Testing The Colt LE901-16S Part II Accuracy Testing

Part two of my review of the Colt LE901 will be the results of  my shooting of the gun, its accuracy, performance and handling. I shot the rifle with all of the more popular match ammo and with handloads. I also took the gun out past what the company reasonably expected it to be fired at.  I expected the gun to perform well with its accuracy since it is in essence a larger 6940. The 6940 with its free floated barrel and unique barrel nut has been a very impressive performer.  The results still surprised me a little bit and shocked me with what it did at 1000 yards and beyond.

 

The 1st set up groups were shot using  168 grain federal match, M118LR, Black Hills 175 match. This was the first shooting from the gun after I got it. I placed a Leupold 18x target scope in larue mounts on the upper and got a rough zero then proceeded to shoot for groups.  The groups were shot at 100 yards on a calm day using  bipods and a small rear sandbag rest.  I considered this to be outstanding accuracy from a chrome-lined military 16 inch barrel. The 901 is pretty much a battle rifle, and to expect this accuracy from a battle rifle is not always reasonable. Some battle rifles will give good performance but  2-3 MOA is usually considered  fine for such weapons.

Above picture represents the rifle setup used for all accuracy testing.


The next set of  testing of accuracy was long range. I started out shooting the rifle with the common Federal Gold Medal 168 grain loading. I  used steel gongs at 600 yards the size of a man’s chest and a steel shaped groundhog.  With only 16 inches of barrel, velocity did fall off as expected causing me to need more adjustment on the optics compared to my normal 26-inch bolt-action. Some people seem to think shorter barrel means less accuracy but this is simply not true. You lose velocity but not accuracy. A quality barrel will always shoot and the shorter it gets, the stiffer it becomes and usually will gain a slight edge in accuracy with the shorter stiffness.

Posing beside the target for scale,the T-1 was not used for the 600 yards shot and was installed afterwards.

The groundhog target can be seen over the authors left shoulder. Hits were made easily once the scope was adjusted. Military ball ammo could be used to make repeated hits out to 600 yards though not with the reliability of the match ammo.

The next step tried with the 901 was 1000 yards. For this test I used the popular 168 grain load and my own handlaods of Berger 175 grain Berger VLD bullets with Varget.  I set up the target at 1000 yards and got to work. Because of no cant on the base or the upper I ran out of elevation on the optic. The optic was the Leupold 18x with a 1 inch tube. It is a target varmint scope and not suited to true long range work unless a canter base is used.  Not being able to zero and hold point of aim/point of impact, I had to hold off.  This made wind correction difficult.  It did not take long to become frustrated trying to determine hits on target with using hold off. So I settled on using the steel gong I used to get the rough zero at the distance by putting it a foot behind the paper target. In doing this, I was able to hear the steel ring when I was enough on paper to record a hit. With the wind blowing 8-12 MPH on the day trying to watch the dust from misses was not going to work. The gong behind the target worked well.

Because of the distance and the length of the barrel, the 168 grain load was a no go. I tried but the rounds just could not make it. The 168 has trouble staying super sonic even in a 26 inch barrel at 1000 yards, and in a 16 inch barrel, it was pointless though I did try. A lot of people seem to think the accurate 168 load is the standard but it simply is not. The 175 grain loadings for long range are better in every way and have been in use for sniping for years now in its M118LR form.

Once I fired at 1000 yards and saw the 901s performance I tried my luck at 1200 yards. So I moved back another 200 yards and tried again. The group at 1,200 may not seem like much, but in a carbine  not meant  for this work, it is impressive.  The groups are marked in the picture circled in different color to indicate which groups was shot at the different distances. Blue for 1000 yards and green for 1,200.   The 1000 yard groups does not seem as impressive as it really is at first glance. Wind was catching me and taking the shots off to the left. Since I could not see the hits I used the same hold through the whole string of shots, but if you move the holes over to the right, you will see the most of them would have fallen in the bad guys chest and would have been lethal. The position of the group is my fault , not the fault of the rifle. The 1,200 yard group is better than at first seems as well. It may not be sniping precision but it is enough to make hits at the range or at least provide effective covering fire.  It is surely good enough to disable a vehicle form the distance, or any other machine that needs stopped, or even to direct fire for a machine gun team? Who knows, the possibilities are what you make them.

After this testing I shot the rifle in the usual fashion using tactical drills and IDPA target, Q targets, clay pigeons and steel gongs. Most of this general purpose was done with ball ammo and some match thrown in. After over 1,200 rounds at that point I had not cleaned or lubed the 901. It worked as flawless as it did when I took it out of the box. At times I heated the gun up so much I needed gloves to continue to fire it and even the mount that held the T-1 to the upper was too hot to the touch for bare skin. At no point did the gun have a problem or feel sluggish.  After totaling up those rounds fired with no cleaning I decided to test its accuracy again.  I would test it dirty and if it did not do well I would clean the barrel and try again, showing the effect of fowling if it was drastic.

