My main goal at Shot this year, outside of work, was to get hands on with all of the 308 semis available and about to be available. The goal was to find a 308 autoloader that was light enough that I felt I would carry it and use it for a general purpose rifle. I personally feel that for general purpose the semi-auto has a few advantages that are very real, and for my uses I want 308 in this capacity. The rifles I looked at included:
Sig Piston 308, Colt CM901, LMT both the MWS and new LW MWS, Larue all three models (OBR, Predatar, Predatobr), FN AR, FN SCARH, Armalite (they now make a version that takes pmags), CMMG MK3, Springfield M1a Scout and Socom 16. I have previous experience with the M1a Scout and Socom as well as the DSA SA58 Carbine with short gas system.
I didn’t even bother looking at the KAC stuff. Way too expensive for my uses, I have seen them before and they are nice rifles, but I just can’t justify the price for a single rifle.
The FNAR was too heavy in my opinion and the magazines are hard to find and expensive.
For just looks, I like the Scout and Socom16. They have a nice American sporter look to them with their traditional style stock, but they are too heavy. Heavy enough that the civilian lines aren’t enough of a benefit.
The LMT MWS, LW MWS and OBR are very nice rifles. They have great balance, but again are way too heavy as they are focused at the precision end of the spectrum. If I was looking for a purely dedicated precision rifle they would probably be the finalists. The Predatobr is also heavier than I was looking for.
The Colt and Sig offerings are nice rifles, but they didn’t have the lightweight feel that I was looking for, and numbers wise didn’t feel light either. Basically, they are nice rifles with a good feel and balance, but not as nice as the LMT and OBR. It really comes down to the Armalite carbine versions, Predatar, CMMG Mk3, and SCARH.
The Armalite makes the weight, but it just feels long for some reason. While this is entirely subjective, and probably isn’t the reality I have found that if I don’t like the handling of a rifle it doesn’t get used. Add to that the stock, grip, and gas block that come standard and it just doesn’t make the cut.
I disliked the Predator rail just like I suspected. I don’t know why they decided to go to a ribbed hand guard given how nice the OBR’s smooth hand guard is, but they did. It is probably the highest quality of all of the rifles that made the cut, but I just didn’t like the hand guard and for the price of a Predatar I am not going to buy anything that I don’t love especially to test a concept (is it light enough that I will actually carry it?).
The SCARH was my favorite of the bunch. I like the way it feels and handles. I like the modular stock and folding feature, and I like the big solid charging handle on the side. They are bringing barrel manufacturing on shore from Belgium, and expect that to lower the price. They are also expecting to put more onto the market along with magazines now that the military contracts are full which will also lower the price, but all of that is in the future. Until then they are expensive and the mags can be a pain in the butt to find and expensive when you do.
This brings us to the CMMG MKE. CMMG doesn’t have the best reputation for their AR15s (not fully milspec and poor QC), but the mindset behind their 308 is the correct one from my point of view. The MK3 was designed first and only then the heavy precision versions. The guy we talked to, who I think was the owner, wanted to develop a lightweight agile rifle for hunting and tactical use. With that as the background I think he succeeded. It comes with a MOE stock and grip (both of which are my preferred stock and grip), and a slick handguard with cooling slots and places to add some rails if you need them, which again is what I prefer. The barrel stays thick after the gas-block so some additional weight could probably be cut there if you got it re-profiled. The one thing I don’t like about the rail is that the top rail is screwed on not integral like the Troy TRX. However, I am guessing the idea behind this is that if you are using it in a hunting role and don’t care about a light or BUIS then you can just remove it. At slightly over 7.5lbs, based on weighting mine, it is the lightest of the group by a .25lb on the Predatar and .75lbs on the SCARH. Subjectively, it feels the most like a heavy AR15. Couple that with the fact that CDNN is selling them for 1229 shipped in OD and flat dark earth, I felt it was worth the chance. Basically, I look at it as a proof of concept. It is the lightest 308 on the market setup basically like I would set one up. It handles well and feels good and comes in non-black. It will allow me to have a 308 in the weight and configuration I would choose to carry and shoot. I hope for perfect reliability, but this is more a will I actually choose it over my other options test than anything else given the extra weight. Down the road I can upgrade parts for better reliability if that is needed. It does come with a two-stage trigger. I will probably replace it at some point, but again down the road. At this point I have a few extra mags, my rifle TLR3 that moves from rifle to rifle as needed, and a sling and that is it. For those that care the gas key was stacked, but the castle nut was not, which is actually a good thing as it came with a side sling mount that I will want to take off long term. I can always stake it myself. The barrel is stainless, and reportedly they MPI their bolts and carriers.
I have a Leupold 2.5-8 in a Larue SPR mount that came off my 6.8 and a knockoff M3 RDS in a cantilever mount, which I originally got for my .22 M&P. I am using both of those for testing and evaluation at this point. If I end up liking the RDS I will pull the T1 off my 45/70 or get another Aimpoint. I have also decided to pick up an inexpensive magnifier to go behind the RDS. I have long been intrigued by the idea of a RDS for most of your use with a magnifier for the longer range stuff. I am slightly far sighted and have trouble picking stuff up at distance and shooting precisely. So the idea of being able to add a magnifier if I need those capabilities is very intriguing to me. However, as I also have a slight astigmatism. I don’t want to drop the coin on an Aimpoint and Aimpoint magnifier until I see if it works for me. Thus the knockoff versions. I know a low power variable works in this capacity, but want to try this to see if it works as there are some advantages. At this point I have test fired it to the tune of 20rds, and carried it a few mornings during hikes, but due to life’s variables haven’t gotten it sighted in yet. Hopefully this weekend. Recoil is about like my 6.8 was more than a 5.56, but very manageable. I have been carrying it slung with a VCAS padded sling, and don’t really feel like the difference between it and my bolt gun are noticeable. One of these days I will take both and switch back and forth with Evan. So far it seems like a very manageable portable package.
I will keep folks updated, and encourage everyone to post their reviews and thoughts on 308 semi-autos in this thread.