Texas has some mighty fine BBQ. In the not-too-distant past I was enjoying some of said BBQ with my fellow gun enthusiast and friend, Patrick. Pat is a Green Beret, a competitive shooter with a dose of combat experience and all-around good dude. We had just finished terrorizing a platter of brisket and ribs and were chasing it with some cobbler when I asked him, “What rifle would you choose for an end-of-the-world scenario if you could only have one?”
Pat got glassy-eyed, licked his fingers and began rattling off the specifications for his one-and-only rifle. We both agreed that choosing one rifle for a variety of missions involved determining what compromises we were willing to make.
We agreed that while they’re great to carry for extended periods of time, rifles with light, contoured barrels experience degradation in accuracy over prolonged firing strings. Lightweight rifles also have greater recoil and take more time to get back on target between shots.
Heavy barrels and heavy rifles can be exceptionally accurate and hold up well under sustained fire, but they are hell to carry around and make offhand, CQB and positional shooting (what we do the most of in combat) more difficult.
So the trick lies in finding a balance between weight and portability. Anyone who says they have the secret sauce and can build a super-light rifle that remains super-accurate under sustained fire isn’t telling the whole truth. Light weight and accuracy under sustained fire are mutually exclusive, so you must determine how much you want to compromise and for what.
Pat finally said that his end-of-the-world rifle would be a LaRue PredatAR, but that he’d replace the PredatAR barrel with the LaRue OBR barrel. So in his case, he’s willing to pay the weight penalty. Pat’s rationale was that the heavier contour of the OBR barrel would maintain its accuracy longer in a protracted gunfight—a real possibility should the world come to a screeching halt. The lighter weight of the PredatAR handguard and its extended length, however, were must-keep features.
The next morning I hustled off to the LaRue Tactical Range Day where I met up with Chris Costa to discuss his recent partnership with LaRue Tactical. There I had the opportunity to first examine the Costa Edition of the LaRue rifle. I wasn’t surprised to find that the Costa Edition LaRue OBR Hybrid takes the PredatAR as a base model but uses the OBR’s barrel and port selector technology. It seems that Chris and my buddy Pat think a lot alike.
One of the first questions I asked Chris was how he came to partner with LaRue Tactical. To understand Chris’s response, we must first examine his perspective and experience.
Chris is perhaps best known for his time as an instructor with Magpul Dynamics. Chris and Travis Haley worked closely together for a few years teaching carbine, pistol and shotgun courses to both civilian and military personnel. Travis and Chris have each moved on to other endeavors, but the experience they gained over those few years proved invaluable.
Chris saw and fired a lot of rifles during his time with Magpul Dynamics. He even had some exceptional rifles from other manufacturers loaned to him to shoot and demo for his students. Over time Chris began to notice differences in performance between the rifle he was shooting and the ones brought to his classes—even though both he and his students frequently fired the same model of rifle from the same manufacturer.
Where Chris’s rifles were accurate and dependable, the ones his students brought to class from the same manufacturer often failed in training. He began to suspect that he was being offered ringers to demo and that the quality wasn’t being extended to normal rank-and-file commercial types.
Then Chris attended a long-range precision course taught by Todd Hodnett in preparation for a video shoot. This was his first opportunity to evaluate several LaRue Tactical rifles in the course of a few days. He immediately noticed a consistency in quality of manufacturing and performance across all rifles. This impressed him.
So when I asked Chris why he partnered with LaRue Tactical, he said, “If you want a Costa gun, you’re getting a Costa gun. They’re all built to the same standard. There is no special sauce on my gun that won’t be on anybody else’s.”
I understand Chris’s point of view, and I respect him for that. I wouldn’t want to endorse a product that failed to perform as advertised, either.
The OBR and the PredatAR “got busy,” and the Hybrid is what came of it. Chris supervised the encounter, and so the rifle bears his name.
On a more serious note, the Costa Edition Hybrid rifle has a number of features that make a tremendous amount of tactical sense. The most obvious feature of this 5.56mm rifle is the heavy contour barrel.
