Top 30 Rifles TACTICAL WEAPONS 2014 lead
Top 30 Rifles of TACTICAL WEAPONS in 2014

TACTICAL WEAPONS magazine doesn’t fool around when it comes to testing and evaluating the latest long-range firepower used by today’s elite military and law-enforcement units. From multi-caliber weapon systems, anti-material big bores and all the way down to .22 LR training rifles, we cover the spectrum like no other publication.

Here are 30 different rifles that made the grade at the range, on battlefields and on the mean streets of some major U.S. cities. Get locked and loaded! Here’s 30 you can count on when precision, accuracy, handling and power are needed for your mission!


Alexander Arms Ulfberht

By Mike Detty

When Bill Alexander set out to build a semi-auto, long-range .338 Lapua rifle, he decided to use a different platform other than the AR. ‘I had to ask myself why all of the ARs chambered for big cartridges were having problems,’ said the former British Army engineer. ‘I wanted a design that was simple and rugged and reliable.’ That was the beginning of his 6.5-year odyssey in creating the Alexander Arms Ulfberht.

The old Russian DP-28 light machine gun provided the inspiration he was looking for. “I took the gas system and piston, put it on top of the barrel and converted it to feed from a box magazine rather than a top-mounted drum.” The result is a handsome, accurate and reliable rifle chambered for the hard-hitting .338 Lapua cartridge. Alexander dubbed his company’s new creation the “Ulfberht”—named after a sword made by the Vikings with steel that was uncommonly strong and durable. It was a weapon ahead of its time. After spending the day shooting Alexander Arm’s new Ulfberht, I’d have to say the unusual name is appropriate!

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Armalite AR-30A1

By Leroy Thompson

Unlike the other Armalite rifles that I have shot, the AR-30A1 is a bolt action. The bolt is long and sturdy with dual opposing locking lugs. The separate bolt head employs a plunger-type ejector. It cocks on opening. The lockup is tight enough that it takes a good slap up with the palm to release it and a slap down after running it forward to chamber a round. Although compared to some rifles, the safety seems almost like a World War II design used on the Springfield ’03 or other rifles, but I actually like it: Flicking it to the right puts it on “safe,” and the left is “fire.” This safety locks the firing pin to the rear when applied.

Probably the first thing most shooters will notice about the AR-30A1 is its large muzzle brake with dual baffles. I’ve shot most of the current .338 Lapua Magnum sniping rifles and have found that a muzzle brake is a necessity. This brake is screwed on using 3/4×24 threads, the standard for many suppressors.

A utilitarian aluminum chassis that is bedded using a V-block keeps weight down and enhances accuracy, as does the free-floating, 26-inch barrel. ArmaLite offers two versions of the AR-30A1, Standard and Target models, and I received the latter for testing. The Target version features an adjustable cheekrest and buttpad to help tailor the rifle to the shooter, allowing them to get the best cheekweld. The cheekpiece allows 1 inch of vertical adjustment, while the length of pull may be adjusted from 13.6 to 15.6 inches.

The stock’s pistol grip is similar to those used on AR-type rifles. An interesting aspect of the buttstock is that it may be quickly removed with a hex wrench to reduce the overall length of rifle for carrying or storage. Interestingly, ArmaLite states that for firing from constricted cover, the AR-30A1 may be fired without the stock using the pistol grip and bipod, as the muzzle brake dampens recoil sufficiently to allow this. I believe them but would assume that would be for fairly close shots. I do plan to setup some hostage/hostage-taker targets at 100 yards and try shots using the AR-30A1 without the stock. My own preference would be a folding stock, as used on many .338 Lapua Magnum rifles to allow them to be carried more easily but quickly brought into action.

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Ashbury Precision Ordnance M1A Hybrid

By Aaron Dearborn

The M14 was the result of budget-minded bean counters trying to keep the Army and politicians happy. What was created was simply an improved M1 Garand, with the minimal re-tooling of current factories and the ease with which the new 7.62mm NATO cartridge could be retrofitted to current M1s. After a long and stringent test phase, the M14 won out over a Fabrique Nationale (FN) candidate for the U.S. military’s new battle rifle.

Fast-forward half a century and you know that the AR “black gun” has completely taken over the tactical rifle market. However, the M14 (and the civilian M1A) still holds on. I remember my first encounter with this rifle when I was going through Small Arms Repairer (MOS 2111) training at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, during the winter of 2003 and 2004. I was a young Marine, fresh out of boot camp, getting ready to execute orders for duty with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune. We were receiving our Special Weapons familiarization class when the instructor brought out the M14 designated marksman’s rifle (DMR). It was love at first sight. The sergeant explained that we, as pathetic excuses for armorers, where not allowed to conduct maintenance on this particular weapon, and that right was held only by the esteemed Precision Weapons Technicians (MOS 2112). Right then and there, I decided that I would become a “12” no matter what it took.

During my first combat deployment, I was a part of Combined Joint Task Force 76 (CJTF-76) stationed in Afghanistan for most of 2004. Well, my unit was there for most of it—I was medevac’d due to injuries sustained from a UH-60 Black Hawk crash in Khost Province. We had been supporting the 82nd Airborne with counterinsurgency operations, and many of the paratroopers carried rack-grade M14s with 4X ACOGs as a sort of DMR. Even to this day, I am a firm believer that the M14 was the perfect weapon for that terrain and envied the soldiers who had peace of mind concerning their tools.

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Barrett REC7 Gen II

By David Bahde

Barrett wanted the REC7 Gen II to be of the highest quality, “not just another AR.” Rather than simply capitalize on the frenzy of AR buying, the company wanted to build the best rifle it could, yet keep it capable of real-world use. Barrett’s philosophy revolves around rugged reliability coupled with the ability to go “on duty” out of the box. Along with some innovative engineering, Barrett used only the best parts from proven companies in creating the REC7. Built with the operator in mind—including modern shooting techniques—it will run on the battlefield, the streets or anywhere else. I was able to test one of the first pre-production models, and it was clear that Barrett came through with flying colors.

