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