The Mighty Morphing Black Rifle.
Want to polish your carbine skills for pennies? Get bolt-action accuracy at outrageous distances with your AR? Would you like to plumb the potential of a promising wildcat round using a platform that’s already second nature to you? All you have to do is pull two pins on your AR, and slap on a specialized upper. Here are three approaches you might find interesting.
You can buy ammo in case lots, search out and purchase quality remanufactured ammo, pull the handle on your loading press until you’ve got an arm like a fiddler crab, but if you train like me, the skyrocketing price of ammo is killin’ you. And for a lot of my carbine training—snapshooting at close to moderate ranges on multiple targets—it sure helps to be pushing cheap 40-grain .22s downrange rather than costly 5.56 rounds.
I bought a dedicated .22 LR AR clone and tried a few others. They’re good for training noobies on basic AR skills, but for me, they were way too light, balanced all wrong, and they don’t have my duty trigger—not even close—and disciplined trigger control is too important to compromise on. Then I found Nordic Components and their excellent NC22 uppers.
I wanted a setup that would approximate the length, weight, and balance of my truck carbine and my home defense AR as closely as possible. I chose Nordic’s flattop A3-style receiver with a 0.750″ diameter stainless 18″ barrel with an A2 flash suppressor and rifle-length tubular fore-end. The balance point is unchanged, at the forward edge of the mag well. The difference is only 3 ounces in weight and 5/8″ in length—close to perfect!
All NC22 uppers feature a smooth-running unique proprietary bolt system, a working dust cover and charging handle, Nordic’s ventilated handguard, and impressive precision machining. They feed from proven Black Dog polymer .22 LR magazines. I’ve experienced no feeding or function issues.
Make no mistake, this is an excellent low-cost trainer, but it also proved to be an extremely accurate field shooter too. I run drills using an electronic red dot sight, but when I mounted a Leupold 3-9×40 scope and put the carbine in a rest, I popped 40 rounds into a 1″ dot at 50 yards. That goes way beyond a snapshot trainer. Price is $499.
“Just pull the pins on your old upper,” LaRue says, “Swap it with the Stealth, and begin shooting one ragged hole.” Bold talk, but they’ve made good on it time and again. The LaRue Tactical 5.56 Stealth Sniper System LT011 was designed with 0.75″, 100-yard shot groups in mind, but users have consistently exceeded that with even smaller groups at 100, and reports abound of consistent hits on 4″ plates out to 400 yards with Black Hills 77-grain MK262 Mod 1 ammunition (a feat which can be replicated, I’m sure, with other premium rounds).
There are too many special details about the Stealth Sniper uppers to fully cover here, but the basics include a CNC-machined billet receiver with more mass in selected areas to stiffen the unit; a medium-weight contour stainless steel barrel with Wylde chamber and 1:8″ polygonal rifling; a 2-pin proprietary barrel nut system with locking anti-slip plate, and LaRue’s own quad rail assembly which, when set, allows for no movement whatsoever—vital when mounting and dismounting optics, lights and/or lasers. QD swivel sockets are integral at the base of each side.
The rail system’s side and bottom rails are tucked closer to the barrel than the norm, keeping the profile more support-hand friendly and streamlined. Built into the rail system is an efficient heat-sink feature, which draws throat-damaging heat away from the chamber area. The gas block and tube are also slick and low profile. LaRue ain’t talking much about their enhancements to the bolt-carrier group other than to say they “greatly minimize bolt-related failures.” They do say gas key contact areas are precision surface-ground flat for zero gas leakage, then max-staked to eliminate vibration-induced failures.
Barrels are offered in 12″, 16″, 18″ and 20″ lengths, with your choice of handguard lengths from 7″ to 13.2″. My personal choice, based on my preferences in 69- to 77-grain 5.56 loads, primary intended use at 300 to 500 yards, and rail-space needed for my optic and bipod, is the 18″ barrel with 10″ or 11″ handguard. Given the accuracy potential of the unit, I encourage you to carefully consider your ammo, its burn characteristics, and those rail-space and placement factors before ordering. Why not wring the absolute maximum out of a max-built upper?
Every Stealth Sniper System is a virtually handcrafted project, but without the problems often associated with hand fitting. If anything, they are far more rock-solid and forgiving of hard use than standard production units. One ragged hole? Go for it! List price is $1,195.
Would you believe a 6″-barreled AR with ballistics that improve on the .45-70? That’s SSK Industries’ Hoaginator in .458 SOCOM. Of course, you could opt for the same weapon in .300 Whisper or plain-Jane 5.56mm NATO—or, dream up a round, and JD just might build it for you, especially if somebody tells him “No way; even you can’t do that!”
If you’re not familiar with SSK Industries and JD Jones, he’s the wizard who has built Thompson Center Contenders in over 200 calibers, including many of his own highly respected JDJ wildcats; the inventor of the outrageously popular .300 Whisper cartridge, and the guy who can morph your wildest AR configurations into facts. The world’s most dedicated handgun hunters and VIP protection personnel you only see in the backgrounds of news videos form a big chunk of his customer list.
It’s difficult to try to articulate what you can do with SSK uppers, because the phrase “the sky’s the limit” is a pretty fair statement. Each unit is made to the customer’s order, and prices depend on what you stipulate. The only thing you have no choice on is quality. SSK will only build with the best and most appropriate materials and components, like their insistence on Shilen barrels. If and only if Shilen doesn’t make what you need, they’ll find another premium maker.
The stubby, highly concealable 6″ Hoaginator, a collaboration between JD and Frank B. Hoagland, retired Navy SEAL Senior Chief, is their latest project. As an example, a test Hoaginator chambered in 5.56mm ran malfunction-free for over 8,000 rounds, and when it began to hiccup, new gas rings put it back in the “flawless function” category. It’s cool, but my aspirations are more pedestrian.
I’m interested in an AR upper chambered for JD’s new 6.5 MPC round. First, I’m one of many shooters who believe there’s a certain ballistic “magic factor” in the 6.5 slug, and there’s lots of evidence supporting that. Second, since it’s based on a 5.56 NATO cartridge punched out to 6.5, you can use your existing bolt-carrier group and standard 5.56 AR magazines!
JD has worked up a multitude of highly accurate, effective loads for it. Two that catch my eye are first, one that sends a Hornady 95-grain V Max out of a 20″ barrel at 2,697 fps, and the second launches a 107-grain Sierra at 2,525 fps from a 16″. To me, that’s one fine critter-gitter, and an anti-personnel load that should fly smooth, straight and stable past my reasonable range limits.
Anything sound interesting here? Just remember the magic words—PULL… TWO… PINS—and make it happen! Connor OUT
By John Connor
J.D. Jones shoulders his latest darlin’, the amazing multi-caliber “Hoaginator” AR.
Here’s Terri of SSK with her 6.5 MPC rifle.
LaRue Tactical’s Stealth Sniper Systems uppers offer sub-MOA accuracy and extended range.
The NC22 upper in .22 LR by Nordic Components is a great way to save big bucks on ammo.
850 CR 177, Leander, TX 78641
Nordic Components Retail
P.O. Box 429, Hutchinson, MN 55350
590 Woodvue Ln., Wintersville, OH 43953