Rifles, Other

June 2018 Short Shots: Rifles and Rifle Accessories

June 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Leupold & Stevens, Inc. has expanded its catalog of ring mounts with the introduction of the new QRW2 and PRW2 lines. Based on the familiar cross-slot design, both the QRW2 and PRW2 mounts are all steel. The QRW2 and PRW2 lines are precision machined to offer universal cross-slot compatibility on Weaver and Picatinny rails. The QRW2 line is a detachable option. The PRW2 line is meant for a more permanent mounting solution. Both the QRW2 and PRW2 ring mounts are available now in Low, Medium, and High configurations in many finishes. Both series are made in the U.S.A. and are backed by Leupold’s full lifetime guarantee.

Rifles Ready for All 50 States: Springfield, Troy, and Uintah

June 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Innovation in firearms design has always meant finding a way to make guns more accurate, more reliable, less expensive to produce, and for the end user, easier to operate and maintain. And when it comes to trying to satisfy the restrictive demands of different state laws, the word innovation can once again be applied. Naturally, we’d like to see talented people work toward solutions without so much regulation, but we also wondered if makers seeking ways to satisfy the legalities of certain policies, a better firearm, or at least a promising new design, would emerge.

For insight into the world of regulated firearms manufacture and sale, we visited Todd and Amy Arms & Ammo in Petaluma, California. A family-owned full-service gun store run by retired Marine Todd and his wife Amy, their bustling shop serves as the epicenter of gun goodies in the more-gun-friendly area of Northern California. At Todd and Amy’s, we learned that several inventors have been tackling the problem of providing workable solutions to producing 50-state-legal long guns for some time, including fixed magazines, variations on the pistol-grip stock, and even pump-action designs. In this test, we will look at three production rifles that incorporate elements of AR-type-restricted design found in states such as California, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and others. Because of constantly changing laws in these states, you must know your local regulations to see if a particular rifle conforms to your state’s regulations. We do not guarantee these firearms will remain legal to own in any state, so check before you buy.

Our first choice was the $1135 CA Compliant “AR-15” Saint from Springfield Armory chambered in 5.56mm/223 Remington and featuring a full-float barrel.

Next was a pump-actuated “AR-10” from WorldofTroy.com chambered in 243 Winchester. List price of the Troy Pump Action Hunting Rifle was $899.

Our third test gun was a full-length bolt-action rifle from Uintah Precision chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor. Why is a bolt-action rifle in this review? Because the threaded barrel, upper, and handguard are configured as an AR platform that was designed to fit an AR-10 lower. Uintah sells the upper alone for $1295, but they were able to supply a matching lower so we had a complete rifle for our tests. Therefore, in the Uintah’s specifications chart, the term “as tested” denotes measurements taken for the upper receiver only, as your lower may vary.

For ammunition supply we relied heavily on new selections from Black Hills Ammunition. Black Hills is a family-owned business that came to prominence by developing a 223 Rem. load topped with Sierra’s 77-grain bullets for the U.S. military, therefore vastly improving the stopping power of the select-fire M16 rifle and its semi-auto civilian-version AR-15. Our Springfield Cal-legal Saint was stoked with four different rounds manufactured by Black Hills ammunition, ranging in bullet weight from 60 grains to 77 grains. Much of Black Hills production still relies heavily on military contracts, and this stamp of approval is why we so often favor their ammunition.

Black Hills has lagged noticeably behind other makers in offering 6.5 Creedmoor (or 6.5 CM) commercially, and now we think we know why. As of this writing, it has been announced that SOCOM, i.e. USSOCOM (Special Operations Command), is evaluating chambering 6.5 Creedmoor and phasing out the use of 7.62x51 (308 Winchester) ammunition in AR-10-type rifles. The Uintah rifle was fed Black Hills 143-grain and 147-grain ammunition, plus 140-grain rounds loaded by Hornady. Our pump-action Troy rifle was treated to three rounds from Black Hills Ammunition, each topped with Hornady bullets. The 243 Winchester ammunition featured Hornady’s 95-grain Hornady SST, 80-grain GMX, and 58-grain A-Max bullets.

To ensure that our rifles had the benefit of high-grade optics, we relied upon the Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm SFP Enhanced riflescope (No. C554), featuring 0.10 Milradian click adjustments and extraordinarily clear glass. The reticle was illuminated by pressing the button at the center of the parallax adjustment turret, but “Enhanced’ might very well refer to the interaction of the big, bold reticle constructed with fine lines, maximizing the capabilities of second-focal-plane design. Overall construction was robust, but relatively compact. We also tried out the Nightforce SR 4.5x24 Competition riflescope designed for the High Power Service Rifle division when it occurred to us that the California Legal Saint AR-15 may be the gun of the future for competitors in California.

New Rifle Introductions for 2018

April 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Gun Tests reporters and editors on the scene at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas scoured the show for new rifle, pistol, shotgun, and accessory entries for our readers to consider this year. For what seems like a long time now, new rifle introductions have been dominated by variations on the AR-15/AR-10 platform. But for 2018, we’re also seeing the emergence of more dedicated long-range precision sport and hunting rifles. Here’s a rundown on quite a few just-introduced rifle choices for 2018, some of which we’ll be looking at later this year.

Alternate Bolt-Release Levers for the AR-15: We Test Three

February 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

When it comes to ambidextrous capabilities, the AR platform still lags behind the modern semi-automatic pistol. How would ambidextrous controls make the AR-15/AR-10 more desirable? One easy answer is to accommodate the left-handed shooter. Another reason would be to help keep the weapon in the fight should the operator be left with only one available hand. Ambidextrous thumb safeties are somewhat popular, and so are magazine releases, but to a lesser extent. The focus of this evaluation is to compare three different aftermarket products that offer a secondary method for releasing the bolt of the AR-15 or AR-10 rifle. They are the $30 Magpul BAD Lever, the $29 Troy Ambidextrous Bolt Release Lever, and the $80 BattleBar from Smith Tactics. Neither the Magpul or the Troy Industries units required disassembly beyond separating the upper and lower ends of the rifle. The BattleBar required replacement of the hammer and trigger pins with supplied components. All three units were made from aluminum.

