Premium loads from Black Hills Ammunition and Federal were tested with LWRC Limited Edition IC. Mayflower Research & Consulting LLC LE/Active Shooter Chest Rig carried magazines during range testing.
LWRC is a recognized industry leader in the development and manufacture of short-stroke piston-operated AR rifles. In fact, LWRC’s entire raison d’être is the short-stroke piston AR and the improvement it offers over the original AR gas-impingement design.
Whether or not piston-driven ARs are superior to their gas-impingement brethren often generates heated discussion. One thing that is not debatable is the number of manufacturers rushing to create piston-driven ARs even if traditional AR models already exist in their production line-up. This does not even get into the myriad calibers that are coming on line for the AR, ranging from 5.7 to .50 Beowulf with many stops in between.
LWRC offers numerous models ranging from LE/military-only select-fire versions and various barrel lengths and profiles. The LWRC model focused on in this article is the M6 IC (Individual Carbine).
Limited Edition IC evaluated belongs to C.R. Newlin, owner of Echo Valley Training Center. He has it set up with a Trijicon ACOG optic.
LWRC M6 IC
The LWRC M6 IC is the direct descendant of the rifle developed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Army Individual Carbine program. The IC is centered on a fully ambidextrous lower receiver featuring dual controls for bolt catch/release, magazine release, and fire control/safety lever. This means that both right- and left-handed shooters can use the rifle to its full effectiveness.
The LWRC Monoforge upper receiver evolved from the LWRC SPR platform introduced by LWRC in 2011. The Monoforge upper features a user-configurable rail system with the rail machined as part of the upper receiver for added strength and reduced weight.
The LWRC IC is the epitome of a well-balanced and fast-pointing tactical carbine. I was fortunate to have access to C.R. Newlin’s Limited Edition IC for this article. It is one of 500 featuring Flat Dark Earth finish and a 14.7-inch spiral fluted barrel. The owner of Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC), C.R. is in an ideal position to evaluate what weapons and gear work, including chest rigs, holsters, ammunition, night vision, optics, and suppressors.
I find it very telling that C.R. chooses the LWRC M6 IC as his personal rifle. Whereas many of the 500 Limited Edition ICs are being left pristine for collector reasons, C.R. decided to immediately get a Trijicon TA33R H ACOG sighted in and ready for use during a Graham Combat course at EVTC.
Bolt carrier of LWRC IC is coated with a proprietary nickel coating that nearly eliminates corrosion while providing permanent lubrication to the moving parts.
The IC’s use of the Monoforge rail gives better balance and lightness. The IC forend rail is eight inches long. The 14.7-inch cold-hammer-forged spiral fluted barrel reinforces this feel. The spiral fluting shaves 20% of the weight off the barrel and relieves the longitudinal stresses that can cause the stringing seen in conventionally fluted barrels.
The weight reduction in the IC’s front end and the svelte feel of the user-configurable rail make for an incredibly well-balanced rifle. Magpul’s CTR buttstock and MIAD pistol grip finish out the IC’s ergonomics.
Weight of the LWRC IC is just under seven pounds. Standard production ICs are finished in black and do not have the spiral fluted barrel. The LWRC M6 IC has an overall length of 31.5 inches with Magpul CTR stock collapsed and approximately 35 inches extended. The 14.7-inch barrel maximizes portability and handling while maintaining ballistics and terminal performance. An AAC flash hider is permanently attached.
IC is centered on a fully ambidextrous lower receiver featuring dual controls for bolt catch/release, magazine release, and fire control/safety lever. Both right- and left-handed shooters can use the rifle to its full effectiveness.
The IC’s forend top rail is easily removable and reinstalled without affecting zero of any sights or target designators. The rail allows for mission-specific configuration with lights, lasers, target designators, and other items.
As befitting a rifle in the IC’s price range and intended LE and military audience, the Individual Carbine comes standard with folding LWRC BUIS open sights that proved able to co-witness with a variety of optics mounted on the IC. The LWRC flip iron sights can serve as standalone battle sights.
The M6 IC carbine shows LWRC’s versatility in satisfying customer needs by not using a full-length quad rail, but instead a lower profile handguard tapped and threaded along its length, facilitating end user installation of Picatinny rail sections as needed. The top of the rifle from the back of the receiver to the front gas block has a full-length Picatinny rail. This minimalist approach to rails still allows plenty of room for VFG and lights/lasers if needed.
New Magpul 40-round magazine was utilized with LWRC IC. Both performed without issue.
GAS-PISTON OPERATING SYSTEM
LWRC has sought to engineer a complete solution to the deficits found in the direct-impingement AR family of rifles and carbines and was an early innovator in the AR gas-piston surge in popularity. The M6 IC utilizes LWRC’s patented self-regulating short-stroke gas-piston operating system, ensuring reliability in the harshest theaters of operation.
The short-stroke piston’s principal improvement comes from eliminating the venting of hot carbon-laden gases into the receiver and bolt carrier group. It also means the bolt carrier group and associated springs are not subjected to the searing heat of the tapped gasses—this being one of the major causes of small parts failure.
