The author found the Minimalist-SD mounted naturally and comfortably to her shoulder and generated minimal recoil. (Photo: Kat Ainsworth)
The 300 AAC Blackout, or 300BLK as it’s known, was developed by Advanced Armament Corporation (AAC) in a joint project with Remington Defense and approved by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) in 2011. Although some compare it to the Wildcat 300 Whisper round, which was created in the 1990s, it’s important to note the two cartridges are not actually identical and have marked differences. In the world of ammunition, seemingly minute variations can have significant impacts on accuracy, performance and reliability.
If there is one round that can be classified as cool it’s the 300BLK. It was designed for close-quarter work and short barrels, but hobby shooters and hunters have been trying to eke out greater distance and versatility almost from the moment it hit the market. The market is open to a rifle chambered in the “cool” cartridge and capable of pleasing predator hunters and sport shooters alike.
That’s where Bushmaster comes in.
At 2017 SHOT Show, it launched the new Minimalist-SD, with the earlier models available chambered in 300BLK and later models including 5.56x45mm NATO. When I was invited on a coyote hunt with the new rifle by the manufacturer, I readily accepted the opportunity to try out their latest offering, and the rifle arrived soon after — chambered in 300BLK, of course.
The Bushmaster Minimalist-SD in 300BLK weighs in at 6 pounds (empty), which puts it around average for similarly chambered ARs. It has an overall length of 36 inches with the stock extended, 33 inches with stock collapsed. The rifle is fitted with a 16-inch 4150 chrome-moly barrel, a metal known for tensile strength, accuracy and its ability to handle higher temperatures. With a twist rate of 1:7, the rifle reflects the 300BLK’s original intent for use with a suppressor. I reviewed the rifle without a suppressor.
The rifle comes with an AAC 51T flash hider, which is compatible with the AAC 762-SDN-6 suppressor. It is a proprietary system, meaning suppressors from outside manufacturers will not fit. The flash hider itself is a three-prong design machined from a corrosion-resistant aerospace alloy. It’s 2½ inches in length and weighs in at 4.3 ounces. Also manufactured by AAC is the free-floating SquareDrop handguard, compatible with both Keymod and Keydrop attachments. A full-length Picatinny rail facilitates mounting optics.
In any complete AR it’s not uncommon to find a subpar trigger, but in the case of the Minimalist, the trigger is a pleasant surprise. It’s an ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT) that promises and delivers a smoother, cleaner pull than the average stock trigger. The sear geometry is unchanged while the trigger and hammer are machined from quenched and tempered 8620 alloy steel and trigger and hammer pins are machined from 4140 chrome-moly. Interestingly, although ALG Defense lists the trigger as surpassing the U.S. military minimum pull weight of 5½ pounds with an average of 6 pounds, the average of 10 measured pulls using a Lyman Trigger Pull Gauge on my review gun was 4 pounds, 9 ounces.
The stock and grip of the Minimalist are manufactured by Mission First Tactical (MFT), as is the magazine (the rifle comes with one 30-round magazine). The stock is MFT’s collapsible Mil-Spec Minimalist featuring an ambidextrous quick-detach sling mounting point, an angled, rubberized buttpad and a rounded, angled upper portion for an enhanced cheek weld. The grip features a grooved backstrap and finger swells for an improved grip and a plug that can be popped open with one finger if the shooter chooses to store a few spare rounds or other appropriately sized items within the grip itself, which is listed by MFT as being watertight.
Testing and Accuracy
I tested the Minimalist at 100 yards from a bench using sandbags for stability. Two optics were used during testing: a Leupold VX-2 4-12x40mm, used in the field while hunting, and a Steiner P4Xi 1-4×24, used during accuracy testing at the range. In order to cover the various possible uses of the gun, a variety of ammunition was used, including Barnes VOR-TX 120-grain TAC-TX, SilencerCo Harvester 220-grain Subsonic and DRT Terminal Shock 135-grain HP. The latter is a frangible hunting and self-defense round.
The angled buttpad on the stock of the Minimalist fit my shoulder well, while the stock’s rounded upper edge allowed for an easy, comfortable cheek weld. It was necessary to fully extend the stock to more closely accommodate my reach, and even then I would have liked another inch or two. The first shots I fired through the rifle were to zero it for a coyote hunt. With the Leupold VX-2 4-12x40mm mounted on the Picatinny rail, I was able to zero it within three shots, the last two of which punched a single hole.