Protocol for loading the AR-15 begins with pushing the magazine upward into the magazine well until it clicks then tugging on the magazine to make sure it is seated. Next, the bolt release is pressed to bring the gun into battery. Mounted on the left-hand side of the receiver directly above the magazine well, the release is the upper portion of the combination bolt-lock and release lever that pivots with a seesaw motion on a centralized roll pin. Throughout this entire process, the strong hand remains in place, supporting the rifle and maintaining access to the trigger and thumb safety.

By adding any one of our test products, the operator can save some time by moving the hand directly to the support position after seating the magazine. This may seem like a minor consideration, but experienced AR operators point to instances wherein the support hand is needed to push open a door or the shooter needs to fire immediately after completing a reload. Also, participants in High Power Service Rifle competition can use this feature when top-loading single rounds is mandatory. Placing a round into the chamber and closing the bolt with the strong hand is a lot easier than untangling a gloved support hand from a sling. For tests, all three components were mounted on multiple rifles to check fit and function. Let’s see how efficiently the three bolt-release levers operated.

Running the Bullpups: IWI, Kel-Tec, Steyr, and FN Compete

January 2018 - Gun Tests Magazine

Bullpups were designed for close-quarters battle (CQB) use in cramped environments where a longer weapon can be a liability. They are smaller and more compact than the typical AR-15 rifle. What also differs is how a bullpup functions. These firearms are configured with the action located behind the trigger group. Your nose rests above the action, not behind it like with an AR or AK. That means the magazine is aft of the trigger, not forward. Thus, your reloading technique changes. Because the action is housed in the buttstock, the overall length is reduced, yet a bullpup still deploys the same barrel length as a civilian AR-15. The balance is different with a bullpup, with the weight of the rifle in the butt, not forward of your firing hand. The ejection port is located in the butt, and each bullpup we tested had a different philosophy on how and where empty cases should be dumped. The muzzle is likewise closer, so reaching out with your support arm and pulling the rifle into your shoulder — like with an AR — is not possible, but the bullpups offer other support-grip options.

Basically, then, everything from reloading to grip and handling changes when running a bullpup, so we wanted to see which bullpup we could adapt to more easily. Our quartet of bullpups included three chambered in 5.56mm, which was the IWI Tavor X95 XB16, the Steyr AUG A3 M1, and Kel-Tec’s RDB. The fourth bullpup was the FN Model PS90 Standard chambered in 5.7x28mm. This is a nice sampling of bullpups because the AUG could be considered the Rolex of bullpups, while the Kel-Tec is the Timex at a much lower price. All performed without malfunctions, so they all took a licking and kept on ticking. One, the IWI, was modular and offered easy caliber conversion. All were optics-ready except the AUG (pronounced “A-U-G” not “awg”), which came from the factory with an optic. One, the FN, we had to study to even determine how to pick it up and shoulder it, but when we did we experienced a clear engineering solution to bad bullpup ergonomics. With the Kel-Tec, we ended up calling it the working man’s bullpup. Nothing fancy, but it kept pace with the other three. In hand, the bullpups feel like an AR-15 short-barreled rifle, or SBR, which require special tax stamps to own.

We tested all except the AUG with either a SIG Romeo4B or a Mepro Tru-Dot RDS. Both are red-dot sights that excel at close-to-medium range. At ranges out to 100 yards, the dot suffices for most targets, but a crosshair reticle would shrink groups. The Romeo4B allows the user to toggle between four different reticles: 2-minute-of-angle dot, 2-MOA dot with ballistic holds, 2-MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot, or 2-MOA/65 MOA Circle Dot with ballistic holds. The ballistic holdover points are calibrated for 5.56 NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. A feature we liked was the activated motion sensor that immediately powers up illumination when the red dot senses motion and powers down when it does not to extend battery life. The Mepro Tru-Dot RDS we like and have used it for a number tests on AR-style firearms. It features a 1.8-MOA dot reticle and is constructed with an aluminum body and tough polymer frame around a large viewing window. This sight is easy to use when shooting with both eyes open. It runs on one AA battery, and you don’t need any tools to change the battery or adjust the sight. It also turns off when not in use to conserve battery life. Both are good choices for AR applications, and as we found out, these bullpups, like ARs, have a straight comb and optics needed to be mounted high. Be aware that a bullpup is capable of hitting targets at the same ranges as an AR-15 with an appropriate optic.

Two of the bullpups — the IWI and Kel-Tec — are compatible with standard AR-15 magazines, which we appreciated since we have plenty of AR-15 magazines on hand. We used Brownells’ aluminum-body magazines (Brownells.com, $14) Magpul Pmags (Brownells.com, $12.30), and Hexmag tubes (Brownells.com, $12); all were 30-rounders. The AUG and FN used proprietary magazines. Like an AR-15, the FN, IWI, AUG, and Kel-Tec allow the operator to keep his firing hand on the grip while performing a reload with the support hand.

The three brands of AR-suitable ammunition we tested included Aguila 5.56mm NATO with a 62-grain FMJ bullet, 223 Remington Federal Fusion loaded with a 62-grain soft point, and SIG Sauer’s 223 Remington ammo loaded with a 77-grain Open-Tip Match (OTM) bullet. For the FN, we used FN 5.7x28mm 40-grain V-Max and Federal American Eagle 40-grain FMJs. We noticed big differences in recoil and muzzle blast between the 5.56 NATO and 5.7x28mm ammo. The 5.7x28mm ammo was similar to shooting 22 Magnum ammo — minimal recoil and not as much muzzle blast as the 5.56mm NATO.

2017 Guns & Gear Top Picks

December 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, and Ralph Winingham have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.

We Wouldn't Buy Ruger or Howa Precision Rifles

December 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

When a firearm leaves the factory in a condition that precludes the buyer from using it as designed, that firearm deserves an “F.” I believe it is acceptable to point out whether the problem is severe or an easy fix. However, the evaluation needs to stress that the firearm should have never left the factory in the condition tested. Personally, regardless of the grades given, I would not buy the Ruger or the Howa. Keep up the good work.

