Sunday, August 28, 2022

V7 10/22 .22LR .20 Caliber Squeeze Barrel Review

V7 10/22 .22LR .20 Caliber Squeeze Barrel Review

There are hundreds of aftermarket 10/22 barrel options on the market including everything from fluted, carbon fiber, and aluminum sleeved, but how about a squeeze bore barrel? This is not a new technology, however there are a number of companies playing around with the idea of forcing a bullet down an undersized bore for a number of theoretical benefits. V7 Weapon Systems is the only one actually selling commercially a 10/22 squeeze bore barrel. The V7 Weapon Systems 10/22 barrel accepts standard .22LR ammo but forces a standard .22LR bullet down a .20 caliber bore and it may just be the most amazing barrel yet.

WHY A SQUEEZE BORE?

There are a number of reasons why this could be a game changer for the consummate 10/22 tinkerer and tuner in the .22LR rimfire market. Powder charge consistency is obvious, however one of the biggest challenges for the precision .22LR rimfire shooter is wildly inconsistent bullet diameter. The other is of course rim thickness. Match grade ammo does a good job minimizing this variance, however bullet diameter consistency it is a significant problem in the rimfire realm across ammo. I am grossly over-generalizing, however in most cases, .22LR ammo is all made the same, but just handled and graded to different tiers. Very generally speaking, there are typically sorted and unsorted ammo lots. The .22LR ammo sorted based on consistent velocity, rim thickness, maybe better machining and component quality, and bullet diameter goes into one box and the random bullet sized with varying rim and velocity ammo in the bulk ammo spec boxes.

Also smaller bullets are subject to and more sensitive to more nicks, scrapes, and deformation during manufacturing, handling, packaging and chambering. The more deformation, the more influence this tends to have on a small projectile vs a large caliber bullet. Add in bullet diameter variances, rim thickness and different powder charges and you have a recipe for wide accuracy, BC, and velocity variances.

In theory a squeeze bore minimizes all these variables by squeezing and reswaging the bullet down to a smaller bore diameter. The process, at least in theory, removes the most impactful bullet deformations which connect with the rifling as the bullet is smashed down to a marginally smaller size. There is also a pressure increase due to the extra force needed for this process to occur which can smooth out small pressure variances between rounds and also add a bit more back-pressure recoil to help extraction and bolt cycling. The idea of all this squeeze bore theory is a more uniform elongated lower BC bullet with more uniform pressure exiting the barrel which potentially has improvements in accuracy, and more power. Downrange that should all add up to more consistent accuracy from round to round, or even ammo to ammo, with potentially higher velocity and power. It's all pretty interesting physics 101 level stuff without any voodoo.

DOES THE V7 BARREL WORK?

So the question is does the V7 squeeze bore barrel perform? I will go out on a limb and say that it appears to do all the above to some degree, however I do not possess all the scientific equipment to positively validate the claims. Here was my testing and my perspective on why I believe the V7 10/22 barrel concept works.

In general, what I observed was that match grade rounds delivered excellent accuracy as would be expected from a Benz match chambered premium quality barrel, but the less expensive non-match ammo delivered better than average groups which is great, but less typical. Notably, I said “better”, but nowhere near as well as match grade ammo. Again, there is no voodoo here, so the V7 barrel will not magically transform a magazine of ammo with varying rim thickness, bullet diameter and velocity to suddenly shoot as well as $15 a box Lapua Center-X. The V7 barrel does seem to offer improvement over what is normally experienced with ammo such as T-22, Blazer, and bulk packed federal rounds.


Doing some number crunching after a few range sessions, the average accuracy improvement experienced was around 25% over what I normally expect to see from non-match rounds - usually this is around a .5-.75-inch fifty yard group with bulk pack ammo shot from a match quality rifle and barrel. With that noted, I have had plenty of barrels that delivered life changing accuracy with match ammo, but just shoot really horrible 1-2-inch group with mid-quality ammo. Generally, yeah, the V7 seems to work great, but it is not particularly scientific. Really there is no real way to control all the variables other than to have V7 make a different standard .22LR bore and do barrel swap testing on the same gun, but even then one variable changes and the whole test is invalid.


This is so hard to do an apples to apples comparison because referring back to a spreadsheet where I was tracking all the groups I ever shot with 10/22s, I had a Magnum Research build that loved bulk packed T-22 delivering delivering consistent sub-¼-inch 50-yard groups and one especially amazing .167-inch group. That same range day my Kidd barreled build would not shoot the same ammo better than about .4-inch. The norm though was to expect T-22 ammo to deliver that +.5-inch group range. The V7 shot a few .4-inch and .5-inch groups with the T-22 ammo. Is that better, worse, did I use a different lot # of ammo, was there more wind or humidity, or did I have an extra cup of coffee before testing. There are so many variables. I think this is going to be more of an adventure exploring what this barrel can deliver and doing more side-by-side testing against other builds. The concept does appear to work and even if it doesn’t, the V7 barrel is still a tack driver of a barrel with my inventory of SK and Lapua match grade ammo.


LONG TERM TESTING - PLAN
What I would really like to test is to find a round that prints groups like total crap with every other build and see what those rounds can do in this V7 barrel. I “think” that is the test of how the V7 10/22 squeeze bore .20 caliber barrel can improve accuracy. The other test really should be longer 75-100-150-yard ranges where the elongated BC created by the reduced bore and higher velocities could both be measured based on actual bullet drop in a side-by-side comparison with other similar barrels. If the V7 delivers less bullet drop at those distances compared to a similar barrel, with the same ammo, the BC and velocity must be true. At those longer ranges accuracy improvements would also be obvious. All that testing is more than I have time for, however I think this barrel could be one of the most fun barrels to play around with that I own just to see what it can do.

PHYSICS OF SQUEEZE BORE

Obviously standard rifling lands score and deform bullets to some degree. If the bullet is made well, the rifling cuts into the bullet and the bullet diameter is large enough that it seals perfectly against the shallows of the rifling. If the bullet is not well formed, the bullet may not seal well or too tight against the shallows of the rifling and the result are negative impacts on consistent accuracy and velocity. 

When we look at other 5R, polygonal, Glock’s hexagonal, and Feddersen’s SEPR Single Edge Polygonal rifling, they all were actually designed to overcome minor bullet variances by deforming the bullet in a way that tends to true up inconsistent bullets. Polygonal rifling actually deforms the bullets against a gentle hill and valley waveform rifling and tends to deform the entire bullet rifling facing surface versus just the lands cutting into a portion of the bullet.

Based on my experience, polygonal based rifling does deliver all the above noted V7 barrel advantages, but just in a different way. The squeeze bore concept also deforms the bullet. Actually the .22LR is .0023-inchs and considering the land diameter on .22LR is .212, it really is not much of a squeeze down to .20-inch. That gentle squeeze is enough to remove minor bullet variances. We see this in Pellet guns where the skirt is a little oversized and is pinched down tight to assure a good pellet to bore seal.


The one thing I noticed with the V7 Weapon System 10/22 barrel was that it displayed similar traits I have experienced first hand with polygonal based rifling. One of those traits was a more forgiving ammo preference and better accuracy with non-match and typically less-consistent ammo. Testing with match grade ammo showcased some really nice tight ¼-inch 50-yard groups, but not a lot of noticeable improvements over what I would expect to see from any other high tier match grade barrel. Especially with the 10/22 format, extraction and cycling in the V7 did seem to be more reliable with ammo that normally is on the fringe of the low power range and would typically require a lighter spring or acceptance of an occasional feeding bobble. I will say the extra backpressure of the V7 barrel does seem to really assure reliability of other often tight chambered match barrels.



