Friday, May 7, 2010

I BRAKE FOR AR-15's - The Wilson Combat Tactical

It's Saturday . Time for a range date with the Wilson Combat Tactical AR-15

There has been a lot of activity in AR-15 purchasing this last year. Although I've purchased other firearms of this type, including a nifty little Bushmaster Shorty, and have more than one AR15 in the house, this is by far my favorite.

From the manufacturer, it was a tight little weapon that was surprisingly nimble and light. Add in some extra features and I had a gun that was going to be with me for the long haul.Forged upper (flat top) and lower receivers
Premium Wilson Combat® Match-Grade Fluted Barrel 16.25
Wilson Combat® Tactical Muzzle Brake
Free-Float Ventilated Aluminum Handguard
ERGO Ergonomically Correct Pistol Grip
Crisp 3-3.5# Trigger Pull with JP Trigger/ Hammer Group
Premium Mil-Spec Bolt and Bolt Carrier
NP-3 Coated Hard Anodize Finish on Receivers
Mil-Spec Black Manganese Phosphate (Parkerized) on Barrel and Steel Components

The Magpul PRS stock was an add-on. If you aren't familiar, it's a drop in replacement for A1 or A2 standard AR15/M16 Stocks. The Magpul PRS(TM), the PRS is adjustable for both cheek riser height and length-of-pull with out sacrificing the durability necessary to withstand the operational environment. Machined aluminum adjustment knobs have positive-locking click detents to maintain position under recoil and allow easy, tool-less adjustments by simply rotating the knobs.
The butt plate is machined aluminum and the steel shaft provides stability and the strength to weather severe impact conditions,( ow, ow, ow). Even without their new rubber butt pad, it didn't slip at all. Trust me, if it won't slip with body armor or modular gear it's not going to slip on you out at the conservation club. A bottom rail is Picatinny-style allowing for monopod use, or additional sling mounts. Stock includes all mounting hardware for A1 and A2 type rifles with fixed stocks. Two color choices, (this one matches my purse. . . just kidding) and made in the U.S.A.
Just slip off your old stock and slide this one on. Uses the existing buffer and tube. It provides for adjustable length of pull and comb height adjustments via click wheels. Installation is simple. Simply remove the screw that holds on the factory stock and slide the stock off. You then slide the PRS onto the rifle length buffer tube without the small A2 spacer. Install the screw through the rear of the buttplate. Voilà. As I said before, the height of the cheek piece is adjustable via a machined aluminum adjustment dial with detents that are discernible, adjusting up from standard height up aprox. ¾ of in inch. You can can adjust the buttplate in the same manner. Fully extended it is over 11 ¼ inches long which is about ½ inch longer than the A2 buttstock.
It's nice, solid, and the pieces don't shimmy, move or rattle about. This stock is several years old, and has been worked hard, yet it doesn't look much different than when it was new.

In addition, Magpul, is a company that can do no wrong, at least so far as I have seen. I have yet to have a poor experience with any of their products or their customer service.
One friend cautioned me that these weapons don't hold up well in the field, but I haven't seen that at all. It's built pretty solid, yet isn't so heavy that a smaller than average shooter can't handle it well. The JP Trigger Group fitted to the lower receiver provides a superb single-stage pull, breaking cleanly at about 3 1/4 pounds. One might expect a heavy, creepy trigger on a semi-auto like this, but it is just not there.
The Wilson match-grade barrels are made of 4140 steel, fluted to reduce weight while retaining rigidity. The barrels are machined with a 1:9-inch twist, providing bullet stability over a wide range of bullet weights. The steel handguard adds to the elements of design that enhance accuracy. Wilson match-grade barrels are made of 4140 steel, fluted to reduce weight while retaining rigidity. The barrels are machined with a 1:9-inch twist, providing bullet stability over a wide range of bullet weights.
Not including the brake, barrel length is 15 inches.,with barrel length at 16.25 inches on the carbine, including the permanently fitted muzzle brake. The overall compact length (just a little over 34 inches) and short barrel make this a weapon that is not only east but is FAST to handle. Here it is, next to the Garand and a couple guns down from the Panther Arms SASS Tactical .308. The difference in size is pronounced, but the AR's firepower is impressive.

click to enlarge photo
The downside however, is that the short barrel and brake make this a very loud weapon that will get your attention. Comparing it to a .223 fired from a longer barrel, the difference in report is remarkable. But then, this isn't a weapon you are expecting to be shooting in the "stealth" mode after that first shot rings out. Every one is going to know you are there. The good guys are going to be coming over to ask "where can I get one of those" as soon as the bad guys are nothing more than shreds on the floor.

Therefore, good hearing protection is a must. I've shot mine indoors at a LEO range and cheap ear muffs were not going to cut it unless I are opting for enhanced "selective hearing".

