The CA5five6 AR-15 from Christensen Arms: Workhorse Reliable but Should It Shoot Better?

I’d guess most people who know of Christensen Arms of Gunnison, Utah, do so because of their carbon-fiber wrapped barrels and their various bolt-action rifles. Understandably, as both have wide-reaching reputations, especially among those of us who like the longer-distance capabilities of bolt actions like their Modern Precision Rifle or MPR.

But Christensen also makes AR-style rifles, and last year debuted the CA5five6, an AR-15 chambered in .223 Wylde. I saw the carbon fiber barrel and carbon-infused handguard and thought it looked interesting and cool and requested one. Soon after my CA5five6 arrived, I used it to review Trijicon’s then-new ACOG 1-8x rifle scope. The rifle worked fine.

The CA5five6 from Christensen Arms is a stylish-looking AR-15.

Then, after many months, I finally got around to reviewing the rifle itself. In shooting over 300 rounds through the rifle, I did not have a single failure to feed or eject. I am a fan of the Trigger-Tech trigger, too, and I still think the rifle looks cool—which has nothing to do with a rifle’s functionality, but all other things being equal? I like cool looking silverish-bronzed receivers and rails over straight black-on-black and blah.

But there is a potential knock against the rifle. The CA5five6 is backed by the Christensen Arms Sub-MOA Guarantee. But despite a couple of MOA groups, I couldn’t get consistent sub-MOA out of my CA5five6. 

Now, the accuracy issue could be a problem with me, of course, as the shooter. It could also reflect the reality that some rifles do very well with specific brands of ammunition and not so well with others and, in this case, I didn’t end up using the brands that might work best in the CA5five6.

McCombie accuracy tested the CA5five6 with these three brands of .223 Rem ammunition.

Now, to be clear, it wasn’t as if I was pegging five-inch groups. Definitely not. But my average was much closer to 1.5-inches at 100 yards, not sub-MOA.

That said, here’s what I experienced.

For my accuracy testing with the CA5five 6 is used: American Eagle .223 Rem firing a 62-grain full-metal jacket (FMJ) bullet, from Federal Premium; Norma Tactical .223 Rem loaded with a 55-grain FMJ bullet; and Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection .223 Rem loaded with a 62-grain Gold Dot Soft Point.

My best five-shot groups, at 100 yards and firing from a rest, were with the Speer Personal Protection. The top group here scored .85 inches, for five shots out of six taken, while the average was approximately 1.20 inches. 

Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection .223 put five of these shots at under one-inch at 100 yards.

The very best I could do with the Norma Tactical was 1.30 inches, and the American Eagle averaged right at 1.40-inches. In both cases, I had groups of 1.70- to 1.90-inches also.

During my first testing, I became frustrated with the groups I was shooting. When this happens, I’ve found my best move is to leave and return in the next day or two. Which is what I did.

The barrel of the CA5five6 sports a three-prong flash hider.

Part of my frustration was because I have used Christensen bolts in the past, specifically, the Modern Precision Rifle and the Ridgeline, and both shot .5 MOA groups all day, with whatever ammunition I ran through them. Fair or not, my expectation was the same for the CA5five6.

So, I returned to my shooting range two days later with the CA5five6 and I still shot nearly the same exact groups.

The adjustable MFT Minimalist stock felt solid on McCombie’s shoulder.

Now, I don’t consider any of these groups of 1.5 inches terrible. And if other shooters and reviewers have fired better groups, got better accuracy, that’s fine. No arguments from me. I know many of the people at Christensen Arms, too, and they are honorable folk. I have to assume they scored sub-MOA groups in their testing or they would not have placed their sub-MOA Guarantee on this rifle.

But I couldn’t do it, not consistently.

The CA5five6’s handguard combines carbon fiber and aluminum.

The CA5five6 weighs in at just 6.3 pounds, unloaded. Credit that lighter weight to the carbon-fiber wrapped stainless steel barrel and the carbon-aluminum hybrid handguard. As is pretty much standard for AR-15s, both the upper and lower receivers are made from forged 7075 aluminum.

According to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, my CA5five6’s TriggerTech trigger averaged a crisp 2 pounds, 3 ounces of trigger pull. The trigger had a very slight uptake, and it did reset immediately.

The rifle’s TriggerTech trigger averaged a crisp 2 lbs., 3oz. of pull.

The recoil from the CA5five6’s direct impingement gas system was minimal. The flared magazine well made quick magazine changes easy and intuitive. And I loved the CA5five6’s two-tone color pattern of silverish-bronze and black.

The CA5five6 is a lightweight and nimble rifle that feels great on the shoulder, too. I wish I could have scored better groups with it, true, but the rifle will certainly do the job for most shooting, from plinking and home defense needs, as well as for hunting medium-sized and smaller game.

Specs:  CA5five6 from Christensen Arms

Caliber: 223 Wylde.

Action: Semi-Auto, direct-impingement gas system.

Barrel: 16” 416R Stainless Steel Aerograde Carbon Fiber Wrapped.

