ROCK RIVER ARMS LAR-15 top rifles of 2014 SWMP lead
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When it comes to well-rounded performance, it is hard to beat a quality tactical rifle. In its many forms, it is capable of engaging targets anywhere from CQB distance to several hundred yards, offering something for everyone.

For those who need impressive firepower and close to mid ranges, there is a selection of 5.56x45mm carbines with cutting-edge features and design cues. For those stepping up to 7.62x51mm power, there are heavy-duty semi-auto rifles that deliver when it counts. Need something that can hit a target at the horizon? Then how about a top-tier .50 BMG?

Following is a round up of some of the most intriguing rifles covered in the pages of SPECIAL WEAPONS FOR MILITARY & POLICE magazine in 2014. From ultra-compact 5.56x45mm carbines to heavy-hitting 7.62x51mm battle rifles to long-range precision rifles in .50 BMG, there is something for every need covered within this listing.

Read on to learn more about some of the top rifles of 2014 and dig into the informative full reviews within the magazines’ pages.

LANCER L15 OUTLAW

By Doug Larson

While some research and development of weapons is performed by the military or law enforcement, a fact that is not known by many in the general public is that, frequently, ideas and weapon designs that are ultimately put to use by our warfighters and civil law enforcement agencies come from civilians and private companies. And the weapons and techniques for using them are often developed and refined by people who participate in shooting contests.

RELATED: Faster Reload Times with Lancer’s L15 Patrol 5.56mm | VIDEO

The AR-15, which later became the M16, was created by Eugene Stoner while working for ArmaLite. It became the basic U.S. military rifle platform that has undergone a number of modifications and refinements developed in the private sector by companies like Lancer Systems. One of the latest new rifles in the AR family to be developed by Lancer is the L15 Outlaw, which was created with the 3-Gun competitor in mind.

At the range, the L15 Outlaw ran well. No malfunctions of any kind were encountered as long as I used the ammunition for which the gun was tuned. And this gun is accurate, printing groups averaging a little over one inch at 100 yards with ammunition it liked. I was able to get at least one group under 1 MOA, confirming that the gun is capable of that degree of accuracy. For the shooter who has time to find the load his particular barrel and gun are fond of, the accuracy will be there. In any case, the gun is going to be plenty accurate for about any application.

So, the tactical community has another AR from which to choose. With the necessary accessories, this is an accurate gun that may find a place in the designated marksman or sniper role. And because of the features that make it lightning fast to get on target and make follow-up shots, it could find its way into the close-quarter combat role. And competitors are going to like it, too.

For more information, visit lancer-systems.com or call 610-973-2600.

Specifications: LANCER L15 OUTLAW

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 17 inches
  • OA Length: 37 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Carbon fiber
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Hardcoat anodized black
  • Capacity: 20/30+1
  • MSRP: $2,275

RUGER SR-762

By Dave Spaulding

The 5.56mm NATO round is a fast .22-caliber bullet weighing between 40 and 77 grains. While improvements in ammo design have made the cartridge viable for combat, it will never be a .30-caliber rifle. A .30-caliber rifle, whether it is a 7.62x54R, .308/7.62x51mm NATO or .30-06 is a very powerful small arm that will penetrate most objects. It has great reach and, with a little training, can be shot with a reasonable level of speed.

RELATED: Ruger SR-762 7.62mm Rifle: Piston-Driven Enforcer | Gun Review

Putting the 7.62mm NATO into the AR platform is nothing new—the AR-10 is decades old and has an ardent following, with people generally liking the fast action of the AR combined with the fight-stopping capability of the cartridge. Any number of companies offers the platform, which could lead some to ask why Ruger would enter this market. The answer: to do it better. Ruger has long been known as the company that “overbuilds” its firearms, and the AR platform could use a bit of that when it comes to larger chamberings. After all, shooting a 7.62mm cartridge through a lightweight carbine is not something that should be undertaken without some critical thought, and Ruger put a lot of thought into its new SR-762.

Like the Ruger SR-556, the SR-762 is a piston-driven gun, a platform many prefer due to its ability to run cleaner and cooler. Since discharge gases are not vented directly into the gun’s action, as with direct gas impingement systems, crud buildup is all but eliminated. Ruger’s patent-pending, two-stage piston design delivers a smooth piston stroke to the one-piece bolt carrier, which reduces felt recoil and improves the rifle’s durability. A four-position gas regulator allows the shooter to tune the rifle to function reliably with a broad variety of ammunition and in varying environmental conditions.