BUILD SPECS

Initially I had this barrel mounted for testing in a Majestic - Power Custom billet receiver with their drop-in match trigger kit, match bolt, a KRG Bravo stock, and the V7 match barrel. Notably, this exact build with just the barrel swapped to a Proof Research barrel delivered one of my best three shooting builds ever, so I feel good I gave the V7 barrel the best chance possible. Obviously with sub-.25-inch groups, it is a great barrel. I moved the barrel over to the Volquartsen Summit receiver for some testing to see if it would influence the barrel and I did not see any issues.


FINAL THOUGHTS

If you want a potential sub-¼-inch barrel, the V7 Weapon Systems 10/22 barrel is not going to disappoint with high tier match quality ammo. It is a player in the field of premier tier barrels while delivering boosted recoil to improve reliability of very light match ammo options.


With that noted, I think it can offer way more for the buyer who wants to potentially shoot a lot of less than match quality ammo and is a really interesting piece of kit to play around with on the range that is going to net a lot of “wow that is interesting” moments. If you are a tinkerer, and love the physics of all this or want something more unique “no it’s actually a .20 caliber 10/22” the V7 is 100% your barrel. More to come on this barrel.

V7 Manufacturer Provided Specs

  • CALIBER: 22LR
  • MATERIAL: 416 R STAINLESS
  • LENGTH: 16.1 IN
  • TWIST 1-:10  (Projectile length increases due to the 20 cal bore requiring the faster than standard twist for projectile stability.)
  • SPORTER CONTOUR FOR SIMPLE DROP IN REPLACEMENT
  • INCREASED WEAPON RELIABILITY/FUNCTION ESPECIALLY WITH LOW PRESSURE/BUDGET FRIENDLY AMMO
  • 22 CAL PROJECTILE EXITS THE MUZZLE AS A 20 CAL PROJECTILE GIVING IMPROVED PROJECTILE BALLISTIC COEFFICIENCY & PENETRATION !
  • HIGHER ENERGY LEVELS AT LONGER RANGES !
  • ABOVE NOTED IMPROVEMENTS ARE GAINED USING STANDARD .22 LR AMMO!
  • 1/2 X 28 THREAD PITCH FOR STANDARD .22LR MUZZLE DEVICES
  • MATTE BEAD BLAST FINISH (BLACK KG KOTE OPTIONAL)
  • FLUTING UPGRADE AVAILABLE
  • STANDARD BARREL WEIGHS 26.3 OZ
  • FLUTED BARREL WEIGHS 24 OZ
  • MADE IN AMERICA
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY


Friday, August 12, 2022

Summit 10/22 Carbon Fiber Barrel Review

Summit 10/22 Carbon Fiber Barrel Review

Like most "editors of the Industry" I am both excited and skeptical when new products hit the market. Will the offerings bring a different value or just deliver a warmed over version of something else. When I saw the Summit Precision Match grade 10/22 barrels, I had those feelings again. After all, a .22 Benz match chambered stainless carbon fiber sleeved barrel in your choice of color for $240 is a deal, but will it shoot.


My accuracy testing was done with a Hawk 2.5-10 Vantage which proved the accuracy, the primary build was focused on a ultra-light hyper fast handling steel challenge build with a red dot sight. The build was based on a bright red PMACA 10/22 lightweight Chassis with pic rail, Feddersen Aluminum receiver, Timney Calvin Elite single stage 10/22 Trigger, Sig Sauer Romeo 4T Red Dot, Kidd match bolt and charging handle, A2 buffer tube, ACE UL Stock and Magpul pistol grip. The final build is super slim and extremely fast handling and the extreme light 23 oz weight of the Summit Precision 10/22 barrel contributed greatly to that feel.


The Summit Precision 10/22 barrels are made with all the specs that would turn heads. Carbon fiber sleeved stainless barrel with color of choice, .22 Benz match chamber and a fit and finish that is very good. The specs are all there to deliver top tier accuracy and with the right ammo and pre-assembly tweaks it does amazingly well.


BARREL FITTING
The Summit Precision barrel is designed to require fitting/sanding to fit the receiver. The process involves sanding the barrel shank to fit to the receiver and even includes a strip of sandpaper and printed instructions to do the job. Theoretically it is a good idea to get as tight a barrel to receiver fit, however over the years I have changed my mind on this after a lot of testing and….am no longer a believer or fan of this type of barrel fitment is necessary and there is one major reason… imprecise hand fitting.

I think most builders do not have the skill or equipment to reduce shank size in a way that keeps the bore true to the bolt face. It just seems totally counterintuitive to me to take a not particularly cheap barrel of extraordinarily high precision and then reduce dimensions with a low precision method like hand sanding, but many high tier barrel makers in the 10/22 world do this. I would rather have a standard slip fit sized factory precision turned concentric barrel shank and make up any difference with LocTite 638 or 620 which is specifically designed for this purpose, is cheap and reversible, simple to use, and I have found delivers the same results.


For this build, I used a less aggressive abrasive nylon wheel on my grinder with the barrel sitting on the grinder’s tool shelf, which provided a more gentle sanding and fitment option and allowed me to turn the barrel during the process for better bore concentricity. Within a few minutes of back and forth fitting, I had the barrel mounted to the Feddersen Billet Aluminum Receiver.


FEEDING & TWEAKING

After initial testing, I find that most match grade barrels can benefit from a good dremel polishing of the breech with a basic rouge polishing compound to improve feeding. In this case the Summit Precision 10/22 barrel did need a good heavy polishing of the end of the breach. Without that simple 2-minute breach polishing tweak, I did have a few feeding issues during initial testing, and in some instances evidence of a shaved case, but once the breach was polished, feeding was perfect. Tension barrels are tricky, of the many I have owned, every single one has a loose tension nut after a long 200+ round barrage of shooting and the Summit had the same issue. Just lock-tite and tighten while the barrel is hot and you will not have any more issues.


ACCURACY TESTING
With a bipod and Hawke 2.5-10 Vantage optic attached, the Summit Precision 10/22 barrel offered up a series of initial ½-inch 50-yard groups. Impressive, but I knew it could do better after some barrel break-in. I did perform my standard barrel break in with a magazine full of high velocity copper plated rounds such as CCI Mini-Mag or in this case CCI Velocitor. After over fifty or so 10/22 builds, I have found that especially with stainless barrels, this process speeds the barrel break in and seems to settle the barrel in a few HV copper rounds vs 300-400 rounds of lead standard velocity. Some stainless barrels can take forever to break in otherwise and both these rounds are match chamber friendly and not the hypersonic length cases like the CCI Stingers which should not be fired in match chambers. After this process most of my match grade ammo groups closed down immediately from ½-inch to my best groups around ¼-inch at 50yards which I will accept as excellent any day.


Thankfully, the Summit Precision barrel was not picky with which ammo shot well and seemed to shoot pretty much any quality ammo really well. My intent was to do a lot of plinking and steel banging with this build with random boxes of whatever ammo, so that was good to see that even less expensive ammo shot well. The junk ammo shot about as well as you would expect and good enough for better than average plinking, but the good stuff delivered exceptional results. In particular it shot SK Rifle Match and CCi Velocitor extremely well both delivering sub-.25-inch 50-yard groups. One Lapua Center-X 50-yard five-round group measured .168-inches, so the Summit barrels can definitely shoot and have a lot of accuracy potential. Even when I moved over to the Sig Romeo 4T with 4X multiplier behind it, I shot two sub-1/2 -inch 50-yard groups, which I was thrilled with considering the non-ideal setup. The barrel has a lot of potential.


