Author Archive | Jon L

Review: LaRue PredatAR

The current consummation of my quest for a battle rifle, which I recently discussed, is a LaRue PredatAR. This rifle strikes an amazing balance between power and weight and as such is one of a very few 7.62 caliber rifles that are truly general and not special purpose. Frankly, this type of rifle fills a void that has been marginalized or wrongly patterned by many companies in the industry. The result of this near perfect blend has been wildly successful sales for the manufacturer.


The PredatAR is one member of a family of 7.62 rifles in the company lineup and it is largely being marketed to the three gun/hunting crowd. The original rifle design is the OBR, which is heavier and more precision oriented. Forthcoming is a PredatOBR series of rifles that blend the precision/suppression features of the original OBR with the lighter weight and balance of the PredatAR. I have one of these on order to replace a heavy bolt action rifle with a four round magazine. I will review this rifle as well once it is in hand and I have had a chance to wring it out.

LaRue’s high quality products have earned the company one of the best reputations in the business and this rifle is no exception. PredatAR’s are assembled with LW-50 stainless steel 1/11.25 threaded barrels available in 16″ or 18″ lengths, an incredible 14″ skeletonized aluminum hand guard, Magpul furniture, hand polished chrome carriers with properly side staked gas keys, and a two stage Geissele trigger. The top rail is continuous with no cant built in (0 MOA), which is a welcome departure from the OBR in my opinion.

Let’s talk about weight as this, more than any other issue, has been the achilles heel of most modern 7.62 caliber rifles. LaRue has found a way to harness this caliber into a controllable rifle package that ships from the factory at 7.7 lbs! For context, my BCM AR-15 with a sling, T-1 micro Aimpoint, FF rail, and a weapons light stands ready at 8 lbs 10 oz (empty). As tempting as it was to keep the PredatAR a feather weight by accessorizing it in like manner, I wanted to better harness its potential with a low powered, variable magnification optic.

My PredatAR is the 16″ barrel model and is equipped with a Leupold MR/T Mk 4 1.5-5×20 in a LaRue SPR mount, Troy front and rear BUIS, a Viking Tactics padded sling, a Surefire weapons light, and a Harris bipod on a LaRue QD mount. In this configuration my rifle weighs 12 lbs even and when I remove the bipod (which I do often) the rifle is a svelte 10 lbs 15 oz. Add a fully loaded 1lb 5 oz Magpul PMAG LR magazine and you’re ready to go. This is POUNDS lighter than the 7.62 AR pattern competition.

Regarding bipods – ever since Pat Rogers introduced me to the magazine monopod at a carbine course I’ve been hooked! The 30 round magazine of an AR-15 offers most of the stability of a bipod with no weight penalty and as such they really don’t belong on these rifles unless they’re dedicated precision rigs. However, the 20 round magazine of a 7.62 AR is much shorter and depending on the terrain I find myself bracing the rifle more off the pistol grip than the magazine and it just doesn’t work as well. As a result I keep a bipod at the ready as part of the permanent kit for this rifle, but often remove it for running and gunning.

In Use

I’ve been shooting my rifle since September 2011 and have about 600 rounds on it, mostly 145gr FMJBT Prvi Partizan. I should point out that this is my rifle that I selected and bought for personal use. The only factory part that I’ve changed is the A2 style flash suppressor. I found the rifle to be controllable, but with a fair amount of muzzle rise so I swapped that muzzle device for a PWS FSC30. This has performed well and adequately tamed the rifle.

When I zero rifles or test for groups I shoot on the ground in a prone position (bipod used in this case) as this more closely represents field conditions than firing from a bench. Here is a sampling of how the PredatAR performed at 100 yards shooting 5 shot groups over a chronograph:

  • 145gr Prvi FMJBT 1 7/8″ and avg velocity 2637 fps
  • 168gr Federal Gold Medal Match 1 1/8″ and avg velocity 2472 fps
  • 175gr Georgia Arms SMK 1 1/4″ and avg velocity 2449 fps
  • 150gr Winchester Power Point SP 1 1/8″ and avg velocity 2580 fps.

