ArmaLite AR-30A1 Sniper Rifle – .338 Lapua – New Gun Review

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The ArmaLite AR-30A1 is a world class, sub-MOA out of box sniper rifle available from ArmaLite for $3,599.

The gun comes in both .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua, the caliber of our test gun.

We tested the flagship competition model with this patented adjustable stock system. The length of pull and the comb height are thumbwheel adjustable to fit all but 5% of both male and female shooter sizes.
The cheekpiece is coated with a sticky rubber pad, and it has a guide hole for a cleaning rod to be able to clean the rifle from the rear of the action without removing the stock.

If you make this picture larger you can see the V-Block(tm) bedding system. This is a metal to metal fit that requires no other bedding of the stock to the action. Note the 20MOA top rail and machined side accessory rails.

The ArmaLite muzzle brake isn’t the most attractive thing in the world, but if it has anything to do with the extremely light recoil of this gun we’d just as soon keep it on. If you want to put a suppressor on the AR-30A1 instead, the threads are standard.

We shot two types of ammo in this gun. The Hornady 285 grain performed slightly superior, with average groups in the 1.5 – 1.8 inch range at 300 yards. This was in a strong gusty cross wind with mirage so bad in the $2,400 Nightforce scope that the target was blurry.

Without the wind the 300 grain Lapua ammo appeared to have even better potential in the gun than the Hornady. The groups were all strung horizontally.

My biggest peeve with the gun is the scrawney bolt handle. It made opening the bolt slightly too difficult.

Also not nuts about the safety. It is ’03 Springfield style with the flip ear on the back of the bolt.

Other than those two minor issues the gun is close to perfect. The trigger is fantastic, and breaks at just under 5 lbs.

If you have tested a lot of detachable magazine bolt guns and not cared for the slop, you will be pleasantly surprised at the perfect fit and function of the 5 ArmaLite mag.

This Hornady 285 grain ammo says 2745 fps. on the box, but we averaged slightly less than that with the AR-30A1′s 26″ barrel.

The 300 grain Lapua ammo was very difficult to chronograph for some reason, but it came out at about the same speed on the few reads we could get.

The bottom of the adjustable stock comes with a sling swivel attached, but is adaptable for a monopod.

The ArmaLite AR-30A1 is made in Geneseo, Illinois and it is a ton of rifle for the money. If you were in the market for a high end sniper rifle, shop ArmaLite last. You will be hard pressed to find more gun for the money.

ArmaLite AR-30A1
http://www.armalite.com/ar-30a1

There were not a lot of rock star new guns this year at SHOT Show 2013, but one of them was the ArmaLite AR-30A1. It is an out of the box, sub-MOA sniper rifle that comes in either .338 Lapua Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum. ArmaLite was kind enough to put us at the front of the list for testing this gun, and this week we shot the .338 Lapua Target version of the AR-30A1. Overall it not only performed flawlessly, but also handily beat every chassis and chassis-style sniper rifle we have ever tested for out of the box accuracy, recoil, ergonomics and just overall feel. The AR-30A1 is a tight, clean, long range sniper machine and will be equally at home in a SWAT truck gun rack as it will be on the line at a long range F-Class match. At a direct from ArmaLite price of $3,599, there is not an out of the box sniper rifle on the planet that compares to the AR-30A1 in this price range. I would even go so far as to challenge rifles twice the price to prove why they are worth more.

The key to the AR-30A1 system is a patented V-Block(tm) receiver system that is only found on ArmaLite guns. There is no bedding, and the mechanical metal to metal fit is literally wedged together. It sounds like a great idea, but that wouldn’t matter if the rifles didn’t perform. They do perform, and our tests proved out the claim that ArmaLite makes on the rifle’s info page of ¼ to ¾ MOA at 300 yards. MOA means “minute of angle,” which is a measurement that gun nuts use to judge the accuracy, or precision, of a given firearm. Think of the minutes on a clock. If you are shooting from the middle of the clock, that space between the minutes is one MOA. This equals about an inch at 100 yards, meaning that if you fire a volley of bullets, usually 3-5 rounds, all of them will fall within the span of about an inch on the paper target.

