The interest in military grade AR rifles and carbines is almost staggering. Every manufacturer making such a gun is selling just about everything they can make and then the accessory manufacturers are doing their best to keep up. But just because the gun resembles an AR-15, does that mean it’s made to the same high standards? It is important to understand that a gun does not meet “military specifications” (mil-spec) unless it is a gun actually sold to the military. How could it? The only entity that can attest that something is truly mil-spec is the military and normally they have purchased it. That said, it is possible for a manufacturer to build their guns to specifications that match those established by the military. However, that requires more effort than just building a gun that has a 5.56mm chamber, a flat top and a rail system on the fore-end.

stag2.gifMore than a few manufacturers of AR-15’s buy their components from other companies. For the last 30 years, Stag Arms has been making AR-15 components that have been used in guns that carry a bigger name than their own. Company President Mark Malkowski grew up around the AR parts business, so when it came time to take control of the company, he decided that he would not only make the best parts, he would also offer the best gun that he could build and he has done so. Best known for their innovative left hand ARs, Stag Arms builds the most accurate and reliable AR-15s that I have ever used.

As I travel across the country teaching training courses, I talk to students about their “kit” and I always want to know what works for them. Across the board, everyone I have spoken with who uses a Stag Arms rifle or carbine is very happy with their gun.

Gun Details
Stag Arms has added a model to their line that they call the Model 2T (2TL is the left-hand version) which, of course, means Model 2 Tactical mostly because it has a Picatinny rail fore-end instead of a traditional polymer version. As best as I can tell, this is the only difference between this gun and their original Model 2, which is a 16-inch carbine with a flat top receiver and a traditional tower front sight. The Model 1 has a carry handle receiver while the Model 3 has a flat top receiver and front sight mount. The fore-end rail system makes a lot of sense for military personnel, who are issued a number of accessories essential to their mission, but I have long been curious just what the street cop or citizen who uses such a gun for defense does with all that rail? Rail covers made by TangoDown or the rubber inserts made by SureFire are hot sellers, so it leads me to believe that more rails are covered than used. I admit that the railed fore-end does look cool, which is enough, but is this a good reason to spend more money? That is up to each and every one of us to decide.

The aluminum Picatinny fore-end that Stag Arms uses on the Model 2T is made by Samson Manufacturing (Star C Quad Rail), who makes some of the best AR-15 accessories available. The flat top receiver comes from the factory with an ARMS 40L flip-up rear sight. This sight is unique in that it offers not only a traditional peep-style sight picture; it also offers a sight notch for fast target acquisition in close quarters. The barrel is a 16-inch chrome-lined 1-in-9-inch twist, which will work just fine with most any bullet weight or style. The gun is chambered for 5.56mm NATO, which means that it will also shoot .223 without problem. Many do not realize that the 5.56mm and .223 are not identical. Dimensions and pressures are different, so it would behoove you to study up on the differences before you buy.

The rear stock is a 6-position collapsible style that is adequate for field use, but I would prefer the new Vltor Enhanced Modstock, which has been upgraded with a rubber butt pad and is an inch longer to offer greater adaptability. The Modstock offers compartments for carrying additional batteries or other essential items. These battery compartments also offer additional surface for a more consistent cheek weld that enhances accuracy.

Optics & Accessories
Speaking of accuracy, since the receiver is flat with rails, some type of scope is a must. Optics designed for the flat top AR are numerous and it can be daunting trying to decide which one is right for you. You must ask yourself what you will use this rifle for. Unless you are heading to Iraq or Afghanistan, it is likely the gun will be used for law enforcement or personal defense, meaning that the gun is going to be used in close quarters. According to research conducted by several police organizations the typical SWAT sharpshooter’s shot is taken between 50 and 60 yards. Many police agencies I have spoken with tell me that their patrol rifle engagements have occurred between 50 and 60 feet. Thus an optic of three to four power might be a bit of “over-kill” as well as restricting one’s field of view. Most will be best served with a simple dot optic and one of the best is Trijicon’s new RX30.

The RX30 is a self-luminous optic that does not use batteries and is powered by a combination of tritium and fiber optics. The 42mm lens gives the most field of view of any optic currently available that’ll prove to be handy in close quarters. Its parallax-free design means that an accurate shot can be taken even if the shooter is not directly behind the sight, something that can be important if shooting from behind cover. Manufactured using cast A356-T6 aluminum, the RX30 is tough enough for street or battlefield use. The Amber dot is easy to see in both dark and light environments and the new unit is filtered so that the dot does not “ghost out” in bright light. The RX30 can be ordered from the factory with a variety of mounts. My test unit came with the ARMS #15 Throw Lever mount.

