***UPDATE, page 2***
I know there have been some reviews on this here before, but Paul makes such a great product, I wanted to give him another plug.
I picked up one of his 20" SS 410 barrels last month and finished a rifle build. I'll talk about the barrel first, how it shoots, and the rest of the gun.
The barrel is 410 stainless steel. The barrel blanks come from a top notch barrel company, and are likewise cut at a top notch shop. I purchased the "service match heavy weight profile" barrel, which retails for $299 in the standard SS finish. It's is a semi-shiny silver finish, which looks really sharp with a black gun. I was thinking about painting this puppy, but as all of my rifles are scratched up work guns, I figured this one will be my "bling" rifle.
For a few dollars more, it is available fluted, ion bonded black, or a combination. I did have a chance to compare the fluted barrel and the heavy weight side by side. The fluting probably shaved a little shy of a pound? There was a noticeable weight difference when you hold them side by side, but whether you would notice once its on your gun or not, I can't say.
The barrel has a rifle length gas system. The bottom of the barrel came with one dimple drilled to mount a gas block set screw. I ended up mounting a YHM low-profile gas block, which has two set screws. I decided not to drill a second dimple, and the gas block fit snugly without any problems.
The barrel is button & hand lapped rifled with a 1/8" twist rate which should be sufficient to stabilize your heaviest 75-77 grain rounds, but still shoot 55gn rounds well too. They barrels are high pressure tested and MPI inspected.
The chamber is cut to the USMC SAM-R Chamber specs, which is similar to a .223 Wylde chamber. Paul said his #1 goal with all of his products is to make it reliable, and to mil-spec. With this chamber you can shoot military 5.56 ammo, but it should be slightly more accurate with .223 match ammo than a standard 5.56 NATO chamber.
The rest of the gun
BCM bolt carrier group (staked, MPI inspected, typical BCM quality)
VTAC 12" rail
YHM low-profile gas block
BCM Pre-production GF CH
Geissele SSA trigger
Vortex Viper 6.5-20x50mm scope w/rings
M4 stock (standard buffer)
Total weight of the rifle unloaded is 10 lbs 15 ounces, which certainly isn't light, but its not terrible I guess. My primary purpose for the rifle is for blasting prairie dogs and plinking steel out to 500m+, I don't plan on trekking miles and miles toting this thing around.
Here is our steel range. There are indeed targets up on that hill. I forgot if its 500m or 600m. The highpower range goes out to 1400y for what its worth, and guys with their .338 Lapuas make head shots at that distance....
I shot a few different types of ammo through it to see how it grouped. I wasn't very scientific in my shooting. I had fired about 100 rounds through it on the previous trip, ran a boresnake, and fired another 120 rounds today. There was no cleaning between groups or barrel break-in nonsense, I shot the thing out of the box, as it came. Varmint gun or not, I want all my guns to be reliable as if they were fighting guns. In the field, you don't clean your barrel after you shoot five rounds, so why would I do that in my tests?
Here are the unscientific results:
55gn Black Hills FMJ
I shot a couple 5 round groups with this ammo, 2" and 2.26" @ 100 yards. Even though this is Black Hills red box, it's their training / plinking ammo so I didn't expect superb groups. I was out of XM193 on this trip, but I did shoot some the previous week. I didn't measure the groups, but they were in the 2-3" range, which would be expected from XM193
PRVI 62gn M855 green tip
Two 5 round groups, 1.55" and 1.43" @100y
I shot a 10 round group with M855 too. It shot M855 very well, in my opinion. The 10 rounds of M855 are circled. The other holes are from misc 55 gn rounds I had laying around. I didn't notice I was shooting on a used target until I cranked off 6 rounds. It was freakin cold, so the first target that came into view through the scope is what I shot at. Poor situational awareness I guess.
75gn Hornady Vmax Super Performance
The previous week I shot a couple 5 round groups with Hornady Super Performance 75gn Vmax. There 5 round groups were all around1" though again, I didn't measure exactly. I was still shooting with a stock Colt trigger (did not have the Geissele installed yet) so I didn't bother to measure groups because I figured they would not be the best I could shoot. It did shoot a few 1 hole, three round groups with that ammo and stock trigger. Sorry, no photos. You'll have to take my word for it...
69gn Sierra MatchKing BTHP
These were handloads I did on a Lee progressive press using Varget powder and once fired 5.56 cases. I'm new to handloading, so I doubt my hand loads are any better than store match ammo. I did not individually weigh the powder charges, instead relying on the accuracy of the press which can vary +/- 0.15 grains.
