The STAR rifle takes customization to a whole new level, offering a platform that adjusts to fit any shooter.
The first time I saw the new Sisk Tactical Adaptive Rifle or STAR up close, my initial thought was, “Another tactical bolt gun—Why?” And then I picked it up. My second thought: “This darn thing’s way heavy!”
Okay, I was not impressed. But then I spent a day shooting the rifle with inventor and gun maker Charlie Sisk himself, followed by a two-day session with the rifle at the Gunsite Academy, one of the country’s premier firearms training facilities. And with those two experiences, I now know that the STAR is actually a very accurate and flexible rifle, has many tactical applications, and can be an effective hunter, too.
Even though, yes, it is still heavy.
Charlie Sisk, of Dayton, Texas, made an impressive name for himself over the years with the custom hunting rifles he built at Sisk Rifles, LLC (SiskGuns.com). But as that market started to peter out several years ago, Sisk turned his attention to more tactical platforms. As he told me, one thing always bothered him about rifles in general.
“You have to fit yourself around the rifle,” Sisk said. “But we all have different builds and different ways we hold rifles. Did you ever get a rifle you couldn’t hit a thing with, but someone else got it to shoot just fine? I’d bet a lot of money it simply didn’t fit that first shooter—and never will.”
Sisk continues, “So, when I was designing the STAR, the big thing I wanted to do was make a rifle you could make fit to you. And re-adjust quickly in different scenarios, if needed.”
Sisk builds his STARs on either a Remington 700 action or one of the Savage long- and short-action receivers. (The STARs I used were all made with Remington 700 actions.) For my intro, Sisk went over the various features with me and—once he was sure I knew how to manipulate the adjustment controls—gave me a simple order.
“Set it up so it feels right—for you.”
I’ve used a rifle with adjustable stocks. But this was quite a different experience. First, I adjusted the buttstock laterally, tilting it from side to side via an adjustable joint at the stock’s wrist. This joint spins and locks into place, allowing a shooter to dial in a custom fit for maximum cheek weld and fit to your upper body structure.
Next, I worked the buttstock adjustment, adding and subtracting length until it felt correct. I also found that—on Sisk’s advice—the butt pad fit my shoulder best when spun around 180 degrees, technically upside down.
I made the comb fit my cheek. Last, I went back over the initial adjustments to make sure it all still fit right. It did.
True, the now-adjusted buttstock had a bent and twisted look to it—like it had been dropped down the side of a cliff and bounced off several boulders! Yet, it fit me like no rifle ever has; I lined up behind the scope at just the right height and distance without having to adjust myself to the rifle.
The handguard of the STAR is also extremely adjustable, spinning around 360 degrees, and locking into place at nearly any position. With a bi-pod attached, the handguard allows for all kinds of different braced shooting possibilities—more on that later.
This particular STAR was going to be picked up by a local police officer (Texas police SWAT Teams have bought a good number of STARs already). It was a Remington 700 in .223. This rifle had a #2 contour Lilja barrel, 18-inches long, detachable magazine, outfitted with a SureFire SOCOM 762-RC suppressor and a Nightforce 3.5-15×50 NXS scope with a MOAR reticle. It also had a very smooth and creep-free Timney Trigger, model 517.
Video: Sisk STAR Rifle Review
I first fired several shots at 30 yards on Sisk’s enclosed range to make sure I was on paper, made adjustments and moved to the 100-yard target. My first shot hit the bullseye on the top and left, about 11 o’clock. The second shot touched the first on the edge towards the bullseye. Third shot?
“Damn!” I exclaimed having pulled the shot, blowing my chances for that picture-perfect three-shots-touching group. “I screwed up,” I said to Sisk, who stood several feet next to me, his eye to a spotting scope. “It wasn’t the rifle.”
“Well, you know, that’s not so bad,” Sisk said. “That third shot is less than a half inch from the first two.”
I put my eye back onto the Nightforce. So, that made this grouping slightly over one-half inch, then? Huh!
I then spent several hours shooting the STAR outside at a variety of targets, at ranges out to 280 yards. At Gunsite in Paulden, Arizona, a month later, I put 100 rounds through another STAR, this one also built on a Remington 700 action but chambered in .308 Win.
Our targets at Gunsite were steel pop ups and 4- to 6-inch disks, made by MGM Targets, a co-sponsor of the event. I fired from various positions—prone, standing and standing with forearm and bi-pod turned to one side and using the bipod as a brace against a pole. I also shot from hillsides, one bi-pod leg extended farther than the other. That position worked surprisingly well because, by rotating the barrel within the handguard, I essentially removed cant.
I didn’t miss more than a handful of times, and while I’d like to take all the credit for that shooting, the truth is the rifle was a pleasure to shoot and put me on target with a comfortable and very steady rifle platform that can shoot sub-MOA all day long.
I’d always assumed that a tactical rifle for law enforcement would need to be light as movement was key to shooting scenarios. This can certainly be the case. But a couple of officers I talked to also told me that most SWAT-type calls had them setting up in position and waiting—sometimes for hours in a hostage situation or with a barricaded shooter.
In such cases, the officer has to have the rifle on target and ready—again, potentially for hours at a time. Here, the STAR excels. With bi-pod legs extended, handguard turned and locked into place, you can brace the bi-pod legs against a pole or wall, lean into the STAR and keep your rifle on target, essentially hands free if needed.
The ability to offset the stock to one side also has another big advantage: Officers can use the STAR while wearing gas masks.
The STAR has solid hunting applications, but with this large caveat: The STAR I used at Gunsite weighed a good 11.5 pounds without scope, bi-pod and ammunition. This is not the kind of rifle you are taking out West on a hunt that has you climbing up steep slopes. Run-and-gun hunting? Forget it.
But in a fixed position, like a shooting house, a stand or prone on a hilltop? The rifle will do a hunter just fine.
Sisk tells me he is looking to incorporate some lighter laminate into the construction of future STAR models and is examining ways to carve some weight out of the receiver. Customers can also order the STAR with a lower profile Lilja barrel, further reducing the weight to less than 10 pounds.
At over $5,000, the cost, of course, is substantial. But take a scan of the current custom-made tactical bolt rifle offerings, and you might be surprised to discover that the STAR is actually about middle of the pack price-wise.
Standard Model STAR
Actions: Remington 700 right hand short-action or Savage long- or short-action
Caliber: Nearly any centerfire caliber a customer wants.
Stock: STAR Tactical stock in black
Barrel: #7 Lilja contour barrel, 22 inches long
Muzzle: Threaded 5/8×24 with protector
Trigger Guard: STAR Trigger Guard with one AICS type mag
Trigger: Timney Model 517
Finish: Black matte Cera-Kote on barrel
Also, custom STAR Rifles can be made to customer specs.
Cost: Prices start at $5,600. SiskGuns.com
Sisk Rifles LLC
400 County Road 2340
Dayton, Texas 77535