After a dozen years in production, ArmaLite engineers decided it was time to improve upon their already popular lineup of AR-30 sniper rifles. The culmination of their work is the company’s new AR-30A1. The AR-30A1 is offered in two calibers, .338 Lapua Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. The previous AR-30 model lineup included a .308 Winchester variant as an option.
ArmaLite , as history buffs well know, entered the small arms market as a division of Fairchild Airplane and Engine Corporation with Eugene Stoner’s original Armalite rifles in 1954—first the AR-10, and then the AR-15. Fairchild’s sale of Stoner’s patent to Colt’s Manufacturing was the beginning of the end for the original Armalite corporate entity and their production of AR-stvle rifles. The company reemerged in 1996 when Mark Westrom relaunched the company under the new title, ArmaLite, Inc. Known best lor their original AR-15- and AR-10-style rifles, ArmaLite’s development of long-range fireanns, such as the current AR-30A1, gives them a w’ell-rounded lineup.
Features of the A0A1 After putting a couple of hundred rounds down range with the Ar-inaLite AR-30B, the predecessor to the Al, it’s easy to make comparisons. Side by side, the differences in the guns are numerous. The new model tested is a «target» model in .338 Lapua, which includes improved accessory rails and a buttstock with an adjustable cheek height and length of pull. The AR-30B rifle came with a rather plain skeleton stock with no adjustment. Two knobs on the Al’s Stock easily adjust and lock with a pronounced click throughout their range of travel. The cheek piece moves approximately 1 inch, and the length of pull adjusts approximately 2 inches. The rifle can also be purchased from Armalite with a folding buttstock allowing lor easier transport and storage. I like the new stock configuration, and think the folding option is the way to go for shooters seeking the widest range of versatility.
The new accessory and scope rails are no less impressive. The top scope rail is 18 inches long and supports a wide array of accessories. It has ample room for even larger night vision optics forward of the scope. There are four additional Picatinny rails on the rifle—three of them located on each side and bottom of the forend with one on the buttstock to accommodate a sling swivel or other accessories. Several vacant holes on the forend will allow for easy sling or accessory changes.
The newly designed safety is another noticeably different change. It’s similar in design and function to the 98 Mauser but with only a «safe» and «lire» position. This was changed to lock the firing pin directly, not just the trigger mechanism. The Armalite Model B safety only locks the trigger, and the safety lever is similar to Remington’s 700-style rifles. This change in design offers a higher degree of safety.
The bolt handle is sleeker and more uniquely designed than its predecessor. It turns downward sharply, making the gun narrower overall and easier to store in a hard case. These changes do not affect the range of motion when charging the weapon. The magazine release has also been changed to allow ambidextrous use, as well as one-hand removal of the magazine. The release is now located on the front lower corner of the trigger guard, which is aesthetically pleasing and easy to manipulate with the trigger finger. The previous design was modeled after the AR-15-style magazine release and sometimes proved awkward,. It sometimes felt like I needed three hands to drop the magazine.
The Al’s weight is distributed more centrally than the previous model making operation and reloading easier, too. This also makes a difference when carrying the rifle one handed. Differences between the old and new model are seen muzzle to buttpad. At the muzzle, the most critical component, the muzzle brake even got a face lift. The overall design and shape remains the same, but the construction couldn’t be more different. Previously, the muzzle break was made up of six individual parts held together by eight Allen head screws. The break on the new A1 is cast as one piece of steel, making it much stronger. Fewer parts allow for fewer malfunctions.
Range Time With the 30A1 During testing, I noticed no difference in recoil between the new and old rifles. Both muzzle breaks do a great job reducing recoil to a manageable level for most shooters. The barrel of each is free floating, all the way to the action. This design element is critical for both weapons’ sub-MOA accuracy. Other improvements include a bore guide built into the cheek rest, placed to guide a cleaning rod directly into the center of the chamber and barrel. These guide holes are located beneath the cheek piece, hidden from plain view and accessed by raising the cheek rest to the appropriate height. The new innovations on the A1 are all vast improvements to the older rifle’s design, making an impressive platform even more fearfully impressive.
Six hours on the range did nothing but build my confidence in the rifle. Not only did it perform seamlessly, it was impressively accurate. Once adjusted to my build, the cheek piece delivered tight shot placement with ease and allowed me to put impressive groups on paper. A Nightforce 5.5-22X Zero Stop optic mounted in high Trijicon 30mm rings provided and excellent match for the long-range rig.
Four brands of ammunition were tested by firing several S-shot groups at 100 yards. An Oehler 35P recorded velocity data. I selected Federal, Barnes, Remington and Black Hills to wring out the 100-yard accuracy from this new rifle. The 250-grain Federal Premium Match was the most accurate; the smallest group measuring .691 of an inch. Black Hills 250-grain loads were the second best performing, with the best group measuring .838. Military-grade Barnes 300-grain OTM was the heaviest bullet tested and produced groups as small as .845 inch.
The Remington match loads groups were the largest, but not by a significant margin. The best Remington group recorded measured .878 of an inch, which is still impressive. All brands of ammunition tested performed well, but Federal was the most consistent. The Black Hills would be a great economy option; anyone familiar with the ravenous Lapua knows you must pay to play. If tenths of an inch are not a primary concern, go the economy route.
ArmaLite inhabits a special place in firearms history’ as the company that first delivered the AR-style rifle to both military and civilian shooters, and with their latest offering, the re-engineered company looks to build on that legacy and keep serious shooters coming back for more.
Caliber: .338 Lapua Magnum (tested), .300 Win. Mag.
Action Type:: Bolt-action
Receiver: Through hardened
Barrel: 26 in. chrome moly with 1:10 twist, muzzle brake
Magazine: Five-round detachable
Sights: None, Picatinny rail for ready optics mounting
Stock: Adjustable cheek piece (height) & buttstock (length)
Weight: 15.3 lbs.
Overall Length: 48.1 in. to 50.1 in.
Accessories: Detachable sight and accessory rails, hard case, sling