of thinking that a reliable, accurate and lightweight AR-10 platform is impossible are long gone. Wilson Combat’s Tactical Hunter weighs a mere 7 pounds, 11 ounces (empty).
The Tactical Hunter uses a lightweight bolt carrier made from nickel boron and a small-latch BCM charginghandle.