Erathr3 Grunt 5.56mm: UltraLight 4.7-Pound Sub-MOA Carbine—Full Review

The Grunt carbine from Erathr3 provides sub-MOA performance in an ultralight 4.7-pound package.

The Grunt carbine from Erathr3 provides sub-MOA performance in an ultralight 4.7-pound package.

For more information on EraThr3 firearms, visit https://www.blasthouse.com/collections/models.

 Custom built firearms have always been popular. Many of the most useful features found now on production firearms came from small shops, builders and manufacturers. Were it not for their willingness to push past the norm, we would probably still be using flintlocks. They remain a driving force behind innovation. It’s largely responsible for increased popularity amongst what many consider the “atypical” buyer. Just as innovation drives things forward, so does catering to the current or future market, not the last one. Firearms companies languished in obscurity for decades building for the previous century’s market because “that’s how it’s done.” When they started making firearms, accessories and gear for this and the next generation, things took off and continues to rise.

A New World

Retention pins, the magazine release and the trigger pins are titanium to save weight.

Retention pins, the magazine release and the trigger pins are titanium to save weight.

Spending most of my life carrying a firearm for a living, my world has always revolved around practicality, usefulness, and the budgetary constraints of police departments. Collecting firearms or purchases based on intrinsic value has always been a secondary concern for me. I enjoy shooting firearms but they remain tools, something much of my generation still believes. Fortunately, my ability to spend time with new and young shooters lets me appreciate the new world and its perspective. Many new buyers are neither preparing for war or the zombie apocalypse. Home defense or personal protection may be secondary if even a consideration. It’s all about enjoying themselves. Much of this current generation enjoys a standard of living us “old timers” just never had. It means they can buy firearms because they like them, not because they need them. Camouflage is replaced with stylish design, radical lines and bright colors. To be honest, it’s refreshing and a few companies are targeting this market well. Erathr3 is one of them.

Erathr3 is not some large corporate manufacturer building firearms in the  thousands. Sheri Johnson and Sterling Becklin started Erathr3 in 2013, and it remains a lean operation. Having worked for Noveske since 2004, Sheri no newcomer to the firearms community.  Teaming with former Noveske president, Sterling Becklin, they are looking to reach a market less interested in a tactical edge yet still in need of high-quality products. These are not cheap (with prices starting in the upper $2,000 range), but they are high-quality firearms. Spending three days with EraThr3’s Sheri, Sterling and Ken Hutchinson, it was my pleasure to get a real feel for their products, ideas, and company.

The Grunt utilizes titanium parts as well as extensive lightening cuts to achieve its feathery weight. Note the open-cut mag well.

The Grunt utilizes titanium parts as well as extensive lightening cuts to achieve its feathery weight. Note the open-cut mag well.

Along with Proof Research and Leupold Optics, Erathr3 put together a media event held at Buck Doyle’s Follow Through Consulting range in Teasdale Utah. Buck’s Scoped Carbine Class is focused on engaging steel targets out to 1,000 meters, most of them small. His experience as a combat-proven Force Recon Marine keeps him focused on simplicity, accuracy and getting hits on target without complicated math or knob turning. His long relationship with Todd Hodnett from Applied Ballistics means he relies on either the Horus Vision T2 or T3 reticle. In order to meet the demands of this class, Erathr3 built rifles specifically for this task. It provides insight into their mindset. These rifles were designed a month or so prior to the class, machined the week before, and completed the night before they left. While based on an earlier rifle, the “Grunt” included features never used prior. It was all about being different, and they accomplished that task very well.

Arriving prior to class to help with setup, I rolled up on Buck zeroing rifles that were Cerakoted in bright orange, green, blue and pink. Each was housed in a custom made wood ammo crate with each writer’s name engraved on it. A custom bag included a dog tag with your name, assorted clothing and even some goodies. Meeting Sheri and Sterling it was a beginning to some of the most fun I have had on the range in a long time. Both are engaging, friendly, enthusiastic and great to be around. When asked why the colors, Sheri simply told me it’s fun, and she wanted to do something different.  And that may sum up the whole event.

