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