I shot several 5 round groups @100y - 1.08" and .93" (which I attribute to poor shooting/frozen trigger finger), .57", .65", .85"
This was a 10 round group with the 69gn SMK ammo. I bet it would shoot 75-77gn SMKs very well.
I also shot two quick groups at 200M with the 69gn Sierra Match King HPBT:
(The first is a 6 round group. I guess I lost count). My point of aim was the bullseye above.
The second group I guessed on the elevation adjustment, went just a little high. I need to chrono a few more rounds and make a ballistics table. I might up the powder charge a bit, however to get a little more velocity. These rounds were shooting mid 2800 fps if I remember correctly. If anyone is reaching for a calculator, thats just over 3/4 MOA at 200y. Good enough for a kill shot on a prairie dog with all five shots.
As I said, this wasn't a very scientific test. I shot everything off the bipod, with a sandbag under the stock. The temp was 12 degrees with a little breeze. My receiver starting icing up from my breath, and my fingers got pretty damn cold by the end of each group.
I shot these groups quickly, just taking breath or two between shots. I also have limited talent. I have no doubt that with match ammo, under ideal conditions, with a more talented shooter than me, this barrel/gun combo would shoot 1/2 MOA or better.
Geissele SSA Trigger
It will take some time for me to really test out the Geissele trigger. I'm not a big two stage fan, but so far I'm happy with it. It was easy to install, and has a great feel to it - it feels less like a 2 stage than other 2 stages, if that makes sense. The break is clean, but it is not sharp. It is a smooth break. If I were to put a 2 stage on a combat gun, I would probably pick this trigger over other 2 stages I've shot, because it feels easier to work through both stages at once if you're shooting quickly at shorter distances, without prepping the trigger.
Vortex Viper 6.5-20 x 50mm Mildot
Vortex, being a local company in my area, treats the LE guys around here great, and they're customer service is top notch. Being a recreational gun, I wasn't looking to drop a ton of cash on glss, but wanted something with mildots and target knobs. It's probably a bigger scope than would be needed on an SPR type gun, but for shooting 8" critters at 300 yards, the extra magnification is nice.
The knobs have a quick zero feature - you pull the knob up and twist to re-zero so you don't have to loosen screws and crap. Side focus parallax, 30mm tube, and the image is bright and crisp. It's even looked good when I've played with it at night. As expected, no problems with fog, going in and out of my warm truck today. I was dinging 18" plates out to 500m, and when I dialed the knobs back to 100y again, it was dead on. I was going to do a box test or something, but it was too damn cold and I wanted to go home.
The magnification adjustment turns smoothly even in cold weather. To correctly use the mildots, the scope must be set on 14 power, which I thought was nicer than 10 power when I was trying to hold over on small steel plates at 500m. Unfortunately, Vortex only offers illuminated reticles in their lower, Crossfire line. Not all reticles are available in all their optic lines. Viper is the highest end scope you can get a mil-dot reticle. Their new Viper PST (precision shooting tactical) is available in MOA/MRADS (no illumination). Likewise with their Razar line.
If this was going to be a working gun, I probably would have opted for a higher end scope. Not saying there is anything wrong with the Viper, I would just use something that has a proven mil/LE record, because that's how I roll (I don't fully trust my EOTech). With time, Vortex might be competitive in that market. I can tell you the guys there are great, their customer service is awesome, and they're products are an incredible value. Really, unless you plan on jumping out of a plane or capping hadjis at 600m, I think a Viper line scope is plenty sufficient for your zombie / prairie dog / etc hunting you might be doing. Use the money you save on training or ammo. The optic rings now are Vortex as well, and they seem pretty solid, but I plan on picking up a LaRue SPR mount just because I have never been disappointed with anything from LaRue.
One thing that was a problem: I currently have the bipod mounted to the VTAC sling mount (the standard sling mounts that come with the rail). They seem to be thicker than standard sling mounts, so if too much lateral pressure is put on the bipod, it pops off. This will be solved with a LaRue mount / bipod combo.
I went with the 9-13" bipod because the tall prairie grass gets in the way when you're shooting varmints. The 6-9" is good for shooting off the hood of the truck, or out the sunroof (yes, we do that) I'll probably take both along when I head out there this summer again.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with the setup. The stock is probably the weak point right now. I'll either throw an A2 on it, or maybe one of the VLTOR collapsible A5 systems. As I said, the BCM barrel is at least a solid 3/4 MOA barrel, if not 1/2 MOA with the right conditions and ammo. The price is great, the quality is awesome, like any of Paul's stuff. The best part, of course, is that it works. 250 rounds or so without any malfunctions using the BCM barrel and BCG. Solid.