Gun Digest

Gun Review: The Big Shot — Wilson Combat’s .458 HAM’R

Pitching a massive hunk of lead at a greater velocity than nearly anything in its class, Wilson Combat's .458 HAM'R Ultimate Hunter puts other large-bore ARs to shame.

Is it worth getting HAM'Red?:

There are those among us who think big enough — isn’t. Bill Wilson, legendary firearms manufacturer and founder of Wilson Combat, is one such man.

The Wilson Combat 458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter is designed around balance, making the gun fast tracking and easy to handle.
The Wilson Combat .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter is designed around balance, making the gun fast tracking and easy to handle.

Long established as a world-class hunter and accomplished competitive shooter, Wilson is known for being a fan of big, powerful guns and ammo that put cantankerous critters down with authority. The .458 SOCOM, a cartridge that can push a massive 300-grain bullet more than 1,800 fps out of an AR-15, is just one example. Yet, the ability to push what seems like a bowling ball, ballistically speaking, out of a semi-automatic rifle at speeds that don’t just knock down but vaporize the bowling pins, just wasn’t enough.

So, he tinkered. He pondered. He pushed, and he developed a cartridge big enough to give the .458 SOCOM self-esteem problems. Wilson calls it the .458 HAM’R, and it rolls that same 300-grain TTSX bowling ball of a bullet out of a rifle barrel at 2,100 fps.

Why, Wilson? WHY?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the rifle review, let’s take a closer look into why Wilson invented the .458 HAM’R. In short — because he can, and because his globetrotting hunting adventures demanded he should.

“I’ve hunted with the .458 SOCOM for years, and it’s a great cartridge out to 140–150 yards,” said Wilson, “but past this range, the go-to hunting bullet, the Barnes 300 grain TTSX, fails to expand … even on large game such as elk or zebra. I’ve taken elk at 185 yards, hartebeest at 200 yards and zebra at 220 yards with the SOCOM, and in all cases the bullet did not expand.”

Like every gun that wears a Wilson Combat logo, the .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter is crafted from finely tuned, uniquely designed parts.

That bullet fails to expand because, like all bullets, the engineers who designed them know they work best at certain velocities, good just a bit slower than that, and sometimes not at all well below optimum speeds. In fact, it’s more a bullet’s performance at certain velocities, and not its drop, that limits its performance on game. After all, proper dope and disciplined shooting can overcome a cartridge with a rainbow trajectory. But, if the bullet doesn’t have enough juice to perform as designed, then wild game it hits can be merely wounded instead of killed, which is one of a hunter’s worst nightmares.

“I felt that if the effective range of the SOCOM could be increased to over 200 yards we’d have a much more versatile cartridge,” said Wilson. “So, the primary reason for the .458 HAM’R was to achieve more velocity and a flatter trajectory and longer-range bullet expansion.”

Wilson knew this, and he also knew that if he wanted the .458 SOCOM to work at greater ranges, it needed more than a new paint job — it needed to evolve. Channeling his inner Darwin, Wilson helped the .458 SOCOM do just that.

“The shoulder of the .458 HAM’R cartridge is .040 inch forward of the SOCOM dimension, primarily to prevent it from chambering in a SOCOM while still retaining the same overall length of the SOCOM for proper bullet location in relationship with the case mouth,” said Wilson. “It has a small rifle primer (recommendation by Starline) so the case will handle more pressure without the primer pockets loosening up. Our engineers calculated the bolt thrust at 46,000 PSI to equal that of a .308 Win., so we set the pressure limit there even though I’ve loaded it much hotter with no issues. The SOCOM has a pressure limit of 35,000 PSI due to its much weaker bolt and barrel extension.”

A Home For The HAM’R

The new cartridge is now available in Wilson Combat’s equally new and unique WC-12 AR-style platform, in both a Tactical Hunter and Ultimate Hunter trim level. The platform fits squarely between the WC-15 and the WC-10, but gun owners need not fret over it, according to Wilson.

“The .458 HAM’R doesn’t necessarily require the shortened receivers — weight savings was the primary reason,” said Wilson. “It can be made to work with any AR-10 upper with a lower designed for the AR-15 magazine. The critical components here are the AR-10 bolt and barrel extension to handle the extra chamber pressure and bolt thrust.”

If you’re not familiar with Wilson Combat’s line of AR-15 and AR-10 rifles, here are some cliff notes on the world-class firearms manufacturer’s contribution to the AR-10 modern sporting rifle world:

As I’ve established, Bill Wilson hunts … a lot. He hunts just about anything, and he hunts just about anywhere. So, he decided he wanted to hunt with AR-10-sized rifles, and being Bill Wilson, he simply created his own line of MSRs based on the AR-10 footprint and named them WC-10s. The WC-10s are available in Ultralight Hunter, Tactical Hunter and Ultimate Hunter models.

“We have spared no expense in development, testing and production of these rifles,” said Wilson. “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 product virtually on a daily basis.

Think of the .458 HAM’R like a .458 SOCOM on steroids. Same bullet, going much faster.

“Here at the ranch, we’re fortunate to have shooting ranges out to 800 yards for extensive accuracy testing,” added Wilson. “Also, I hog hunt at least 325 days out of the year, and I’m also deer hunting over 120 days a year, with annual harvests of 200-plus hogs and 50-plus deer, all with ARs. Who else proves out their product like that?”

Pounding With The HAM’R

My experience with the .458 HAM’R took place over a four-day period in southwest Texas, and although it was brief, it was enough to show me that Wilson Combat’s newest rifle is well-built, accurate, ergonomic, light-recoiling — and deadly.

The .458 HAM’R Ultimate Hunter I used weighed a mere 7 pounds, 4 ounces; was only ¾-inch bigger than your run-of-the-mill AR-15; had a carbon-fiber buttstock and Limbsaver recoil pad; sported an 18-inch barrel; and had a crisp, 4-pound two-stage trigger. The gun was fed hand-loaded 300-grain Barnes TTSX bullets, and it was topped off by a Trijicon Accupoint 3-9x40mm riflescope.

The hog hunt I went on at the King Ranch near Kingsville, Texas, wasn’t a simple, sit-by-a-feeder-and-wait kind of ambush. No, this style of hog hunting was more of a walk-about with swine of situational opportunities shot on-sight, so I had to carry the rifle quite a bit and be ready to engage small, surprisingly fast bacon-flavored critters that are quite a bit smarter than most people give them credit for.

The rifle didn’t carry heavy. In fact, it carried well, especially for an AR-style rifle. Wilson Combat balanced the gun to be hunted with in the field, so it felt like an extension of my body and not like a lead-filled counterweight, as so many other larger, clumsier AR-10 platforms have felt to me. It most certainly helped to have a light, fast, accurate and soft-shooting rifle when I finally saw a pig. When I did, well … let’s just say the .458 HAM’R lived up to its name.

There are a lot of things firearms enthusiasts can thank Wilson Combat‘s latest cartridge creation for, but to me, the best thing about the new .458 HAM’R cartridge is that it makes saying “It’s HAM’R time!” cool again.

For more information on the .458 HAM'R, please visit:

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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