The SR-762 is going to be a very popular gun with military, law enforcement and armed citizens alike. It offers all of the advantages of a fast-handling AR platform rifle with the enhanced power of a .30-caliber rifle cartridge. While this might not be the rifle of choice for urban engagements, the SR-762 is going to offer a great deal of comfort for cops patrolling in the “wide open spaces” of the United States!

For more information, visit ruger.com.

Specifications: RUGER SR-762

  • Caliber: 7.62mm NATO
  • Barrel: 16.12 inches
  • OA Length: 34.75-38 inches
  • Weight: 8.6 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Collapsible
  • Sights: Flip-up front and rear
  • Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
  • Finish: Hardcoat anodized black
  • Capacity: 20+1
  • MSRP: $2,195

ASHBURY PRECISION ORDNANCE ASW50

By David Bahde

The Ashbury ASW50 starts with the proven McMillan .50 BMG action. Used on a number of custom builds, it is one of the most accurate on the market and has been proven in combat in a number of configurations. The action is smooth, strong and uses a five-round, double-stack magazine with a front-mounted, paddle-type magazine release. This design keeps things relatively compact and light and works well in adverse conditions. A fluted boltand standard bolt handle keep operation similar to any bolt-action rifle. Built to benchrest standards, the McMillan action is one of the most accurate .50 BMG actions you can get.

The rifle came with a test target showing a 0.9-inch group at 100 yards. While I wasn’t able to recreate that, I was able to wring out a 1.23-inch group in less-than-perfect conditions. Snow was everywhere at my range, and I fired the ASW50 from prone using the LRA bipod, so that is pretty good for me and a .50 BMG in those conditions. Moving out to longer ranges, the ASW50 proved very accurate. Weather conditions precluded my usual long distances, but the rifle held its accuracy out to just under 500 yards. I have little doubt that this is a 1-MOA gun or less out to as far as your particular load will hold its own.

If you are in the market for a .50 BMG and need accuracy, reliability, good ergonomics and usability, the ASW50 from Ashbury Precision Ordnance should be on your short list.

For more information, visit ashburyprecisionordnance.com or call 434-296-8600.

Specifications: ASHBURY ASW50

  • Caliber: .50 BMG
  • Barrel: 29 inches
  • OA Length: 55 inches
  • Weight: 25 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: SABER-FORSST MT50 MOD-1
  • Sights: Optics-ready Picatinny rail
  • Action: Bolt
  • Finish: Nordic Gray Cerakote
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • MSRP: $12,575

BARRETT REC7 GEN II 5.56mm

By David Bahde

It is getting more difficult with each year to wade through the sea of AR-platform rifles, especially in 5.56mm NATO. Commercial rifles are better built than ever, and prices are slowly coming down. You can really get more for your money these days than ever before. Custom rifles built on billet receivers are gaining popularity, making the sky the limit on a build. There are numerous ARs available today, and because of the platform, the possible configurations are almost infinite. There are a few companies out there dedicated to the working professional, and Barrett is one of the best. The company’s latest iteration of the REC7 in 5.56mm NATO is a perfect example of high quality, proven reliability and state-of-the-art manufacturing.

RELATED: Barrett Rec7 Gen II 5.56mm Rifle: Multi-Mission AR | Gun Review

Handling the REC7 Gen II, you immediately notice its fit and finish and how smooth it feels. Barrett designed and builds the new Gen II handguard in-house, which uses the now-prolific “KeyMod” system, allowing 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 upper receiver. A continuous top rail offers plenty of real estate for sights and optics. 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 the handguard is strong and has a solid feel. Key-slot holes are in the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. Sling-cup slots sit at the rear on either side. Inserts protect the aluminum, which is a really nice touch.

While a few factory rifles have been tested that match the quality of this rifle, none have been better. It has far more in common with my custom rifles than any factory offering. If you are looking for a solid rifle built for hard use by a proven provider of combat weapons, make sure you give the REC7 Gen II a serious look.

For more information, visit barrett.net or call 615-896-2938.