VALUE
At $240 the Summit barrels are up there with the premium tier of barrel cost, however no one else offers anything like this. Are the Summit Precision barrels as accurate as my Fedderson, Kidd, Proof, or Volquartsen? Well no, generally those barrels will deliver a bit better groups with some delivering me essentially single hole 50-yard groups, however Fedderson and Kidd do not offer carbon fiber barrels and Volquartsen’s start around $350 and Proof Research’s unique Carbon Fiber Wrapped Barrel starts at a whopping $650. The Summit Precision Barrel at $240 it is about 30% less expensive than the next available option and the color options are literally stunning. It shoots amazing, looks amazing, and offers a choice of colors, so yes, $240 is a great deal for what is offered.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, I am quite impressed with what Summit Precision has brought to the market with this line of new 10/22 match barrels. Although I am sure many would disagree with me, my feedback to Summit Precision was to offer a room temperature slip-fit barrel shank sized to what is offered by other premier tier barrel manufacturers to simplify install, factory polish the breach to improve feeding out of the box, and increase the torque on the barrel tension. If you are buying a $240 match grade barrel though, you are probably used to a bit of tweaking with builds. For me a bit of barrel fitting, almost always polishing the breach, and doing a few rounds of CCI copper plated high velocity rounds is a process I am used to with nearly every build regardless of manufacturer.


 

 I really liked the Summit Precision carbon fiber barrels because they offer the performance fit and finish I would get with other high tier barrels, but the selling point for me was that they are really showy and I have a choice of carbon fiber color options and some custom limited run options that can really transform an average build into something with a WOW factor. It says a lot when a writer notes that they are laying down more of their hard earned case for a product and I can say that I already have plans for two more builds with these barrels. It would seem we have another 10/22 Barrel company to watch.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Volquartsen Summit 10/22 Rifle Review

Volquartsen Summit 10/22 Rifle Review

If you want something unique in the 10/22 market or something really insanely quiet for suppressor work, the Volquartsen Summit is for you. It is the only 10/22 compatible platform with a non-semi automatic action, specifically it is a biathlon push-pull action. For suppressor work, it is also the only 10/22 compatible action which will not utter a peep after the hammer drop. It is unique, fun and useful as a platform; especially for shooters in countries which don’t allow civilians to own semi-automatics but still want 10/22 compatibility. I present to you, the most unique 10/22 compatible action on the market - the Volquartsen Summit.

IT IS DIFFERENT
I fell in love with the quirky PWS Summit and the love affair starts again with the Volquartsen offering. It is just so cool, smooth and fun to shoot. A little history before we begin; the Summit Action was originally designed by PWS - Primary Weapons Systems - actually Dean Sylvester CEO at PWS. You might remember a few articles I did with the PWS Summit action many moons ago. At one point PWS shelved the project and later Volquartsen licensed the design from PWS - wala, we have the Volquartsen Summit action. Well not exactly that simple.

There are a few things you should consider before buying a Volquartsen Summit 10/22 Action. There were some things that Volquartsent did tweak beyond making the receiver look Volquartsen’y. Most felt the PWS Summit was pretty tightly headspaced and locked up with zero bolt slack which made it wildly inconsistent with any ammo which it was not perfectly headspaced for. The result was chasing some really frustrating accuracy results when swapping ammo and also premature linkage wear and occasionally breakage. There were also some issues with light strikes here and there and some feeding issues that required some tuning. It was a very niche 10/22 compatible receiver which had some nuances that many 10/22 shooters did not understand. The Summit is in the right place under the Volquartsen brand where it can mature under the eyes of the most well regarded precision rimfire manufacturer in the world.


IT IS A UNIQUE BOLT ACTION
The Volquartsen updates did ease the initial Summit design challenges considerably with an action that now feeds, extracts and shoots reliably. As a buyer, you really should look at the Volquartsen Summit as a bolt action rifle and not a unique modified 10/22 semi-auto. Like any bolt action .22LR rimfire, the Summit does not have the wildly forgiving trait of the self-headspacing semi-auto bolt. By contrast, the Summit bolt locks up in a fixed position each and every time instead of auto-headspacing +/- a few .001 based on variability of rim thickness like the semi-auto. Due to this design, owners may need to swap out barrel shims to adjust the headspace for different ammo.

The reality is that, like a bolt action, you need to “identify” the rifle’s favorite ammo and stock up deep on that round. Back when I had the PWS action, I could literally tune the gun to shoot any ammo crazy good, however that process was and still is a bit painful involving complete disassembly, a trial and error process of different barrel shims to adjust headspace, reassembly and retest. The Volquartsen version is a bit less picky with ammo and they have found the proverbial sweet spot of compromise where there are no longer giant swings in group sizes from ammo to ammo. Some of that is thanks to the really amazing Volquartsen carbon fiber tensioned barrel. The Volquartsen Summit still does like to be tuned to a particular rim thickness to get the best accuracy possible, however it does feed and extract perfectly. So now we have a 10/22 compatible platform that offers the flexibility of not only identifying the preferred ammo, but also offering the ability to tune to a specific round by adjusting the headspacing via barrel shims. Its really very cool and a unique feature.


Where the previous PWS Summit caused me to revert to torrets style rants was when testing various ammo with groups opening up as much as 1.25-inches larger just with different match grade ammo but the same barrel. The Volquartsen Summit at least only opened up groups about ½-inch from one match ammo to the next. My particular Volquartsen Summit seemed to love Federal Gold Medal .22LR ammo delivering sub-¼-inch 50-yard groups. Find what your Summit loves and go deep on that ammo or tune to your ammo preference - the choice is yours. Similar to the PWS version, the Volquartsen Summit was not as picky with high velocity rounds. Still no idea why that could be, but it was in my notes from the PWS Summit builds and seems to be the same on this new Volquartsen version.


FIT, FINISH, QUALITY, & ACCURACY 

Like all Volquartsen firearms, this Summit action is tight, extraordinarily high quality with a fit and finish second to none in the 10/22 market. Notably, the Summit action is not a standard 10/22 receiver and cannot be used or converted to a semi-auto. The Summit action is its own platform which happens to have a barrel, stock, magazine, and trigger which are all directly compatible with 10/22 parts. The action is a push-pull action similar to those used on biathlon rifles, thus the common reference noting it as a biathlon action. Cycling is a fast backward and forward pull/push which is a bit faster than a standard bolt action cycling.

Volquartsen decided to make the focus on this build around something more lightweight and fun with a lightweight carbon fiber tensioned barrel dressed out in black. The model I ordered was complete with a gray Magpul Hunter stock and it is a good fit for this build. A really fun part of the Volquartsen Summit is that it is really nice and light. The super light Magpul Hunter Stock does not weigh down the build while still delivering a stiff stock with MLOK compatible slots. In this format, the Volquartsen Summit is a nice light and super accurate all-around rifle with a ton of accuracy potential.

I decided a good fit for the Volquartsen Summit was the Hawke Optics 2.5-10 Endurance. Though this optic model does not have an adjustable focus, it delivers minimal parallax shift in the low 2.5-5 range where most of the shooting is done under 25-yards and the higher magnification I reserve for 75+ yard ranges. Ideally, a Hawke SF model with low magnification would be preferred.