I have not attended any formal training with this rifle, but I do have access to a couple of ranges that offer the opportunity for some distance work and running around a little bit. I’m pretty comfortable with hitting any reasonable sized target inside 200 yards without using the bipod, but after that it’s nice to have the option. The farthest I’ve shot the rifle is out to 600 yards and using the 145gr Prvi ammo I was able to hold 2-2.5 MOA on paper at this range and nearer. First shot hits on 2/3 sized IPSC steel targets out to 600 yards are no problem with this rifle/ammo combination and my come ups are not too different from 5.56 standard calibration on the scope.

Beyond initial testing and grouping to establish base rifle performance, I have exclusively used M80 type ball spec ammo. My reason for this is because that’s the only type of ammo I can (barely) afford to run through the gun in any quantity and it fits my general purpose rifle mission more appropriately than depending on expensive match ammo for serviceable results. Only a precision oriented rifle should demand a constant appetite of match ammunition.

While I enjoy shooting at distance, I have also put this rifle through CQB paces. Here is the main place where the light weight, well designed gas system, and the PWS FSC tame this caliber into something that can at least hang with the AR-15’s on the line. It wouldn’t be my first choice as a CQB gun but off hand shooting is quite reasonable and being able to zoom down to 1.5x greatly helps at closer ranges. You’ve got to be able to carry a fighting rifle around all day without undue stress and after 9 months of fairly regular use it’s evident that this factor was a keystone part of the overall design.

The way that a company resolves a problem is extremely insightful and I’m proud to report that LaRue aggressively supports its products with excellent customer service. Temperamental Midwestern weather offers a variety of extremes and on a cold day last December I had two instances of “short stroking” with my rifle. I called the company and in minutes was talking to an extremely knowledgeable man who answered all my questions. I learned that I have a standard H2 buffer in the rifle with a heavy buffer spring as the system was optimized towards high velocity, heavy grain ammunition.

Designing the PredatAR to work with a standard AR-15 buffer, tube, and spring is an important feature of this rifle. Because of this you can easily “tune” the rifle according to your preferences by substituting a commonly available, different weighted buffer (H1, H2, H3, etc). Of course this should not be necessary for most end users. However,  another huge benefit that may find broader appeal is that this standardization means the shooter has the option of using any AR-15 stock assembly available on the market. Many of the competing rifles available use proprietary buffers and tubes.

The customer service rep offered to immediately ship me free of charge a standard weight buffer spring, which might work better if I was going to exclusively run lighter loads such as 145gr Prvi. However, he advised that I continue to try the factory spring and see if after additional break in the problem continued. I took his advice and shot the rifle on several other cold days last winter (cold maximizes sluggishness in the gas system) and to date I have not had a recurrence of the problem. This type of quick help and the fact that LaRue already has a spare parts kit available for sale show their forward thinking attitude towards customer service and support of their products.

Wrap Up

If I had to knitpick and find something I don’t like about this rifle all I could really come up with is that the ejection port cover sits flush on a lip of the receiver and makes it mildly difficult to close with your trigger finger. I’m fairly picky about gear and somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to rifles and how they are best configured so my lack of griping here really speaks volumes. A switch block would be nice, but that’s really a different mission than this rifle’s niche and I’m pleased to see this addressed with the PredatOBR. I invite anyone looking for a light weight, 7.62 caliber, general purpose rifle/MBR to sample a Texas made PredatAR rifle. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

Selecting a Battle Rifle

Many serious shooters either own or are on a quest to to find the perfect battle rifle and I am no exception. My search for the perfect battle rifle began around 1998 when I decided that I wanted something more capable than the AK pattern rifle I’d acquired in my late teens. At that time I maxed out my limited finances and purchased a lightly used, all GI parts, Springfield Armory M1A from my local gun shop for about $925. Thus began the adventure that still continues to this day!

Defining MBR

For purposes of this article, I will loosely define a main battle rifle (MBR) as a detachable magazine fed, semi automatic rifle chambered in .308 that is set up to perform well in the 2-500 yard range. The military has recognized the importance of this type of rifle and has fielded an entire designated marksman program to fill the need. You may not agree with my definition and that’s OK as each person should acquire the guns and gear that best serve their needs. I understand that AK’s and AR-15’s can be pressed into this role, but the 7.62×51 semi autos of today are likely the best choice for a “ground up” solution.