This REC7 is nice—one of the nicest I’ve handled in a long time. The first thing I noticed is its feel and balance. Barrett designed and builds the new Gen II forend, which utilizes the popular KeyMod system and allows you to add rails and accessories as needed. The handguard is octagonal and narrow, providing a comfortable handhold, with a flat bottom where it attaches to the rifle’s upper receiver. A continuous top rail offers plenty of real estate for mounting sights, optics and accessories. The remaining surface is smooth with no sharp edges, making it very comfortable to hold. Reminiscent of a “melt” treatment on a carry pistol, the handguard sort of melts into your hand, yet it’s thicker in construction than most. Again, it has a really solid feel. Key slots at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions let you add all you would need in the way of accessories. Sling-cup slots with protective inserts are located at the rear on both the left and right sides of the forend.

The new handguard covers a Barrett-built, 1-in-7-inch-twist, chrome-lined, hammer- forged, medium-contour barrel that is chambered in 5.56mm NATO with M4 feed ramps for excellent reliability. Capping the barrel is Primary Weapons Systems’ Triad flash suppressor. A large nut threaded to the barrel secures the two-position gas block. With no pins or screws to come loose, the gas block can be removed using standard tools. A nice touch is the fact that the rim of a cartridge can be used to adjust the gas system, with positions for standard firing, suppressor use and removing the system.

Forged from 7075 aluminum, the upper receiver houses Barrett’s high-strength 9310 steel bolt and one-piece carrier. Coated for smooth operation, it uses an anti-tilt design. The charging handle is a BCM Gunfighter unit. Precision Reflex flip-up sights sit atop the upper receiver and forend, providing some of the best iron sights on the market.

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Christensen Arms CA-15 Recon

By David Bahde

The CA-15 Recon utilizes a 16-inch barrel and weighs 6.2 pounds unloaded. Typical mil-spec AR rifles with M4-profile barrels weigh closer to 7 pounds. Shedding a pound does not sound like much until you are on your 10th hour carrying the rifle. Considering the rifle’s upper and lower receivers are made from a billet of aluminum, this weight reduction is impressive. Most of the CA-15 Recon’s weight savings are found in the carbon-fiber-wrapped barrel. The barrel starts from a solid piece of steel. It is then bored, rifled, contoured and chambered in-house. Both the contour and wrapping process are well-guarded secrets, but it all happens there. The barrel is also given a match chamber and M4 feed ramps for enhanced accuracy and reliability. The barrel’s 1-in-9-inch twist rate is designed for stabilizing the heaviest 5.56mm bullets, and the muzzle features 1/2×28 threading for adding brakes, sound suppressors and other muzzle devices. My test rifle came with an OSS Banner flash suppressor in place.

Surrounding the barrel is a carbon-fiber handguard with a top Picatinny rail that matches the flattop upper’s, allowing users to mount night-vision gear or other accessories. The handguard’s short bottom rail accommodates bipods and other devices yet allows for a solid handhold at the rear. The sides of the forend are left smooth, but have been drilled and tapped for adding Picatinny rails as needed. The billet upper receiver houses a nitride-coated bolt carrier, an extended charging handle and a forward assist in a unique, angular housing.

The billet-crafted lower receiver features an ambidextrous magazine release and an oversized bolt release. The extended triggerguard housing accommodates gloved hands. Christensen Arms’ LTM trigger is also installed. This system physically blocks the hammer when the “safe” setting is selected. Precision machined from the highest-quality materials, the trigger is smooth with a clean, creep-free break.

The lower receiver also features a Magpul STR buttstock and an Ergo rubber pistol grip with finger groves. Easy-access takedown pins are installed, meaning users can take the rifle apart without using tools. The upper and lower receivers have nicely matched contours, and each rifle is built by hand to your specifications; different triggers and other accessories can be added to your rifle upon request.

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Daniel Defense Lightweight Package

By D.K. Pridgen

With all of the positives going for Daniel Defense, it is not surprising that the company wanted to assist with the needs of law enforcement, and is now offering three packages set up solely for LEOs across the country. The Lightweight Package (LWP), Patrol Rifle Package (PRP) and Special Services Package (SSP) all qualify for financing from National Firearms Finance through Daniel Defense.

The LWP starts with the DDM4V5 LW carbine, which features mil-spec upper and lower receivers forged from 7075-T6 aluminum and finished with Type III hardcoat anodizing. The lower receiver has an enhanced and flared magazine well, and there’s a quick-detachable (QD) sling attachment point at the rear. The upper receiver has a railed flattop with white indexing marks. The upper and lower receivers fit together solidly, a quality that helps bolster the carbine’s inherent accuracy potential. The carbine’s M4 feed ramps increase its reliability, as does its mid-length gas system. The mil-spec, single-stage trigger is enclosed by Magpul’s triggerguard. Providing a continuous top rail, the oval-shaped DDM4 Rail 12.0 handguard runs from the receiver forward, over the pinned, low-profile gas block. The 12.0 rail system has integral front and rear QD attachment points on the left and right sides, so there are plenty of options for adding a sling. Three ladder rail covers are also included.

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DRD Tactical U556

By Leroy Thompson

I tested the DRD Tactical U556 upper on a Colt lower receiver, but DRD is now offering its own lowers along with complete CDR-15 rifles. The U556 upper allows the user to remove the barrel and store it in a case designed for the system along with the lower receiver, four 30-round magazines, a suppressor if desired and an optical sight.

Measuring only 18.5 by 13.5 by 7.5 inches, this case allows for the unobtrusive carry and storage of an AR-15/M4 with a 16-inch barrel, or for military/LE personnel or those with the proper paperwork, an SBR with a 14.5-inch or shorter barrel. With practice, I was able to assemble the rifle from its case in 20 seconds.

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By David Bahde

Designated marksmen need reliable, precise rifles to get the job done, and FN’s SPR (Special Police Rifle) series offers several models to fit the bill. The A3G model was chosen by the FBI for its repeatability over time and its ability to consistently hold 0.5 MOA. The rest of the SPR line holds 1 MOA or better. Each SPR is equipped with a Model 70-type action, a cold-hammer-forged, chrome-lined barrel and a one-piece 20-MOA rail. Chambered in .308 Winchester or .300 WSM, the rifles hold from four to 10 rounds depending on the magazine.

