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Bolt Action Rifles

ArmaLite AR-30A1 Review

by David Fortier   |  April 23rd, 2013 1

Fortier says that if you are tired of chasing a short supply of ARs, maybe it’s time to try something a bit longer like this ArmaLite AR-30A1, shown here with an IOR Valdada 6-24x50 scope with MP-8 Xtreme X-1 MOA reticle. (Photo by Mike Anschuetz)

ArmaLite is best known for AR-10 and AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, especially the latter, which the company revived in the 1990s. But the Geneseo, Ill., company has also produced bolt-action rifles. Over the years the distinctive AR-30 has been offered in .308 Win., .300 Win. Mag. and the long reaching .338 Lapua Mag.

If you needed even more bang then you could step up to the monstrous AR-50, chambered for the attention-getting .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge. ArmaLite’s designs stood out from the bolt gun crowd. The AR-30, with its huge muzzle brake, aluminum chassis and skeleton stock, bears little resemblance to your run of the mill deer gun-turned precision rifle. Some loved the Fritz Lang Metropolis look, others could give it a pass.

But now’s an especially interesting time for the AR-30. Panic buying of AR-15s and other black guns isn’t about to subside any time soon. You may find ArmaLite AR-10 or AR-15s difficult to find. Bolt-actions should be more readily available, so I decided to look at their new AR-30A1.

As its name implies the AR-30A1 is an evolution of the earlier AR-30. While the AR-50 gets the glory, the AR-30A1 is a bit more practical for most of us.

There’s nothing like a .50 BMG for getting attention at the range, but they are also cumbersome and sport horrendous muzzle blast. Accuracy with readily available military surplus ammunition is usually less than many expect. Also many ranges are not .50 BMG friendly and the large rounds come with an equally large price tag.

For the occasional romp at the range with friends or shooting hard targets? Well, in those cases the big .50 is hard to beat, but I find the smaller AR-30A1 series a bit more practical.

Currently ArmaLite offers the AR-30A1 in two calibers, .300 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Mag. Of the two, the big Finnish Magnum is obviously the head-turner. A truly fantastic cartridge, the .338 Lapua is capable of reaching out to astonishing distances. In the right hands with the right loads this cartridge will groove at 2000 yards and beyond.

Penetration on steel plate, even using regular Lapua FMJ-BTs, is thought-provoking at 600 meters. The chief drawback to this cartridge is simply cost. Loaded ammunition is shockingly expensive. Neither are cartridge cases cheap if you desire to reload. Such big cartridges also empty a powder canister in short order. Still, if you need the horsepower and can pay the price, the .338 Lapua Mag. is quite the ride.

Me? I’m an old fashioned meat and potatoes kinda guy. Sure the Lapua has more zip and sex appeal than an Italian super car. But the cost to cool factor is off the charts. For many shooters the well-respected Win. Mag. simply makes more sense.

On the one hand it offers a noticeable step-up in brute horsepower over the mundane .308 Win. Yet it does it without the wallet-melting expenses of the snooty European round. Plus with the most modern projectiles, such as Hornady’s 208-grain A-MAX, and modern powders, the .300 Win. Mag.’s reach is surprising. So, when I decided to review an AR-30A1 this is the caliber I chose.

Unpacking the ArmaLite I proceeded to paw over the new AR-30A1. Without a doubt it’s a very distinctive looking rifle. Some will love it while others hate it. That’s life. Me? I’m a bit fussy when it comes to bolt guns. I don’t care if it’s ugly, but it better be fast. My first thought examining the AR-30A1 was the bolt resembled, and cycled like, a last-ditch weapon of World War II. It’s certainly no Lee Enfield.

It’s hard not to note the sheer mass of its steel receiver. A modified octagonal design, it measures approximately 7.5 inches long. To allow easy mounting of optical sights a 20 moa incline steel MIL STD 1913 base is bolted to the top of the receiver. The added 20 moa are greatly appreciated when shooting at extended distances, especially with scopes that lack enough elevation adjustment.

To stiffen the action, the receiver is enclosed, with a long, oval ejection port machined into its right side. Riding inside the receiver is a 7.75-inch long bolt with dual opposed locking lugs. It utilizes a separate bolt head that features a simple plunger type ejector.

Like most modern turnbolt designs, the AR-30A1 cocks on opening. The bolt handle is a low profile design and the manual safety is located at the rear of the bolt. The safety is a bit crude looking. Rotate it to the left to fire and to the right to place the rifle on safe.

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