RANGE TIME WITH LEAD STAR’S 9MM BAR­RAGE PCC9

IT’S TOUGH TO BEAT LIGHT­WEIGHT, AC­CU­RATE AND DE­PEND­ABLE.

American Survival Guide - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Kevin Reese

It’s tough to beat light­weight, con­sis­tent and de­pend­able.

As an ag­ing jar­head, I’ve al­ways had an affin­ity for Ar-plat­form ri­fles, be­cause they share sim­i­lar fit and form, al­though clearly not the same func­tion, as semi­auto ri­fles. ARS, also known as “mod­ern sport­ing ri­fles” (MSRS), are markedly tamer than those we em­ployed in the ser­vice. Still, fit and form in the con­text of my ser­vice are fa­mil­iar-feel­ing and, in a nut­shell, com­fort­able. While the AR’S fit and form are fa­mil­iar to me, I also ap­pre­ci­ate the sys­tem’s mul­ti­pur­pose ap­pli­ca­tion. Con­trary to what some might have you be­lieve, Ar-plat­form ri­fles cer­tainly do make ex­cep­tional hunt­ing ri­fles, given ap­pro­pri­ate cal­ibers for the game pur­sued. In the in­ter­est of sus­te­nance, th­ese MSRS cer­tainly help fill my freezer. Truth be told, I buy very lit­tle meat, and what goes in the freezer is about as or­ganic as it gets.

HOME DE­FENSE: PRO­TECT WHAT YOU LOVE

ARS also make great recre­ational and com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing rigs. Mil­lions of hard­work­ing folks hit ranges, woods and ru­ral ex­panses to plink, train and com­pete in steel, mul­ti­gun, three-gun, long-range and other match shoots. Of course, count­less AR own­ers count an­other pur­pose as the sys­tem’s most crit­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion: home de­fense. And, con­sid­er­ing Depart­ment of Jus­tice re­ports of more than three mil­lion home break-ins an­nu­ally, with more than one mil­lion be­ing those pesky, vi­o­lent home in­va­sions, tools to pro­tect what you love are more im­por­tant than ever.

ARS make phe­nom­e­nal home de­fense ri­fles and, given the op­tion, they are bet­ter choices to en­gage a threat at dis­tance. I would much rather pro­tect from across a room than up close and per­sonal, and an AR af­fords the op­por­tu­nity for more-ac­cu­rate shoot­ing, as well as higher-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines than are of­ten used in hand­guns—a great ben­e­fit when your agenda is to use what­ever is re­quired to stop a threat. A true 1x-mag­ni­fi­ca­tion op­tic, such as a red-dot or re­flex sight, is also help­ful for quick tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, even in low light.

While ARS are great for home de­fense, 9mm carbine types are even bet­ter. 9mm hand­guns are, per­haps, the most pop­u­lar cal­iber cur­rently used for per­sonal and home de­fense. The round of­fers plenty of thug-stop­ping en­ergy and is ex­cep­tion­ally in­ex­pen­sive. When it comes to home de­fense, hav­ing an AR and hand­gun of the same cal­iber cer­tainly makes sense, and if they use the same mag­a­zine, even bet­ter.

Over the years, I en­joyed run­ning scores of 9mm carbine ri­fles. Not only are they prac­ti­cal, ammo is in­ex­pen­sive, and when it comes to fam­ily, vir­tu­ally any­one you deem old enough to get on the trig­ger can han­dle the ridicu­lously light re­coil. Of course, they’re a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, too, and AR in­no­va­tion has led to some truly jaw-drop­ping, mul­ti­task­ing 9mm rigs.

Re­cently, I had the op­por­tu­nity to test one such ri­fle—the Lead Star Bar­rage. “Good-look­ing” is an un­der­state­ment. Lead Star’s of­fer­ing is as sexy a 9mm as I’ve seen and rou­tinely turned the heads of show walk­ers at last year’s NRA An­nual Meet­ing & Ex­hibits event, where I

first ran into Lead Star owner Derek Hicks. His ob­ses­sion with build­ing unique, racy AR “Fer­raris” that run as good as they look is ev­i­dent, even a bit in­fec­tious. To me, this firearm was an in­stant must-have ... or at least a must-test in the field.

And so I did. Here’s what I found.

THE WALKAROUND: FIT AND FORM

Derek’s ap­proach to AR de­sign is mul­ti­pronged, but with a sin­gu­lar goal: to be the pre­mier pro­ducer of light­weight, pre­mium-per­form­ing, pre­ci­sion shoot­ing sys­tems. To that end, Lead Star Arms of­fers sim­i­larly de­signed, tra­di­tion­ally cham­bered AR-15S, as well as 9mm carbine mod­els. The model I tested was the Lead Star Arms Bar­rage PCC9 9mm Carbine.

