The problem with most rifle test articles is that they are a bit superficial. That’s not a critique of my profession—just a statement of reality. With seemingly countless rifles on the market, and limited space in which to talk about them, doing in-depth, all-encompassing articles on each—or even most—new rifle is all but impossible.
When a writer receives a new rifle to test they have but a short amount of time for testing. We spend some time at the range shooting for accuracy, and then perhaps shoot the gun a bit more at targets to get a feel for its ergonomics and functionality. Then we take some photos and write a report. It’s the gun magazine industry standard, and when done by an honest and competent writer it provides for a good look at a new rifle.
Is that a complete test of the gun? I suppose a truly exhausting test would be to use the gun to the point of failure. Not just until it breaks down, but to shoot it until it’s worn out and used up. Guns are durable, so that would be tough. A writer could spend his entire career
on a single rifle.
Doing that would be pointless. Here’s why. I have a .30-06 rifle through which I have fired thousands of rounds. For 20 years I’ve used it to test most new .30-06 cartridges, and I have also used it for a lot of articles on making handloads. I’ve carried that rifle hunting throughout the country and have taken many different big game animals with it. It’s a long way from worn out, but I do have a long history with the gun. So long that I could write a book-length report on the gun, singing its virtues and pointing out its warts. But to what end? The rifle model was dropped by the manufacturer years ago and is no longer made in that configuration. So, would a report matter if the reader can’t buy the gun? That’s why we cover new guns and try to publish the reports in a timely manner.
Besides, taking 20 years, thousands of rounds of ammo and hundreds of hours to write one magazine article is a quick path to bankruptcy. (As opposed to gun writing in general, which is a much slower journey to the same destination.)
So, when the new Colt Competition Pro 3-Gun rifle came out and was getting a lot of ink in the various magazines, I wanted to take a little different approach to my review. Rather than rush to be first with an article, I wanted my report to be about a gun with which I had burned a lot of powder. I am an active 3-Gun competitor, shooting in most of the major matches around the country. As far as I know, I am the only full-time gun writer doing this, which puts me in a rather unique position to review a rifle designed for the sport of 3-Gun shooting.
Running The New Colt
So, I took several months on this test. I tested the Colt Competition for accuracy and shot a lot of drills. Several of my buddies used the rifle during the past 3-Gun season. Several thousand rounds have by now passed through my test rifle, perhaps 25 or 30 times as many as the average gun test will burn. We took a few shots from the bench while testing for accuracy, but mostly we shot the gun in the way for which it was designed—3-Gun competition and practice. I’ve gotten the barrel too hot to touch while hosing close-range targets, and I’ve used the rifle for precision shooting out to 550 yards on a 5-inch swinging target. I’ve also tested it at every distance in between.
In that time frame, I shot with and photographed several other competitors using their own Colt Competition rifles in matches, and so I have been able to see not just one rifle, but several of them in action. In short, I have a pretty good idea of what this rifle is all about.
My rifle is the Pro model, which is the higher grade of the two Competition .223 Rem 3-Gun rifles that Colt makes. It has an 18-inch, match-grade stainless steel barrel. The custom fluting on the barrel is unique and very exotic looking, with a series of interrupted flutes. The barrel is 6-groove button rifled with a 1:8-inch right-hand twist, which most 3-Gun shooters prefer, as it not only stabilizes heavy bullets, but also handles light bullets, giving the shooter the widest range of ammo options. A slower twist will not stabilize heavy bullets for longer ranges, and a faster twist will often cause light bullets to disintegrate in flight due to hoop forces. The 1:8 is the perfect compromise. The gun features a .223 Wylde Match Chamber that will accept SAAMI-spec .223 ammo and NATO-stamped 5.56x45mm ammo. So will a standard 5.56mm chamber, but typically the Wylde chamber offers better accuracy.
The gun uses a rifle-length gas system, which is more reliable and smoother than a short, carbine-length gas system. One unique feature is the Colt Competition Fully-Adjustable Gas Block. This block allows the shooter to tune the rifle to the ammo used. The result is a smoother action cycle, which can aid in speed and accuracy. The smoother the gun runs, the less disturbance there is on target and the faster the next shot can be taken. It’s also important if the shooter is going to add a suppressor, an option that is getting very popular. The adjustable gas block allows users to tune the gun to the suppressor so that it is not over-gassed, which can damage the rifle.
Colt Competition’s Dave Wilcox took me through recently the tuning process. It’s pretty simple. Turn the gas port closed. Load one round into the magazine and fire with the magazine inserted. The gun should not cycle the action completely. Open the gas port adjustment slightly, load one more round in the magazine, and fire. Repeat until the case ejects and the action locks open. Ejected, the case should land at a position 4 o’clock to the shooter’s, with the muzzle being at 12 o’clock.
