Colt’s Manufacturing/Colt Defense (they have recently merged) had a “3-Gun” model out at SHOT Media Day this year. I thought it seemed odd that they would compete with their sister company, Colt Competition (a separate company based in Breckenridge, TX).
The “new” rifle (I’m pretty sure they had one very similar out there last year) is built off of an LE-901 receiver that was CNC’ed down to an AR-15 pattern right before the show, according to the Colt rep. The rifle’s upper receiver and forend are one piece of billet, with modular rail sections and integrated QD sling mounts.
The barrel is a 16″ 1/7 twist with a carbine-length gas system, capped with a folding front sight/gas block and an A2 flash hider out front. An extension piece bolts onto the handguard, extending past the gas block to make the total length around 12 inches.
The lower sports a standard M4 stock (people actually still use those outside the military?), A2 grip, ambidextrous safety, and the LE901′s ambi bolt/magazine controls. The trigger is the stock model that goes in all Colt’s semi-auto carbines.
3-Gunners right now will be raising their eyebrows or making this face:
Now, the best part of this rifle is the handguard, but most 3-Gunners will agree that 12″ is too short for a 16″ rifle (I run a 15″ on my 18″ and 16″ rifles). The folding sight/gas block is unnecessary as most matches now allow a non-magnified optic in the Limited of “Tac Irons” division, and serious Irons shooters would not be satisfied with the short sight radius that the carbine-length gas block provides (most prefer an extended front sight near the end of the barrel, or at least at the standard A2 rifle-gas position).
The A2 flash hider is easy for Colt’s inventory, but again any 3-Gun rifle designed for the sport has at least some form of compensator to keep muzzle climb and rearward recoil to a minimum. The factory trigger sucks just like any other mil-spec/stock trigger group does (if you’re a serious AR shooter in any discipline, you know what I’m talking about).
It’s not uncommon to run a 16″ but usually that’s done by newer shooters running gear they already have, or the match is closer-range (≤200 yards) such as a 3-Gun Nation match (or a club match with short bays). But most matches worth traveling to are “outlaw” matches, most of which requiring shots out beyond 300 yards. It is for this reason most 3-Gun rifles utilize an 18″ barrel, with a 1:8 or 1:9 twist:
- The extra two inches adds a bit of velocity (not a whole lot) which means less drop and more impact on reactive targets at long range.
- It runs a rifle-length gas system, which is lower-pressure than the carbine-length system and feels much softer to the shooter. Other 16″ and 14.5″ guns use a “mid-length” gas system for the same reason.
- A 1:8 or 1:9 twist will stabilize a lighter bullet better than a 1:7. This is less of an issue as many competitors use a 69, 75 or 77 grain bullet for long range targets (better in wind, more impact on steel).
Now, I don’t mean to pick on Colt here, but I honestly don’t think they consulted any decent 3-Gun shooters when they specced this rifle (I’m only marginally sure it’s actually for 3-Gun, not just a cool proof-of-concept on that monolithic upper). I told the Colt representatives my thoughts on what it needed to be “3G” ready and they took it very well, but I honestly don’t think they’ll take it anywhere (they were showing the same rifle with a different receiver last year, it hasn’t come out, or even been announced yet). This rifle is really cool from an AR manufacturing standpoint and like any Colt AR it’s very well built, but as a 3-Gun model it’s a loser.
Bushmaster also came out with a new 3-Gun rifle this year. While Bushmaster may get a bad rap amongst AR snobs, this rifle is really close to being an awesome 3G model. It’s got a good trigger, ergonomic choices that make sense, and a very effective comp on the end. The barrel is the right twist (1/8) and it’s even got a cool-looking receiver set (anodized “crimson”).
But it appears as though the design team took the “competition” theme of the rifle too far, underestimating the need for accessory mounting capability that some matches require. It would also seem that they alienate competitors in the Open division, and guys like me who like offset sights.
AP Customs makes the handguard for the new “3-Gun Enhanced Carbine”. AP is a big supporter of 3-Gun and they make a sweet carbon-fiber handguard (as well as some slick shell caddies). The standard model can accept AP’s own rail sections, bipod stud and sling mount. The “Tactical” model even sports a full length rail along the top.
But the model on the Bushmaster appears to be a special run with a different slot design (that looks like it won’t accept any “modular” rail sections I know of). There’s also no provisions for topside mounting of sights, or a 2-point sling. Granted you could run some 550 cord between the slots for an HK hook, but I’m not sure I’d rely on that small a section of carbon fiber to support the entire rifle (I shouldn’t have to loop 550 cord around a $1,750 rifle anyway).
