IT’S gratifying to see a product evolve over time. The ArmaLite AR-30A1 .300 Winchester Magnum (Win Mag) tactical rifle is a great case in point. The AR-30A1 takes the no-nonsense ArmaLite concept of the tactical rifle another step forward. While the AR-30A1 may resemble its AR-30 predecessor, only the pistol grip, buttpad, trigger, and a few small components from the original AR-30 transferred over to the AR-30A1. All other components are new or redesigned.
The AR-30A1 I tested was the standard model with fixed buttstock and no rail past the receiver. The AR-30A1 Target model features an adjustable buttstock and extended rail system for anyone contemplating night vision or other accessories.
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The aluminum stock is better described as a “chassis.” It reinforces the receiver like a sleeved bench-rest rifle. ArmaLite equips the AR-30A1 with a competition- grade barrel and patented V-block receiver bedding system.
These are two key components to the AR-30A1’s sub-minute of angle accuracy expectations. There is no bedding in a traditional sense involved with the AR-30A1. Instead a mechanical metal-to-metal fit is utilized, literally wedging the receiver to the stock. ArmaLite’s V-bloc mates the stock to the receiver, assuring stability and repeatable accuracy.
The ArmaLite aluminum chassis, while not as svelte as a classic wood or even fiberglass stock, is very functional for a rifle destined for tactical use. All the AR-30A1’s features are calculated to enhance the user’s ability to surgically place .300 Win Mag rounds on target at distance. The stock has a 13.5-inch length of pull.
The tale of the tape shows the AR-30A1 is not a compact rifle. The rifle has a 24-inch 1:10 twist barrel, contributing to an overall length of 46 inches. The rifle weighs 12.8 pounds empty. A single-stack detachable five-round steel magazine arrives with the AR-30A1. The single-stack magazine minimizes the amount of material removed from the stock and action for extra rigidity.
The thought process of a single-stack magazine further reinforces the attention to detail found in the AR-30A1. Rounds are stripped straight from the magazine into the chamber, compared to other magazine designs that have rounds set at an angle to a rifle’s centerline.
The trigger is a single stage measuring four pounds of pull weight. ArmaLite literature states ¼ to ¾ MOA accuracy is to be expected with the AR-30A1. This translates into sub three-inch groups at 300 yards.
The AR-30A1 is finished with military- grade anodizing and phosphate coating to enhance durability and corrosion resistance. The 20-minute angled rail atop the receiver allows for extended range zeroing. A Mauser-type bolt provides positive feeding, extraction, and ejection.
A unique aesthetic with the AR- 30A1 is the proven ArmaLite muzzle brake screwed on via 5/8×24 thread pitch. The threaded muzzle brake on the AR-30A1 is a standalone feature in its own right. The design was proofed on ArmaLite’s AR-50 .50 BMG and is just as effective on the AR-30A1, allowing for a full range day of firing with no ill effects on the shooter in terms of recoil. With that said, if needed the factory threaded muzzle brake can be quickly removed and the AR-30A1 easily adapted for use with a suppressor.
AR-301A FIELD TESTING
The scope used for testing was a Leupold Mark 4 6.5-20X50mm featuring mildot reticle. The Mk4’s 30mm tube was mounted on the ArmaLite AR- 30A1 with Leupold rings and bases. The Leupold Custom Shop provided a custom elevation knob created for the .300 Win Mag based on data provided such as bullet weight, ballistic coefficient, velocity, and general temperature and elevation expected for the most use.
Testing was conducted with Black Hills Match 190-grain BTHP, Black Hills Gold 180-grain Accubond, Federal Premium 190-grain Sierra Match King, and Hornady 178-grain A-Max TAP.
Initial shooting was done off a bench. The Federal 190-grain Match and Black Hills 190-grain Match produced the best 100-yard groups at only slightly above ½ inch. The rifle was also fired for groups at 300 yards as a further evaluation of its intrinsic accuracy. The Federal 190-grain Match and Black Hills 190-grain Match loads performed the best again.