While the Stag Model 2T came with a set of very serviceable rail covers, I decided that I would use the Rail Grip made by TangoDown. They offer superior protection for the rails while being easy to slide on and off. The aggressive texturing offers a solid grip surface regardless of environmental factors. They are offered in 2.88-, 3.75-, and 6-inch lengths so just the amount of rail needed is exposed.

In addition to the Rail Grip, I also added one of the famed TangoDown Battle Grips that are molded to accept a white light or laser sight pressure pad. I believe a white light is essential on any combative long gun, as the support hand is not available to hold a white light as when using a handgun.

Like optics, there are an infinite number of weapon lights available for the AR-15, but few are as good as those made by SureFire. Being a “Simple Is Good” kind of guy, I prefer the M600C Scout Light. This LED light offers 120 lumens of “blinding light,” more than enough to light up any area that I am likely to find myself in. This thin, sleek light is equipped with an integral thumbscrew clamp that makes it easy to mount to any rail surface. The removable pressure switch can be mounted via Velcro to any surface, but if you don’t trust Velcro then rubber inner tube can be your best friend.

Be careful adding accessories to your carbine since it is quite easy to take a light gun (the Model 2T is just over 7 pounds with optic) and turn it into a 12-pound behemoth that no one would want. Additionally, not all worthwhile accessories are attached to the gun. Some of the best accessories are intended for the gun’s operator and the best come from Eagle Industries. Their load bearing systems, related pouches and other accessories are well thought out and some of the best available. They have put together an entire line of gear directed at Active Shooter Response, which is of primary concern for many law enforcement agencies/officers worldwide. The Stag Arms Model 2T would be the perfect long gun for this important function and would be even better when supported by Eagle gear.

The M4 Chest Pouch is made with law enforcement in mind. This MOLLE-style rig offers instant access to as many as six 30-shot AR magazines or a first aid kit. Easy to put on and off, the M4 Chest Pouch can be worn over a patrol uniform and body armor. If this pouch seems a bit much, the Patrol Bandoleer may be more to your liking. This ballistic nylon, shoulder-carried response kit holds two 30-shot magazines and two pistol magazines or a flashlight. It can be grabbed and thrown over your head in mere seconds, giving an officer a greater ammunition capability. This pouch can also be ordered to hold shotgun and pistol ammo, if desired. In addition to strap-on carry systems, Eagle also offers full carry vests that are MOLLE compatible and can be configured in any fashion the end user desires. If Eagle does not offer it, it probably isn’t made.

Range Time
The truth be told, I expected this Stag Arms carbine to be super accurate and I was not disappointed. I headed to the range with my shooting partner, Jack “Happy Jack” Yahle and while en route, I told Jack that I would not be surprised if this 16-inch carbine was MOA accurate. With a 1-in-9-inch rate of twist, the Stag Model 2T should be able to handle just about any common weight of 5.56mm ammo. While I have some 40-grain “Blitz” ammo, I no longer consider this a viable weight for combative purposes, so I opted to test the Model 2T with everything from 55- to 77-grain ammo. I sighted in the Trijicon RX30 with some American Eagle 55-grain FMJ, which took about 20 rounds.

The Model 2T shot some very impressive groups regardless of ammo weight or style. As 5.56mm is getting both rare and expensive, I decided to shoot three-round groups to save on ammo. I fired each ammo style at 100 yards from a Hornady Delta Rest. The unguarded rail ended up being a real blessing, as it grabbed on to the plastic rest and held it tightly in place. The  Amber Reflex Dot fit right over the black 8-inch “Dirty Bird” targets supplied by Birchwood Casey. All I had to do was hold the dot in place.

Both the Hornady 60-grain TAP and Black Hills 77-grain BTHP are excellent loads and would be a good choice for the Stag 2T. The Black Hills round has proven itself over and over again in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the soldiers and Marines that I have spoken with who have used it in combat universally sing its praises. I think that Jeff Hoffman and his crew at Black Hills just might have answered many people’s concerns over the effectiveness of the 5.56mm cartridge.

As previously stated, 5.56 ammo is expensive and I did not want to shoot a lot, however, it would not be a legitimate gun test if I did not try and “jam” the gun. With this thought in mind, I used some old reloaded .223 FMJ that had been in my attic for over a decade; it needed to be shot. I loaded it and shot a number of drills as fast as I could work the trigger. It was raining, so I threw the gun into a nearby puddle and continued to shoot it. After 300 rounds of this I stopped, as the gun did not miss a beat and never acted like it would.

This level of accuracy and performance is not really surprising considering I know for a fact that every part that is put into a Stag Arms rifle or carbine is hand built and fitted from components that are made in house. Few manufacturers of AR-15’s can make that claim and that is what separates Stag Arms from the rest of the pack. By the way, the comment I made about not owning the gun? Well, it’s not true. I bought this slick little carbine, “tactical” features and all.

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