I started with a precision bolt-action gun in the 1990s and have had the opportunity to shoot dozens of different rifles since. Those rifles ranged from the inexpensive to the insanely overpriced. Most have been chambered for .308, .338 or .50 BMG, with a few off-ball cartridges here and there. The 6.5mm Creedmoor occupies much of my time these days, and it has kept me attending our team trainings, even after completing a 20-year police career. My interest in precision rifles continues, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
When the clamor for semi-auto precision rifles had begun in earnest, I tested them (and several at that). Most were in 7.62x51mm, and a couple were in 5.56mm. Though the 5.56mm has proven itself as a valuable patrol rifle, it has never been my first choice among precision rifles. I am still a proponent of .30 calibers or similar cartridges for most police work and for any work beyond 300 yards. Some of the 6.5mm cartridges and a few others look promising as well, but the real world of budgets and administrative decisions remains—6.5mms have some advantages but present the same logistics and cost issues of other low-volume cartridges. It is no easy task to supplant the 7.62x51mm or 5.56x45mm, and it is unlikely to happen on a large scale.
The 5.56mm has really taken off as both a DMR (designated marksman rifle) and an SPR (special purpose rifle). These acronyms have several meanings, thanks to the rifles’ different areas of operation as well as a certain degree of marketing. Generally, the DMR is carried by the observer, but it can also be a supplementary weapon to a dedicated precision rifle. More often than not, it is a semi-auto in .30 caliber.
Taking into consideration its cartridge, the SPR has a more limited use. It does, however, serve as a real sweet spot for the 5.56mm cartridge. Many urban agencies are issuing semi-auto precision rifles to their snipers as supplements to their bolt-action guns. And several forward-thinking agencies are issuing SPRs to patrol officers for use in active-gunman situations. We know the wait-time for SWAT teams is generally nonexistent, so the best place to put the right tool is with patrol, where the SPR can be engaged as quickly as possible. Furthermore, military units have been using these rifles for years. They provide the perfect platform for low-power optics and precision triggers, delivering precise fire when needed.
There is a practically endless number of SPRs to choose from these days. A select few are the real cream of the crop, one of which is the LaRue Optimized Battle Rifle (OBR) 5.56mm. A recent trip to Rifles Only in Kingsville, Texas, provided me the opportunity to put one to the test.
This platform started out as a 7.62mm rifle. The idea was to build an accurate rifle that was optimized for use in the real world. Given its success, the decision was made to build the rifle in a smaller caliber. The meaning behind “OBR” is simple: The rifle works in battle conditions. Accurate rifles in this platform are prolific, but reliable ones are rarer than most would think. This is especially true when factors such as dust, dirt, rain, snow and all else are added to the equation.
LaRue has long been known for its rugged and reliable equipment, and the OBR 5.56mm is no exception. The heart of the system is a newly designed upper-receiver platform that is machined from billet—it makes for a precise fit. This design has addressed many of the platform’s weaknesses. The handguard, an integral part of the system, attaches solidly. There is 10 MOA of elevation built into the upper receiver, which offers longer range shooting with optics. By dropping back to zero MOA at the rear, iron sights will work properly. Rails can be added or removed easily to accommodate accessories. The handguard covers a free-floated barrel with a barrel nut that does not touch the handguard at any point. This cuts down on heat transfer to the operator and, more importantly, facilitates accuracy.
Available in a number of barrel sizes ranging from 12 to 20 inches, the OBR 5.56mm can meet just about any tactical need. It is constructed of LW-50 stainless steel, providing excellent accuracy, reliability and longevity. A Wylde chamber and a polygonal barrel with a 1-in-8-inch twist rate maximizes accuracy with larger bullets. LaRue’s Port Selector Technology gas block offers two choices for facilitating suppressors or ammunition with differing velocities.
The lower, machined from billet, has a flared magazine well and an oversized triggerguard and contains top-rate internals. Each bolt and carrier is hand-polished hard chrome, providing for consistent operation even after high round counts. They also facilitate easy clean-up even after several hundred rounds. The OBR 5.56mm has a Geissele Automatics SSA two-stage combat trigger that is crisp and predictable. The 20-inch rifle is equipped with a standard A2 grip and stock—the rest utilize Magpul CTR stocks and MOE pistol grips.
The media event I attended at Rifles Only in Kingsville, Texas, was hosted by SureFire. It is well known for a different type of media event: Rather than simply displaying its products, SureFire prefers to test its products in relevant schools and courses. For SureFire, this event was no exception: Rifles Only and its owner Jacob Bynum put us through the Carbine Helicopter Assault Course, a class that was tailored for the use of SPRs. This gave the regular Assault Course a more precision-rifle aspect to it. We were scheduled to shoot out to 1,000 yards and from a helicopter.
