September 06, 2013
Firearms News received for test and evaluation a rifle that will be a serious contender in the wildly popular AR-15 configuration. The M16's method of operation has been subjected to a great deal of criticism. Although much of the harping about direct gas impingement is incorrect, no small arms system is perfect.
While the bolt carrier key can be cleaned by the operator, usually by means of a tobacco pipe cleaner, the stainless steel gas tube cannot be successfully maintained by a soldier in the field, and its replacement requires special tools and training. As the original 20-inch barrel has been compressed to 14.5 inches in the M4 configuration, so popular with Coalition troops in the Middle East, the problems associated with this portion of the M16 system have increased.
Reducing the length of the gas tube shortens the gas pressure curve and increases the potential for bolt bounce and firing out of battery, short-stroking, feeding malfunctions, increased wear on the reciprocating components because of faster cyclic rates and a greater recoil impulse. Many of these problems can be reduced or eliminated by use of a short-stroke gas piston method of operation.
Manufactured in the United States by POF-USA, the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine, as it's designated, is semiautomatic-only and has a heavy contour 14.5-inch (368.3mm) button twisted rifled barrel to which has been permanently pinned and welded a 1.5-inch muzzle brake that brings the barrel length to 16 inches (406.4mm). The POF Model 00499 Carbine is based upon the AR-15 configuration, but uses a short-stroke piston method of operation and is chambered for the immensely popular 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge.
The Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine has a Rock Creek 5R, 4150 MIL-B-11595, chrome-moly vanadium alloy steel barrel (machine gun rated) with five grooves and a 1:8 left-hand twist. This twist rate is an excellent compromise for accurately accommodating a substantial range of projectile weights.
Starting with a Rockwell C hardness of 28-32, after heat-treating the barrel hardness is 70 Rockwell C. The barrel has a black nitride finish. The barrel is fluted to reduce weight, increase strength, increase the surface area for improved heat dispersion and because it looks good.
The surface area of the fluted barrel is 51.139 square inches compared to 47.635 square inches for a standard M16A2 M4 barrel. The bore is corrosion resistant and 10 times thicker and harder than MilSpec chrome lining. The barrel extension is machined from high-grade steel and heat treated for an increase in strength of more than 30% over existing MilSpec and features an enhanced feed ramp to increase feeding reliability.
Overall length of the rifle is 35.25 inches (895mm) with the stock fully extended and 32 inches (813mm) with the stock fully collapsed. The weight, empty, is 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg). The manufacturer's suggested retail price, complete with one 30-round Magpul magazine, a hard case and factory instruction manual is $2,319.99, but without either emergency iron or optical sights.
The muzzle brake installed on our Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine test specimen is just that, a muzzle brake, not a flash suppressor. As a consequence of the laws of Newtonian physics, devices attached to the muzzle end of a rifle barrel invariably are successful in addressing only one parameter. The POF brake, a proprietary design, has three oval-shaped ports on both the right and left sides, at 3 and 9 o'clock. There are no ports at the 6 o'clock underside position.
At the top of the brake, at about 1 o'clock, there are three circular ports and a single circular port at approximately 11 o'clock. There are five impact tips at the front of the brake.
The effect of this port geometry is as follows. The flash signature is significant and comes principally from the oval ports on each side of the brake. But, the size and character of a rifle's flash signature is principally a function of the cartridge's propellant, not any type of device attached to the muzzle.
Muzzle jump and the recoil impulse are both imperceptible and completely controlled, permitting extremely fast target reacquisition after each shot. As a consequence of this brake, the now almost imperceptible recoil impulse becomes a completely linear vector in parallel to the barrel's axis.
The selective-fire model of this rifle features excellent full-auto burst control using this brake. With muzzle devices you must select whether you want to diminish the flash signature or the recoil impulse and muzzle jump. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
The brake is machined from 4140 chrome moly steel and nitride heat-treated. A jam nut instead of washers was used to attach the muzzle brake to the barrel, as it's easier to install in this manner and puts less stress on the barrel. And as previously stated, to make this firearm NFA compatible, the muzzle brake has been pinned and welded permanently in place.
POF upper and lower receivers are machined from 7075 aluminum billet stock. POF receivers have 85% more wall thickness than most AR-15-type receivers, providing a substantial increase in strength and significantly reducing flex during the operational cycle. The solid aluminum billet results in more uniform dimensions with improved heat dissipation.
The short-stroke piston method of gas operation used on the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine is similar to that found on the FN FAL series. The gas regulator has three positions. When the regulator is rotated so that the rounded surface of the regulator's front face is at 6 o'clock, the system has been adjusted for normal operation.
