In this Article:
“What – yet another black rifle review?” I hear you say.
To that I answer: “yessiree!”
I like black rifles (or, to use a slightly more descriptive tag, the MSR, Modern Sporting Rifle). The MSR nowadays is to be found not only in law enforcement or military environments (in its select-fire guise), but also in many civilian’s hands who are looking for a semi-automatic rifle capable of at least M.O.A. accuracy, versatility and that is available in many different calibers.
Advantages Of The MSR
To be totally honest, I have not always been a fan of the MSR. It wasn’t until I owned one of my own that I started to see them in a new light. I was not in the military, so I don’t have the experience with the M16/M4 and variants as many of you do, so I did it on my own. I have a Del-Ton 5.56 rifle that I leave iron sights on for quick access. I like it – it works well. Here are a few things that I discovered after owning and shooting my rifle a decent amount (I know that these points are not exactly new to many of you out there, but I had to find them on my own).
Caliber Interchangeability. It is really very easy to change calibers on the AR platform, given the fact that the lower receiver, most of the time, stays the same and you only need to change out the upper. This gives you the bolt/bolt face, barrel and chamber for the second cartridge. A good example – I would like to obtain an upper in .350 Legend and stick it on my existing lower. With a new magazine, I’d be good to go in the deer woods in my state. All I would need to buy would be the upper, magazine (usually supplied with the upper) and optic. The modularity of the system makes it easy to experiment with different calibers.
Ease Of Mounting Accessories. It is so easy to add, say, a red dot to your MSR – most have a rail section at least at the 12-o’clock (top) position. Get the mount for whatever rail system your rifle uses and add the optic. It works just as well for red dots, scopes or other sighting aids. Back-up iron sights usually just mount directly to the rail. Another advantage of having a long rail on top of your upper is that you can place the sight exactly where you need to on the rifle. The older I get, the more my eyes change so I generally put sights a notch or two closer to my eyes than I might have a few years ago. With my upper and its rail, this is possible.
Utilitarian Stock And Ergos. The MSR is nothing if not functional in terms of stock fit. Most of them use a collapsible rear stock that allows you to push it all the way in for times when you need a very short rifle (transporting it, for example), and then you can snap it out to achieve a full length-of-pull rifle stock for when you want to shoot off a bench or similar activity. Another feature of the MSR is its pistol grip. I know that some states do not allow any long gun to be sold therein that has a pistol grip, but that grip is another great aid to the ergonomic factor of the rifle. It allows you to hold the gun higher on your shoulder, thereby getting your eye closer to the line of sight of whatever optic system you have mounted. It also can help you “pull in” the gun to your shoulder very tightly. Put a one-point sling on the rifle and you have a very-quick-into-action weapon at your disposal. The stock, pistol grip and handguard were designed to help the rifle be brought to bear very quickly in a military setting. This quick handling aspect is not lost in a hunting situation, as well.
Wear and Tear. The final thing I want to mention about advantages of the MSR has to do with wear and tear. Those of you who own an expensive rifle or shotgun sometimes hesitate to carry it afield because you don’t want it to get scratched or worse. With the matte black/FDE/other finish on your MSR, you tend not to worry so much about it getting beaten up in the woods or field. For one thing, it’d be pretty hard to put a noticeable ding on it, and for another, touch-up would be easy. I see more of these guns out than ever before – more guys are realizing that the MSR is a pretty good match for the woods or wherever they hunt.
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So, we’ve seen some advantages that the MSR offers. To be fair, are there any disadvantages? Of course – everything has its pluses and minuses.
Low Butt Stock. There tends to be one slight downside to the minimal stock that MSRs tend to use: they can put the optic too low for your eyes to pick up. An answer to this is to use the raised comb that some guns employ or that can be purchased separately. This will put your eye closer to the same plane as whatever sight you’re using.
Non-Traditional Appearance & Materials. Another possible downside (for a few folks) concerns a very subjective topic – “feel”. To some, rifles should always have a smooth, checkered-in-places walnut stock, wrapped around a brightly-polished blued receiver and barrel. You can’t really fix this with an MSR – you’d have a hard time getting your MSR to exhibit those features. At any rate, the MSR was never intended to be walnut-and-blued-steel. Everyone is different, and that guy at the club that only owns older Weatherbys probably won’t want to shoot your LR-308. That doesn’t prove anything other than that guy likes wood-and-metal guns and you happen to own a plastic-and-metal rifle…there is no right answer. When he comes at you with the observation that the first M16s had stocks made by Mattel, you probably won’t move him any closer to your side with any argument, even given that MSRs are found in all rifle shooting events nowadays. Some folks just like certain types of guns, period.