Recoil is minimal — as expected for a rifle chambered in 300BLK — making follow-up shots simple and accuracy easy to maintain. The Minimalist performs best with lighter loads like the Barnes VOR-TX 120-grain TAC-TX. My best five-shot group using Barnes measured .652 inches, and my best three-shot group, which took place while hunting, came in at .341 inches.
Sub-MOA groups were also punched through Birchwood Casey’s Shoot-N-C targets using Remington 125-grain Accutip and DRT Terminal Shock 135-grain HP. Firing heavier subsonic loads through the rifle resulted in a drastic change, with groups spreading out well over 2 inches and an average five-shot group size of 1.97 inches. Bottom line? Using lighter loads, the Minimalist I shot proved capable of delivering sub-MOA groups, but it doesn’t seem to like the heavier sub-sonic loads. There were no failures of any kind during testing.
The sub-MOA — and sub-half MOA — groups are owed in part to what I consider to be the Minimalist’s best feature: the trigger. The ALG Defense ACT proves the exception to the rule that ARs are typically stocked with less-than-ideal triggers. As mentioned before, the measured trigger pull was 4 pounds, 9 ounces, a moderate pull weight just light enough to be pleasant without crossing the line of being too light for the average shooter’s preferences. The trigger is smooth with a crisp, clean break and short reset. Shooters — including myself — who are in the habit of immediately replacing AR triggers are likely to change their minds and leave the ALG Defense ACT in place.
Fans of the popular 300BLK cartridge will enjoy this gun for its accuracy and comfortable feel while shooting. The fact that aftermarket products like optics, lights and lasers can easily be mounted to the full-length Picatinny rail and Keymod/Keydrop compatible handguard is a nice bonus. The rail is even long enough for a thermal optic and magnifier. That alone makes this an appealing option for coyote and feral hog hunters.
The Bushmaster Minimalist-SD proved itself in a number of ways during testing. From sub-MOA groups and minimal recoil to being light enough carry without a sling throughout a 5-mile hike, it did everything asked of it. It survived the desert scrub brushes of Nevada, the sub-zero temperatures and snow of Wisconsin and being both flown and shipped back and forth across the country unscathed.
Bushmaster did a nice job on this rifle. After all, who isn’t interested in a reliable, durable and accurate gun? Whether you hunt hogs, call coyotes or just want to sling lead downrange into paper targets, this rifle is worth a closer look.
- Manufacturer: Bushmaster
- Model: Minimalist-SD
- Platform: AR-15
- Caliber: 300BLK (tested) and 5.56x45mm NATO
- Weight (empty): 6 pounds
- Magazine Capacity: 30
- Barrel length: 16 inches
- Rifling Twist Rate: 1:7
- Overall length: 36 inches (measured, stock extended), 33 inches (measured, stock collapsed)
- Upper Receiver: A3 Flattop
- Barrel Material: 4150 chrome-moly
- Barrel Finish: Melonite (FNC)
- Barrel Contour: Hbar
- AAC 51T flash hider
- Handguard: AAC SquareDrop handguard with full-length rail
- Silencer ready — AAC 51T Blackout fast attach silencer mount
- AAC 762-SDN-6 Silencer Recommended
- Trigger: ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger
- Trigger pull weight: 4 pounds, 9 ounces (measured)
- Stock: Mission First Tactical Minimalist
- Grip: Mission First Tactical Grip
- Magazine: Mission First Tactical (comes with one)
- MSRP: $1,169
Barnes VOR-TX 120-grain TAC-TX BT
Average velocity: 1,958 fps
Standard deviation: 50 fps
Average group: .877 inches
DRT Terminal Shock 135-grain HP
Average velocity: 1,997 fps
Standard deviation: 27 fps
Average group: 1.5 inches
Remington 125-grain Accutip
Average velocity: 2,002 fps
Standard deviation: 32 fps
Average group: 1.3 inches
SilencerCo Harvester 220-grain Subsonic
Average velocity: 953 fps
Standard deviation: 37 fps
Average group: 1.97 inches
SIG SAUER Elite 120-grain HT
Average velocity: 2,014 fps
Standard deviation: 40 fps
Average group: 1.3 inches