In some circles, Stag is known as either the left-handed AR maker or the plain-jane AR maker. Well, that isn’t the case anymore. Stag has unveiled a top-end AR that is meant for a particular market—the 3-Gun shooter. However, it’s more than just that. The evolution of the AR has brought us to a realization: top-end ARs are very versatile rifles and can do a lot more than you might think.
The Stag Model 3G is, at its heart, your basic AR: flat-top upper receiver, standard lower receiver. Nothing fancy, proprietary or oddball. However, what Stag has assembled onto—and into—those receivers is something else. On the back end is a Magpul ACS buttstock on a carbine buffer tube. The stock contour is far more useful than your basic mil-spec M4 stock. The adjustment range of the carbine tube allows it to be set for almost any shooter or application.
Inside, Stag has used the exemplary Geissele two-stage trigger (in this instance its 3-Gun trigger) for a clean, crisp pull with a short reset and quick locktime. Yes, you can do well with a crunchy mil-spec trigger (I’ve shot many perfect qualification courses with a rack-grade trigger), but if you wish to shoot the smallest groups—or the fastest times—light and clean is a must.
Down the Barrel
On the front end, Stag has installed an 18-inch stainless-steel barrel with a 1:8 twist. A stainless barrel can be made to a higher level of accuracy and finish than a chrome-plated military tube, and the 1:8 twist stabilizes bullets from varmint to heavyweight.
As a bonus, Stag took the 18-inch barrel (halfway in length between a carbine and a rifle) and installed the gas block (and thus the gas tube) at the “rifle barrel” location. Many 3-Gun shooters are now taking this approach. They gain most of the quick handling of the carbine length, most of the velocity boost of the rifle length, plus the softer recoil impulse of the rifle-length gas system.
Out on the muzzle, Stag has installed a new muzzlebrake of its own design, the 3G comp. It is a baffled-front, vented comp with front and top ports. Comp designs are meant to work on muzzle lift, stock shove or both. This one is meant to do both, and it does quite a good job of it. It is also a compact comp—a good thing—because in some equipment divisions, a comp over a certain size bumps you up from Limited to Open. The small size of the 3G comp will keep you out of Open, if that’s what you want.
To keep your hands from being burned by the scorching-hot barrel, Stag wraps it inside a Samson Evolution handguard. The Evolution is not your typical railed handguard. Three-gun competitors don’t want acres of rail estate, they want what they want, where they want it. And where they don’t want rails, they want the handguard to be slim, for fast handling. So if you want extras on the Evolution, you simply bolt a section of rail there and nowhere else. The rest of the handguard is easy to handle, even for those with small to average-sized hands.
And on top of all this, the 3G comes with Dueck Defense RTS iron sights. I spent a week in Greece at the IPSC World Shoot, and Barry Dueck was in the squad next to mine. Barry is a serious 3-Gun competitor, and he designed his sights with one goal in mind: a quick transition. The sights are at a 30-degree angle to the normal sight axis. After you have mounted a scope or red-dot optics, the irons are still off to the side. To use them, you simply twist the rifle 30-degrees counter-clockwise, and the sights will be right there.
Barry didn’t invent the idea, it has been around for many years. But what Barry did was to make the sights solid, click-adjustable and easy to install. I much prefer sights on the side than up on top of the scope where I have no chance of a cheekweld when trying to use them.
So what, you ask? Simple. A 3-Gun stage (and each match has a different number of stages) may require that you hammer out half a magazine on targets from 10 feet to 25 yards and then turn a corner and have to hit a gong at 300.
At close range you need the quick handling and soft recoil to shoot “splits” (time between shots) less than two-tenths of a second. A magnifying scope may be a hindrance, but wide-open irons will be wicked fast. And then, you need to be able to hit an eight-inch gong at 300 yards. For that, you’ll need 2 MOA accuracy—or better—from a smoking-hot barrel and a scope with a crisp image.
You might ask “Why the Stag Arms? My bolt-gun shoots groups as small.” In an earlier era, and indeed in some gun clubs still, sitting down and firing five-shot groups is the be-all and end-all of club competition. However, clubs keeping up with trends offer more. Two-gun matches are typically those run by ACTS, the American Confederation of Tactical Shooters. There, you’ll use your rifle and a handgun, sometimes both in a given stage. Three-gun is actually two types; original 3-Gun, where you use a rifle, shotgun and handgun, but only one at a time, per stage. Then there’s multi-gun, where you might use one, two or all three in a given stage. The USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) hosts both, depending on just what kind of stages and matches the local host club desires (some people prefer one over the other).
