AR 15 National Match .223


August 11, 2010, 06:52 PM
Crossed over from the rimfire bay to the high-power rifle match this weekend and watched the guys shoot the little black rifles. Mistake. Now, I seem to be interested in a match grade AR-15 with open sights. The only little black rifle I own is a ValMet .223, and I seldom shoot it. I am set up to reload .223 for my CZ-527 Varmint.

What am I looking at to get into a match grade AR? I think my preference would be purchase of a complete rifle, not my own custom build. And finally (long shot) is is possible to get an AR 15 with a LH ejection port? I would prefer to shoot LH. Assume I know nothing about AR's (I don't). Thanks for any advice, suggestions.

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August 11, 2010, 06:58 PM
Stag Arms was the first to offer (I think) and still offer a left eject upper. Don't know if they make a "Match grade" rifle but just check their website. Also note that alot of guys prefer non-chromelined barrels.

August 11, 2010, 07:05 PM
Do you want to compete in organized NRA matches? If so, a right-handed A2 or A4 with 20" barrel is your only option if you want to shoot Service Rifle. Otherwise you're probably looking at a custom-build for a match gun on a lefty-receiver.

Out of the box, Armalite and Rock River are tough to beat for complete rifles. The hot ticket is a White Oak upper ( with a lower and some kind of tuned trigger. White Oak used to tune RRA 2-stage triggers, Jewells and Geiselles are also popular but more spendy. I run a stock Armalite that has been rebarreled with a WOA-chambered Wilson SS barrel with a .223 Wylde chamber.

What you're looking for is a 2-stage trigger, free-floated barrel and good 1/2x1/2 or 1/4x1/4 sights, probably hooded with changeable apertures. Oh, and pet peeve, they are IRON sights, not OPEN sights, and the are APERTURE and POST sights. OPEN sights are for handguns and cowboy action shooters. ;)

Edited: Also, if you are looking at full-course shooting out to 600 yards, you want at least a 1-8" twist barrel, with a 1-7" being perfectly acceptable as well, stainless please. I don't know anybody shooting a chrome-liner barrel, they're not very common in the "match grade" category. ;) Check out the National Match forums over here (, but you have to be a registered user. Us Highpower shooters could talk for hours about our game.

August 11, 2010, 07:07 PM
for off-the-rack rifles that can be competitive you're going to be hard pressed to beat a rock river national match. almost every maker has their own version, but the rra is about as good as it gets for taking it from the box and starting to shoot matches with no stops in between. a-2 version (fixed carry handle) with 1/4 moa sights is 'the standard'. the a-4 version (detach carry handle) is what i run because at the time of my build (i built custom) i didn't trust myself to develop a competitive load with open sights. if i was to do it over again, i would go a-2 because of the greater sight adjustment range.

can't do the left hand thing and be legal for cmp or nra matches - the rifle has to be a pretty close approximation to the m-16 (rh eject).

about half the competitors i shoot with are left handed - they do just fine w/ the right handed rifle.

get the rra nm rifle, a turner sling, and 4-5 spare 20 round mags and you will have a set up that will outshoot you for your first year.

don't know if you handload, but that would be a good second step purchase. hornady 75 grain bthp's or sierra 77 mk's and 23-25 grains of rl-15 is pretty standard load.

third would be a shooting glove or mitt. personal preference - i prefer a mitt - and a $150-500 spotter and stand.

4th would be a quality mat.

5th would be a shooting coat. and that will be about all you'll ever need to win matches.

as a side note... i used to think i shot a lot... actually i did - i shot a lot more than most people. then i got into high power shooting, and my goodness, i shoot by the ton now! having the time of my life, am a better shot than i ever have been with all of my rifles (scoped or not) and handguns.

the initial cash outlay is a little intimidating, but most of it is a one-time or rare occurance, and given the fun-factor, easily the most bang for the buck of all my shooting related gear.

best of luck to you!