At 300 yards one MOA equals just over 3 inches, and our tests with the AR-30A1 at 300 yards came out to about half of that with Hornady ammo, about ½ MOA. That was in a gusty 10-20 mph cross wind with a significant mirage in the scope, with two different amateur shooters. A trained competition level shooter could most likely prove this particular AR-30A1 at ¼ MOA. All we did was take it out of the box and mount a scope on it. Now granted, that scope is a Nightforce that cost another more than half as much as the rifle, but with Armageddon coming and all, what’s another couple thousand bucks? We hope to have a review of that scope in a few weeks as well by the way.

The 26 inch chrome-moly barrel on the AR-30A1 has a 1 in 10 twist and comes with the patented ArmaLite muzzle brake. We have never tested the ArmaLite brake side by side with a different brake, but the recoil on this gun is amazingly light. Some of that has to do with its weight. At 15.3 lbs empty, without the scope, the AR-30A1 is a beast, and certainly slants the laws of recoil physics in the right direction, but for a .338 Lapua, this gun recoiled a lot less than the Barrett MRAD we tested, and it was with the same ammo. Most of our accuracy shooting was on the ground, prone, but I shot through the chronograph on one knee, and I was shocked to look down at the pile of over 20 rounds of brass with no discomfort from shooting the AR-30A1 offhand whatsoever. There may just be something to this ArmaLite brake. But if you don’t like it (it is kind of fugly), or want to shoot a suppressor, the threads are standard so you don’t need an adapter.

I do have some complaints with the gun, and I guarantee that you will notice these as well. One is the bolt handle. This rifle was completely redesigned from the old AR-30, and there are very few parts that carried forward. This bolt handle is one of the new parts, and it is “competition grade,” whatever that means. It is extremely smooth, with no hitch on the magazine or anything, but opening the bolt after you fire is a little too hard, because the bolt handle is so short. The .338 Lapua is not a belted case but it runs at very high pressure, so the brass is in there pretty tight. This is a Mauser type action, so you cock the hammer and eject the case with the same raising of the bolt handle, and it is just slightly too short to make this as easy as it should be. It could be that after the rifle loosens up some it will get easier, but expect this if you buy an AR-30A1 out of the box for at least a while.

The other thing is also Mauser related. It is the safety, and it works like an ’03 Springfield, with an ear that you flip back and forth on the back of the bolt. ArmaLite feels that this safety is better than a cross bar safety because it blocks the actual firing pin, but (I don’t know about you, but for me), I’ve never had any regular old button safety fail. Flipping that ear requires that you remove you hand from the grip, which is a pain, and it also hard to do this quietly. Granted, taking 300-1200 yard shots, you don’t have to be whisper quiet all the time, but it is something to mention. You can’t not love this gun, but there are a couple things that are less than perfect. A third thing is actually that ArmaLite gives you a hard case, but not one that fits the gun with a big scope on it. Oh well.

The only difference between the standard and target models of the AR-30A1 appears to be the adjustable stock. My advice is that even if you are not buying this gun for competition, get the stock. We have seen a lot of chassis systems over the years and few of them compare to the ease and precision of this ArmaLite adjustment system. The length of pull is adjustable from 13.6 to 15.6 inches, and the comb raises a full inch, all with thumbwheels that stay put. You can change shooters and adjustments with no tools and no fuss. And the cheekpiece is not only rubber coated, it also has a hole in it for a cleaning rod. You may not need the adjustable cheekpiece, but at this level of financial commitment, another couple hundred bucks isn’t going to make you or break you either way. At the very least the adjustable stock looks cooler, and you end up with a gun that is adjustable to the working dimensions of all but 5% of both male and female shooters.