Like ev­ery other ri­fle Derek and com­pany pro­duces, this Bar­rage is quite a sexy, light­weight beast. Even bet­ter, while it cer­tainly makes for a fine race gun, as a 9mm carbine with an in­cluded 33-round mag­a­zine that Dianne Fe­in­stein would be proud of (or not), it def­i­nitely fits the home de­fense bill too.

Aes­thet­i­cally, this Bar­rage’s most no­table fea­ture is its Cnc-ma­chined 7075-T6 bil­let alu­minum re­ceiver set an­odized in a rich, satin-blue fin­ish. Lead Star’s ag­gres­sively styled up­per and lower re­ceivers are not only skele­tonized to re­duce weight, their truss de­sign ac­tu­ally in­creases strength. The satin-blue fin­ish con­trasts sharply with the Bar­rage’s black fea­tures and matches the car­bon-fiber weave of the BSF bar­rel per­fectly (more on the bar­rel in a bit). Lead Star’s pro­pri­etary 7075-T6 alu­minum is an­odized to match.

True to Lead Star’s zero-de­fects fo­cus on ma­chin­ing and as­sem­bly, the Bar­rage doesn’t show any signs of fit or form short­cuts. The Bar­rage PCC9 I worked with boasted a 15-inch, pre­ci­sion-ma­chined, matte-black, skele­tonized 7075-T6 alu­minum hand­guard, a Mag­pul MOE-K2+ rub­ber over­molded pis­tol grip and a Lead Star Rav­age alu­minum min­i­mal­ist-style stock with ad­justable length of pull. (As a note here: Since my test­ing, it ap­pears the Bar­rage stock sys­tem has been changed to a Mis­sion First Tac­ti­cal Bat­tlelink Min­i­mal­ist model with six-po­si­tion ad­just­ment—one of my fa­vorites in the light­weight arena.)

A LOOK UN­DER THE HOOD: FUNC­TION (PART I)

Sim­i­lar to the Lead Star’s fo­cus on top-shelf fit and form fea­tures, func­tion com­po­nents are equally im­pres­sive. A look “un­der the hood” of this par­tic­u­lar Bar­rage re­vealed a BSF car­bon-jack­eted, match-grade, 16-inch bar­rel with a 1:10 twist. To date, I’ve tested four pre­ci­sion Ar-plat­form ri­fles: three 6.5 Creed­moors and a .224 Valkyrie—all with BSF bar­rels—and have av­er­aged ¼ MOA group­ings at 100 yards. All four also grouped ½ to 1 MOA at 1,000 yards. In fact, the .224 Valkyrie de­liv­ered 1 MOA per­for­mance at 1,200 yards.

BSF’S most no­table fea­ture is the car­bon-fiber weave; on this Bar­rage, it is wo­ven in blue and black to match the re­ceiver set. The car­bon-fiber jack­et­ing is also ported con­sis­tently around the bar­rel and through­out its length for rapid cool­ing. Un­like wrapped car­bon-fiber

ARS MAKE PHE­NOM­E­NAL HOME DE­FENSE RI­FLES AND, GIVEN THE OP­TION, THEY ARE BET­TER CHOICES TO EN­GAGE A THREAT AT DIS­TANCE.

bar­rels, BSF’S car­bon jacket only touches the bar­rel at spe­cific in­stal­la­tion points and is in­stalled un­der ten­sion, re­sult­ing in in­creased bar­rel stiff­en­ing as it warms. Of course, "warm­ing" is darned near fig­u­ra­tive, be­cause the vents and space be­tween the bar­rel and car­bon-fiber jack­et­ing ac­tu­ally pro­vide air­foil-type cool­ing. In pre­vi­ous test­ing, I have had no prob­lem grab­bing the BSF bar­rel af­ter back-to-back mag­a­zine dumps.

For re­li­able cy­cling, the Bar­rage uti­lizes a pro­pri­etary bolt car­rier group com­plete with last-round-bolt-hold-open func­tion­al­ity, much like the stan­dard bolt-func­tion of an AR-15 BCG. The bolt, it­self, is con­structed of 8620 steel and in­cludes a stan­dard 5.56 ejec­tor and im­proved fir­ing pin. On the other end of cy­cling lies Lead Star’s TACCOM 3-Stage buf­fer sys­tem. Per Lead Star, the buf­fer as­sem­bly soft­ens re­coil and helps en­sure the BCG stops just be­hind the bolt catch; of course, the Bar­rage’s blow-back gas sys­tem also plays a ma­jor role here.

