The AR-15 rifle is to me the Winchester ’73 of this century. Useful for hunting or personal defense, useful as a lawman’s gun and a great all-around rifle for building skill, these rifles serve thousands of Americans well. There are more-powerful rifles and a few more accurate, but none as versatile as the AR-15. The rifle featured is the newest AR in my modest battery. While best is a relative term, I do not own a rifle better made than CORE Rifle Systems Core 15 M4 Scout. Some have more features, but then so do the higher-grade CORE rifles.
I have been prodded for the last year or so, not to test and evaluate this rifle, but to own and use an example. My oldest son, Alan, can do things with a rifle—and a lathe and press—I could never do, although I can still shoot with the best of them. Alan is also the best shot I know. Several times he has mentioned the fit and finish of the CORE rifle. They begin with Mil Spec, he says, and make it a little tighter. There is no one whose opinion I respect as much as this able young man’s.
The rifle highlighted is one of several models offered. The Scout is the base model. However, this is similar to a Colt 1911 Series 70 in concept. If you begin with a great handgun, you may upgrade the barrel and barrel bushing and have a match gun. You may add combat sights and have a good combat gun. On the other hand, you can just purchase a Combat Elite out the door.
The CORE rifle offers much the same options. If you buy a cheap 1911 or a cheap AR-15, you will have to replace it at some point when you reach the skill level at which the firearm is limiting your performance. With the CORE rifle, you may add a superior optic or front rail later. In my case, I already own a heavier AR-15 with a heavy forend and a good quality scope. I like the Scout rifle for faster work and will probably leave it as is. When you consider the amount you will expend on ammunition and training during the course of a few years, the price of a good rifle over a cheap rifle isn’t that great. Besides, the CORE rifle is affordable and well made of good material.
I began my examination by popping open the receiver and checking the bolt. The bolt carrier key must be properly staked or the rifle simply isn’t worth having. The CORE carrier looks good. Next, I checked the trigger. The compression is smooth enough with some take-up and a clean break. The rifle is delivered without sights, so I added a carry handle with aperture sights. A good fit and all looked well.
The rifle is supplied with a single magazine. I added a stack of PMags and various aluminum magazines from the ready drawer. They have been proofed by previous use, so any problems would be due to the rifle or ammunition, not the magazines.
Choosing my ammunition wasn’t difficult. The Winchester 55-grain FMJ USA White Box load is a great place to start. Accurate, clean burning and always reliable, this is my number one resource for checking function in a new AR-15 rifle. I lubricated the rifle well and locked the first magazine in. I loaded 25 rounds in the 30-round magazines. These first 25 rounds were far from boring, but uneventful. Every load fed, chambered, fired and ejected normally.
The rifle was sighted in at 25 and then 50 yards. Fifty yards is about the limit of my ability to register excellent groups, but the 100-yard groups are not bad, just below the potential of the rifle. It is no mean trick to keep three shots in two inches at 50 yards with iron sights, which I consider good off the bench rest. I fired a few of the Winchester Ballistic Silvertip loads. These are an excellent choice for all-around use in the .223 rifle. The Ballistic Silvertip is offered in 50- and 55-grain weight. Frankly, with an iron-sighted rifle, it is almost just making brass to test such a load at long range. However, each load proved more accurate by a margin than the FMJ load. I like to confirm zero with a new rifle—just in case I get a shot at a coyote or the broad side a deer. I also fired five rounds of a dwindling supply of the Winchester 69-grain MatchKing loading. This is a credible loading with much to recommend at the football-field mark.
Settling into a solid firing position off the benchrest, I kept the rifle as solid as possible and squeezed the trigger straight to the rear with concentration on the sights. I took about a minute per shot. I usually fire three shots at 100 yards, but fired five and took the long walk with anticipation. I did not earn bragging rights, but three of the five rounds were in two inches, the other two opened the group to a full 3.5 inches. The dog will run, but it needs good glass to see the way.
Once I confirmed the zero, my grandson and I fired four magazines at targets at known and unknown ranges. Paper targets are good to confirm sight regulation, but firing at this type of target builds field skill. The CORE rifle handles quickly and has proven completely reliable. You cannot ask for more than that.
Core 15 does not always make the Top 10 list, but perhaps it should. Share your thoughts or experiences with the Core 15 M4 Scout in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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