Stag Arms has been building AR-style rifles since 2003. It offers a full line of AR-15 rifles for sport shooting, competition and even law enforcement use. As hard as it may seem to believe, many police officers still do not have a patrol rifle in their police car. But modern LEOs are starting to see that patrol rifles make sense, and Stag Arms is prepared to help.

When I became a police officer in 1992, my department did not issue patrol rifles. We had two in the armory: a Winchester Model 94 .30-30 and a select-fire Colt M16. Eventually the Colt ended up in my cruiser, but the department never equipped my fellow officers similarly. When I went to work for the Railroad Police six years later, they didn’t issue patrol rifles, either. However, at about the time I left the department, they’d come around to the idea and were shopping for patrol rifles accordingly. This is pretty much consistent with law enforcement in the U.S. In most cases, agencies seem to be more reactive than proactive because of budgetary concerns.

Now, after several incidents throughout the country have clearly shown that an officer with a proper rifle could have sorted things out, police departments, particularly more-rural ones, are starting to become a bit more proactive with regard to the patrol rifle, either acquiring them or allowing individual officers to purchase them. But regardless of your current patrol-rifle status, the new Model 8T from Stag Arms deserves a serious look. It has several advantages, including affordability, that make it a strong candidate as a first-time or replacement patrol rifle.

Gun Details

The Model 8T is built on mil-spec 7075 T6 aluminum upper and lower receivers, which are machined by Stag Arms in New Britain, Connecticut. Stag Arms also makes all the small parts that attach to both receivers. This means the company controls its destiny. If you order a rifle or must send one back for repair, you’re not subject to a delay due to Stag Arms’ waiting on parts from another manufacturer.

The Stag Arms Model 8T is not a gas-impingement-driven rifle like most AR-15s. Rather, it uses a gas piston. What’s the difference? With the gas impingement system, gases that travel down the barrel behind the bullet are forced through a hole in the top of the barrel and into a gas block. This block then redirects the gases through a tube, back toward the upper receiver. When the gases enter the upper receiver, they push against the gas key on top of the bolt carrier and cycle the rifle. The downside of this system is that these gases are dirty and hot, so you end up with a tremendous amount of carbon fouling inside the upper receiver. And, since these gases are really, really hot, the carbon fouling actually bakes to the inside of the receiver.

With the gas piston system, you still have a gas block on the barrel and gases are still directed from the bore into this gas block. However, once in the gas block, the pressure from the gas pushes a rod or piston back toward the upper receiver. This piston impacts the piston block, which is located on the bolt carrier at the same location as the gas key. The impact from this piston drives the bolt carrier to the rear, and the rifle action cycles. Excess gas is then vented through a port in the gas block. The upside to the piston system is that it is much cleaner because no gas (carbon fouling) is pushed back into the action. This system also runs cooler because the hot gas is not funneled back into the action.

Now money matters, to agencies and to individual officers looking for a patrol rifle. The Stag Arms Model 8T does not get as dirty as a standard gas impingement AR-15 and, since the piston block is part of the bolt carrier as opposed to being attached, there is less chance of breakage. This means less maintenance, longer life and money saved. There is also an adjustment on the front of the gas block so that the Model 8T can be used with a suppressor.

Aside from the piston system and the bolt carrier, which have been engineered to prevent bolt-carrier tilt during operation, the Stag Arms Model 8T is pretty much your mil-spec AR-15. Bolt-carrier tilt can occur in a piston-driven AR when the piston strikes the piston block on the bolt carrier. Since this is a mechanical (impact) function, in some rifles it causes the bolt carrier to tilt, which increases wear. But Stag Arms circumvented the problem of bolt tilt by redesigning the bolt carrier.

There are two features that set the Stag Arms Model 8T apart from the original Model 8. The 8T comes out of the box with a 10-inch, Diamondhead VRS-T free-floating handguard. By virtue of my job, I get to shoot and test a lot of AR-15 rifles, and I freely admit the Diamondhead VRS-T is the best-feeling, most-comfortable-to-hold handguard I’ve ever wrapped my fingers around.

Viewed from the front, the Diamondhead handguard is shaped kind of like a triangle with a flat side at 6 o’clock. It is aluminum and is scalloped along both of the radiused bottom corners. Above these scallop cuts are a multitude of long vents for cooling. Additional cooling vents are located on the bottom, too. Spaced between these cooling vents are threaded holes to allow for the attachment of accessory rails. And, along the top you’ll find a Picatinny rail that mates up perfectly with the rail on the upper receiver.
In addition to the Diamondhead VRS-T handguard, the rifle is fitted with flip-up Diamondhead Diamond front and rear sights. To raise these sights you just flip them up, and to lower them, push the large button on the left side of the sight base and fold the sights down. The Diamond sights are unique in that the rear apertures, which are adjustable for windage, are shaped like a diamond as opposed to a circle. The protective wings on the front sight are also in a diamond configuration.

Range Time

To test the Stag Arms Model 8T, I mounted Leupold’s new 1.5-4×20 Mark AR Mod 1 riflescope, which has the FireDot SPR reticle. This reticle has a 10-mil circle centered over standard crosswires that are marked at 2.5-mil intervals. The reticle provides ballistic correction for the 5.56mm NATO out to 800 meters and also has a green glowing center for use in low light. The adjustments are in 0.1 mils to match the mil reticle, but the elevation adjustments are also marked for ballistic corrections out to 650 meters. It is a superb scope for a patrol rifle.

With the Leupold scope, from the bench at 100 yards, the 8T averaged 1.5 inches for 15 five-shot groups with three different loads. Maybe the best way to describe the rifle’s precision is that 15 groups were fired with three different loads and all of the groups were between 1 to 2 inches.

The 8T’s mil-spec trigger broke with a bit of creep, but no grittiness, between 5.5 and 6.5 pounds. A better trigger would probably have shrunken group sizes a tad and would be preferred for serious precision work. But as mil-spec triggers go, the Model 8T’s was better than average.

In all, I fired 250 rounds through the Model 8T. It was accurate and reliable and was surpassingly clean when all the shooting was done. This would make a great patrol rifle for a department to purchase in quantity or for an individual officer to buy on his own. Lightweight, accurate and low maintenance with a long life. What else could you ask for? For more information, visit or call 860-229-9994. For more on Leupold, visit or call 800-538-7653.

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