Tactical Long Guns: AR-15 Review and Other Rifles

Tactical Long Guns: AR-15 Review and Other Rifles
The Bates and Dittus AR 37mm Launcher.
The Barnes Precision DMR or Dedicated Marksmanship Rifle.
The Barnes Precision DMR or Dedicated Marksmanship Rifle.

In a defensive situation, nothing beats a long gun for power and accuracy. Here are some of the latest tactical rifles.

Barnes Precision

Barnes Precison Machine, Inc. (barnesprecision.com) has been licensed as a Type 7 manufacturer by the ATF and has an SOT stamp for suppressor manufacture and currently manufactures a full line of AR-15 parts and accessories. The also produce three outstanding finished rifles.

The BPM CQB/Patrolman’s Carbine is is an agile, soft-shooting carbine loaded with features normally seen on rifles at twice the price.

Features include:

  • BPM Stainless Steel Match Barrel, available in 11.5”, 14.5”, and 16” lengths.
  • 5.56 NATO Chamber
  • Mid-length gas system with stainless steel low profile gas block.
  • BPM A2-style flash hider (muzzle break / breaching tip)
  • 9” or 12” BPM PSFFRS hand-guard with sling swivel options.
  • Receiver ‘accurizing’ set screw.
  • 7075 Forged Mil-spec CNC machined-hard anodized lower receiver with accurizing screw and rear detent set screw.
  • 12” or 9” inch Picatinny Spec Free-Float Rail System. Featuring BPM enhanced barrel nut to achieve unprecedented rigidity for the length of the rail. Each rail system features four steel reinforced interchangeable sling swivel inserts.
  • Barnes Precision Machine A2-Style muzzle device. Reduces muzzle blast and felt recoil, complete with a breaching tip.
The Barnes Precision CQB.
The Barnes Precision CQB.

The Designated Marksman Rifle includes an 18 or 20-inch barrel, a fixed A-2 style stock and can be had with a nickel boron bolt carrier group.

The Tactical Match Carbine comes complete with a mid-length gas system, low profile gas block and a 12-inch BPM handguard with sling swivel options.

It also includes an ACE SOCOM stock with a full-length buffer spring and buffer.

Just add your preferred optics and a couple accessories and this rifle is ready for service in any 3-Gun Match.

All of Barnes Precision rifles are built on the reputation of quality parts  and manufacturing experience BPM has put together over the years in this industry.

Often times you will find similar rifles that cost twice the price.

The Del-Ton GRFTRX-16 Rifle.
The Del-Ton GRFTRX-16 Rifle.


Del-Ton (del-ton.com) continues to be my favorite AR-15 manufacturers for a variety of reasons.  The fact that it is a family run husband/wife-well operation that produces a high quality properly made weapon, in a wide variety of configurations, in a price range affordable for average guys makes it hard to beat.  In fact, DEL-TON rifles are the lowest priced, American made rifles around, and always my first recommendation to my police academy cadets when they seek information about their first AR-15 purchase.

Del-Ton has just introduced the brand new Del-Ton TRX16 rifle.  TRX16 is a 16” M4 type variant equipped with the latest Troy Industries accessories. Chambered in 5.56×45 mm, the TRX features a forged 7075 T6 Aluminum hard coat anodized mil-spec upper and lower receivers.  The barrel is 1×9 twist chrome moly vanadium with a threaded muzzle, mid-length gas system, (my favorite for a carbine system), a Troy Industries Low Profile gas block and A2 flash hider.

The TRX also features a reinforced fiber adjustable Troy™ Battle Ax (troyind.com)  butt stock and a Troy 13” TRX Extreme forend.  Weight is 6.8 lbs. empty and has a fully extended length of 36.75” and a collapsed length of 33”. The sights are Troy DOA/STD Rear folding and Troy M4/HK Front folding. The TRX has an HPT/MPI tested bolt.

