Saturday, January 9, 2016

Aero Precision JP Artisan Custom .308 Precision Rifle Review

Aero Precision JP Artisan Custom .308 Precision Rifle Review

It is always a little weird how my articles come together like “the force” or something is guiding my builds. Odd items just start showing up on my doorstep. I have to scramble to figure out how it will all go together in a build which actually makes sense while making every attempt to do justice to the product versus just ramming into an existing build just to get the article out the door. In this case I have been working with Artisan Arms - Micro MOA on evaluating some of their new AR15 and AR10 barrels based on Feddersen blanks. My Feddersen 10/22 barrels are some of the best shooting consistent barrels I own. The first AR15 Micro MOA barrel I tested in my Area 53 Shades of Grey build was flat out amazing even with cheap ammo, so my excitement was a bit over the mark when Micro MOA/Artisan Arms supplied one of their Feddersen blanked .308 AR barrels… but then I had to pull together a build which would deliver the best for this potentially amazing barrel.

Scrounging through my parts bin I found an AAC Supressor Ready Brake, Fail Zero NiBo .308 bolt, a Barnes Precision parts AR15 build kit, Precision Reflex Adjustable gas block, and FAB Defense Sniper Stock plus a Magpul grip. Several groveling calls later I had most of the parts for the builds thanks to JP Rifles and Aero Precision. My friends at JP Rifles provided one of their extremely stiff and tough handguards, their billet adjustable selector switch, and a precision JP Roller Trigger.  Aero Precision graciously offered up a FDE coated M5 AR10 stripped receiver set which sent me to the bench to begin the build.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS

MicroMOA/Artisan Arms - .308 Barrel - Like my previous .223 barrel from MicroMOA, this .308 barrel based on a Feddersen blank was well finished with a newer taper style profile which is theoretically maximizes strength all while minimizing weight. In addition to the profiling, this barrel also featured deep fluting to drop additional weight and then is melonited inside and out to prevent corrosion. The result is a durable and comparatively light .308 barrel that delivers bull barrel accuracy. I remembered that I should have weighed the barrel after being well into the build - so I do not have a weight on it.

I will save everyone from paging down to see the accuracy. The barrel is crazy awesome - it shot ½ MOA my first time on the range. Yep, ½ a freaking MOA at 100-yards during sight in and groups keep getting tighter as the round count adds up. According to Artisan, I am still inside the breakin period. The key is the Patented Feddersen SEPR Single Edged Polygonal Rifling and lapping process of the barrel blanks. Feddersen figured out that polygonal rifling has huge benefits in accuracy due to reduced bore wear and less bullet deformation, however bullets do have a tendency to skip lands because there is nothing to hold onto the bullet. Feddersen added a single edge and then a trade secreted lapping process which in theory and practice delivers stunning accuracy. Did I mention that Feddersen’s barrels hold the 50 BMG long range accuracy world record? Oh there is that. All that proven accuracy design has trickled down to everything from Feddersen’s 10/22 barrels to the exclusively profiled, chambered and theaded AR15 and AR10 Artisan Arms/MicroMOA barrels. Within the early stages of breaking in this barrel it is exceeding the first couple hundred rounds of my FN SPR A3G’s bolt gun accuracy which is saying something for a semi-auto. My expectation to have a gun that will deliver sub-1” 300-yards groups by the time I edge over the 400-round mark and the barrel settles in. This barrel delivered several 1.5” 300-yard groups and plenty of sub-2” groups at the same distance and this barrel is not even through the break in process yet. Let’s keep in mind that this was only a $350 retail barrel and not one of those $500 custom barrels. I have no doubt that in more skilled hands, this barrel delivers is a single hole gun at 100-yards.


JP Rifles - There are a lot of selector options on the market, however JP’s is very unobtrusive. Some folks may find it a little too low profile however it is ergonomically my favorite AR selector. Integrated within the design is the ability to adjust the safety tension in relation to to whatever trigger you might add. From a safety perspective it is my opinion that most very light aftermarket triggers with tiny take-ups really should have a tighter safety position and the JP Adjustable Selector switch does just that. $70

JP Rifles MK III Handguard design delivers incredible strength - arguably one of the strongest and most rigid handguard mounting systems on the market. Instead of just a barrel nut, the JP design extends the upper receiver with a patented receiver handguard nut. The barrel nut is then tightened into that nut for a mechanically stronger handguard mount. Despite the strength, this .308 handguard is only 18oz. The slots deliver plenty of rail mounting options, but I keep things trim and light with just single bipod mount. $240


The JP Roller Trigger is in itself a different beast than most triggers. Paired with JP’s legendary fully adjustable trigger design is a unique roller trigger shoe. The trigger is awesome with every aspect user adjustable, however it is the roller shoe which automatically corrects for left or right lateral forces on the trigger which lead to pulled shots. Even top professional shooters cannot deliver a straight-back, linear optimal trigger release. So now even if you are having one of those off jittery days which would pull shots left or right, the free-spinning trigger bow will make sure you still look good on paper.  I will say that it looks goofy but works amazingly well. $270


Aero Precision M5 .308 Receiver Set - The AP M5 Receiver set is just a beautiful and highly detailed as all of Aero Precision’s products I have reviewed before, but more so. Instead of being confined by Mil-Spec forged design requirements for the lower, AP was able to create an entirely new design style on the .308 platform which is still DPMS form factor compliant. In the midst of a slew of me too AR receivers, AP was and still is one of the original OEM manufacturers for some of the very big names in the industry… which I am not at liberty to note due to my agreements with Aero Precision.