Savage Introduces the 10/110 Stealth Evolution in Six Calibers

November 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

Savage has introduced the 10/110 Stealth Evolution chassis rifle chambered in six popular long-range calibers, including the all-new 6mm Creedmoor. The rifle is available in both right-hand and left-hand models. Shipments are currently being delivered to dealers.

The 10/110 Stealth Evolution pairs a heavy fluted barrel with a monolithic aluminum chassis finished in rugged bronze Cerakote. The polymer-ceramic coating enhances resistance to abrasion, corrosion, and impact. The rifle also sports a factory-blueprinted 10/110 action, zero-tolerance headspacing, user-adjustable AccuTrigger and 5R button rifling. The company claims the rifle will produce sub-MOA accuracy at extreme range right out of the box.

Options in Precision Rifle: We Test Desert Tech, Howa, Ruger

November 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Trends in firearms sales reflect the needs and interests of the buying public. Whereas the AR-15 or “black rifle” market has slowed down considerably, the popularity of rifles that are capable of accuracy beyond the 300-, 600-, or even 1000-yard range is still going strong. Referred to as precision rifles, the traditional configuration of a barreled action bedded into a wood or fiberglass stock are being challenged by aluminum and synthetic chassis rifles. What’s more, the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is rapidly becoming a favorite round. In this test, we decided to review three different types of rifles chambered to propel 0.264-inch diameter bullets that represent options to satisfy the long-distance enthusiast.

In this test, the traditional bolt-action rifle was represented by a new offering from Ruger that has, to the best of our knowledge, received virtually no press. Our $1139 6.5 Creedmoor Hawkeye MkIV Varmint Target boasted a 28-inch-long barrel, the longest tube we’ve heard of in quite some time. Howa’s $1450 HCR (Howa Chassis Rifle) was next up, featuring a fully adjustable buttstock from LUTH AR. Finally, we tried a unique design by Desert Tech. The $4995 Stealth Recon Scout (SRS-A1) lives up to its name by offering a 26-inch-long barrel packed into a compact profile.

For optics, our rifles shared a Steiner 4-16x50mm Predator Extreme scope. We also took turns looking down range with a Kahles 3-12x50mm scope supplied by Desert Tech. We painstakingly took time to break in the barrel of each rifle and then fired from the 100-yard line at American Shooting Center in Houston to collect basic accuracy data. For shots of record, we chose Winchester 140-grain Match, Hornady 143-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and the new 147-grain ELD Match rounds. We also shot a variety of rounds left over from previous tests to perform break in and for general comparison. What were the strengths and limitations of these three different platforms? Let’s find out.

Ruger Recalls Most Mark IVs

August 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

Ruger has issued a wide recall of all Mark IV and 22/45 models because of a problem with the safety and sear and has told owners that the pistols should not be used.

The issue is: In some cases, if the trigger is pulled while the safety lever is midway between the “safe” and “fire” positions and not full engaged in either, the pistol may or may not fire when the trigger is pulled.

If the gun doesn’t fire when the trigger is pulled, it may fire if the user then pushes the safety to the “fire” position without the trigger being activated.

Here’s a statement from a Ruger press release on the company’s website:

“Although only a small percentage of pistols appear to be affected and we are not aware of any injuries, Ruger is firmly committed to safety and would like to retrofit all potentially affected pistols with an updated safety mechanism. Until your Mark IV pistol has been retrofitted or you verify that it is not subject to the recall, we strongly recommend that you not use your pistol.”

Ruger says they have received a “small number” of reports from the field indicating the problem exists. Additional testing confirmed the issue and the recall was issued.

Big 9mm Pistols Tested? Yes!

May 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

The March 2017 issue compared “Forward-Mounted-Mag 9mm Pistols from SIG, Zenith, & CZ.” The  three super-sized pistols tested included the Zenith Firearms MKE Z-5RS with SB Brace, the CZ Scorpion EVO 3 S1, and the SIG Sauer MPX-PSB. The Zenith and SIG came with braces, while the CZ did not, but one could be purchased separately. All three proved to have good accuracy and reliability as defensive firearms. We preferred the Zenith, though the SIG and CZ performed well. As a subscriber, log on to Gun-Tests.com and read the entire review, either the online version or download the whole issue as a PDF.

New Rifles at SHOT 2017

April 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

At the 2017 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas in January, Gun Tests staffers saw that although new modern sporting rifles do not dominate the introductions of rifles this year, another major manufacturer has entered that AR-15 market with a product that’s selling well. So now’s the time to buy your AR because prices should be falling.
Of course, you should find plenty new to like elsewhere in the 2017 rifle world, with new rimfire offerings, new youth offerings, and plenty of threaded muzzles for those suppressors that may be deregulated soon.

Mid-Caliber Bolt-Action Rifles From T-C, Browning, and CZ USA

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Recently, we assembled a panel and arrived at what could be described as a list of practical considerations for choosing an all-around rifle. Not a specialty piece, mind you, but a “daily driver,” so to speak. Our test team came up with three considerations we wanted: power, accuracy, and portability. We agreed that in terms of power, we’d like to be able to hunt at least some deer-sized animals, but not with so much power that the rifle was too heavy to carry or generate so much recoil that it was unpleasant to shoot. To us, this meant short-action calibers greater than 223 Remington but less than 308 Winchester. In terms of accuracy, it wasn’t long ago that producing a 1-inch group at 100 yards (1 minute of angle) was a high standard. Certainly 1 MOA is still a benchmark, but recent state-of-the-art machinery has made it possible to buy such guns over the counter. And last, but certainly not least, there’s portability. Today, that is just as likely to mean aboard an ATV as it is over the shoulder. Either way, slender and compact is still the desired profile. Thus, the focus of this test became four bolt-fed short-action rifles in medium or midrange cartridges. The lineup was as follows:

We had intended to keep the maximum length of our rifles to less than 40 inches, but we decided to include the 41.5-inch-long Thompson Center Compass because we were eager to find out if this $399 rifle chambered for 22-250 Remington had recovered since its sudden recall for safety issues. Adding to its appeal was its threaded barrel, ready for a suppressor or muzzle brake.

Our shortest rifle was also chambered for 22-250. The $859 Browning X-Bolt Micro Midas offered a Grade 1 satin-finish walnut stock with 12.5-inch length of pull and about one additional inch of stock spacers. The Micro also weighed the least, as little as 6.1 pounds unloaded.