The Bar­rage also fea­tures a sin­gle-stage Hiper­fire Hiper­touch Eclipse trig­ger with ro­bust ad­justa­bil­ity and an ul­tra-com­fort­able Hiper­shoe fin­ger pad. Hiper­fire’s trig­gers have built a rep­u­ta­tion for crisp breaks, short over­travel and pos­i­tive re­sets. To­gether, the Hiper­fire trig­ger and other func­tion-re­lated com­po­nents had me chomp­ing at the bit for a lit­tle range time.

TRIG­GERED: FUNC­TION (PART II)

Not long af­ter re­ceiv­ing the Bar­rage, I headed to Triple C Shoot­ing Range, a shoot­ing mecca nes­tled in the cen­ter of a 3,000-acre work­ing Texas ranch just south of Fort Worth. Triple C’s many out­door pis­tol and carbine bays, ob­sta­cles and ze­ro­ing lanes, as well as nu­mer­ous mi­dand long-range shoot­ing lanes from 300 to 2,000 yards, make it the per­fect lo­ca­tion for all of my firearm test­ing.

Once at Triple C, I set up at the ze­ro­ing range and mounted a Pin­na­cle 5-30x50 first fo­cal plane ri­fle­scope. Sure, it seems a bit much on a 9mm carbine, but when it comes to pre­ci­sion shoot­ing, I want my point of aim ridicu­lously clear and close.

For sta­bil­ity, I also in­stalled an Accu-tac BR-4 Gen 2 bi­pod and used a squeeze bag un­der the stock. As is the case for all my firearms test­ing, group re­sults and over­all ze­ro­ing my setup is sim­ple: It’s noth­ing more than the op­tic, ri­fle, bi­pod and squeeze bag. My re­sults are eas­ily du­pli­cated by

sea­soned shoot­ers em­ploy­ing the same equip­ment. As a fi­nal point of in­ter­est here, my am­moof-choice for test­ing was Hor­nady 115-grain FMJS hand­loaded by my good friend, Mike Burks. He of­fered, so who was I to refuse?

The ZRO Delta M4 DLOC scope base and op­tic lined up in­cred­i­bly well for the stock height, and I had no trou­ble es­tab­lish­ing both sight align­ment and sight pic­ture. Af­ter check­ing and ad­just­ing for my nat­u­ral point of aim, I slowed my breath­ing, re­laxed on the stock, reached my nat­u­ral res­pi­ra­tory pause and squeezed the trig­ger. As shoot­ing per­tains to 9mm car­bines, my first ex­pe­ri­ence with the Lead Star Bar­rage PCC9 was down­right bliss­ful. Even on this sub-6-pound rig, re­coil was neg­li­gi­ble, and it didn’t take long to es­tab­lish zero.

Once ze­roed, I used a Mag­neto Speed Gen 3 chrono­graph to test muz­zle ve­loc­ity and en­ergy, which av­er­aged 1,282 fps and 420 ft-lb of en­ergy.

Soon af­ter, I set about see­ing what kind of group the BSF bar­rel and Mike’s ammo would de­liver. While I shot sev­eral sub-1-inch groups at 50 yards, my best per­for­mance was a sub-½-inch three-shot group—sub-1 MOA per­for­mance at a re­spectable dis­tance from a 9mm! Of course, with good ammo, I’ve come to ex­pect th­ese types of re­sults from top-shelf bar­rels such as BSF.

Even bet­ter, the fol­low­ing week­end, I took the Bar­rage to Triple C’s mid-range lanes that fea­ture tar­gets rang­ing from 300 to 1,000 yards. For longer-range shots, Burks hand-loaded 115-grain +P. The hot­ter loads, along with the BSF match-grade bar­rel, pro­duced a 5-inch group at 300 yards. Not one to quit, I went a just bit far­ther to en­gage a 12-inch steel gong at 400 yards ... and scored hits with three out of five shots! All told, I fired more than 800 rounds with zero mis­feeds through­out test­ing,

PER LEAD STAR, THE BUF­FER AS­SEM­BLY SOFT­ENS RE­COIL AND HELPS EN­SURE THE BCG STOPS JUST BE­HIND THE BOLT CATCH; OF COURSE, THE BAR­RAGE’S BLOW-BACK GAS SYS­TEM ALSO PLAYS A MA­JOR ROLE HERE.

of five shots! All told, I fired more than 800 rounds with zero mis­feeds through­out test­ing, train­ing and recre­ational range time. The Bar­rage’s re­li­a­bil­ity is the best I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced to date from a 9mm carbine ri­fle.