I got my hands on the SPR A5M TBM, named such because it uses McMillan’s A5 stock and a tactical box magazine. The stock can be adjusted for length of pull and cheek height. I mounted a sound suppressor to the 24-inch barrel and ran it through its paces, putting over 1,000 rounds through it in various conditions.

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By Leroy Thompson

The FN SCAR evolved from a January 2004 solicitation from U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), with initial production testing in 2007. Initially, USSOCOM expressed interest in purchasing around 160,000 SCARs in various configurations, though these numbers would later be scaled back. During the initial solicitation for the rifle that would become the FN SCAR, USSOCOM was interested in a rifle that could be quickly converted among 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x51mm NATO and 7.62x39mm calibers. However, engineering considerations resulted in the development of two sizes of rifle: the SCAR 16 (MK 16) in 5.56x45mm NATO and the SCAR 17 (MK 17) in 7.62x51mm NATO. Each could be quickly configured to fit different missions. The SCAR MK 16 has a 10-inch barrel in CQC configuration, a 14-inch barrel in standard configuration (replacing the M4), and an 18-inch barrel in Long Barrel (LB) configuration, serving as a designated marksman rifle, or DMR. A PDW variant loosely based on the MK 16 was also created. The SCAR MK 17 has a 13-inch barrel in CQC configuration, a 16-inch barrel in standard configuration, and a 20-inch barrel in LB configuration. Also loosely based on the MK 17 was the MK 20 Sniper Support Rifle (SSR).

My goal during that introduction to the SCAR was to shoot every variation—I came pretty close. The range we were using did not allow full-auto fire, so we only got to shoot the guns on semi-auto, but for purposes of seeing the features and ergonomics and testing them for accuracy, we got a chance to shoot quite a few rounds. I liked every variant I shot, but I was most impressed with the SCAR-H/MK 17. I did a lot of shooting with the 13-inch and 16-inch versions but didn’t neglect the 10-inch CQC and standard 14-inch-barreled versions of the SCAR-L/ MK 16—especially impressive were the various ergonomic features. After I’d fired my first few magazines, I started pestering the representatives from FNH USA about when semi-auto civilian versions would be available—I wanted to put in my order immediately! FNH USA did admit that there would be “semis” coming once the military contract was fulfilled. I followed the field evaluations of the SCAR with interest.

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Heckler & Koch MR556A1-SD

By David Bahde

The basic MR556A1 is an excellent rifle with a proprietary gas piston operating system and a free-floating, cold-hammer-forged barrel with an unlined bore. Designed to function with a wide variety of 5.56mm ammunition, the 16.5-inch barrel has six-groove rifling in a 1-in-7-inch twist rate. HK equips the rifle with a two-stage trigger that allows for great accuracy and controllable rapid-fire strings. The rifle’s takedown pins cannot walk free and ensure a tight fit between the upper and lower receivers. Finally, the HK collapsible buttstock is well suited to target or practical applications and can be locked in place if necessary.

Designed to accommodate the OSS suppressor system, the new MR556A1-SD features a 14-inch Modular Rail System (MRS) handguard with an octagonal shape. The handguard is held in place with new SW11-type screws, which facilitate easy removal, and KeyMod slots line seven of the eight handguard surfaces for adding lights, lasers and other accessories. A continuous top rail supports scopes, sights and other aiming or night- vision devices. Two integrated quick-detach (QD) sling attachment points are built into the rail just in front of the receiver. Oriented towards the top, they accommodate tactical slings correctly.

The OSS system for the MR556A1-SD consists of two components. The base unit is the Back Pressure Regulator, or BPR, which adds less than an inch to the barrel. Much of it rests under the MRS handguard, and it provides 18 decibels of sound reduction, rivaling many longer suppressors. It also eliminates 95 percent of the backpressure associated with standard suppressors and reduces reliability issues with a minimal bolt speed increase. In essence, the BPR redirects gases rather than simply capturing them, reducing felt recoil and muzzle rise. The second component of the OSS system is the Signature Reduction Module, or SRM, which, when added to the BPR, provides a sound reduction of more than 140 decibels.

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H-S Precision Tactical Folder

By David Bahde

H-S Precision started with its Pro-Series 2000 SA (short action) receiver chambered in .308 Winchester. These push-feed actions are smooth, precise and use a Winchester-style safety, making them well suited to duty operations. Mated to this action is a heavy-contour, fluted, 1-in-12-inch-twist, stainless steel barrel with a match chamber. H-S Precision’s match barrels are incredibly accurate—every one I’ve tested so far has consistently yielded sub-0.5-inch groups. With its 5/8×24 threading, the muzzle will accept flash and sound suppressors. My test rifle was equipped with a two-piece, 20-MOA scope base.

Where innovation truly shines is the forend. It is a rail that accepts any number of grip panels. They can be smooth, textured or in pretty much any profile you’d prefer. You can add rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. How you configure the forend is really up to your imagination and tactical need. The grip panels are available in different sizes, allowing you to make the forend as short or as long as you want. For those with night vision, a bridge mount can be added. Flush cups for sling attachments are available in the panels, and will be in the chassis on production models. This really provides some of the best modularity I’ve seen on the market these days.

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Lancer L15 Patrol

By Doug Larson

Since the original AR-15 was conceived and the first prototype built in the 1950s, the design has changed and improvements have been made. Now, with many manufacturers already in the market and new ones continuing to enter, innovation has become more common. And one company that has excelled at innovation is Lancer Systems.

While not a widely known company, Lancer Systems has roots that date back to World War II, when it supplied sealants for military applications. As the company evolved, it eventually created a small arms division that has developed a unique modular lower receiver.

The L15 Patrol is designed for the law enforcement patrol officer, and it’s one of the latest in the AR-style line produced by Lancer that uses the company’s innovative magazine well funnel that can be changed to one of three sizes that facilitate lightning-fast magazine changes.