In the middle we chose the newest model 557 from CZ USA. The Sporter Short Action chambered for 243 Winchester was perhaps the most traditional rifle, with a checkered walnut stock.

The least traditional rifle, at least in terms of appearance, was the Howa Mini Action rifle from Legacy Sports International. Its multi-cam finish, 6.5 Grendel chambering, and 10-round detachable box magazine set it apart from the others. The right size overall, we hoped the big magazine sticking out the bottom would not make the Howa too difficult to pack.

Reproduction M1 Carbines: We Test Auto-Ordnance and Inland Manufacturing Models

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine

The M1 Carbine was adopted during World War II, then proceeded to arm our soldiers during the Korean War and Vietnam War, making it one of the most widely produced of all U.S. Military rifles. Millions were produced, and at one time, surplus models were quite common and inexpensive. Try finding a vintage M1 Carbine today, and you will pay close to $1000 for a well-used specimen. Costs, however, will vary dramatically depending on which manufacturer produced the M1 Carbine, the model, features, and condition.

We opted to test two new M1 Carbine reproductions, the M1 1945 Carbine from Inland Mfg. (not the original Inland Mfg. but a new company) and the M1 Carbine Paratrooper from Auto-Ordnance (A-O).

We looked at these two Carbines for historical accuracy, for competition use in M1 Carbine Matches, and as a home-defense choice. In our opinion, the Inland is suitable for all three, where the A-O is not competition ready, but it satisfies the other two roles pretty well. Bottom line, our test team found these two carbines to be reliable, depending on the ammunition employed, offer good performance if the cartridge is used within its limits, and unlike some other M1 Carbines our testers have fired in the past, these two reproductions are accurate enough for nearly any use.

Trump's Gun Agenda and Gun Tests' Glossy New Look

January 2017 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Dear Mr. Woodard: First, let me compliment you on the continued publication of your fine magazine! Just read your editorial concerning the presidential election. I don’t know how many people understand how clear the correlation between Ms. Clinton’s vehement anti-2A views and her loss of what should have been a slam-dunk win. If the numbers are remotely correct, there are 80 million gun owners in America. This number presumes that most of those folks are adults and not felons; therefore, they were potential voters. Another stat says that roughly 1 out of 20 Americans have a concealed-carry permit.

2016 Guns & Gear Top Picks

November 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Toward the end of each year, I survey the work R.K. Campbell, Roger Eckstine, Austin Miller, Robert Sadowski, David Tannahill, Tracey Taylor, John Taylor, Rafael Urista, Ralph Winingham, and Kevin Winkle have done in Gun Tests, with an eye toward selecting guns, accessories, and ammunition the magazine’s testers have endorsed. From these evaluations I pick the best from a full year’s worth of tests and distill recommendations for readers, who often use them as shopping guides. These choices are a mixture of our original tests and other information I’ve compiled during the year. After we roll high-rated test products into long-term testing, I keep tabs on how those guns do, and if the firearms and accessories continue performing well, then I have confidence including them in this wrap-up.

Ruger Introduces a Bevy of New Rifles and Pistols Mid-Year 2016

October 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

The American-made LCP II is built on a one-piece precision-machined anodized-aluminum chassis with integral frame rails and fire-control housing. Additional features include a through-hardened alloy steel slide; a black, one-piece glass-filled nylon grip frame; a textured grip frame to provide a secure and comfortable grip; a finger grip extension floorplate that can be added to the magazine for comfort and more secure grip, and a blued, alloy steel barrel. The LCP II ships with one 6-round magazine.

We Like Ruger’s Enhanced 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Rifle

October 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

In the January 2016 issue we published a test of bolt-action rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, including a Howa Austrian Brown Cerakote, a Savage Arms Model 12 LRP, and a Ruger Precision Rifle. All three rifles were impressive, but since then Ruger has released an Enhanced version, so we thought we’d better get one and see if the new features were worth the extra $200.

The model number for the (original) 6.5CM Ruger Precision Rifle previously tested was 18005. The Enhanced version is number 18008. Both rifles utilize a 24-inch-long medium-contour cold-hammer-forged barrel with a 1:8 twist. It is attached to an adaptation of the Ruger American action fed by a 10-round removable box magazine. The fully adjustable butt stock was the same, and so was the adjustable trigger. Our earlier test gun came trigger-pull weight adjusted to 2.6 pounds, with variation measured to be 1.4 ounces. Despite the owner’s manual claiming that the adjustable range was 2.25 pounds to 5.0 pounds, our Enhanced rifle arrived with a 2-pound trigger with variation of only about 0.8 ounces. We left the pull weight as set for fear of losing the overall feel of the trigger that we thought was clearly articulated.

The 18008 (Enhanced) rifle weighed about 0.1 pound more, even though the Samson Evolution Key Mod handguard was replaced by Ruger’s trimmer RPR Short-Action handguard, which also does away with the integrated top rail. We guess that whatever weight the 18008 gives up in top rail it gets back plus a little more by adding Ruger’s proprietary Hybrid Muzzle Brake plus Ruger’s Billet Aluminum Bolt Shroud, which replaced the plastic shroud.

American AK-Mag Variants II: Century, RRA, CMMG Go At It

June 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

Last month, we began testing AK-pattern rifles built in the U.S., which itself is important to a lot of Gun Tests readers, but also because we wanted to take an in-depth look at the category of what we hoped might be “improved” domestic variants of this famous rifle. Over the years, we’ve admired various AKs for their reliability while we’ve criticized their accuracy, fit and finish, and shooter-experience packages, such as crappy triggers and uncomfortable stocks. That said, we were very pleased with three rifles we tested in the June issue, rating one as a Grade A gun (Palmetto State Armory AK-47 MOE Edition 7.62x39mm, $749), a second as a Grade A- rifle (Century Arms RAS47 Magpul-Zhukov 7.62x39mm, $800), and the third a B+ (Palmetto State Armory AK-47 Gen2 Classic Red 7.62x39mm, $849).