When the rounded surface of the regulator's front face is at 12 o'clock, more gas is bled into the atmosphere. This is the position used when a sound suppressor has been attached. This is necessary because sound suppressors invariably increase the rearward impulse of the recoiling components as a consequence of the increased amount of blowback pressure they introduce into the system.
In addition, bleeding more gas into the atmosphere brings the cyclic rate on selective-fire models back down to specified levels and reduces wear on the reciprocating parts of both selective-fire and semiautomatic-only versions.
If the regulator is rotated 90° counterclockwise in the third position, all gas is completely blocked from the system and the rifle must be manually operated. There are certain clandestine operations were the ejection of empty cases is not desired. Finally, rotating the regulator 90° clockwise enables the regulator to be removed.
Another truly significant aspect of the entire short-stroke-piston-gas-operated POF rifle series is the amount of design engineering that was focused on the location of the key on top of the bolt carrier. Because of the key's position behind the cam pin, its interaction with the push rod — or rear end of the piston — results in carrier movement without any tilt on a flat linear plane.
This is important for two reasons. From the mechanical engineering perspective, the all too common issue of bolt bounce is almost completely eliminated. Secondly for safety and liability reasons, M16/AR-15 internal components cannot be installed in the POF system.
The bolt carrier, gas plug, gas piston and unique roller cam pin have NP3 plating. This process, an exclusive coating of the Robar Companies, Inc., is a surface treatment for metals and metal alloys that provides the appearance of satin electroless nickel by combining sub-micron particles of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, i.e., Teflon) with autocatalytically applied nickel/phosphorus.
The result is a very accurate, dry-lubricated, low-friction surface that is extremely resistant to wear. As the PTFE is evenly distributed and locked into the nickel/phosphorous matrix, when wear occurs, fresh particles of PTFE are exposed to keep the surface lubricated. NP3 has a high lubricity and low friction co-efficient. No lubricants are required on any metal surface so treated and powder residue and carbon fouling can be easily removed with a dry cloth. NP3 has a non-reflective satin gray appearance.
The distinctive Burnt Bronze finish on this rifle was obtained by the Cerakote process, which is one of the toughest and most durable finishes that can be applied to a firearm. Cerakote is a clear ceramic compound suspended in liquid polymer. It is most certainly not a porcelain compound as some believe.
Cerakote bonds mechanically to the firearm's surface and to the adjacent coating molecules. It is not an ionic bond. To put it another way, when the coating is chipped, the Cerakote molecules remaining are still bonded to the surface and remain "unaffected" by the molecules that have been removed.
Other coatings are subject to additional failure at that point because adjacent molecules are dependent upon one another to maintain surface adhesion. How does it differ from the other coatings available for firearms? While there are some similarities between all the coatings on the market, such as resistance to various chemicals and lubricity, i.e., most coatings reduce the amount of lubrication required to operate a firearm with enhanced reliability, the major difference just described above can be demonstrated by the so-called Taber scratch test.
This tests adhesion of the coating to the firearm's surface under friction and is obviously an exceptionally important measurement of the coating's ability to protect the firearm.
The Taber scratch test is conducted as follows. An abrasive disk rotates around a central axis. Each revolution is counted and the number of revolutions required to remove 1 mil (one thousandth of an inch) of coating is recorded. It has been clearly documented that Cerakote is approximately 10 times more durable than any other firearm coating on the market. That's a truly substantial difference.
The barrel is press-fit, rather than slip-fit to the upper receiver, as this provides a more positive lock between these two components. As the method of gas operation is by short stroke piston, the bolt has no gas valves (or rings) as found on the M16/AR-15 series. These gas valves must be frequently replaced, as they quite literally burn up.
The bolt head is made from Carpenter 158 and the carrier from 8620 steel. Both are carburize heat treated as per MilSpec. One of the most outstanding proprietary features of the POF rifles series is the bolt carrier's patented roller cam pin, which completely eliminates excessive wear on the upper receiver as the bolt group reciprocates.
Another unusual feature of all POF AR-type rifles is the heat sink barrel nut, which dissipates heat away from the critical throat, upper receiver, bolt and bolt carrier areas and increases the rifle's service life. This heat sink barrel nut, acting as an extension of the receiver, increases the upper receiver's overall strength and diminishes flex. POF's 5.56x45mm NATO heat sink barrel nut has a total surface area of 50.973 square inches. Compare this to the 8.565 square inch area of a standard M16A2 M4 barrel nut.