A BAR­RAGE OF FI­NAL SHOTS

Recre­ational trig­ger time with the Lead Star Arms Bar­rage was fun and far ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions, fur­ther un­der­scor­ing my be­lief that a 9mm carbine, in my opin­ion, re­mains a solid home de­fense op­tion. If you choose to keep one within reach for such a pur­pose, con­sider iron sights or, again, a re­flex or red-dot op­tic de­signed for quick, low-light tar­get ac­qui­si­tion. Through­out test­ing, the Bar­rage PCC9 carbine be­came my go-to home de­fense firearm.

In our get-what-you-pay-for world, I’ve be­come a huge fan of Lead Star Arms. The Bar­rage re­tails for a re­spectable $1,499.99. This price in­cludes its ul­tra­light 416R stain­less QPQ 16-inch, 1:10 twist bar­rel—quite a deal, con­sid­er­ing the Bar­rage’s solid per­for­mance, pre­ci­sion ma­chin­ing, in­no­va­tion and over­all re­li­a­bil­ity.

Even so, I’m al­ways on the look­out for those pesky cons. The prob­lem with this is that there re­ally aren’t any to speak of. Hands down, the Bar­rage is the finest PCC9 carbine I’ve had the priv­i­lege of run­ning. My com­plaints are es­sen­tially sub­jec­tive or to be ex­pected when you shoot hun­dreds and hun­dreds of rounds with­out check­ing com­po­nents.

The Bar­rage in­cluded the 33-round Glock-com­pat­i­ble mag­a­zine; how­ever, I found it a bit ex­ces­sive for reg­u­lar test­ing (it’s per­fect for home de­fense, recre­ational shoot­ing, etc.). Even with a bi­pod and squeeze bag, I had to work a lit­tle to keep the mag­a­zine from bot­tom­ing out on the shoot­ing bench. More than once, I switched to shorter mag­a­zines to achieve a lower, more sta­ble shoot­ing pro­file. Of course, this mag­a­zine re­ally is purely sub­jec­tive. I do like the mag­a­zine for home de­fense, as well as recre­ational shoot­ing, but for my pre­ci­sion work, I made the move to a shorter mag.

Near the end of my test­ing—again, af­ter 800 rounds or so—i no­ticed the hand­guard had ro­tated about 1/8 inch. The is­sue was reme­died im­me­di­ately by loos­en­ing the two Allen head mount­ing screws a tad more to free up the hand­guard and then ro­tat­ing it back into its orig­i­nal po­si­tion and tight­en­ing the screws. The com­plete re­pair took un­der two min­utes; and, to be hon­est, this is a com­mon oc­cur­rence in mod­ern sport­ing ri­fles. Deal­ing with it was a good over­all main­te­nance re­minder.

CON­TRARY TO WHAT SOME MIGHT HAVE YOU BE­LIEVE, ARPLATFORM RI­FLES CER­TAINLY DO MAKE EX­CEP­TIONAL HUNT­ING RI­FLES, GIVEN AP­PRO­PRI­ATE CAL­IBERS FOR THE GAME PUR­SUED.

i Near right: Af­ter shoot­ing a 5-inch group at 300 yards (bot­tom), the au­thor turned his at­ten­tion to the 400-yard tar­get (top) and rocked it with three out of five shots. i Far right: The Bar­rage de­liv­ered a 5-inch group at 300 yards in a half-cir­cle rounded to the left. h Left: Pre­ci­sion shoot­ing was easy, con­sid­er­ing the BSF match-grade bar­rel and Lead Star’s pro­pri­etary muz­zle brake.

i Right: Shoot­ing Hor­nady 115-grain FMJ ammo hand­loaded by good friend Mike Burks re­sulted in an av­er­age muz­zle ve­loc­ity of 1,282 fps.

h Even with the bi­pod and squeeze bag, the 33-round mag bot­tomed out on the bench.

h Left: Up close or reach­ing out, the Lead Star Bar­rage was a rock star at the range.

i Near right: A lit­tle con­cen­tra­tion and great PCC9 per­for­mance re­sulted in this ½-inch (sub­moa) group at 50 yards.

h Above: A good re­flex sight is a great low-light op­tic so­lu­tion for vir­tu­ally any home-de­fense ri­fle.

h Left: A skele­tonized re­ceiver set, er­gonomic con­trols and ul­tra-light re­coil make the Bar­rage com­fort­able to carry and easy to shoot.

h Left: The Bar­rage is packed with pre­mium fea­tures such as this ridicu­lously crisp Hiper­fire Eclipse trig­ger.

The Bar­rage the au­thor tested came with a BSF car­bon-jack­eted, match-grade, 16-inch bar­rel that com­ple­mented the satin-blue re­ceiver quite nicely.

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