I used the same optics and mounts as before but for the next test I used a dedicated Benchrest competition style front rest that weighs about 35 pounds, with a sandbag on the rest and a rear bag.  To get all I could from the gun I concentrated and used all my effort to shot the best groups I could. Most groups took longer then 10 minutes for 5 rounds. It is hard work to shoot small groups and total effort when using a milspec trigger and a semi auto. Shooting a semi auto is a different animal then shooting small groups off a bench with a dedicated bolt gun with a target stock and has different needs you have to be aware of.

This set of targets were shot first while the gun was dirty with over 1200 rounds of fouling. I decided there was no need to clean after getting these result.  They are slightly better then the original test for accuracy so I felt cleaning would not help or hurt much. If anything the gun shot slightly better, perhaps do to some break in. After years of experience I have come to the conclusion that barrel break-in is a waste of time.  I can not think of any good reason why the gun did better and I surely never used the conventional “wisdom” of 1 shot, clean, repeat etc etc.

The 10 rounds group of Black Hills 175 grain was shot last and is very impressive to me. I have seen few factory bolt guns that would shoot this well and I do not recall ever seeing a factory M1A or M14 that would do as well.

Here is a picture of all the groups side by side.

The gun now has close to 2000 rounds though it still with no cleaning. I am able to make head shots out to 300 yards with it and stay within the CNS or “A” zone of the badguy targets if the wind is not too bad and I do my part.  If not, head shots are still easy.  I have lubed the BCG since it was bone dry, and have created a nice black slurry that has not done anything negative except ruin my t-shirts.

In Part 3 I will talk about shooting the gun in a more “run and gun”manner, how it feels, what the recoil is like and how I set it up for comfort and shooting it wearing gear.

A Quick Look At a Few New Products

LooseRounds has some pictures of a few new guns that are not easy to find.

First the Colt 6920 with FDE anodizing.

The carbine comes with Magpul MOE furniture in FDE, mags and the  MBUS. The finish color looks better not under high-powered digital camera flash.

Next a few shots of the Daniel Defense new rail and  Front Sight Base and the DD “MK18” Clone.

No bayonet lug on the DD. I am sure this will rankle some nerves, but we need to move on from worrying about a useless feature for a 16 inch barrel.  Worry about marksmanship, not bayonet lugs and you will live longer.

The new DD  flash hider. Not sure what it does different then a standard A2 hider.

The new rail profile.

The DD MK18 clone.

Also got a look at the colt competition rifle.

The colt competition has a FF smooth tubular rail with cooling vents, and a different barrel fluting and gas block.

The colt rifle pictured came with a surefire brake.

The COLT LE901-16S A DETAILED LOOK PART I

Everyone knows Colt.  Colt started a little over 175 years ago and is now one of our country’s oldest gun makers. In the 1960s, Colt secured the rights to the Stoner/Armalite AR15 and AR10.  Back in ’09 Colt introduced the LE6940 to the market as the first major change to the family since the intro to the wildy successful and popular M4 carbine we see everywhere today.  The 6940 had a lot of parts in common with the M4 (known as the 6920 in semi-auto dress). The major difference was the new upper.  The  6940 upper is monolithic and free floats the barrel.  The receiver and the rail of the ’40 are all machined from a one-piece forging and offers the ability to set optics anywhere on the rail and have total stability.  This helps to keeps your zero, well, zeroed.  Another addition was the folding front sight that replaced the fixed military legacy front sight base that dates back to the originals.

Right or wrong, a desire for more power than the 5.56 arose over the last decade because of the GWOT and because our soldiers are sometimes involved in long range contacts.  The tired old M14 was pressed into service in hopes of extending the range of SDMs and to give a little more confidence to those who felt the 5.56 was not quite enough.  In the years since, a lot of companies have started to ramp up and offer their own versions of the AR-series in 30 caliber and anything else they can squeeze into the magazine well of the rifle pattern.  The Armalite AR10 has been around for a while, the KAC was adopted as a sniper weapon by both the US Army and the USMC, and the LMT MWS has seen limited success as a DM rifle for the British military.

It is in the midst of this 30 caliber revolution that people noticed one name oddly absent from the 7.62 AR market game–Colt.  The company had not forgotten or ignored the trend, but it had to make sure to fill contracts worth millions for the US Gov, including the M4 and recent awards for M240 machine guns.  Now that the war seems to be winding down and Colt has more breathing room, they’re expanding and are stating to fire up their impressive R&D again.  Remember that this is a company that has brought out some of the most legendary firearms of the past 175 years.  After the release of the 6940, rumors started about a version chambered in 308 all over the internet with some links to patents to support the rumors.  Then over a year ago at the SHOT show we saw the 901 for the first time. It was shown in several different barrel lengths and finishes.  Now over a year later the 901 is ready to  hit the market.

What makes the Colt LE901 special is not only is it a 308 rifle, but it can be very easily converted to take any milspec 5.56 upper available and made to quality. Colt considers this their “Modular carbine” and it most certainly is.