As to the actual, physical performance of the AR-30A1, remember that you are buying an almost $4,000 firearm, made in Geneseo, Illinois by a bunch of gun fanatics for the consumer, not the military, gun market. That makes a huge difference, because unlike the government, consumers hold you to your word. The magazine on the AR-30A1 has zero slop in it, yet it glides in like it was greased. The tolerance is perfect. The magazine itself is steel, with an aluminum follower. It is easy to load the five rounds, and you don’t have to jiggle the bolt a little to get the next round out, unlike almost every detachable magazine gun we have tested. The single stage trigger breaks at 4 1/2-5 lbs with no drag whatsoever, and it has just enough resistance at the break so you know when the gun is going to fire. Yes, there are $10,000 sniper rifles out there, but how much better they are than the AR-30A1 who knows. I don’t think the folks at ArmaLite were going for a price point with this gun. I think they just built the best gun they could, and decided afterward what would be a fair price, considering the materials and work that went into it. The AR-30A1 is not just a great gun. I think it is also a great value.

This new ArmaLite is the sniper rifle to beat, make no bones about it. It may not be as elegant as guns twice its cost, but if you are a working sniper or competition shooter and you just need something you can take out of the box and shoot at ¼ to ¾ MOA, in our experience this rifle did just that. We didn’t condition the barrel. We didn’t tune handloads. This was leftover ammo from the MRAD article two years ago. You may not need this level of accuracy and you may be able to get away with something much cheaper, but if you have been in the market for a real performer, one that will last you over thousands of rounds with no loss, the AR-30A1 might be the way to go. We have tested a bunch of guns from today’s ArmaLite, the Geneseo, Illinois ArmaLite, and every one of them has been flawless. Don’t go buy a high end sniper rifle until you check out the AR-30A1. We are keeping this one.

{ 35 comments }

{ 34 comments… add one }

  • Dave Berdan March 11, 2013, 3:51 am

    I just wanted to point out an error in your article concerning an MOA. You said, “Think of the minutes on a clock. If you are shooting from the middle of the clock, that space between the minutes is one MOA.” That is incorrect. A minute of angle is 1/60th of one degree. As you correctly pointed out, this about one inch at 100 yards. The angle between minutes of a clock, if shooting from the center of the clock, is six degrees – 360 times larger than an MOA! A big difference…

  • Bob Carey March 11, 2013, 7:01 am

    Not going to knock a gun I have not seen or tried, and I know Armalite makes terrific firearms. But for my money you cannot beat the Savage 110BA which this seems to have copied at $1,000.00 less.

    • Mike Perez March 11, 2013, 10:34 am

      I agree with your comparison in price. The author states, “Out of the box – $3,599″ in the picture provided. This appears to include a scope, as the Savage Arms does not – for approx $2K.

      • Administrator March 11, 2013, 10:39 am

        No, it doesn’t include a scope and the article clearly states that This is a whole different class of firearm than the Savage, which is also supposed to be a great buy for its price, but they haven’t sent us one yet.

    • Bryan May 31, 2013, 3:10 pm

      I did own a Savage in 338 LM. It had problems ejecting Hornady brass. You wont find a review of a savage in 338 LM using Hornady brass by an actual user / owner. Talk about embarrassing sliding my cleaning rod down the muzzle to dislodge stick cases! Sheesh!!! And Hornady customer service was no help. They blamed the gun. My Les Baer in 338 LM don’t care what brass I run through it.. even if its hornady brass that’s just inside specs. I now have the new AR-30A1 and can use my choice of brass with no failure to eject issues. You will save alittle money with the Savage… but take in account it only likes Lapua brass.

      • Jeremy December 23, 2013, 7:44 pm

        Is this a brass issue, or factory hornady ammo? Id like to know if you tried handloads with hornady brass. It may just be that hornady ammo is loaded real hot. Common for most factory ammo to be loaded higher than any recommended handload.. A tight chamber with hot loads can cause problems. While hornady brass is good, most serious shooters prefer Lapua for is quality and price compared to Norma. And most find Lapua to actually be higher quality than the more expensive Norma. Anyway, just a thought.

