Dual shootout

Range test­ing a pair of Ruger RPRS fit­ted with spe­cialty af­ter­mar­ket bar­rels

Firepower - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY JOHN SCOTT / IM­AGES BY JERRY TSAI

Thanks to its built-in mod­u­lar­ity, the AR-15 is ar­guably the hands-down fa­vorite semi-auto plat­form in terms of both mod­i­fi­ca­tion and cus­tomiza­tion. Un­like many of its con­tem­po­raries, the ease of how its com­po­nents can be re­placed al­lows it to be worked on by just about any­one that is com­fort­able work­ing with their hands.

Along with the uni­for­mity and pre­ci­sion of its de­sign, the AR-15 al­lows parts and ac­ces­sories that are made by dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers to seam­lessly in­te­grate them­selves into the plat­form. It is this mod­u­lar­ity that has cat­a­pulted the AR-15 to be a top seller at gun shops na­tion­wide.

When Ruger put pen to pa­per and planned the Ruger Pre­ci­sion Ri­fle (RPR), mod­u­lar­ity was one of the at­tributes that they wanted to in­te­grate into their new ri­fle. Tak­ing lessons learned from the AR plat­form and its users, the Ruger team re­al­ized that many ri­fle own­ers like to en­hance the use­ful­ness and per­for­mance of their firearms by their own hand and pro­duced a ri­fle that al­lows for just that.

By de­sign­ing mod­u­lar­ity into the RPR so that it can ac­cept many AR parts and ac­ces­sories as well as its own pro­pri­etary com­po­nents, with the added ben­e­fit of bonafide pre­ci­sion ca­pa­bil­ity and out­stand­ing shoot­ing per­for­mance, Ruger en­sured that like the AR, the RPR has cat­a­pulted to be a top seller at gun shops far and wide.

RPR

The RPR is a pre­ci­sion bolt-ac­tion ri­fle that comes from the fac­tory al­ready decked out with ev­ery­thing a shooter would de­mand. It is avail­able in 6.5 Creed­moor, 6mm Creed­moor, .308 Winch­ester and 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem­ing­ton cal­ibers with var­i­ous avail­able bar­rel lengths.

Ruger says its medium con­tour cold ham­mer-forged bar­rel is ca­pa­ble of ef­fec­tive shots out to 1,600 yards right out of the box. It is com­prised of 4140 chrome-moly steel and fea­tures 5R ri­fling. The two sam­ples fea­tured here were both equipped with 24-inch bar­rels in 6.5 Creed­moor in their stock form. On the tip of the bar­rel, you’ll find a Ruger Hy­brid Muz­zle Brake, which is de­signed to re­duce re­coil while min­i­miz­ing noise and blast to the sides of the shooter.

Both its re­ceiver and one-piece bolt are Cnc-ma­chined from pre-hard­ened 4140 chrome-moly steel. Its ro­bust triple-lug bolt fea­tures dual cock­ing cams and a full-di­am­e­ter bolt body. At the top of the re­ceiver, you’ll find a 20 MOA Pi­catinny rail for en­hanced op­tic el­e­va­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties built right in.

Ruger de­signed the RPR to man­age re­coil in a straight line, guid­ing the re­coil impulse from the rear of the re­ceiver through the butt­stock and out to your shoul­der. This “in-line re­coil path” helps to man­age re­coil di­rectly and not through a tra­di­tional bed­ding sys­tem that you’d find on many older bolt-ac­tion ri­fles. This helps pro­vide max­i­mum ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial out of the RPR and by by­pass­ing an an­ti­quated bed­ding sys­tem, the RPR is a lot eas­ier to work on and mod­ify as well.

The RPR comes con­fig­ured with a left-fold­ing butt­stock that is ad­justable for length of pull and comb height. Its 7075-T6 alu­minum lower re­ceiver is an­odized for dura­bil­ity. In­ter­est­ingly, the front of the mag­a­zine well is con­toured so that it can be braced against shoot­ing sup­ports for im­promptu sta­bi­liza­tion op­tions. The stan­dard 15-inch-long, free-float hand­guard has Key­mod at­tach­ment points at its 3, 6, and 9 o’clock po­si­tions for mount­ing ac­ces­sories.

