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Jay Langston

.300 AAC Blackout: The Whisper Turns Black

During load development, the Loki Weapons System Patrol Rifle in 300 BLK was fitted with a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x ER/T variable to wring out its sub-MOA capabilities.
During load development, the Loki Weapons System Patrol Rifle in 300 BLK was fitted with a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20x ER/T variable to wring out its sub-MOA capabilities.

The 300 AAC Blackout has both military and law enforcement applications and a growing legion of civilian fans to boot.

The Smith & Wesson Model M&P15 - 300 Whisper also chambers .300 BLK.
The Smith & Wesson Model M&P15 – 300 Whisper also chambers .300 BLK.

Advanced Armament Corp. (AAC) and Remington developed the 300 Blackout System to launch .30-caliber projectiles from the AR platform without reduction in magazine capacity, while maintaining compatibility with the AR-15’s standard bolt.

Remington received Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) acceptance of the new cartridge in June 2010. AAC officially designated it as the 300 AAC Blackout, or the 300 BLK. The metric designation is 7.62x35mm.

With subsonic cartridges, the 300 BLK produces a low sound signature when suppressed, and the development of 100- to 150-grain full-speed ammunition matches the ballistics of the 7.62x39mm AK. When fired from a 9-inch barrel, the 300 BLK produces more muzzle energy than a 5.56mm M855 round fired from a 16-inch rifle barrel.

The first priority of the 300 BLK was to utilize the existing inventory of 5.56mm NATO magazines while retaining their full capacity. Next, AAC wanted to create the optimal platform for sound and flash suppressed fire.

Another objective was to create compatible supersonic ammo that matches 7.62x39mm ballistics. The 300 BLK also provides the ability to penetrate barriers with high-mass projectiles. Providing all of these capabilities in a lightweight, durable, low recoiling package was what it took to meet the project’s objectives.

A standard M4 bolt is used for the new cartridge, and it matches or exceeds M4 endurance and durability. Compared with 5.56, a 7.62×39 or a 6.8 SPC, the BLK has reduced muzzle flash and “gasses” the shooter less.

When fired from a 9-inch barrel, the 300 BLK produces more devastating terminal effect than a 5.56, and on par with the 7.62×39 or 6.8 SPC.

Increasing Rate Of Fire

.300 BLK ammo.Installing a suppressor on a weapon typically increases the rate of fire. When comparing a suppressed to a non-suppressed 10-inch barreled 300 BLK AR to a 10-inch 5.56mm AR, the 300 BLK is a winner.

The average rate of fire for a 5.56 increases 34 percent, from an average rate of fire of 737 rounds per minute (RPM) to 985 RPM when suppressed. A supersonic load in the 300 BLK increases 18 percent, from 821 RPM to 970 RPM. Firing subsonic 300 BLK loads only upped the rate of fire 5 percent, from 746 RPM to 780 RPM.

Additional testing by AAC revealed that the 300 BLK has a point-of-impact shift with and without a suppressor of 1.3 MOA at 100 meters supersonic, and 2.4 MOA subsonic. On the endurance side of the equation, the mean number of rounds between stoppage was 738 rounds for the 5.56, and 640 rounds for the 300 BLK. Barrel life for a 5.56mm is typically about 9,000 rounds, whereas the 300 BLK has passed 30,000 rounds and continues to climb.

When comparing a 9-inch 300 BLK M4 PDW to an MP5-SD3, it really excels. The MP-5 weighs 7.9 pounds, and the 300 BLK PDW weighs 7 pounds when configured with a CTR stock, an H2 buffer and an AAC 762 SDN-6 suppressor with no magazine or sights. The compact length for the MP5 is 26.4 inches, and 31.7 inches with stock extended.

An M4 with stock collapsed and no supressor measures 25.75 inches, and 34.25 inches with a CTR stock extended and suppressor attached. Firepower is where the 300 BLK really excels. The MP-5 fires a 115-grain bullet at 900 fps, whereas the 300 BLK PDW firing a 220-grain bullet at 1,000 fps produces 129 percent more energy at the muzzle and even more down range.

“When people want to shoot suppressed, the MP5-SD3 has become obsolete because it can’t shoot through barriers; from armor, to wall board or windshields,” said Robert Silvers, director of research and development at AAC. “That’s why H&K came out with the MP-7A1, but you can’t make that gun quiet. You can keep an M-4 Blackout quiet, and it penetrates well. And, it makes a good home defense weapon, too. It has more energy than an M4 with a 16-inch barrel, and for people who want to hunt with their AR, it satisfies that, too. The Blackout is extremely versatile and can handle bullets from 110 grains to 240 grains.”