        Ive been a long time fan of Rem, but Savage has stolen me away. I love my factory Rem 700 in 22-250 and custom 700 in 6BR, but any new factory bolt gun purchases will be Savage. My Savage LRPV in 223 is nothing less than amazing. Ive taken squirrels out to 740 yards with it off of a bipod and rear bag. Its got a Leupold 8.5-25x50mm LRT (with a sinclair anti-cant device) and a Rifle-basix trigger set at 14oz. Id have used a Jewel trigger had they been available at the time, but ive got no real complaints about the Rifle-basix. Its just not as refined of a unit as Arnold Jewels work. Then again, theyre not as expensive either. But they do work at the adverised pull weights, which is more than i can say for other manufacturer’s claims.

        Knowing the reputation, and experiencing the accuracy of Savage, my purchase for a bolt gun in 338 Lapua would most definately be their 110 FCP HS Precision. On thing no one can deny is that Savage is a company that listens to it customers and delivers! Just look at their line of varmint and competition rifles. Their rifle systems and available chamberings is outstanding. All at afordable prices. They believe in their products so much that they have a competition team that shoots their factory guns (and they WIN!) that anyone can buy, take it out of the box and shoot in a match.

        Just my 2 cents…

      • john January 24, 2014, 7:30 pm

        Hi, Bryan own a savage all I shoot is Hornady 250g & 280g no problems hear. Might be the rifle ? good luck.

    • Bryan May 31, 2013, 4:30 pm

      Do you say Armalite has copied the Savage 110 BA??? because of the aluminum stock??? I bought my first AR-30 about eight or so years ago, and when I seen the Savage 110 BA with an aluminum stock come out about 5 years ago I thought, “That looks a lot like my AR-30″. I grant you that the Savage had all of the crazy rails first. but the base of the Savage is ALOT like an AR-30.

  • Fj March 11, 2013, 8:48 am

    My 700xcr remington 338 lapua also shoots very well at alot less money. .53 groups at 100yds. Excellent trigger adjusted nicely to 2.5 lbs, 2840 fps with 250 gr hornady hpbt.

    • Bryan May 31, 2013, 3:24 pm

      Remington of old has a great reputation, but the quality of their rifles has hit an all time low. They have done a lot of experimenting with triggers over the years like many other rifle makers trying to out do the Accu-trigger. I’m not a fan of Remington. Seen too many of them go back to the factory for trigger and blot function issues. Even seen a few come out of the custom shop have bolt sticking issues with factory ammo and poor accuracy. My savage was a great rifle with the exception that it only liked Lapua brass. Im liking my AR-30A1 ALOT with a few exceptions of my own. I HATE the safety. The hole in the cheek rest is nice but a standard Tipton rod with a brush don’t reach the end of the barrel. I tool off the stock to run my cleaning rod through the bore. WTF?!?!?. im getting used to the funky bolt and im liking it. Mine showed up with about a 6-1/2 pound trigger. its a lot like the old Remington triggers so you can adjust it if you understand how they work. I have mine set at 2-1/2 pounds now and love it. For the folks writing opinions on rifles, it would be helpful if you actually owned the rifle your writing about versus drawing your opinion from another guys opinion.

  • Joe March 11, 2013, 7:09 pm

    Any number of chassis systems out there (I have a Mcrees Precision) have a v-block style receiver that does not require bedding.
    Bragging about a 4.5 pound trigger is pretty laughable IMHO.
    These days you can drop a Remington 700 Tactical or 5R in one of several chassis available for $2k total (or less) and have a 1/2 MOA rifle practically out of the box.

    Joe

    • Administrator March 11, 2013, 8:04 pm

      We have tried that specifically with that chassis system and it did not work. It is not a V block like this and if you really actually owned one you would know that. Why do people think they need to sound smart to the point where they actually lie?

  • Martin Moffitt March 11, 2013, 9:44 pm

    Boys and girls, be nice, no lying.. All in all I think this weapon has many nice features. No I don’t own one and likely never will. This toy would prove a bit of overkill for a whitetail deer. Never the less, I am still entitled to my opinion which I freely offer.

    If I ever get into the type of shooting that this gun is more than capable, I may just need to make the big coin toss and go pick one up.

    Nice toy Armalite, but I think I will keep my hands on my Weatherby for a while longer.