And “every-gun”? Those would be zombie matches, where the equipment rules are wide-open. You might have to start a stage with a big knife, club or faux chainsaw, then shoot your own handgun, rifle and shotgun, before finishing with the provided slingshot. All, of course, in the cause of diminishing the population of the undead.
All of these have some common features: they are accuracy-intense, scored against the clock and unforgiving of malfunctions. You may think that the competitors are simply hosing out large amounts of ammo. Lots of shooting, yes, but they have to hit to score. Misses are not only lost points, but also penalty deductions.
Shining Under Pressure
Each stage (a match may have 2-10 stages, depending on the size of the club) is scored by both the points you shoot and the time it took you to shoot. Just like in real life, faster is better. If you have a malfunction, the clock keeps ticking. No timeouts, no raising your hand for the RO to assist you. Just you, the malfunction, the stage and the unforgiving clock.
In all this, the Stag 3G would shine. It’s plenty accurate, scoffs at mountains of ammo and, being built by Stag (folks who know a thing or three about ARs), it’ll probably only malfunction if you feed it your brother-in-law’s reloads.
To test it on close drills, I slapped on an Aimpoint M68 CCO red dot sight that’s been through the mill (and more than one shovelful of dirt) and got the barrel good and smoking. I then swapped the red-dot for a Leupold CQBSS 1-8X and sat down to do some bench-rest work. The Geissele trigger made group shooting fun, as the trigger was clean, crisp, consistent and easy to use. The 8X of the Leupold allowed me to pay attention to sight picture and target alignment, although it did show me once again that in order to do your best work, it really is necessary to cut back on the morning coffee. To no great surprise, the match stainless barrel did its best with match-grade ammunition.
My Mad Minute
Once I had done all my due-diligence in testing accuracy and close-range handling of the 3G, I pulled out an old stage we invented back in the mid-1980s called “Mad Minute.” Two targets: one at 50 yards, one at 100. Standing, alternate shots between the targets. Your score: all the points you can get, shooting as much as you can in 60 seconds. We only did it a few times for one simple reason: it was hard on rifles. The winning score, the last time we did it, was 60 shots, for 59 hits and 239 points. And a smoking-hot rifle.
So I figured I’d try it again to see how the Stag 3G would do. Well, I had a bit of a problem with it; the compensator on the end of the barrel was a little too good for most loads. With some loads it actually pushed the muzzle down off the target. This is a good thing, as it gives shooters “elbow room” to tune their ammo to the comp or the comp to their ammo. For me it meant using some mild practice ammo to get the comp working just right, and with it I was able to come close to—but not match—my old score. Back when I set that mark, I was wearing out AR barrels at a regular pace. These days, I don’t get so much practice, so a rifle that lets me make up a lot of that lost ground is a very good thing.
Saving a Grand
I can see that some of you are still resistant. “I don’t need a 3-Gun rifle” was the most common (albeit, rare) comment. OK, do you need a tackdriving varmint rifle? I mean, at consistently sub-MOA accuracy, you could easily use the Stag 3G on prairie rodents past 300 yards. Zombie head shots? Even further. As a soft-recoiling rifle, and where 5.56 is DNR-approved, the 3G would be a great rifle for someone who can’t take a heavy hit on the shoulder but wants to hunt. Loaded with something like the Asym Precision 75-grain all-copper bullet, the 3G would work just fine on deer and even hogs. From a blind, resting the Samson forearm on a rail or other rest, pinpoint accuracy would be easy to ensure.
And the best part? The cost. The Stag Model 3G can be had for a lot less than many other high-end rifles. It would be easy to save almost a grand, compared to the MSRP of comparable rifles from other makers. A grand buys you a really good scope (not the CQBSS, alas) or a quite good one, a pile of practice ammo and a box full of practice zombie targets. In fact, the cost is so reasonable that I’m not sure you can duplicate it.
I’m sure there are experienced home assemblers of the AR who are looking at it, wondering just how to go about the project. Perusing the parts suppliers, I don’t think you can source comparable parts (upper and lower, Magpul stock, match 18-inch stainless barrel, comp, Geissele trigger, Samson forearm, Deuck Defense sights) for what Stag is listing it at.
And really, even if you could, and could justify the time spent assembling it, wouldn’t you really rather be out on the range shooting?