This time we pit what are probably the two most significant military rifle actions of the 20th century against each other, the Kalashnikov and the Stoner. But there is a twist: All four rifles are American made, are chambered in 7.62x39, and use Kalashnikov-pattern magazines. The two Kalashnikov actions are made by Century Arms and look very much like standard AK-pattern rifles. The two Stoner actions, made by Rock River Arms and CMMG, for the most part look like the AR-15 platform familiar to many shooters but have some unique features. The Kalashnikovs have a well-deserved reputation for reliability, and the Stoners have a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. So, how would they do head to head?

To find out, we fired all four rifles in both cold and hot conditions, and because we expect these rifles to be used both as plinkers and for hunting or rural self defense, we used four different types of ammunition for this test: 122-grain FMJs, 123-grain plastic-tipped hollowpoints, 124-grain soft points, and 154-grain soft points. Due to the fairly big groups shot with open sights at 100 yards last time, this round we fired five-shot groups at 50 yards and measured them from center to center. Here’s what we learned.

American-Made AK-47 Rifles Compete

May 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

At one time AKs were made from de-milled parts kits or shipped into the U.S., then rebuilt with a specific number of U.S. parts to make it 922r compliant, and they still are today. But depending on what company remanufactured the rifle, the rifle might look like an AK-47 semi-automatic, but not work like one. In recent years the cost and availability of quality AKs have gone up and good ones can sometimes be difficult to acquire. 

Two U.S. manufacturers, however, have seen the need to fill shooters’ demands for a well-made AK-47 that has all the durability of the iconic rifle and at a reasonable cost.

It seems an oxymoron to say “American-made AK,” but Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory (PSA) are building AK-47s out of 100-percent U.S.-made parts. These are not former military or new import weapons made 922r compliant, but truly U.S.-made AK rifles built in Vermont by Century and in South Carolina by PSA. The two companies designed their rifles using an amalgamation of AK designs from a variety of countries including Russia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania, China, and others, taking what was best and incorporating the good ideas into the domestic designs.

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We wanted to look at this new breed of American AK, so we scrounged up a pair of Palmetto State Armory rifles and a Century rifle. The rifles ranged from two that were set up with modern Magpul polymer furniture and a third with a more traditional wood appointments.

The AK-47 was designed and prototyped in 1947 and adopted by the Soviet Union in 1949. The design actually borrows from the M1 Garand and German Sturmgewehr StG 44, both of which were issued in WWII. The M1 Garand saw extensive service with G.I.s, while the StG 44 saw limited service when it began to be issued in 1943. The AK design incorporates a long-stroke gas piston and rotary bolt. The idea behind the AK-47 was to design a weapon that was reliable, durable, simple to maintain, relatively accurate, and inexpensive to manufacture. The AK-47 meets all those criteria hands down. Like the StG 44 and M1 Carbine, the AK-47 was a turning point in military weaponry. Shorter, more compact weapons with close to mid-range accuracy was the way wars were being fought. Heavy, large-caliber rifles were not as effective. The AK-47 shoots the 7.62x39mm cartridge, which was also influenced by other countries, namely the cartridge used in the German StG 44, the 7.92x33mm Kurz, and the U.S. M1 carbine in 30 Carbine. In terms of power and trajectory the 7.62x39mm is similar to the venerable 30-30 Winchester.

Some AK characteristics that U.S. shooters need to get used to is the bolt does not lock back on the last shot fired; the safety is a large lever located on the right side of receiver; magazines need to be rotated and locked in place; and the magazine may need to be stripped away, as some magazines fall free when the magazine is released and some do not. The open sights on all AKs, even these three, looked slightly bent. The sights were perfectly zeroed, but slightly bent sights are another characteristic U.S. shooters must acclimate to. The three rifles tested all used stamped receivers, which was what the original AK design called for. Milled receivers were used in the interim. Century offers a line of milled-receiver AKs in the C39v2 line. Milled receivers offer less flex than stamped receivers during recoil, which can aid in accuracy. Milled receivers are also heavier, so felt recoil is lessened. Milled receivers are also more expensive compared to stamped receiver models.

There can be strong opinions about AK-47s from U.S. shooters, but the fact is the AK is probably the most prolific combat rifle currently fielded. One of our team members who is a Gulf War veteran said if he could have only one gun it would be an AK-47 due to the rifle’s reliability and the better terminal ballistics of 7.62x39mm compared to the 5.56x45mm NATO/223 Remington. Yes, there is more recoil with the Russian cartridge, and it is not as accurate as the 5.56/223, but it has more power, and typical accuracy is 4 minutes of angle (MOA), which is plenty accurate for defensive purposes and hunting at moderate distances. We also had diehard AR fans in our test group who gained a respect for the AK platform. In terms of performance, there was nothing lost in translation with these AKs as testers grew a little more tolerant.

We fired the three AKs using open sights, with some members using a Strike Hard (StrikeHardGear.com) AK chest rig. The rig uses an x-harness and holds four magazines with a shock cord retention system. The weight of fully loaded magazines is comfortable with the rig. Here are the details about how each rifle performed during our head-to-head testing.

New Long Guns Coming for 2016

March 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

At the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Gun Tests staffers ran across many dozens of new products that we’re working to include in future tests. Following are some of the rifles, rifle ammunition, shotguns, and long-gun accessories we found interesting. If there’s something in particular you want us to test, please drop me a note at GunTestsEditor@icloud.com. 

Barnes Bullets has added two new loads to the VOR-TX line of premium ammunition. The first is a 130-grain Tipped Triple Shock load for the 308 Winchester. It is rated at 3,170 fps, and it takes the 308 Winchester into a new realm of velocity. SRP: $45.69 for a 20-round box. The second load is an 190-grain LRX bullet for the 300 Winchester Magnum. This bullet’s ogive and cannelure design gives it a high B.C., and the nose cavity engineering ensures it expands reliably at lower velocities. It is rated at 2,860 fps. 

The Woodsman rifle is new from Bergara. This bolt-action hunting rifle weighs 7.4 pounds in long action and 7.1 pounds in short action. It has a hinged floor plate and comes with a 22- or 24-inch, No. 3 contour barrel. The stock is American walnut, and available chamberings include 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag., 308 Win., 30/06, and 300 Win. Mag. 