Aero Precision has added some nice features. The AP M5 .308 Receiver is compliant with all DPMS 308 components and magazines, the rear takedown pin detent hole is threaded for a 4-40 set screw, the bolt catch is threaded for a screw pin (no roll pin needed), and the selector markings will work with 45, 60 or 90 degree safety selectors including Battle Arms Development short throw safety selectors. One little annoyance on most DPMS format rifles it that gap between the beavertail grip and the receiver, but AP modified their design to take care of this issue.  From a quality perspective, Aero Precision is top of the line quality which it conveys in looks and feel. The M5 was certainly a perfect host for the Feddersen .308 barrel all at a reasonable price of $351 for the upper and lower set.


Burris XTR II 3X-15X-50MM IL G2B MIL-DOT FFP Optic - The original XTR v1 line of scopes was a huge success for Burris, but customers were asking for even more. Not only did Burris deliver a crystal clear 5-time zoom range on this XTR II 3-15x50mm optic with 34mm tube, but they upped the tube thickness by 25% over the original. Burris also configured the optic design as a FFP - First Focal Plane scope. FFP is the hot feature among precision and sniper rifle shooters the last few years which in essence zooms the reticle with the magnification changes. The result is that whatever holdover you have on the BDC or Mil-dot is the same at any magnification; in this case from 3X all the way through 15X. If you have a 300-yard target and that is the second dot down based on your zero, then no matter what magnification you are on that same holdover will deliver the same shooting solution.

The G2B Mil-Dot reticle has hash marks in between the mil dots for more precise aiming, distance measurement, holdover and hold-off for wind. The adjustment is calibrated in MRads or more typically known as “Mils” which matches the Mil-Dot reticle gradient. If you see your shot slatter 1 mil to the left you can make that adjustment without doing laborious math to convert what you read in the reticle with a turret adjustment. Burris notes the XTR II this G2B reticle is a “versatile, combat proven reticle that is ideal for mid-to long-range tactical shooting”, however I think it offers a lot even for the less competitive shooter.
MSRP $1200 - Street $999.  Weaver’s $110 34mm mounts were used to mount the optic.


Mako FAB Defense SSR-25 Sniper Stock - The Israelis freaking get it when it comes to tactical design. This SSR-25 is probably one of the most comfortable yet light and ergonomically flexible stocks I own and it is only $210. All adjustments for the cheek, integrated rear monopod are fast, quick and positive. The Magpul PRS gets a lot of play and I love mine, however this stock is less expensive, far quicker to adjust, and I would argue more comfortable all while delivering an integrated rear monopod which is exceptionally handy.  The FAB Defense SSR-25 is a lightweight fiberglass reinforced polymer and 6061 aluminum construction. A great stock that I think gets less play than it deserves.

Other Key Parts - In many articles I have written about the virtues of the FailZero Bolt Carrier Groups, but the short list of benefits is a slicker, longer running, and a more easily cleaned component. It does not hurt that the BCG looks like it has a jewelry quality finish as well. This $249 is no exception to FailZero’s typical quality but just in .308 DPMS format.  I chose a Precision Reflex low profile adjustable gas block to assure I could tune down the .308 gas pressure and it has worked perfectly. The Artisan .308 barrel already had a smaller gas port, however the little extra adjustment was welcome to drop the recoil and limit excess gas a bit further - $110. Other extras to complete the build were the Barnes Precision Machine parts kit, AAC brake, and a Magpul grip fed by Magpul .308 PMAGs.


FINAL THOUGHTS
The final result was an incredible sub-½ MOA .308 Semi-Auto AR build. The quality of each of the components were a pleasure to work with. To be totally honest, I believe it is going to take a while to get entirely through the break in process and really work with the rifle enough to understand what this rifle can deliver longer term. Initially


SPECS
Aero Precision - $351
JP Rifles - $240+$250+$70
MicroMOA - Artisan Arms - $350
The Mako Group - FAB Defense - $210
Burris Optics - $1200
Fail Zero - $249
Weaver Optics - $110
Precision Reflex - $110
Magpul - $30

SOURCES
Aero Precision - http://aeroprecisionusa.com
MicroMOA - Artisan Arms - http://www.artisanarms.com
The Mako Group - FAB Defense - http://www.themakogroup.com
Precision Reflex - http://www.precisionreflex.com

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