The Standard magazine well resembles the one on most mil-spec lower receivers. Another version is the Competition mag well, which has a very wide funnel that seems to suck in any magazine that gets close to it. In between is the Tactical mag well, which comes installed on the L15 Patrol and features a wide funnel that guides the magazine into it for fast reloads—maybe saving an officer’s life. To change wells, just drive out the retaining pin, slide the old mag well off and replace it with another. The lockup is solid, too—just like it was machined as part of the receiver.

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Lewis Machine & Tool SLK8

By Dave Bahde

Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) has long been known as one of the premier builders of AR-style rifles suitable for duty use. The company’s monolithic MRP rifles were among the first proven systems that allowed for quick barrel changes. The MRP design is often copied these days, and for good reason. Having your upper receiver and handguard combined makes for a solid setup and contributes to greater reliability, accuracy and overall strength. With operators adding heavy optics, lasers, night vision and more, a monolithic design becomes critical. Adding excessive weight to standard receivers can create a stress point where the handguard attaches to the receiver. Increased demand for “free-floated” barrels only makes it worse, with some ARs experiencing stress fractures. Monolithic designs eliminate this possibility by spreading the stress throughout the receiver. The added stiffness can also contribute to better and more consistent accuracy, turning combat rifles into little tack-drivers.

While well suited to professional use, the MRP has not gone unnoticed by enthusiasts, officers and competitors, especially 3-Gunners. A recent shooting event gave me the chance to spend some time with LMT’s latest rifle, the SLK8 in 5.56mm NATO.

The SLK8 uses LMT’s monolithic MRP platform, which allows users to change out the barrel and caliber. As a long-time 6.8 SPC fan, one of LMT’s first MRP rifles spent a year or two in my hands. Originally seen as somewhat of a novelty, rifles that allow for caliber changes are becoming quite popular these days. My original rifle worked well and remains in the hands of the officer who bought it.

Rail space management is a primary focus on AR-style rifles. While military operators use almost every inch of space, many law enforcement officers need very little. Many contemporary handguards start “slick” and allow you to attach rails as needed, if at all. They are also getting longer, thinner and rounder. LMT’s SLK8 uses the company’s new SLK handguard, which is slim and versatile. The monolithic top rail provides space for adding optics, red dots and other aiming aids. The remainder of the handguard is smooth, with threaded portions that accept rails of various sizes. Plastic inserts snap into the unused mounting areas, making for a very comfortable handguard. The handguard is octagonal, with rounded edges that provide a good grip. Its flat bottom is perfect for resting on barricades, and numerous vents keep things cool during hard use. Quick-detach (QD) sling swivel cups sit at the front of the handguard in the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions. Another sits at the rear on the left side, just above the locking bolts.

Within the handguard is a 16-inch, stainless steel, match-grade barrel with a 5.56mm NATO chamber and 5R rifling with a 1-in-7.5-inch twist rate. LMT’s standard bolt carrier group is used along with an LMP103T charging handle.

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LWRCI 1811 Package

By Robert Jordan

This year the DEA approved LWRCI’s updated M6A2, the M6 Individual Carbine (IC). The new rifle is cryptically referred to as the “1811 Package” on the company’s website, and 1811 is a reference to the government classification of General Service 1811 employees. They are classified as criminal investigators, but are better known as “special agents.” They are the backbone of federal law enforcement, and they insist on carrying the best available firepower.

The M6 IC included in the 1811 Package has several performance-enhancing features, including a spiral-fluted barrel, a short-stroke piston system, ambidextrous controls—including the magazine release, bolt catch, safety and charging handle—a modular forend and a collapsible stock. LWRCI also pours its tight quality control standards into its production—and the results are evident.

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NEMO Arms Battle Light 1.0 MS

By Rob Garrett

It is safe to say that the story of the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge will go down as one of the most successful new cartridges in this decade. The 300 Blackout, or 300 BLK, started with a request from a special missions unit within the United States military. The goal was to adapt a .30-caliber cartridge to the M4 platform with minimal effort.

A second requirement was to provide the operator with one rifle that could meet multiple mission requirements. Subsonic ammunition would allow the 300 BLK to be a quiet and effective CQB platform while delivering a .30-caliber, 220-grain projectile to the target. By changing to a supersonic round, the operator could have a fully capable battle rifle effective to 300 yards.

The 300 Blackout, or technically the 7.62x35mm, has the same rim dimensions and cartridge taper as the 5.56mm NATO. This is a critical requirement in order for it to utilize the existing mil-spec 5.56mm bolt and feed reliably from a standard 5.56mm magazine. The configuration allows a standard 5.56mm M4 to be converted to 300 Blackout by simply changing the barrel.

While developed for the military community, the 300 BLK offers a great deal of versatility for the law enforcement community. The subsonic loads are ideal for a tactical entry team and provide improved ballistics over the 9mm and the 5.56mm. In addition, when properly suppressed, the 300 BLK is no louder than an air rifle. Changing to a supersonic load gives the rifle an extended-range capability that is well within normal law enforcement operating parameters. In addition, the 300 BLK cartridge works exceptionally well in carbines with shorter barrels and those non-NFA, AR-platform weapons with 16-inch barrels.

Collaborations like the 300 BLK, while common in the defense industry, are less common in the commercial firearms market. Recently, however, New Evolution Military Ordnance (NEMO) Arms and Gemtech partnered up to produce an exceptional suppressed carbine. NEMO Arms has long been known for its advanced weapon designs and technologies. Likewise, Gemtech has long been a leader in the suppressor industry.

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Primary Weapons Systems MK212

By David Bahde

As a longtime M14/M1A fan, the .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO has always been a preference of mine. The problem, however, has always been weight and size. For many, 13-inch-barreled 7.62mm rifles are just about perfect. I’ve been in touch with a number of our most elite warriors who often prefer this setup as well. It is sized perfectly for entry yet gets you out to 500 yards and a bit beyond with useful downrange energy. The 7.62mm may be the most common NATO round, and it remains a prolific hunting option. It’s pretty versatile and has been used with great effect for many decades. The problem was getting AR-type rifles chambered in it to work reliably and consistently, especially if you put a short barrel on them. PWS seems to have overcome that hurdle, however, and it was time to see for myself on the range.

