The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 4

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The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 1

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 2

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle – Part 3

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4

With the rifle assembled it was time to break it in, test it and then beat on it.  According to Craddock, barrels with cut rifling don’t need a break in, shoot 10 rounds to check function then a good cleaning.  I did my long normal break in anyway.  During the break in I also tuned the gas block.  Start with the gas closed.  Load a mag with 1 round and shoot.  If the bolt does not lock back, open the gas port 1 click and repeat until it locks open. 

Once the gas block is tuned for the buffer and BCG I like to fire a few rounds with free recoil.  In short, you barely hold the rifle and watch how much it recoils and moves.  It gives you an idea of how well everything is tuned to work together.

I finished assembling the rifle at the end of May, right in the middle of the The Rona, and the massive surge in gun and ammo purchasing.  Unfortunately several factory loads I was going to test were no longer available.  But I did have enough other ammo to make it worthwhile.

The following loads were tested for accuracy.  For accuracy testing I used a Nightforce NX8 2.5-20 with the Mil-XT reticle.  I can shoot much better groups at 20 power than I can with 8 power so I borrowed the NX8 from another rifle.  All ammo was shot over a Magnetospeed V3 Chronograph to get the 10 shot average velocity and Standard Deviation (SD).  All were grouped at 97 yards.  (My home range calls it the 100 yard line but it measures at 97.  Have you ever checked the actual distance to target on your known distance range?)  The heavy loads were also shot for groups at 500 yards.  Group sizes measured with the Ballistic-X app.  All groups were 5 rounds each.  I shot several groups at 97 and 500 with each load using the Atlas bipod and a Wiebad WCMFC rear bag.  97 yard groups were sitting at a bench; 500 yard groups were prone.

Black Hills 77gr OTM 5.56

Hornady 75gr ELD Match .223

Hornady 73gr ELD Match .223

Hornady 75gr Steel Match .223

Fioccchi 55gr 223A .223

IMI 77gr Razorcore 5.56

Sig 77gr Elite Match OTM .223

AmmoVelocitySD100y Group Size500y Group Size
Black Hills 77276838.66 in/.65moa  2.57 in/.49 moa  
IMI 77269822.41.06 in/1.04moa4.54 in/.87 moa
Sig 77241717.2.44 in/.44moa3.16 in/.60 moa
Hornady 75 ELD275526.5.95 in/.93moa4.81 in/.92 moa
Hornady 73 ELD267220.91.46 in/1.44moa4.65 in/.89 moa
Hornady 75 Steel264937.5.98 in/.96moa6.61 in/1.07 moa
Fioccchi 553063 fps291.72 in/1.7moaN/A

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4
Some of the ammo used in testing the rifle. Sig and IMI ammo not pictured as they arrived late.

As you can see, the Sig 77s edged out the Black Hills 77 at 97 yards but the BH 77 was the winner at 500 yards.  All loads except the Hornady Steel Match were sub–moa at 500 yards which is more than enough accuracy for multigun.  But the Steel Match turned in a respectable 1.07 moa group at 500, especially when you consider this ammo used to be about 40 cents a round; the others are all about $1 per round give or take a nickel or two (Pre Rona pricing). 

I thought the Sig ammo would fall off a bit at 500 due to it being over 300 fps slower than Black Hills but that just isn’t the case.  The Sig ammo had the best SD and the second best group at 500 by a small margin.  Though it should be mentioned that my 500 yard dope with Black hills was 3.0 Mils and with Sig it was 4.2 Mils.  That is a difference of over 21 inches of drop at 500 yards and it’s due to the velocity difference between the two brands.

The fact is all of these loads are overkill for multigun accuracy and good enough for much more precise shooting sports.  My goal before I started selecting parts for the build was a sub-moa rifle.  I never thought it would be possible to have a multi gun rifle shoot sub half moa groups at 500 yards.  I would not hesitate to use any of these past 500 yards in a match.

The Black Hills, IMI and Sig 77 all use the same Sierra 77gr projectile.  OTM stands for Open Tip Match but it is also known as the SMK – Sierra Match King and the 77gr BTHP.  Black Hills and IMI use a 5.56 case while Sig chose the .223 Rem case.  Each company uses their own powder recipe.

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4
Black Hills sent an entire 460 round ammo can of their fantastic MK 262 Mod 1-C 77 grain ammo. It is amazing ammo that led to hits at 1035 yards with this rifle.