Each writer was equipped with a LaRue OBR with either a 16- or 18-inch barrel—I had the 18-inch. All of the SPRs were equipped with a SureFire suppressor. Most were Mini suppressors in 5.56mm—some were Micros. Each gun was equipped with a Magpul CTR with the LaRue Tactical Reciprocating Inline Stock Riser (RISR). The RISR allows for proper charging while offering a riser for use with optics. In our case, that was a Bushnell HDMR mounted in a GDI mount. The mount enables a solid return to zero, attaches solidly and permits the use of a micro-dot as a secondary sighting system. A Trijicon RMR was installed on every rifle. The HDMR is a truly solid scope, built to mil-spec with several reticles available. (All of our scopes used a simple mil-dot reticle.) The knobs are large and positive and easily lock in place. With a 3.5–21x range, the HDMR is perfectly suited for nearly any distance with the OBR 5.56mm. A set of Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Iron Sights were added to complete the sighting package. These sit at a 45-degree angle to the center, allowing for use around the optic. For carry, a TAB Gear rifle sling was attached.
After a few minutes in the classroom it was time to confirm zero and work on groups. We were provided Black Hills ammunition, and we used 77-grain OTM rounds to wring out all the distance we could get. This was loaded to mil-spec, as requested by SureFire. Muzzle velocity was reportedly around in the 2,750 feet per second (fps) range.
Once shooters were properly dialed-in, groups measuring at or around 0.5 inches were the norm—a few were even tighter. Up until now, all the accuracy testing was on a bipod from prone in the Texas dirt. My rifle was equipped with an Atlas bipod, a very solid platform. Rifles Only prides itself on its practical training, so very little time was spent shooting groups—our hits were simply a product of getting our trigger fingers properly trained.
Groups were fired on paper at 100 and 200 yards. The OBR 5.56mm proved to be very accurate. Even with the Texas wind I was able to hold under 1 MOA with ease. The suppressor made recoil nonexistent and aided accuracy well. As we moved out to the longer ranges, this became even clearer.
Going The Distance
Let’s face it. The 5.56mm is typically not the first choice for precision work at 500 yards or beyond. But these distances were an excellent test of the rifle. All of the steel targets are 2-MOA targets, requiring some decent accuracy for solid hits. Hitting a 10-inch target at 500 yards or a 20-inch target at 1,000 yards is not easy in the Texas wind with a 77-grain bullet. Quite frankly, I expected there to be a ton of crying and lamenting about misses, but to my surprise first- and second-round hits were the norm. The dope provided by Tony was dead on most of the time.
From 300 to 700 yards I was able to get first- and second-round hits, then repeat hits pretty much at will. (So long as the hold for wind was correct, there was little issue doing so.) At 800 and 900 yards it took a few more rounds, but that was all about the wind. Jason Teague even had a few hits at 1,000 yards, and he was using a 16-inch barrel. There is simply no doubt when it comes to the OBR 5.56mm’s accuracy, which persisted throughout testing. At the end of the day a return to 100 yards to check the zero was in order. The first group out of the gun was under 0.75 inches, in the same spot it was at the start of the day. Given the use of a suppressor and the firing of 100 rounds or more without cleaning, that is pretty impressive, a testament to both the rife and the scope.
Throughout the week, moving targets and multiple targets at various ranges were added. We also moved around a bit, working on the “squirrel cage.” After running and crawling though some pipe, we entered the apparatus, a set of small spaces that require you to shoot from oddball positions. We then climbed up and down through small spaces. This training was excellent and added greatly to the learning process. The rifle performed flawlessly and was fairly easy to manipulate, even with the suppressor.
The last day was all firing from the helicopter. The OBR 5.56mm performed well. Even with more optic than I would generally use, hits at 100 yards and on the move were possible. This rifle was versatile and accurate throughout.
Early on there was one failure to feed, which was corrected by choosing the proper setting on the gas block. Following that, the rifle had zero malfunctions. Most of the class was completed with 20-round Mapgul magazines to facilitate prone, but it also functioned with the 60-round SureFire magazines. Over the course of four days, the OBR 5.56mm had been cleaned once. Nevertheless, it maintained its zero and, above all, its accuracy. There is little doubt this rifle lives up to its name—it is designed to be an optimized battle rifle. It will be a perfect fit with any agency, officer or operator. To find out more about SureFire products and events, call 800-828-8809 or visit surefire.com. To find out more about the OBR and other LaRue rifles and products, call 512-259-1585 or visit laruetactical.com.