August 11, 2010, 07:33 PM
You don't need left handed anyway.

I'm a lefty and I use BCM and Colt. Just get an ambi safety and a BAD lever.

August 11, 2010, 08:18 PM
BAD lever? Something to deflect the brass?
Also, removable handle means it could be scoped whereas a fixed handle is strictly aperture/post correct? And if one shoots at a true 600 yards vs. simulated 600 yards at 200, then the extra adjustment on the fixed handle could be important, correct? I suppose shooting a RH rifle also makes one less of a pariah on the firing line, apt to be exiled to the far left shooting lane.

The local dealer down the street (Palmetto State Armory) is big into black rifles, but primarily a Stag dealer. It would seem, though, that an ambi set up, RH eject would work, is also legal for more matches, and probably easier to re-sell if needed.

So, the NM RR A-2 off the rack seems a reasonable choice. Are used AR's risky (barrels get shot out?)

August 11, 2010, 08:30 PM
Used AR are pretty safe. But only if you get a really fair price, and that just ain't going to happen at a gun shop. Used AR's hold value if they aren't all scratched up.

Better off going new IMO, unless your buying used from a freind at a really good price. Too many shops are selling used rifles near the cost of new.

The Magpul BAD lever is something that makes the Ar much faster to manipulate lefty or righty. Not really a match thing, but all fighting AR should have one, or a Billet lower with ambi controls IME.

Dakota is right though, the RRA national match deos do well at these spec level target shoots, too bad it cost $200 more than my Colt!!!

August 11, 2010, 08:50 PM
agree on everything but the BAD lever. no need for them. and not high power legal

August 11, 2010, 08:56 PM
Really, what a weird rule.

What exactly are the rules your going to have to submit to for this spec class comp??? 20" A4's right. SS is ok?

Like this right:

Or is the detach handle out of bounds?

August 11, 2010, 09:05 PM
There are a couple things I would add. First, I suggest an A2 upper (fixed carry handle). This does give you more elevation and when shooting to 600 yards this elevation can make a difference depending on your ammo choice.

Second, I would avoid the NM rifles from RRA or Bushmaster, etc. The only reason I say this is that the rear sight doesn't come pinned. Pinning the rear sight makes it track true through the elevation range. If it isn't pinned the rear sights has the tendency to twist. If you can find a NM upper with the rear sight pinned I would grab that. I think White Oak sells a pinned upper kit ready to mount onto a lower. Grab a lower with a fixed A1 or A2 buttstock and a quality NM legal trigger and you are set to go.

You can have the rear sight on one of the out of the box NM rifles pinned, but in the end it is going to cost more than getting it done from the start and I would rather a White Oak upper than an RRA or Bushmaster or whatever big box AR as well. For an entry into the NM AR though the RRA/Bushmaster/Armalite are good deals, just not pinned.

August 11, 2010, 09:07 PM
BAD lever already covered, not Service Rifle legal. Also, I'm not 100% sure if the ambi safety is legal per the rules either, would have to go check current rules. I have seen shooters using clip-on brass deflectors, both lefty and a few righties (assume it's so they can find their brass easier).

As far as the detachable versus fixed carry handle and 600 yard elevation, there are match versions of the A4 available which have enough adjustment. It was an issue when they were first allowed, but it has been resolved. Theoretically the fixed handle might have better accuracy, but the Army Marksmanship unit uses the A4 primarily from what I saw at Camp Perry. I read somewhere this was so they can build the pinned rear sight once, and then transfer it from upper to upper as they "rebuild" the guns. Not sure if it's really rebuilding, as they reportedly don't reuse the uppers.

With respect to whether a used specimen may be "shot out", it is a possibility a use National Match AR has a suspect barrel. I figure if you buy it from a match shooter, he/she will be able to tell you about how many rounds are on it. My fear is that the rifle sitting on the used rack at a shop has burned through a portion of its useful accuracy life by being bump fired or other barrel degrading activities. Caveat emptor would seem to apply.