RIFLE VS DIY BUILD
Volquartsen does offer the Summit receiver both as a complete rifle and also as a receiver complete with the proprietary bolt and charging handle. I really would recommend the complete rifle unless you have deep…deep 10/22 build experience paired and a lot of barrel headspacing experience. There are enough nuances to the Summit that I would recommend all but the most experienced to opt for the complete factory rifle which still allows for a wide range of customization.  The factory Summit build includes all of Volquartsen's amazing parts such as their match trigger assembly, pins and screws which match with the Summit receiver perfectly.



FINAL THOUGHTS
From my perspective, if you are not running a suppressor on the Volquartsen Summit, you are missing 95% of the design purpose. It literally is the firearm peanut butter to the suppressor jelly, the 10/22 Yen to the suppressor Yang… well, you get the idea. If you are like me and love the 10/22 format, but want a bolt action for quieter shots with suppressors, this is perfection incarnated, but without a suppressor, it feels like you are missing something really big. If you have shot 10/22 suppressed, you already know that the sound of the bolt slamming around is 50% of the sound. With the Summit, all there is to that sound is the click of the hammer. Even without a suppressor, the Summit is just quieter… you know, like a bolt action but fed with a Ruger 10-round rotary magazine.

I loved the PWS version, but the Volquartsen Summit has had some tweaking done that makes it just that much better with a more consistent and enjoyable shooting experience right out of the box. The Summit action is a different animal, and runs different than other 10/22s. Find the ammo it likes and the Summit will reward you in a big way with the most unique 10/22 compatible action on the market.

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Monday, August 8, 2022

Custom 10-22 Power Custom Proof Research Barrel Review

Custom 10-22 Power Custom Proof Research Barrel Review

Though I had experience with Proof Research barrels before, I remember thinking “What in the Actual…[you know the word]” when I shot the first 50-yard group with this Power Custom Proof Research custom 10/22 build - a 5-shot .112-inch group is freaky awesome for a first group. There are a few high precision custom 10/22 brands like Proof Research and Power Custom that we do not hear much about for 10/22 builds simply because they are either just not marketed as broadly or are more expensive than what builders are accustomed to. I decided to stuff them all into one build, and I have to say I was blown away.


My experience with two of those lesser known Power Custom and Proof Research brands has been a real eye opener. The featured custom 10/22 was my first build with any Power Custom products and my third build with Proof Research barrels but first in a 10/22 format.
 

The build features a $670 Proof Research made-to-order carbon fiber wrapped 16.1-inch 10/22 barrel with a proprietary .22 Benz style match chamber, $199 Power Custom Grand Master Billet aluminum receiver, and another $300 in various other Power Custom parts including a barrel v-block, match bolt with A2 tool steel firing pin and extractor, extended oversized charging handle, extended bolt release and PC Competition Plus Red drop in trigger upgrade kit. I did also purchase a Ruger BX-Trigger which was the basis of the Power Custom trigger rebuild kit used. The entire build was dropped into a $260 KRG Bravo stock and topped with an $450 Athlon 6-25 optic.

From a build cost, this is definitely up there with the rifle build over $1400 excluding the $450 Athlon ARGOS BTR GEN2 6-24×50 APMR FFP IR MIL optic and $50 rings. At just under $2000, this build is at a price right there with the highest tier of custom factory rifles from Volquartsen and Kidd. The great news is that it performed amazingly well and is initially showing that it is easily in my top three historically most accurate 10/22 rifles ever. Although I had shot this barrel in another build and was extremely impressed with tiny groups, in this build my first three 50-yard groups were all at or under ⅛-inch with Lapua match ammo and that is crazy accuracy.

PROOF RESEARCH 10/22 BARREL

Let’s address the elephant in the room, yes this is a $670 barrel in a land where most aftermarket barrels are around $250. Its a boatload of cash for a match grade 10/22 barrel when the majority of options from Kidd, Volquartsen and Feddersen are under $300 and all routinely are in that same range of accuracy. To be fair though, Proof Research’s competitors are not those well known 10/22 barrel manufacturers, but instead the Gucci level exclusive handmade barrel brands like Lilja, Hart, Shilen and others which are all in the $350-$600 or more price range with extras like fluting and special finishes. Based on my research though, this Proof Barrel is the most expensive “production” barrel on the market for 10/22s, however again to be fair, the price is right there in line with all of Proof’s other barrel prices, so no discount just
because it is a rimfire .22LR.
The quality of 

this barrel is every bit as good as any other Proof Research barrel and the work required to produce it is just the same. The first task of this build was actually getting my hands on the Proof Research 10/22 barrel. They are all custom ordered with your choice of carbon fiber wrapped or the less expensive all stainless in lengths of 16.1, 18, 20 inches all with 4-groove 1:16 twist and proprietary .22 Benz chambers.

Previously, I had been extremely impressed with a Proof Research’s 6.5 Creedmoor carbon fiber barrel for a Ruger Precision build and also an AR pistol barrel with 11-inch barrel, so I decided the bump in price might be worth it in this case as well. I placed the order and waited nearly four months for the custom made-to-order Proof Research barrel to arrive, but it was worth the wait. It is a stunning barrel and in this build it shot amazingly well with very little ammo preference or group increases even over longer shot strings. With more rounds and time to allow for further barrel break in, I have no doubt that this will group even better as time goes on when I am already seeing consistent sub-⅛-inch groups with a selection of Lapua match ammo.

Generally, I would rather have a reliable 50-yard .25-inch grouping gun which does not have wide variances in group size and point of impact when ammo selection is changed beyond its preference. This is one reason I recommend the Feddersen barrels so often, however this Proof Research barrel has those similar traits as well. This barrel still delivers very good groups with quality, but less expensive ammo like SK or CCI SV. Ammo such as SK, SK Plus, SK Rifle Match, SK Long Range, CCI Standard, CCI Velociter and pretty much the entire suite of Lapua ammo all shot extremely well and there does not seem to be a noticeable spread between different lot numbers and not much point of impact change horizontally.
 

There are big advantages to the carbon fiber wrapped barrel design which Proof Research has proven to the market over the years. Expensive, but the advantages are clear. One of those big advantages is that a similar bull barrel would weigh over 3-lbs where this Proof 10/22 barrel is only 1.6-lbs. The other advantage is that as the barrel heats the carbon fiber manages the heat in a way which allows the barrel to stay cool and retain accuracy throughout a long shot string. Seeing is believing in this case and I am a believer. As a buyer I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when I saw teeny tiny groups downrange - cool or not, heat attacks would have occurred if the performance would have missed being nothing short of amazing on a barrel of this price. Would I buy this for my first set of 10/22 builds, probably not, because you are likely not going to splurge on the other components to make the investment worthwhile. With a commitment to going in on other top tier components and definitely optics on a build, without question I would order another Proof Research 10/22 build.

POWER CUSTOM 10/22 PARTS

My first time experience with Power Custom products really surprised me. They have a bit of a different philosophy when it comes to the 10/22. You might recall that they were the first company ever to produce a last round bolt hold open for the 10/22 which required a proprietary bolt and a few other parts. Today they have a Gen 2 version which only requires a proprietary bolt instead of also requiring speciality magazines as well. More on that upgrade in a future article. Some may know of Power Custom’s drop-in trigger parts as sold on Brownells, however most of their other parts are not as well known. Of note, Power Custom uniquely offers many parts in upgraded A2 tool steel or titanium.