Browning’s biggest shotgun news is that the Sweet Sixteen is back. Like its most revered predecessor, the new A5 Sweet Sixteen is built on a smaller, lighter receiver for reduced weight and a sleek feel. The A5 uses kinetic energy to power the recoil-operated Kinematic Drive System for reliable function with any load and under the full extremes of weather, temperature, moisture, or grime. The A5 16-gauge receiver is constructed of aluminum with a black anodized bi-tone finish. The stock—shim-adjustable for length of pull, cast, and drop—and forearm are gloss finish walnut with a close-radius pistol grip and sharp 18 lines-per-inch checkering. The gun uses Browning’s Invector DS choke system; three chokes will be supplied with 2 ¾-inch chambered barrels in 26- or 28-inch lengths. Weight: 5 pounds 12 ounces.

308 Win. Bolt Guns: Ruger’s Precision Rifle vs. Tikka T3 CTR

March 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

We admire long-range competitive shooters for doing something we mere shooting mortals find nearly impossible. Their ability to manage distance, wind, and overly complicated reticles on specialized rifles to deliver hits on targets that can hardly be seen with the naked eye is both an art and science. Usually a precision centerfire rifle is custom-made, costing upwards of $3,000 or more with a wait time that can take years, depending on the popularity of the custom-rifle builder. Adding a suitable optic can increase the cost an additional $1,000 to $2,000, plus bipod and other pieces of gear, not to mention quality ammo. All in, a shooter could easily sink $7,000 into a set up before even sending a single piece of lead downrange.

Firearm manufacturers, seeing the shooting public’s interest in long-range shooting, are offering rifles advertised as “tactical” and “precision” to attract long-range hunters and weekend paper punchers. We all know that setting a barreled action in a black polymer stock does not make a precision rifle. But lately, some large firearm manufacturers have begun mass-producing accurate rifles that rival some custom-built rifles without the wait or the high cost. These mass-produced precision rifles can handle many long-range chores, and some of them come in compact lengths and have the ability to add muzzle devices, such as suppressors. 

We wanted to take a look at a few of these rifles to get a sense of their accuracy as well as their consistency, ease of use, ability to be customized, and cost. We began looking at such rifles in the January 2016 issue when we compared three bolt actions from Savage, Ruger, and Howa, all chambered in the very accurate 6.5 Creedmoor round. Our favorite in that test was the Savage Arms Model 12 Long Range Precision 19137, followed by the Ruger Precision Rifle 18005 and the Howa HB HKF92507KH+AB. Here we take a second look at the Ruger Precision rifle, this time in 308 Winchester, against a Tikka T3 CTR. The 308 Win. is a common and popular round, with many factory ammunition options available. We tried the spectrum of 308 Win. ammunition and bullet weights, from inexpensive Sellier & Bellot 150-grain soft-point hunting rounds and Norma USA’s 168-grain Sierra hollowpoint boattail to expensive 175-grain boattail Sierra MatchKing hollowpoints in the Federal Premium Gold Medal match ammo line, as well as Hornady 155-grain TAP FPDs. Both rifles were fired from a sandbag rest as well as from seated and prone positions. We also made sure the temperature, wind speed, and humidity conditions were similar when we shot these rifles, even though these factors have more affect on targets at farther distances than the distance tested. Barrels were allowed to cool after each string.

Test firing was conducted at 100 yards, though that distance may seem short compared to what these rifles’ makers say the products can do. This is the most common rifle-range distance many shooters have access to. Members of this particular test team had experience with high-end SIG Sauer SSG 3000 and Sako TRG M10 and TRG 42 rifles, and numerous chassis-style rifles with Remington, Savage, and custom-rifle-maker barreled actions, as well as long-range hunting rifles like the Savage 11/111 models and Remington Model 700 varmint rifles. A Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14x50mm LR/T scope (Brownells.com, $900, #526-000-150WB) was moved between rifles Warne Maxima-series steel rings to ensure there was no optic variability. The Mark 4 series has been used by the U.S. Marine Corps on the M14 rifle and with the U.S. Army’s M24 sniper weapon system. One might consider it to be a benchmark in tactical scopes. It is made with a one-piece 30mm tube and a 50mm objective. The M1 TMR (Tactical Milling Reticle) reticle is located in the second focal plane, so it stays one size even as the magnification power is increased. To use the Mil-Dot ranging features, the scope must be set to the highest magnification. We bore-sighted the rifles prior to starting range work. Here’s what our shooters found out at the range.

AK-47 Accuracy

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

Recently, a Gun Tests reader requested that we gauge the accuracy of 7.62x39mm loads in the AK-47 rifle, with an eye toward evaluating the AK for ad hoc hunting, if the opportunity arose. Many of these rifles are in use in America, so determining the ability of the rifle to humanely harvest a deer or hog seemed like a good idea to check out. The 7.62x39mm cartridge is often compared to the 30-30 Winchester in power, and if the AK-47 and its loads were accurate enough, then the pair could be counted upon to take thin-skinned game at moderate distance. 

The question is, how accurate is commonly available ammunition in an average AK-47 at 100 yards? To find out, we obtained an AK-47 from the used rack at a pawn shop. The rifle featured an NDS receiver and seemed well put together. While we were there, we also grabbed an SKS chambered for the same round, in this case a Chinese rifle in excellent condition with matching serial numbers on its parts. 

Benchresting the AK and its long magazine produced some difficulties. We found it is not an easy rifle from which to coax accuracy. The SKS was easier to use well off the bench, especially when using the onboard iron sights. After initial sighting work at 50 yards to get on the paper, we fired a succession of three-shot groups at 100 yards, sighting both at the base of an 8-inch bull. At the end, we found the SKS to be slightly more accurate with the ammo we selected.

In broad terms, then, we think most shooters can get commonly available AK-47s to shoot around 4-inch groups at 100 yards, good enough to take game at that distance. We had slightly better results with the SKS, and would think of it as a 3.5-inch gun at that range. Also, we found a few rounds these guns preferred, so if you’re attempting to knock a hog in the head, you might consider starting with our winners in your own AK or SKS. Following are our ratings for eight ammunition choices suitable for the AK-47 or SKS variants, and you can also scan the results in the accompanying table.