Do You Really Need an MBR?

Logical, pragmatic readers may wonder if someone outside the military really needs a true MBR. In our current American reality, average, everyday people likely have little chance of needing such a rifle for defense of hearth and home. However, when reflecting upon the direction of the national and global situation, I will simply state that things that can’t last forever won’t and just because things have been the way they are today for a very long time is no guarantee for what tomorrow may hold. Ultimately, each shooter must decide his own needs.

My MBR Quest

Selecting any kind of weaponry is an extremely personal choice and there is no perfect one size fits all solution. Below is a general summary of my experiences during this quest and I share them only for the purpose of passing on what I’ve learned. I’m not trying to convince you of anything and I do not assume that my experiences represent the sum total for all weapons and equipment mentioned.

M1A – For several years I was quite happy with that M1A. To this day I know of no other rifle I would prefer if I was limited to an iron sight only configuration. However, once I began to experiment with optics the M1A’s shortcomings became clear to me. First of all, even with a top notch mount and stock I had trouble keeping a consistent zero. The rifle shot well, but the zero seemed to move with frustrating irregularity, which is a common problem with M1A’s.

Because of the way the rifle is designed a large amount of mass that hangs from the barrel reciprocates with each round fired. In a USGI stock configuration the only force holding/bedding the rifle to the stock is clamping pressure achieved by closing the trigger guard after assembly. These design factors make the rifle’s BZO quite susceptible to any changes in pressure/contact to the barrel.

I later upgraded to a SAGE stock, which initially performed much better in this regard, but one day my 300 yard zero was way off. I meticulously went through all of the many variables that affect zero and finally realized that the shim kit which replaces the standard barrel band/stock retainer had been burned into flakes by the heat from the gas port and barrel. The resulting void seemed to have allowed enough of a pressure change that eventually BZO was significantly affected.

Mounting an optic over the action of this rifle not only significantly increases the overall burden, but also presents a substantial offset between the comb of the rifle stock and where your face needs to rest. I tried different comb risers and both the SAGE and Troy stocks, which eliminate this issue, but the weight penalty was substantial and other problems continued to crop up and plague the weapons system. I also never liked the inside the trigger guard safety.

SWAT magazine did an excellent and frank review the M1A rifle in an April 2010 issue and much to the chagrin of some readers “slayed the sacred cow.” It is abundantly clear to me after my experiences that the M1A has been made obsolete as a tier 1 battle rifle choice because of the better rifle designs on the market today. After years of of work with the rifle and a lot of money spent I began to seek a more modern rifle design.

FAL – I never gave FN FAL’s a fair shake because after my M1A experiences I did not relish the idea (or expense) of trying to modernize another dated rifle design and adapt it for optics and other essential accessories. Maybe I missed out. (Speaking of weapon accessories, my 2004 tour in Iraq really cemented some essentials in my mind. Any general purpose rifle I field under any conditions will have an optic, a light, and a tactical sling.)

The next MBR candidate rifle I purchased was a Rock River Arms LAR-8. After the M1A, it was quite refreshing to have AR style controls and something that was easy to properly accessorize. It was a solid, consistent shooter and all I really had to add was a good muzzle device and a rail. However, the rifle was again a little heavy, mag changes remained stiff after a break in period, and I am still not convinced of the long term viability of the FAL mag adaptation.

When the LAR-8 was originally designed FAL mags were cheap and plentiful and seemed like a logical choice. Now that the “AR-10” world is galvanizing around the SR25 pattern magazine and surplus FAL mags supplies have nearly dried up – the game has changed. The adapted design led to unsettling issues like some surplus mags working but not others and the bolt prematurely locking to the rear with live rounds still in the magazine. While this rifle left me less than completely satisfied, I still have a lot of good things to say about it and plan to do so in an upcoming review.

At this point, I really only saw two rifles on the market that fit the role I was looking to fill, the FN SCAR H and the new LaRue rifles (OBR and PredatAR). I agonized for months over the decision and, in a lot of ways, I wanted to choose the SCAR. I liked the brand new, well thought out design but was concerned over FN’s history of poorly supporting the US civilian gun market. The SCAR magazine availability problem remains a case in point.