The Power Custom Grand Master 10/22 receiver is of premier quality with an elegant design and beautiful finish. The receiver is billet from aircraft grade aluminum and includes a few extra that would be expected on a high tier receiver such as rear cleaning rod hole, integrated and extended 1913 picatinny rail with integrated upper barrel support. The surface finish is also impeccable with a shiny lustrous anodizing. The Cycling was buttery smooth with the Power Custom Match bolt featuring a A2 tool steel extractor and firing pin and operation was also easy with the plus-sized charging handle. Although my first reaction was that the charging handle was huge. At twice the length of many other 10-22 charging handles, it is obvious that their engineering team are shooters, because the size of the charging handle makes more sense than anything I have used so far with optics with giant tactical turrets or potentially gloved hands that sometimes miss a small charging handle. There is not a lot of weight there either with the handle itself made of titanium. Notably I have had zero issues with ignition and extraction has been perfect, so I can highly recommend their 10/22 Match Grade Bolt.

With such a high end build, I was skeptical when Power Custom recommended a drop-in Ruger trigger upgrade kit for the aftermarket Ruger BX-Trigger with plastic housing. Power Custom noted they are targeting all those customers who have a factory trigger or own an upgraded Ruger BX trigger. The Power Custom PC Competition Plus Red BX Trigger upgrade kit is $139. The drop in kit is nothing short of amazing considering I reused a Ruger BX polymer trigger housing and a few other parts. Match quality parts replace the parts in the factory trigger housings that allowed adjustment for pre-travel, overtravel, and trigger pull weight. The kit is designed to fit both the older aluminum model and the newer composite trigger housings including the BX and shims are included to take up any slop. My tuning of the trigger takeup, weight and overtravel netted a very crisp 2.1lb trigger break. The kit installed is a value when compared to other $200 complete trigger packs.

10/22 STOCK, OPTICS & ACCESSORIES

With the upside potential of this build and the light 1.6-lb barrel weight I wanted to maximize accuracy without adding a lot of extra weight. For me that means using a KRG Bravo 10/22 stock which has delivered amazing accuracy paired with initial lighter weight and complete ergonomic adjustability. One of the things I love about the KRG Bravo stock is that if you want something as an option, the Bravo stock can accommodate it - add weight into weight pockets, plenty of picatinny rails, and it is ready for accessories like SPIGOT or ARCA mounts, and is pre-drilled for a night vision bridge mount forward of the optic. The mounting depth of the action is also adjustable as well. It is a very flexible chassis. I did add a few lower picatinny rails and a Magpul bipod which is fast, flexible and solid.

I chose the $450 Athlon ARGOS BTR GEN2 6-24×50 APMR FFP IR MIL optic and mounted it with the high quality Athlon 30mm rings. The optic was chosen for a few reasons including the higher than usual magnification range used on rimfires, parallax adjustment down to 10-yards, FFP, reticle and the obvious clarity of Athlon optics. For a precision bench gun like this that you will lock down on a stable bench, the magnification can be a huge advantage even at shorter distances. There are obvious advantages to the magnification as we start to use all the accuracy at 100-250+ yards. The FFP capability just allows me to have one dope sheet and use it at any magnification. The parallax adjustment is key to be able to adjust down to 10-yards which is important for rimfires since most shots will be way under the usual 100-yard lower parallax limits of other scopes. If you cannot adjust down beyond 100-yards, the parallax can be so bad at even 25-yards that you can be off by inches by shifting the eye left or right. The reticle is also very fine which is helpful with precision accuracy versus having a big thick reticle that obscures part of the target or that needs to be worked around for precision.


FINAL THOUGHTS

After building well over fifty custom 10/22 builds, I have fallen into the trap of using the same proven products over and over, but this build really opened my eyes that there are still more great 10/22 products to discover and enjoy. With the exception of previous experience with the KRG stock, the barrel, receiver, parts, trigger and optic were all new brands for me. Assembled together in this build, the accuracy is stunning and it seems to only get better as the barrel breaks in more and more which always takes a while for stainless rimfire barrels.

Is a $2000 10/22 worth it? I would say it is, but as a builder you need to decide whether you have the budget for premium, super premium, or the exclusive ultra-premium parts like the Proof Research 10/22 barrels. The Power Customer parts by comparison are also about 20% more expensive than other options, however obviously the performance is there and they will look different than what everyone else has. Will the super premium Feddersen, Volquartsen, or Kidd barrels and receiver just one notch down perform as well? Could a premium level Summit or Beyer barrel offer accuracy that still exceeds your ability? Likely yes to all the above, the less expensive barrels would still deliver amazing accuracy beyond your shooting ability, however maybe the uber premium barrel will give you the edge. You really need to make that decision yourself. Once you reach a point where a build is shooting essentially the same ragged hole 50-yard ⅛-inch groups, it becomes really hard to tell which barrel, trigger, optic, stock, and other components are better or whether you just had too much coffee. This build has quickly jumped into my personal inventory of 10/22 builds I covet, for me I would spend the money again.

 

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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Tactical Innovations 10/22 Beyer Barrel Review

Tactical Innovations 10/22 Beyer Barrel Review

Over the last fifty or so 10/22 builds, I have really loved what Tactical Innovations brings to market for the 10/22 builder - it's just easy and fun. DIY building a 10/22 can be a bit frustrating sometimes with parts not quite fitting together or not being very reliable while assembling various manufacturers parts together.

 Tactical Innovations wants to make that experience the easiest and most problem-free possible for the DIY builder. Though I started with building this Tactical Innovations receiver first as a pistol with a Beyer 6-inch barrel, I did order one of TI’s 16.5-inch lightweight shrouded honeycomb barrels for a part two rifle build that I will cover as well.

The first thing I love about Tactical Innovations products is that they offer many different options for the 10/22 which are different from just another black or silver billet receiver. In addition to a whole array of cerakote color options, they offer billet right or left hand charge models in standard billet, take-down billet, and stainless models. Tactical Innovations also offers many of the other parts and components in Cerakote colors as well such as billet trigger housings, match bolts, magazine releases, trigger shoes, and muzzle devices. With all the options TI offers across their cerakote colors including all the components like match triggers, vblocks and receiver pins, the build combinations are almost limitless. For those 10/22 color theme builds, there is nothing better than TI.

Tactical Innovations does a few things to make it simpler and easier for more reliable and less frustrating builds. Instead of the widely variable tones of anodizing colors, TI made a decision to swap to predictable and repeatable Cerakoting of all the parts. This way customers can order parts at different times and know they will still color match. According to Craig Wheatley, President of Tactical Innovations, “Color matching with anodizing has always been a problem and if the anodizer screws up the part it is literally trashed. With Cerakote, we get predictable color matching and consistent results each and every time and even if there is a coating problem, Cerakote can be recoated. The added bonus is that Cerakote has higher lubricity than anodizing.”

To make assembly and fitting simple and easy, TI also uses a factory sized shank for the barrels and receivers instead of tight match barrel shank size. This design strategy assures that customers do not have to sand down or freeze barrels to get them to fit and can just slip-fit any of our barrels in any of our receivers with a good room temperature fit even with most aftermarket barrels. In my case, I had no issues with fitting the Beyer match pistol barrel. To assure reliability for any ammo, Tactical Innovations also use a Sporter chamber on their barrels instead of a more picky .22 Benz match chamber. This also allows customers to shoot hyper-velocity .22LR ammo such as CCI Stingers.

With the 16.5-inch TI Honeycomb barrel mounted, shooters will notice the super light weight immediately with a weight about 60% lighter than a bull barrel. The cool thing about this barrel is that TI will sell additional shrouds for users to swap to different color shrouds in just a few minutes. My barrel shroud version was cerakoted grey with the barrel in red which really pops from a color perspective. The grey matches the rest of the build primary colors and carries through the red highlight colors on the barrel, bolt, magazine release, and trigger. Based on what I am seeing in this build, Tactical innovations is doing a beautiful job with their cerakoting, fit and finish.


