September 23, 2010
Whenever I have the chance, I ask people whom I consider authorities on AR-style rifles--SWAT sniper-squad leaders, gunsmiths, firearms training instructors, writers or some combination of the above--which companies make the best out-of-the-box ARs. The name Stag Arms always makes the list, often at the top.
The reasons given are many; the opinions are the same. If you want a rifle that will keep on cooking through thousands of rounds in less than optimal conditions, consider a Stag.
Now, my roots are in big game hunting and precision bolt-action rifles. I'm not an AR guy, per se. However, when Stag announced its new Model 6 Super Varminter--Stag-tough with 1/2 m.o.a. accuracy guaranteed--I sat up and took note. Accurate rifles of any genre interest me, enough so in this case that I jumped through the necessary hoops to get a legal sample shipped to me here in California (see accompanying sidebar).
I was impressed right from the moment I opened the box. I could see right away that fit and finish on the M6 is excellent. I looked for visible gaps between the upper and lower receivers and felt for play. There was none.
In fact, the upper and lower were fitted so snugly that I later called Stag Arms president Mark Malkowski and asked if the receiver halves were hand-selected for fit. He said they were, noting that as both 7075 T6 aluminum parts are forged in-house--where specs can be closely controlled--all Stag receivers are fit very closely.
The A3 flattop upper is fitted with a heavy 24-inch match-grade E.R. Shaw stainless barrel, measuring .92-inch at the muzzle and sporting a 1:8 twist and 5.56mm NATO chamber. A Stag low-profile gas block and aluminum free-float handguard speak of the rifle's intended purpose: this is a hunting rifle. There is no way to mount a back-up iron front sight.
STAG M6, M6L VARMINT
|Manufacturer ||Stag Arms, www.stagarms.com, 860-229-9994 |
|Type ||AR-style semiauto |
|Caliber ||5.56mm NATO/.223 Rem. |
|Barrel ||24 in., stainless match grade, 1:8 twist |
|Overall Length ||42.25 in. |
|Weight ||9lb., 11 oz. |
|Stock ||A2, Hogue grip; free-float aluminum handguard |
|Gas Block ||low-profile |
|Finish ||mil-spec anodized |
|Trigger ||two-stage match, 3lb., 3 oz. |
|Sights ||none |
|Price ||$1,055 (M6L left-hand: $1,095) |
Rarely have I felt such a fine trigger on an AR-type rifle. It is a two-stage match quality assembly that breaks at a consistent three pounds, three ounces by my Lyman digital scale--perfect for varmint hunting and target work.
As soon as I got the rifle home, I mounted a 6-18x40 Leupold Mark 2 Tactical scope with mil dot reticle, which proved to be a perfect choice for the Super Varminter--providing plenty of magnification for accuracy testing and shooting at tiny distant varmints along with a low enough power range to give versatility while hunting fast-moving critters.
The following day I was on the range, armed with a stack of ammo, and the Super Varminter shot well right off the bat. As the barrel broke in over the course of several boxes of shells and a couple of good cleanings, it got even better. Every load I tried grouped under an inch with multiple consecutive five-shot groups, with several loads pushing that 1/2 m.o.a. accuracy guarantee pretty closely.
The wind was gusting lightly around the clock, and I think on a still day those small groups would have become tiny groups and fallen well within Stag's 1/2 m.o.a. claim.
I was delighted to note the apparent nonchalance with which the Super Varminter digested almost anything I fed it and spit out great groups. Note on the accompanying chart that two of the best-shooting loads fired projectiles on opposite ends of the weight-spectrum: Black Hill's 40-grain V-Max shot right with Federal's Gold Medal Match 69-grain load, proving once again that fast-twist barrels can excel with light bullets.
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Function proved entirely reliable except in the case of very light (40-grain) bullets. The action and bolt carrier assembly was fairly dirty by the time I tested those loads, and seemingly the light projectiles simply didn't provide enough gas pressure to cycle the action fully every time.
For the most part it ran fine, but about one in five shots would eject but not quite pick up the next cartridge. I'm sure that with a clean, lubed action the light stuff would function without problem.
At nine-plus pounds without scope the M6 is a solid handful, yet it balances very well. The Hogue grip and textured Stag handguard provide comfortable, nonslip handling, and the plain A2 stock has always been one of my favorites for simple comfort, which is what one wants when spending hours or perhaps even days at a prairie dog town or shooting at the local range.
STAG MODEL 6 SUPER VARMINTER
|5.56mm NATO/.223 REMINGTON ||BULLET WEIGHT (gr.) ||MUZZLE VELOCITY (fps) ||STANDARD DEVIATION ||AVG. GROUP (in.) |
|Hornady TAP ||75 ||2,950 ||79 ||.48 |
|Black Hills Match ||77 ||2,728 ||19 ||.52 |
|Federal Gold Medal Match ||69 ||2,793 ||26 ||.53 |
|Remington AccuPoint ||55 ||3,164 ||27 ||.60 |
|Winchester Ballistic SilverTip ||55 ||3,253 ||36 ||.67 |
|Black Hills V-Max ||40 ||3,603 ||18 ||.71 |
|Hornady TAP ||60 ||3,031 ||17 ||.79 |
|Black Hills Match ||75 ||2,736 ||20 ||.95 |
|NOTES: Accuracy figures are the results of four consecutive five-shot groups at 100 yards, fired from a Sinclair benchrest. Velocity is the average of 10 shots at 12 feet, measured through a PACT Professional XP chronograph. |
After running an assortment of loads through the Super Varminter for accuracy, I mounted a bipod on it and lay prone for an assault on the 200- to 600-yard steel gongs that grace Angeles Ranges.
Just to make things interesting, I stoked a 10-round magazine, dialed the scope to 14X and set out to hit a gong at each range with what I had in that mag. Amazingly, I was able to make first-round hits to 400 yards, missed one shot and connected with the second at 500, and nailed the 600-yard torso target on the first try. It's amazing how well a mil dot reticle works when actually put to use. My buddy and I used up the last of the ammo I'd brought, merrily ringing steel targets at 500 and 600 yards.
When the smoke had cleared, I had developed a high regard for the Stag M6 Super Varminter. With stellar performance in both accuracy and reliability, it does what it is meant to do with sangfroid. Whether I was taking on the local gun club in a friendly match, tackling a horde of prairie dogs or trying to plaster a coyote streaking across a distant sage flat, I would feel well-equipped with a Stag M6 Super Varminter.