The Grunt

The .223 Wylde (a hybrid .223/5.56 chamber dimension) rifle started with the company’s EL3L lower receiver, designed to be minimalist yet strong. CNC machined in house, it removes as much metal as possible without compromising strength. There are cutaways in the magazine well. An integral trigger guard housed an American Trigger AR Gold trigger. An AXTS Titanium ambidextrous safety was used along with their Raptor Charging handle. Neatly fitting the bolt release keeps lines clean and the release tight to the receiver. Retention pins, magazine release and trigger pins are titanium to save weight. Primary Weapons Systems provided Gen 2 enhanced buffer tubes while Magpul added a pistol grip and CTR stock.

The controls of the Grunt are standard configuration, despite the radical appearance of the rifle.

The controls of the Grunt are standard configuration, despite the radical appearance of the rifle.

SPECS

  • Chambering: .223 Wylde
  • Barrel:           16.1 inches
  • OA Length: 32 inches (collapsed)
  • Weight: 4.7 pounds (bare rifle)
  • Sights: Optics rail
  • Stock: Magpul CTR stock
  • Action: Semi-auto
  • Finish: Cerakote (Lime Green in this case)
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: N/A

Sterling explained how he designed the upper receiver to match both the front and back of the lower receiver perfectly, all with the same dimensions of the hand guard. It presents a clean line from front to back. Each was fit by hand. Recessing the dust cover rod provides a clean and smooth look. He tapered the back of the receiver rail to match the height of the charging handle. It houses a titanium bolt carrier using a JP Enterprises enhanced bolt. Using M-Lok on the hand guard provides strong and trouble-free accessory mounts. Proof Research provided a Carbon Fiber Wrapped 16-inch barrel using a mid-length gas system and 1:7 twist rate. Barry Dueck added his RTS (Rapid Transition Sight) along with a Surefire Warcomp flash hider.

The Grunt rifles were also equipped with AXTS Raptor charging handles.

The Grunt rifles were equipped with AXTS Raptor charging handles.

 An AXTS titanium ambidextrous safety was used on the Grunt rifle.

An AXTS titanium ambidextrous safety was used on the Grunt rifle.

Leupold provided Mark 6 3-18 power scopes with lighted T3 reticles mounted in Leupold Mark 6 single IMS 34mm mounts. Each was provided in a nylon case along with three 20 round Magpul Gen 3 magazines. These rifles are going to be sold by Erathr3 at a reduced price for a few Veterans charities, another reason for the bright colors. Each will be equipped as tested.

At the Event

The Scoped Carbine Class starts from prone getting used to the Horus reticle using the “12-inch” rule. It is a simple ranging rule effective on targets as small as 12 inches out to 600 meters. With a sweet spot of 200-500 meters, it is perfect for most situations. Using the patented scale in the scope you measure a 12-inch circle giving you a hold in mils. Hold that at the top or bottom of the plate, read the wind and press. Wind dots allow you to estimate the wind and just add dots. Day one you work out to 1,100 meters, focusing mostly on 600 meters and closer. Hornady provided their Superperformance 75 Grain BTHP match and it proved very accurate. Marked 5.56mm, it has a higher velocity than most of their .223 ammunition. Rated at 2,910 fps from a 20-inch barrel, it was flat shooting at closer to 2,800 fps through the Proof Research 16-inch barrels. Day one saw hits on steel in two shots or less out to 600 meters. Winds ranging from 10-20 mph made it tougher at 800 and 1,000 meters, but I hit at both. It was almost too easy; so long as the wind was held correctly it was a hit. Timed for right-handed shooters, the Warcomp held the muzzle in place with no rise. The Grunt was soft to shoot, staying in place even during rapid fire sessions.

