If you visit the Stag Arms website, you’ll find that the company offers more than 25 different AR-15s. During research for a new book I was working on, I took note of the many different AR manufacturers, and they all have that many or more rifles to chose from. And I did not even come close to listing every company manufacturing ARs. This means that, conservatively speaking, there are more than 500 AR-15s to choose from, and the number is probably closer to 1,000. How are you supposed to choose one?
It’s probably best to start by making a list of the desired features you want, and then you can start eliminating manufacturers and models from there. Or, you could just select a trusted AR manufacturer and go to them and say, “This is what we want.” That’s what happened at Stag Arms, and it’s why the Stag Arms 3T-M exists. Law enforcement professionals, working with Team Stag Arms, made a list of what they wanted in an AR, and Stag Arms built it.
For starters, Stag Arms took a mil-spec lower receiver and installed an upper with a flattop rail. To that upper receiver, the company attached a 16-inch, 4140 steel, chrome-lined, government-profile, manganese-phosphate-coated barrel with a 1-in-9-inch twist rate and chambered for the 5.56mm NATO. (Yes, of course, it will also chamber and fire .223 Remington ammunition.) Stag then installed a carbine-length direct gas impingement system and an A2-style flash suppressor.
Why direct impingement instead of using a gas piston? Gas piston guns do seem to be all the rage right now, but the answer is simple. For the most part, law enforcement agencies prefer the direct impingement system to the gas piston system due to the interchangeability and availability of parts. With gas piston guns, the parts are generally manufacturer-specific, but with most direct impingement guns, the gas system parts are interchangeable and, just as importantly, they are less expensive and easy to find.
“I test lots of ARs, and in turn my hands wrap around many different handguards. This one is as comfortable as they come…”
With AR-15s, the handguard is probably the most accessorized part whether you are a manufacturer building an AR or an individual putting your own AR together. Different companies offer different aftermarket handguards on their ARs to show diversity and set their product apart from the competition. According to Dave Larson with Stag Arms, “The once popular quad-rail handguard is now obsolete and is being replaced by more ergonomic handguards to which sections of rails can be attached.”
That’s what the law enforcement professionals working with Stag Arms wanted, and they chose one of my favorites: the 13.5-inch Diamondhead VRS-T free-floating handguard. This handguard is sort of shaped like a triangle, with a flat side positioned underneath the barrel. Each corner at the bottom edge is scalloped, which makes it very comfortable in hand, and sections of rail can be attached by screw anywhere along the bottom and sides of the forend. The top of the handguard is a Picatinny rail that mates perfectly with the top rail on the upper receiver. I test lots of ARs, and in turn my hands wrap around many different handguards. This one is as comfortable as they come.
Stag Arms and the experts who helped them build and accessorize the Model 3T-M also went to Diamondhead for sights. The front and rear sights are both flip-up versions. These unique sights have diamond-shaped apertures, as opposed to round ones. Larson said that, according to Team Stag Arms and the law enforcement professionals who helped them put the 3T-M together, these sights were faster to use than traditional, round-aperture, AR-style sights.
Make what you will of the Diamondhead accessories, but keep in mind that with the sights and handguard you’re looking at $427 worth of accessories. But Stag Arms didn’t stop there. The company also chose a Magpul MOE grip and a six-position Magpul ACS buttstock. Both make the 3T-M more comfortable to shoot, and both also have individual storage compartments for whatever little trinkets you think you might need to keep with the rifle.
Other than the aforementioned accessories, the Stag Arms Model 3T-M is, for the most part, a mil-spec AR-15. It has the common dust cover over the ejection port and a forward assist, which seems to hardly ever get used on modern AR-15s. Even the trigger is mil-spec, though I would not have thought that after pulling it. Even though it needed about 6 pounds of pressure, it was very crisp with no take-up whatsoever. However, like most mil-spec triggers, it was a bit inconsistent with pull weight. Having said that, I’d still rate it as the best mil-spec AR-15 trigger I have pulled.