Shooting the 300 BLK

The basic difference between the 300 BLK chamber and the .300 Whisper or .300 Fireball is the length of the throat. The 300 BLK is slightly longer. One of the quirks of the .300 Whisper is the variation in brass thickness among the many makes of 5.56mm ammunition. The 300 BLK’s longer throat mitigates the issue.
The basic difference between the 300 BLK chamber and the .300 Whisper or .300 Fireball is the length of the throat. The 300 BLK is slightly longer. One of the quirks of the .300 Whisper is the variation in brass thickness among the many makes of 5.56mm ammunition. The 300 BLK’s longer throat mitigates the issue.

When I asked Silvers about the longer throat in the 300 BLK, he said, “The people that don’t like the longer throat seem to always bring that up. We get good results from a test barrel. We shot 10 five-round groups that came in under .85-inch.”

The 300 BLK is a short-range round. When it is zeroed at 100 yards, the 300 BLK, loaded with a sub-sonic 220-grain Sierra Match King, drops nearly three feet when it passes the 200-yard mark. The same zero with a 125-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet traveling at 2,200 fps will drop approximately 7.3 inches at 200 yards.

Since Remington hadn’t shipped any 300 BLK ammo prior to my initial testing, I spent some time forming Lake City mil-surp brass with a Redding 300/221 Fireball trim die. I scrounged some .221 Remington Fireball brass, too, for reforming. When I ran across Brad’s Warehouse (bradswarehouse.com) as a source for 300 BLK cases, I jumped on 1,000.

Just as this article was about wrapped up, AAC shipped me an excellent supply of primed Remington 300 BLK cases, too.

My initial loads were educated guesses to determine velocities. Serious accuracy loading would come later. Cases were primed with CCI 400, Federal Small Rifle Benchrest or Winchester Small Rifle primers. I loaded H110, Accurate 1680 or Reloader No. 7 powder for initial testing. An AAC .30-caliber Cyclone suppressor was used for all testing.

Testing AR Platforms

To learn more about the 300 BLK, I tested three AR platforms. I got in touch with AAC and received one of the first barrels available, along with a low-profile carbine-length gas block and gas tube. To build a complete upper receiver suitable for testing, I had Anderson Manufacturing, from Hebron, Ky., mate the AAC barrel with one of their quality upper receivers and hand guards.

AAC’s 300 Blackout AR-15 barrels are 4159 chrome-molybdenum vanadium steel with a 1:8 twist. They utilize a standard M4 barrel extension, and have a high-reliability self-loading specific chamber. The chamber dimensions are slightly larger than found on bolt guns to increase reliability.

Their barrels are treated with proprietary nitride surface treatment on the barrel and extension assembly to give up to a 60 percent longer barrel life than chrome plating the barrel. The treatment improves corrosion resistance, reduces friction and improves accuracy issues, like hard chroming the barrel and creating coating thickness variations. The muzzle is threaded 5/8 24 TPI and comes with a thread protector.

PNW .300 BLK Ammo. At the range, I attached the AAC/Anderson Manufacturing upper to a Bushmaster lower fitted with an AR Gold trigger, and was ready to send rounds down range. Using a Leupold 6.5-20x Mark 4 scope, I shot several five-shot subsonic 100-yard groups.

The average for 12 groups fired was a hair under 2 inches, with two groups measuring sub MOA. Hornady’s 208-grain AMax, Sierra’s 210- and 220-grain Match Kings all shoot well in subsonic loads.

Another carbine tested was a Loki Weapons System Patrol Rifle. In short, this rig is comprised of Loki’s billet upper and lower, an Ergo F93 Pro adjustable stock and Loki’s forend and adjustable gas block set at the carbine position on a 16-inch Satern barrel.

I fired a hodge-podge of reloads trying to find the performers, just as I had done with other rigs. I even tried two Corbon .300 Whisper factory loads. No matter what I threw at it, this rig performed well.

The average of all five-shot groups measured 1.7 MOA. I shot one .753-inch group with a 220-grain Sierra Match King on top of 10.8 grains of A1680. Corbon’s 220-grain SMK subsonic load also shot a .783-inch group. Corbon’s 125-grain .300 Whisper load averaged less than MOA, with the smallest .811-inch.

