Bushmaster Patrolman's Carbine .223 Rem., $1230
Our Bushmaster Patrolmans Carbine was yet another interpretation of the flat-top AR. The base price of this model was $1230 including the Fiberite Six Position adjustable stock and A2 front sight. But we picked several options to bring it into spec with our other carbines. A 4 Rail Free-Floater Forend (YHM-9479) was in place plus an Ergo Sure Grip (ARG- KIT). With another Ergo Sure Grip clamped to the bottom forend rail (ARG-FWD), we thought we were seeing double.
The forend grip could be placed anywhere along the bottom rail as long as it was far enough forward to clear the magazine. A large knob with a coin or screwdriver slot and knurled edges held the grip in place. With two pistol style grips in place, our stance took on a narrower profile. This would be especially advantageous when traveling down a hallway or taking cover in a tight space. The forend itself appeared to be fatter. This was because the rails were covered with slip-on Sure Grip rail covers featuring the Bushmaster logo, (SCH-6L). The rail covers created a smooth, rounded feel to the forend and increased its overall width by about 0.3 inches.
Another "optical illusion" was the A3-type removable carry handle, masking the true design of the receiver. The handle contained an A2 dual aperture rear sight with 1/2 minute of angle adjustment for both windage and elevation. There was also a hole in the carry handle for mounting a top rail. The carry handle/rear sight unit was held in place by two heavy knobs. This unit did not offer the same quick-change option afforded by the flip-up sights, but this unit was easy to take off and reapply. What it did offer was a very accurate sight picture. We also found that as long as the shooter maintained the original sight radius and returned the unit to the same position, taking it on and off had little or no effect on its zero.
The A2-style carry handle was standard equipment on this model, but there are at least three different flip-up rear sights to choose from on the http://www.bushmaster.com/ website. The muzzle was capped with another option, the Izzy Flash Suppressor/Compensator (IZ-102660). We wanted to find out if the Izzy would provide greater recoil control than the classic "birdcage" flash hider.
Seated at the shooting bench and performing a controlled press brought out the true nature of the trigger. There was no creep or grit at any point in the sweep of the Bushmasters trigger. The carry handle rear sight unit may not have offered the versatility of the flip-up sights, but there was far less compromise in attaining a fine sight picture. Shooting with the iron sights the Bushmaster favored the 62-grain rounds with groups averaging less than 1.5 inches across. With the Millett DMS-1 scope in place groups were measured in the one-inch range firing the heavier rounds. Shooting the Georgia Arms 55-grain FMJ rounds produced the best groups in the test varying in size from approximately 0.6 to 0.8 inches across.
Our rapid-fire tests taught us more about the capability of the carry handle sights. In our one-shot "draw and fire" drill, our elapsed time lagged behind the other carbines by about 0.15 seconds. Finding the aperture inside the carry handle was simply slower, but the hits were more accurate. Without making excuses for the setup of our Bushmaster, a close quarter battle can sometimes require the same type of precision needed on a more distant target. Especially in a situation where only a small target area such as an adversarys exposed elbow or eye socket is available.
In our multiple targets rapid-fire drill, the refined trigger of the Bushmaster helped us land better hits, especially on head shots. The vertical grip did not necessarily make this drill any faster. But shooters who typically hold an AR by the front of the magazine well rather than the forend preferred the vertical grip in place. We felt that the Izzy compensator helped put us back on target quicker, but just how much was too difficult to quantify. The Izzy was not a full-blown compensator, but we noticed that our Bushmaster jumped less. With the versatility of the A3 design, the operator can have any sight picture or system they want on top of the receiver. Beneath its rail the Bushmaster XM A3 offered an excellent trigger and reliability.