When people think of Les Baer Custom (LBC) the first thing that normally comes to mind are their amazing 1911 pistols. But a few years back they decided to branch out and take their gunsmithing skills to the long gun side, and they started building custom AR rifles. That eventually led to building both precision bolt action rifles as well as precision 308 semi autos, both of which are geared toward military sniping as well as Law Enforcement sharpshooters. With the adoption of the M110 by the US Army we have also been focusing on some of the semi-auto sniper rifles that are available, and in a continued review of the available market we took the opportunity to get one of the Les Baer Semi-Auto 308 Match rifles and take an in depth look at it and how it performs.
The Les Baer Semi-Auto 308 Match rifle is a standard 308 AR platform style rifle that they have done their own design and custom work with. The lower receiver is similar to the DPMS and Armalite AR-10 style and actually takes the standard Mag-Pul 308 magazines, 20 round magazines in this case. The lower receiver itself is built more robust than other 308 AR platforms and you can see the additional stiffeners through various areas on the receiver. The receiver itself is precision machined from solid 7075-T6-51 aluminum with the enlarged trigger guard being machined as an integral part of the lower as well. The “Match” version of the rifle uses a standard A2 style pistol grip, nothing fancy, but it is a custom LBC setup that has additional material under the trigger guard, though this also means there may not be many after market grips that fit the lower receiver.
The Upper receiver is also machined from the same 7075-T6-51 aluminum and also is a bit more robust than other 308 uppers out there and has a hexagon shape for added strength and stiffness. The design is a flat top style with the integral picatinny rail. Les Baer has a new SWAT model of this rifle that has a monolith rail along the top of the receiver all the way up to the end of the forward hand guard, but the Match version we reviewed here just had a standard rail that spans only the top of the upper receiver, which on an AR usually requires a forward offsetting scope base in order to get enough eye relief to use standard optics. The upper does have a brass deflector and dust cover but there is no forward assist. The charging handle is a standard size affair, and an enlarged T handle on it might be useful when using the rifle with optics, but during our tests the size or the charging handle posed no problems.
The Bolt carrier is a LBC chromed carrier with a LBC precision chromed bolt. The extractor is also a LBC extractor and is also chromed. The operation of the bolt and bolt carrier was smooth and we had no feed or extraction problems during all of our tests with the rifle. The operation of the rifle was flawless and provided confidence that it was going to operate as designed and with continued reliability.
The barrel is LBC’s own benchrest 416R stainless steel heavy barrel that is 24″ in length. LBC uses precision cut rifling when making their barrels and the barrels on these match rifles have a 1:10″ twist with five lands and grooves. The rifle is also available with an optional 20″ or 18″ barrel length as well as a muzzle brake if you so desire, but the recoil of this rifle is easily manageable. The barrel is freefloated… well, freefloated in terms of AR rifles, and the gas block is one of LBC’s own steel units with picatinny slots on top. The handgaurd is also made by LBC and is fairly wide at 2.350″ outside diameter with no taper along the entire length. There is a lock ring on the receiver side and single sling stud that can be used for mounting a harris bipod, which the rifle comes with. The handguard does seem to allow the bipod to mount solid and it also provides a fairly stable rest from sand bags and is not too wide for use with your support hand when shooting offhand.
The overall finish of the upper and lower is a matte black anodizing that has a nice uniform and even appearance and all of the parts seem to match well. The barrel is finished in a Dupont S matte black over the stainless steel which gives the entire rifle a matching matte black finish. The upper and lower receivers fit together with a very tight and precise fit, indicating tight tolerances. This is usually one of the more obvious indicators as to whether an AR rifle is going to shoot well or not. The fire selector switch, bolt release knob, and magazine release are normal size and in the standard location for an AR rifle. The trigger itself is a Geissele two stage trigger and is one of the better triggers we have experienced on an AR platform. The initial stage is fairly light with just a bit of mechanical interference being felt and the second stage is light and breaks nicely at 3.5 lbs with just a bit of over-travel. We would like a bit smoother take up on that initial stage, but besides that the trigger is very nice and a very good match up for the purpose of this rifle.
