It has been many
years since I last had to give a report on Beowulf, and this time,
I actually had a great deal of pleasure in researching the project.
This article has nothing to do with sixth century Scandinavian warriors
or dragons, but deals with a new cartridge that bears the name of
the great hero of the oldest surviving piece of British literature:
LLC is the manufacturer of the new cartridge and weapon system
that is based upon the AR-15 family of rifles. Located at the
U.S. Army Radford Arsenal in Virginia, Alexander Arms is involved
in several interesting projects with military, law enforcement,
and civilian applications, but the focus of this article deals with
their innovative Beowulf rifle concept. In
building the .50 Beowulf rifle, Alexander Arms has taken the proven
AR-15 design and adapted it to reliably fire and function with an
entirely new and much more powerful cartridge.
The Alexander Arms
.50 Beowulf cartridge packs awesome power in the AR-15 system. Think
of it as a lightweight, handy, semi-auto .45/70 but with a larger
diameter bullet and greater velocity. The .50 Beowulf uses
a bullet of a true .500 caliber, with loaded ammunition offered
from the factory in either a 400-grain soft point or a 325-grain
hollow point, with velocities listed at 1800 and 1950 feet-per-second,
respectively. This kind of power radically changes the performance
aspect of the AR-15 type rifle while retaining the excellent handling
and shooting qualities of the weapon. The .50 Beowulf cartridge
utilizes possibly the maximum diameter bullet in the biggest case
that can be made to reliably function in an AR-15, while operating
at a relatively low pressure to assure smooth operation and longevity
of the rifle.
From outward appearances,
the Beowulf is just another high quality AR-15, until you look into
the hole in the end of the barrel, which resembles a piece of rifled
water pipe! That half-inch hole looks completely out of place on
an AR-15, and really changes the performance concept of the weapon.
The gun that was
sent to me for testing is what Alexander Arms calls their "Entry
Gun". It has a flat top upper receiver with Piccatinny rail
and a sixteen-inch barrel. The gas block also has provision for
mounting a front sight or other accessory on top, just forward of
the hand guard. The sample gun came supplied with an excellent scope
mount which readily accepted my 3-BUCC brass catcher. The
standard magazine accepts seven of the fat Beowulf cartridges. The
magazine is a slightly modified standard .223 AR-15/M-16 magazine,
and larger capacity magazines can be used with the Beowulf by carefully
bending the feed lips to reliably feed the larger cartridge.
I managed to get twelve of the .50 caliber cartridges into a 30
round AR magazine. The .50 Beowulf cartridge has a rebated rim to
fit the standard and readily available 7.62x39 bolt face. In fact,
Alexander Arms has wisely built the Beowulf rifle to use as many
standard AR-15 parts as possible.
As I was very anxious
to test this new rifle, I wanted to mount a scope that would be
appropriate for the intended use of such a rifle. Therefore, I passed
over my selection of higher powered optics in favor of a low powered
variable and chose a Tasco World Class 1.75 to 5 power
scope. I was a bit concerned that the Beowulfs recoil would
beat the inexpensive scope to death, but the Tasco performed well,
and proved to be a tough little compact sight, well-suited to the
Before bench testing
the rifle for accuracy, I did quite a bit of informal shooting of
the Beowulf at rocks, posts, and other targets of opportunity to
assess the handling and shooting qualities of the weapon. The trigger
pull on the Beowulf had a good feel, breaking at a bit over six
pounds. I fired the rifle in many positions, rotating it sideways
and vertically. The gun functioned perfectly; feeding, firing, and
ejecting without a hitch, every time. While the .50 Beowulf recoils
more than a standard .223, the felt recoil is quite manageable,
much like shooting a twenty-gauge shotgun, and not at all in the
painful category when wearing a shirt. I did some shooting without
a shirt, and the checkered butt plate was somewhat abrasive to the
bare skin. This gun would be a real sweetheart to shoot if
fitted with a soft recoil pad, such as a Pachmayr Decelerator,
but the standard AR butt plate serves very well as issued.
I carried the Beowulf
with me to the Shootists' Holiday in Raton, New Mexico,
where I passed the gun around for several others to shoot. The first
reaction of everyone who handled the gun was one of delight. The
word most commonly used to describe their collective opinion was
"awesome"! At Raton, we fired the Beowulf at targets of
both steel and paper, and at rocks ranging in distance from 135
yards out to 577 yards with great success. With little practice,
hitting the distant targets was almost routine with the handy little
carbine. On paper, the gun displayed its fine accuracy by consistently
placing the shots into groups of under an inch, when I did my part.
The 400-grain factory loads were a bit more accurate in the test
gun than was the 325-grain hollow points, placing three shots into
three-quarters of an inch. This is great accuracy from a target
grade .223 AR-15, and amazing performance for a big-bore semi-auto.
I believe that the design of a straight-walled case operating at
moderate pressure contributes greatly to the accuracy of the rifle.
My intention was
to carry the Beowulf on a bear hunt in Idaho, which should be the
ideal situation in which to test the performance of the .50 caliber
bullets on game. The hunt fell through at the last minute, but based
upon past experience with large caliber bullets at moderate velocity,
I believe that the .50 Beowulf would exhibit splendid performance
on big game with the 400-grain soft point, and do likewise with
the 325-grain hollow point on medium sized thin-skinned game such
as whitetail deer and wild hogs. Seven rounds of the .50 Beowulf
in a semi-auto package like this entry gun should prove to be an
ideal defense against large, dangerous animals for someone who travels
in bear country.
Besides the obvious
hunting uses for the Beowulf, there are many tactical situations
in which the penetration and power of a 400-grain half-inch bullet
fired from an AR-15 type weapon could be very advantageous. The
.223 is notorious in exhibiting poor penetration of automobile glass
and other obstacles. The .50 Beowulf can easily penetrate barricade
material and still engage the target with power to spare. There
are many law enforcement situations in which the standard-issue
handgun or shotgun lacks the power and accuracy to do the job. Every
highway patrol car should have a powerful, handy carbine such as
the Beowulf as standard equipment. Every rural sheriffs deputy
should have such a rifle at his disposal.
In designing and
building the .50 Beowulf, Alexander Arms has taken a proven weapons
system and made it better. The .50 Beowulf does away with the only
valid criticism of the AR-15, that being the .223 cartridge. The
Beowulf places real power in a compact, accurate, and reliable package.
Alexander Arms provides
the rifles, ammo, reloading components, and accessories for the
.50 Beowulf through licensed dealers or directly to law enforcement.
View the .50 Beowulf and other weapons online at:
The .50 Beowulf
is the first real improvement in the AR-15 in many years, and adds
greatly to the usefulness of that fine weapon.
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