Specifications: BARRETT REC7 GEN II

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 16 inches
  • OA Length: 32-36 inches
  • Weight: 6.63 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Magpul MOE
  • Sights: Precision Reflex front and rear
  • Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
  • Finish: Cerakote
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $2,500

FN SPR A5M 7.62mm

By Denis Prisbrey

Built here in the U.S. as a family of five different model variations, FN SPRs are purpose-built primarily for the LE market, with a secondary appeal to dedicated long-range target shooters. Offered in different configurations at different price levels, all are built around the legendary Mauser 98 design that’s set the standard for reliable feeding, extraction and ejection in hard-use bolt-action rifles for well over a century of field exposure in all conditions, including extremes of weather that can shut other designs down completely.

My test rifle is the FN SPR A5M, one of the more fully featured models. Moving beyond the action, the A5M is produced with your choice of either a 20- or 24-inch heavy fluted barrel, in either 7.62mm NATO or .300 Win Short Mag, with both using a short action with a correspondingly short bolt travel for a slightly faster cycle time between shots. Another advantage of a shorter bolt travel comes in setting up optics on the provided one-piece-steel Picatinny rail; depending on the eye relief of the chosen scope, it’s easier to run the bolt fully rearward without breaking your cheekweld or losing your target acquisition through the scope if the bolt travel’s short enough to avoid running into your face. This can be a problem with longer actions and magnum calibers.

The SPR was pleasant to shoot and showed its character in the type of less-than-ideal-shooting-rest situation that the real world often dictates. If the SPR ran that well off my light portable shooting table, it should get the job done elsewhere with no trouble at all. The bolt lift and bolt run were both smooth, recoil was a non-entity, the mag does take some dexterity to load but latches securely into the bottom steel (no plastic or alloy here) of the mag well/triggerguard and drops clear via the trigger-finger-accessible right-side release button for a speedy reload if necessary, and the modified extractor can ride over a case rim if it has to for direct-chamber single-loading. All in all, the SPR A5M is a quality product from FNH USA, and it’s well worth its retail price of $2,499 for duty, competition or just plain precision satisfaction. There’s nothing about this rifle I’d regret spending my money on in any of those three areas.

For more information, visit fnhusa.com or call 703-288-3500.

Specifications: FN SPR A5M

  • Caliber: 7.62mm
  • Barrel: 24 inches
  • OA Length: 45 inches
  • Weight: 11.8 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Synthetic
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Bolt
  • Finish: Matte black
  • Capacity: 5+1
  • MSRP: $3,195

ARMALITE M-15TBN 5.56mm

By John M. Buol Jr.

The M-15TBN is a compilation of features found in the best AR-15s. Take everything that made the AR-15 dominant in High Power competition and accurate to 600 yards, such as a full-diameter barrel with a .223 Wylde chamber, a two-stage trigger and a free-floated handguard to avoid point-of-impact shifts, and add an adjustable, yet rigid, stock that still supports good shooting positions. Keep the barrel short enough for fast handling characteristics without sacrificing ballistic performance and have Picatinny rails along the top and sides for mounting any sight and accessory needed. The M-15TBN is good enough to supplant the M16A4 Modular Weapon System (MWS), the M4 series and Squad Designated Marksman Rifles (SDM-Rs), incorporating the best features of each into one package.

RELATED: Gun Review: Armalite’s M-15TBN 5.56mm

To nobody’s surprise, ArmaLite can build a great AR-15. The M-15TBN’s enhancements begin with an adjustable B5 Systems stock, fitting issued receiver extensions (buffer tube) but with a better comb for a surer cheekweld, a non-slip, cushioned buttpad and a quick-detach sling swivel. This is more rigid than the issued M4 stock and makes for a great mount. The trigger is a two-stage unit reminiscent of those in Across the Course rifles, but it’s also suitable for tactical use. It breaks cleanly and only slightly heavier than the match-grade equivalent.

ArmaLite gives its M-15TBN barrels .223 Wylde chambers, a hybrid of 5.56/.223 dimensions exploiting the accuracy advantages of the .223 with a throat that better accommodates longer and heavier bullets without pressure problems or compromising the functional reliability. It is a dominant choice in High Power for the best use of magazine-length 77-grain loads with great accuracy.

ArmaLite’s M-15TBN represents the next best step in the evolution of the AR-15. If this isn’t the face of the new M16A5, it should look pretty similar.