The latest PWS MK212 is the company’s second-generation rifle with a number of changes. A KeyMod forend that is considerably lighter replaces the original design. It covers a gas system that is now externally adjustable, with four settings facilitating suppressors or less-powerful ammunition. An enhanced bolt carrier group now supports a user-serviceable piston head and a BCM Gunfighter charging handle. PWS’ enhanced buffer tube and buffer are used along with an ALG Defense trigger. PWS MK212 rifles and upper receivers also come with a set of Magpul MBUS sights and a 20-round PMAG magazine.

Since my MK214 was already registered, I was sent only an MK212 upper for testing. My lower is equipped pretty much as described above. The only real difference is the pistol grip. PWS shipped the upper with a new Leupold 1-6x20mm Mark 6 M6C1 scope. This may be the perfect power range for a patrol rifle. Designed to be used with both eyes open at 1X power, the scope is effective in most close-quarters situations. When range or clarity is necessary, 6X power is more than enough magnification for most realistic ranges an officer may encounter.

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Remington CSR

By Andre’ M. Dall’au

With its 14-inch barrel, the new Remington CSR (Concealable Sniper Rifle) weighs 9.25 pounds unloaded. It’s also designed so it can be disassembled into five pieces (via a throw lever under the barrel) making it easy to fit into a suitcase or backpack, and then reassembled in less than a minute with absolutely no loss of zero. That means a sniper can covertly carry and deploy while maintaining the lethality of the CSR’s 7.62mm NATO chambering.

Remington Defense builds the CSR on its lightweight Remington Arms Chassis System (RACS) with a right-side-folding buttstock that is fully adjustable for length of pull and cheek height. The handguard is also modular, as operators can add or remove accessory rails where needed. The CSR’s action uses a bolt similar to the Remington MSR’s with a shortened, 60-degree throw as well as a detachable magazine and a two-position safety. A 20-inch-barreled version of the CSR is in the works, as well as alternative chamberings. Finally, the CSR comes in a package with a Leupold 3-18x44mm Mark 6 scope as well as an AAC 762-SDN-6 sound suppressor.

How accurate is the CSR? Members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Sergeant Tyler Payne and Sergeant First Class Daniel Horner, who have previously won both international and special operations sniper competitions in 2013 and 2014, used the Remington CSR at the 2014 Mammoth Sniper Challenge, which is a three-day precision rifle shooting competition held at the Rockcastle Shooting Center in Park City, Ky. In the “Extreme Tough Man Match” where both the shooters and their equipment are subjected to several days of living and shooting in the field with no resupply, Payne and Horner took top honors, beating the second-place sniper team by 40 points.

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Salient Arms 5.56mm Carbine

By Roger Stevenson

The new Salient AR-15 uses War Sport’s LVOA (Low Visibility Operational Application) rail system and muzzle brake. Before I go back to talk about the LVOA system and the fact that Salient is the first company to get a 12-inch gas system to reliably run with a 14.5-inch barrel (16 inches overall with the permanently attached compensator), I want to talk about the level of detail and craftsmanship I found when breaking down and inspecting the carbine. When I chamber-checked the carbine to ensure its condition, I was struck by how smooth it felt as I drew the bolt rearward via the charging handle.

Everything in the gun is either built or specified by Salient. From the custom CMC flat trigger to the polished and titanium-nitride-treated bolt and bolt carrier assembly, nothing is overlooked and nothing is left to chance. The controls included the excellent 45-degree ambidextrous selector switch from Battle Arms Development, the ambidextrous magazine release from Norgon, the bolt catch lever and primary magazine release button from Seekins and finally the excellent Raptor ambidextrous charging handle. These parts aren’t just slapped into the Salient billet lower; each component is hand-fit, polished where necessary and function-checked by hand. To finish it off, the entire carbine is Cerakoted in Salient’s proprietary “Salient Grey” color that not only looks fantastic, but also helps the rifle blend into most environments while lowering its infrared signature.

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Sig Sauer MPX

By David Bahde

Sig Sauer introduced the MPX in early 2013 with great effect. Significant time, effort and tens of thousands of rounds have been fired through prototype weapons, making certain it was completely vetted before it hits the market. Sig Sauer has always been committed to providing truly reliable weapons that are as proven as humanly possible before they are marketed, and the MPX is no exception. While attending a couple of firearms schools at the Sig Sauer Academy recently, the opportunity arose to get some trigger time on the latest prototype. I met with Jeff Creamer, the product management director for Sig Sauer, who provided what is the latest working prototype of the MPX along with the company’s new 9mm SIG-SD suppressor. Creamer has a very thorough knowledge of the system, and he’s also a true “gun guy,” with significant experience and a solid knowledge of a weapon’s applications.

The MPX is available in a number of configurations. The standard model has an 8-inch, threaded barrel. The MPX-P is configured as a pistol using the same 8-inch barrel with no stock. The MPX-SD model utilizes a 6.5-inch, ported barrel that is integrally suppressed. For those in need of a shorter version, the MPX-K uses a 4.5-inch barrel. All models will initially be available as select-fire-only weapons, and semi-auto short-barreled rifle (SBR) versions will follow. All are available with either an aluminum or carbon-fiber forend, and a folding or collapsible buttstock.

The MPX utilizes Sig Sauer’s proven short-stroke gas piston system, configured specifically for this platform. The use of a fully closed and locked rotating bolt enhances its operation and safety. Barrels can be changed in the field to meet varying mission requirements, and the bolt holds open on the last round. Starting out in 9mm, the MPX is easily convertible to .357 SIG and .40 S&W. A monolithic upper receiver with an integral top rail allows for the use of any common AR-compatible sighting system, including red dots and holographic sights.