It also provides strength to the free-floating MIL-STD-1913 quad rail system. The patented POF quad rail system (or MRR — Modular Railed Receiver), which is the front half of the two-piece upper receiver, has an 80% increase in wall thickness and replaces structural integrity that was lost when the M16A1 carrying handle was removed from subsequent models in this series.
The location and size of the MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces on POF's MRR are excellent. The 12 o'clock rail interface is 16.5 inches in overall length and permits the simultaneous installation of emergency iron sights and a wide variety of optical sights. The 6 o'clock rail is 9.5 inches in length and will accommodate both vertical grips and bipods at the same time. There are short MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. The interface at 3 and 9 o'clock is 3.5 inches. The 9 o'clock interface has a sling mounting point attached to it. The 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock rail positions are most commonly used to attach combat slings and weapon lights. The lights are most often attached in coordination with a vertical grip at 6 o'clock.
This rifle came equipped with ERGO Full Cover Rail on the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock rail interfaces. Made of Santoprene, in black, coyote brown, dark earth, foliage green, and OD green, these rail covers come in three lengths: short (covers five rail slots), medium (ten slots) and long (15 slots). They are widely used by professional operators everywhere.
The upper receiver has the usual obligatory M16/AR-15 features: a spring-loaded dust cover over the ejection port, an M16A2-type empty case deflector immediately to the rear of the ejection port and the one single feature that Dianne Feinstein could add to her list of an assault gun's terrifying features without offending me, the ubiquitous and vestigial (in biology, a rudimentary or degenerate, usually nonfunctioning, structure that is the remnant of an organ or part that was fully developed or functioning in a preceding generation or an earlier stage of development) so-called "forward bolt assist," which I have never seen used once during my experiences in ground combat in four wars — yet it just refuses to go away. The rifle is furnished with a so-called tactical-type charging handle, which was designed to direct the force off of the roll pin and into the body of the charging handle during support-hand-only manipulations.
The lower receiver's magazine well is both enlarged and flared to facilitate installation of magazines under high-stress environments. The trigger guard is enhanced by enlargement and, in my opinion, strengthened significantly by its one-piece configuration. It's large enough to permit the use of gloves without the necessity of a hinged bottom, which structurally weakens that area of the lower receiver. The selector lever and the bolt hold open release controls are ambidextrous, with release buttons on each side of the lower receiver.
Another of the many unique features of POF rifles is found on the vertical bolt hold open release lever on the left side. Its axis pin has a threaded tip to prevent it from drifting out of place, a small, but important feature. The magazine catch button is located on the right side, protected from accidental release by an integral three-sided guard just to the rear of the magazine-well.
Moving to the rear of the rifle POF has installed a Magpul Industries Corporation M4 Carbine Collapsible Buttstock, Commercial Model. There are two models of this stock. The buffer tube on MilSpec M16/AR-15 has a diameter of 1.14 inches, while that of a so-called commercial AR-15 is 1.17 inches in diameter.
Designed for light, fast action, the streamlined, skeletonized A-frame profile avoids snagging and shields the release latch to prevent accidental activation. The extra-power lock mechanism uses a premium chrome-silicon spring to avert auto-collapse failure and maintains strength by resisting spring relaxation.
The CTR buttstock also features a supplemental friction lock system that eliminates wobble for enhanced weapon stability and accuracy. The Commercial Model includes an extended .55" rubber buttpad to provide positive shoulder pocket purchase and also accommodates longer slant-back buffer tubes. The CTR is far and away Magpul's most popular collapsible buttstock.
POF installed the excellent Magpul MOE (Manufacturer's Original Equipment) pistol grip. This ergonomic, hand-filling design combines aggressive texturing with storage capability. The one-piece reinforced polymer construction provides simplicity while still maintaining the durability needed to withstand operational environments. The MOE grip accepts optional storage cores for gear storage and includes a basic grip cap.
A substantial number of people now use Magpul magazines almost exclusively. The polymer M16/AR-15 magazines manufactured by Magpul Industries Corporation are every bit as rugged and reliable as those of the Kalashnikov series and maybe even more so.
Available in either black, green or flat dark earth in 20- or 30-round capacity, Magpul magazines feature a four-way, anti-tilt follower that enhances feeding reliability, a constant internal curve for consistent round stack regardless of round count, a true 20- or 30-round capacity that eliminates the need to down-load, and a floorplate design that aids in magazine extraction from pouches and eases disassembly.
