The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 3

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 1

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 2

I shoot in Open so I am not limited to a single optic which gives me a plethora of options.  I never paid much attention to reticles in the past but in recent years I’ve spent a lot of time doing precision shooting and I quickly learned I am picky about reticles and glass.  I prefer a floating dot to a crosshair.  The glass must be clean and crisp, reticle and turrets must be in Mils and it must be First Focal Plane.  That limited my choices a bit, but luckily what I consider the best Multi Gun scope for any division ticked all the boxes.

Nightforce ATACR 1-8 in a Scalarworks Leap mount and FTP Alpha 3 10 MOA red dot sight on a Arisaka Defense mount.

I went with the Nightforce ATACR 1-8.  You get a true 1 power and daylight bright illumination on the reticle.  The big 34mm tube allows a ton of light and it even comes with Tenebraex caps and a throw level in the box.  The reticle has a floating dot surrounded by a segmented circle and has dots on a subtle Christmas Tree for holdovers and wind at longer ranges.  The center dot is large for precision shooting on 8 power but multigun is not precision; as I said before we shoot trash can lids.  So that large dot is a non issue at 8 power.  The segmented circle is great on low power.  With the illumination turned on it functions like a red dot sight for fast up close shooting.  If I were shooting Tac Ops or one of the other divisions that limit you to one optic I would still go with the ATACR because of the illuminated segmented circle on low power.  The eyebox and relief are not huge or super tight; it’s in the middle but forgiving enough to still work if you don’t get the perfect cheek position on the rifle.  To top it all off, the scope is basically bombproof.  In late 2018 US SOCOM (Special Operations Command) awarded a nearly $16 million contract to Nightforce for ATACR 1-8 optics.  If it can survive the abuse dished out by Special Operations shooters you have nothing to worry about chucking it into a barrel or whacking it on a prop during a multigun stage.  See GunsAmerica’s detailed review of the ATACR 1-8 here.

NightForce ATACR reticle. The tree give you easy to see aiming points for distance and wind. Photo courtesy of Nightforce Optics.

To mount the ATACR to the rifle I went with the Scalarworks Leap mount.  I wouldn’t call the Leap a true QD mount as its slower to attach or detach than the throw levers on many QD mounts.  Two thumbscrews are used to attach it to your pic rail.  The thumbscrews mean there are no levers or other things sticking out to get caught on props or other items.  The Leap is full of great features.  It’s one of the lightest mounts available, 5.48 ounces vs. 7.09 for a Larue and 9.52 for a Spuhr.  The rings are hinged at the top and the optic is clamped to the mount with two screws per ring at the bottom.  It is made from 7075-T6 aluminum which according to Scalarworks has 160% shear strength and 185% tensile strength when compared to 6061-T6.

The Scalarworks Leap mount attaches to your pic rail with two click adjustable thumb screws. The rings are two piece with a hinge at the top and the two halves secured with two screws.

My favorite feature of the Leap mount is that it levels the optic for you in seconds.  In the old days you used a plumb bob or two levels to get the optic level before torquing the ring screws.  I used either an Arisaka or Spuhr wedge to level my other scopes and they work well, but Scalarworks is even better.  They call it LevelDrive.  In the bottom of the mount is a large red aluminum screw with a flat base on the scope side.  Put your optic in the rings and tighten until you can just twist it.  Then screw in the LevelDrive screw until it makes contact with the flat on the bottom of your glass.  Torque your ring screws and you’re done.  The scope is mounted and level.  It does not get any easier. Scalarworks mounts would still be a home run even if that were the only good feature.

While the ATACR is great at 1 power it’s not quite as good as a real red dot so I opted to put both on the rifle.  I like big dots; I use a 10MOA dot on my competition pistols and PCC.  Smaller dots make some sense as the primary on a rifle but I can still hit full IPSCs at 500 yards with a 4 or 6 MOA dot.  For a pistol or a secondary optic on a rifle that is going to used inside 50 yards 99% of the time – that’s big dot country. 

The Alpha 3 red dot from FTP Shooting Sports. Huge lens, thin bezel, slide out battery tray and big 10 MOA dot make it awesome.

Again I wanted something light but not many optics have big dots anymore.  FTP makes the Alpha 3 reflex sight.  It is available with 6, 8 or 10 MOA dots.  I opted for the 10 MOA as it would primarily be used under 50 yards.  The Alpha 3 has a nice large lens, larger than most in the industry and one of the thinnest bezels.  That means you see more of your target and what is around it.  10 brightness settings and it remembers your last setting when you turn it back on. It has a huge adjustment range also.  145 MOA at 100 yards for elevation and 95 MOA for windage.  Positive click adjusters that don’t need locking screws are great as well.  If not using the included pic rail adapter the weight is just 1.46 ounces.  The dot is plenty bright for use in the Arizona summer sun on setting 8 and the large window and thin bezel make it easy to spot targets fast on a stage with multiple targets up close.  FTP spends extra money to get optimal coating on the glass for better light transmission and less glare, this is an area that many manufacturers cheap out on.  The Alpha 3 has never washed out in the sun for me.   I like it enough that I will be adding an Alpha 3 to some of my other guns.

