The popular AR-15 platform is spurring modifications on over-the-counter guns that heretofore were the province of do-it-yourselfers who had a Brownells catalog and a credit card handy. Two modifications of the original design found on more and more ARs are the “tactical” forend, consisting of a four-sided Picatinny rail and flip-up sights that can be raised into position when needed. The tactical forend is especially useful when applied to a flat-topped receiver topped with a matching Picatinny rail. The forend rail can receive any type of laser or illuminating device that carries a clamp. These features were developed to answer the needs of military and law enforcement and action-rifle competitors.
The AR-15 platform lends itself to fulfilling the needs of the user like no other design, which made our task of assembling four different carbines both a challenge and a pleasure. They are the $1054 DPMS RFA2-AP4A Patrol Carbine and a Bushmaster Patrolman’s Carbine No. BCWA3F 16M4, which comes with options that bring the total suggested retail price to $1534. Each of these compact ARs offer the tactical forend and flip-up sights mentioned above and a flash hider, adjustable-length stock, and single-stage trigger. Also, the DPMS Patrol Carbine and the Bushmaster came with A2-style front sights that were adjustable for elevation.
Both were chambered for .223 Remington or 5.56mm rounds. For test ammunitions, we chose two premium rounds and the highest quality, most economical remanufactured ammunition we could find. The premium rounds were 62-grain Hornady TAP and 62-grain Federal American Eagle FMJ ammunition. To perform the bulk of the work, such as zeroing our scopes and performing rapid-fire drills that ate up hundreds of rounds, we chose 55-grain full-metal-jacket rounds from Georgia Arms (Georgia-Arms.com).
Our test procedure was arduous. To collect accuracy data we fired five-shot groups from the 50-yard benches at American Shooting Centers in Houston (AMShootcenters.com). Each gun was tested with the supplied open sights and with a Millet DMS-1 variable power scope set at 4X magnification. Mounting the scope with Zeiss rings upon a one-piece riser from Yankee Hill Machine (part number YHM-227A, $33 from YankeeHillMachine.com) made the transfer from gun to gun simple.
For the results of this test of four compact ARs, purchase the AR-15 Rifles E-Book, Part 1 from Gun Tests.