Sturm, Ruger Rolls Out Significant New Pistols, Revolvers, and Rifles

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. has announced a new line of full-size duty pistols, new chamberings for its GP100 revolvers, new barrels for its 10/22 Takedowns, and new colors for its Lite rimfire pistols. Also, the company has added a Takedown rifle to its SR-556 line. The Ruger American Pistol will be available in 9mm Luger and .45 Auto. The two 9mms are Model Nos. 8605 (17+1) and 8607 (10+1) and the 45 is Model No. 8615, and all will list for $579 MSRP. 

The Ruger American Pistol is built on a one-piece precision-machined stainless-steel chassis with integral frame rails and fire control housing. It has a black nitrided finish, Novak LoMount Carry three-dot sights, a stainless steel slide with non-reflective black-nitride finish, and a one-piece glass-filled nylon grip frame. The front accepts accessories on a mil-standard 1913 rail.

“The Ruger American Pistol is the most advanced semi-auto pistol we have ever produced,” noted Ruger CEO Mike Fifer. 

The 9mm weighs in at 30 ounces with a 4.2-inch barrel and the .45 weighs in at 31.5 ounces with a 4.5-inch barrel. Both ship in a hard case with replaceable grip modules and two, nickel-Teflon plated steel magazines. Capacities are 17 rounds for 9mm and 10 rounds for .45 Auto. 10-round magazines are also available for the 9mm for those states which restrict round counts.

CEO Fifer said that Ruger polled law enforcement and military trainers throughout the country to determine the form, function, and features of this firearm. The new pistol combines a recoil-reducing barrel cam to spread recoil over time, a low-mass slide, low center of gravity and a low bore axis to provide better balance, less felt recoil and less muzzle flip.

Uberti Model 1860 Henry 342880 45 LC, $1429

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Uberti makes five versions of this rifle. The Trapper 342910 in 45 Colt has an 18.5-inch barrel, a brass frame and buttplate, and a case-hardened lever. The Rifle models have similar cosmetics to the Trapper but have 24.5-inch barrels, one chambered in 44-40 (342390) and our test gun in 45 Colt. Two more Rifle models come in the same chamberings (342370 in 44-40 and 342360 in 45 Colt) and have the same barrel lengths as the brass ones, but they display case-hardened frames and levers and blued buttplates and list for $30 more. Our first glance at the Uberti test model was extremely satisfying. We found the barrel flats to be properly done. The edges between them were sharp enough and, sighting along the flats, we found them to be dead level. The bluing was authentic looking. It was not rust bluing, but looked close enough to it to satisfy us. Our impression was that this is how the 1860 Henry is supposed to look. While the action was not quite so glossy as the Henry version, it still reflected much like a mirror and was, like the barrel flats, dead flat. The walnut stock had some lovely tiger-striping in it that our photos might not pick up, and inletting was excellent. While the stock finish was mighty hard, it had none of the milkiness that Henry’s rifle had. 

The little button behind the loading lever had distinct stops every 90 degrees, a feature was missing from the previously tested version. The sights were identical to those found on the Henry Henry, the rear having all the same little cuts, holes, notch contours, elevation slide and markings as on the other rifle. The front sight was also identical in contour to the other rifle, and had a flat-topped blade insert of somewhat shiny metal. The hammer was blued, but the loading lever was case hardened. We believe the original Henry rifles (from the 19th century) had blued parts, but there were some finish variations in the 1866 and 1873 rifles that followed it, so we believe it’s possible some of the original Henrys had case-hardened parts. If that’s not true and the dull case coloring offends you, rub the parts with cold blue and call it good. We don’t think that’s necessary, however — it looked mighty nice.

Uberti’s 1860 Henry Rifle Trumps Henry’s ‘Original’ Lever-Action

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

In our October 2015 issue, we took a hard look at the Henry Repeating Arms’ “Original Rifle” in a test that included a Winchester 1892, both rifles in 44-40 WCF. The Winchester won a clear victory in that head-to-head test of lever actions, but we were intrigued by the Henry nonetheless. The Henry rifle worked well enough but had a nasty job of overbuffing, we thought, that gave the brass action a mirror polish at the expense of destroying the edges of the octagonal flats of the barrel. The overbuffing also left a depression, sometimes called a “hog wallow,” where the barrel met the 5-inch sleeve at the muzzle. Partly because of that problem and partly because of the high price, $2300, we gave the rifle a Grade: C rating. That’s not enough recommendation for us to invest in the Henry “Original,” so we began looking for a similarly styled levergun and found the Uberti version of 1860 Henry for a lot less money. 

Because the availability of 44-40 ammunition choices is fairly tight (MidwayUSA.com lists 10 choices, with only lead bullets, in weights from 200 to 225 grains), we figured if we found an 1860 we liked, we’d prefer to have a wider range of loads for it, so we acquired one chambered in 45 Colt (aka Long Colt), for which MidwayUSA.com lists 56 results, in bullet weights from 145 grains to 360 grains in lead, copper, even shotshells. Looking at these 1860s point by point, we realized we were looking for a rifle that would trump Henry’s Henry — and it would be no easy task for the Uberti to take down the namesake 1860. Here’s what we found.

Snubbies, Holsters, Rifles and A Cartridge Shortage

February 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

I’m a long-time customer and would like to get three or more comparisons of 357 Magnum lightweight snub-nose revolvers. The index shows the captioned rifle being reviewed in November. When I go online for past reviews, I only find a 2007 review, and it was not from November, as stated in magazine. The Blackhawk GripBreak 421903BK holster seems like just the ticket for this coming year for those of us who are predisposed to reject Kydex and plastic holsters for reasons of them being ugly and inelegant. Problem is, no one has the GripBreaks. Check your Schmidt-Rubin for a possible Christmas present. Remove the buttplate and see if there is anything under it. Many original owners wrote a personal note or ID and hid it under the plate. - Winslow

Rifle Stats: Schmidt-Rubin M1911 7.5X55mm Swiss, $350

January 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

Once again we have a really snappy example of the species for our test. The bore, all 30.7 inches of it, looked like it was new. The muzzle was fitted with a clever snap-over cap, made of brass and spring steel, to keep crud out. The light-colored stock, most likely some form of birch, was decent looking with what seemed to be its original finish, though it had plenty of small dings and nicks. The metalwork and bluing were also in very good condition, retaining about 90 percent finish. The detachable magazine held six rounds and was extremely easy to load. We thought the metal finish was pretty good, not a shiny finish nor entirely dull, most certainly not crude, generally well done, and essentially equal to the finish on many modern rifles. 