The buttstock is actually nothing to write home about on this particular version. This is the Les Baer standard Match rifle which comes with the generic A2 buttstock. It is not adjustable and the quality is good and frankly, there really is not much more to write about it. The same rifle is available with the Magpul fully adjustable buttstock and if we were ordering the rifle for tactical use for a deploying unit, the Magpul would probably be the way to go. But the clean lines and simple functionality of the fixed A2 buttstock does work fine and will provide many years of solid service on the rifle if one were to opt for the standard A2 buttstock.
A muzzlebrake is also optional on the rifle and Les Baer claims recoil will drop to about the level of a 223 rifle when using their muzzlebrake. With the highly effective brakes in use today, we do not doubt Les Baer’s claim. The .308 itself is not a hard recoiling cartridge and the buffer spring setup in the AR platform helps absorb recoil as well and we found even with the firm A2 buttstock and no muzzle brake, recoil was mild with this Match rifle and we do not see the need for a muzzlebrake.
For our shooting portion of the tests we utilized a Vortex 6.5-20x50mm PST tactical rifle scope mounted using a Rock River Arms elevated and forward offset scope mounting system, allowing us to get the scope properly in line with the shooter’s eye. The scope could probably be mounted without a forward offset mount if the rings are placed as far forward as possible and then also getting the scope mounted forward in the rings. The SWAT version with the monolith rail would allow mounting the scope further forward without the offset mounting base, but we did not have that version of the rifle and using the RRA mount worked fine. On the RRA we would prefer to have nuts on the cross bolts instead of just the hand knobs with slots for a large screwdriver. We did have the mounts go loose on us once during the shooting tests and with a proper nut we could of simply used our T-Handle torque wrench to set them at 65 inch-lbs, which would have prevented the base coming loose… but that is not a Les Baer issue, but rather a Rock River Arms issue with that product.
Because the rifle incorporates a faster 1:10″ twist we wanted to test some heavier 175gr as well, so we primarily stuck to Federal 168gr Gold Medal Match as well as HSM 175gr Match ammo. Because of the round hand guards on AR rifles, we typically struggle with getting an AR platform to shoot good groups for us, and initially we had the same issue with the Les Baer. The rifle does ship with a 5 round test target that is sub .5 MOA so we knew the rifle had to shoot, and sure enough, once we got settled and started taking some extra time to insure everything was just right, we started to see the groups tighten up. Just a matter of getting the parts between the two ears of the shooter organized first, and then things started to come along.
We shot for accuracy on two separate days with both days being overcast, but with calm winds. The results of the accuracy tests are listed below:
|Federal GMM 168gr||.693″||.344″|
|HSM 175gr Match||.803″||.486″|
As you can see the rifle will shoot sub .5 MOA when the shooter is on his game and shooting well. The trigger helps to allow the shooter to do the best they can and while if it were a bit lighter it might help even more, it is a nice compromise between safety in the field, and accuracy. The rifle did prefer the Federal GMM over the HSM 175gr, but I would recommend trying several different loads to find the sweet spot, especially if you are looking to shoot 175gr loads. The rifle digested and functioned flawlessly during all of our shooting tests.
For the long range evaluation we wanted to gear the tests more towards the mission objectives of the US Army Semi-Auto Sniper System (SASS) requirements for the military and decide to test the rifle in rapid fire type engagements beyond 400 yards and here the rifle performed very well. The rifle returns to battery very quickly, allowing for very rapid follow-up shots, especially since the shooter does not have to remove his firing hand from the rifle and is ready to engage again as soon as the target is acquired in the scope. For rapid engagements and follow-up shots, the Semi-Auto rifles have a definite advantage over a bolt action rifle. At one point we conducted a test where we successfully engaged four (4) 15″ x 12″ steel targets at 400 yards in a total time of less than six (6) seconds, and with more experience with the rifle, that time certainly would get better.
After spending some time with the Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match rifle, we feel it would serve well in the capacity of a precision semi-auto sniper rifle. The accuracy is .5 MOA or better when the shooter is doing his or her part and the reliability and function is everything one expects. The $2980 price is on the high side when compared to other 308 AR rifles like the DPMS, Rock River and some others, so one would expect it to be of higher quality and perform better, which with our experience it seems to. There are always limitations, as we all know, to the AR design itself but Les Baer has done a nice job assembling a well sorted and capable long range semi-auto 308 rifle.
Sniper Central – 2011