308 Semi-Auto Rifles: FNH-USA, Springfield, Fulton, and DSA
Springfield Armory’s Loaded M1A was consistent. FNH-USA’s FNAR was very good, some of the time. Fulton Armory’s UPR suffered malfunctions. DSA’s SA58 was fun, but not accurate.
Today’s semi-automatic rifle is more accurate and easier to care for than ever before. They’re also a lot of fun. The most popular platform continues to be the AR-15, but not everyone is satisfied with chambering 22-caliber ammunition. The fact is that a number of calibers are coming (and going) in an attempt to increase stopping power. In this test we will evaluate four semi-automatic rifles chambered for 308 Winchester. The increase in power is significant, and 308 is a time-tested widely available cartridge. Our test rifles were the $2095 DSA SA58 21-inch Bull Barrel, the $1821 FNH USA FNAR, the $2363 Springfield Armory M1A Loaded, and the $1969 Fulton Armory UPR rifle, an AR-style gun is based on Fulton’s Titan II lineup. Each one of our rifles, with the exception of the FNAR, was available with options from a menu of upgrades, so we took advantage of this when we could. The FN rifle does come with modular components to help suit the needs of different shooters.
To test our rifles we visited American Shooting Centers in Houston (www.amShootCenters.com). Our first shots from each rifle were to sight in a Nightforce 5.5-22x50mm NXS scope (www.NightforceOptics.com). We chose the Nightforce scope because of its clarity and versatility. It had a mil-dot reticle with see-through mil-dots plus illumination on demand. Pulling outward on the left-side focus supplied an ideal level of illumination. The reticle remained sharply defined at all times.
Because we would be flipping this one scope from rifle to rifle, we needed a system that offered quick, strong, and precise re-mounting. We could have gone with a quick-release unit, but instead we chose Nightforce rings that attached to the base via a half-inch hex nut. We used a 65-inch-pound Seekonk calibrated torque wrench with T-handle ($98, from www.Brownells.com) to make sure the unit was properly locked into place each time. The repeatable zero of the Nightforce scope made sighting in a simple mechanical chore. Suggested retail prices for the rings and scope were $160 and $1700, respectively.
Once we were sighted in, we recorded five-shot groups from the 100-yard line. Support was provided by Caldwell’s new 7 rifle rest ($50, from www.Battenfieldtechnologies.com). This unit was a light skeletal structure that supported the rifle beneath the buttstock and the fore-end. The 7 design left plenty of room for the shooter to assume a natural shooting position with the benefit of additional mechanical support. We also fired with a Caldwell Rock Jr. beneath the fore-end with a beanie bag squeezed beneath the buttstock.
Each of our guns was designed as a battle rifle with available high-capacity magazines, so we didn’t always take time to let the guns cool between groups. But we did take note of any difference in performance due to barrel temperature. American Shooting Centers offers target boards set out as far as 600 yards. But long-range shooters must first qualify at the 300-yard line. We decided that we’d pick the best ammunition for each rifle and try shooting them from the 300-yard line prone with bipod attached. With our Nightforce scope turned up to 22X, using a spotting scope proved unnecessary.
Our test ammunition consisted of 168-grain Federal Gold Medal Match boattail hollowpoints and two boattail hollowpoints from Black Hills Ammunition weighing 168 grains and 175 grains, respectively. Over our test period we suffered through heavy winds, which we monitored with a Kestral 4000 Weather Station ($255 from sinclairintl.com). Testing for function, accuracy and versatility from four different platforms, here is what we learned.