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Sig Sauer SIG716 Precision

By David Bahde

I tested one of the first SIG716s to hit the market, and it was an impressive rifle at the time. Now Sig Sauer has made a ton of improvements to the design. The four-position gas system accommodates suppressors. The barrel is free-floated using a nice handguard with several quick-detach sling attachment positions. Troy Battle Sights, some of the best on the market, come with SIG716 rifles. The upper receiver featuresM4 feed ramps, allowing it to operate reliably with a wider variety of ammunition. A nicely trimmed bolt provides for a tight lockup and smooth operation in adverse conditions. The lower receiver includes ambidextrous controls. For patrol purposes, the SIG716 yielded some pretty impressive groups, and it was 100 percent reliable with several types of ammunition, including barrier rounds.

Sig Sauer’s Precision model adds a few enhancements. The barrel is a match-grade, 18-inch design with six-groove, 1-in-10-inch-twist rifling. The free-floating forend is also longer, with the gas block located farther forward. The standard single-stage trigger has been replaced with a match-grade, two-stage trigger. The lower receiver also features a Magpul UBR buttstock, which is a bit more adjustable and easier to use with optics. Troy’s Battle Sights come equipped as backups, and all the proven ergonomics and user-friendly features of the SIG716 platform remain.

The SIG716 Precision provided for testing was equipped with Sig’s new 7.62mm NATO rifle suppressor. Designed for military users, it is lightweight, rugged and built to work properly with this system. Sighting was accomplished using a Leupold Mark 4 LR/T scope with a lighted reticle, a side focus and Leupold’s newest tactical knobs for both elevation and windage adjustments. The scope was installed in a single-piece mount that was as solid as a rock and added 20 minutes of elevation.

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Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC II

By D.K. Pridgen

Collaborations between firearms builders and trainers with expansive reputations are popular, yielding semi-custom weapons reflecting an expert’s equipment and accessory preferences. Students and non-students alike frequently want weapons similar to those a trainer carries or recommends. When a company makes those weapons readily available, everyone wins. For the trainer connected to its M&P brand of ARs, Smith & Wesson chose Sergeant Major Kyle Lamb, who served in the U.S. Army for 21 years—with 15 in Army Special Operations—before founding Viking Tactics (VTAC), a training and accessory company. The initial result of the S&W/Lamb collaboration was the VTAC rendition of the excellent M&P pistol and an M&P15 also wearing the VTAC moniker. The M&P15 VTAC was even popular with folks who had never trained with Lamb. And why not? It was an excellent, well-thought-out rendition of a fighting rifle.

Since that time it appears Smith & Wesson and Kyle Lamb have decided to make fairly significant changes to the original—not just making it prettier—and brought out the M&P15 VTAC II. The first difference lies in the base M&P15 model used as the VTAC II’s foundation. Gone is the carbine-length gas system—now you’ll find a mid-length version. As with many folks, I believe the mid-length gas system “shoots softer,” if you will, stays cleaner and works better. Someone involved in the VTAC II project must have felt the same way. Click here for another take on the S&W VTAC II.

A new handguard has replaced the previous trim VTAC/JP Enterprises tactical handguard. The new, lightweight, free-floating, rigid VTAC/Troy Extreme TRX handguard appears to be as trim as its predecessor, extending 13 inches down the barrel, with horizontal friction grooves and elongated venting slots. Because there are no permanent rails except on the top, the handguard is quite comfortable for almost all hand sizes. The venting slots allow users to add 2-inch Picatinny rail sections (two are supplied) for attaching what is needed in just the right spot. The top rail runs the length of the handguard, mating well with the upper receiver’s flattop rail.

Unlike the first VTAC’s 1-in-7-inch-twist barrel, the VTAC II’s 16-inch, 4150 chrome-moly-vanadium steel barrel has a 1-in-8-inch twist rate with Smith & Wesson’s 5R rifling (five lands and grooves). S&W offers around 10 of its M&P15s with the 1-in-8-inch twist rate. Many of those in the know, including Lamb, feel that a 1-in-8-inch twist is a good compromise spanning the 1-in-7 and 1-in-9 gulf to work well with all bullet weights. In keeping with Lamb’s desire for a light carbine that quickly snaps from target to target, the barrel has a lightweight profile.

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Smith & Wesson M&P15-22

By Richard Mann

What brought about the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22? About six years ago, there was a shift in the firearms world. An election that left many gun owners unhappy, combined with a growing acceptance of the modern semi-automatic rifle, elevated AR-15-style rifles to the most popular long guns in America. They sold so fast manufacturers could not keep up. This newfound interest in the AR sparked another trend, and that was the desire for a rimfire version on this platform.

For some time, rimfire conversion kits have been available for the AR-15. The military had even used them as trainers. But these kits, though unique and relatively affordable, often offered less-than-stellar accuracy and reliability. Dedicated upper receivers were another way to address the demand, but while convenient, their retail price was as high as many rimfire rifles. This was their main detractor.

Several manufacturers began offering modified versions of their bestselling semi-automatic rimfires. These rifles were tricked out to look like an AR. And other companies even built dedicated rifles that were similar to the AR. Though consumers responded to these new rimfire rifles, none were completely identical to the AR-15. They field-stripped differently, required different maintenance and demanded a different manual of arms than an AR-15.

Smith & Wesson found the answer. The company built a rimfire version of the AR-15 but used polymer for the upper and lower receivers. S&W designed the rifle so that it shared the same trigger group, could be field-stripped in the same manner and had the same manual of arms used for the centerfire AR-15. It was nothing short of a success, and it wasn’t long until S&W M&P15-22s were selling as fast as their centerfire counterparts.

Since then, Smith & Wesson has not been sitting on its laurels. Not only did it introduce the most AR-compatible rimfire rifle of all time, but the company also immediately began tweaking and modifying it. Now there are more than a dozen standard models and several Performance Center models to choose from. S&W’s latest Performance Center version could be the perfect understudy for anyone who owns a centerfire AR and especially for LE agencies looking to reduce training costs.

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By D.K. Pridgen

Charlie Sisk is a custom rifle builder based out of Dayton, Texas, whose questioning mind led him to wonder why the rifle stock has not really progressed over the centuries. Charlie describes his Sisk Tactical Adaptive Rifle (STAR) rifle stock as having “near-infinite adaptability featuring adjustment points at the butt, comb and wrist for customizable, ergonomic performance in any shooting situation imaginable.”