The LWRC IC utilizes cold-hammer-forged barrels made out of 41V45 steel alloy and treated with NiCorr surface conversion technology. NiCorr has proved more lubricious, harder wearing, and more heat and corrosion resistant than the hard chrome lining normally used in a service rifle’s bore. LWRC advertises its barrels as being able to handle 20,000 rounds before replacement, as compared to 6,000 to 10,000 rounds with standard chrome-lined barrels.
The bolt carrier of the M6 IC is treated with a proprietary nickel coating that nearly eliminates corrosion while providing greatly increased lubricity. This coating provides permanent lubrication to the moving parts and is similar to that being used by the U.S. Army Research Lab and USSOCOM to extend the service life of their weapons systems.
The M6 IC’s piston system is a mid-length design, which provides a smoother recoil impulse for faster follow-up shots. LWRC has chosen to use an adjustable gas block with the M6 IC. The gas settings are normal and suppressed.
LWRC IC’s seven-pound weight and 14.7-inch barrel length with pinned flash hider give it great balance and handling in confined areas.
The M6 IC separates itself from other ARs in ways not obvious to the casual observer. Unlike most AR platforms, there is no barrel nut securing the barrel to the upper receiver. LWRC has machined the integral rail mount, barrel nut, and receiver out of one piece of aluminum. When you install the barrel into the receiver and install the handguard/rail system, there is a torque ring that is tightened with the proper tools. This innovative design ensures that every barrel is secured with the same amount of torque.
The M6 IC’s rail design is accompanied with a tweaking of the LWRC short-stroke piston spring design. There are more coils and a new profile to the IC’s spring. A rectangular spring profile was used in lieu of a square design. The square design spring stopped rearward movement after full compression, whereas the rectangular design with more coils does not fully collapse during operation. Combined with the piston stop on the operating rod, this serves to greatly expand the lifespan of the spring to equal life expectancy of the LWRC barrel.
Most LWRC ARs have MSRPs over $2000, and the IC exceeds this—Limited Edition ICs have asking prices of over $3500. However, LWRC does provide a rifle ready for immediate use once unboxed.
While many of the 500 Limited Edition LWRC ICs are being left pristine for collector reasons, it was decided to mount a Trijicon TA33R H ACOG sighted and attend a Graham Combat course at EVTC.
AT THE RANGE
All of LWRC’s design features are intended for maximizing effectiveness during a fight or realistic training on the range. The key component in a fighting rifle is reliability. No matter how accurate or powerful chambering a rifle is, if it does not work 100% of the time, it is a liability.
The basic M16/AR-15 design is hard to improve upon when it comes to launching bullets downrange accurately. The piston-driven LWRC M6 IC is no different. Various ammunition of different makes regularly produced 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards with the IC with ACOG mounted. More compressed groups would definitely be likely if a higher magnification optic were mounted.
Loads from Black Hills Ammunition and Federal were tested with the LWRC M6 IC. No ammunition, including full metal jacket surplus ammo, generated greater than 2.25 MOA accuracy levels. The LWRC IC’s 14.7-inch barrel combined with 55- and 62-grain bullets produced velocities in the high 2,800 to low 2,900 feet-per-second when tested over an RCBS chronograph.
AR ergonomics are hard to beat, and the LWRC M6 IC was handy to yield in tight quarters. It was used in a Graham Combat course that focused on working in and around vehicles, where the IC’s handling was much appreciated.
Drills moving around barricades and training evolutions involving firing and evacuating from vehicles clearly bore this out. Between EVTC range work and the Graham Combat course, over 1,100 rounds were fired for this evaluation. The piston-driven LWRC M6 IC proved utterly reliable, with only minimal effort given to wipe down the bolt carrier group and lubricate sporadically.
The LWRC IC with Trijicon ACOG made short work of striking various targets in quick fashion. The 3X Trijicon TA33R H is flexible in terms of allowing close-range engagements as well as longer-range accuracy.
Concerns about operating the magnified optic in a CQB environment are quelled once one becomes familiar and actively trains with the Bindon Aiming Concept.
IC’s forend top rail is easily removable and reinstalled without affecting zero of any sights or target designators. Rail allows for mission-specific configuration with lights and lasers. Also visible is adjustable gas valve.
WHO’S IT FOR?
If you have ever envisioned responding to a bump in the night or other commotion, and you have to grab a bandoleer of magazines and rifle on the way out of a room or from the trunk of a patrol car, the LWRC M6 IC is more than worthy of consideration.
Although the LWRC M6 Individual Carbine is likely not going to be used by our military services, law enforcement agencies should consider using it, not to mention private contractors and security-conscious private citizens.
With budgets constantly under pressure, the LWRC IC could be the answer, as the longevity of the barrel and other components is likely to offset the initially higher price. Additionally, it can fulfill a multitude of roles such as designated marksman rifle, general-purpose patrol rifle, or entry weapon.
This is a positive reflection on the M6 IC’s accuracy, reliability, handling, and ergonomics.
LWRC International, LLC
Black Hills Ammunition
Echo Valley Training Center
Federal Cartridge Company