Other AR-Pattern Rifle Reviews
If you want to explore the AR platform in some detail, check out some of my other reviews on this site. I have written a few reviews of other MSRs – one of the most complete was my Buyer’s Guide to the AR-15-style rifle. I wrote, at some length, about the different types of operating systems (direct-impingement vs. piston rod), history of the rifle, how it works, and other good stuff. You’ll want to at least visit that review either at this point or after you’ve read this one – it has a lot of background information in it that you might find interesting. You can find that review here. Another AR-15-type of rifle I reviewed was the Rock River Arms LAR-15. There’s some good information there. And, if you are possibly interested in an AR format but in 9mm, check out my Troy Arms “Other Firearm” review. All of these reviews might help you understand the platform a bit better or learn something new about it.
DPMS Panther Arms LR-308
I was offered the chance to review a DPMS LR-308. A good friend of mine, is a shooter and offered to loan me the rifle. I very gratefully accepted, and was anxious to shoot it. The LR-308 is a very basic AR-style rifle. It uses standard, minimal controls and is built to be very strong, given its “back-to-basics” style. It’s interesting to note (and you will read this in the above-linked review) that the AR-15 did not start out as the AR-15 but was in fact the AR-10…in 7.62×51, or .308. The original Eugene Stoner model was in .308, but the military wanted a smaller caliber so those who carried the rifle could carry more ammo. Another plus at that time was that the 5.56 recoiled much less than did the 7.62. (I address the recoil issue below – “….Like A Missouri Mule…”). It was easier to train new recruits (most of whom were non-shooters) how to shoot the 5.56 AR rifle fairly easily and quickly. Again, please check out my other reviews linked above – I learned a lot researching them – and some interesting points are covered therein.
Here is a cartridge comparison, just for fun. The .308 is on the right…
Let’s look at the rifle in front of me now, then we’ll make a quick visit to DPMS before we say goodbye. Here are the specs of the rifle I shot…
|Capacity:||One 20-round magazine included; will accept any standard AR magazine|
|Barrel:||Heavy Barrel, 16”, HBAR Chrome-Moly 4140, 1:10 twist. Models with an 18” or 24” barrel|
|Stock:||Pardus 6-position collapsible|
|Upper receiver:||Extruded 7129 T6 A3 flat top|
|Lower receiver:||Billet 6061 T6|
|Trigger:||5 pounds, 2 ounces (measured)|
|Flash Hider:||A2 Birdcage|
|Sights:||None – Railed gas block, optics-ready|
|Fire Control:||Standard AR-15|
|Overall Length:||32.5” - 36.5”|
|Price:||MSRP, $1100; street, around $785|
If you glance directly above, you will see the weight given as 8.3 pounds. When you hoist this rifle, you will feel every ounce of that weight. It is not a light gun, but (given its caliber), the weight helps when you shoot it.
Let’s look at some photos…
Note the forward assist and dustcover, two items that some makers are omitting in order to save money. This rifle uses a one-piece trigger guard and standard mag release. Another point I found interesting is that the bolt’s forward-assist notches are hidden, above the exposed part. I don’t see this very often.
Notice the absence of markings.
Note finger-grooved release to lengthen or shorten the stock – I liked this style! Also included is a sling mount (below).
The magazine, above and below…
Shooting (And Other) Impressions
In my part of the country, it is winter. The forecast calls for a winter weather advisory for today and into tomorrow, so I thought maybe I’d better go try to shoot this thing before sloppy moisture falls from on high. I went to my backyard range, and put a few rounds through it.
I did not try a lot of different types or brands of ammo – it was too cold for that. (I know, I hear all you younger supermen out there – what can I say? I’m old, and the cold tends to bother me more than it used to …). Plus, to be totally honest, I’m not really a “larger-caliber-rifle” shooter. My shooting hobby started out with handguns and, with some notable exceptions, has remained with that style of firearm over the years. Do I own rifles? Sure. I just am not used to shooting, with any regularity, calibers much above the 5.56/.243. I did have a blast (literally!) shooting my friend Marty’s AR-50 in .50 BMG – but that .50-caliber rifle did not recoil as much as this .308 did, believe that or not. I also find I’m getting more recoil-sensitive the older I get. I guess I don’t have anything to prove anymore, not that I ever did. So, all this is to say I shot one type of ammo through the LR-308…it was enough to learn a thing or two.