Last year, after a long wait, I took ownership of a LaRue PredatAR 7.62 rifle with a 16″ barrel. I will save the details for a forthcoming review, but I will say that after well over a decade’s search for the right MBR I am very happy with this rifle. It has, thus far, corrected all of the shortcomings of the previous rifles and then some. I have a lot of LaRue products on my AR-15’s and I’m pleased to report that the same quality has been carried over into their rifle line.

Wrap Up

Hopefully your MBR quest has been smoother and shorter than mine and you are very happy with the rifle you have for that role. I view the MBR as the modern equivalent to the long arms the “Minutemen” of 1775 fielded when they bravely defended the green at Lexington and the bridge at Concord. Their faith in God, sacrifice,  example of courage, and ultimate preparedness helped launch a country and form of government that remains the greatest the world has ever seen. I wish you the best if you seek to take part in this aspect of our wonderful, national heritage!

Interstate Driving with a Firearm

Traveling out of your state with a firearm can be intimidating to the lawful gun owner because of the myriad of different laws in effect across our country. Fortunately, some good resources exist to protect the traveler from unintentional legal violations. Hopefully you can benefit from this information before starting your summer vacation!

The broadest protection for the traveling gun owner is the federal “Peaceable Journey” law. In short, it is legal to transport a firearm in a vehicle anywhere in the United States if it’s legal for you to own/carry that firearm where you’re coming from and where you’re going. The firearm must be unloaded, secured, and stored in a separate compartment of the vehicle (if possible) from the driver.

However, beware of legal twilight zones such as Chicago, IL, NYC, NY, and the People’s Republic of New Jersey. These places, and some others, have earned a well deserved bad reputation for ignoring the Peaceable Journey statute and criminally charging out of towners who unknowingly violate the strict local gun prohibitions. In these cases an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure.

Reciprocity for CCW permits is another level of protection for those who travel armed. Not all states recognize other state’s carry permits, so use caution here as well. Be sure to check a good resource (preferably online as a hard copy publication may be out of date) and plan accordingly. If unclear, stowing your gun in accordance with the federal statute should help you avoid any potential trouble if stopped by an officer.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice.

Why We Train: Another Young Man Does Well

You may remember my recent post about an 11 year old who used a .22 to successfully defend his home. Recently, a 14 year old in Phoenix, AZ was forced into a similar situation while babysitting his three younger siblings. The home invaders tried the classic “if nobody answers the doorbell then burglarize the house” routine except it did not work out well for them this time. What I love about this story is not just that a young man used a firearm to save his young siblings from extreme danger, but the wise tactical manner in which he did so.

First, he moved the children to a safer part of the house and then he stood in the gap between them and the armed invader and took care of business. That kind of bravery and maturity demonstrated by such a young man is motivation for all of us. One of the best investments that can be made is in the proper upbringing of your children, and today this whole family is reaping the dividends. Situations like this are a stark reminder to help everyone you care about be prepared to do well during a terrifying event.

Why We Train: Moment of Truth

Those of us who take gun ownership and self defense seriously train very hard for the potential moment in time when life and all that is held dear hangs tenuously in the balance. Fortunately, many of us who prepare for this moment will never be faced with an actual test. Most of those who do face and pass this ultimate test will rarely be forced to have a repeat. Because so much is at stake, it is very important to prepare mentally and understand what you might go through. Doing so will soften the shock and leave you more capable as the after events unfold.

One of the most important parts of police and military training is receiving numerous “stress inoculations.” These are often best created through scenario/force on force simulation where the trainee’s performance is evaluated while under time and pressure. Successful completion of this training unquestionably helps and strengthens performance during real life incidents.

I want to introduce you to Jeff Dykehouse and encourage you to read his multi part story about the night he was forced to shoot a home invader in Grand Rapids, MI. The open way he shares his experience really resonated with me and I appreciate his willingness to offer the intimate details of his personal moment of truth. Fortunately, Mr. Dykehouse prevailed and has gone onto continued success in life. I hope that his story is highly beneficial to you and strengthens your mindset.

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