For more information, visit armalite.com or call 800-336-0184.

Specifications: ARMALITE M-15TBN

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 18 inches
  • OA Length: 32.2-38.5 inches
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: B5 Systems collapsible
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Hardcoat anodized black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,449

ROCK RIVER ARMS LAR-15 OPERATOR III

By David Bahde

About three years ago, RRA’s Elite Operator hit the market sporting features designed specifically for professionals. It included a SOPMOD-style stock, an Ergo pistol grip, a forged A4 upper receiver and a 1-in-9-inch twist barrel. RRA also included its excellent two-stage trigger, a Star safety selector and a free-floating Half-Quad forend with a quad-rail forward section and a smooth rear portion. It proved very popular, resulting in a second generation followed by RRA’s latest rendition, the Operator III.

RELATED: Gun Review: Rock River Arms’ LAR-15 Operator III

The new Operator III starts with a forged LAR-15 lower receiver featuring RRA’s proven two-stage trigger, oversized winter triggerguard and Star safety selector. A Hogue rubber pistol grip provides for comfort and control, and an RRA Operator CAR buttstock is installed on the six-position buffer tube.

Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, the 16-inch, chrome-moly, heavy barrel has a 1-in-9-inch twist rate and is capped with the new Operator muzzle brake. The RRA TRO (Top Rail Octagonal) handguard covers the barrel and mid-length gas system, which utilizes a low-profile gas block. This forend is lightweight, comfortable and can be customized with various lengths of Picatinny rails as needed. The continuous top rail makes it easy for operators to mount any optics, sights and accessories. Two mil-spec, 30-round magazines are included in the Operator III’s hard case.

The rifle’s fit and finish were excellent as usual, and the Operator III is perfectly suited to duty work of any kind. RRA’s two-stage trigger remains one of the best you can get without the high-dollar price tag. It remains reliable under hard use yet provides for significant precision when needed. The winter triggerguard offers plenty of room for gloved hands, certainly critical in climates with cold winters or where tactical gloves are used.

Overall, Rock River Arms’ Operator III is in keeping with its lineage, providing a fantastic base for any duty rifle. With a suggested retail price of just $1,065, it is a fantastic buy. Just add a light, sights of your choice and some sling attachments and you are ready to operate on any level.

For more information, rockriverarms.com or call 866-980-7625.

Specifications: ROCK RIVER ARMS LAR-15 OPERATOR III

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 16 inches
  • OA Length: 33-37 inches
  • Weight: 8 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Operator CAR
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Hardcoat anodized black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,065

KORSTOG VAR 5.56mm

By Michael O. Humphries

Korstog Rifles, a sister company to Huldra Arms and part of the Mills Fleet Farm family, has recently started offering a line of DGIS rifles that combine impressive quality with the tried-and-true operating system of the U.S. military’s M4 Carbine and M16 series of weapons. But what is interesting about this is the fact that Mills Fleet Farms’ first dive into the AR market was with its full line of Huldra Arms gas piston guns. Manufactured by Adams Arms, the piston-operated Huldra line sidestepped the DGIS system entirely.

RELATED: Gun Test: 5.56mm NATO Korstog Var Carbine

At its core, the Korstog Var immediately struck me as a 5.56mm NATO carbine equipped with top-end features for the discerning AR enthusiast. While the strength of the AR is its modular nature and a shooter’s ability to reconfigure it into numerous variations, there is undoubtedly a market for buyers who want an AR that is fully equipped with quality parts from the factory and ready for duty. I believe it is just this segment of the market to which the Var caters.

The Var is designed to deliver extreme performance in as compact a package as possible (without running afoul of short-barreled rifle restrictions). The Melonite-coated, 5.56mm NATO-chambered barrel, manufactured from chome-moly-vanadium 4150 steel and featuring a 1-in-7-inch twist rate, is 14.5 inches long. To bring the barrel up to a full 16-inch legal length, it has an A2-style muzzle brake/flash suppressor machined into its muzzle.

With the Var, Korstog has come right out of the gate with a winner. If this rifle’s quality and performance is representative of the entire brand, then I think this will be a company to watch in the future. For those who prefer their AR to run with the established DGIS system and also want a ready-to-go duty carbine outfitted with top-tier components, the Var warrants a very close look.

For more information, visit korstog.com or call 218-822-2804.

