Bushmaster LR-24V Varminter .223 Rem.
Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. of Windham, Maine, originally a supplier and manufacturer of AR-15 parts, is now one of the largest producers of AR-15/type rifles for civilians. The Varminter is a variation on the Bushmaster AR-15 platform.
It carries a 24-inch fluted 4150 chrome-moly steel barrel, which measures 1 inch inside the aluminum handguard down to 0.75 inch forward of the gas block. The competition-crowned barrel has a 1-in-9 twist. The gun comes with the Bushmaster competition trigger, with what the company claims is a smooth, two-stage, 4.5-pound pull. The V Match tubular forend free-floats the barrel from the action. The forend has cooling vents for increased barrel heat dissipation. Underneath the handguard is a bipod stud, a nice feature on a varmint gun. A Hogue rubber shell covers the pistol grip portion of the frame. The grip surface is textured, ambidextrous, and grooved for correct trigger-finger placement.
Other features include 1/2-inch-tall Mini-Risers, slight blocks that elevate a scope above the flat-top receiver so that the optics clear the charging handle, controlled ejection path so that shells drop nearby, and a lockable hard case. The gun comes with a single five-round magazine. But the rifle will accept any AR-15 type magazine, such as those pre-bans you have stashed with your socks.
It measures 42.25 inches in overall length. The barrel has a right-hand 1-in-9 twist with six grooves/lands. It weighs a hefty 9 pounds with an unloaded magazine.
Compared to other Bushmaster products, this is a pure shooting machine. It lacks a muzzle brake, flash hider, bayonet lug, flashlight, laser sight, or other geegaws. The flattop design cries out for a scope, and the two Weaver-type riser blocks are a big help in mounting optics where they wont hamper the guns function.
The round, mostly checkered handguard is made of vented aluminum and allows the barrel to float free of sling stress. The handguard is also fitted with a bipod or sling-swivel stud mount. Though the Bushmasters handguard fits great in the hand, it rolls pretty badly on a bench rest. We think it would have shot under an inch with at least one ammo had we been able to control the gun a little better.
Break-in on the barrel was lengthy. For the first 60 rounds, Bushmaster recommends firing no more than 20 rounds at one time before cleaning the barrel. The company also recommends a specific cleaning procedure, which includes pushing cleaning tools from the breech toward the muzzle and then removing them from the rod at the muzzle end. Bushmaster emphasizes that tools not be dragged back through the muzzle, probably to avoid damaging the crown. Also, the company recommends cleaning first with a good bore cleaner, followed by a copper solvent, followed by a regimen with JB Bore Cleaner paste. We followed this procedure as recommended, and amended it for use with the other guns.
The barrel profile isnt as thick as the Rock River guns, and its on par with the HK. The barrel measures 1 inch in diameter inside the handguard and 0.745 inch forward of the gas block. Of the three guns, the Bushmaster was the easiest to point when taken off the bench, though we still wouldnt want to carry it too far to shoot.
The two-stage competition trigger had a 3.5-pound first stage and a 1-pound second stage, or 4.5 pounds overall. Thats a good ratio of trigger-tension distribution, ensuring reliable function but a manageable release weight. The trigger was adjustable for weight of pull and overtravel. Our samples trigger was uneven during the first stage (which could easily wear in better with more use), and the second stage was damn near perfectcrisp, fast, sure.
We had no function problems, and we noted that the brass didnt fly all over creation upon ejection. Feeding was smooth, and we had no occasion to use the forward assist.
The Bushmaster and RR guns didnt offer the buttstock adjustability of the HK gun, which was a a decided advantage for the SL8-1, in our view. We liked the soft rubber Hogue pistol grip, which was deeply grooved and tacky. It enhanced the rifles handling qualities.