Available as an optional feature is a magazine with ambidextrous round indicator windows and it's the version I prefer. One feature I do not care for is the snap-on dust cover that also protects the feed lips. During the Korean War, U.S. troops quite literally ripped their fingernails off trying to tear away the protective translucent covers on their M3A1 "Grease Gun" .45 ACP submachine gun magazines in high stress battlefield environments. Just discard the Magpul dust cover and you still end up with the best M16/AR-15 magazine ever fielded. I especially like the Magpul 20-round magazines for accuracy testing, as 30-round magazines will invariably "monopod" when shooting off the bench.
All of POF's rifles are continually evolving, as important proprietary innovations are added, without fanfare and sometimes unnoticed by the less observant. One example of this is their buffer tube. The tube has been extended at the 6 o'clock position with a small slotted lip. The spring-loaded pin retaining the buffer now rides in this slot.
The effect of this enhancement is twofold. The bolt carrier now impinges directly on the buffer tube, which completely eliminates the possibility of so-called "carrier tilt." Further, if the stock assembly's threaded retaining ring loosens, the buttstock remains firmly held in place and cannot rotate in either direction.
Another example of innovation recently introduced by POF's engineering staff is the reduction of the gas piston's length by .43". This seemingly trivial modification has the effect of diminishing the system's moving mass and thus increasing the cyclic rate of the reciprocating components in both full auto and semiautomatic fire.
Another interesting feature just added is POF's new EFP (Enhanced Finger Placement) trigger. Its front face design naturally guides the tip of the trigger finger to the lowest point on the trigger for a consistent and crisp single stage let-off. While factory specified to be 4 pounds, the trigger pull weight of our test specimen was a superb 3.25 pounds; maybe too light for some, but perfect for me. POF also uses a KNS anti-walk bar on each side of the trigger's axis pin to prevent it from migrating out of the lower receiver.
Precision Reflex BUIS
We installed BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights) from Precision Reflex, Inc. Their rail mounted, flip-up front sight (#05-0028DE) and flip-up rear sight (#05-0029DE) are available in Dark Earth, which closely matches the rifle's burnt bronze Cerakote finish.
The front sight is designed just like the barrel-mounted flip-up front sight. It can be used on any MIL-SD-1913 rail interface and in the rear position lies to the rear. Its square post can be adjusted for elevation zero and has a protective hood. It carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $118.
The flip-up rear sight is designed to work on a same-plane aperture system that allows the operator to choose between two different apertures (large and small) without losing zero. It can be installed on any MIL-STD-1913 rail interface and is fully adjustable for windage zero. Its low profile permits the use of optical sights and top rails and it folds into a locked and secure position to the rear. When extended, the distance from the base of the sight to the center of the large aperture is 1.4 inches. The manufacturer's suggested retail price of this sight is $137.
Vickers Combat Application Sling
A properly designed combat carry sling is an absolutely essential piece of equipment. Blue Force Gear, Inc. markets an interesting line of slings designed by my personal friend, Larry Vickers (who is respected and highly regarded throughout the special operations community and among those in professional small arms training circles. Larry spent over 20 years in the U.S. Army, with his entire career in SpecOps. The last 15 years of his army career was in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment — aka Delta, most often referred to as the "Delta Force" — the American military's most elite unit). The Vickers Combat Applications Sling is a two-point configuration that permits a variety of carry and shooting positions. An ambidextrous design, it's sized for use over body armor. Fabricated from the highest quality materials and stitching, its quick-adjustment capability enables the operator swiftly to adjust the sling's length without excess webbing hanging loose.
Various methods of attachment are available and the sling is available in black, coyote brown, olive, MultiCam, camo green or foliage green (US Army ACU pattern). It costs $45. Better yet, however, is the padded version of the Vickers Sling, which features a 2x22-inch closed-cell foam pad. The Vickers Padded Sling costs $55 and I recommend it highly as it's without doubt the most comfortable combat carry sling I have ever slung around my shoulders.
Best of all is the Padded Vickers Cobra Sling with a quick-release buckle kit for $120. The Cobra buckle is usually fielded in life-support scenarios and will not open under load. It's this latter sling system that I most often field and for this POF rifle we chose one in coyote brown.
If you attach a combat-carry-type sling to a tactical rifle using the sling mounting points directly under the rifle, the rifle will invariably roll outboard inhibiting the operator's ability to deploy the weapon quickly from the slung position. Furthermore, slings of this type are essential when the operator needs to transition to his handgun and the sling must retain the rifle as close as possible to the torso. Attaching the Vickers Combat Applications Sling to the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine was easy because there are front mounting points on the left side of the rifle and rear mounting points on the left and right side of the Magpul CTR buttstock.