With a adapter block (which is installed very easily), the modular ambi lower will take any upper you can find.  One extra part and a swap of the buffer spring and buffer give you unlimited combos with the 901.   The rifle takes the SR25 pattern magazines so it will take the Pmag, (and therefore the KAC and LaRue mags as well).  The barrel is 16 inches long and the button-rifled barrel and chamber are chrome-lined.  As with all Colts, the barrel is MPC and proofed–not just in batches, but every single one of them.  The twist rate of the gun is 1/12 which gives you a pretty wide range of bullet weights to use.

Like the 6940 the  901 has a monolithic upper.  It also has a few upgrades the 6940 does not have. The rail of the 901 has QD sockets not just in the front of the rail, but also in the rear of the rail.  Most people want this and it is great to see this added to the rifle. The front sight is like the 6940’s in that it folds, but the difference is that the 901’s front folding sight is not lockable in the up position for those who worry it might fold down in harsh use right when you do not want it to.

As written above, the lower of the rifle is also ambi.  This is another trend that has started in the last decade and one that will be sticking with us in my opinion. The controls are well placed and easy to use.  None of them are stiff or require so much force as to make them useless.  The gun comes standard with a Colt marked troy BUIS.

A nice feature in the lower is the absence of a web blocking the installation of a RDIAS. So if you have one, full auto fire in a colt 308 can be a reality. The FCG parts are all standard Milspec with all the typical colt quality and testing that goes with that. The 308 marked buffer in the gun can be seen in the picture above.

The 16 inch barrel is described by colt as a HBAR but I would call it more of a medium heavy with a straight taper unlike the taper of older colt HBAR carbines of the past. The rail comes off like the 6940 by depressing the lock on the bottom rear with a round or punch. The rifle sent to me by colt defense also needs a screw on each side of the rail taken out for further stripping.  This helps keep the rail from moving at all for  reliability when using IR lasers or other force multipliers.

The bolt carrier group comes apart just like any other AR but with a few slight upgrades. The firing pin has the addition of a firing pin spring that colt advises not to remove.  The gas rings on the bolt are also one-piece instead of three rings like the 5.56 bolt.

The rest of the BCG is  no surprise. It is made to the same standards as any colt rifle meant for hard combat use with everything tested to milspec and Colt’s TDP that has served millions of military, LEO and civilian personnel for years.

The conversion kit that lets you use the 5.56 upper of your choice comes in three parts. The adapter magazine well block, the 556 buffer spring and the standard Milspec  M4  “H” buffer.  It takes less than a minute to convert the rifle over to 556 and having it operate just like your favorite 556 slayer.  Some people are already saying to use the 308 buffer for a softer shooting carbine but this is a bad idea and I will go out on a limb and say if something goes wrong with your rifle in this configuration of 556 with 30 buffer parts, Colt may not warranty it.  That is PURE SPECULATION on my part, but we all know how companies view such things.

The 901 receiver extension or “buffer tube” as it is commonly called, is standard M4 all the way with the normal colt 4 position. In the picture above is the 308 buffer inside its spring on the left with the 556 buffer to the far right. The 5.56 spring is far left next to the block.

The upper can be tilted down for removal of the BCG and cleaning without taking the entire gun apart. If you’re in a hurry, it’s the way to go although it’s easy to remove the upper completely with the block still on the upper.  The pin is captured so there is no fear of losing it.

Picture shows 556 upper opened as far as it will go with block installed and attached to the lower.

A few people have voiced concerns over what mags the lower with adapter block may or may not take. I found every mag tested will work, including uncommon mags.

Above is a pre-ban colt upper in 7.62×39 with a  ’39 mag in the well. The gun runs flawlessly with the commie caliber upper and magazine fit.

Here is a 6940 upper with the surefire 60 round magazine showing off its stuff and working perfectly.

The world standard 6920 ( M4) upper and the beloved 5.56 Pmag in the 901 lower and working 100 percent.

Finally the Colt  HBAR ELITE  CR6724 24 inch barreled precision upper takes a turn on the lower. All uppers ran as expected with no trouble.

In part two I will write about shooting the 901, its recoil, accuracy and how it does out to 1000 yards along with pictures of targets in testing.

The Colt LE901 A Look at the Parts

I got a few pictures of the BCG  stripped to show the differences in the parts and the size compared to a 5.56 and other  308 pattern rifles.

The BCG stripped for cleaning. The firing pin retaining pin slot has a very nice recessed slot to protect it.

Firing pin and firing pin spring. Colt says DO NOT remove firing pin spring from the firing pin.

901 bolt with firing pin.   You can not tell from this picture but the gas ring on the bolt is one piece.

Front view of the bolt face. Notice how thick and strong the lugs are. This is a heavy duty  part and shouts QUALITY.  Just like all Colt rifles, the bolt is MP inspected, proof fired and hardened. Not in batches, but every one.

The inside of the carrier still looks clean even after 500 rounds fired with no cleaning or lube.

Massive cam pin.

Here is the charging handle. Notice the ridge, or lip on the bottom rear.

A look up into the upper receiver. If you look close you can see the part added for piston conversion on later models.

Check back for more testing of the 901’s accuracy out to 1000 yards coming up.