The forend is great. It is compact and easily usable without a vertical foregrip because it isn’t festooned with railing. You select where you are going to put the rail segments-very nice touch.  I also like the feel of the Troy Battle Axe butt stock.  I tested a TRX-16 with carbine length gas port earlier in the year for another project.

All the Troy accessories on my sample gun were flat dark earth, with the upper and lower receiver left in black.  Very sharp! It was a great trouble free shooter up to any task than could be expected of it!  If you want an excellent M4 type weapon that is ready to go right out of the box, look no farther.  The sights are so good that they aren’t just for backup- they can stand alone unless and until you want to add an optic. And while you’re looking, make sure you check Del-Ton’s complete AR15 line on their online catalogue.  If you don’t see it, they can probably build it. MSRP for the Del-Ton TRX16 rifle is $1250 and comes with a hard case, 30-round Troy magazine and a cleaning kit.

The Bates and Dittus AR 37mm Launcher.
The Bates and Dittus AR 37mm Launcher.

Bates And Dittus

The black rifle or shotgun itself is not the only news out there. I think the coolest area of accessories for the AR is the 37mm launcher. While a number of companies either make or import them, the models from Bates and Dittus (batesanddittus.com) are my favorites to date.

Their recently introduced UBL (Under Barrel Launcher)-37 exudes quality manufacture, and has some promising tactical applications as well as being just plain fun.  For those of you unfamiliar with 37mm launchers they are the standard diameter used by civilian law enforcement  and the rounds are propelled by black powder rather than the smokeless powder used in the military 40mm rounds-there are no HE 37mm rounds available. Point of order here-37mm launchers are totally legal for civilians to own, as long as you are in possession of ONLY smoke and flare rounds.

If you possess LE rounds that shoot a projectile designed to cause less lethal physical harm-tear gas, stingball or wooden baton rounds then the launcher becomes a “destructive device” according to ATF.  Any 37mm launcher can shoot the smaller and cheaper 26.5mm maritime signaling rounds through an adapter system, which is an excellent option.  The UBL-37 attaches to any M4 or AR15 carbine that features a lower Picatinny Rail on the bottom of the forend by means of a two-sided rail clamp. Barrel style does not matter.

Firing the Bates and Dittus 37mm AR launcher. The UBL-37 is unique because it has a full-length strip of rail on the top and bottom of the barrel that allows for optional equipment to be directly mounted to it such as a bipod, lights or sights.  Operation is similar to the M203 launcher but due to the solid steel construction the UBL-37 weighs in at a pound more (4lbs 11oz total) than a 203.  The manual of arms for the UBL-37 is very similar to the M203 with the exception of a cocking lever and the rotating safety lever on the right side.  The cocking lever is on the right side, above the trigger guard and is pulled to the rear for cocking.

This feature could allow a civilian LE operator to have one mounted on his entry weapon, loaded with a bean bag round, but uncocked.  If during the entry a less lethal close response is needed then the launcher can be cocked and fired.  Between the manual cocking feature and the smooth double action trigger, an accidental discharge isn’t likely.  The UBL-37 is what I would describe as a “long action” launcher compared a standard M203, as the length of the civilian 37mm rounds vary greatly, with those such as “knee knocker” wood baton rounds measuring nearly 8 inches in length (depending on brand).

I have mounted a Lasermax™ UniMax ( lasermax.com) green laser on the top rail of the UBL for separate aiming.  While this doesn’t provide for longer distance sighting like a military M204 sight, it does the trick for close range riot control rounds.  Most 37mm flare or “breaker” (read that “fireworks”) round measure around 4 inches. At an MSRP of $429, the Bates and Dittus UBL-37 gives you solid American made quality.  Speaking of solid, here is a tip.  Use the lightest M4 you can find to mount it on, and only add the smallest of optics, such as a SIG mini-red dot (sigsauer.com) to save weight.

Whether you use this for law enforcement, ranch defense along the border, nostalgic former military reasons or just for fun, you are sure to get some attention.  Watch for a shoulder stock adaptor for increased versatility of the UBL-37 in the future. 

