The rifle’s trigger must be fast and precise for the rapid-fire stages. It can never double, and the shooter must be able to discern the reset. But the trigger must also be light and consistent for precision shooting.
The best 3-gun competition rifle’s barrel must disperse heat well so it will maintain the same point of impact and retain its accuracy whether the bore is ice-cold or red-hot.
The rifle must cycle quickly. In this division the AR-type rifle in .223 Rem. dominates, and some of the best shooters can actually pull the trigger faster than a typical semi-automatic AR-type gun will cycle. It’s obvious why they need a fast cyclic rate, but even beginning competitors can benefit from shooting a rifle that cycles faster. After all, the faster the gun cycles, the faster it settles for the next shot.
In the Tactical Optics division only one optical sight is allowed per shooter, so almost all competitors mount them on their rifles. That single optic must be able to handle the “in your face” close and fast targets, the ultra-long range targets and everything in between. The scope must be mounted so that the shooter’s eye picks up the reticle as soon as his cheek hits the stock.
The competition rifle is a complex beast with many parts that unite to help the shooter move fast and shoot straight. I decided that the best way to get exactly what I was looking for was to build the rifle from scratch.
The process required careful planning, quality parts and attention to craftsmanship. Through trial and error (more error than trial, I suppose), I now have the 3-gun rifle I wanted and needed. For this project I turned to MidwayUSA for many of the parts and tools needed to put it together, including DPMS receivers, both upper and lower.
The All-Important Lower Receiver
The key to building anything that works well is to start with a solid foundation. You can have the best barrel and optics on your upper, but a poor-quality lower receiver will hinder their performance.
When I built my first AR some time ago, DPMS founder Randy Luth told me to start with the trigger. “The alignment of the trigger or fire control pins is critical to how well that receiver is going to work. If they are off, even a little bit, you have a problem. It’s a lot better to find out first thing than to do all that work on the other parts, only to tear them down if the action is not true.”
I strongly believe that a rifle lacking a good trigger can never reach its potential, so this is no place to compromise. I installed the modular AR Gold trigger from American Trigger Corp. The AR-15 Gold feels like a top-shelf M1911 pistol trigger with a light first stage followed by a well-defined, crisp second stage. It also has some excellent safety features built in and is simple to install using the pins that come with it. Simply drop it in place, push in the back pin and install the safety and then the front pin. There are a few important safety checks to make, which are explained in a video on the company’s website. Once it passes all the safety checks, you are done.
After some personal debate, I chose the DPMS Oversized Safety Selector Switch. The larger lever makes it much easier to find and operate in a hurry. I considered using an ambidextrous safety, but it comes only with the standard-size levers.
Even in a “no-compromise” rifle, the best choice is not always the most expensive. For a buttstock I picked the simple ACE AR15 Skelton Stock. The simple, inexpensive unit is lightweight, durable and easy to install. It uses a standard buffer tube with a foam cover to protect the shooter’s face.