Today, Hornady has joined the .300 BLK fray with their .300 Whisper loads. These function well in weapons marked 300 BLK or .300 Whisper.

Although I’ve always enjoyed shooting the .300 Whisper, or the .300 Fireball, the new 300 BLK designation is sure to shine some new light on this interesting cartridge. It’s certainly has attracted significant consumer acceptance.

This article is excerpted from the January 13, 2014 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

AR-15 Review: Les Baer Police Special Carbine

Les Baer Police Special Review.

The Les Baer Police Special is designed to include every important feature a police officer wants, but none of the stuff he doesn’t and is an ideal home defense option.

The model that was tested exhibited no “receiver wiggle,” and locked up tight as a bank vault. When asked how he achieved such a tight mating of parts, Baer said, “We took our own prints and started eliminating the tolerances between parts.”
The model that was tested exhibited no “receiver wiggle,” and locked up tight as a bank vault. When asked how he achieved such a tight mating of parts, Baer said, “We took our own prints and started eliminating the tolerances between parts.”

Les Baer Custom’s Police Special Carbine chambered in .223 Remington was such a success that the renowned rifle and pistol builder quickly followed up with additional AR models in new calibers.

“The Police Special is a 16-inch AR that was designed to include every important feature a police officer wants but none of the stuff he doesn’t,” Baer said. “I knew there was a need for a high performance rifle that could serve as either a patrol carbine or a high-energy tactical rifle.”

Most recently, Les Baer Custom added a few additional high-demand LE features, including a new LBC National Match carrier, a new collapsible stock and pistol grip package and an LBC flip-up front sight. And, the Police Special is now available in three high performance calibers instead of just one.

It’s loaded with businesslike features, and it’s intentionally devoid of the accessories that distract from its intended purpose.

Some of the features included in the newest version of the Police Special are such things as the LBC forged and machined upper and lower receiver, and a chromed LBC National Match bolt carrier.

One of my favorite features is the removable carry handle, which of course incorporates a rear sight. It can be quickly removed to expose an M1913 “Picatinny” flattop rail.

At the heart of this rifle are a precision bolt and extractor, and a 16-inch precision button-rifled steel barrel with a 1:8 twist to stabilize heavier .224 bullets.

Its six-position ATI collapsible stock has an adjustable cheek piece, and the grip is ATI as well. The steel parts are bead blast blued, and the aluminum parts are anodized. Two 30-round magazines were included in the setup tested.

Les Baer Police Special Review.At the muzzle, you’ll find a run-of-the-mill A2 style flash hider, but that’s where “standard” stops and the customization in manufacturing starts. This rifle features an LBC National Match chromed carrier.

“We have the patent on our carrier,” Baer said. “After the upper receiver is hard anodized it gets hand fitted. The little groves in the carrier keeps it centered in the receiver bore.”

One of the benefits of a Les Baer gun is the break-in process. Before it is shipped, every button-rifled gun is fired 60 to 80 times. After every five shots, the barrel is cleaned with Bortech solvent. That’s repeated eight to 10 times.

“On our single-point-cut barrels we average 120 rounds for a break-in,” Baer said. “It takes a lot longer to break them in. The break-in process seasons the barrel. You can tell a lot of difference on the long-term life of the barrel. If you don’t break it in they don’t group as tight, and after a thousand rounds, that’s where you see a difference. The barrels shoot tighter groups for a lot longer. It’s a time-consuming process, and it takes all day to break in just eight guns.”

All of this precision work wouldn’t perform to the standard of a guaranteed sub-MOA gun if it had a mil-spec trigger, so Baer added a single-stage Timney Match trigger group.

“All of our other guns have two-stage triggers, but nobody wants a two-stage in a patrol rifle,” Baer said. This trigger breaks at a clean four pounds.

The Les Baer Police Special is an accurate rig capable of firing sub-MOA groups with four of ten factory loads used in the test.
The Les Baer Police Special is an accurate rig capable of firing sub-MOA groups with four of ten factory loads used in the test.

Police Special at the Range

To run this rifle through its paces, I tested 10 different factory loads. The course of fire was five 5-shot groups at 100 yards.

Throughout the day temperatures ranged from the mid-60s to the low 80s, with winds from the north gusting up to 16 mph creating a cross wind. Near the end of the five-hour shooting session, the winds shifted to out of the west from the target to the shooting position and it rained for 30 minutes.