The stem on the Arisaka offset red dot mount can be revered for either 35 or 45 degrees of offset. In this photo it is set at 45 degrees.

A 45 degree mount is typically used when mounting a red dot as a secondary optic.  I went with the Arisaka Defense offset mount.  It is unique in that you can set it for either 45 or 35 degrees of offset.  If I were using a scope with a thinner tube like the Nightforce NX8 1-8 (30mm) I would set it at 35 degrees.  The beefy 34mm ATACR tube requires the 45 degree setting to see around it.  I used the 1.5 inch direct mount plate to attach the Alpha 3.  The Scalarworks mount is 1.54 inches so I don’t need to move my head or adjust my cheekweld when transitioning from scope to red dot; I just tilt the rifle 45 degrees and my head is in the perfect spot already.  The mount also comes with high quality Wiha bits for all the screws and uses very large IP 20 and 27 screws.  IP is improved Torx and it really is better.  As always, be sure to use thread locker on all mount screws.

Author using the Alpha 3 red dot sight with the rifle canted 45 degrees for close in targets.

POV view using the Alpha on the Arisaka offset 45 degree mount for close targets.

One piece of the rifle was still missing.  Support.  Atlas makes some of the best bipods in the world and were the ideal choice for my rifle.  They are sturdy as hell, fast to deploy and adjust height and they are light.  I am using the Atlas PSR BT46 with ADM adapter.  It comes in at 14.2 ounces, 2 ounces lighter than my Harris HBRMS 6-9 also with an ADM adapter.  The Atlas attaches to the handguard via a 5 slot Magpul aluminum M-Lok pic rail.  I have rubber, ski and spiked feet for my Atlas and switch them out depending on the stage and position.

One advantage of the Atlas PSR bipod is that you can set the legs at 45 degrees forward or backward to get lower when needed.

 If I think I will want to load the bipod I go with spiked feet.  If I have a stage with large lateral transitions I want the feet to slide and will use the ski feet  as the glide over most surfaces.  For general use I go with the rubber feet that come with the bipod.    Changing feet is super easy with the Atlas.  Use the nose of a 223 round and poke the hole in the leg to depress the detent and the foot pulls right out.  Slide the new foot in all the way and rotate until the detent locks in the hole.  The BT46 Atlas adjusts from 5.2 inches to 9.6 inches which is enough height to use with a 40 round Pmag in some positions.  It has both tilt and swivel and you adjust the tension or lock it with a large knob on the bottom.  The legs can be locked in 5 positions, 0, 45, 90, 135 or 180 degrees.  My model also has non rotating legs.  If you load or push forward on a bipod with rotating legs the bipod can walk forward on you.  The Atlas is tough as hell too; no worries if you smash it on something, it will still work.  Like the ATACR Optic the Atlas BT46 was also given a US SOCOM contract; it’s that good.

Atlas bipod feet can be quickly changed by pushing on the detent in the hole with the nose of a bullet and removing the foot. I switch between ski, spiked and rubber.

Author using the Atlas bipod on a prone stage.

The last parts added to the rifle are simple but very useful.  I mounted an SLR Rifleworks Barricade stop at 6 and 9 o’clock.  If shooting from over or around a barricade I use the stop to push against it and load the rifle to help keep it steady for longer or more precise shots.  The 6 o’clock stop sits behind my support hand and just touches it.  It lets me know my support hand is in the same spot every time I grab the rifle. The barricade stops are inexpensive and easily attach to the M-Lok rails of the handguard.

Detail view of the SLR barricade stop and lightening cuts on the MWI handguard. Barricade stops allow me to load the rifle against a prop for more stability.

Author using the SLR barricade stop to brace the rifle against a prop for a 300 yard shot.

After assembling and test fitting all the parts, it was time to strip everything down again for refinishing.  Coating Technologies LLC is a big player in the firearms industry but odds are you have never heard of them.  However, you have heard of their products.  Coating Technologies has handled all of the refinishing for Robar and I suspect many of you were familiar with them.