    Martin

  • Michael March 11, 2013, 10:12 pm

    Administrator,

    Fj said “practically” & I agree. My system is based on an AICS 2.0 holding a R700P in 308 with standard bull 26″ barrel. Out of the “box” or truing the action can yield similar results for less money.

    I still admire the A30-A1 though. bringing that in 338 or 300 is impressive. Armalite’s recent arrogance over the recent “gun grabbing” climate…not refusing to sell to States who ban private citizens from owning 2nd amendment protected items turned my stomach on their products.

    Appreciate your write ups, & promoting us to get involved in contacting our Reps :)

  • kylekinsman March 11, 2013, 10:48 pm

    Better than almost any gun double the price? What about the Sako TRG 42 which you can get for $3100. I gaurantee the sako is a better rifle for less.

    • Bryan May 31, 2013, 3:34 pm

      You Guarantee Its a “BETTER” rifle??? Do you own one??? I own two AR-30′s in 300 win mag that shoot 1/4 moa with 190 grain Bergers and just under a 1/2 with 180 SMK’s. I outshoot guys with Sako’s at the range all of the time. other rifles that I own yield similar results. A Les Baer in 338 LM and a Savage LRP in 6.5 Creedmoor. Some Sako’s I’ve shot against can do that but not many. Practice, Practice, Practice….. and actually shooting one helps. I would love to write a review on a Ferrari sometime, I could write an opinion on one after reading a few articles…. but I think it would be best if I wait till I have driven one. What’s your opinion??? LoL

      • Sam December 25, 2013, 11:16 pm

        kylekinsman is correct. I own a TRG and have fired (and developed loads for) an AR30. The AR is a nice rifle, but at that price point, the Sako is a far superior product: The ergonomics easily surpass that of the AR, the trigger is unmatched, and the accuracy blows the AR completely out of the water.

        My buddy’s AR is a .8 moa rifle on a good day with handloads, whereas the Sako is generally half that. On occasion when the stars align and I am shooting my best, I can (and have) printed close to an inch at 600 yards (the best being .998 inch, 5 rounds). That was with 90.0 grains of H4831sc, 250gr. Scenars, Lapua brass, and 215M primers.

        Again, the AR is a decent rifle but the Sako is better. If there is a bone of contention it is the scarcity of aftermarket components and the asinine cost of Sako branded accessories ($400+ for a bipod? Really?).

  • Fr Hill March 12, 2013, 9:52 am

    I think manufacturers should avoid terms like “sniper rifle” and “assault weapons” when describing their products. It gives grist for the “antis” that can be used against us. As we all know, a sniper rifle can be any rifle from a Sharps to a 22-250 provided that it is used to snipe.

  • xrey March 12, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Fr Hill is right. The term should be “tactical”, since it has the shape of a tactical weapon. Wait, “weapon” should not be mentioned either. We should call it a tactical gun. As far as brands like SAKO, Armalite, and Barrett, the difference is very little in performance, but pricewise, Barrett beats them all in offering expensive rifles. True, they are good guns, but I believe in real life situations, all of these tactical rifles will perform pretty much the same.

  • Ringo Lapua March 12, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Nothing surpasses my Blaser Tactical 2 .338 Lapua Magnum with a Nightforce 12x scope. NOTHING

  • Bulsprig March 18, 2013, 8:21 am

    Great review! Though I don’t ever plan to own an “Ultra Long” range rifle, I really appreciate the efforts, and technical
    info. you folks provide.

  • Ernest K Reyes SR April 4, 2013, 3:02 am

    good gun for me i can shot form far a way because lags is not so good to work far

  • Bob April 17, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Does it come with the scope?if not, what scope do you recommend?

  • Bob April 17, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Does it come with the scope?if not, what scope do you recommend?

    • Administrator April 17, 2013, 9:37 pm

      No it doesn’t. I would get a Vortex or Meopta they are both a lot of scope for the money.