A Blue Force side release swivel ($15) was used to attach the sling to the front of the rifle and a push button sling swivel ($16) was used for the CTR buttstock's mounting hole.
We also fielded one of Blue Force's Ten-Speed Triple M4 Mag Pouch's (#HW-TSP-M4-3-CB for $33) with the POF Carbine. This unique pouch provides the performance required by professional operators with both speed and security. This pouch lies flat when empty for less bulk and a streamlined appearance and is the lightest weight magazine pouch available.
This multi-use pouch is designed to hold three M16/AR-15 30-round, metal or polymer magazines, flash bangs, trauma dressings or similar-sized items. It's also fully compatible with and attaches to all MOLLE platforms. It features the patent-pending Helium Whisper attachment system and is constructed with a combat-tested, high performance laminate that reduces weight 20% up to 50%, while equaling or exceeding the durability of 1000 denier Cordura. This is truly an outstanding piece of equipment.
The Vickers Combat Applications Sling's quick-adjustment capability enables the operator to swiftly adjust the sling's length without excess webbing.
Blue Force's Ten-Speed Triple M4 Mag provides the performance required by professional operators with both speed and security. MagPul magazines fit perfectly.
Kokalis says short-stroke, piston-type M16/AR-15 rifles are significantly easier to clean and maintain than Stoner's original gas impingement system.
Lines of ARs await final assembly at the POF factory. POF is making them, but
is heavily backordered, as
are almost all those manu-
facturing AR-15 rifles.
Kokalis has been a POF fan for a long time; one of his favorites is the P415-11-MRR-223 SBR, shown here with an Elite Iron sound suppressor.
All POF AR-type
rifles use a heat sink barrel
nut that dissipates heat away
from the critical throat, upper
receiver, bolt and bolt carrier areas.
The POF Modular Railed Receiver increases wall thickness 80%, replacing structural integrity lost when the carrying handle was removed from flattop ARs.
Right side controls include a fire selector lever, horizontal bolt hold-open release lever, and the vestigial and never used so-called bolt forward assist.
Left side controls include the vertical bolt hold open release lever and fire selector lever. The anti-walk bar prevents the axis migrating out of the receiver.
The gas regulator has three positions. When it's rotated so the rounded surface is at 6 o'clock, the system has been adjusted for normal operation.
The charging handle is designed to direct the force off of the roll pin and into the body of the charging handle during support-hand-only manipulations.
The trigger's front face design naturally guides the tip of the trigger finger to the lowest point on the trigger for a
consistent and crisp let-off.
The bolt release lever's axis pin has a threaded tip to prevent it from drifting out of place, a small, but important feature to increase reliability.
The POF muzzle brake has three oval-shaped ports at 3 and 9 o'clock. Muzzle jump and the recoil impulse are both imperceptible and completely controlled.
Magpul's CTR butt-
stock features a friction lock
system that eliminates wobble
for enhanced stability and accuracy. It's their most popular buttstock.
The SureFire X300 Ultra WeaponLight produces 500 lumens of blinding white light focused by a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens that provides a tight beam.
The Precision Reflex flip-up front sight for rail mounting is designed just like its barrel-mounted equivalent. It's adjustable for elevation zero.
PRI's flip-up rear sight allows the operator to choose between two different apertures without losing zero. It is fully adjustable for windage.
The Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact Riflescope is the shortest 1-4X optical sight on the market today; it's ideal for CQB environments.
Nightforce's 5.5-22x56mm NXS scope with the MOAR reticle pattern was exactly the thing for accuracy testing the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine.
SureFire X300 Ultra WeaponLight
To the MIL-STD-1913 rail interface at 3 o'clock we attached SureFire's brand new X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight. Already one of SureFire's bestsellers, the powerful X300 Ultra features a high-performance LED that produces 500 lumens of blinding white light focused by a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens that provides a tight beam with extended reach and significant surround illumination for peripheral vision.
This virtually indestructible and incredibly efficient LED generates tactical-level light — more than enough to completely overwhelm your opponent's dark-adapted vision — for 1.5 hours per set of batteries. The high-strength aerospace aluminum alloy body is MilSpec hard anodized for toughness and is O-ring and gasket sealed to make it weatherproof.
The new X300 Ultra can be attached to either a handgun or rifle as its patented Rail-Lock system permits quick detachment to and removal from either Universal or MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces. Its integral ambidextrous push/toggle switch provides one-finger operation for either momentary or constant-on operation. Optional grip switches for pistols and an XT07 tape switch for rifles are available.