Changing atmospheric conditions didn’t seem to have nearly as big an impact on group size as did heat mirage coming off the barrel.

When the mirage got excessive, the weapon was cooled for a few minutes. Firing for groups was conducted with a Trijicon 5x-20x variable optic. Velocity data was recorded with a Shooting Chrony chronograph.

Les Baer Police Special AR-15.While testing, I found that switching loads caused the first five shots to print larger groups. When I discussed this with the veteran gunmaker, he echoed the same findings.

“For some reason, until a load fouls the barrel it doesn’t shoot as tight,” Baer said. “I don’t know if it’s the change in bullet jacket material or change in powder, but it makes a difference. I shoot four or five shots off target with a new load before I fire a couple of five-shot groups and it shoots much tighter.”

After accuracy testing for all loads I swapped scopes to a Trijicon 4x ACOG, and an additional 10 rounds were fired with each load to measure velocities.

I fired an additional 150 rounds off-hand at steel targets at varying ranges. More than 500 rounds were sent down-range during this evaluation with only two stoppages, which was the fault of a worn out surplus 30-round magazine.

Ten factory loads were tested in the Patrol Carbine. Ammunition from Black Hills, Summit Ammunition, Federal, Hornady, Winchester and Silver State Armory was included. The top performer was Hornady’s 55-grain TAP load that produced a five-shot group at 100 yards and measured 0.515 inch. Loaded with the right ammunition, this rifle is sub-MOA capable with ease.

Les Baer Police Special Carbine
Caliber:    .223 Remington
Action Type:    Semi-auto, gas impingement
Receiver:    Anodized, blue steel
Barrel:    1:8 twist, 16.25”, button rifled
Magazine:    2 30-shot magazines
Trigger:    Timney Match trigger group
Sights:    M1913 Picatinny rail, removable carry handle rear sight, LBC flip-up front sight
Stock:    Six-position, M4 style adjustable stock
Weight:    7 lbs., 9 oz.
Overall Length:    37 inches with ATI stock extended
Accessories:    N/A
SRP:    $1,690
Website:    lesbaer.com

Note: This article appeared in the December 30, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Gun Review: Alexander Arms .17 HMR

The Alexander Arms .17 HMR.
The Alexander Arms .17 HMR.

Join the author as he attempts to wreck a pre-production Alexander Arms .17 HMR AR in the pursuit of the ideal pest control rifle.

The first time I shot the .17 HMR cartridge, I was so enamored with it that I didn’t quit until I had fired more than a brick of ammo… one shot at a time through a Thompson/Center Contender rifle.

In three days of hunting, I shot a pickup load of jack rabbits, skunks, coyotes and even a couple of wild turkeys. When a crow flew by 80 yards away in the desolate area, I couldn’t resist but to slide the crosshairs in front of the crow and squeeze the trigger.

My first reaction to the explosion of black feathers was to shout the obligatory “Did you see that!” Instead, I promptly handed the gun to another writer and said that I was finished shooting for the afternoon. I know to quit when I’m ahead.

Birth of the .17 HMR

.17 HMRInitially, Bill Alexander, the company owner and chief engineer, sent me his first production .17 HMR. He predicted correctly that I would find a bug or two in the early design (that’s long since been fixed), and that we would work through to address them.

Initial conversations about the .17 HMR topic with Alexander, opened my eyes to several things related to this cartridge and the guns that shoot them. With a well-established reputation for building AR rifles in .50 Beowulf and 6.5 Grendel, I was curious as to why he would want to chamber his new rifle in .17 HMR.

When Hornady developed the .17 HMR, they worked with Ruger and Marlin to seek the fastest rimfire cartridge that could produce accurate reliability and economic manufacturing. Some of their parameters included performance beyond that of the .22 WMR in trajectory and velocity and be less susceptible to wind drift.

Similar noise levels were to be maintained, as well as operating at the same case pressure. Frangible bullets that weren’t as susceptible to ricochet also were specified. All of this was packaged in a cartridge that was designed to shoot less than a minute of angle or better. A lesser-known requirement was that the cartridge should produce between 23,000 and 29,000 copper units of pressure (CUP).