One of the high­lights that we were high on was Ruger’s multi-mag­a­zine in­ter­face that al­lows the RPR to use a wide va­ri­ety of mag­a­zines, in­clud­ing AICS and SR-25/DPMS/ Mag­pul-pattern mag­a­zines and even some M14 mag­a­zines. This is es­pe­cially great in case you al­ready have an­other ri­fle that uses those mag­a­zines—no need to spend a small for­tune on new mags for the RPR.

The trig­ger, which is Rpr-spe­cific, is ex­ter­nally ad­justable with a pull weight range of 2.25 to 5.0 pounds. If you’re look­ing to mod the ri­fle out, you’ll be glad to know that the RPR is com­pat­i­ble with Ar-style pis­tol grips, safety selec­tors, re­ceiver end plates, butt­stock as­sem­blies and cer­tain hand­guards. Of course, there is also a grow­ing se­lec­tion of RPR spe­cific parts as well as we soon found out.

The Bar­rel Chal­lenge

“We started with two iden­ti­cal RPRS cham­bered in 6.5 Creed­moor and took their modifications in dif­fer­ent-di­rec­tions.”

As we re­searched which af­ter­mar­ket parts are cur­rently avail­able for the RPR, we were pleas­antly sur­prised to find that the RPR has cul­ti­vated a grow­ing mar­ket for its own spe­cific parts. Chief among those pro­pri­etary parts are bar­rels. With pre­ci­sion shoot­ing be­ing the ri­fle’s forte, it was only nat­u­ral that bar­rel mak­ers flocked to en­hance this plat­form.

The two bar­rels we keyed in on were those made by Proof Re­search and Lon­gri­fles, Inc. (LRI). The re­place­ment bar­rels are avail­able in vary­ing lengths and in mul­ti­ple cal­ibers in­clud­ing 6.5 Creed­moor, 6mm Creed­moor and .308 Win. Un­like Ruger’s fac­tory of­fer­ings, how­ever, the bar­rels are not avail­able in 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem, but are of­fered in .243 Win. Proof Re­search has a .260 Rem. op­tion as well.

Known for its car­bon fiber wrapped bar­rels, Proof Re­search prom­ises in­creased per­for-

mance in terms of ex­treme ac­cu­racy, dura­bil­ity and in­creased bar­rel life from its match-grade car­bon fiber bar­rels. The high-tech pre-fit RPR re­place­ment bar­rel is avail­able in var­i­ous cal­ibers and lengths from 20 to 24 inches and can be eas­ily in­stalled with only a few tools.

All that ad­vanced ma­te­rial and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses does come at a price how­ever. The car­bon bar­rel re­tails for $940, which is just a cou­ple of hundred shy of the street price for the com­plete ri­fle it­self. For those who aren’t look­ing to break the bank, Proof Re­search also of­fers a stain­less steel ver­sion of the bar­rel for $485.

On the other end of the spec­trum is LRI’S drop-in, match-grade stain­less steel bar­rel, which re­tails for $575. It is cut-ri­fled, fit­ted and cham­bered us­ing LRI’S care­fully de­vel­oped process on state-of-the-art CNC turn­ing cen­ters. The bar­rel is avail­able in 20- to 26-inch lengths and is truly “drop-in,” mean­ing that it re­quires no ad­di­tional ma­chine work for proper in­stal­la­tion. Again, this bar­rel can be eas­ily in­stalled with com­mon Ar-plat­form tools and the proper headspace gauges.

There’s no doubt that the car­bon fiber bar­rel is re­ally cool, but is spend­ing nearly a grand on a bar­rel worth it? How does a less ex­pen­sive stain­less steel op­tion stand up to it? We de­cided to pit th­ese two bar­rels against one an­other by build­ing two RPRS around them and du­el­ing it out in a head-to-head shoot­ing chal­lenge.

The Con­tenders

We started out with two iden­ti­cal RPRS cham­bered in 6.5 Creed­moor with 24-inch bar­rels. From there, we took their modifications in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. In one cor­ner, we have what we will call the “Black” build, and in the other cor­ner is the “Tung­sten” build.