This TI build is stunning both in looks and function with a unique side charge handle and billet trigger housing, extended magazine release, 2.5-lb match grade trigger, match honeycomb bolt, billet aluminum side-charge receiver and charging handle. The initial build to make it legal as a pistol first build was with a pistol grip only PMACA billet chassis and with the Beyer 6-inch barrel. The 16.5-inch Tactical Innovations barrel was used for another later magazine article and the results were impressive dime sized 50-yard groups with most higher grade ammo. Notably, TI barrels sporter chambers are made to function well with a wide range of ammo while offering an improvement over factory barrels. With that noted, it is going to be tough for a sporter chamber barrel to match the accuracy of a .22 Benz chambered barrel. This TI barrel has the advantage that it can shoot anything well, is not particularly picky with ammo from an accuracy perspective. This makes it an easy and simple option for a custom builder that just wants good consistent accuracy and an easy and fun build that is going to work when they are done.


This build could not have been more fun or easier with the super light PMACA billet stock with an A2 buffer tube and AR15 grip installed topped with an Eotech optic. This was a super reliable build, fun, fast and entertaining. It is everything a fun custom build should be in both pistol or later in rifle format and then even later, back in pistol format. ATF rules note to build as a pistol first for this pistol to rifle to pistol versatility.

BEYER 10/22 BARREL SWAP
Swapping to the 6-inch ultralight aluminum sleeved Beyer pistol barrel with .22 Benz match chamber was enlightening and showed how flexible the Tactical Innovations parts are for the builder. 

The Beyer barrel slipped right in and paired well with the rest of the components excluding the A2 stock removed before assembly. A KNS picatinny adapter was installed for an MPX style rear picatinny rail mount and a SB-Tactical TF1913 brace with integrated folding adapter was installed for the pistol build. The complete build is relatively tiny when folded. With a number of previous experiences with Beyer barrels in both rifle and pistol builds, I have been very impressed with the accuracy with not much accuracy erosion even with a pistol barrel. Beyer barrels are extremely unique when compared to other ultra-light aluminum sleeved barrel competitors. The Beyer barrels are hard bonded to the liners which prevents barrel liners sliding off with harsh use - essentially delivering solid barrel durability with the weight advantages, heat dispursen, and stiffness of aluminum. Beyer notably offers the lightest 10/22 aluminum sleeved barrels on the market and without question some of the most accurate.

Because my astigmatism is really giving me issues, I decided that accuracy would be best using an old Bushnell Elite 1-6 variable optic. The decision was the right move. With this build held solid on the bench and fed with SK Plus I shot some stunning ½-inch 10-shot 50-yard groups and a few impressive 1/4-inch 5-shot groups. For a super small build without the stability of a bench optimized rifle’s stock, barrel length or magnification, this build can shoot and keep up with most rifles. With a suppressor, this little pistol rig is pretty amazingly flexible while still being able to stow in the smallest of packs.

Part of that impressive accuracy is the 2.5-lb trigger kit. The Tactical Innovations trigger is extremely good with a nice crisp break in your color of choice for $180 including a billet housing. TI also offers a $190 fully adjustable version as well that includes the billet housing which is a deal in the 10/22 market considering you can choose your cerakote color.

This Tactical Innovations left-side-charge receiver is amazing for a fast shooting build. Why I didn’t try a left side charger sooner is beyond me - it makes so much sense to be able to just drop the 10/22 magazine with the strong hand and reach up with the weak hand to charge the bolt. I would choose a left hand charging handle again in a heartbeat.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Oftentimes we all get too serious about our 10/22 builds and TI makes it fun in a choice of fun colors, all in a format that is easy and reliable for the 10/22 DIY builder. Despite building many 10/22 builds over the years, I have always retained a TI receiver simply because I know I can slip nearly any barrel in for testing without a bunch of barrel fitting wizardry. Minus the stock and optic, the entire second rifle based build could be purchased from TI for just under $950 which is a bargain considering what this build would cost if you purchased other components and then had them all cerakoted. At today’s Cerakote prices you would easily have another $400 in just cerakote - yet another way Tactical Innovations makes it easy for customers and a lot less expensive for a really custom build.

If you want a nice fun build or are making one for a friend of loved one that just wants something reliable, fun, problem-free, and a lot more accurate than stock, Tactical Innovations is the only way to go from my perspective. Its easy for the builder and later on if an owner wants to make changes they can still get parts that will fit, function and color match to what they already have.

As demonstrated with the Beyer barrel, the Tactical Innovations products are also completely flexible and hyper compatible with other 10/22 parts in the industry. Sure you may find some other manufacturers parts that still need tweaking, however I have yet to have that happen. Have some fun, loosen up and build something fun with Tactical Innovations.

10-22 - Volquartsen IF-5 Threaded Match Series Review

10-22 - Volquartsen IF-5 Threaded Match Series Review

First let me define this Volquartsen IF-5 10/22 by saying “Damn” this thing is amazing. The Volquartsen IF-5 (I-Flute) is Volquartsen’s top tier of 10/22 builds inclusive of all of their usual match quality custom parts plus their exclusive heavy stainless threaded receiver and thread in barrel to deliver the ultimate in accuracy. It should be noted that Scott Volquartsen was one of the people who started the whole custom 10/22 market initially with a selection of a few parts that could make the original 10/22 way more accurate than anyone imagined.

Volquartsen based his barrels Lothar Walther blanks which are widely considered as on the top tier of rifle blanks and then began improving the design, functionality and esthetics of the trusty old 10/22. He was really the first to also elevate the 10/22 format to both an art form and also premier quality firearm with quality rivaling any custom firearm. I now own several Volquartsen based builds and they have always exceeded my accuracy and quality expectations. Of all the custom 10/22s I wrote about for the recent Tactical Retailer magazine showcase, I was shocked they didn’t use the images of this amazing build for the feature photos. Well… here it is - Volquartsen Custom 10/22 Perfection in full detail.

From an accuracy perspective, the IF-5 is in my top three of most accurate .22LR builds I have ever owned and most days it regions as #1. It is a laser with nearly any match grade ammo and is so accurate and predictable at delivering essentially single hole groups at 50-yards it is a bit boring without stretching to 75 or 100 yards. I have two other premier tier builds with similar accuracy and it is an incredible thing to behold when you can routinely punch ½-inch 100-yard groups or better with a .22LR semi auto. The Volquartsen IF-5 is also the only one of these three 10/22 builds I own that anyone can just order as a complete rifle from Volquartsen or your local retailer. The option is there to build your own DIY option which is likely to miss the level of refinement and accuracy of this IF-5 rifle.




WHY IS THIS VOLQUARTSEN BETTER?
We will jump into the beauty of this Volquartsen IF-5 build, but let’s first explore why this build is so accurate. All the usual Volquartsen match spec parts support the unique receiver and barrel like the Volquartsen TG2000 trigger, match bolt, enhanced firing pin and extractor, receiver pins, v-block, and action screw. With the exception of the magazine and stock, Volquartsen has meticulously re-designed, enhanced and upgraded every part on their rifles and makes all these parts in-house in Iowa, USA.


Normally, a 10/22 barrel is slip fit to the receiver with a barrel shank fitting to an aluminum receiver trunnion with hopefully minimal play secured with a tensioning v-block. If there is excessive slop between the barrel and receiver, the dreaded barrel droop happens or you get a barrel that moves around minutely impacting accuracy. Generally, 10/22 builders attempt to obtain a receiver and barrel which mate together at room temperature perfectly since that fit will tighten the moment the barrel heats even slightly.