Several companies initially chambered their rifles for the new cartridge, but the .17 HMR’s pressure and thin case didn’t adapt too well. Some stronger semi-auto designs seem to be withstanding the pressure, but Remington was quick to issue a recall of their bolt-action Model 597s chambered in .17 HMR. Others followed suit.

“The AR is so massively overbuilt that it just keeps on ticking,” Alexander said, “whereas a 597 blows up.”

This AR rimfire is capable of admirable groups. At 100 yards, the rifle delivered five shots at under an inch.
This AR rimfire is capable of admirable groups. At 100 yards, the rifle delivered five shots at under an inch.

Build and Destroy

Along came Alexander Arms with a new AR in .17 HMR. Since I was the recipient of the first test rifle released from the factory, my assignment was to ferret out any bugs or create them through hard use and abuse. I had previously learned the cartridge’s limitations on game, so I focused on what it would take to put the little AR out of action.

I acquired a supply of CCI, Hornady and Winchester .17 HMR ammo. My experience with .17 centerfire rifles has taught me that accuracy suffers when the bore gets dirty. As few as 20 shots can warrant a cleaning to keep accuracy up to standards.

Gumming up a semi-auto action would be rather easy, so I wanted to learn just how many rounds it would take to bring shooting to a halt. If I had a cartridge case fail, I wanted to learn what would happen as well. To say that I abused the Alexander Arms .17 HMR falls far short of what I did. I ran this rifle hot and kept pouring the rounds downrange. Along the way, I found out what happens when a case ruptures.

It doesn’t take long to heat this rifle up. Firing the 17-grain Hornady loads across a Shooting Crony, my first 10 rounds averaged 2,654 fps. The next 10 rounds climbed in velocity to an average of 2,678 fps, and by the time I ran the third magazine full through the chronograph it averaged 2,703 fps.

As best as I can determine, the chamber acts as a heat sink, and when a round gets chambered it heats up quickly. When the hammer drops on a heated case, velocities and pressures rise. It didn’t help that my shooting sessions were conducted on days that the temperature hovered around 100 degrees, either.

After 300 rounds down range as fast as I could fire, loads and change magazines, the gun was both dirty and hot. Case heads started blowing on the case rim on at least three rounds.

It “stove piped” the blown cases and the gun spewed smoke through the ejection port. Several magazines later, I had a full-blown case rupture that lodged a bullet in the barrel. The magazine suffered from the experience, but I didn’t.

The plastic on the magazine’s feed lips took a beating, which reduced the feeding reliability of the magazine. Pieces of the magazine also fell in the trigger well preventing the trigger disconnector from working properly. Removing the debris quickly solved the problem.

The extractor took a beating, too. It was bent up and locked the bolt back. A quick field stripping got the magazine well insert out of the gun. Some minor surgery with a Gerber multi-tool bent the extractor back into position. Since I didn’t have a .17-caliber cleaning rod at the range, I had to wait to dislodge it from the barrel.

Shortly thereafter, I called Alexander to report mission accomplished: rifle wrecked. He was ready to make a house call, inspect the rifle, fix it or bring another one to abuse. And wreck it we did. The day Alexander arrived we went to the range and ran the gun fast, hot and dirty.

We got the gun to repeat its cartridge failures without any major mishaps. Blown cases had the penchant for bending the ejector bar, but he fixed it on the rangeww with a pair of pliers. When the round count got to approximately 450 without cleaning, case extraction and feeding became so sluggish that it was reduced to a single-shot.

Curtain Call

After a thorough cleaning, the little rifle produced some admirable groups. At 100 yards, it was capable of keeping five shots under an inch. The gun’s favorite load was Hornady’s 20-grain load, which produced a five-shot group as small as 0.442-inch.

Subsequent to my testing, Alexander incorporated a couple of design changes to improve performance. The extractor claw, ejector and magazines were tweaked, and today’s production rifle runs flawlessly.

A three-day ground squirrel shoot in Oregon last spring with another Alexander Arms .17 HMR proved it. The gun digested more than 1,200 rounds without a hiccup, only needing a scrubbing after 300 rounds or so.

The .17 HMR is a hot number that’s a lot of fun to shoot. Wrap an Alexander Arms AR around it and you’ll have a tack-driving rifle that will handle anything that the cartridge is capable of tackling.