“In one cor­ner we have the ‘black’ build; in the other, ‘tung­sten.’”

The Black RPR was left in its orig­i­nal hard coat an­odized fin­ish and fit­ted with LRI’S stain­less bar­rel in 24-inch length. It has a 1:8 twist and is tipped with an LRI Cathe­dral Port muz­zle brake. Work­ing front to back, the fac­tory hand­guard was re­placed with a 15-inch Seekins Pre­ci­sion SP3R Rail V3 with M-LOK at­tach­ment points. We re­placed the stock trig­ger with Tim­ney Trig­gers’ ex­cel­lent Ruger Pre­ci­sion two-stage drop-in re­place­ment. The trig­ger is avail­able with a curved or flat trig­ger and with cus­tom­iz­a­ble pull weights for both stages. Our unit is the flat trig­ger. For glass, we chose a U.S. Op­tics B-25 5-25x scope. This beast is packed with fea­tures in­clud­ing lock­ing el­e­va­tion and windage knobs, zero stop, revo­lu­tion counter, tool-less el­e­va­tion zero and a sin­gle-but­ton il­lu­mi­na­tion con­trol. The B-25 sits in a Zrodelta DLOC-M4 34mm Scope Mount.

Ad­di­tional af­ter­mar­ket up­grades in­clude LRI bil­let bolt shroud and bolt knob, Ergo grip, and a Strike In­dus­tries Flip Switch am­bidex­trous safety se­lec­tor. The butt­stock was re­placed with Mag­pul’s ven­er­a­ble PRS Gen 3 stock. Ruger’s stan­dard stock uses an AR carbine ex­ten­sion tube, so to fit the PRS we swapped out the carbine tube for Ri­fle Gear’s A2 ri­fle re­ceiver ex­ten­sion as­sem­bly.

To al­low for the mag­a­zine to be ejected more eas­ily, a CTK Pre­ci­sion mag­a­zine re­lease ex­ten­sion was added. We’d be re­miss if we didn’t men­tion that we re­ally got a lot of use out of this up­grade.

An At­las BT10 bi­pod sta­bi­lizes the ri­fle in the front and an Accu-shot BT-12-QK mono­pod is at­tached to the butt­stock at the rear. To pre­cisely tell if the ri­fle was lev­eled or not, a Knights Ar­ma­ment anti-cant de­vice was added at the rear of the up­per re­ceiver’s top rail. In case you were won­der­ing, that tan col­ored piece bolted to the front rail is a Prater Pre­ci­sion Sniper Data Board. It is rail-mounted data board that flips out of the way when not in use.

Shades of Gray

Our Tung­sten build was fit­ted with Proof Re­search’s Car­bon Fiber pre-fit bar­rel, also in 6.5 Creed­moor and 24-inch length with a 1:8-twist. Its muz­zle brake is by Amer­i­can Pre­ci­sion Arms and is called the Gen II Lit­tle Bas­tard Brake. We’re pretty sure that’s what the shoot­ers around us were call­ing us when we shot the ri­fle. (We kid!) The ri­fle was Cer­akote coated by 2A Con­cepts in a color called Tung­sten.

Up front, we went with a longer-than-stock 18-inch Mid­west In­dus­tries (MI) Ruger

Pre­ci­sion Ri­fle M-LOK rail and mated it with a sexy car­bon fiber Mod­u­lar Evo­lu­tion Evo­pod. Made for com­plete cus­tomiz­abil­ity, its legs and feet can be re­con­fig­ured with a plethora of light­weight mod­u­lar ac­ces­sories to suit any out­ing or mis­sion.

On the top rail, you’ll no­tice a SIG Sauer Tango6 5-30x56 scope in a quick re­lease MI 34mm Heavy Duty zero off­set scope mount. The Tango6 comes in first fo­cal plane with an il­lu­mi­nated ret­i­cle. It has lock­able tur­rets with zero stop and re­set and an in­tu­itive ro­ta­tion counter for ex­treme long range shoot­ing.