In multi-gun matches, I normally use whatever 55gr ammo I can get cheap out to 200 yards.  For the last couple of years, it has been the Fioccchi 223, as I found a good deal on it and bought a bunch.  For 200+ yards I am still working on a supply of Hornady Steel Match 75gr.  This load uses the same 75gr BTHP Match Hornady projectile as the 75gr Match but it uses a steel case.  Yes, I built this fancy rifle and almost immediately shot steel-cased ammo through it.  Sadly, Hornady ceased production of the Steel Match line of ammo a couple of years ago.  Rumors said they had trouble with the steel case supplier.  Like all rumors, there is a good chance it’s bullshit.  It was great ammo at a great price in any caliber.  I have some 155gr Steel Match 308 that shot sub-moa 5 round groups at 500 yards out of Scar 17 which was about 70 cents a round.

The Hornady Steel Match, IMI Razorcore, and Fioccchi came from my own stash.  I requested 50-100 rounds of each load from Sig, Hornady, and Black Hills, and all were happy to oblige.  Black Hills deserves special mention though.  Instead of sending me a few boxes of ammo, Black Hills sent a full 460 round ammo can!  One really cool thing is that the can includes the test sheet from Sierra showing the results of two 10 round groups shot with that lot of ammo.  The ammo comes in the same 20 round brown cardboard boxes as the ammo Black Hills makes for the military, Mk 262 mod 1.  The only difference is the boxes are stamped Mk 262 Mod 1 C, the C is for Civilian.  Otherwise, this is the same ammo that is shipped to military units all over the world.  For ammo nerds like me, there are some interesting articles about how the Mk 262 Mod 1 became the military’s choice for short-barreled rifles after assaulters stole some from the snipers and saw how well it worked in short-barreled rifles.

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4
Black Hills includes a accuracy testing report for your lot of ammo with each can. This lot averaged 10 shot groups at .563 MOA at 300 yards. That is close to my personal testing at 100 and 500 yards.

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4

All this data was interesting but real world competition testing was needed as well.  I have now shot 25+ matches with the new rifle to shake things out and see how it performed.  They were a mix of multi gun matches, rifle only style match out to 450 yards (Rio Black Rifle) and precision style matches out to 700 yards (Cowtown Accurized AR).  My second stage of the first match I had a feeding failure.  Examination proved the failure was the result of a D60 drum mag that had been loaded for months and banging around in the back of my truck.  I have noticed that you have to be a bit gentle with the drums or it will come back to bite you.  Aside from that one failure, the rifle has run 100% through many matches and over 3000 rounds using both mags and drums.

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4
The Author shoot the U3GR off a barricade during a PRS match.

As I expected, the accuracy of the rifle is outstanding.  When I did my part the bullets hit where they were supposed to at any range.  On up close stages it is fast to throw around and in and out of ports and has minimal recoil.  The Hiperfire trigger is fast and reliable and the JP comp keeps it all under control.

The extra ammo sent by Black Hills allowed me to do a lot more long range testing with the rifle.  Screwing around one day after the Cowtown match I wanted to stretch the legs of the rifle to see what it had.  Cowtown range has many pieces of steel at known ranges out to 1000 yards and beyond.  After two missed shots for wind (I really suck at wind calls) I had no trouble repeatedly ringing a 20 inch or so tall coke bottle target at 850 yards with the Black Hills 77gr.

After all the testing and matches I still had 100 rounds of Black Hills 77 gr. left.  Accuracy was better than I had hoped and I decided to really push the accuracy and use it in a PRS match.  If you don’t know about PRS you can read my article PRS for Dummies here.  PRS is the home of custom built hyper accurate bolt action rifles.  There is a Gas Gun division for autoloaders but it’s mostly purpose built rifles chambered in long range calibers like 6.5 Creedmoor, .224 Valkyrie and various 6mm cartridges.  I planned to shoot it with a 3 gun rifle and 5.56mm commercial ammo.  I did swap out the Nightforce ATACR 1-8 I use for multigun for the Nightforce NX8 2.5-20.

In the match, the rifle preformed great and hit everything when the shooter (me) didn’t screw something up.  Not having to manually run the bolt between shots actually helped me by letting me just concentrate on the shot.  Stages I would have normally timed out on with my bolt gun I finished with the 3 gun rifle.  The low recoil let me easily see misses and how much correction was needed. I had my highest score yet in a PRS match and cleaned my first stage, and won the Gas Gun division.  All misses were shooter error, not the rifle or ammo.  The match was at Cowtown so again I wanted to stretch its legs after the match even farther.  I found a full size IPSC target at 1035 yards.  Again I needed two rounds to figure out my wind, it was ¾ Mil right.  I sent three rounds in about 9 seconds and was rewarded with 3 hits. 

The Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle - Part 4
The Author shooting prone during a PRS match.

