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For years, I have been trying to wrap my head around a SWS (Sniper Weapons System) that can be more beneficial to the Law Enforcement Sniper. Most LE Snipers are equipped with a 20-24″ barreled bolt operated rifle, and a variable powered optic with HIGH magnification. This is fantastic, for it delivers very repeatable accuracy, and is capable of making precision shots, at amazing distances. However, when I look at the national average for “call outs”… the data does not lie.
So, why do we “need” a rifle that is capable for making surgical hits out to “1000 yards and beyond”? Well, we really don’t. So, I started re-training my mindset, and re-thinking the entire load out issue. I wanted a short, deployable SWS, that was suppressed… that would deliver supurb accuracy at reasonable Law Enforcement distances… so, I was also drawn to the AR platform, or “Gas Gun” as it is referred to by some. I knew I wanted to stay with the venerable .308 WIN / 7.62×51 round, because it is HIGHLY effective in the LE SWS role, and there is a TON of data on the rounds already in existence. Plus, I have over 25 years of experience on an AR platform, in one aspect or another.
I had a MEGA MA-TEN upper and lower, that I wanted to build out as a test mule for some ideas that I had kicking around in my head.
I had been working with Lee at GPI Custom Gunworks in Jacksonville, FL for a while… so, I approached Lee with my idea of a LE SWS and he was very interested in it. So, the machine work began. The first thing we did, is modify the upper for a left side charging handle. This is important to me, as a right handed shooter… for the following reasons.
1. I can work the bolt with my reaction side hand, without ever coming up off of my glass.
2. My trigger / firing hand (right hand) never leaves my index mark… I can stay on the trigger.
3. I can rack out the current round (in a magazine change – change load) which allows me to change rounds, all without coming up off of glass.
4. I can cycle the action when using sub-sonic ammo, without coming up off of glass.
The rifle still has a traditional charging handle, but the left side charger allows me to manipulate the bolt carrier, with my reaction side hand. A very nice feature when proned out behind the rifle. The barrel that I used out of the gate, was a previous barrel from another rifle. This is a JP Enterprises 1:10 twist Cryogenic Super Match. The barrel is 18″ long and has a light contour. I originally put the rifle together with a standard, low profile gas block and a standard AR-10 buffer… but found out quickly that the rifle was WAY overgassed. So, I ordered a JP Enterprises JPGS-S adjustable gas block. While I was at it, I ordered a heavy rifle buffer from Clint at www.heavybuffers.com along with the spring that he recommended. Once I got everything situated, I was able to get the gas system in check, and the rifle ran extremely well, and the recoil pulse is VERY soft.
Another issue that I addressed, is that the VAST majority of the AR platform rifles in this caliber are not designed from the ground up as a true “precision” rig. Most are adapted from battle style rifles… so I had some design ideas. First, I wanted to modify the mag well. I will not address this in this forum just yet… this will be done during a video review. I also wanted the overall platform to be as short / compact as possible, yet still allow the shooter to do his / her mission. Having ONE weapon platform, to exit his / her patrol car and move to the fixed firing site… yet still be able to perform multiple roles. Using the .308 / 7.62×51 as an “entry” weapon, is a wee bit overkill, but… let’s just say the Sniper is deploying at a school, or a mall, or (insert location here) and has to engage an Active Shooter threat. He or She may have to move some distance with this rifle, and engage at a moments notice. Having an auto loading system, in a format that “most” Law Enforcement Officers are comfortable with (the AR platform) is a force multiplier over the traditional bolt operated rifle.
My endstate is this: One rifle, that will serve multiple roles, providing rock solid, Swiss Watch reliability… with SUB-MOA accuracy out to 300 yards, with Minute of Man accuracy out to 600 yards and beyond. Why at such extreme distances for Law Enforcement? Well, data does not lie… and it’s a fact that extreme distance does not normally come into play in a Law Enforcement setting. Due to a plethora of legal restraints, it is ALWAYS beneficial for the LE Sniper to “close” the distance and move in. However, Murphy and I are very close. There may be a time where a LE Sniper is called to make an open air engagement on a non barricaded subject, non hostage taker, single threat… out past the “normal” limits. Posititve Identification, Backstop, and all other criteria withstanding… it is absolutely sound logic to think that the LE Sniper “can” make a shot out to 300, 400 and 500 yards or beyond. So, the rifle has to be accurate. I’ve never trained with a LE Sniper that did NOT have a rifle capable of this. Even the old, hand me down Remingtons and Savages are fully capable, given that the shooter / glass is capable… more of my thoughts on “glass” at a later date.