Like the Black RPR, this build also uses a Tim­ney flat trig­ger that is con­fig­ured for a feather light 8 ounce first stage pull and a crisp one-pound pull for its sec­ond stage. Other con­trol up­grades in­clude a Strike In­sus­tries AR En­hanced grip and an ambi-safety se­lec­tor by LWRCI, both orig­i­nally made for AR-15S that also work seam­lessly on the RPR. Like on the Black ri­fle, a CTK Pre­ci­sion ex­tended mag re­lease was also in­stalled.

For pos­i­tive bolt ma­nip­u­la­tion, an R+D Pre­ci­sion Large bolt knob re­places the stock unit. At­tached to the bolt it­self is a Delta Team Tac­ti­cal alu­minum bolt shroud ex­ten­sion that fea­tures a tool com­part­ment that can be ac­cessed at the rear of the shroud. Bring­ing up the rear is the very ca­pa­ble XLR In­dus­tries Tac­ti­cal butt­stock. This ver­sa­tile light­weight stock fea­tures QD flush cups on both sides, am­bidex­trous cheek rest and a mono­pod pro­vi­sion. It can be ad­justed for length of pull, cheek rest height, re­coil pad height and up to 10° of cant.

On With The Chal­lenge

With our RPRS bristling with ev­ery doo­dad that we can fit on them, we headed to the range to

“our RPRS bristling with ev­ery doo­dad we could fit on them, we headed to the range.”

stretch their legs. We were cu­ri­ous to see what the two bar­rels could do. Will the LRI bar­rel hold its own against a Proof Re­search bar­rel that is al­most dou­ble its price? Are there hid­den ben­e­fits to the Proof Re­search bar­rel that we might learn about? We’re about to find out.

Af­ter con­firm­ing zero, we set up new Cald­well tar­gets at 100 yards. For­tu­nately for us, we were able to shoot this chal­lenge with a va­ri­ety of seven dif­fer­ent types of am­mu­ni­tion to also see which car­tridges each of the bar­rels liked (see side­bar: Am­mu­ni­tion). We pro­ceeded to shoot three-round groups us­ing the seven dif­fer­ent ammo types through both ri­fles at 100 yards. Each ri­fle shot im­pec­ca­bly with­out any signs of mal­func­tion.

Im­proved Re­sults

What we learned was that in­clud­ing the stock Ruger bar­rel, all the bar­rels shot re­mark­ably well, es­pe­cially when it fed on ammo that it liked best. Tak­ing into ac­count that the fac­tory Ruger bar­rel is al­ready ca­pa­ble of pre­ci­sion shots out to 1,600 yards, tak­ing it to 100 yards eas­ily yielded sub-moa groups for us right out of the box. Our best group­ing of the day mea­sured 0.59 inches.

Our up­grade to the LRI match grade bar­rel yielded fan­tas­tic re­sults. When paired up with the am­mu­ni­tion that it was de­signed for, Hor­nady 140-grain ELD, it read­ily shot hole-on­hole groups in­clud­ing one at 0.150 inches.

The Proof Re­search car­bon fiber bar­rel per­formed equally as im­pres­sively, scor­ing hole-on-hole groups with sev­eral va­ri­eties of am­mu­ni­tion, the best be­ing 0.147 inches with Nosler Match Grade 140-grain Cus­tom Com­pe­ti­tion.

We did learn that the car­bon fiber bar­rel cools down a lot faster than the all-steel bar­rel. In fact, we were able to wrap our bare hands round the bar­rel only min­utes af­ter shoot­ing our groups. Our hands would un­doubt­edly be seared if we tried that with the stain­less bar­rel. Main­tain­ing a cooler bar­rel equates to longer shoot­ing pe­riod for get­ting off ac­cu­rate shots as well as a longer life­span for the bar­rel.

It’s worth not­ing that the Proof Re­search bar­rel was also no­tice­ably lighter in weight than its LRI steel out­fit­ted coun­ter­part. De­pend­ing on your use, that can be quite a ben­e­fit. If you’re hunt­ing, for ex­am­ple, a lighter ri­fle is an un­der­stand­able ad­van­tage, whereas if you’re bench shoot­ing, you might want a heavy ri­fle. For the sake of this chal­lenge, we’ll call it a wash.