The 300-yard tests were done from more field-expedient positions such as prone with bipod and pack support, as well as from prepared “dug in” positions offered at Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC). Significantly, the loads held onto the 1 MOA (approximately three inches at 300 yards) or better criteria.
It was decided to further evaluate the ArmaLite AR 30A1 using a competition format discovered at a local law enforcement shoot. Competitors are tasked with engaging multiple hanging clay pigeons at 220 yards followed up with firing at more clay pigeons at 285 yards and then TacStrike ¼ scale steel targets placed at 350 yards. Shooting is from the prone position supported by bipod in the front and bag under the buttstock.
The inherent accuracy of the AR-30A1 made short work of the course of fire. The oversize handle and smooth passage of the bolt in the raceway allow minimal disturbance when the rifle’s bolt is worked, so that fast follow-up shots when engaging multiple targets are possible. The AR-30A1 stoutly ejected empty cases.
The large ejection port also makes single loading of cartridges through it easy and fast when the five-round magazine runs dry. The well-designed fit of the rear stock along with the muzzle brake on the AR-30A1 permitted rapid engagement of the multiple targets. It was no problem to ride the rifle’s recoil, work the action, and engage the next target.
The Leupold Mk4 6.5-20X50 scope enabled effective hold off with its mildot design. If preferred, a shooter can dial in the changes as well with the M1 turrets, especially as ranges extend past 600 yards.
Over months of range visits, the AR- 30A1 impressed with its ability to
place rounds on target, instilling confidence in its capability.
Considering the envisioned mission role of the AR-30A1, an Eberlestock Gunslinger II (G2) pack was used during the evaluation to get a better feel for how the AR-30A1 would be transported and deployed.
Eberlestock gear is in service all over the world with Special Forces, regular military, and police units. Eberlestock’s “secret” as typified by the Gunslinger II is to design a pack so items are easy to find as well as make it easy to attach things to the outside. The G2’s combination of top loader and accessible front panel means that the main compartment is hassle free to access.
With the Eberlestock G2, you can carry the rifle on your back and be much more agile and effective than if you had a rifle stuck in your hands or on a shoulder sling all the time. By having the pack carry the rifle, your hands are free for all the things you need them for when you are traversing terrain. Furthermore, Eberlestock makes it so that you can get your weapons off the pack without having to unstrap everything you’re wearing.
The first requirement of a tactical rifle is precise accuracy. The ArmaLite AR- 30A1 I tested constantly produced sub- MOA groups with several different ammunition brands and loads.
The stock is rock solid, with design characteristics making it conducive to long-range shooting from the prone position using improvised shooting rests or bipod. The ergonomics of the stock allow a comfortable, repeatable cheekweld which, combined with hand placement, means a smooth trigger pull. The stock is surprisingly light yet durable—important for personnel carrying it in the field.
Some tactical rifles coming on line today reflect a target shooting heritage, weighing over 16 pounds. The AR-30A1’s 13-pound weight translates into a rifle that can be carried afield without overly fatiguing the marksman and is easier to adopt to non-standard firing positions even offhand if needed.
I have evaluated tactical rifles weighing significantly more than the AR-30A1. While certainly accurate from a fixed prone position, all were challenging to shoot in any other position, even if employing shooting sticks or other means of support.
FOR TACTICAL MARKSMEN
The 24-inch, .750-inch diameter profile barrel is a solid compromise balancing weight, performance, and field handling for the tactical marksman. Chronographing the Black Hills, Federal, and Hornady ammunition through an RCBS AmmoMaster chronograph showed negligible velocity loss by the 24-inch barrel versus the more typical 26-inch tube. Loads registered in the mid-2,900 fps range.
Many rifles on the market are labeled “tactical” based solely on a heavy barrel in a synthetic stock. This is not the case with the ArmaLite AR-30A1 chambered in .300 Win Mag. The AR-30A1’s aesthetics instill a sense of professionalism and purpose—and that purpose is longrange accuracy.