America’s taste in rifles continues to change. The wood-stocked, blued-steel rifles of my youth get less attention than AR-type rifles of various calibers. This transition is not unique to modern rifle shooters, but the trend is country-wide.
Part of the reason for the transition is the amount of attention through politics and media that is devoted to banning or restricting AR-pattern rifles. We know that many of you reading this article are not huge fans of the design, but many among the increasing number of new shooters are familiar with nothing else. For recent veterans, the AR mimics the ergonomics of the select-fire rifle issued in service. For others, it’s what they’ve seen depicted in movies, television and video games. Some of us will always appreciate a fine lever-action or traditional bolt-action rifle, but modern times seems to be driven by ARs and their modularity.
Why the .350 Legend?
The .350 Legend comes to us because of the increased interest in straight-walled rifle cartridges. Several Midwestern states have designated hunting zones for limited-power rifles that have restricted maximum range and reduced report for pursuing deer near populated areas. These are big improvements over shotgun- or archery-only areas. The constraints placed on these rifle cartridges are size limitations, including the cartridge, which must be at least .35-caliber and have a straight case wall.
These law changes touched off an explosive interest in the .450 Bushmaster with both bolt-action and AR-pattern rifles seeing a surge in sales. Ammunition consumption for the waning cartridge also saw a commensurate increase in interest.
Winchester took note of this and figured they could build a better mousetrap. Their answer was the .350 Legend, a potentially better solution for those Midwest hunters than the .450 Bushmaster. Why? It costs less, recoils less and is every bit as effective on whitetail inside 200 yards.
Winchester was smart about designing the .350 Legend. All it took was pulling .223 Rem. brass off the line after its second draw (the third draw puts a bottleneck on the cartridge case), and easily manage one more draw to swage the lower end of the .350 Legend case to allow for some case taper and also size the mouth for .35-caliber projectiles.
The low cost of the .350 Legend comes from the parent case’s economy of scale. Winchester produces millions of rounds of 5.56 for the military every month, so there is plenty of low-cost material with which to start. The .350 Legend bullets are made on the same machines as Winchester’s 9mm bullets and share some of the same tooling. The shared tooling means that there is only a slight cost associated with building the new projectiles. Being smart about designing the .350 Legend keeps consumer ammo costs very low. For example, 145-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) loads sells for about $9 a box. The polymer-tipped hunting loads sell for between $17 and $20 a box.
Performance-wise, the .350 Legend is almost identical to the .30-30 Winchester in the muzzle energy category, and it beats anything the .300 Blackout can generate. Both the Legend and the .30-30 produce around 1,800 foot-pounds (ft.-lbs.) of energy at the muzzle with common hunting loads. I think the .350 Legend might have a bit of a terminal edge on the .30-30 Winchester because of the larger caliber, but my personal experiences are limited to three whitetail deer taken by the Legend. I was very satisfied with how the new cartridge performed inside 200 yards.
Who was first?
In April 2019, Ruger announced its AR-556 MPR. However, CMMG officially launched its Resolute in .350 Legend earlier. Due to a delay in magazine development and production, neither brands’ rifles were abundantly available until now. The Resolute is the subject of this review.
Getting the five- and 10-round detachable box magazines to work on the Resolute was no small feat. Most AR magazines have ribs that line the magazine interior on either side. These ribs sit just forward of the case shoulder and help keep the rounds from rattling around in the magazine as the rifle fires. Obviously, the absence of a shoulder on the .350 Legend required CMMG’s partner to engineer a magazine with no internal ribs. During my testing and evaluation, I had zero malfunctions or misfeeds with CMMG’s proprietary magazines.
CMMG has a reputation for building high-quality part kits and firearms and they run all the proper quality control checks on their products. Doing so means anyone that owns the Resolute can easily repair or replace parts, should the need arise. The Resolute uses a standard .223 Remington/5.56 NATO bolt, and many of us already have a few extras lying around. No rifle ever sold in the U.S. can match the AR-15’s numbers, so parts are plentiful and easily found.
The Modern Rifle
CMMG’s Resolute is both more compact and lighter than the venerable Winchester Model 94. The 94 is iconic because it is so light and handy. Comparing the Resolute with the Model 94 helps demonstrate why ARs have just as much place in the hunting fields as one of our nation’s most prolific and time-tested rifle designs.
The Resolute is 3 ounces lighter and 1.5 inches shorter (with the stock fully extended) than the Model 94. In addition to the slight weight and length savings, the Resolute has less recoil and is faster to load, reload and unload.
During my time in Afghanistan and Iraq, I learned that detachable box magazines are mandatory on any rifle used tactically. Once the shooting starts, everyone is highly motivated to keep their rifle fed. However, the more I get up in age, the more I think every rifle should have a detachable box magazine. Loading and unloading ammo takes little time at all, and you can stand around giving your buddies a hard time while you load magazines without the risk of a muzzle getting pointed where it ought not be.
