DPMS Panther LR-338L Rifle

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posted on June 17, 2009
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The DPMS LR-308 rifle is a scaled-up version of the AR-15 rifle designed to accommodate the .308 Win. and similar cartridges. With the increasing popularity of this rifle platform, as well as the growing popularity of hunting with AR-type rifles, DPMS expanded the LR-308 line beyond the .308 Win. to include other cartridges, such as .243 Win., .260 Rem. and .338 Federal. The LR-338L in .338 Federal is the most powerful rifle in the DPMS AR line and the best suited to a wide range of big-game hunting scenarios. The “LR” in the name stands for “Long Range” and the suffix “L” denotes “Lightweight.” It is designed for hunters, although it has some tactical applications as well.

The LR-338L features a 416 stainless steel, light-contour 18" barrel, which has short and shallow 2"-long flutes between the lightweight gas block and muzzle brake. A custom muzzle brake reduces felt recoil, which is mild compared to other .338 Federal rifles.

The LR-338L uses the rotating bolt and direct-impingement gas operating system common in AR designs. The bolt carrier is 8620 heat-treated steel, and the bolt itself is heat-treated. The rifle features a round, 12½"-long carbon-fiber handguard that reduces weight and does not transfer cold or heat like a metal handguard.

The upper receiver is extruded from 6066-T6 aircraft aluminum, features right-hand ejection, a dust cover, a shell deflector and a forward assist. The top rail allows for easy mounting of optical sights.

The lower receiver, with its integral trigger guard, is milled from 6061-T6 aluminum. Both the upper and lower are anodized and coated with black Teflon. Controls include a magazine release on the right side and a bolt release on the left. The safety selector lever is on the left side. Our sample rifle was shipped with the JP adjustable trigger, which is optional for an additional $124.95. Any serious shooter should consider adding this trigger when ordering the rifle. The trigger on our sample had a bit of creep and a few hitches. Past experience with the JP trigger, however, has shown that much of that can be removed with careful adjustment and set-up of the trigger. Our sample broke at 3 lbs., 12 ozs. The gun comes with a Command Arms Tactical grip made of hard plastic with non-slip finger grooves. The grip is angled back a bit more than a standard AR grip and places the hand in good position for trigger control.

The black Zytel buttstock is skeletonized to reduce weight. It features a hard plastic, checkered buttplate with a superfluous trap door. The gun would be better served with a rubber recoil pad as this hard plastic with sharp diamonds and edges can be painful when shooting in warm weather and light clothing.

The gun weighs 7 lbs., 14 ozs. empty. With a Nikon Monarch 4-16X 42 mm Side Focus scope in Warne aluminum rings, which we used for accuracy testing, and with an empty four-round-capacity magazine, the gun checked in at 9 lbs, 12 ozs., with an overall length of 391⁄8".

One might expect the short 18" barrel to give up some velocity, so we gauged its performance against a previous test we ran a few years ago, in which we used the available .338 Federal factory loaded ammunition in a Sako rifle with a 227⁄16" barrel. The 185-gr. Barnes load was actually faster in the DPMS rifle by 48 f.p.s., but the 180-gr. AccuBond lost 116 f.p.s. and the 200-gr. Fusion lost 113 f.p.s. in the shorter barrel....

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