Photo courtesy of Scott Smith.
Stag Arms made its name producing a true left-handed AR-style rifle. If you are not a lefty, you may just shrug your shoulders thinking, what's the big deal?
Well imagine shooting a backward rifle, and you'll understand. All of your controls would be reversed, and spent casings would eject from the rifle in the wrong position. That means you would stand a chance of getting hit with hot brass, even with the brass deflector. This can be a major issue for southpaws, and by building a lefty AR, Stag Arms built a loyal following of left-handed shooters.
But simply filling a niche market was not going to keep Stag Arms in business. So the company's management decided to start manufacturing traditional right-handed ARs as well. The company then built a reputation for making quality firearms at an affordable price. Stag's ARs have sold at an average of $50 to $100 less than some other popular brands.
Over the years I have heard more and more folks whose opinions I trust talk about Stag's ARs and how they shoot really well for a great price. This piqued my interest in Stag's ARs and started me looking for a chance to review and shoot one.
Recently Stag introduced the 3G, a rifle developed for use in the rapidly growing three-gun competition market. After reading over the specifications of the 3G, I realized this AR could be excellent for law enforcement operations. I contacted Stag Arms, and a few weeks later, a test and evaluation model of the 3G arrived.
After taking the 3G out of the box, I gave it a thorough inspection. I was impressed. It was solidly built, and the fit and finish were excellent.
The Stag 3G has a heavy, fluted 18-inch barrel with a one-in-eight twist. It also sports a Samson Evolution forearm, which is free floated. The trigger is a Geissele Super 3 Gun (S3G) model; the stock is a Magpul ACS; and the muzzle brake is Stag's 3G Comp.
Some AR enthusiasts will question why Stag is not using a one-in-seven twist barrel. After all, the military is moving to this rifling to help stabilize 77-grain bullets. I didn't have a good answer, so I did a bit of research. The reason is that the one-in-eight twist stabilizes the wide variety of bullet weights used in three-gun competition.
My range testing verified the 3G will shoot sub minute of angle with bullet weights from 55 grains to 77 grains at 100 yards. One reason for this rifle shooting as well as it does is the 18-inch Shaw stainless steel barrel. Shaw barrels are noted for their accuracy and performance, and the custom barrel in the 3G carries on that tradition.
Stag uses Samson's Evolution free-floated rail to ensure you have a solid grip. The forearm does not flex and touch the barrel, which would interfere with the barrel's harmonics to adversely affect accuracy. The Evolution forearm has a solid top rail to attach any number of items, and you can install small accessory rails to attach slings, lights, bipods, and other items.
Another reason the Stag 3G is so accurate is the Geissele Super 3G Trigger. This is a single-stage trigger that breaks cleanly at approximately three pounds. When I say breaks cleanly, there is hardly any take-up. When you think about making the 3G go bang, it does. Reset is quick and crisp, making it easy to achieve accurate follow-up shots.
In addition, Stag uses a rifle-length gas system. This system has several benefits. It allows the rifle to run with a lower recoil pulse and to burn powder more efficiently, and the 18-inch barrel gives increased velocity over a 16-inch M4 barrel.
Stag keeps this fine assembly of parts on target with the Competition Brake. I found there was little if any muzzle flip. The nine ports on top of the brake retard muzzle flip, while the three in the front of the brake drive the rifle back into the shooter. When combined with the Stag 3G's slightly muzzle-heavy barrel, the Competition Brake lets you make shots just as fast as you can obtain a sight picture and squeeze the trigger.
To get the most performance out of the 3G, a quality optic was needed. I chose Meopta's 1-4X22KD. The Meopta KD is a highly regarded low-variable power optic. The optics are clear, the adjustments positive, and the lighted, modified German 4 crosshair works well as a CQB dot sight or precision optic. One of the best features of the KD is the lighted reticle. This optic offers the operator variable intensities, and the light shuts off between each setting. This increases the battery life and does not require you to go from no light to your chosen setting, saving time when you turn on the reticle.
Since the 3G was designed to serve as a multiple use carbine, I mounted two accessory rails at two o'clock, so that I could add backup sights from Command Arms. These are polymer sights that lock toward the rear of the receiver and pop up with a push of the locking button. To access the sights, simply roll the AR and you have a clear sight picture. This position is fast, solid, and accurate. By placing the backup sights in this position you can rapidly access them without removing your optic, should your optic fail.
I installed two other accessory rails at the front and rear of the forearm at the nine o'clock position. On the front rail I mounted SureFire's Scout light, and on the rear, a removable quick release for a sling attachment. These items are needed for duty, training, and most other applications.
Once the rifle was equipped with optics, sights, and a sling, it was time to take it to the range. I chose a variety of ammunition from different makers for a fair representation of bullet weights and types used for both training and duty.
I found the 3G to show no real preference for bullet weight, manufacture, or bullet design. I think much of this can be attributed to the one-in-eight twist of the Shaw barrel. With its 18-inch length the bullet makes more than two complete twists before leaving the barrel. This rate stabilizes the bullets for moderate to long-range shots.
The combination of the 3G and the Meopta scope consistently produced sub half-inch groups at 50 yards; at 100 yards, three-quarters of an inch; and at 200 yards, about two inches. All of these five-shot groups were fired from a rest.
I think one of the reasons the 3G and Meopta combo shot two MOA at 200 yards was due to the maximum magnification of the optic. That made it difficult to consistently hold the same sight picture, as the target became occluded by the crosshairs. I have no doubt that this rifle can shoot MOA at 200 yards.
When I switched to close-range distances with the backup sights the 3G was capable of laying bullet on top of bullet. This testing was done shooting off hand, firing controlled pairs. The 3G's Comp muzzle brake ensured there was hardly any shot-to-shot recovery time.
It is worth noting that the 3G was still shooting these tight groups at close-quarter and long-range distances when the barrel was too hot to touch. The rifle was also doing this without being cleaned. The first rounds and the last of nearly 300 rounds were MOA at 100 yards when the barrel was hot and crusty. This is the sign of a well-made rifle.
Other than the additions of the light, backup sights, and sling from Spec Ops brand I made three other changes to the standard 3G. First, I swapped out the MOE pistol grip for a Command Arms G16 with interchangeable fore/rear grip inserts. Next, I installed Magpul’s MOE Trigger Guard in place of the factory one. Last I installed the quick release stud from Magpul instead of the factory ACS stock. I would like to see Stag have this feature installed at the factory because a rifle without a sling is like a handgun without a holster.
These minor modifications made the 3G a very versatile duty gun. For an all around duty or personal use rifle I would consider a Stag 3G; you will get a lot of bang for the buck.
Scott Smith is a former federal police officer for the Department of Veteran's Affairs who currently serves as a reserve officer.
Stag Arms 3G Rifle Specs:
Caliber: .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO
Operation: Gas operated semi-automatic
Magazine Capacity: 30 Rounds
Barrel: 18 inches fluted, 1-in-8 twist
Collapsed, 36 inches
Extended, 39.25 inches
Rifling: 1:8 twist