Since they introduced their first flashlight in 1985, SureFire has come to totally dominate the field of combat flashlights. I have been writing about their products for many years prior to that, as Dr. John Matthews founded Newport Corporation in 1969, which still specializes in industrial lasers. After Matthews developed a laser aiming device for firearms; he, Peter Hauk and Ed Reynolds founded the spin-off company, Laser Products Corporation on 17 October 1979. This became SureFire, LLC in the year 2000.
Because an LED flashlight emits light from only one bandwidth of the visible color spectrum, it appears to project a somewhat bluish light that is softer and less harsh than that generated by a xenon bulb. Coating a blue LED with a yellow phosphor creates the illusion of white light but with a distinctive bluish cast.
In addition, LED flashlights provide longer battery life than incandescent light sources because they are more efficient with regard to lumens per watt. Thus equivalent amounts of light are produced with less energy. Further, a number of SureFire's LED flashlights are run at lower than maximum levels and that also decreases the energy consumption. SureFire is committed to the LED concept and more and more lights in their product line feature this type of illumination.
The X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight features a body length of 3.60 inches and a weight of only 4.0 ounces with batteries. The bezel diameter is 1.13 inches. It uses two 123A lithium batteries. The price of the X300 LED Weaponlight is $299 and at this writing they are backordered for at least 10 weeks. Believe me, it's worth waiting for as this is currently SureFire's best WeaponLight for handguns. The new 500-lumen X400 WeaponLight, which features a laser aiming device has not as yet gone into series production.
Selecting an optical sight for a carbine of this type presents a dilemma of no small consequence. For actual tactical deployment in an urban operational area, a scope with a magnification range of 1X to no more than 4X is clearly indicated. However, it's impossible to determine the rifle's real accuracy potential with magnification that low. As a result, whenever reviewing AR-type rifles in caliber 5.56x45mm NATO we almost always select two scopes, one for actual tactical applications and one to test the rifle's accuracy potential.
Several years ago, Nightforce Optics, Inc. seemingly came out of nowhere and in an incredibly brief time has managed to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in the exacting arena of benchrest and tactical optical sights. Lightforce USA, Inc. was incorporated in 1991 in the state of Washington.
Their quite challenging corporate goal was to build the ultimate optical sight for a specific application and yet remain price conscious. While not as expensive as some European scopes, they boast of the best possible internal components made for the long haul and the kind of abuse optical sights are subjected to in military environments. They are used exclusively now by the U.S. Navy SEALs in Afghanistan and with ever greater frequency by U.S. Army Special Forces. Their initial area of prominence was in the areas of benchrest and extreme long-range .50 cal. benchrest competition. Nightforce scopes won so many matches that they were sought out by the U.S. military to address some urgent Mission Essential Need Statements (MENS).
That they succeeded in supplying the U.S. special operations community with the highest possible quality in a truly rugged package is now well beyond dispute. Designers of very high magnification scopes must address three areas of concern: 1) resolution, 2) color correction [aka "fidelity"] and 3) light gathering capability. Of these three factors, Lightforce USA has always emphasized resolution. I can truthfully say that the many Nightforce optical sights I have tested have the crispest, almost blindingly sharp image of any telescopic sight I have ever snapped up to my eyeball. Scopes matched only by a German scope manufacturer whose optical sights sell for considerably more.
I selected the 5.5-22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope with their MOAR reticle pattern to interface with the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine for the accuracy portion of our test and evaluation. The tube diameter of the 5.5-22x56 NXS scope is 30mm (1.18 inches). A 30mm tube with its thicker walls has considerably more cross-sectional area inside the tube than most 1-inch tubes with their thinner walls.
Once this additional area is available, the erector tube inside the scope body (which carries all lenses except the ocular and objective lenses) and its lenses can be increased in size to transmit more light and thus yield greater resolution and a brighter image. Furthermore, a heavy 30mm housing is more shock-resistant than any 1-inch tube.
The air-to-glass surfaces of all Nightforce scopes receive a proprietary broadband multi-coating. Their coating materials maintain tolerance limits of 1/4-wave deposition, or .000005", and exceed the toughest Mil-Spec abrasion test. This significantly adds to their performance in low light and twilight environments.
The eye relief is 3.9 inches (99mm). This is an area of considerable concern with variable-power scopes of high magnification. With many variable-power scopes, as you adjust the magnification upward, the eye relief becomes ever more critical until at the highest magnification, unless the operator has placed his eye precisely at the right distance from the ocular there literally won't be an image. This can be devastating in a high stress scenario.