Di­min­ish­ing Re­turns

All in all, we’d say that the law of di­min­ish­ing re­turns kicks in for this chal­lenge. Did the af­ter­mar­ket bar­rels demon­strate an im­prove­ment over the fac­tory RPRS ac­cu­racy? Yes, no ques­tion about it. Both the Proof Re­search and LRI bar­rels hand­ily out­shot the fac­tory bar­rel. The real ques­tion is by how much and at what cost? We did no­tice a vast im­prove­ment over the fac­tory bar­rel, but is it worth the money? That re­ally de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual and their needs. To some, an ac­cu­racy im­prove­ment of less than half an inch is well worth the money, es­pe­cially when ex­trap­o­lated to a long-range shot of 1,000 yards or be­yond. To oth­ers, it’s just not worth the cost. You’ll have to come to the con­clu­sion your­self.

“both af­ter­mar­ket bar­rels hand­ily out-shot the fac­tory unit.”

What about the dif­fer­ence in price be­tween the LRI and Proof Re­search bar­rels? Again, it’s up to the end user. If weight, ac­cu­racy po­ten­tial over a short of pe­riod of time, and longevity mat­ter to you, then per­haps the Proof Re­search bar­rel is the way to go. If those items are not a con­sid­er­a­tion for you, then the LRI bar­rel should suit you fine.

We Say Yes

From our stand­point, we’re all about im­prov­ing our firearms to be the best that they can be. If we had to do it over again, we’d still opt for a bar­rel up­grade. Now, which bar­rel be­tween the two? That’s still up for dis­cus­sion. For a more de­tailed look the re­sults of our chal­lenge, take a look at the side­bar, The Shootout.

We started out with two iden­ti­cal RPRS cham­bered in 6.5 Creed­moor. From there, we took their modifications in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. The RPR is com­pat­i­ble with Ar-style pis­tol grips, safety selec­tors, re­ceiver end plates, butt­stock as­sem­blies and cer­tain hand­guards

Above: Our two mod­i­fied Ruger Ruger Pre­ci­sion Ri­fles (top and bot­tom) and a fac­tory stock RPR fit­ted with a SIG Sauer Tango6 5-30x56 scope and Har­ris bi­pod (mid­dle im­age).

03. Bring­ing up the rear is the very ca­pa­ble XLR In­dus­tries Tac­ti­cal butt­stock that fea­tures QD flush cups on both sides, an am­bidex­trous cheek rest and a mono­pod pro­vi­sion.

02. For pos­i­tive bolt ma­nip­u­la­tion, an R+D Pre­ci­sion Large bolt knob re­places the stock unit. Delta Team Tac­ti­cal’s alu­minum bolt shroud ex­ten­sion fea­tures a tool com­part­ment that can be ac­cessed at the rear of the shroud.

01. The Tung­sten build uses a Tim­ney flat trig­ger that is con­fig­ured for a feather-light 8 ounce first stage pull and a crisp one-pound sec­ond stage pull. The Strike In­dus­tries grip and LWRCI ambi se­lec­tor are usu­ally found on AR-15S but fit the RPR per­fectly.

01. On the black ri­fle, we switched the stock trig­ger with Tim­ney’s Ruger Pre­ci­sion two-stage drop-in re­place­ment. Also note the ad­di­tion of a CTK Pre­ci­sion ex­tended mag­a­zine re­lease and Ergo grip.

02. A Knights Ar­ma­ment anti-cant de­vice was added just be­hind the Zrodelta scope mount. 03. The butt­stock was re­placed with Mag­pul’s ven­er­a­ble PRS Gen 3 stock with an Accu-shot BT-12QK mono­pod.

We were for­tu­nate to per­form our chal­lenge with seven dif­fer­ent types of am­mu­ni­tion.

Paired with ammo it was de­signed for, the LRI bar­rel read­ily shot hole-on-hole groups.

The Proof Re­search car­bon fiber bar­rel is no­tice­ably more light­weight, which, de­pend­ing on your use, can be quite a ben­e­fit. To some, an ac­cu­racy im­prove­ment of less than half an inch is well worth the money; to oth­ers, it’s just not worth the added cost.

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