The lime green Cerakote finish on the Grunt rifle was a custom option for the writer's event.

The lime green Cerakote finish on the Grunt rifle was a custom option for the writer’s event.

Once the scope and reticle are familiar, you move to barricades and hay bales engaging targets from 50-500 meters. The idea is to get your heart rate up so you run/jog to various positions and engage ISPC-sized steel plates or Larue knockdown targets. My first run through went without a single miss on steel, knocking them all down in turn; even the steel at 508 meters. One thing’s for sure, the “Grunt” is light, a true pleasure to run with. It is easy to maneuver, carries well, stays in place for follow up shots, and made it pretty easy to get on target quickly.

There is no knob turning in this class, nor do you spend countless monotonous hours studying math or zeroing your rifle. Each rifle was zeroed to hit close to the middle on a 6-inch steel target. This rifle held dead on to my Kestrel readings and provided for consistent hits at extended ranges. It did so with the Hornady, along with Black Hills Ammunition 69 grain TMK and Barnes 70 grain TSX on the same zero with no perceivable shift in holds. Having run near a dozen different rifles and calibers through this course, that is exceptional. It did so without cleaning the bore and only wiping down the bolt carrier group once in a while, adding oil occasionally.

Back at the Home Range

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 5.10.56 PMI decided to try a few different accessories when returning home. Bushnell’s Elite Tactical HDMR replaced the Leupold this time using a TReMoR 2 reticle. It is mounted in an Alamo Four Star Mount. All of the testing was done using the Surefire  RC-2 suppressor, and I added some of Barnes new Precision Match 85 Grain OTM to the mix. Normally 85-grain bullets in this caliber requires single-feed guns, but the Barnes was engineered from the start to fit in a standard AR magazines. Rather than shoot primarily from the ground, much of the testing was accomplished shooting from and around my FJ Cruiser.

Barnes new Precision Match 85-grain OTM shot quite well out of the Grunt, with a tightest group of .55 inches at 100 yards.

Barnes new Precision Match 85-grain OTM shot quite well out of the Grunt, with a tightest group of .55 inches at 100 yards.

When it came to accuracy nothing changed, the Grunt was accurate, producing groups with everything previously tested under .65 inches. Hornady’s 75-grain SuperPerformance provided the smallest group, measuring right at .50 inches. Barnes 85-grain OTM was very close behind with a similar group at .55 inches, with four of the five rounds touching.

During the class I used Barnes 70-grain TSX, Black Hills 69-grain TMK, Hornady 75-grain 5.56 NATO and a couple different 55-grain loads. They all functioned without issue. Brass timing was different, common with a super light bolt carrier, but it never failed to eject. Adding the 85-grain Barnes back home, it also functioned without issue. Brass ejection was nearly always at 3:00 or so; unsuppressed closer to 1:00 with the RC-2 Socom attached. Gas ingestion was about the norm with a suppressed AR; not excessive by any means.

Other Considerations

Lightweight AR’s are quite popular these days and the Grunt fits that definition for sure. Set up with just the Trijicon SRS Red Dot Sight and Warcomp, it was very handy indeed. Long classes with lots of square range would be a pleasure to run with this 5.56mm. Using a Proof Research barrel only keeps it lighter. Impact shifts did not occur with this rifle when heated up after some serious strings of fire – suppressed or not. Make no mistake, dump a couple magazines suppressed and it gets hot, but there was just no appreciable impact shift out to 500 yards on 12-inch round steel.

Primary Weapons Systems Gen 2 enhanced buffer tubes were fitted on the rifles.

Primary Weapons Systems Gen 2 enhanced buffer tubes were fitted on the rifles.

EraThr3 designed the upper receiver to match both the front and back of the lower receiver perfectly, all with the same dimensions as the hand guard.

The hand guard of the Grunt is a free-float unit that has a long strip of Picatinny rail along the top.