The designers of the 5.5-22x56 Nightforce scope have provided just enough leeway in the eye relief so the operator can easily obtain an image at the highest magnification without having to shift his head back and forth to hit a very shallow "sweet spot." This is a vitally important aspect that is unfortunately rarely discussed in reviews of optical sights.
The field of view is 17.5 feet (5.3 meters) at 5.5X magnification and 4.7 feet (1.4 meters) at 22X magnification. The internal adjustment range is 100 moa for elevation and 60 moa for windage. The click values of the adjustment turrets are 1/4 moa and quite positive. The mounting length of the scope is 6.6 inches. Its overall length is 15.2 inches with a weight of 32 ounces. The exit pupil diameter is 10.2mm at 5.5X magnification and 2.5mm at 22X magnification. The ocular lens diameter is 36mm and the objective diameter is 56mm.
Pulling outward on the parallax adjustment knob on the left side of the scope turns on the red illuminated reticle pattern. Push inward to turn it off. The reticle crosshairs are glass-etched and the new MOAR reticle pattern, of the many available, was chosen as it was designed for tactical applications.
The Nightforce MOAR reticle pattern is a major advancement in precision shooting. A floating center crosshair 2 moa wide and 2 moa in height provides a precise aiming point — especially on smaller targets at longer ranges. Both 1 moa elevation and windage spacings provide more accurate rangefinding and hold-offs compared to ordinary reticles with coarser markings.
The Nightforce MOAR has thicker line subtensions than their traditional reticles and is marked with "10", "20" and "30" moa elevation indicators (with "10" and "20" windage indicators), making for extremely rapid, easy-to-view acquisition under field environments.
The MOAR reticle pattern is more intuitive, easier to see in low light and more visible against dark backgrounds and in shadows than other moa reticle patterns. Operators will also find the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock posts are excellent assets for extremely rapid target acquisition. The MOAR evolved from the popular Nightforce NP-R1 reticle pattern.
For use in ranging, the power setting must be set to 22X magnification. The elevation and windage marks can be used for ranging objects when the size of the target is known. Bracket the target from top to bottom, or side to side, within the marks. The distance to the target can then be determined using the following formula: target size in inches divided by moa and then multiplied by 100 equals the distance to the target in yards.
Our Nightforce 5.5-22x56 NXS scope is equipped with another unique feature called ZeroStop. This allows the operator to find his original zero quickly and accurately in less than ideal situations, especially if the zero setting has been lost. You can set the stop at any zero/range you choose. After this, you can quickly return to the zero point by moving the turret down (clockwise) until you reach the stop point.
I used a set of Nightforce Ultralite rings to interface the scope to the GG&G Scout Rail. The Nightforce Ultralite rings feature CNC-machined 7076-T6 hard-
anodized black aluminum bodies and titanium beta series crossbolts and jaws. This unique selection of materials provides exceptional strength quite uncharacteristic of most lightweight scope rings.
Tests have demonstrated that this combination of materials results in a scope ring stronger than steel. The ring crossbolts were tightened to exactly 65 foot-pounds. A set of the Ultralite rings cost $170. The Nightforce 5.5-22x56 NXS scope with the ZeroStop option and 1/4 moa MOAR reticle pattern carries a manufacturers suggested retail price of $2,020. My only criticism of the Nightforce scope concerns the Bikini-type rubber protective lens covers supplied. I cast them aside immediately and replaced them with Butler Creek Flip Open Scope Covers from Brownells, Inc. (Dept. SGN, 200 South Front Street, Montezuma, Iowa 50171-1000; phone: 800-741-0015; fax: 800-264-3068; website: http://www.brownells.com).
The 5.5-22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope was attached to the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine rifle's 12 o'clock rail interface by means of a GG&G Accucam Quick-Detach MIL-STD-1913 Scout Rail. This quick-detach rail raises the line of sight by a half-inch and this additional height was needed to clear the rail interface because of this scope's exceptionally large objective.
Designed for a wide variety of optical sights, its integrated Accucam Quick-Detach lever system provides the operator the option to quickly utilize other optical devices. Its rail is machined from solid billet 6061 T6 aluminum alloy with a Type III hard coat anodized matte black MilSpec finish, its tension on the rifle's rail can be adjusted and it provides zero repeatability of 1/2 moa. The Accucam mechanism itself is machined from solid billet 4140 steel and manganese-phosphated matte black to MilSpec. The price is $158.95.
For tactical deployment with this rifle, my recommendation would be the excellent Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact Riflescope. The shortest 1-4 power optical sight on the market today, it's ideal for CQB environments and 3-gun competition. The eye relief is 3.5 inches (90mm).The field of view is 100 feet (30.5 meters) at 1X magnification and 25 feet (7.6 meters) at 4X magnification.