Complete STAR stocks begin as blocks of 6061aluminum, whittled into shape by CAD/CAM. The STAR stock is actually three separate parts: the buttstock, the receiver and forend. Each is designed to be adjustable and/or rigidly attached to another part. The forend is a good example. It bolts solidly to the receiver with the STAR dovetail joint, whose design makes this one of the strongest sections in the stock. Sisk offers forends in several lengths, and all are easy for a user to install. Each forend is pre-drilled for rail sections on the sides and bottom, with holes on the front to attach lights and other accessories. The receiver portion of the chassis accepts Remington 700- style actions and includes many desirable features, including the STAR four-point mechanical bedding system as well as the STAR triggerguard/magazine well, which accepts AICS magazines. (The receiver portion can also utilize a Remington BDL triggerguard with Sisk-supplied shims.)

Sisk considers the index-able buttstock the “heart of the STAR.” It can be moved radially into or away from the shooter’s face to ensure correct eye alignment, and none of the buttstock’s adjustments require tools. At the back of the receiver, a bolt/shaft extends through a hole centered in one half of the STAR mechanism. The front of the buttstock’s wrist area has the other STAR mechanism part, with a hole also in its center.

The buttstock STAR mechanism slips over the receiver’s bolt/shaft and secures with a thumb-operated, captured, circular nut in the wrist. These aspects are the secret to the buttstock’s axial adjustment/ rotation. Loosen the captured nut enough to separate the STAR mechanism halves slightly, rotate the buttstock and retighten the nut.

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Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad

Top 30 Rifles TACTICAL WEAPONS 2014 Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad
Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad

By John Fasano

The M14 might have had a tough go in Vietnam, where its wooden stock swelled and ammunition made it very uncontrollable in full-auto. But through the decades, Springfield Armory has been able to accurize the rifle, expressly for competition at first and then for tactical engagements. Now the M1A Scout Squad, an 18-inch-barreled, synthetic-stocked version of the original M14, through its paces, reigns supreme.

Chopping 4 inches off the standard M1A barrel makes the Scout 10 times more maneuverable, and makes this 7.62mm NATO-chambered long gun a viable tactical and urban battle rifle for military and LE operators.

From the factory, the Scout Squad comes out of the box with a forward-mounted optics base, one 10-round magazine, an 18-inch barrel and either a walnut, black synthetic or Mossy Oak camouflage stock. I’ve owned several Scout-configuration Springfield M1As over the years, from JAE-stocked whiz-bangs to straight-wood-stocked, no-barrel-scope-mount ‘tanker’ versions. But the Mossy Oak stock intrigued me, and that’s the version I tested. I walked away very impressed.

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Surgeon Scalpel & Remedy

Top 30 Rifles TACTICAL WEAPONS 2014 Surgeon Scalpel & Remedy
Surgeon Scalpel & Remedy

By Wayne van Zwoll

I recently spent some time with Preston Pritchett—the founder of Surgeon Rifles—and the Scalpel and Remedy rifles. Last summer Pritchett decided I needed more time with Surgeon rifles and shipped me a Scalpel in .223. Heavy but compact, it balanced well in hand with a thick-walled, 18-inch barrel. The Scalpel shot as expected, drilling half-MOA five-shot groups with Federal’s 77-grain MatchKings and Lapua’s 69-grain BTHPs. A three-shot cluster with Hornady 55-grain TAP ammo miked 0.25 inches despite a gusty breeze.

These are seriously precise rifles, and I was happy to test another Surgeon rifle. The Remedy rifle has a longer barrel and a few more ounces than most. The McMillan stock, marbled red, white and gray to my specs, looks good. It was fitted nicely to the metal, floating the barrel generously but evenly. The bolt cycles beautifully, slicking factory-loaded .260 cartridges into a chamber a tad snugger than ordinary.

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Tactical Rifles M40 Magnum T6

By Jay Langston

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to test several Tactical Rifles weapons. Each gun has proved to be rugged, dependable and accurate. The latest M40 Magnum T6 chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum is no different.

When I received the rifle, it was easy to see that its Chimera action has the same footprint as the Remington 700, but in stainless steel and made to benchrest tolerances. When I pulled the bolt from the case, it was also obvious that it wore a very reliable M16-style extractor. The bolt is fluted to reduce weight, and it wears an enlarged bolt knob. Another distinct difference is the bolt release, which is located on the left rear side of the action instead of being attached to the trigger assembly. The exceptional custom trigger breaks at a clean, crisp 2.5 pounds with no creep or overtravel. The safety is a Remington 700-type unit.

This rifle wears a tactical fiberglass stock that is very similar to McMillan’s M40 stock. The stock offers two forward sling swivel studs to attach a bipod and sling. The stock also has flush-cup sling swivel attachment points fore and aft on the left side. The rifle comes with a single-stack Accurate-Mag box magazine. The bottom metal on this rifle is outstanding. The triggerguard is extra beefy to withstand unusual abuse. Mounted in front of the triggerguard is a paddle-type magazine release lever that allows you to release the magazine without removing your strong hand from the grip.

The M40 Magnum T6 bolt-action rifle has a 26-inch, chrome-moly barrel with a match-grade chamber and a muzzle diameter of approximately 0.85 inches. Tactical Rifles’ own muzzle brake makes this rifle’s recoil almost imperceptible.

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Troy M7A1 PDW

By Rob Garrett

Troy Defense was formed as a subsidiary of Troy Industries to allow the company to compete in the Department of Defense’s Improved Carbine competition. In early 2013, Troy introduced the Troy PDW to the general public at a show where I had an opportunity to visit with Steve Troy and handle the PDW. He extended an invitation to visit the company’s West Springfield, Massachusetts, location and shoot the PDW, and I couldn’t accept his offer fast enough!