Mine is an early rifle, and it came with a SureFire muzzle brake. This is a very effective brake, but it’s also designed for suppressor attachment. The problem is that it must be glued onto the barrel, making it very difficult to remove. Most 3-Gun competitors like to tweak and experiment, and that includes changing the brakes. It’s difficult to remove a properly installed SureFire break without damaging the gun. So the current rifle is being shipped with the new Colt Competition Triple-Chamber Muzzle Brake. Recently, at Gunsite Academy, I did several drills with a rifle fitted with the Triple-Chamber brake and found it to be effective. One nice thing about it is that it is not glued on, so it’s easier to remove if you want to change out to your favorite muzzle brake. The Competition Pro’s barrel is threaded to accept any .5-inch, 28 threads-per-inch (tpi) brake. Colt still offers SureFire as an option.
Three-gun shooters are always pushing the envelope to develop new shooting techniques. I was recently in Lithuania on a wild boar hunt, and one of the requirements prior to hunting is shooting at a running boar target. When my turn came, I reached out to the front of the forend on my Sauer 303 semi-auto rifle, with my elbow out parallel to the ground and my hand on the side of the gun. This is a technique that 3-Gun shooters use for moving targets, and it works well, as it gives the shooter more control over lateral movement.
But it has not exactly caught on in rural Lithuania. The range master argued quite forcefully with me about my grip, saying it was all wrong. I finally told the interpreter that I understood what he was saying; as he translated I proceeded to shoot. When I finished, the range master stated in Lithuanian that he was a shooting instructor and that I was a moron for not listening to him—or words to that effect (the translator was vague on the details). But when we walked to the targets, and he saw that three out of the four shots were nearly touching each other, he shut up.
The point being is that with new techniques like this, even a short-armed guy like me needs a long forend on a 3-Gun rifle. The Colt Competition uses a proprietary 15-inch floating handguard that is the perfect length.
Specs And Impressions
The upper and lower receivers are forged and machined for a precision fit. The upper is a flat-top with a Picatinny rail on top. The lower has the Colt Competition logo laser-engraved into the side of the magwell. The rifle has a proofed and magnetic particle (MP) inspected bolt. The charging handle has an extended latch for fast operation. The two-stage trigger on my gun breaks at 2.75 pounds, lighter than the advertised 3.5-pound trigger and great for precision long-range shooting. The trigger has a short and positive reset for fast work.
The gun has a Magpul CTR six-position adjustable stock, a Magpul arched trigger guard and a Magpul grip. As you might guess, the rifle comes with a Magpul 30-round magazine. The safety is a standard AR-15 two-position safety.
The Colt Competition is owned and operated by the same people who own Warne Scope mounts. So it should be no surprise that a Warne scope mount is offered as an accessory. The offset, quick-removable mount is available in 1-inch or 30 millimeters.
The rifle is very accurate, and with this light trigger it’s easy to use for precision long-range work. In fact, the average for 12 5-shot groups at 100 yards with three different ammo products was just .9 inch. The best groups measured .65 inch for five-shots. This is not cherry picking: I chose the ammo at random to represent several companies and bullet weights, then shot the groups and reported the results. That is outstanding accuracy from any factory rifle.
We did a speed drill with three targets at 5 yards spaced 3 feet apart, starting with the rifle on the shooter’s shoulder, muzzle down. At the buzzer, the shooter places two shots on each target. My best time with this rifle was 1.6 seconds, which is the second best I have ever done. (I did it in 1.3 seconds using my JP Enterprises rifle.)
I shot this gun with a wide range of ammo, including handloads. The only trouble encountered was with some cheap, imported steel-case, Russian ammo that would not cycle 100 percent of the time. I suspect I was using a bad batch of ammo, Dave Wilcox tells me that they designed the gun to run with every make of ammo on the market, and that all their test guns worked fine with this brand of ammo. Nevertheless, it seems to me that using cheap ammo in this gun is like trying to run a Ferrari on kerosene. You can’t expect good results from putting crap fuel in a finely tuned machine.
The new Colt Competition is clearly not finicky about what it eats. It exhibited good accuracy with all of the ammo I tested.
This is a gun that you can take out of the box and, after adding optics and ammo, win matches with. For more information, visit coltcompetitionrifle.com or call 855-308-2658.
The problem with most rifle test articles is that they are a bit superficial. That’s…
by Stan Trzoniec / Jan 8, 2014