  • David July 3, 2013, 3:42 pm

    1. The Armalite Ar30A1Smiper Military Rifle rage is 1000 Meters Distant too! The Semiautomatic & Full y Automatic rifle too!! For Armes forces only too All Federal, State Groverments ,Country Groverments, City Laweforcement ,Township Lawenforcement ,Town Lawenforcement too! in 50 States too! SWAT Lawenforcement Divsion to only !! Agreed!!!!

  • Kevin July 25, 2013, 10:24 pm

    OK guys I’m no expect at all and I would appreciate some honest answers. I’m a hunter but also enjoy shooting as a sport, for a long range TOY would I do better to purchase a .338 or .50? The price isn’t really any issue I want range and destruction….;)

    • Administrator July 28, 2013, 3:53 pm

      It is really a matter of preference. For the money the 338 is going to be more accurate.

  • CJ December 23, 2013, 8:01 am

    I swear by Armalite. I have an AR-10 carbine in 308 and can get 3″ groups at 500m. I also used an AR-30 with a Kahles scope in .338LM in combat. Hand loaded 300 grain Lapua brass and Scenar rounds custom tuned to the rifle. I have 3 successful shots at 2000m+. At 1000m and in it was childs play. I’ve never fired a better long range rifle. As far as .338 versus .50, unless you are trying to take out a vehicle the .338 is a much better round. I’m retired now so I don’t “need” one. I still see an AR-30A1 in my near future.

  • CJ December 23, 2013, 8:02 am

    I swear by Armalite. I have an AR-10 carbine in 308 and can get 3″ groups at 500m. I also used an AR-30 with a Kahles scope in .338LM in combat. Hand loaded 300 grain Lapua brass and Scenar rounds custom tuned to the rifle. I have 3 successful shots at 2000m+. At 1000m and in it was childs play. I’ve never fired a better long range rifle. As far as .338 versus .50, unless you are trying to take out a vehicle the .338 is a much better round. I’m retired now so I don’t “need” one. I still see an AR-30A1 in my near future.

  • Chuck December 26, 2013, 5:21 pm

    I have the B-a110 with a vortex 6.5-20-50 the glass in the vortex is equal to my ziess of same power at half the price and a no bs warranty. With the acutrigger nice bolt handle and brake the savage B-A 110 is a great rifle. If I had spent more money for something else I would have been disappointed

  • Jamie Rask January 6, 2014, 7:13 pm

    I too own a Blaser Tactical 2 .338 Lapua Magnum with a Luepold LRT 4×20 and with hand loads it drills the target at 1000 yds. If anyone has one of these beauties they would know what I am talking about. Again in the scheme of things it all boils down to practice, practice and more practice to shoot at any kind of long range targets. I am a gun enthusiast and like all kinds of guns, pistols, rifles, shotguns, ar’s, and powder guns. I also love shooting my PSE Tac15 with an AR lower on it. That combo shoots 26 inch bolts to 100 yards with 1 moa of accuracy. It is all a matter of what you have to spend and what you prefer. Everyone is different and that’s what makes this world so interesting. By the way, if anyone else shoots the Blaser tacticle 2 in .338 and has reloading info that they want to share, please feel free to send me an email at rask.jamie@gmail.com. I am always interested in increasing the my performance by whatever means I can. Also if anyone has a nightforce scope that they want to part with for a good price or trade please let me know. I got my blaser as a package deal with the scope and 40 rounds of precision handloaded ammo for a smoking deal that I could not refuse.

  • Randy April 14, 2014, 1:02 am

    I bought one of these. It mis-fired four out of the first 20 rounds. Returned it to Armalite and still haven’t heard from them. The whole bolt/firing pin design is from the 50′s and dangerous in my opinion.

  • Fred Fagan July 7, 2014, 8:45 am

    Great coverage of the AR-30… I recently got the Armalite AR-31 in .308. It mirrors the AR-30. Best 3 shot group so far is a .367″ but then I’m an old retired 71 year old GI with bad eyes. Use nothing but hand loads of Sierra 168 gn in Lapua brass. Everything works great. Have gone to using the “Bob Sled” ramp in this (and all AR platforms) so I can fire single shots which slow me down and possibly more accurate.

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