Stag Arms started manufac-turing complete rifles in 2003. (Up until that time, its work had centered on parts manufacturing.) As luck would have it, Stag Arms President Mark Malkowski is left-handed, so the company was offering left-handed AR-15s right off the bat. Southpaws were soon flocking to those rifles, and Stag Arms earned a eputation for making ARs that could be trusted and ARs designed for “other handed” folks. But the company didn’t stop there. Next came its piston-driven AR, the Model 8.
The piston-driven Stag Arms Model 8 was well received by the gun community. It is still available for $1,145 (the left-handed model costs $1,175), but to stay current, Stag Arms is now offering an enhanced version of the rifle. The Model 8T, like its predecessor, is a mil-spec, piston-driven AR, but some Diamondhead accessories have been added to the 8T. Stag Arms has replaced the Model 8’s conventional, military-style, plastic handguard with a 10-inch Diamondhead VRS “T” free-floating handguard. This is one of the most, if not the most, comfortable AR handguards I have ever gripped. It has a triangular shape with a flat on the bottom. Everyone I handed this rifle to remarked how comfortable it felt—it sort of just fits your hand. This is partially due to the handguard’s shape, but its small circumference (only 6.25 inches including the Picatinny top rail) and the scallop cuts along the bottom two corners also help.
The handguard is well vented with oblong cuts along the top edge and the bottom. Just below and between these cuts you’ll find threaded holes to allow for the attachment of accessory rails in case you want to mount a laser, light or vertical foregrip. It is indeed a well thought-out AR accessory, and makes for an excellent standard feature in the Model 8T.
For sights, Stag Arms again turned to Diamondhead. The Model 8T comes with flip-up front and rear Diamondhead sights. These are all-aluminum sights that flip up and can then be put back down by depressing a large button on the sights’ base. The front sight is adjustable for elevation just like any mil-spec AR sight, and the rear sight is screw-adjustable for windage. But what really stands out are the rear sight’s apertures. Most AR-15s have a rear sight with a small and large circular aperture—one for close range and one for long range. The Diamondhead rear sight has, you guessed it, diamond-shaped apertures. It helps you center the front post for proper elevation. However, if you are used to the standard round aperture, it will probably take some getting used to. The protective wings on the front sight are also in a diamond configuration.
I did a decent amount of shooting with these sights, and it took a magazine or two for my eyes to get used to them. But once we were all properly introduced, getting hits from the off-hand position on my Action Target steel torso target was easy enough out to 175 yards. The Diamondhead sights also appeared to be fairly rugged. When folded, they only protruded 0.55 inches above the Picatinny rail that runs the upper receiver’s length, and extended just over 9 inches along the top of the Diamondhead VRS “T” handguard.
For the most part, the rest of this rifle, including the six-position folding stock, is what you would expect from any mil-spec AR-15. Although the mil-spec trigger should get an above-average rating. I believe that a rifle, no matter its intended use or cost, deserves a good trigger. The Model 8T’s trigger had a bit of creep, but it was not gritty. It broke consistently between 5.5 and 6.5 pounds. Now, while this might not sound all that great, trust me, this is better than normal as out-of-the-box, non-custom AR-15s go. Still, if the rifle were mine, I’d install a Timney trigger first thing.
I installed Leupold’s new Mark AR 1-4x riflescope with the SPR FireDot reticle, which might just be perfect for the AR. Attached to the Stag Arms Model 8T with Leupold’s IMS cantilever one-piece mount, the scope could be mounted right over the top of the rear sight when it was folded down. By simply loosening two screws, the scope and mount can be removed to allow the use of open sights, and it can be reinstalled without losing zero. This scope and mount system turned out to be perfect companions to the Model 8T.
In all, I fired over 150 rounds through the Stag Arms Model 8T: 80 rounds from the bench, five to zero the weapon, and 75 to test the rifle’s precision on target. The rifle ran flawlessly, with no malfunctions of any kind. Bench testing was conducted with a 50-grain load from Winchester, a 55-grain load from Hornady and a 69-grain load from Buffalo Bore. With a 1-in-9-inch twist rate, I expected the rifle to handle all those loads well. The 8T did great with the 55-grain Hornady TAP FPD, and the 50-grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip delivered about average performance. The Buffalo Bore 69-grain HPBT did not do as well. Testing was conducted in 33-degree, and it was the last load tested; my fingers, as we say here in West Virginia, were as cold as a well digger’s bottom.
As far as ARs go, the Stag Arms Model 8T seems to be a reliable and accurate option for anyone in search of a piston-driven gun. If you consider that it comes standard with $336 worth of Diamondhead accessories, it is indeed a great value. And there’s a left-handed variant too! For more information, visit stagarms.com or call 860-229-9994.
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