On the range, the rifle ran through 250 rounds without a hitch, but results from the bench were varied, as the rifle seemed to be a bit finicky when it came to the ammunition it liked. It flat out did not like Hornady’s 75-grain Superformance Match BTHP load for which it averaged 2.4 inches for five 5-shot groups at 100 yards. On the other hand, it ate up the target with 55-grain Nosler Tipped Varmageddon and 64-grain Bonded Defense ammo.
Some rifles just do not like some loads, but to an extent I believe this was a twist rate issue more than anything else. Based on my experience, a 1-in-9-inch twist rate can work very well with long bullets or not very well at all. Part of this is because stability is a product of velocity and bullet length—not bullet weight, as many believe. (Yes, heavy bullets are usually longer, but it is their length that necessitates the faster twist rate, not their weight.) All of that being said, the Stag Arms Model 3T-M averaged 1.75 inches for five 5-shot groups with four different loads. Take out the load it did not like and you are at a 1.5-MOA average, which is common for ARs in this price range.
“I would not hesitate to throw a Stag Arms Model 3T-M in a patrol car, and I recommend it to any officer or department looking for a patrol rifle…”
However, there is more to this story than you will find on the shelf at your local gun shop. You see, if you go online at Stag Arms, you can customize your 3T-M. The options are rather extensive but do not alter the configuration of the rifle. For example, for between $15 and $100, you can select a post-ban configuration, which is legal in your location, whether it’s Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Connecticut or New York.
For another $100 you can opt for the Plus Package, or even various parts of it, to include an HP- and MPI-tested bolt ($5), an M16 bolt carrier ($5), a chromed bolt ($10) and a chrome bolt and bolt carrier ($30). A Stag Arms 3G Compensator is a $69 option, and a barrel with a target crown to meet New York State requirements is a free option. Trigger options include the no-extra-charge mil-spec trigger or a two-stage match trigger for an additional $80. You also have the option of letting the factory install a Geissele Super 3-Gun trigger for an additional $240. Various optical sights, rail sections, slings, rifle cases, and even flashlights and lasers are also available direct from the factory.
Maybe one of the most important upgrades you could opt for is the 1-in-7-inch-twist, military-contour barrel. It’s actually part of the $100 Plus Package, and if you have any plans of shooting heavy (long) bullets, this would seem like a no-brainer upgrade. The point is that if you want a Stag Arms Model 3T-M, you might want to order direct as opposed to looking on the racks around town.
There are actually two versions of the Stag Arms Model 3T. The standard 3T is identical to the 3T-M with the exception of the grip and buttstock. Instead of the Magpul furniture on the 3T-M, the 3T has a standard A2 grip and a mil-spec, six-position-adjustable buttstock. The 3T also retails for $161 less than the 3T-M.
About a year ago I tested my first Stag Arms rifles. They were the Models 8T and 8TL (reviewed in the May 2013 issue of GUNS & WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT), right- and left-handed rifles that are very similar to the 3T-M but that work with a gas piston. The Model 8T delivered about the same level of accuracy, but the trigger was not as good as the one on the 3T-M. In that review I said, “the Diamondhead VRS-T is the best-feeling, most-comfortable-to-hold handguard I’ve ever wrapped my fingers around.” I still feel that way.
And, as clean and cool running as a gas piston system is, I’m still fond of the direct impingement operating system, for the same reasons that the law enforcement experts specified it on the 3T-M. Stag Arms makes great ARs, and the company stands behind its products. Also, if you are a department armorer responsible for a fleet of weapons, knowing you can get parts almost anywhere is a plus.
I would not hesitate to throw a Stag Arms Model 3T-M in a patrol car, and I recommend it to any officer or department looking for a patrol rifle. But, I would also recommend they opt for the $100 Plus Package. Stag Arms has another winner with the 3T-M.
For more information, http://www.stagarms.com.