Armalite M-15 3-Gun Rifle review.

Loaded with race-ready features, the Armalite M-15 3-Gun rifle is born and bred for the winner’s circle.

To accommodate left-handed shooters, the Armalite M-15 3-Gun rifle features an ambidextrous safety and charging handle. Photo by Dusty GibsonThe new kid on the block of shooting sports, 3-gun competition requires specialized equipment that is already evolving at run-and-gun speed.

Keeping a close eye on the booming popularity of the sport, gun and gear manufacturers who once tiptoed around 3-gun specific products are now running into the ring with their gloves off. As a result, those manufacturers are making it easier than ever to get involved in the sport. Getting started in 3-gun demands so much equipment that one might need to buy a bigger truck to haul it around with.

Now, shooters can purchase race-ready gear that’s factory designed for the user to simply pull out of the box and get going.

When it comes to Armalite’s new M-15 3-gun rifle, every inch of this compact carbine is custom-tailored for optimal performance in competition. From its single-stage Timney trigger to its tunable muzzle brake and gas block, this rifle means business.

While Armalite may be new to the 3-gun game, anyone who knows that the “AR” in AR-15 stands for Armalite rather than “assault rifle” should know that the Illinois-based company has more than 60 years of firearm innovations under its belt. Now it’s packing that experience into a rifle with a 13.5-inch stainless steel barrel that’s easily capable of shooting sub-MOA groups or plinking steel at 400 plus yards.

The Lion’s Mane

Take a closer look at each component of this rifle and it’s obvious how Armalite’s innovative instinct is influencing a transformation in the specialized equipment used for 3-gun competition.

With an overall length of just 34.5 inches, the M-15 3-gun is about 4 inches shorter than typical run-and-gun rifles. Its shorter profile allows shooters to wield the rifle faster around obstacles or through tight courses of fire. So how does Armalite stay at the 16-inch NFA threshold but still remain short? The answer lies in a 13.5-inch barrel that has a 2.5-inch long pinned and welded Armalite tunable muzzle brake, bringing the barrel exactly to the 16-inch “street legal” mark.

The rifle incorporates a largely fixed LUTH MBA-1 precision stock. Photo by Dusty Gibson
The rifle incorporates a largely fixed LUTH MBA-1 precision stock. Photo by Dusty Gibson

Saving 4 inches might not sound like much, but the size and weight reduction is a huge advantage when a course of fire requires quick movements and smooth transitions between left- and right-handed target engagements.

As far as ambidexterity, the M-15 3-Gun was designed with righties and lefties in mind, though it does favor righties. Left-handers still deal with right-handed case ejection and standard bolt and magazine releases. However, an ambidextrous safety selector and Raptor charging handle play no favorites, and an over molded Hogue grip invites all shooters.

Armalite has also engineered and manufactured an innovative handguard that’s easy on the hands without sacrificing the ability to attach accessories. The 12-inch free-floating aluminum KeyMod handguard is lightweight and rugged, but its main feature is what it doesn’t have: Picatinny rails all along the 12 o’clock position. By machining it without cheese grater rails across the top, Armalite has created a forend that’s friendly to the popular C-clamp grip used by most 3-gunners.

Though very robust, the LUTH MBA-1 precision buttstock is one feature some shooters may consider replacing. The stock is mostly a fixed length, though minor adjustments for comb height and length of pull are possible. Shooters with a shorter length of pull, or who like a collapsible stock, will likely not enjoy this stock. While the sport of 3-gun demands accuracy, it also doesn’t require the bench-rest level precision a fixed stock offers. Most target engagements don’t stretch past a couple hundred yards, and at those distances, the targets are usually large steel plates. Overall, the stock is desirable, but it’s not the answer for every 3-gun shooter.

Armalite has assembled an exceptional collection of parts into a well-engineered rifle with quality craftsmanship. Each component on the M-15 was carefully considered based on its merits for winning 3-gun competitions.

Armalite M-15 3-Gun Rifle.

Race-Ready Performance

When Armalite designed a 3-gun rifle around a 13.5-inch barrel, they took two major risks: First, the barrel would be too short to stabilize heavier bullets; second, the shorter length would go against the grain and be frowned upon by 3-gun shooters.

Based on performance during range testing, Armalite’s risks seem worth the reward. After testing using ammo with three different bullet weights, the shorty stainless steel barrel achieved exceptional accuracy and functioned flawlessly. Even the heavier 62- and 75-grain bullets were accurate through the barrel.

How does Armalite’s 13.5-inch 3-gun rifle achieve accuracy despite its shortened length? The answer is mostly rooted in its superb stainless steel barrel. Designed with a 1:8-inch twist rate, bullets are able to achieve significant spin before leaving the barrel, giving heavier bullets the stabilization needed to achieve exceptional accuracy.

Most importantly, this barrel configuration gives shooters the flexibility to use different types of ammo based on the objective of each particular 3-gun stage. Want to reach out for a long-range shot on a windy day? Load up with a 75-grain Hornady Superformance Match. Or maybe you’re shooting cardboard silhouettes in close quarters? Run the cheap and dirty 55-grain imported stuff.

This flexibility doesn’t stop with the barrel. Equipped with an adjustable gas block and muzzle brake, the M-15 might as well come with its own set of tuning forks. Adjusting the gas block allows shooters to tame the recoil of each particular load by controlling the amount of gas used to cycle the bolt carrier. Less gas means a lower reciprocating force to your shoulder on each shot, and therefore less muzzle rise, which keeps your sights on target.

Armalite’s adjustable muzzle brake also allows shooters to custom tune their rifle with any type of ammo. Removable tuning screws on each side of the brake allow gas flow to be controlled similar to a valve. Allowing more or less gas through the tuning screws adjusts the amount of muzzle rise.

Both the muzzle brake and gas blocks require some trial and error with your preferred ammo. Making precise adjustments or messing around with these components during a match would be difficult unless the shooter is very experienced in their effects on performance.

 A 2.5-inch pinned and welded tunable muzzle brake allows Armalite to offer a 13.5-inch barrel on the rifle. Photo by Dusty Gibson
A 2.5-inch pinned and welded tunable muzzle brake allows Armalite to offer a 13.5-inch barrel on the rifle. Photo by Dusty Gibson

Armalite’s M-15 also uses a single-stage Timney trigger that breaks like a candy cane. As tested at 3.78 pounds, the trigger leaves nothing to be desired. In fact, during our testing, we blew through a lot of ammo because double and triple tapping was too much fun.

Overall, this compact carbine makes it crystal clear that Armalite set out to innovate the market of 3-gun rifles. From its ergonomic features to a fully adjustable operating system, this race-ready workhorse was built to win. It’s also turning heads and changing what competitors expect from a factory-built, match-grade rifle.

Armalite M-15
Manufacturer   Armalite.com
Model    M-15 13-in. 3-Gun Rifle
Caliber    5.56mm NATO/.223 Remington
Barrel    13.5-inch stainless steel
Rifling Twist    1:8 RH
Gas System    Direct Impingement, mid-length, adjustable gas block
Muzzle Device    Armalite tunable brake (welded)
Handguard    12-in. free float aluminum, KeyMod
Stock    LUTH MBA-1
Receivers    Forged 7057-T6 aluminum
Safety    Ambidextrous
Trigger    Timney single stage, 3.78 lb.
Charging Handle    Raptor ambidextrous
Overall length    34.5 in.
Weight    6.9 lbs.
Magazine    Magpul PMAG
MSRP    $1,599

This AR-15 review appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Modern Shooter Magazine. Click here to download the full issue.

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