The Losok Valkyr is based on the M14 action.
The Losok Valkyr is based on the M14 action.

LOSOK Rifles

Of course, the AR15 is not the only tactical rifle game in town.  In fact, some older, much older designs have had fresh life breathed into them-and one of these is the LOSOK Valkyr™ (losokcustomarms.com).  Using what could be described as the original tactical rifle, the M-1 Garand, owner Mark Lammers has turned the old warhorse into a modern, long-range tactical tack-driver.

Using the long action of the M-1 Garand, a new receiver, and modified Browning BAR magazines, the Valkyr is available in calibers .30-06 through .458 Winchester Magnum.  However, the gun is not recognizable to the untrained eye as a Garand-it appears to be a variant of the Springfield M1A or M14-which it isn’t, although mark also makes a variant of that too.

According to Mark, the receiver in early production rifles is milled from solid billet, later rifles will be hammer forged once the forging tool is complete. The receiver will be manufactured from 8620 steel heat treated to milspec for the M14/M1 Garand.  The receiver design is Patent Pending, and is now licensed to another Ohio Company, 7.62MM firearms, for production and worldwide distribution-although LOSOK will still be producing its own version of the rifle. The receiver features a 20MOA canted rail on top for optics mounting, eliminating the greatest difficulty in achieving scoped accuracy on the M14 or Garand.

The bolt in early rifles is a USGI Garand bolt inspected, and fitted with firing pin, extractor, and ejector, but will later be newly manufactured utilizing the same methods as the receiver. So those of you who might be concerned about LOSOK gobbling up a bunch of M1 collector rifles, take heart, things will change soon.

The magazine is a modified M1918 BAR magazine with a capacity of 20 rounds and using a new follower to activate an M14 style bolt stop after the last round is fired. The steel body and follower are FNC treated as well to give outstanding corrosion resistance and durability.

I had an opportunity to test a pre-production Valkyr in .30-06 at a Counter-Sniper School put on by OSS-I (https://www.oss-international.net) in nearby Zanesville Ohio at an abandoned concrete factory. Mark brought the rifle and a supply of Hornady .30.06 M1 Garand rounds loaded with the 168 Gr. Hornady A-Max Bullet.  Mark had mounted a 3-12×50 Horus Vision Hawk, in Burris XTR rings with a H425 reticle with adjustments and central grid in USMC mils.  Although I would have liked a bit more power, the scope worked out very well.

The Valkyr factory prototype was fitted with a McMillan M3 Adjustable M14 stock modified to fit the larger Valkyr (M14-06) action, rail guard, free floated barrel and gas system.

The bipod was a Harris clone, made for Winchester.

The muzzle brake was a slick touch-it was  a Beretta BM59 muzzle brake.  Very distinctive with the array of holes on top-and I’m sure it added to the overall shootability of the Valkyr.

The weight of the Valkyr prototype with scope, rings, magazine, bipod and sling is 16.5lbs., OAL is 46.25 inches with the stock at max length of pull and muzzle brake installed, and 43 inches with no brake and LOP at minimum.  It is a pretty substantial weapon, but definitely what is needed when shooting this length of cartridge.

This was one great shooting rifle with under MOA groups at 100, 200, 300 and 465 yards, where it banged the steel plate set there with no effort.  One thing it didn’t bang was me. While the .30-06 offers about 20 lbs of recoil energy with 165-grain bullets vs. 18 for the .308 the gun was one that could be shot all day.  With that 16 lb. weight to hold it down, plus the Beretta muzzle break, it truly is a rifle that could be shot all day long comfortably-and believe me, I am no fan of recoil. Having to hump the Valkyr with its support ammo over hill and dale on a mission wouldn’t be much fun, but when it was time to take that shot, the Valkyr would shine.  One last note, it was  cool just loading Browning BAR magazines (the all time coolest battle weapon) for firing.