Here’s the target (or at least the best one!). Notice one ragged hole… this rifle is one accurate puppy! The rifle does not come with sights, so you will have to take that into account if you buy one. Set a few hundred more aside to get a decent scope, red dot or some-such sight. The rifle exhibits traits that would lead me to believe that it would make a really decent long-range shooter. This says a lot for the PMC ammo I shot, as well. To read about PMC ammo, check this site out, and to order what I shot, go here. It is less than $20 for 20 rounds and makes great practice ammo.
…Like A Missouri Mule…
So…what do I think about this rifle, after having shot it? I like it. Does it kick? Sure. It’s going to, shooting a 150-grain bullet at 2820 fps…that adds up to about 18.6 ft./lbs of recoil energy. Here is one area where the minimalist AR stock doesn’t help, soaking up recoil… it just doesn’t do much where that’s concerned. Considering that my synthetic-stocked good ol’ Savage .243 kicks me with only about 9 ft./pounds of recoil energy, and you might begin to see why I tend to be a bit recoil-shy. (Again, I hear all the John-Wayne-types out there saying that they shoot .45-70s one-handed before breakfast and I am humbled…what can I say?). A recoil story…this happened to one of my friends who didn’t listen to me about holding the revolver further out when shooting off the bench – he was shooting my long-barreled S&W 629 in .44 Magnum for the first time (not even full-power loads) and held it too close to his face. He squeezed the trigger (read about trigger pull gauges), which caused the hammer to “bite” him squarely in the forehead, leaving a bleeding spot there… it gave the term “red dot” a different meaning. He listened to me after that. Recoil is generally harmless – it’s how we cope (or not cope) with it that allows it to have an effect on our shooting. I’m sure this particular rifle has no more recoil than any other in its class – it’s just that I’m more of a handgun type and was not brought up shooting powerful long guns, either shotguns or rifles. Actually, we did not have any guns around except for my dad’s Browning Sweet 16 shotgun when I was young, and we never saw that, as he had died when I was young and the gun went into storage with a friend. I bought my first handgun after college, during my first teaching job and it escalated from there.
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Randy Luth founded the Defense Procurement Manufacturing Services (DPMS) company in Minnesota in 1985 as a means by which to manufacture parts for military contract firearms. They eventually began manufacturing complete AR-15-pattern rifles, and moved to St. Cloud in 2004. It was an efficiently-run and successful company, because it doubled its revenue between 2004–2007 and employed 65 people in 2008. The DPMS company (along with Marlin) was acquired by the Freedom Group in 2007 with Remington being the company’s immediate parent company in the organization. As of January of this year, any search for the DPMS website automatically forwards to Remington’s site but I couldn’t get anything to come up there – “page not found”. I had to track down this short company history elsewhere. As I did that, I found out that DPMS rifles have won awards – Shooting Illustrated’s 2005 “Golden Bullseye” winner (as mentioned at the top of this review) for the LR-308, and American Rifleman’s 2006 “Golden Bullseye” winner with their Panther LR-308AP4 rifle. Remington has been trying to consolidate firearm production, moving newly-acquired factories’ product lines to its Huntsville, Alabama site. DPMS’s St. Cloud facility was included in that effort to consolidate, which places DPMS production in Alabama now. The company still makes a large number of AR-pattern rifles and related parts.
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To Sum Up…
If you are looking for a .308 rifle to use in the deer woods, to compete with, or to simply have to shoot whenever, you might want to give the DPMS LR-308 a look. It is an award-winning gun, and seems to be built very well. I had no issues with it in the short time I had to shoot it. The rifle is accurate, handles well and was fun to shoot. When you ask most experienced rifle shooters who have hunted deer to describe their favorite .308, they most likely will describe a bolt-action of some brand or other. They may not even think about a semi-auto in that caliber. (To be honest, it’s only been a few years since my state has allowed non-straight-case-wall rifle calibers such as the .308 to be used, and that only on private land). I’m here to say that the AR-pattern MSR is one very viable alternative to that bolt gun…modern “black rifles” can be less-than-M.O.A.-accurate and also very effective in the field. We are starting to see more hunters utilizing these rifles in the deer woods. Capacity is important to some folks, as well – as long as you have ten or fewer cartridges with you, you’re legal here. That equates to one 10-round magazine here in my state, which would be totally legal. Most bolt guns hold three or four in the magazine, so the advantage (if you’re one who thinks “the more, the merrier”) would go to the MSR.
Whether you’re a hunter or not, check out the LR-308. If you’re in the market for a really nice .308 in an AR-style package, you might be pleasantly surprised. Please tell us below if you’ve had experience with one of these. As always, shoot straight and be safe!