All of the author's testing was done using a Surefire RC-2 suppressor.

All of the author’s testing was done using a Surefire RC-2 suppressor.

All of the testing where possible at home was with BCM GI magazines using CTT Solutions magazine pads. Feeding was flawless. These are quickly becoming my favorites. With the CTT pads, they hold up really well after being dropped repeatedly. Every one of them dropped free and held up to quite a bit of dust and dirt. Getting them out of tight Kydex carriers is noticeable easier and they insert more easily.

American Triggers AR Gold trigger worked flawlessly; not something often experienced with drop-in triggers. It was crisp with some take up that was tactile and not loose. There were no soft primer strikes and the trigger pins never walked. These were set up in the 3-pound range and were quite predictable.

Final Thoughts

I came away with a great appreciation for both Sheri and Sterling’s enthusiasm, focus and understanding of today’s buyer. Both take what they do seriously; each rifle is a personal creation not a slab of aluminum and other parts slapped together.

Erathr3 rifles are custom built with a custom rifle price tag using personal  touches that are both useful and cosmetic. While they may not be most “tactical experts’” idea of a self-defense rifle, they would certainly do the job. If you want a really light rifle that is accurate, runs well take  look, maybe even in screaming bright lime green!

The EraThr3 Grunt represents the unique approach of this company and its firearms. Its performance is almost as eye-catching as its appearance.

The EraThr3 Grunt represents the unique approach of this company and its firearms. Its performance is almost as eye-catching as its appearance.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • loupgarous October 17, 2016, 6:44 pm

    It’s a custom rifle which doesn’t seem to be useful anywhere but the range. You’d have to subdue the handguard and receiver to hunt or use it for security work. Mossberg’s new MMRs give you almost all the goodness of this piece in colors you won’t need to hide with tape or plastic covers and cost less than half as much.

  • John August 16, 2016, 9:30 am

    About the only thing that I can see that is right is the weight. While I am not an AR fan, (the ones issued to me in the late 70’s sucked.) I have watched and wondered haw a 6+ pound rifle has morphed into a 10-12 pound battle rifle? For that weight give me a M-14. And the price!!! I have looked at the picture several times and still can not see the additional $9,000 they put on it. But if you like it its your money, go and have fun!

  • marquan manual August 11, 2016, 4:21 pm

    peep all these old fucking curmudgeons talkn shit about a new rifle company because they don’t like the colors!

    Jokes on you guys…if you don’t like the rifle, don’t buy it. But don’t bash people for having different tastes.

    live and let live, bros!

    • loupgarous October 17, 2016, 6:46 pm

      Aw, come on! You don’t have to be a curmudgeou to make fun of a rifle with Day-Glo parts. Lighten up, man.

  • Jim Atherton August 9, 2016, 2:20 pm

    10 k, this is insane not only is it ugly but this rifle doesn’t make you a better marksman, come on 10 k I can buy a few nice guns that don’t look like they came out of a gun rack in a clown car, my mos basic 0311 and others.

  • Kurt Eskildsen August 9, 2016, 3:30 am

    Second comment: $10,000? That’s a joke right? I’ll stick with my $800 rifles with a few upgrades that total them up to around $1100 each. $10,000 for a rifle like that is ridiculous.

  • Kurt Eskildsen August 9, 2016, 3:25 am

    I like the rifle in general. Nothing I could justify buying though. The color is definitely fugly but hey, different strokes right?

  • Ray Williams August 8, 2016, 5:54 pm

    If i spend the 10 grand, will I become a sub MOA shooter?

  • John Hanna August 8, 2016, 12:31 pm

    Gotta say – notta fan.
    The FDE & Zombie green, really..? Who does this? Who pays outrageous monies for *almost* 1-off 5.56 that doesn’t shoot
    absolutely lights out? I don’t know anyone who would jump on this.
    It’s like one of the billion Harley riders whacking the loud grip to say *yet again* look at me — LOOK at ME.!!
    Zombie green, indeed….
    Silliness, pure silliness

  • Tommy Barrios August 8, 2016, 11:43 am

    For 2Gs I could have two rifles outfitted with all the bells and whistles and still be sub MOA!
    More money wasted on looks over practical use and performance!

