Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Armalite AR-30M High Accuracy Target

I evaluated the performance of SRT’s .338 suppressor on an ArmaLite AR-30M rifle. In my experience, the AR-30M is the best value among .338 rifles today. Better factory and custom rifles are available, but they cost more. Several cost ten times more. It is noteworthy for its accuracy, superb muzzle brake, detachable box magazine, and bang for the buck.

The ArmaLite AR-30M sniper rifle consists of two sub-systems: the barreled action and stock assembly. The two sub-assemblies are mated via a robust V-block channel in the aluminum forestock that provides an accurate, repeatable, and robust interface with the rifle’s rather unusual octagonal action. The detachable box magazine is a single-stack design that minimizes the size of the opening in the receiver, which maximizes the rigidity of the action and thereby the accuracy potential of the rifle. The butt stock assembly can be removed for transport or storage.

The AR-30M’s  is superb in terms of engineering and cost-effectiveness. It provides a much more comfortable and natural shooter interface compared to the most widely used milspec .338 stock. SRT’s SHADOW suppressor drops the .338’s blast overpressure to that of a .22LR rifle with standard velocity ammo. Environmental disturbance becomes a matter of inches rather than half the length of a football field. Blast overpressure becomes a non-issue for shooting enthusiasts. One can even shoot this big boomer comfortably without hearing protection. These qualities are also invaluable to the armed professional. A sniper’s spotter can tuck in tight behind the shooter near the bore axis to maximize his value. The sniper can see his hit and place his next shot more quickly. And the astonishing reduction of sonic and visual signatures makes the sniper and spotter invisible, assuming proper fieldcraft.

What about accuracy? Most folks I know who own ArmaLite’s .338 rifles generally achieve 1/3 to ½-MOA groups. That is extraordinary performance in a rifle with an entry-level price tag. A few shooters achieve even better accuracy using handloads tailored to their specific rifle. The bottom line is that everyone I know gets better than 1-MOA, so every ArmaLite .338 rifle that I know about delivers sniper-grade accuracy. Sound suppressors generally improve rifle accuracy, but maintaining accuracy, much less improving it, becomes very difficult when suppressing cartridges of large caliber such as the .338 Lapua Magnum and above. Moreover, unusually small suppressors for a given caliber are more likely to have accuracy issues than large suppressors of the same caliber.

While the AZTECH baffle movesgases at a time and a place where cross jets and turbulence are not likely to destabilize the bullet, the .338 SHADOW must manage nearly twice the gas volume of the .308 SHADOW, using the same number of baffles and only 20% more volume. I was mindful of this challenge every time I headed to the range to put the SRT Arms .338 SHADOW through its paces. I evaluated SRT’s .338 SHADOW sound suppressor and ArmaLite’s AR- 30 rifle using Black Hills .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition. If a barrel’s twist rate is suitable, I prefer the .338 variant that features a 300-grain Sierra MatchKing HPBT bullet. Since the hollowpoint is an artifact of the manufacturing process, rather than a design element intended to expand upon impact, this round can be used for military operations under the Hague Accords. I selected Black Hills ammunition for its quality as well as because individuals and departments can purchase this ammunition factory direct if it’s not available locally. Not many shops stock this caliber.

Without the sound suppressor, groups generally ran a bit less than 1/3-MOA at 100 yards, while groups with the suppressor commonly ran less than ¼-MOA at the same distance. Specifically, suppressed groups averaged 21% smaller than unsuppressed groups. That’s two to four times more accuracy improvement than one expects with a good .30 caliber can. That’s noteworthy performance with a can of large caliber. It has extraordinary performance for such a small can relative to the gas volume it must handle. What does this mean in the “Real World?” The suppressed ArmaLite delivered between-the-eyes accuracy at 500 yards.


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