Rudolf Schmidt designed this action, and the great Swiss craftsmen brought it into a viable form that lasted a long time. To operate the rifle, the soldier did not have to learn how to twist a conventional bolt. All he had to do was grab the twin knobs on the right side of the action, heave them straight back, and shove them straight forward. This was undoubtedly faster for the average man to operate than all but the most skilled conventional-bolt operators. We kept trying to twist the lever downward after a new round went home, but we quickly adapted. Despite the great length of the rifle we did not find it to be clumsy, though it took some getting used to its 51.5 inches of length. We thought the sights were on the small size for fastest use, but serviceable. The rear was graduated out to 2000 yards and had a small U-notch, and the front was a flat-top post in a dovetail. The stock went almost all the way to the muzzle, and covered the barrel all the way but for the last 2.5 inches. That long, slim stock was just over 48 inches long. It was of hard wood, and had a pistol-grip insert added. The upper hand guard was just over 21 inches long. There was a bayonet lug on the forward barrel band and a stacking hook under the muzzle affixed to that same band. The forward barrel band was inletted into the wood. It was fitted with a stout screw to retain it, and opposite the screw was a hinge to permit removal of the band. All the visible numbers were matching including on the magazine. Even the curved and coned steel butt plate held the last three digits of the serial number.

A Superb Straight-Pull Vintage Rifle

January 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine

Our test rifle here is a Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911. These rifles were made in a variety of models and lengths, including carbines, over the years as various small improvements came along to correct some of the initial shortcomings of the rifle. Commonly available on the U.S. surplus market for many years, the S-R never sold in vast quantities despite attractive prices, most likely because the ammo was somewhat hard to get and the action didn’t permit transformation into a suitable sporterized form. Although the Schmidt-Rubin was not designed to be a sporter, we suspect a clever stock maker could make up a shorter-barrel version of this (carbines have 24-inch barrels) into an attractive custom rifle, much as Al Linden did long ago for the Krag. We tested our rifle with three types of ammo. This was Swiss Army issue GP11 with 174-grain FMJ bullets, Wolf soft-nose 174-grain bullets, and Hornady’s 165-grain soft-nose load. Here’s what we found. 

Eduard Rubin ought to be a household name to gunnies the world over. Why? He invented the full-metal-jacketed bullet back in 1882. Oddly, the bullet was paper patched, much like the old lead bullets were patched for many years prior to that date, but his was apparently the first metal-jacketed bullet to be paper patched. This technique is still occasionally useful today to bump up a bullet’s diameter to make it fit an odd bore size.

Along his way Mr. Rubin came up with several cartridge designs, his most famous being the 7.5x55 Swiss, which essentially has defended Switzerland since 1889. The cartridge in nearly identical form is still used today in the Swiss M51 machine gun, and by home reserve units. Today’s version of the cartridge, known as the GP11, brought out in 1911 like our test rifle, uses a boat-tailed bullet of 174 grains. That ammunition played a big part in U.S. military cartridge development.

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During the first World War, the then-current version of the 30-06, with 150-grain flat-base bullet, was found to give poor performance at long range. This was discovered after U.S.-made machine guns finally replaced the foreign-made ones the U.S. had been using. At the time, long-range cover or blanketing fire from machine guns was key to military operations, though that is not the case today. The original 30-06 ammo was supposed to have a maximum range of close to three miles. It was found to have a true range of less than two miles. After the war the U.S. was determined to fix that, and began serious testing. In the process the Swiss GP11 ammunition, with the same-diameter bullets, was evaluated and found to be vastly superior to the 30-06. In light of the great performance of the Swiss ammo at long range, the U.S. testing team loaded Swiss bullets into our 30-06 brass and found it to be far better than even the U.S.’s specially loaded 180-grain match ammo. It was thus determined the 30-06 needed a boat-tail bullet. But what angle should the boat-tail be?

Rifle Stats: Ruger Precision Rifle 18005 6.5 Creedmoor, $1399

January 2016 - Gun Tests Magazine - Subscribers Only

First reactions to the Ruger Precision Rifle ranged from “It’s a bolt-action AR” to the expectation that the RPR was a “chassis” rifle. Actually, nether is correct, but the RPR draws from both of these platforms. A chassis rifle consists of a frame, including a buttstock, folding or rigid, and support structure for the barreled action, trigger mechanism, and magazine well connected to a forend that may or may not be skeletonized, but provides bore-centric rails for mounting optics, laser aiming devices, or illumination. A true chassis rifle, such as those made by Accuracy International, JPRifles or Ashbury Precision Ordnance, provides a complete structure into which a barreled action is bolted in place. If the RPR were a true chassis rifle, then maybe the barreled action from one of Ruger’s three Hawkeye bolt-action rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor would fall right into place. But the Ruger Precision Rifle is more of a hybrid design built around Ruger’s patented American-style action and the company’s SR AR-15/type rifles. 

Nonetheless, the RPR takes advantage of the many AR-like features that the American public has fallen in love with. The 15-inch-long Samson key-mod free-float handguard is ready to accept Picatinny rails in just about any position the operator desires. The top rail was affixed at 12 o’clock and extended the 7.8-inch-long Picatinny rail directly above the receiver. Bore-to-rail height was very close, and recoil was designed to move straight to the rear at the top of the 0.9-inch-thick rubber buttpad. The buttpad was designed to be adjustable for cant, but we found the primary locking screw to be frozen and were unable to move it from its vertical set. Adjustment for length of pull was much easier via a cam and clamping lever. With the release lever pulled away from the rifle, the buttpad could be moved closer to or further from the receiver by rotating the large threaded shaft. Despite variations in size, each staff member was able to adjust for eye relief and comfortable extension of the arms and wrists.