  • CLINT SMITH August 8, 2016, 10:27 am

    I doubt that this rifle shown weighed 4.7 with scope side mounted bus and a can.
    I wonder if E3 knows what a Grunt is and I wonder if they know the MOS # for what a Grunt really is Army or Marines.
    I doubt a Grunt would use the above named “clown” colors in the field.
    I am taken that the concept for a light cutout rifle was E3″s
    Otherwise the rifle Stoner designed works….as it should.
    Clint Smith

    • Tripwire August 8, 2016, 1:20 pm

      Well said!

  • Dan August 8, 2016, 9:49 am

    The clown colors are so everyone at the range will know you paid way too much for your toy!

  • Matt Wright August 8, 2016, 9:48 am

    I think the rifle is hideous and only zombie apocalypse nerds would actually want to buy this. As far as price….omg, seriously anybody could build this themselves for much less. Most of the parts are common and available on multiple websites. The creator of this rifle is insane and must be trying to get back his entire investment by selling 2-3 rifles. What a joke. Like a previous comment, why wouldn’t you just spend that money on something cool like a Barrett.

    • Todd August 8, 2016, 11:58 am

      I actually did just that.
      Built (put together) a mid length gas system, simple rifle.I used a single stage BRO DOT 3.5# pull.
      It’s total weight with an Aimpoint H1 and full mag and sling …..6lbs. 10 oz.
      Price….$1300

    • Scotty Gunn August 8, 2016, 8:55 pm

      Did just build a lightweight for the wife. Used a newer style 1-8 twist 223 wylde lightweight barrel with a 750 gas block . Midlength. It makes the front end lighter, and she likes that. Way less than 1k. Actually about 600 with the optics.

  • Craig August 8, 2016, 8:10 am

    I’ll admit, it looked interesting…until I pulled up the website…$10,000+ (or on sale for $6.7K) with a scope…OMG! I can get a Barrett 107 for that price/
    Neat rifle, but the price was a shocker.

    • keith August 8, 2016, 9:13 pm

      hell, for $10k i can get my DREAM rifle….Chey-tac M200 intervention in .408. i cant see anyone with common sense spending that amount on an AR platform rifle. Accuracy International, Chey-tac, Barrett..the list goes on for rifles that FAR exceed the AR platform and will reach 1 mile target aqusition ranges. dont get me wrong. i LOVE the AR. i have several. but i didnt spend near that kind of money for any of mine, bells and whistles included. my first AR was an armalite, then got my LWRC, and just bought my Black Rain BRO Urban. im very happy with all 3 and didnt spend no $10k to get any of them.

  • Iconoclast August 8, 2016, 7:32 am

    Aside from the hideous colors, the gun has so much shaved off of it that it doesn’t look like it would be very robust, but dragging around in the real world is probably NOT what this offering was intended for. This gun seems to have been developed for the Equipment Snob Class that we all have to endure at the range. The MSRP was no doubt listed as “N/A” to prevent otherwise sane readers from soiling themselves! My years old RRA carbine groups an inch or less, and probably cost a forth of what this little gem actually goes for. I think I’d rather have my rifle and $3K worth of ammo!

    • CLINT SMITH August 8, 2016, 10:30 am

      the cutouts do not effect the rifle stoutness….however stout the rifle ever was compared to…a Garand?
      I have worked the rifle hard and it works
      $ and E3 issue
      Colors?

  • Joe Lee August 8, 2016, 6:48 am

    The FDE and green go together like chocolate cake and grapefruit juice.

    • Dave Emery August 8, 2016, 1:23 pm

      Yummy

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