One of the most useful aspects of AR-15-pattern rifles is their modularity. Usually, all it takes to change calibers is a new upper receiver. We push a couple of pins out of the way and remove one to replace it with the other. Changing optics is also a snap, thanks to the short section of Picatinny rail found up top. These are just a couple of features that have made the AR so popular.
Lewis Machine & Tool (LMT) took the conventional AR and made it even better when it created a monolithic upper (and received the patent) that manufactures the upper receiver and forend into one solid part. Then, it built a quick-change barrel system that allows us to swap calibers by removing two large screws.
The monolithic upper receiver provides one long stretch of uninterrupted Picatinny rail that runs the length of the receiver and forend and does away with the gap on traditional models that can make optics mounting problematic. Up until now, that forend on MRP models was only 8 inches long. It was and is available with Picatinny rails on all four sides (the traditional “quad rail”) or smooth on three sides with places to install optional Pic rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions as needed.
LMT’s newest model, the SLK8, has a full 13-inch forend and is smooth on three sides with the continuous Pic-rail section up top. If you’re already a huge fan of LMT rifles, this new one may become your favorite. Here’s why.
The longer forend provides more options when shooting in the field. It’s easier to find a rest and have more contact with it if we have more than 8 inches of forend to work with. The longer forend also gives us more places to put our support hand as we move from one shooting position to the next. This is important if we shoot from positions other than offhand or the shooting bench. The additional real estate up front also protects our barrel and ensures that it free floats even when we’re laying the rifle across a rock pile.
The new forend is only 1½ inches wide and extremely comfortable in the hand. On other rifles, a slim forend can become a problem if a lot of rounds need to be shot in a short period of time. By placing the hand so close to the barrel, other forends can become too hot to hold.
LMT’s LM8 forend places the hand close to the barrel, but the company has found a way to create a heat sink where the two screws are located. The G&A staff has tried blasting several magazines through the rifle to got the forend hot and could never make it uncomfortable to hold. Each time, the forend remained cool as all the heat gets pulled into the area surrounding the two barrel screws. The mass there kept it from getting hot, but it was warmer than the forend.
LMT’s MRP rifles are a joy to clean (they are some of the easiest rifles to disassemble for maintenance), and they allow users to experiment with multiple calibers at minimal expense. Barrels are offered for the MRPs in .204 Ruger, 5.56 NATO, .300 BLK and 6.8 SPC. After testing the 5.56-chambered 16-inch stainless barrel for this report, other calibers were installed and tested, which never resulted in more than a 3-inch point-of-impact shift at 100 yards from one barrel to the next.
The LMT MRP and MWS family of rifles are still some of the most innovative and precisely manufactured rifles in the world, and the SLK8 continues that tradition with its most shooter-friendly model to date. Both chrome-lined and stainless steel barrels are available.