For more than 40 years, I’ve owned and used the best AR-15 rifle I could afford. I have evaluated several inexpensive rifles with mixed results. Once you get into the SIG M400, Colt LEO, and Springfield Saint territory, you have a very good rifle.
But will a rifle costing twice as much as a good AR-15 rifle prove worth the expense? Another option was a piston AR versus the original gas impingement design. Since my experience with the AR-15 has been positive, as far as reliability and operation, I had a notion of not fixing what isn’t broke. But then variety… ah, variety. By a series of lucky moves, I was able to purchase a Land Warfare Resources Corporation (LWRC) SSP.
If you feel like cleaning the AR-15 is a chore, you may be right if you fire prodigious amount of ammunition. Gas impingement is certainly not the cleanest system. But again, I am not a warfighter. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed good results with my gas impingement rifles.
The SSP is a well-made rifle. The rifle is constructed of the best materials. There is little play between the upper and lower receivers. The controls are crisp and positive in operation. The safety features a positive fit operating with an audible snap. I like a safety that isn’t likely to be pressed to the ‘on’ notch when I don’t really intend to move to safe.
The magazine catch is also vital to long-term reliability. The magazine catch remains taut with a fully loaded magazine. The Troy battle sights are excellent examples of fixed sights. You may as well use something durable if you use iron sights.
The quad handguard is rigid. The free floating barrel is 16.1 inches long. If you use a rifle often, the finish is subject to wear. The hard finish of the LWRC rifle is durable. While the AR-15 rifle is a very ergonomic rifle, makers get away with cutting corners and stiff controls. That’s OK for a recreational-grade rifle or simply getting your feet wet, but not for service use.
The LWRC handled well in speed drills, left hand drills, and even one-hand drills with positive operation and no binding of controls or magazines. The stock is a good design with the usual adjustment and excellent fit. The handle is also well designed and offers excellent fit. The grip and stock combine to provide a good high hold and fit.
Operation and Handling
For practically any rifle I test, I have fired a number of models. In the case of the LWRC rifle, I fired one example in .223 Remington and owned one example in 6.8 SPC. Not a big sample. However, I have enjoyed excellent experiences with each.
I’ve studied reputable sources for gas piston reliability and performance. As many of you know, there are two people — those who know things and the ones who don’t. At one time in my life, I listened to those who know things and kept quiet. I learned a great deal. Today, those who know nothing are quite vocal and much time is wasted in narrowing down the information base.
Some feel that the recoil of a piston AR is jumpier. If this were true, I am certain that it would show up in a 6.8 more clearly. The rifle runs perfectly. I rapid fired the rifle in addition to firing for accuracy at maximum range. No jarring effect from recoil.
The factory LWRC trigger is a cut above the rest and perfectly serviceable. Just the same, I added a Hiperfire Elite trigger. Hiperfire offers 18 different AR-15 and AK triggers. I tend to choose an accessory in the middle, and the Elite is that trigger. It is ideal for my use, a step above service triggers, and not quite a competition trigger.
I set the trigger at 3.0 pounds. 2.5 pounds is possible. However, 3.0 pounds seems ideal for my use. This is a sharp, single stage trigger with excellent quality and a rapid reset.
The Troy battle sights are fine for backup. The primary optic is an Aimpoint M4 on an Infinity mount. We have covered the Aimpoint in another report. Suffice to say that it gets the job done as well as any optic and better than most. During firing it seems that a piston gun causes the handguard to become warm during firing (faster) compared to the gas impingement system. No problem at all. Just be careful of where you place your hand during firing strings.
It’s funny how free ammo creates volunteers. A friend firing the rifle noted that perhaps in full-automatic fire a piston gun may heat up more than a gas impingement gun. Fair enough, but this isn’t a consideration I have.
It’s recommended that a piston gun be cleaned every 5,000 rounds. I am nearing 1,000 rounds and see no carbon build up at all on the bolt carrier group. I may see a fleck on the gas piston itself. I can run a hand across the bolt carrier without picking up debris.
A piston gun may run cleaner than a gas impingement gun. In reality, the gas and powder debris are simply redistributed to the gas piston, where it doesn’t lay about the bolt carrier surface.
In fast moving drills, the rifle was smooth, very smooth, and hit hard. The 6.8 SPC is a good cartridge. Suffice to say, if you are willing to spend extra bucks on the impressive 6.8 SPC cartridge, you really want a great rifle. I burned up a few boxes of ammunition in acclimation and proofing, not to mention sighting in the optic. I ran through a stack of Sellier & Bellot 6.8, an affordable clean burning option.
For my needs, I usually sight the rifle for 100 yards and carefully confirm zero at 100 yards. That said, I fitted the rifle into a shooting rest and fired for accuracy at a long 100 yards. Red dot sights may not provide the accuracy a conventional optic does, but then they may.
I normally fire a red dot optic with both eyes open, taking full advantage of the reflex sight. But at a long 100 yards, it is best to place the red on its smallest setting and close one eye. With the Hornady 120-grain SST, and attention to the trigger, I fired 3-round groups. The smallest 3-round group was .670 inch, the largest was 1.2 inches. I am extremely pleased with these results.
Curious, I fired two three-shot groups with the S&B FMJ. Even this economy load put three holes in the target at 1.5 inches. I also had a chance to fire the rifle at a measured 203 yards at a steel rebound target. It was easy enough to the ping! after every shot on the steel. A good optic, trigger, and rifle allow a trained shooter to do that kind of thing.
The LWRC rifle is a credible choice for anyone wishing to own the best possible AR-15 rifle. While a great service and defense rifle, the 6.8 caliber AR is also a good deer and hog rifle. The combination is unbeatable for many uses.