The Troy PDW meets and/or exceeds the size and weight requirements of the solicitation. After touring the production floor, I sat down with Thomas Gray, Troy’s head of research and development and government projects. Gray walked me through the features and operating parameters of the PDW. The PDW uses Troy’s M7 upper receiver as a foundation. The stainless steel barrel is 7.5 inches in length with the required 1-in-7-inch twist rate. A Medieval flash suppressor/muzzle brake acts to reduce muzzle rise during full-auto fire. The PDW is also set up with a 7-inch long Troy Alpha free-floating handguard and folding Battle Sights.

To meet the requirements of the solicitation, Troy reduced the length of the buffer tube by 4 inches and extensively modified the bolt carrier group, the buffer and buffer spring. In addition, a completely new telescoping stock was designed to further reduce the overall length. The stock consists of a machined aluminum buttplate that rides on two tubular rails.

The rails are notched, and they index through holes in the buffer tube where a locking block allows for adjustments in the position of the stock. The locking lever is located under the buffer tube, where the thumb of the firing hand can activate it. The stock locks positively and is extremely stable in all positions. While all of this sounds simple, Gray explained the challenges in keeping the operating pressures and the bolt velocity within acceptable standards. This entailed redesigning the bolt carrier to incorporate the buffer assembly. The next challenge was to design a buffer spring that would provide the proper resistance while operating in a significantly shortened buffer tube. Finally, the gas port and gas tube were tuned with the other components. The result is a system that operates in a significantly smaller space while maintaining the same pressures, resistance and bolt travel velocity as a standard carbine. This eliminated the common problems of bolt bounce and bolt overrides that many short guns experience. The lower receiver incorporates Troy’s ambidextrous safety and bolt release lever. Even with the stock fully collapsed, all of the controls are accessible. The new polymer BattleAx Control Grip has a refined grip angle that is more comfortable when shooting in compressed positions. In addition, the Modular Combat foregrip increases muzzle control and makes it easier to rapidly index on threats.

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By Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta

As a sniper familiar with most sniper rifles made, it came as a surprise when I heard news that VOERE had built the ultimate sniper rifle. VOERE, the maker of high-quality custom hunting rifles? I swiftly arranged a visit to the MILIPOL expo in Paris, with the main goal of seeing the company’s new rifles.

I was impressed when I saw these new rifles, the LBW-M2 and its larger-bore brother, the X3, as they had most of the features I envision in my “dream sniper rifle.” A VOERE engineer described the M2 as ultra-accurate and consistent, with full modularity (i.e., barrel and caliber interchangeability), extreme flexibility, low maintenance and durability. Some rifles excite my salivary glands, not many, but at MILIPOL 2014 I realized that this was one of them.

It wasn’t long before I arranged a sale of both the LBW-M2 and X3 to some of my shooting partners and paid a visit to VOERE’s factory in Kufstein, Austria, which is very close to the German border. VOERE’s plant is a super-high-tech robotic factory full of aerospace-quality welding, waterjet cutting, EDM and CNC machines.

The secret is that VOERE does work for various sectors, from microchip to aerospace industries— and rifles, too. Alongside this technology, VOERE carries on a long gunsmithing tradition. The company has been making rifles since 1936. When its LBW action was a huge success, VOERE decided to develop an LBW-based bolt-action sniper rifle for law enforcement applications. The goal was to design a rifle with a high degree of modularity and outstanding accuracy that was also very unique. The price tag had to be around the same as those of other top sniper rifles, too.

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War Sport LVOA-S

By Phillip Null

Door-kickers are those who stack up next to a door, breach it with a limb, blunt object or explosive, and clear the interior of a structure with a combination of speed, surprise and violent action. Theirs is a job where angles count and only inches separate the bodies in the fight. Operating in the close quarters beyond the threshold is best done with a weapon that allows fast movement, knockdown power and options for mounting targeting and illumination tools. To meet these basic needs and offer some innovative solutions to other tactical problems, War Sport Industries of Robbins, North Carolina produced the Low Visibility Operations Application short-barrel rifle, or LVOA-S.

Purpose-built for professional warfighters and law enforcement officers expecting to fight in close quarters, the LVOA-S is the result of a determined effort to solve flash signature and muzzle control issues inherent in an SBR without sacrificing the benefits of the design’s minimum overall length or light weight. Typically, SBR shooters fit a suppressor to the muzzle to reduce flash and allow better control, but the added hardware also increases the weapon’s dimensions, negating the original shortened design while also creating heat and carbon buildup issues. Those who avoid a suppressor and instead employ only a flash suppressor risk poor control for follow-up shots and during rapid fire. To eliminate the need for a suppressor and offer the lowest possible flash signature, the LVOA system offers a two-part solution: first, the incorporation of a BattleComp 2.0 full muzzle brake pinned and welded to the end of the barrel, and second, a flash suppressor integrated into the rail system that surrounds and manages the gases from each fired round.

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Wilson Combat Paul Howe Tactical Carbine

By Rob Garrett

In the 1970s, E.F. Hutton was a leading brokerage firm that became known for the advertising slogan, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” When it comes to gunfighting, one could say, “When Paul Howe talks, people listen.” Howe spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, with 10 of those years in the special operations community assigned to 1st Special Forces Operations Detachment-Delta. Howe was a Delta team leader during the Battle of the Black Sea, also known as Black Hawk Down, and recently partnered with Panteao Productions to produce an intense three-hour after-action narrative on the Somalia operation. Howe has also produced videos dealing with leadership, firearms training and responding to active-shooter situations.

After leaving the Army, Howe founded his own training and consulting business, Combat Shooting and Tactics, or CSAT. Howe’s experiences are the basis for a very simple and result-driven training curriculum. Anyone who takes a class from Howe or has watched his videos will quickly realize that he has very strong opinions that are based on his experiences. He is a pragmatist who understands the real world and the difference between competition, training and surviving a gunfight. In his classes, Howe stresses individual competency and reliable equipment.

Howe recently collaborated with Wilson Combat to develop a signature rifle, a true multipurpose 5.56mm workhorse. To quote Howe, “Were I to have the choice of only one gun, this is the gun it would be. I can do short-, intermediate- and long-range work with this one rifle. It is like having one golf club to play the entire course.” I was fortunate to receive one of the new Howe carbines for evaluation.

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