One huge advantage the Resolute has over the Model 94 is a 15-inch forend that makes it possible to shoot the Resolute accurately from just about any field position. A lot of older rifles have short forends, especially the old lever guns. While they certainly are comfortable and look great, a short forend doesn’t give the shooter much space to rest it on field supports like tree limbs and rock piles. Having 15 inches of real estate means the Resolute rifleman doesn’t need to crowd his support to stabilize the rifle. This is important when you have to get a shot off quickly using the terrain immediately available. Just put as much of your body as possible in contact with terra firma and throw the long forend across whatever is in front of you. If you don’t jerk the trigger, you’re likely to hit the target.
The Resolute forend uses the M-Lok attachment method. M-Lok is a series of slots cut into the forend to which the rifleman can attach sections of rail or direct-mount accessories. This means the owner can attach a sling to just about anywhere and still have plenty of space for a bipod or mounting a light, if desired. Also, dropping a thermal or night vision device in front the scope is a snap thanks to the full length of the rail that runs along the top.
The Hits Keep Coming ...
The older I get the more I love suppressors because I want to keep the hearing I have left. Whenever I look at a rifle, I always consider how complicated putting a suppressor on it will be. Putting a suppressor on a rifle is the easiest way to make it more enjoyable for everyone, from the new shooter to veterans alike. Concussive muzzle blast and accompanying noise are reduced to tolerable levels, making it much easier to focus on shooting well. Bolt-action rifles need only a threaded muzzle, but semiauto rifles can be problematic.
The Resolute in .350 Legend is an ideal suppressor host. It doesn’t have to trap much gas and it lowers the amount of back pressure placed on the bolt carrier group. This gives the suppressor lots of room to handle the minimal gas leaving the muzzle. The end result of a suppressed .350 Legend could be known as the quietest rifle cartridge to ever see SAAMI certification. (Many will want to argue that the .300 BLK is, but the .300 BLK is a rifle cartridge with a case full of pistol powder. It’s the only rifle round built that way and deserves to be in its own category). In my estimation, both the SilencerCo Hybrid 46 and the Dead Air Wolfman would make excellent suppressor choices for the .350 Legend.
Once a guy gets away from aesthetic and personal preferences, there are a number of relevant criteria by which to evaluate any rifle. A few that always seem to be running through my mind are user sustainability, ease of suppression and the full-burdened cost of owning and using the rifle. User sustainability in any rifle comparison is almost always going to favor the AR-pattern rifle. Years ago, I heard it described as a “plumber’s gun,” meaning if you could handle simple plumbing tasks you were more than capable of working on an AR-15. That statement is true. AR’s require no hand-fitting because of the way the bolt and barrel extension are made. Both are small parts manufactured on rigid tooling, so tolerances are kept well under .001-inch. Barrel extensions are fit to the barrel before leaving a factory, so there is no need to set headspace on an AR-15. (Warning: When shopping for bargains of unknown provenance, this principle is no longer true.)
The .350 Legend is based on the .223 Rem. cartridge case, which means that it holds about 21 grains of powder. Even when loaded to its maximum chamber pressure of 55,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure, the .350 drops quickly as the bullet moves through the barrel. The big bore diameter of the .350 Legend gives the expanding gas an incredibly large container to fill as the bullet moves down the bore. Gas behind the bullet maintains pressure on the bullet until it leaves the muzzle, but the pressure behind the .350 Legend’s bullet drops quickly because the bore diameter is so large. In fact, the .350 case has to fill 250 percent more bore space than the .223 Remington does by the time the bullet leaves the muzzle. This means the exit pressure that determines muzzle blast is very low on the Legend.
Whether a you want to go hunting or you just want a light rifle that delivers a lot of thump out to 200 yards, the Resolute .350 Legend is the rifle to beat. It is this generation’s Model 94. It’s light and short, but it also has a forend that supports field shooting positions. The .350 is easily maintained by the average shooter and plays well with a suppressor. Don’t forget ammo, for it is affordable. CMMG offers .350 Legend barrels and magazines separately. I hope CMMG sells a ton of them.
CMMG Resolute 300
- Type: Direct impingement, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: .350 Legend
- Capacity: 5 rds. or 10 rds.
- Barrel: 16.1 in., 1:16-in. twist
- Overall Length: 32.7 in. (collapsed): 36.5 in. (extended)
- Weight: 6 lbs., 8 oz.
- Grip: Magpul MOE
- Stock: CMMG RipStock, 6 pos.
- Length of Pull: 10.25 in. (collapsed): 14.25 in. (extended)
- Sights: None
- Trigger: Geissele Super Semiautomatic (SSA), 4 lbs., 8 oz.
- Finish: Cerakote, various colors
- MSRP: $1,550
- Manufacturer: CMMG, 660-248-2293, cmmginc.com