With the Volquartsen IF-5 series, the barrel and receiver are both stainless steel and the barrel is actually threaded and screwed into the threaded receiver. The barrel is headspaced to the bolt similar to high tier precision bolt guns. The result is that the IF-5 achieves a higher precision barrel to receiver fit with a barrel, receiver and bolt all designed, manufactured and assembled together to fit perfectly; ultimately maximizing accuracy.

With this barrel mounting method, the Lothar Walther based blanks with proprietary tuned .22LR Volquartsen match chambers, fluting, threading and finishing, have the best opportunity for accuracy. Also to further increase builds's accuracy, the IF-5 receiver is made of stainless steel to deliver a structurally stiffer receiver compared to aluminum. It all adds up to a Volquartsen platform which is all optimized for the ultimate accuracy. Without question the IF-5 delivers in a big way.

Inherently, this all stainless receiver and bull barrel is heavier than typical 10/22 components, however the fluting does help it shed more than a few ounces. Volquartsen’s proprietary I-Fluting is stunning, unique in the industry, but it was functionally designed to remove the most amount of weight while retaining maximum stiffness and surface area. It is actually 12-ounces lighter than the bull barrel. The I-Flute barrel is threaded, but finished with a Volquartsen Forward Blow Compensator which, when tightened down, is so well finished that it appears to be integrated.

THE BEAUTY OF THE IF-5 & VOLQUARTSEN BUILDS

There are many 10/22 options on the market that make barrels, triggers, various parts and receivers, but few that offer complete rifles. Volquartsen makes some of the most stunningly finished firearms available. Everything is impeccable from the fit, to the finish, to the accuracy. For the 10/22 customer there is no looking back when buying a Volquartsen. This may sound like a love fest with Volquartsen, however after DIY building well over 50+ 10/22 builds plus building and designing my own 3D printed builds, I have learned that each component matters and if they do not all fit together or play really nicely, then you are not going to get the accuracy and reliability you are paying for. Why not spend a few extra dollars and get something that is factory warrantied, built, tested, and proven as a winner right out of the box that you can go right to the range and enjoy.

There are a lot of fit and finish similarities of Volquartsen to the premier tier of bolt action precision rifles like Defiance, Stiller, and Big Horn, or the stock and trigger manufacturers like XLR or MDT and Timney. Volquartsen is not just delivering a pretty 10/22, it's a premier tier 10/22 format with both accuracy and quality similar to those custom tier precision bolt guns.

For the buyer, literally any option can be customized through Volquartsen directly including the stock. During the course of my article series for Tactical Retailer, I ordered the Volquartsen IF-5 without a stock so that I could use the newest inlet from WOOX stocks in their $1149 Furiosa stock. These are amazing stocks that combine the beauty of wood with the benefits of a stiff aluminum sub-chassis all in a fully adjustable format optimized for long-range precision shooting and extreme comfort. Put the WOOX Furiosa with the Volquartsen IF-5 and you really have the top tier of 10/22 format rifles on the market and undoubtedly one of the most expensive. Yeah, I know $1000+ for a stock… without question WOOX is offering a tier of stocks that are targeted to the upper income tier of shooters, however, you get what you pay for. To be fair, the XLR, KRG, and MDT stocks are around that range as well for their premier stocks and WOOX did not dumb down the Furiosa for the 10/22 inlet, it is the same stock as offered for their bolt guns, but just with a 10/22 inlet. Words cannot express the quality of this WOOX stock only that it is a perfect pairing for this stunning Volquartsen build.


FINAL THOUGHTS
Dude, where are the accuracy comments and results… got groups? I would ask what is the point? My very first day and very first group at the range with the Volquartsen IF-5 10/22 all snuggled into the WOOX Furiosa stock, I shot a ⅛-inch 50-yard group with SK-Plus… and then it got better from there. With Lapua Center-X and Midas, and Exact, I was splitting hairs on which single hole group group was better and second guessing my influence in the equation. I can say without question this is an ⅛-inch 50-yard gun with quality ammo any day of the week. Initially I used an old Bushnell Elite scope for this build, however I think that it will likely earn a Hawke Optics 6-24 Sidewinder Optic in the future to stretch the capabilities out to 200-yards and beyond.


How do you judge one single hole grouping gun from the next. That is really where we are when we talk about the accuracy of the IF-5. When I say that this is one of my top most accurate builds, that refers to an elite tier of 10/22 builds that are the top of the top across well over fifty 10/22 builds. It's a build that you can shoot the flies that are landing on the target board.

For the buyer, there is something really amazing about just writing a check and getting one of the best and most accurate .22LR firearms made, vs piecing together a firearm and hoping it delivers as much. I will note first hand experience that a DIY build will not have this refinement, fit and finish as this complete Volquartsen 10/22 firearm. It is a beautiful piece of kit that I will cherish and enjoy the rest of my life.

  • Stainless steel CNC-machined receiver
  • .920” stainless steel bull barrel threaded into receiver
  • I-Fluting
  • Forward Blow Compensator
  • TG2000 installed providing a crisp, clean trigger pull
  • Integral Picatinny rail
  • Muzzle threaded 1/2 x 28
  • Stainless steel receiver with threaded in barrel
  • Integral Picatinny rail


Shop for Volquartsen Rifles & Parts here on Brownells and support this site through your purchases

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

San Tan Tactical STT-15L Lightweight AR15 PILLAR Receiver Set

San Tan Tactical STT-15L Lightweight AR15 PILLAR Receiver Set

For those that exclusively scour the internet for the cheapest AR15 parts in existence to cobble together an AR15 build, this $470 San Tan Tactical SST-15 upper and lower set is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you appreciate a flawlessly made AR15 receiver set, loaded with well executed details and demand the best and don’t mind paying for quality then read on. This San Tan Tactical receiver set is the Bugatti Veyron or Chiron of the AR15 world.

Despite AR15s arguably outselling shampoo in the last few years, some companies are struggling to offer nothing more than clone ARs with a different logo. On the other side of that coin you see companies that are doing something different, setting a new bar for quality, features, and value and maybe even offering something we never knew we needed. Some are delivering great guns at an entry level and others like San Tan Tactical’s SST-15 AR15 Lower Receiver are dripping with sexy lines, precision, and features that set it apart from anything ordinary.

THE SST-15 PATRIOT AR15 BUILD
Before I jump into what makes the San Tan's billet receiver set special, let's wander through the red, white and blue Patriot AR15 build created based on this SST-15 receiver set. All in, this is about a $2100 build including optic which is in the range of an extremely well appointed and very accurate 3Gun rifle.

As I do with all builds, I started with truing the receiver. On quality receivers of this tier, I find it is not necessarily the billet milled aluminum that is not perfect, but actually the post machining anodizing which can need lapping to be perfectly square. I use the Brownells receiver lapping tool and compound and the process can net drastic accuracy improvements. The San Tan receiver only required a very quick touch of under a minute to square up.

Ballistic Advantage Hanson series stainless barrels are fantastic right out of the box, however I decided to do a little sanding and polishing work to bring the bead blasted 16” .223 Wylde Hanson barrel finish up to a semi-reflective luster. After a good 800-grit sanding and a few passes of Flitz polish, I was surprised how fast this process was.

