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Tactical AR-15 Rifles

The Six-Eight Solution: LWRCI M6.8-A5 Review

by Tom Beckstrand   |  August 14th, 2013 18

LWRCI-M68A5_001

Few would argue that the AR-15 has become one of the most relevant rifle designs available today. There are many reasons it has become so popular. Generations of riflemen are familiar with its upkeep and operation, thanks to the fact that the platform has been in military service for more than 50 years. It requires no special tools to disassemble and maintain. The rifle’s ergonomics make it comfortable to shoot, even during prolonged range sessions, and there’s no end to the number of aftermarket items available for those desiring to customize it.

While AR-pattern rifles are extremely popular, they have reached a plateau where most new developments result in a negligible increase in quantifiable performance. Until recently, that is. Efforts by LWRCI, Magpul and ATK now provide the venerable Stoner design with its first significant performance increase in decades.

Each of the three companies tackled a crucial portion of the AR’s performance upgrade. LWRCI did some heavy lifting by redesigning the rifle to accommodate a cartridge offering more ballistic performance than the traditional 5.56 chambering. The round the company chose for its new rifle was 6.8 SPC. Optimizing the AR for a cartridge that falls between the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO is no small task. It called for taking the relatively small and light AR-15 platform and stuffing the larger 6.8 SPC round into it. And that’s just what LWRCI did.

Refining a Concept
LWRCI isn’t the first manufacturer to chamber an AR-15 pattern rifle to 6.8 SPC. Since the round’s introduction in 2004, several manufacturers have done so. The problem with maintaining the standard specifications for the AR-15 while chambering the rifle in 6.8 SPC is that the larger cartridge doesn’t want to fit through the 5.56×45-size mag well, nor does it particuarly like getting stuffed into magazines designed almost 50 years before the 6.8 was conceived.

The obvious step toward solving the problem is to enlarge the mag well and make a bigger magazine to put in it. LWRCI took the very sensible approach of looking at the AR-15 bolt carrier and determining how far they could enlarge the mag well without having to redesign the bolt carrier. That’s a smart move. Since the bolt carrier works just fine, it’s best to leave it alone. Once they enlarged the magazine well, they also added a small shelf inside the front of the mag well to prevent “overinsertion” of the magazine. This little feature ensures that no problems will arise should the shooter decide to use the rifle’s magazine as a rest to steady the rifle.

The new LWRCI M6.8-A5 also has a fully ambidextrous lower receiver that makes it possible to manipulate the rifle with minimal gun juggling. With traditional AR-15s, the shooter has to remove his firing hand from the pistol grip to pull the charging handle to the rear so that the support hand can manipulate the bolt catch and lock the bolt to the rear. This is the first maneuver for doing everything from loading and unloading the rifle to clearing malfunctions, so it gets repeated often.

With LWRCI’s new ambidextrous design, the firing hand can stay on the pistol grip while it manipulates the bolt catch, and the support hand pulls the charging handle to the rear. This small change to the rifle’s manual of arms might not sound like much, but it eliminates the most time-consuming step of switching hands around. Seconds might not matter to many shooters, but to citizens defending their homes, soldiers or law enforcement professionals, a few seconds can determine whether we live or die. There’s also the added convenience of having a rifle that both right- and left-handed shooters can easily manipulate.

The upper receiver saw some slight changes, too. The portion of it that mates against the lower receiver had to be opened up to accommodate the larger magazine. The upper also saw the addition of one of the sweetest ambidextrous charging handles I’ve seen on an AR. It’s unobtrusive yet still offers plenty of purchase. The way that the retaining arm rotates away from the charging handle shaft toward the perpendicular handle indicates that there is very little outward pressure placed on the pin about which the retaining arm rotates. When charging handles break, it’s usually because this pin gives way from outward pressure. I’m not sure you could break the LWRCI charging handle through normal manipulation if you made it a point to try.

The rest of the six-eight is classic LWRCI. It’s a piston-operated Stoner variation that’s been updated with all of the latest coatings and materials available to further refine the design. LWRCI has been making piston rifles for quite a while, and the company’s brain trust has long since figured out how to fabricate a premium product. The hammer-forged barrels are surface-converted with NiCorr, making the finish incredibly hard and durable, much more so than their chrome-lined and Parkerized competitors. The piston system self-regulates, so there are no wild variations in bolt speed (as is often the case with the traditional direct-gas-impingement system, especially when using a suppressor). The bolt carrier and bolt are coated with nickel boron, making them extremely slick and less dependent on lubrication for reliable operation.

LWRCI also takes the time to make its bolts out of 9310 steel, not the traditional Carpenter 158 or less expensive 8620 that are often used in other ARs. The 9310 steel has a little more nickel than the other two, making it less brittle and longer-lasting. No single part takes more of a beating in an AR than the bolt, so it’s important to have as stout a one as possible. I prefer that my bolts be made from 9310 even though they’re more expensive (and are standard in all LWRCI rifles).

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