by NRA Staff - Friday, July 15, 2011
As a gunsmith, Les Baer rightly deduced that he could produce guns with better reliability, longer durability and greater accuracy potential if the major components were made to tighter tolerances. By controlling the manufacturing process from the beginning, Baer can build quality into the rifle from the start rather than try to add it on later. Accordingly, he makes his own parts for M1911 pistols and AR-15-style rifles. For those searching for the same uncompromising performance in a semi-automatic .308 Win. rifle, Les Baer offers the new Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match, which we received for testing and evaluation.
Les Baer starts with upper and lower receivers precision machined from premium 7075-T6-51 billet aluminum. The flat-top upper receiver has no forward assist. In a unique twist, a bowed trigger guard is machined integrally with the lower receiver. The fit between the two receivers is tight. There is no discernible play between them, even though Baer uses military-style captured take-down pins. In addition, Baer manufactures the bolt, fluted bolt carrier and extractor in-house. The aluminum gas block is of Baer’s own as well.
To maximize accuracy, Baer fitted the .308 Semi-Auto Match with a 24-inch 416R stainless-steel barrel, rifled with a single-point cutter in a five-groove, 1:10-inch right-hand twist. The barrel has a medium-heavy contour and a recessed 11-degree crown. Both the barrel and action have a wear- and corrosion-resistant Dupont S coating that confers a non-reflective black finish. The 24-inch barrel is standard, but 18- and 20-inch barrels are available as well. Another option is Les Baer’s Enforcer muzzle brake. The Enforcer brake consists of an array of ports cut directly into the barrel, rather than an attachment, which can hinder accuracy.
Baer states that the bore dimensions on his cut-rifled tubes are uniform to within 0.0001 inches from end to end. This is on par with the best match barrels available today and goes a long way toward explaining the unusual accuracy of Les Baer’s rifles. He believes cut rifling imparts less stress to the barrel than button rifling or hammer forging.
Another critical item Baer made in-house was the adjustable free-floating handguard and locking ring. The tubular assembly is free of any rails or hard points, but it is fitted with a Harris bipod, which is part of the rifle’s standard equipment.
A fixed A2-style stock is standard, but our test gun came with an optional Magpul stock adjustable for comb height and length of pull.
The two-stage trigger from Geissele may be adjusted for pull weights from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 4 pounds, as well as for overtravel and sear engagement. The trigger of our test gun broke at 4 pounds with minimal take-up. Its pull-weight loaded smoothly with no stacking and almost imperceptible overtravel.
Baer’s accuracy guarantee of 1/2-inch, five-shot groups at 100 yards is an extraordinary standard for a factory rifle firing factory ammunition, and it is better than many custom rifles can achieve with handloads.
Our test gun came already equipped with an optional Nightforce 5.5-22X 56 mm NXS scope with mounted in LBC EDM steel rings. Baer advised us that the rifle would shoot just about all match .308 Win. ammunition well. Accordingly, we chose a variety of test ammunition, including, Federal’s Gold Medal 168-grain loads, Nosler Custom’s 168-grain Match Grade load and 155-grain HPBT Superformance loads from Hornady.
To give the rifle the best opportunity to perform, our test shooter fired from a Sinclair rest and Protektor bag. The flat-bottom Magpul buttstock was very stable in this setup. Results revealed that match-grade loads delivered the best accuracy consistent with that claimed by Baer. Five-shot groups with the Nosler Custom and Federal 168-grain loads averaged 0.49 inches.
The adjustable Magpul stock maximized ergonomics and comfort. Recoil was minimal, thanks to both stock design and the gun’s 11 pound, 2 ounce weight. No malfunctions of any kind were experienced, feeding from the 20-round Magpul magazine was flawless, and ejection was strong and trouble-free.
Combined with the right ammunition, sub-1/2-inch, five-shot groups are well-within the capabilities of this rifle. Accordingly, the Les Baer .308 Semi-Auto Match rifle stands out when compared with other high performance, semi-automatic rifles in .308 Win.
On the basis of accuracy alone, the .308 Semi-Auto Match is a phenomenal performer. But its quality shows up in countless other ways as well. All of the controls such as the safety, bolt stop and magazine release positively engage and disengage. They travel smoothly through their range of movement without binding or dragging, but most importantly the bolt seats into battery without hesitation every time, so the gun really has no need for a forward assist. Les Baer’s .308 Semi-Auto Match is a gun that shoots well, but more than that, it is a gun that is easy to shoot well.
Manufacturer: Les Baer Custom; (563) 289-2126;1804; www.lesbaer.com
Caliber: .308 Win.
Action Type: semi-automatic, gas-operated, center-fire rifle
Receiver: 7075-T6-51 aluminum
Barrel: 24", stainless steel, medium-heavy profile
Rifling: five-groove, 1:10" RH twist
Magazine: Magpul detachable 20-round box
Sights: none supplied; 20-m.o.a. Picatinny rail for scope mounting
Trigger: two-stage Geissele, 4-lbs. pull
Stock: adjustable black synthetic from Magpul: length of pull, 14"; drop at heel, 1/2"; drop at comb, 1/2"; cheekpiece vertically adjustable 13⁄8"
Overall Length: 39"
Weight: 11 lbs., 2 ozs. (rifle only);
Accessories: two 20-round Magpul magazines, Harris bipod, soft case, operator’s manual
Suggested Retail Price: $2,995; $4,870 (with Nightforce 5.5-22X 56 mm NXS scope and rings)
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