Most of the shooters I shoot with figure a Wilson barrel is good for about 3000-3500 rounds of match life. The better (more expensive) barrels might go 4000-5000 or even a little more, but the Wilsons are relatively inexpensive and you can probably budget replacements simply enough. My current barrel has passed 3000 rounds now, I think my original barrel went 5000-5500 before I was confident it needed to go. I've gone from thinking about barrels as a life-of-the-firearm thing to more like tires on your car; run as long as safe, change when they're done.

Edited: Rules from the NRA for Service Rifle. ( CMP rules are similar, but they do not allow the M-110 as the NRA rules do. Stainless barrels and free-float tubes are okay, gas buster charging handles, curved 20-round mags and collapsible stocks are not. And I do believe ambi safeties and those anti-walk trigger pins fall under "External modifications" and are not allowed.

August 11, 2010, 09:26 PM
Yes, understand about replacement barrels. But it seems particularly peculiar to the little black rifle guys that they swap parts, uppers, lowers,and such, with about the same frequency I try new ammo. Just not to the stage yet where I have any experience or confidence about such tweaks, hence the preference to start with a good complete rifle and go from there.

Even though it seems it would be fun to hang out with the centerfire types and shoot some matches, realistically, I will not be a "competitor" at any high level. That, however, has never stopped my affinity for acquiring another quality firearm, and a RR A4 doesn't seem out of reach. Have a mitt. Have a mat. Have a spotting scope, but need a vertical stand. And I definitely need one of those nifty two-sheel carts the HP guys seem so fond of.

BTW, do they make shooter's jackets for overweight guys witha beer gut pushing the big 60? If they do, it is bound to look pretty weird, I suspect.

August 11, 2010, 11:27 PM
CDNN has Colt 6700 Competition 20" Hbars for $699.00. They may be refurbed or used because the add says they are in good condition. Seems like a great deal though. I would assume they are high power match legal.

August 11, 2010, 11:38 PM
service rifle shooters don't do much parts swapping - not a whole lot to be swapped. triggers and barrels are really the only thing that get much attention.

don't underestimate the 'competitor' side... i started shooting just for fun, and to be a better shot on game. after about my 3rd match, my scores improved a little, and the natural competitor in me exploded out. i'm still in it for fun and hunting purposes, but don't believe for a minute that i'm not tracking every shot, analyzing my misses, refining my position and technique, and stacking myself up against other competitors - hoping to beat them, and pulling it off once in awhile, too.

check creedmore sports for your shooting jacket. i told myself i'd never use one - and then my competitive side was unleashed and now i have a coat... one of the guys i shoot with is probably 6'4" and maybe 450-475 pounds or so... gotta be close to 60...? he has a shooting coat (and beats me on a regular basis, too).

August 12, 2010, 03:40 AM
Second, I would avoid the NM rifles from RRA or Bushmaster, etc. The only reason I say this is that the rear sight doesn't come pinned. Pinning the rear sight makes it track true through the elevation range.

I believe the RRA NM is about as good as it gets for an out of the box match AR. For these RRA uses Wilson barrels and have a good 2 stage trigger.

I have a couple of shooting buddies who have the RRA NM's and they do very well with them. It took them a year to make Expert and Master.

I have another shooting buddy with a RRA lower with a pinned sight WOA upper. WOA uses a Wilson barrel and this buddy's scores are on the rise at each match.

I went another route and have 2 RRA lowers with White Oak Precision uppers on them.

I also believe the best all around twist is 7 to 1. I have one WOP upper with a 6 1/2 to 1 twist. Both love the 77 and 80 gr SMK's. The 6 1/2 is the oldest with a lot of rounds through it. I use this rifle as a loaner and for reduced range matches. It shoots 52 and 53 gr SMK's just fine at reduced matches. The 7 to 1 Kreiger is reserved for full distance courses.