(Oh, sorry Hon, I thought you said "bring me another bear").The flat-top Wilson receiver with Picatinny rail gives you some good choices for sighting equipment. Mine came with a large target scope that seemed a little out of place on the trim little carbine. It looked like a scope with a rifle attached. So I added an EoTech 511. I really like the EOTech. My friend Bob of Cowboyblob fame liked his so much he bought two of them. If you get one with a bare lower, you might also consider free floated 16" with a flat top and either an EOTech or ACOG (love the TA-31). EOTech Holographic patterns have been designed to be instantly visible in any light, instinctive to center regardless of shooting angle, and to remain in view while sweeping the engagement zone. Reticles are engineered as large, see-through patterns to achieve lightning quick reticle to target acquisition without covering or obscuring the point of aim. Snow, mud, even a shattered laminate screen from opposite fire -it still functions. As long as the shooter can see through any portion of the window, the entire reticle pattern is visible on target. The PRS was a nice accompaniment. Its nimble weight and correct balance made for fast target acquisition and transitions between targets. Add in that superb trigger and the very efficient muzzle brake and you will be quite pleased.
Sighting it in was easy. When zeroing an optic like the EOTech, the windage and elevation adjustments usually are to a given fraction of minute of angle (the owner's manual should tell you). Start with the dot of the EOTech right on the dot of the boresighter if you're using one. You will likely need to adjust it a fair amount to get them to overlap, but it doesn't take too long. As in anything, the boresighter is to get you on paper, not to get it perfectly dialed in without firing a shot.If you don't use a boresight, you can just set the optic to hit right at the sights, especially if you have iron sights that are already zeroed and will be back up. This method can get you closer than a boresighter.

I've never used a red dot or any kind of laser sight on my pistols, don't need to, but this is pretty handy on the AR for this type of shooting. Some folks take a little getting used to it, as they don't understand the point of reflex and red dot optics. You don't necessarily line up the red dot with the front site; you don't have to line it up carefully with one eye closed. You simply keep both eyes open, put the red dot on Mr. Target and squeeze the trigger.

.223 ammo was scarce for a while but it's becoming more available. Reloading will go a long way towards providing a lot of ammo for practice. If barrier penetration IS an important factor (and if you understand what barrier penetration means I don't have to explain), I'd recommend:

* 62 gr Federal bonded JSP Tactical (LE223T3)

* 55 gr Federal bonded JSP load (Tactical––LE223T1 or identical Premium Rifle––P223T2)

Again, just my personal choice. Others will recommend other things, and some folks aren't as fussy if their targets aren't shooting back at them.

Accuracy with both the Federal and the homegrown loads was good. Some standard five shot groups were in the range of 1.1 to 1.3 inches, with the weapon not being too particular on ammunition, though it did appear to do the best with Federal. You can get some better accuracy with the heavy barrel AR's, down to 1/4 MOA, but for the type of shooting you may do with this weapon, even for some longer distance varmint shooting, the distance accuracy is solid.

For a target much past 300 yards you're going to be needing greater magnification, as MOA is more of a factor on a small target. For that the EOTech would be replaced by a scope such as Leopold VX-III.
There are times when extreme accuracy and the ability for rapid follow-up shots are the most important criteria in selecting a rifle. This gun is engineered, designed, and built to deliver un-matched accuracy at great distance with the right scope. If you have always thought you needed a bolt action rifle for long range accuracy, think again.

If you are thinking defense, you can't go wrong. It's not cheap, but it's money wisely spent. If you are a varmint hunter – think nail-driving accuracy in a package that weighs less than a small bag of flour. Then imagine up to 30 rounds for consecutive shots. Coyotes or other pesky critters trying to take what is yours? This would do the trick. The Wilson Combat Tactical AR-15 in trained hands? A firearm worth stopping to take a look at.


  1. I must say I'd really like to get my hands on your buttstock.

    Seriously now, I would read magazines more often if they wrote like this. Your rifle looks like a set of well-matched components, and if it is dependable then it looks like a recipe I might start with.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll have another bear. (I roffled when I read that part, you should know.)


  2. Nice hardware review :) I grew up in a gun collecting household, and my tastes always ran to burl walnut and classic firearms. When AR-15's became popular in the 1980's I was put off by them.

    That perspective changed in 2004, when Kerry surged in the polls, and I decided it was "now or never". I now have 3 of them, one awaiting a buildup. I am debating between making it a varminter, or a 6.8 carbine/deer rifle.

    AR's are interesting contraptions, with a whole industry supporting them in many different variations. No, they don't have the elegance of walnut, but they are reliable and accurate.

    I have not yet tried one of the holographic gunsights. What is your judgment about useful range for them, before a traditional scope is better?

  3. Quality reflex/ red dot type sights are so fast up close. They are instinctive as you just put the dot on the target and squeeze the trigger.

    The one thing that I am curious about is going with a heavy match type barrel in 16 inch. At the point where a good barrel really starts to matter the ballistics of the 16 inch barrel are not so good.

    Seems like a nice toy!

  4. I'm curious how much you paid for it. They weren't cheap, the last time I price checked.

    The EOTechs were what most of the 3rd Group ODA were using on their mini M4s. (11.5" barrels, IIRC)

  5. JR - I bought it from a retired Special Forces guy who was friends with Old NFO. I wouldn't have bought it used without that recommendation as I'm hesitant to buy anything of value without seeing it first. He gave me a "employee discount" so to speak and knocked a couple hundred off of it so I got it for a really good price, right around $1000. The EOTech was $329, used, but new in the box purchased from a colleague.

  6. I think that I'll sent this Ode to the AR-15 to my two daughters. After all, it's Mother's Day and maybe they'll take the hint.

    Lovely description and pics of a lovely "tool."

  7. It isn't just what you've written, it is how; the magazine articles always seem a little impersonal. That might be a matter of necessity if they're after a wide audience, but just the same I enjoy the way you write, be it a look at some part of life or a review of a piece of kit.


  8. Say Uncle (Chance) had an EOTech on the 6.8spc upper he brought to the Rendezvous-before-last (Sebastian bought it) and I liked shootin' it a lot, no problem hitting the 300-yard gong at all, but since I had already bought Aimpoint I went with that on my Noveske build.


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