Alexander Arms .17 HMR
Caliber: .17 HMR
Action Type: semi-auto
18-in. stainless, button-rifled 1:10 twist with straight flutes
10-round AR-style (2)
Mil-spec Ar-15 trigger, 7-pound pull
Picatinny rail for mounting optics
Stock: G10 composite, non-vented, mid-length, free-floating tube handguard, six-position adjustable stock
6.88 lbs.
Overall Length: 37 1/8 in.
six-vent A1 flash hider,
soft carry bag
Suggested Retail Price: $1,110
Website: alexanderarms.com

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the May 20, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Gun Review: Barrett MRAD

The Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.
The Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle.

Designed for the military, the versatile Barrett MRAD rifle is finding acceptance among all long-range shooters.

Nine companies stepped up to the challenge to design their versions of the Precision Sniper Rifle when the United States Special Operations Command published Performance Specifications for the PSR back in late 2009. The Barrett MRAD – Multi-Role Adaptive Design – quickly joined the competition for the coveted government contract.

Even though the Barrett MRAD was a runner-up in the final competition, it still served as a strong performer that continues to find acceptance with serious long-range accuracy hounds, foreign militaries and domestic SWAT teams.

The Barrett MRAD was specifically designed to meet the needs of the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program, which includes a set of requirements by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) that states the current system mission of the PSR is to enable USSOCOM snipers to use one or more shots to interdict enemy personnel, positions and nontechnical vehicles mounted with crew served weapons out to 1,500 meters or further, and to defeat NIJ Level III body armor out to 900 meters in its .338 Lapua Magnum configuration. Other PSR parameters encompass length, weight, magazine capacity, penetration of the projectile, the ability to mount night vision devices and other accessories.

Goal of the Barrett MRAD

With superior accuracy, low recoil and a utilitarian design, the MRAD is a do-it-all rifle.
With superior accuracy, low recoil and a utilitarian design, the MRAD is a do-it-all rifle.

To get an idea of what the Barrett MRAD is all about, a review of the USSOCOM Performance Specifications for the PSR tells the story. A PSR was specified to be no longer than 50 inches fully extended without suppressor, with the ideal set at 40 inches overall length.

With the stock folded, the maximum length is 40 inches, with 36 set as the objective of USSOCOM. The threshold weight for the weapon with a M1913 rail and a 10-round unloaded magazine is 18 pounds, and the objective weight is no greater than 13 pounds. The MRAD submitted for the PSR trial was fitted with a 24.5-inch barrel and weighed 14.8 pounds without an optic.

The MRAD submitted for the PSR was a 24.5-inch fluted version. So was the one tested for this article. Barrel lengths between 20 and 27 inches are available in .338 Lapua Magnum.

The MRAD features a monolithic chassis with a 30 MOA taper MIL STD 1913 rail that measures 21.75 inches and offers plenty of space for in-line night vision devices. Side and bottom rails allow for mounting a number of other accessories.

It includes two configurable 4-inch Picatinny rails and an 8-inch rail, all of which can be mounted along the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock surfaces on the forward part of the upper receiver. The bottom of the buttstock also has a M1913 rail for mounting a monopod.

The MRAD’s stock is foldable for enhanced portability, yet locks in as solid as a fixed-stock rifle.

When folded, the stock latches around the bolt handle for added security during transport. Made of a temperature-resistant polymer, the adjustable cheek piece also offers a consistent rifle-to-user contact point. Length of pull can be set to five different positions with the push of a single button.

One of the objectives of the PSR is caliber modularity. The .338 Lapua Magnum is one of the most widely used cartridges by militaries around the world that meet the PSR’s cartridge ballistic requirements.

One key advantage of a switch-barrel rifle is economical: barrels can be swapped to practice with cheaper ammo at the range.
One key advantage of a switch-barrel rifle is economical: barrels can be swapped to practice with cheaper ammo at the range.

Currently, the .300 Winchester Magnum is in use with all of the M24s and the M2010, which is a conversion of the M24 from .308. The military also wants to retain the ability to shoot 7.62 NATO for cost-effective training. The MRAD is offered with barrels for each caliber.

The MRAD also boasts Barrett’s new trigger module that is accessible for maintenance, adjustment and replacement. This is a match-grade trigger that is adjustable from 3 to 5 pounds of let-off. The trigger on the test gun was 3 pounds, but is adjustable from 2.5 to 5 pounds.

The MRAD’s safety is an AR-style thumb lever that can be quickly switched from left to right. For guys who like to shoot with the thumb forward instead of wrapped around the pistol grip, it’s an easy change to move the safety from one side to the other. An ambidextrous magazine release, located between the front of the trigger guard and the magazine well, drops empty magazines free while retaining the firing hand’s finger grip.