HANDGUARD - If you have a barrel that is stunning, why hide it under a handguard, so the open and airy looking Odin O2 Lite Red freefloat handguard was used. Though the handguard looks delicate, it is structured to take the same abuse as any other handguard. Since we have a patriotic color theme going, I added a silver colored natural polished V7 titanium ejection port cover. A bit of copper anti-seize was used on the receiver thread and the Odin barrel nut assembly was timed and tightened to 50-ft/lbs.

GAS BLOCK & MUZZLE DEVICE - Since I had the plan to use a lightweight carrier, I installed a Superlative Arms adjustable gas block to deliver that nice light recoiling and flat shooting competition AR15 feel we all love. I hate extra noise just as much as anyone and decided to stick with one of the quietest muzzle devices made, a standard stainless steel Rousch Sports A2 style flash hider and crush washer. The SA adjustable gas block, lightweight carrier and A2 rifle length buffer drop the recoil to a point I don’t feel it's really necessary to also install a comp that will just require doubling ear pro.

To finish up the upper, a Faxon Ultra-Light bolt carrier, a design which has proven itself to me in many builds as a great quality carrier in a very light design. Geissele makes a lot of great products, but one of the great unsung products is the Geissele Super Charging Ambi-Handle used in this build.  


For the lower, I had a lot of parts looking for a great home including a Battle Arms Development Take-Down pins and bolt catch, Strike Industries selector, Geissele SD-3G - Super Dynamic 3Gun trigger, and KNS Anti-Rotate pins. A Magpul grip and rifle length Ace UL Stock were used to finish up the lower.  I also did a custom paracord wrap on the A2 tube.


OPTICS - There are certainly boatloads of fantastic optics now on the market which deliver outstanding clarity, broad 1-6 or more magnification and features like integrated throw handles, however I choose the Burris RT-6 for several reasons. First, the RT-6 for the price is a fantastic optic and from my perspective Burris hit is out of the park on a 3Gun worthy optic at a $360 price everyone can afford. Is it a $1000 Sig, Athelon, Eotech, or Vortex? No, but it is a damn great $500 optic for $360. My wife is likely going to shoot this gun and she has a RT-6 mounted on her other AR15 which she is familiar with. There was no reason to make the optics choice more expensive or complex if it didn’t need to be. Optics mounting was with an Aero scope mount delivering an elegant strong mount.

SanTan Tactical STT-15L Pillar Billet Receiver Combo - $429 - Mil-Spec is required on the battlefield, however not for the custom AR15 builder.  I have handled and tested just about every receiver set out there on the market and no one packs all the quality, fit, finish and features into billet 7075 aluminum like SanTan Tactical. On custom builds, it is good to see design details that will set the receiver apart from other builds. The STT-15L is their lightest set which drops the ambi-features on the lower, and omits the forward assist.

Each SST-15L set is milled from a solid chunk of 7075-T651 aerospace grade American aluminum milled on Haas CNC machinery which assures precision tolerances. Once milled, the finished receiver is then MIL-A-8625 Type III hard anodizing to assure the best corrosion resistant anodizing possible. 

The overall fit and finish is impeccable including the pitch black hard anodized receiver.  Stylistically, San Tan wanted to avoid the typical bulky billet look and instead develop an overall receiver that had a similar overall size as a forged lower.  Instead of a heavy extended magwell lip, they have created a huge funnel without adding much extra bulk and have worked hard to design a trim overall billet receiver set maximizing weight reduction.

The extended trigger guard is thin and contoured that actually flows into the grip instead of the unnecessarily thick .25” guards like I have seen some lowers. The San Tan Tactical SST-15 has been lightened and strengthened in key strategic areas to retain strength but minimize weight.  Ergonomics were enhanced with a lot of extra contouring and radiusing and mitering of angles to deliver a more comfortable fit in the shooters hand.  


And then comes the barrage of features. A huge magazine well, Shooter-Ready trigger finger rest just under the magazine release, oversized winter trigger guard, ambi-selector switch bullet pictograms, dowel/grub screws (no pins) assembly and extra grip on all the ambi releases. The non-ultralight models include integrated QD-Sling mounts on each side of the receiver with 45-degree anti-rotate stops, and integrated ambidextrous bolt and magazine releases.


If you are into higher end AR15s you are probably familiar with receiver tension screws and their ability to tighten up a worn or loose upper. San Tan has gone about it a little differently with a small nylon tipped screw that is barely noticeable looking into the receiver.  The tension can be adjusted via hex wrench after removing the grip. Also adjustable while the grip is off is the unique trigger over-travel adjustment which can make an OK stock trigger feel pretty good and tune up minute slack on a drop in match trigger. The trigger overtravel adjustment is a cool feature but probably the least used feature. If you are dropping $429 on this billet receiver set then you are probably springing for a high end trigger like the SD-3G Geissele used in this build which generally negates the use of an over travel adjustment.

SanTan is not just about offering an ambi-everything billet lower receiver with looks that deserve a supermodel to be draped over it - your choice of mental image male or female. SanTan put a ton of research into developing a design which offers all the features and cool factor with a design significantly stronger than mil-Spec forged receivers.

Their 6.9 oz billet upper receiver follows the same strategy with a design which is significantly lighter than even flat sided (non-forward assist) receivers but significantly stronger. In fact San Tan notes their upper as being the lightest on the market. Like the pocketed truss inlets on the lower, the upper is deeply trussed to reduce weight while delivering an overall stiffer upper receiver and it has the benefit of looking really cool. 

The upper receiver on the AR15 has to manage almost all the structural stress, the weight of the barrel and high tension exerted on the now fashionable barrel length handguards. San Tan's feelings were that the standard Mil-Spec upper receivers do not deliver the strength required to support the stresses of long modern handguards. Through 3D CAD modeling, San Tan Tactical removed material from unstressed areas and bulked up others, the result was an upper with an unparalleled strength to weight ratio which is both stronger and lighter than Mil-Spec receivers.


FINAL THOUGHTS
I have always liked the SanTan Tactical SST-15 designs and built a few builds based on the receivers. Sometime handguard compatibility can be challenging with some custom billet receivers, however the San Tan set has broad fit compatibility with many handguards and I have never had an issue.

Functionally the San Tan set offers many features beyond the standard AR15 receiver in addition to the weight reduction and significantly upgraded fit and finish. Sure, functionally this $429 upper and lower receiver set runs adn guns about the same as a mil-spec receiver set, however with the flared mag well, lighter overall weight, and some improved ergonomics, it becomes an enhanced experience but with better handling… you know like a Bugatti.


SPECS
Upper Features:
* Model – STT PILLAR Lite Upper
* Caliber - Multi-Cal
* Weight – 6.9 Ounces / 195 Grams
* Material - Billet 7075-T651 Aerospace Grade Aluminum
* Finish - Matte Black MIL-A-8625 Type III Hard Anodize
* Component Compatibility - Works With All Mil-Spec AR-15\M16 Components Including ALL Known Handguard Options Currently Available.


Lower Features:
* Huge 1.38" Integrally Machined Magazine Well Flare
* San Tan Tactical Truss Pockets for Increased Structural Rigidity
* Bullet Pictogram Safety Selector Markings
* Set Screw Trigger Creep Adjustment
* Set Screw Upper Take Down Tension Adjustment
* Shooter Ready Finger Rest
* Oversized Winter Trigger Guard Perfect for Gloved Hands
* Dowel Screw Assembly
* Ultra-Grip Texture on All Controls
* Backed by STT’s Unmatched Lifetime Warranty
* Made in the USA

SOURCES
SanTan Tactical - http://www.santantactical.com

Other Manufacturers Featured
Burris - http://www.burrisoptics.com/
Geissele - http://geissele.com/