The .223 in some form of an AR-15 platform rides in more cop cars as a general-purpose rifle today than any other caliber and there are good reasons for it. The .223 is effective (with the right bullet), recoil is low, the AR design has been in development for well over 40 years, there are configurations available to fit every size build from 6 feet 5 down to 4 feet 9, and it’s a relatively lightweight package that’s easy to handle, teach and train.
Ammunition costs are favorable, especially in bulk, for lots of departments with thinly spread training budgets. The caliber is so widely used by police, military and civilians that ten minutes on the Internet can turn up 30 different factory loads with one typing finger tied behind your back.
As versatile as the AR is with varying body sizes and mission requirements, finding one to fit that 10 percent minority, the lefties, can be problematic. Fortunately, there are sources, and Stag Arms is one of them, with seven left-handed models running from a very basic 16-incher with a carry handle to a 24-inch flattop Super Varminter.
As a mid-level example, look at Stag’s Model 2TL in pre-ban form. The 2TL is built around a forged aluminum upper and lower receiver. The lower is a standard AR format aside from the ambidextrous safety switch, while the upper is fabricated with its ejection port, dust cover, brass deflector and forward bolt assist all on the left side.
All operating controls that could be moved to accommodate southpaws were, while the only one remaining on the right side is the magazine release button to stay compatible with standard unmodified M-16/AR-15 magazines. Inside, the bolt is obviously al-tered to extract and eject left, fabricated of Carpenter 158 steel (for high wear-resistance and core strength), and is submitted to full Magnetic Particle Inspection as the military-grade bolts are.
The 16-inch barrel features an M4-style step and an A2-style flash hider, 5.56mm NATO chamber, chrome-lined 1-in-9-inch bore, conventional front sight tower complete with bayonet lug, Samson MRFS-C four-sided accessory rail and a Stag accessory side-mount front swivel for additional sling options. Moving back, there’s an ARMS #40L 0.75-MOA spring-loaded, steel flip-up rear sight with dual short/long-range apertures mounted on the flattop rail and a six-position collapsible stock.
The overall length with stock extended is 35.5 inches, weight unloaded is 7 pounds. The carbine ships with one 30-round NHMTG-marked magazine (green follower), three snap-on rail covers, a copy of the 1985 Army TM 9-1005-249-10 M-16/M-16A1 operator’s manual, a Stag catalog, a padlock, and a Stag T-shirt.
On a sunny day in the gravel pit, the Stag carbine worked its way through three different commercial loads to test for accuracy and function with bullet weights including Winchester’s USA 55-grain white box practice FMJs, Federal’s 69-grain Gold Medal Sierra Matchking BTHP and Black Hills’ 75-grain Match HP.
Firing off the bench at 100 yards, the little 16-incher had a stiff and gritty two-stage trigger that ran past 8 pounds on my scale. Groups were undoubtedly affected, but were still usable. With no particular effort, it was easy to keep five-shot 100-yard groups under four inches using three different bullet weights, including the best of 1.94 inches with Hornady’s 60-grain TAP Urban load. Very mild mannered, all brass ejected neatly 3 to 6 feet to the left.
Because of the various finishes used in construction of the higher quality ARs, it’s not unusual for a new one to need a couple hundred rounds as a break-in period before the internals wear in and reliability settles down. The Stag functioned perfectly from the start, which is always a good sign, and the trigger should have been better but that’s also an area that smoothes up with use.
Stag’s flattop 2TL comes ready to go as is (with the exception of a sling), while offering the ability to add expanded sighting options later on as the budget allows. Not legal in pre-ban form for civilians to own in five states, be sure you either live in the other 45 or have an LE exemption before ordering. Stag can also sell you essentially the same carbine in post-ban configuration and with a low-cap magazine.
The sliding stock is useful in adjusting to body size and clothing requirements such as vests and heavy winter coats; the weight is bearable for extended area searches, and the length handles tight corners well. The ARMS rugged rear 40L sight works well as a primary or a back-up to glass. A basic nylon sling can attach under the carbine or on either side, and you can certainly go more “tactical” if you feel the need.
Aside from the trigger, the only other downside I found was that the ambidextrous safety was awkward to use, running into the top of my trigger finger on one side as the thumb swiveled it from SAFE to FIRE on the other. This is why I dislike ambis on ARs. One interesting note is that the dustcover hinges up on opening instead of down to clear the brass deflector.
Stag is well regarded in the AR-15 community, and considered a good buy. If you’re a lefty and tired of “adapting,” they’ve got your AR.