Enter the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban.” With new AR production slowing in the two years prior to the Sept. 13, 2004, expiration of the ban, Malkowski’s engineers at the newly formed Stag Arms went to work on the AR platform to create a left-hand rifle—the first to address excess gas porting and case deflection.
In 2003, Stag Arms began production of its Stag-15L line of left-hand rifles with the flattop carbine Model 1L being its first entry into the marketplace. Stag sent us a pre-production sample of its Model 4L, which is a standard-length A4-style rifle featuring a 20-inch heavy barrel, a flat-top and a detachable carry handle.
The forged 7075-T6 aluminum upper of the Stag-15L is nearly a mirror image of the standard AR rifle. The dimensions are all to the original specs—just reversed in many cases. Looking at the left side of the rifle, one sees the forward assist, brass deflector and ejection port. The only difference is that the ejection-port cover flips up on the Stag-15L. Stag Arms engineers did this to make sure it didn’t interfere with the bolt release on the lower receiver. Given the flip-up ejection-port cover, the detachable carry handle was redesigned to place the knobs on the right side of the assembly.
Stag Arms chambers its rifles in 5.56x45 mm NATO to accept the widest variety of ammunition, and the bore is button-rifled with a six-groove 1:9-inch right-hand twist. While the chrome-moly barrels of Stag’s carbine-length rifles are chrome-lined, the barrel used on the Model 4L is not.
The lower receiver wasn’t altered, but ambidextrous parts were added to benefit a left-handed shooter. The Stag Arms Ambi Selector allows the safety to be operated by the thumb of the left hand, rather than the index finger. Stag Arms also offers the option of an Ambi-Catch magazine release from Norgon, which was included on our test rifle.
Our Model 4L test rifle exhibited excellent fit and finish. The exterior surfaces were smooth and uniform, with hard-coat anodizing on the aluminum parts and a baked-on dry-film coating on the upper. The upper-to-lower fit was exceptionally tight. We swapped the upper for that of another Stag-15L, and the fit was just as tight.
We tested the Model 4L with iron sights for reliability and optics for accuracy. Topped with the detachable carry handle and utilizing the standard A2 sight, the left-hand nature of the rifle actually took some getting used to.
Like many lefties out there, we’ve either conformed to shooting right-handed or adapted our shooting habits to fire left-handed.
It was odd not to see the rounds being chambered, but the trade-off for no excess gas in the face was well worth it. Although we didn’t need to use it, in practice, smacking the forward assist with the heel of the hand was much easier than using a thumb.
The rifle functioned reliably with all the .223 Rem. ammunition we fed it, covering a broad range of bullet weights and compositions, from boattail hollow points to soft points. In the course of firing several hundred rounds, only two stoppages in the form of misfeeds were experienced. Both were from the same well-used and frequently dropped U.S.G.I. 30-round magazine. Of the 15 U.S.G.I. magazines used, all fit well, and all dropped free. The ejection-port cover operated without causing blockages, regardless of what was mounted on the rail.
Not surprisingly, the standard semi-automatic trigger assembly was creepy, heavy and exhibited stacking. It wasn’t much of a hindrance during function testing, but it certainly affected accuracy.
For accuracy, we mounted a Nikko Stirling 6-24x56AG Platinum Nighteater scope atop Stag Arms’ optional ambi scope riser. We tested the rifle with two heavy match bullets and a 55-grain varmint bullet. While the average groups measured less than 1.5 inches, our Stag-15L favored the 69-grain Gold Medal Match loads from Federal, producing groups slightly larger than 1.25 inches.
Stag Arms also manufactures standard AR-style rifles, but the left-hand models are no more expensive than their similarly equipped righty counterparts.
Those of us who were the unhappy recipients of hot gas discharging inches from our eyes and searing spent cases rolling down our arms and into our shirts can finally experience a new level of comfort and safety in shooting an AR-style rifle. Stag Arms has come to the rescue of our enthusiastic minority—black-rifle fans who shoot lefty.