The internal adjustment range is 100 moa for elevation (12 o'clock turret) and 100 moa for the 3 o'clock windage turret (i.e., 27.3 MIL for both elevation and windage). The click values of the adjustment turrets are 1/4 moa (0.1 Mil-Rad) and also quite positive. The mounting length of the scope is 5.4 inches. Its overall length is 8.8 inches and the weight is 17 ounces. The exit pupil diameter is 16mm at 1X magnification and 6mm at 4X magnification. The ocular lens diameter is 33mm and the objective diameter is 24mm. The tube diameter is 30mm (1.18 inches).
The unit shipped to us for test and evaluation has the ZeroStop option, not entirely necessary in my opinion with a scope of such low magnification most often used at relatively short engagement distances.
Three reticle patterns are available for the Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact Riflescope. We selected the popular FC-2 reticle, which consists of a center dot that provides a precise aiming point, surrounded by a larger circle that gives a wider zone for fast target acquisition or shots at moving targets. A triangle under the circle can be used as a 10 moa holdover point from the center dot and as a ranging tool. This is accompanied by a tapered horizontal line on each side of the circle with the smallest end adjacent to the circle.
This quite simple reticle pattern is ideal for the CQB tactical applications for which this scope will be most often employed. Only the center dot and circle can be illuminated. Rotating the 9 o'clock turret controls the red illumination and its intensity.
The Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact Riflescope comes with a set of rubber lens covers and a new Power Throw Lever (PTLTM), which is a threaded knob that replaces the flush insert on the magnification knob on the ocular and allows you to power up or down instantly. The scope carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $1,561.
We used a Precision Reflex Gator Grip Rail Riser Platform with 30mm high rings to attach the Nightforce 1-4x24mm NXS Compact scope to the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine. This system is available with either #05-068-30L low (1.35 inches from the top of the receiver to the scope centerline) or #05-068-30H high (1.63 inches) rings.
The Gator Grip Rail Riser has a heavy spring-loaded quick-detachable lever on the right side and can be attached to any MIL-STD-1913 rail interface. Constructed of both hard-coat black anodized aluminum alloy and high strength steel, the platform is 7 inches long and has an elevation starting height of .600". The retail price is $192.
Test and Evaluation
The velocity and accuracy tests were conducted with ammunition from Hornady and Black Hills Ammunition. Hornady Mfg. Co. (Dept. SGN, 3625 West Old Potash Hwy, Grand Island, NE 68803; phone: 800-338-3220 or 308-382-1390; fax: 308-382-5761; website: ) provided two types of their highly regarded TAP (Tactical Application Police) ammunition with 60-grain and 75-grain bullets. Hornady's TAP (Tactical Application Police) ammunition is not only capable of match grade accuracy, it was specifically designed for law enforcement and personal defense applications. Unlike non-expanding military issue small arms ammunition, Hornady TAP features expanding projectiles.
Black Hills Ammunition provided their highly regarded 77-grain Match Boattail Hollow Point (BTHP) load that uses a Sierra MatchKing bullet.
Our test protocol now always includes atmospheric measurements made with a Kestrel 4500 Pocket Weather Tracker complete with external weather vane and mount. Kestrel meters are used extensively by military and law enforcement snipers and precision rifle shooters throughout the world and are the very best equipment of this type available. The ambient temperature was 59° Fahrenheit with a 7 mph wind from the NNW.
At 100 meters, off the bench and using the 5.5-22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope, with a 20-round original Colt magazine to prevent "monopoding" on the bench, the Black Hills 77-grain Match Boattail Hollow Point (BTHP) load repeatedly shot groups at .8 moa and under. Hornady's 60-grain TAP ammunition produced .7 moa groups. The 75-grain Hornady TAP FPD (For Personal Defense) load has an excellent reputation for performance with 16-inch barrels. It did not disappoint and produced outstanding accuracy at .6 moa. It remains my favorite load for this rifle.
When you closely examine the Burnt Bronze POF Model 00499 Carbine with all of its many innovative and unique features, such as the fluted barrel, bolt carrier's roller cam pin, anti-walk bars on the trigger's axis pin, threaded bolt hold open release lever axis pin, heat sink barrel nut, tactical charging handle, extended buffer tube, shortened piston, Extended Finger Placement (EFP) trigger and enlarged trigger guard, combined with its flawless operation and excellent accuracy potential, it is to me, arguably one of the best short stroke, piston-operated AR-15-type rifles available. I can recommend it without reservations of any kind.