In 2011, Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) introduced a 7.62x51mm NATO weapon designed to aid the designated marksman in his role. The LMT Modular Weapon System (MWS) hit hard and fast, and though there were similar offerings from other manufacturers, the MWS seemed to be the golden child in the eyes of the masses. Prior to its U.S. introduction, the British adopted the LM308MWS variant of the system as the L129A1 in 2010. This was more than likely responsible for the rock-star popularity of the LMT system. It came with a 16-inch, stainless steel barrel with a 1-in-11.25-inch twist rate. Though a 1-in-10-inch twist version was also available, the slower twist rate was more desirable, probably due to its British-adopted specs. The platform was (and still is) very accurate, producing consistent sub-MOA accuracy in most cases. At the time, sources within LMT rumored effective ranges out to 1,100 yards were possible with that setup.
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Since its introduction, the MWS has gone through some changes, and several iterations are available with various features that allow these rifles to fill the needs of the military, federal agencies, law enforcement officers and civilians alike. One of the most notable changes in features was the monolithic upper receiver/rail system that once utilized a quad-rail system. The latest iterations from LMT, now dubbed the LM8MWS series, do away with quad-rails and feature “slick” forends with mounting points for rail sections where deemed necessary by the end-user.
Continuing its legacy as a serious contender and an all around battle-proven platform, the LM8MWS has undergone yet another upgrade. In early 2015, LMT released the LM8MWSLTFDE. As that’s a letter-heavy designation, I will refer to it simply as the “MWS Lightweight” for the remainder of this text. The MWS Lightweight is, just as the name implies, a lighter version of the MWS. “What we did was take the L129A1 and reduce the weight,” Mathew Pruit, the director of sales and marketing for LMT, said. In fact, a pound has been taken off the weapon—an impressive feat. Of course, this begs the question as to how LMT was able to remove weight from the platform.
Where It Counts
In conversations with Pruitt, he explained why and how the company reduced the weight. A few international tenders made the request for a lighter weapon with other specifications as well. One tender requested that the weapon be less than 9.5 pounds without any accessories or magazines. I weighed the MWS Lightweight when it was completely stripped of all accessories, including the minimalist grip panels, which wouldn’t even register on my scale by themselves. A weight of 9.3 pounds flashed on the screen, proving that LMT met the requested goal.
Pruitt explained that in order to remove over a pound of weight from the platform, a couple of changes were made. The profile of the barrel was changed in a way that cut weight but did not affect the excellent accuracy and endurance the platform has historically produced. The barrel extension received changes as well. The extension material was changed along with other modifications. “This particular weapon made directly for a tender included milled rails, a lightened stainless steel barrel and an FDE Cerakote finish with IR signature-reduction capabilities.” You read that correctly. The military version is coated with an IR signature-reducing FDE finish. The civilian version lacks the IR reduction properties, but it’s an equally attractive Cerakote finish.
The modifications also extend into other parts of the weapon. As a confirmation of LMT’s commitment to adapt to end-user needs, changes were also made to the length of pull (LOP). A client specifically stated the need for an LOP with at least 4 inches of travel. The minimum LOP when collapsed needed to be 12 inches and a maximum of 16 inches or longer when extended.
Another feature LMT addressed was the sights. The rifle can come with LMT’s new L8BUIS308 flip-type backup iron sights. These sights are designed specifically for the rifle-length rail (or 19.25 inches of Picatinny rail space) on the .308 platform. Though we live in the days of mostly optics-only shooting, whether magnified or simply red-dot type, operators in the field made the observation that their shots were coming up short when using backup sights, especially at extended ranges. That’s because typical backup sights are designed for use on carbine-length rails. LMT addressed this with sights designed for the rifle-length rail and specifically calculated them for use with 7.62mm NATO projectiles out to 800 yards. As you would expect, these are rugged sights but feature flexible resistance in case the sights make contact with hard objects. They will flex a little and maintain their upright position but will also close completely when under high pressure. The sights feature a clutch that allows for the closure to happen. There is also a detent that, when pressed, opens the clutch and allows the sights to fold easily. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage in 0.25-MOA increments and in 0.5-MOA increments for elevation. There are two rear apertures, course and fine, measuring 0.125 and 0.0625 inches respectively. While these sights don’t come standard on the MWS Lightweight, they can be had for a small $40 upcharge. They are well worth it, in my opinion.
The rest of the MWS Lightweight is pure LMT and its winning combination of modularity and reliability. This modularity resides within its free-floating barrel, which is easy to install and remove. Barrels of various lengths and chamberings can be fitted to the MWS receiver, including those in 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Remington, .243 Winchester and 7mm-08. The 7.62mm/.308 barrel is available in two twist rates (1-in-11.25-inch and 1-in-10-inch), and in a 13.5-inch length as well. Keep in mind that all NFA rules apply to this shorter length. These barrels come in either stainless steel or chrome-lined versions.
LMT’s lower receivers feature ambidextrous controls for the magazine release and safety. As a southpaw shooter, I appreciate these merits. If you are one of those shooters who finds it difficult to actuate the ambidextrous safety, a single-sided version can be installed. The LM308MWS lower features LMT’s own two-stage trigger. It has a light take-up on the first stage and breaks cleanly on the second stage. The trigger is actually quite nice, although I prefer single-stage triggers. Interestingly, LMT’s triggers are electronically tested and recorded. The lower also features LMT’s popular SOPMOD buttstock and a specially designed Ergo pistol grip. Internal features include LMT’s mil-spec semi-auto bolt carrier group and tactical charging handle.
While the LMT is a formidable weapon, it needed only a couple of things to make it complete for testing purposes. I added a 4-16x42mm Nightforce ATACR F1 scope featuring a Horus H59 reticle. I think this is one of the best reticles available. This reticle, coupled with the beautiful glass of the Nightforce scope, makes for a great long-range shooting session. The Nightforce ATACR features large, well-marked turrets with excellent, positive clicks and movement. Though it is only a 42mm objective, plenty of quality light is transmitted through the 34mm tube. The ATACR features Nightforce’s ZeroStop technology, which allows for rapid elevation adjustments.
The LMT MWS Lightweight proved to be extremely accurate. It’s a platform that you can buy and pretty much rest assured that it will always outperform you. It was comfortable to shoot and not abusive in any manner. My best five-shot group of the day was produced by Silver State Armory’s 168-grain HPBT. I managed a 0.45-inch group with this load, and four of the five shots clustered into 0.3 inches. All of the test loads tested produced comfortably sub-MOA groups.
As you might expect, there were no malfunctions or issues with the LMT rifle. Removing and replacing the barrel was a breeze as well, which, coupled with its outstanding accuracy, makes it a bit easier to swallow the $3,300 price tag. No, that’s not cheap, but it’s in line with other platforms of this quality and caliber. And the LMT comes with the knowledge that it is being used in theater and that the company is continually developing the system to suit the needs of operators. In short, the LMT LM8MWSLTFDE is an excellent rifle and deserves serious consideration if you are in the market for such a system.
For more information, visit lmtdefense.com or call 309-787-7151.
- Caliber: 7.62mm NATO
- Barrel: 16 inches
- OA Length: 35-38 inches
- Weight: 9.3 pounds
- Stock: Collapsible
- Sights: None
- Action: Semi-auto
- Finish: Flat Dark Earth Cerakote
- Capacity: 20+1
- MSRP: $3,300