The term “mil-spec” is bandied about in the AR world like it is the balm for all that ails you. All it means is that a piece of equipment meets the minimum acceptable standard for military use. When it comes to small arms like the M16 rifle or the M9 pistol, that standard can be fairly stringent, and for serious use you would not want anything less. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get something better.
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“Better” is certainly the thinking behind the new 5.56mm P5T15 rifle from Phase 5 Weapons Systems. The company began by making high-end components for the AR that were designed to strengthen and improve the operation and handling characteristics of the platform. Thanks in large part to the modular nature of the AR platform, going from parts to complete rifles is a feasible enterprise, which the company adopted with its first complete carbine.
Loaded With Extras
The P5T15 is a semi-automatic, direct-impingement, 5.56mm NATO carbine with several top-notch enhancements. The 16-inch, standard-profile barrel is made from mil-spec 4150 steel with a chrome-lined bore and button rifling in a 1-in-8-inch twist rate. A faster twist rate does a better job of stabilizing heavier bullets, but custom rifles like the P5T15 are increasingly splitting the difference between the commonly seen 1-in-9-inch and 1-in-7-inch rates of twist for optimal use with a wider range of bullet weights.
This carbine also uses a mid-length gas system. A mid-length gas tube is 2 inches longer than that found on a standard carbine and moves the gas hole farther away from the chamber and closer to the muzzle. This helps reduce the amount of super-heated gas and fouling that goes back into the chamber to operate the bolt, helping to reduce wear and tear on internal parts as well as perceived recoil.
M4 feed ramps are also provided at the rear of the P5T15’s barrel extension. Unlike the feed ramps on a standard AR, M4 feed ramps are cut wider and lower, ensuring more reliable feeding from the magazine under harsh conditions.
The barrel remains free-floating thanks to the 15-inch Lo-Pro Slope Nose Quad Rail (LPSN15) with “True-Fit” technology. This thin rail system is made from solid aluminum and extends almost to the threaded barrel and flash suppressor. It offers a full length of Picatinny rail on top and shorter rails at the front in the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. Designed and made in-house by Phase 5, this rail system also features a slanted design at the front that offers a slightly longer sight plane. There are ambidextrous QD sling attachment points at the front and rear and short Picatinny rails on the sides and bottom at the front. The True-Fit technology secures the rail to the barrel nut with six screws to ensure that it will not come loose under extreme use. This also ensures an even fit all around the barrel nut to avoid uneven tension.
Both the flattop upper and lower receivers are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum and hardcoat anodized black with an excellent fit and finish. The controls are all standard for an AR, and the safety selector features markings on both sides of the receiver with a tactile and visible tab to readily indicate the carbine’s status. Phase 5 is one of only a very few AR manufacturers located in California, so it also offers California-
compliant versions. For those who live in California, instead of a standard mag release, the P5T15 comes with a “bullet button,” which necessitates the use of an external tool to release the magazine.
Not to worry, however, as a magnetic tab that can serve this purpose is included with the rifle. If you live in California, you are not allowed to just leave this tab in the magazine release, and it has to be placed elsewhere when not in actual use. If you live in a state that does not require such tomfoolery, Phase 5 will include a standard magazine release with your rifle that you can install yourself.
Phase 5’s Ambidextrous Battle Latch Charging Handle Assembly (ABL/CHA) is a welcome upgrade, as it can be operated with one hand from either side. The extended latch also makes it easy to operate with low-mounted optics. This design allows the operator to use the charging handle by retracting only one of the “ears.” Whereas this can place undue pressure and wear on the opposite side of the handle, Phase 5 corrects for this by using a stainless steel pin and thicker sidewall construction.
The company has also installed an enlarged, aluminum triggerguard for glove use. This triggerguard has unique design elements, to say the least. It actually looks like Batman designed it. The pistol grip is the ergonomic and hand-filling Engage grip from Mission First Tactical (MFT). It features aggressively textured finger grooves and sides, a grooved backstrap, a good-sized beavertail and a watertight interior storage space.
The lower receiver also features MFT’s Battlelink Utility Stock, or BUS, which is well designed and very comfortable to use. The length of pull can be adjusted to six different positions to accommodate shooters of various statures, attire or positions. This polymer stock is built tough but remains lightweight. It also features multiple sling attachment points and a hinged, rubberized buttpad that provides access to a good-sized internal storage space. The stock design allows for the easy installation of other MFT accessories, such as a mini GPS and adjustable cheekrests.
Although the Phase 5 P5T15 carbine comes optics ready, a set of backup sights are included as standard. The ARMS #71L flip-up sight set is made from metal-reinforced polymer but features steel apertures that resist damage. These fully adjustable sights fold down easily and lay very flat but can be very quickly deployed with a simple push-tab system.
Internally, the P5T15 is equally feature laden. Inside the buffer tube is an enhanced buffer spring for extended durability. The M16-contoured bolt carrier group (BCG) is heat-treated, chrome lined and finished in black phosphate. The BCG has been both high-pressure (HP) and magnetic-particle (MP) tested. Most manufacturers will perform HP tests, but fewer bother with MP testing, which is only required of true mil-spec bolts. This consists of using a magnetic field to detect any imperfections in the surface or subsurface of the part, ensuring that only the highest quality parts are being used.
Most of my complaints on the vast majority of AR-platform rifles and carbines come from mil-spec triggers, which, in short, are usually terrible. They can be too heavy and too gritty. Here Phase 5 has done the right thing and installed a high-quality CMC trigger group. The curved, single-stage trigger has no take-up and is extremely crisp with a clean, 3.5-pound break. This makes it a pleasure to shoot the P5T15 while attaining tight groups.
Phaser Set To Stun
Over a full day of testing on the range, the Phase 5 carbine handled beautifully with no failures of any kind using a mix of ammunition right out of the box, with no maintenance. The recoil was pleasant and minimal, and the carbine was light and handy. The thin handguard stayed cool to the touch and was very comfortable.
I tested the P5T15’s accuracy from a benchrest at 100 yards using a Trijicon 3-9x40mm AccuPoint scope. The results were better than average, ranging closer to 1 MOA rather than 2, and at least one group was sub-MOA. The rifle, with its 1-in-8-inch twist rate, exhibited a preference for medium-weight bullets.
Overall, the Phase 5 P5T15 delivers extremely reliable performance and superior accuracy in one feature-laden platform. It seems ideally suited for 3-Gun competition. It is also always a pleasure to see that, despite difficult political conditions, gun ownership and manufacturing can still thrive.
For more information, visit phase5wsi.com.