I opted for the NP3 finish on this rifle.  Living in Arizona I’m not worried about corrosion.  It’s very dry here, but NP3 provides fantastic corrosion protection for those that do deal with humid environments.  NP3 in basic terms is electroless nickel impregnated with Teflon.  That means it makes stuff slippery.  I had the upper, lower, buffer tube, BCG and handguard coated with NP3.  Now I can wipe off most carbon from the bolt with a paper towel; not quite all of it, but enough to put off cleaning for a few more sessions.  The Teflon in NP3 really works.  Any moving part can benefit from it, which is why I had the major moving parts coated.  The other reason I love NP3 is the look and color.  The muted silver looks super cool to me.  It’s also helpful when shooting in the summer here and 110+ degrees out.  It reflects some of the Sun’s heat over a black rifle.  I have temped the gas block after shooting a stage in the summertime at 170 degrees.  I have also had to put my rifle in the car with the AC on to cool down enough to be able to hold it for the last stage of a match.  The silver may not reflect a ton of heat but every bit helps. Learn more about NP3 here.

The complete U3GR rifle in the wild. 39 inch diameter tire for reference.

Lastly, we have to feed this rifle and Magpul is my go to company for mags.  They just work – plus they don’t cost a lot.  I use a mix of 20, 30, 40 round mags as well as the D60 drum mag.  To get the most out of the Pmags I am also using extended basepads from Taran Tactical (TTI).  The basepads add 5 rounds to the P20 and P30 and 6 rounds to the P40.  As a bonus, a couple of the basepads are TTI’s limited edition AR-14 Joe Biden edition.  Not all of my mags have the basepads; I keep at least one of each size my bag in case I need that shorter mag for an awkward position.

Taran Tactical basepads add 5-6 rounds to your Pmags. This one is the limited edition Joe Biden AR-14 basepad.

As previously mentioned, weight was a key factor in selecting many of the parts.  My goal was a rifle with optics and no bipod around 9 pounds.  The goal was shattered.  The complete rifle with optics, bipod (with spiked feet) and all barricade stops and pic rail add-ons came in at 9.56 lbs.  Without optics or bipod it weighs just 6.79 lbs.  Its definitely not the lightest rifle out there, but considering it has two optics, an 18 inch barrel and 15 inch handguard and bipod, 9.5 lbs. is pretty light.  The weight is exactly where I want it to be.  Too light and the rifle will move too much under recoil and it will be less steady when using barricades and other stage props.  Too heavy and it will be slow to transition and hose the close up targets.  9-10 lbs. is the Goldilocks weight for me – just right.

    SPECS:
Caliber223 Rem/5.56x45mm
Chamber223 Wylde
BarrelCraddock/Bartlien18 inch single point cut rifling
Twist1 in 7.7 inches
Gas SystemRifle length gas system with adjustable gas block
Trigger2.5 lbs – Single Stage
Length – Stock Collapsed36.75 inches
Length – Stock Extended40.75 inches
Rifle – No Mag, No Optics, No Bipod6.79 lbs
Rifle – No mag, With Optics8.68 lbs
Rifle – With Optics and Bipod, No Mag9.56 lbs
Nightforce ATACR 1-8 and Scalarworks Mount1.66 lbs/26.6 oz
FTP Alpha 3 and Arisaka Mount0.23 lbs/3.6 oz
Atlas Bipod with Spiked Feet0.88lbs/14.2 oz

U3GR Part 3 Build List

NP3 Coating                       Coating Technologies LLC            MSRP $500.00

Bipod                                    Atlas BT46-LW17                           MSRP 319.95

Spiked Bipod Feet           Atlas BT37                                          MSRP 49.95

Magazine Basepad          Taran Tactical PMBP                        MSRP $41.99

Scope                                    Nightforce ATACR 1-8×24             MSRP $2800.00

Scope Mount                     Scalarworks Leap SW0710             MSRP $399.00

Red Dot sight                     FTP Optics Alpha 3 – 10 MOA        MSRP $379.00

Red Dot offset mount    Arisaka Defense Offset                 MSRP $135.00

Barricade Stops                 SLR Rifleworks HS-ML2B              MSRP 33.99

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 4

About the author: Matt Kartozian is a current Hi-Point Grand Master and former professional competition shooter, and gunsmith. Matt now works as a photographer and writer and can often be found on the sidelines of professional sporting events and on racecourses around the world. You can follow Matt’s adventures on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/customglock/ and https://www.instagram.com/durkadurkaphoto/

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Josh March 7, 2021, 3:08 am

    Keep them coming this content coming. Showed this to my buddies and we are all going to be using bits and pieces.👊🏽

  • Eric Cartman March 1, 2021, 4:11 am

    Someone is parking by Braille, that sidewall has taken a beating…

    • Matt Kartozian March 2, 2021, 9:17 am

      HAHAHAHAHA. Its a prerunner so the tires take a beating off road.

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