The finish on the stock is 7000 series Mil Spec 3 hard-coat anodized aluminum in Barrett Multi-Role brown. A rust preventative coats all steel components. The pistol grip is a standard A2 grip. The bolt assembly slides inside a polymer sleeve, which works well without lube.

Down-Range Performance

Barrett MRAD gun review.The best ballistic performance from the .338 Lapua comes with 300-grain Scenar bullets, so that’s what was tested. After firing 10 rounds across a Shooting Chrony chronograph, I quickly set up a 100-yard target and fired four five-shot groups. The best group measured 1.004-inch. The other groups had flyers that opened them up beyond MOA, but the other four shots in each group formed nice little clusters that averaged no more than a half-inch. Moving out to 300 yards, the MRAD really shined. I fired three sub-MOA groups, with the best measuring 1.59 inches.

A few weeks later, I took yet another MRAD to my farm to punch more paper. With the 24.5-inch 7.62 NATO barrel installed, I fired a couple of match loads at 100 yards with the rifle atop an Accu-Shot Atlas bipod.

After firing 100 rounds downrange, my worst 5-shot group with either load was in the high 0.800-inch range. Federal’s 168-grain Gold Medal Match averaged 0.608, and the smallest group went 0.293-inch. Winchester’s 168-grain match load averaged 0.632, with the best group measuring 0.340-inch.

This switch-barrel outfit is sure to cover practically any precision rifle need a shooter may have. Barrett’s MRAD is a proven long-range hammer, and its popularity among military, law enforcement and sporting circles should continue to grow every day.

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the June 3, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Proper Techniques for AR-15 Trigger Control

Proper trigger control when firing an AR-15 can lead to tighter groups.
Proper trigger control when firing an AR-15 can lead to tighter groups.

AR-15 trigger control is an often overlooked aspect of accurate shooting. Noted competition shooter John Paul Gangl takes you through the proper technique to keep your shots on target.

Achieving the highest accuracy from your AR is dependant on trigger control.

“This is where the manual rifle and a self loader part company,” says noted AR competition shooter John Paul Gangl. “It is my experience that few people understand the whole issue of trigger control on a self-loading rifle in relation to safety and accuracy.

“Let’s assume for our discussion that our guns are manual or semi-autos with very refined trigger systems. One method is using the pad of our trigger finger to produce a compressed, surprise break. Using this method on a self-loader with a refined match trigger is a recipe to a ‘finger-bounce’ double and poor accuracy.

“First, place the trigger of the self-loader in the crease of the first knuckle. Squeeze the trigger straight back into the frame until the sear breaks and the hammer falls. Don’t release the trigger but keep a squeeze on it. Hold it in place until the recoil impulse takes place.

“After the impulse settles, allow the trigger to come forward and listen for the click of the resetting sear.”

Practice this technique and it will make you a better shot.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the July 15, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

Squeeze Out Accuracy with These 12 AR-15 Triggers

Timney AR Trigger
Timney AR Trigger

The right trigger can make all the difference in building an accurate AR-15. Here are 12 of the best AR-15 triggers that are certain to help you squeeze the most out of your gun.

Why does a quality trigger improve shooting accuracy?

It’s actually quite simple. A consistent, clean, predictable break allows you to time the movement of the crosshairs on the center of the target to coincide as closely as possible. Next, involuntary muscle movements can be better controlled throughout the duration of a short trigger pull and a fast lock time.

Is adding a quality after-market trigger worth the expense?

I look at it this way: If I’ve spent $1,500 on an AR and $400 to $1,000 on an optic, is spending another $150 to $300 worth cutting group size by 15 to 50 percent? Every time. Here are 12 aftermarket AR-15 triggers that are certain to help you tighten up your groups.