Twist Rate: 1:8.

Bolt Carrier Group: Black Nitride Finish.

Handguard: 15” Aluminum Hybrid Carbon Fiber, available in M-Lok®.

Trigger: Single Stage, TriggerTech.

Upper and Lower Receivers: Forged 7075 Aluminum, silver-bronze tone finish.

Stock: MFT® Minimalist, adjustable.

Length: 33.25” to 36.25”.

Weight: 6.3 Lbs.

MISC: ½ × 28 Threaded Muzzle, Stainless Steel 3-prong Flash Hider, Flared Magwell.

MSRP: $1,695.00.

Christensen Arms

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About the author: Brian McCombie writes about hunting and firearms, people and places, for a variety of publications including American Hunter, Shooting Illustrated, and SHOT Business. He loves hog hunting, 1911’s chambered in 10MM and .45 ACP, and the Chicago Bears.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Michael Christensen July 30, 2021, 1:21 pm

    No relationship that I know of, or very distant. The way Christensen Arms wraps their barrels is they just over lay them with carbon fiber. They do not put pressure onto the strands or individually wrap them. This means that you can have an inconsistent wrap which will adversely affect the accuracy. Go with a better carbon wrapped barrel, you all know the company name.

  • Edward Allen July 30, 2021, 8:27 am

    I would be truly disappointed with the CA 5five6 if this is the grouping they get.

    I routinely get sub MOA from my Springfield Armory SAINT and from an MSR that I assembled using an Anderson 24″ stainless steel fluted heavy barrel. Grouping with this rifle are typically .75 using factory ammo. (American Eagle, Gecco, Freedom Munitions) and it cost me a lot less that $1700. In fact, both of these rifles probably cost me a total of $2000 combined.

    Learn how to build your own and pick the parts you want. You’ll most likely be happier with the results and have the pride of doing it yourself.

  • Give Me Liberty July 29, 2021, 9:25 pm

    I saw the article and thought the CA stood for “California” and not “Christensen Arms.”

    Personally I do not like seeing firearms designed to comply with California’s tyrannical anti 2nd Amendment laws as they are generally equipped with crippled capacity magazines, no flash hider and or a funky stupid messed up pistol grip.

    California no longer has a 2nd Amendment. Thank goodness about 36 States still do.

  • Ocean Dragon July 27, 2021, 6:53 pm

    I wouldn’t bash the rifle too much. How about getting a younger shooter. It is understandable that as one ages some get a visible tremor and arm strength isn’t as great. I am not bashing the reviewer, but don’t take everything out on the firearm. Have you been watching the Olympic shooting competitions? I haven’t seen a single athlete with white hair.

  • `CHWRLES WHEELER July 26, 2021, 11:22 pm

    KEEP THE GOOD WORK

  • Don July 26, 2021, 7:47 pm

    I wouldn’t complain about 1.5 MOA out of any AR. I have had around 25 of them in the last 50 years. 1.5 MOA is about the best any of them shot. CA simply shouldn’t call them sub MOA rifles. I’d be happy with those groups.

  • Zack July 26, 2021, 2:57 pm

    I own one of these rifles, along with many other AR platform rifles from many different manufacturers. With my particular sample of one, it shoots amazing. I did follow the recommended barrel break in procedure exactly as described on their website and apparently it paid off. My rifle is set up with a Vortex Razor 1-10 and a CMC flat trigger. At 50yards shooting off of my range bag I can get 5 shot groups that are typically touching. At 100 they are usually under an inch, if I do my part. But my rifle really shines between 200-400yards. 3 inch flippers at 200 are easy shots all day, 5 inch flippers are consistently getting hit out to 400. The best group I have shot is a 1 ¾” 5 shot group at 300 yards. Once again, maybe I got lucky, but my example of 1 is my favorite rifle to shoot at the range and in competition.

  • Tommy Barros July 26, 2021, 12:41 pm

    IF they are getting $1695.00 for those I should be getting $2000 for mine and $5000 for the TRUMP MAGA AR I built!

  • Kole July 26, 2021, 11:32 am

    The only reputation that CA has is big groups and inconsistent bolt action rifles that are over priced, and need to be sent back to be fixed. I’ve shot a few and wasn’t overly impressed. I don’t think they’re barrels are as good as other carbon fiber barrel brands. I don’t like to bash any American gun company, but they need to step up their quality control and actually give people the rifle that people pay for. You can put a regular 700 action with any carbon barrel company and it will out preform these guys for less money. So no thanks.

    • Mark N. July 26, 2021, 10:52 pm

      A proof research barrel clocks in at $850, and a high end TriggerTech for Remington 700 is over $300. Ass the rest and you are over the CA price.

  • Ron Reynolds July 26, 2021, 7:56 am

    .223 Wylde is a chamber dimension, not a caliber. .223 Wylde chambers are designed to shoot standard .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO higher pressure rounds safely.

  • Mark N. July 26, 2021, 2:33 am

    Maybe you should ask Christensen what ammo they used in their testing. Perhaps a heavier boat tail round?

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