This is almost the exact same barrel found on the LaRue OBR—just attached to the PredatAR chassis. Chris chose the OBR barrel because he is willing to carry the extra weight in exchange for accuracy over extended firing sessions. The heavier barrel is also an advantage when it comes to recoil management. Shooting multiple targets as quickly as possible is easier when the gun doesn’t jump around. A little bit of weight on the barrel helps immensely.
The only change to the Hybrid barrel from the regular OBR barrel is the length. The Hybrid is cut to just over 14 inches, so it measures just over 16 inches once either the optional SureFire muzzle brake or flash hider is permanently pinned in place. The Hybrid also maintains the port selector technology first pioneered on the OBR. This adjustable gas port allows the shooter to choose either suppressed or unsuppressed fire while maintaining the correct amount of gas coming back through the direct impingement system.
The handguard comes from the PredatAR, but it’s also slightly modified. The handguard has been trimmed back approximately one inch to accommodate the shorter barrel. The handguard runs right up to the back of the muzzle brake or flash hider, giving the shooter the maximum amount of space for positional shooting, a sling mount, lights and lasers.
The Hybrid will come standard with a Flat Dark Earth (FDE) coating from KG Industries and the same Geissele SSA trigger found in the OBR. The options on the rifle will include the optional Battle Arms Development ambidextrous safety selector.
In keeping with the FDE theme, most of the furniture on the rifle will also be FDE in color. The Magpul CTR stock and Magpul MIAD grip will be in FDE, but the LaRue grip-adaptor panels will be black.
As I handled Chris’s personal rifle I was impressed with the thought and attention to detail that went into determining the rifle’s specifications. I appreciate and approve of the heavier barrel for guns expected to see high-round-count carbine courses (or even an end-of-the-world scenario). The additional weight isn’t welcome, but I understand that it’s necessary.
My favorite features of the Hybrid rifle are the barrel length, handguard length and placement of the muzzle device. A carbine should be as short as possible, and the decision to shorten the barrel as much as possible so that it just makes the 16-inch legal limit once the muzzle device is pinned into place is awesome.
Adjusting the handguard length to offer maximum real estate for lights and freedom of maneuver for the support hand in positional work is also much appreciated. The length of the handguard on an AR is sometimes treated as an afterthought. New shooters often go with the standard seven-inch carbine-length handguard because they place the hand just forward of the magazine well.
More experienced shooters will run the support hand as close to the muzzle as possible to drive the gun from one target to the next in rapid succession. The Hybrid is the first instance where I’ve seen a manufacturer plan ahead to get the absolute shortest legal
length possible (without the extra paperwork) while maximizing the handguard length for ease of use in multiple target engagements and positional work.
Accuracy of 5.56 NATO-chambered OBRs I’ve fired averages between .4 inch and .8 inch for five-shot groups at 100 yards. I did not have the opportunity to fire Chris’s personal rifle at the LaRue Tactical Range Day (yes, I know, weird, but the rifle was still a secret at the time), but I expect it maintains similar accuracy standards as those previous OBRs I’ve tested. Same builders, same barrels, barrel extensions and upper receivers just about guarantee the same accuracy.
Initially, LaRue Tactical will be making 500 Costa Edition Hybrid rifles chambered in 5.56 NATO. Each upper and lower will have matching digits, numbered between 1 and 500. After the first batch of 500 rifles sell out, LaRue intends continuing to offer the Costa Edition Hybrid as an unnumbered part of its product line.
I was excited about the result of the collaboration between LaRue Tactical and Chris, so I asked him what he was working on for the future. Chris alluded to a continued collaboration with LaRue Tactical and said that he would be spending much of his time with his new venture, Costa Ludus.
Costa Ludus is the training academy Chris will be operating in the foreseeable future and where he can continue to do what he loves, training others to shoot well. “Ludus” is the name for the schools that trained the gladiators, making the name Costa Ludus very appropriate.
Chris will offer a number of courses at select locations across the country. Those desiring to learn how to manipulate and fire a carbine or pistol should seek his wisdom. Chris is developing a course specifically for semi-auto 7.62 rifles that focuses on their employment at ranges of zero to 400 meters. That’s the one I’m going back to check out.