I also want the SWS to be suppressed. Not for the cool factor, but for hearing management. I have suffered traumatic hearing loss on deployments, and I tell you, I value what little hearing I have left. Shooting from confined spaces, hides, as well as the ability to work well in the counter sniper role, makes a suppressor a MUST have on a precision rifle. I am fortunate enough to be able to work with Mr. Byron Peterson of Delta P Design on this project. He is a wealth of knowledge for me on suppressor technology.The suppressor that I am using on this rifle is the Brevis 7.62 Compact suppressor and it is working supurbly. Why Delta P? Well… frankly… I really like Byron, and I really love his suppressors. He thinks outside of the box, he listens to me, and my input as a “shooter” or a “user”… In fact, Byron tells me “I’m the Race Car Mechanic, you are the Driver”. This company is completly devoted to providing the most excellent product for the men and women who have to depend on his gear with their lives. As you can see, his suppressors are HIGHLY accurate.
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This rifle shoots amazingly well. I have run several loads through it, and it does seem to like the NATO M118LR round… this is a 175 grain Sierra Match King, loaded in Lake City 7.62×51 brass, at a COAL of 2.815. The velocity I get out of this configuration averages out to be 2640 FPS (at seven yards) with my Chrony. Here is a five round group that I shot off the bipods (from a table… not prone) at 100 yards with M118LR.
Here is a group I shot (top five round group) and then let my son shoot. He had NEVER fired this weapon before, and I told him to aim at my group as a reference. He fired the bottom five, after I adjusted a wee bit of elevation out of the optic.
|My son behind the rifle… he wore eye pro when he actually fired. I was runing dry fire drills with him here, teachinghim how t omount the rifle and maintain eye relief, trigger squeeze and most importantly, follow through.|
Using the JP Ultra-Match barrel, the rifle shot fantastically well. However, I could not source any more of these barrels from JP, because during the market scare, they started only building complete rifles. So, I did some research for a replacement barrel that I may use to build more of these rifles. I ended up with a barrel from Craddock Precison. I spec’d out an 18″ barrel, mid length gas system, with a 1:10 twist. The chamber is .308 Winchester Match with the DPMS style barrel extension.
I treated the new barrel with Fireclean before the install.
Once I put the new Craddock Barrel in, I was anxious to see how it shot. I am fortunate to have a very good friend that I shoot with, and he has some top of the line gear to compare to. I took the Longbow out to the range, and broke it in according to my long standing superstitions and traditions, and watched the groups shoot smaller and smaller. I use M118LR as a bench mark, because it is production “precision” ammo, that is relatively consistent, and I have DOPE on it that has been verified and re-verified.
This is a typical five shot group from bipods and rear bag…
Once I was satisfied that the new barrel shot well, and shot well consistently, I experimented with a few suppressors. I changed the Brevis 7.62 compact for a 30 cal Titanium suppressor from LeHigh Defense.
With the LeHigh prototype can, I had some vertical stringing issues, and the designer worked with me on it, and I found that it had to do with the muzzle device. I sent the suppressor back to LeHigh, and put the Brevis 7.62 FULL sized suppressor on and tuned the gas system to that suppressor.
Feeling great about my 100 yards grouping, and the fact that I had DOPE on my JP barrel, I decided that it was time to head out with my buddy, and see what my Longbow could do at distances out to 850 yards with M118LR. We went to the Bradford Sport Farm and got on the long distance range. We set out steel from 500 yards out to 850 yards, and came back to the front. I set my DA in my ballistic solution, checked my old DOPE from the JB barrel, and settled on 8.3 MILS of elevation for 850 yards. I fired one round, heard the steel clang… my buddy was spotting for me, and he said “Send it again Darren”. I fired a second shot, “CLANG”… he then said “Back that one up DMack”… I sent the third… “Clang”.
Target is a standard IPSC style silhouette, and point of aim was the little black dot in the middle. Each shot was sub MOA from the center… by a LONG shot.
I am very pleased with this rifle. It shoots WAY better than I am capable of, and allows me unlimited growth within the caliber. It will now serve as a test bed for optics, suppressors and night vision. I will be adding my exploits with the Longbow… stay tuned.