Specifications: KORSTOG VAR

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 14.5 inches (16 inches with integral brake)
  • OA Length: 32.3-35.6 inches
  • Weight: 6.1 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: Vltor IMod
  • Sights: Optics-ready Picatinny rail
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Hardcoat anodized black
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,549.99

TACTICAL RIFLES M40A1 7.62mm

By Richard Mann

The M40A1 has served on more deployments than almost any other American military weapon system. Again and again, it has proven the worth of one man and a good-shooting rifle. Long-range or sniper-styled rifles are all the rage today, and if you look at modern examples of the concept, many resemble an M40A1 about as much as a duck looks like a chicken. The thing is, correctly assembled with quality components, the old M40A1 will hold its own on the battlefield with any of its modern counterparts.

Tactical Rifles, based out of Zephyrhills, Florida, has assembled a limited-production run of M40A1-styled rifles built on Remington 700 actions. These rifles will take you back in time and are nostalgically appealing examples of one of the most famous precision rifles to ever send a bullet toward an American GI’s enemy.

David Rooney is the man behind Tactical Rifles. Rooney is a former British infantryman who moved to Florida in 1991. He began building precision rifles as a hobby, but for the last 11 years that’s all he has done. Currently, Tactical Rifles offers a variety of precision long guns, including its Tactical Long Range, which is built on a Remington 700 or Tactical Rifle’s own Chimera action. The company also offers a .300 Winchester Magnum version of the M40, a Classic Sporter and a variety of ARs. I recently had the chance to test Tactical Rifles’ M40A1.

Tactical Rifles’ M40A1 has the throwback allure and sentimental tactical appeal any true rifleman will appreciate. American scout snipers have been pulling triggers on rifles just like this—to take and save lives—for a long time. Shooting the Tactical Rifles M40A1 is not like crawling up behind the latest long-range wonder cannon—it’s an old school approach to a tactical problem and, based on what I observed while testing the M40A1, there’s nothing wrong with old school.

For more information, visit tacticalrifles.net.

Specifications: TACTICAL RIFLES M40A1

  • Caliber: 7.62mm NATO
  • Barrel: 24 inches
  • OA Length: 43.25 inches
  • Weight: 11 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: McMillan HTG
  • Sights: None
  • Action: Bolt
  • Finish: Matte blue
  • Capacity: 4+1
  • MSRP: $3,740

BRAVO HSP JACK CARBINE 5.56mm

By Jorge Amselle

Bravo Company recently teamed up with Haley Strategic Partners (HSP), an advanced training and operations company founded by Travis Haley, a Force Reconnaissance Marine combat veteran. Haley also served as a special operations and security contractor, and was the founder and CEO of Magpul’s training division.

RELATED: Bravo’s Multi-Mission 5.56mm HSP Jack Carbine

The result of this collaboration was the Bravo HSP Jack Carbine, a semi-automatic, direct-impingement AR chambered in 5.56mm NATO with a custom-designed mid-length gas system. HSP and BCM worked together to tune the gas system for maximum reliability. A mid-length gas tube reduces the amount of 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.

The 14.5-inch barrel has a 1-in-7-inch twist rate and is made from certified mil-spec 11595E steel with a standard government profile. A BCM Gunfighter compensator is permanently welded to establish a legal minimum 16-inch overall barrel length. This tactical compensator is a marked improvement over the standard A2-style flash suppressor and features tuned slots and interior cones that significantly reduce recoil and muzzle rise while also almost eliminating the rifle’s flash signature. The design also minimizes the usual disruptive-to-team-members side blast produced by most compensators.

The minimal barrel length makes the rifle much handier for vehicle egress and in tight quarters when having to deploy inside a building. The muzzle device is also compatible with A2-style flash suppressors increasing, its versatility with zero effort. This is a mission-designed rifle with the extra features that users will be sure to appreciate.

For more information, visit bravocompanyusa.com or call 877-272-8626.

Specifications: BRAVO HSP JACK CARBINE

  • Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
  • Barrel: 14.5 inches (16 w/compensator)
  • OA Length: 32-35.25 inches
  • Weight: 6.7 pounds (empty)
  • Stock: B5 SOPMOD Bravo
  • Sights: Troy folding front and rear
  • Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
  • Finish: Disruptive Grey Cerakote
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $2,195

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