It’s cool though, they shaved like an ounce off of a six ounce handguard. What is this “diminishing returns” you speak of?
Again, I’m not picking on Bushmaster, their new carbine surely has more “shred” in it than the Colt’s MFG (NOT COLT COMPETITION). It can be a winner at a 3-Gun Nation Pro or Club match, but for a serious 3-Gunner who’ll shoot outlaw matches, it leaves a lot to be desired. From where I am, most major matches within driving distance will require either a sling or weapon-mounted light to compete.
Perhaps follow the example of…
Here are a few “3G” model rifles that can do anything a 3-Gunner requires. As you can see, with the recent developments in “modular” rail systems, a 3-Gun rifle can go far in the accessory department while still staying “slick” and comfortable to shoot.
Colt Competition (NOT COLT”S MFG) is the gold standard in a “Commercial, Off the Shelf” 3-Gun rifle. All their models are set up to be good-to-go for whatever match you’d use it in. Their counter to the Bushmaster is the CRP-16.
The two-stage Geissele trigger is a bit of a different stroke from the very short Timney trigger of the Bushmaster, and unfortunately the handguard is only 12 inches (as opposed to the Bushmaster’s 15″), BUT it comes with modular rail sections for a bipod or weapon-mounted light (for a night match). The CTR stock can mount a sling and the rails could accept a low-profile QD sling mount. Like all or Colt Comp’s “Pro” models, it features their awesome tool-less adjustable gas block (one of the biggest reasons to pick a CR Pro over a competitive product).
Colt Competition Rifle (or “CCR”) also offers what I consider to be the best out-of-the-box 3-Gun rifle short of a JP, the CRP-18.
As the model number implies, the CRP-18 features an 18″ barrel with very distinctive fluting. The same adjustable gas block and compensator (which is very effective, by the way) keep the gun shooting flat and smooth, and the 15″ Samson Evolution handguard provides plenty of accessory mounting potential. A friend of mine (who shoots in the Open division) has two of the CCRs, and I’ve been very impressed with their handling and quality of manufacture.
There’s a reason Colt Competition’s rifles are set up so well for 3-Gun; the people behind CCR are all 3-Gunners (I have shot with nearly all of them). The CRP models were born on the 3-Gun range.
They were not, contrary to popular belief, “Born on the Bayou”.
Doublestar and Stag also offer strong offerings in the 3-Gun market. Both are 18″ guns wtih 15″ Evolution handguards, but neither feature adjustable gas. The Doublestar has a Timney single-stage trigger and Ace ARFX fixed stock, while the Stag sports Geissele’s Super 3-Gun trigger and a collapsible Magpul ACS stock.
Doublestar 3-Gun Rifle
Stag 3G model
Both rifles have some excellent features, and the price tag $300-400 less than the CCR, respectively) but the included compensators on both rifles leave a little to be desired (I’ve shot the DSC, heard reports from Stag 3G owners). Still, you won’t go wrong buying either one as a new shooter, and it’s not like compensators are hard to change.
If you’re into something a bit outside the norm, Adams Arms offers their new 3-Gun rifle, the C.O.R. (Competition, Optics-Ready). Like Adams Arms’ other rifles, the C.O.R. is piston driven. As you can see Adams also offers the rifle in Kryptek camo patterns. I haven’t had the chance to shoot the new rifle but everything looks good on paper, although I’m not sure how the piston will affect the recoil impulse.
A different approach:
Perhaps some of the bigger companies that haven’t entered into the 3-Gun market can do so with a different approach. This SIG M400 “Varmint” rifle gave me a thought:
Varmint model on the bottom
The Varmint M400 comes with a simple thread protector instead of a muzzle device. This kind of jives with my thoughts on the Stag and Doublestar 3-Gun rifles, they just need a better comp to be ready-to-roll. A lower MSRP and a $100.00 gift certificate to, say, Brownell’s, would let the shooter pick their comp of choice (right now mine is the SJC Titan).
The same logic could be applied to pistol grips and collapsible stocks (everybody has their preference on that sort of thing, and they don’t require any special tools to replace). The standard grips on most factory ARs are too small for my massive paws, so I replace them with Ergo’s tactical deluxe (fattest grip on the market), but most shooters find my grip too big for their little fairy hands. A cheapo A2 grip and a $30 Rainier Arms certificate would go a long way.
No longer necessary for a solid 3-Gun build.
Now, I prefer to build my own rifles, but if you don’t want to spend the coin on the tools (and time on the build) there are lots of options out there for a 3-Gun rifle.