August 12, 2010, 08:39 AM
I didn't mean they weren't shooters, just that I would get an upper with a pinned sight from the factory rather than have it done after the fact.

August 12, 2010, 09:03 AM
i didn't know you could get one pinned from the factory. which factory pins them?

August 12, 2010, 09:24 AM
Uhhh?? What is a pinned sight? And do any put an adjustable iris rear sight on these rifles?

August 12, 2010, 11:15 AM
A pinned rear sight is just what it sounds - drive 2 pins down at diagonally opposite corners of the rear sight base so that the whole sight can't twist when you crank on it. No factory that I know does it if factory means a big name commercial outfit. WOA, Compass Lake and Northern Competition all offer pinned sights - among them you probably have 90% of the uppers at any major match.

Bob Jones offers the "old-fart front sight salvation" lens kits for the rear aperture ... saved my butt for sure, or I'd be shooting one of those pricey match guns by now.

Check out his site and don't hesitate to give him a call.

Also, join the NM forum and read through the multitude of vision related posts for SR shooting.


August 13, 2010, 05:23 PM
get the rra nm rifle, a turner sling, and 4-5 spare 20 round mags and you will have a set up that will outshoot you for your first year.

And very likely his last year too-depending maybe on how old he is. :)

August 13, 2010, 05:47 PM
one of the guys i shoot with is probably 6'4" and maybe 450-475 pounds

I think fat guys have an unfair advantage shooting offhand.

Some days I want to put a spare tire around my waist so I can rest my elbow on it.

I think the pinned rear sight is a complete gimmick.
One side of the sight housing bears against the upper receiver under spring tension already.
This spring tension provides all the indexing function you need.
Pinning the sight just changes the indexing device.

August 13, 2010, 07:30 PM
I think the pinned rear sight is a complete gimmick.

i suspect you're right, but i did it anyway

August 13, 2010, 07:55 PM
i disagree... if you have a solid, tight rear you're probably right. but i have a rear sight that twists noticeably. not a big deal w/ issue sights, but stick a hooded aperture on that and things change a bit.

fat guys... well... he does outshoot me in offhand, he really struggles from seated, and from prone he is...'anchored'.

August 13, 2010, 08:17 PM
I can twist my rear sight housing a little bit.
It only twists when I grab it and deliberately twist it.
Otherwise, it just snaps back right to the same spot.

Its a Colt upper and god-knows-what Nat'l Match replacement rear sight.

When I have the 600-yard elevation on it, I can grab the sight housing and rock it just a little bit from side-to-side. If I don't deliberately rock the mechanism, it naturally comes to rest at the far left side of that "range of rock." Working the windage knob keeps the sight housing pushed all the way to the left too.

I guess if you have a sight that rocks back and forth on its own when the 600 yard elevation is in place, it could be a different story. I wonder whether "pinning" a sight like that would actually eliminate the rock.

August 13, 2010, 08:24 PM

Here is a pic of a pinned rear sight.

August 14, 2010, 07:23 PM
Thanks again, all.

Jon Coppenbarger
August 14, 2010, 07:49 PM
any gunsmith worth his salt can pin the rear sights. It also allows you to safely remove the rear sight ball bearing as it is only one more thing to hang up or wear out.

If you buy a new upper or rifle from any place you should always put a dial on it and check to make sure it runs true and does not hang on any click. You will be surprised to see how many have a problem.

August 14, 2010, 10:11 PM
i didn't know you could get one pinned from the factory. which factory pins them?
WOA will pin them before they ship. It seems like the WOA barrels in the end shoot a little better than the RRA barrels. I think this is mostly in the reamer and not the barrel itself, but I have seen WOA barrels do a little better than RRA barrels. The WOA complete upper is $700. The RRA NM complete rifle runs around $1100. It would be easy to find a complete lower with an RRA NM trigger (or similar) for $400 and be at the same price.

Not saying the factory built NM rifles are bad, just that I think for the same money you can have a better rifle.

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