Alexander Arms
This trigger is basically a single-stage unit with a bushing-mounted disconnector, which is adjustable for engagement and over travel. The pull weight and disconnector engagement are fixed to ensure durability during hard use and inclement environments. The pull weight allows manipulation of the trigger with gloves while minimizing the possibility of discharging a round unexpectedly in the manner of a target trigger. ($160; alexanderarms.com)

American Trigger AR-15 Gold
The AR-15 Gold fire control group is a two-stage unit that has two important features: First, when the safety selector is put in the “safe” position, it retracts the hammer to the disconnect. Second, a very light, short first stage followed by an approximate 3-pound second stage. The trigger cassette comes assembled and ready to install in any mil-spec AR receiver with .154-inch holes and no Colt sear block. ($280; americantrigger.com)

Jard AR Adjustable Single-Stage
The Jard two-stage AR fire control unit offers a wide range of trigger pull weights. The lightest, at 1.5 pounds, may be a tad lighter than most want for their rifles. Other weight spring kits allow the pull weight to be set at 2, 3, 4, 4.5 or 5 pounds. This unit differs from other manufacturers’ by the sear engagement adjustment screw. It uses the AR lower receiver’s grip screw hole to thread an Allen screw in place to adjust sear engagement. ($165; jardinc.com)

Jard AR Trigger Module System
The trigger I installed was preset from the factory at 2.5 pounds, and installed in less than five minutes. A neat feature of this unit is rubberized tension balls that are located in the bottom of the trigger assembly. They help reduce play between the upper and lower receiver when installed. ($230; jardinc.com)

Geissele Hi-Speed National Match Rifle Trigger
Geissele Hi-Speed National Match Rifle Trigger

Geissele Hi-Speed National Match Rifle Trigger
This fire control unit features a Hi-Speed hammer with 50 percent lock time reduction over standard hammers, and the two-stage trigger is adjustable for overtravel and sear engagement. First stage pull weights range from 1.3-3 pounds, and second stage pull weights range from .5-1.5 pounds ($279; geissele.com)

Geissele Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) Trigger
The Geissele SSA trigger assembly exhibits highly precise craftsmanship, precision and finish. Two examples of this fire control unit with different spring tensions were tested. The installation instructions are concise and clear. Lubrication is vital to keeping a trigger functioning properly and this one is no different. ($170; geissele.com)

Timney AR
The Timney fire control group that was tested was factory preset at 3 pounds. This is a single-stage trigger with almost no creep. Contrary to my previous statement on adequate lubrication, I had heard that this trigger was sensitive to lubrication, so I installed it dry and tested the feel. It was crisp with about 1/8-inch overtravel. Then I lubricated the sear surfaces with Mobil 28 grease and replaced it for a quick trial. The difference was minimal with a slightly better feel dry ($195; timneytriggers.com)

Timney Skeleton AR Trigger
Timney Skeleton AR Trigger

Timney AR Skeleton
This trigger is similar in feel to the previously covered Timney AR fire control unit. I liked the feel of this design, and from a personal standpoint, prefer it to the less expensive Timney AR unit if only for its cool looks and ever-so-slightly crisper feel. ($266; timneytriggers.com)

JP Enterprises EZ Trigger
The JP unit tested included the .156 small pin drop-in fire control unit, a speed hammer, oversize antiwalk pins and an adjustable, reversible safety selector. The final pull weight of the JP EZ Trigger is determined primarily by the spring setup and will range from 3 to 5 pounds. Installation instructions, in both written form and via a supplied DVD, are clear and thorough. ($260; jprifles.com)

Chip McCormick Tactical Trigger
The Tactical Trigger Group is a completely self-contained, 100-percent drop-in fire control group upgrade for both AR-15 and AR-10 rifles. Building on the original Super Match design, the Tactical Trigger pull is factory preset between 3 1/2 and 4 pounds, and is not user adjustable. It fits all standard mil-spec lower receivers with .154-inch trigger and hammer pin holes. ($240; cmctriggers.com)

Chip McCormick Flat Tactical
Chip McCormick Flat Tactical

Chip McCormick Flat Tactical
When a consistent trigger finger position is desired, this unit’s design allows you to index you finger at the bottom of the spur where it turns at 90 degrees. I have a tendency to ride the bottom of an AR trigger to create a consistent hold and squeeze. This trigger’s design makes it easy to feel that your finger is in the correct position every time. ($200; cmctriggers.com)

Wilson Tactical Single-Stage
Since my shooting with an AR leans heavily toward hunting I like a single-stage trigger. Wilson Combat’s single-stage Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU) rates high on the list, owing to its ultra-crisp 4-pound let-off. Another positive attribute is that the TTU takes less than two minutes to install, and there’s no user adjustment needed. Just drop it in, set the pins and go shooting. ($270; wilsoncombat.com)

This article originally appeared in the July 15, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.