I asked Mark Lammer’s why John Garand didn’t use the BAR magazine feeding system on his M1 rifle instead of the 8 round en bloc clip during his 15 year epic development of the M1 of that monumental weapon.  The answer was simple.  The military at that time believed that the BAR magazines would be too easily lost or damaged if mass issued, so they insisted on a fixed, internal magazine specification.  Probably the same guys who insisted on magazine cutoffs so that in battle soldiers  would fire their bolt guns single shot, and hold the magazine supply in reserve on their Springfield and Enfield rifles so as not to waste ammo.  Think of how much farther ahead our military would be if thinking of this type didn’t so often prevail.

LOSOK also has a M14/M1A version of the Valkyr-the M14-06™, which uses the same receiver as the Valkyr, but with the shorter gas system of the M14.  The M14-06 is setup in an Archangel  (archangelmanufacturing.com) fully adjustable stock that seems to naturally mold into the shooters body in the prone position, which is the position you shoot both these guns.  Even though the M14-06 is lighter, it still weighs in fully setup at 15 or so pounds. Both the Valkyr and the M14-06 can also handle the .308, but adapters are needed to allow for the use of M14 type magazines to go with the .308 chamber.

LOSOK will also chamber the rifles in .300 Win Mag as mentioned but you lose magazine capacity AND you don’t gain anything in ballistic performance with custom loads in .30-06 or factory loads like Hornady’s Light Magnum™ line. Mark says that he is getting 2900 fps out of the 180 grain Light Magnum round compared to 2950 to 3000 FPS for the 180 gr. .300 Winchester load.

The Sig-Sauer M400 M4 AR15.
The Sig-Sauer M400 M4 AR15.


The big rifle news at SIG (sigsauer.com) is not what one would expect.  The SIG M400 is an M4 carbine-of direct gas impingement design.

This model has been introduced in light of the existing SIG516 Patrol Rifle, an M4 model of piston design and the piston driven SIG551-A1, long the bread and butter of the SIG assault rifle line.

The M400 is pure military style AR, with a standard M4 collapsible stock, round carbine handguards, and removable carry handle. It was developed to meet demands from police administrator’s who favored the SIG516 but wanted all parts to be standard MIL-SPEC GI for ease of service. There are no MIL-SPEC standards for piston driven AR’s. So SIG came up with a GI upper to mate to their 516 lower and the M400 was born.  I will be testing the M400 for a future article for Tactical Gear magazine.  MSRP is $1099.

Windham Weaponry

The Windham Weaponry AR-15.
The Windham Weaponry AR-15.

When the new corporate owners of Bushmaster chose to move the Bushmaster factory from its original Windham, Maine, you had to know that not everyone would be willing to relocate.  In fact at least 24 stayed behind, and the original Bushmaster founder Richard Dykes started a new company in the old location, calling it Windham Weaponry (windhamweaponry.com)  At the time of this writing, Windham had just gotten officially up and running, so I wasn’t able to test one of their products personally.

But, you have to know that with that kind of history and former talent pool, a pool of people who want to make their newly formed locally owned company succeed, that their American-made product will be very well made-first rate I am sure.  At this time, Windham is offering a variety of parts and accessories, complete uppers and lowers, or complete rifles.

As far their current lineup goes, Windham’s line isn’t extensive yet with three M4 type carbines being offered. The three basic models are the R16A4T, a basic heavy barrel model with standard round handguards, and removable carry handle, the R16M4A4T which is a civilianized copy of the basic military M4 with a stepped barrel, and the R16M4FTT which is a flattop step-barrel model sans front sight tower, but with a railed gas block for mounting backup irons.  The MSRP of any of the three is right around $1000 and Windham is offering a limited lifetime warranty that transfers to subsequent owners.

That is hard to beat. Take a close look at this “new” company. I certainly will.

This article appeared in the 2012 Gun Digest the Magazine Shooter's Guide.


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