I had always thought a 1000 yard AR was pretty much impossible but thanks to Craddock Precision, Bartlein, Nightforce and Black Hills I know it is very doable.  I set out to build the Ultimate 3 Gun Rifle, and I did.  But I also accidentally built a rifle capable of PRS competition and hitting targets past 1000 yards.

I want to thank all the companies that assisted with this dream rifle build.  Below you can find links to each part used in this rifle.

Caliber223 Rem/5.56x45mm
Chamber223 Wylde
Barrel18 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

Complete Build List:

Finished Barrel                  Craddock Precision                          MSRP $695.00

Barrel blank                        Bartlein Barrels

Bolt Carrier Group           JP Rifles JPBC-3SP BCG                  MSRP $352.95

Compensator                    JP Rifles JPTRE3-324TI                 MSRP $149.95

Gas Block                             SLR Rifleworks SA7-Ti-S                MSRP $188.49

Gas Tube                             SLR Rifleworks GT-R                        MSRP    $23.99

Dimple Tool                        SLR Rifleworks DJ7                           MSRP $31.99

Gas Block Tools                 SLR Rifleworks BD8                          MSRP $12.00

Barricade Stops                 SLR Rifleworks HS-ML2B               MSRP 33.99

NP3 Coating                       Coating Technologies LLC            MSRP $500.00

Handguard                          Midwest Industries ULW15         MSRP $259.95

Bipod                                    Atlas BT46-LW17                             MSRP 319.95

Spiked Bipod Feet           Atlas BT37                                          MSRP 49.95

Trigger                                  Hiperfire Eclipse                              MSRP $275.00

Stock                                     Mission First Tactical BULS            MSRP $99.00

Cheekrest                           Mission First Tactical BACP           MSRP $19.99

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

Buffer Tube                        Magpul MAG678                              MSRP$ 59.95

Buffer and Spring             Taccom3G ALW223                          MSRP $51.90

Grip                                       Magpul MAG415                              MSRP $19.95

Lower Receiver                 KE Arms Magwell Lower                               MSRP $279.95

Upper Receiver                  New Frontier C4 Side Charge      MSRP $225.99

Safety                                   Battle Arms BAD-ASS-PRO           MSRP $45.00

Ti Receiver Pins                 Battle Arms BAD-EPS-Ti                 MSRP $38.95

Mag Catch                           Battle Arms BAD-EMMR                               MSRP $33.95

Ti Bolt Catch                       Battle Arms BAD-EBC-Ti-B            MSRP $50.00

Magazines                          Magpul PMAG Gen M3                 MSRP 14.95

Ti Trigger Pins                   

Ti Buffer Catch

Ti Grip Screw

Ti Castle Nut and Endplate V Seven Systems                      MSRP $100

Base Rifle Price                                                                                 MSRP $3170.89

NP3 Finish                                                                                           MSRP $500

Complete rifle with bipod, optics and 1 TTI Pmag               MSRP $7653.79


Black Hills 77gr OTM

Sig Sauer Elite Match 77gr           

Hornady 73gr ELD Match

Hornady 75gr ELD Match

IMI 77gr Razorcore

Fiocchi 55gr 223A             

Shooting Ranges Used:

Rio Salado Multi Gun

CowTown Range

Phoenix Rod and Gun Club

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  • Bart February 3, 2022, 10:40 pm

    I think what I enjoyed most is that you have been at this for quite some time, and thru trial and error, knew in what direction you wanted to go for this build, with each piece, large or small, no cost involved, just the best, knowing what or hoping what performance you would get out of it when all the pieces come together, numbers don’t lie, and your skill with the right tool, speaks for it’s self. So much more about gunsmithing and precision shooting I would love to know and maybe try a build for about what about 1/2 of what you spent just to get into the sport, Incredible read, start to finish, could not walk away, Thank You

  • Josh March 12, 2021, 5:10 pm

    This was a really helpful series for us guys nervous about dabbling into a custom build. I like the idea of a rifle that can be used in 3 guns and Accurized style matches. When you swap scopes from 3 gun to accurized-do you find your zero is still on?

    • Matt Kartozian March 16, 2021, 1:15 pm

      The zero stays very close. Usually only .1 mil adjustment to re-zero.

  • Scott Bradley March 8, 2021, 11:38 pm

    Thank you for the articles, very informative and is making want to build another AR that’s a shooter. Thanks!

  • Robert Russell March 8, 2021, 12:19 pm

    Matt – Thanks for taking the time to put this series together. It’s both very interesting and informative. Really enjoyed following along and the discussions along the way. Amazing what a well thought out and put together AR can do with factory ammunition.


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