When the Palestinians took 11 Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, the limitations of the bolt-action rifle were shown when the German police snipers missed one of the terrorists and he proceeded to blow up a helicopter, killing the athletes. This spurred the development of a semi-automatic tactical rifle. Since M-16s and AR-15s are the dominant long guns in military and police operations, why not build a tactical rifle built on this proven system?
It seems there were two reasons why not. Precision marksmen prefer the heavier .308 Winchester cartridge over the AR’s .223 Remington because it packs more energy and is more accurate over longer ranges. The .308 is a much larger cartridge; to accommodate its size, reengineering of the operating system, receiver, and gas tubes were required.
With the military demand for a rifle to meet its needs several manufacturers redesigned the AR-15 to serve as the basis for a tactical rifle. DPMS/Panther Arms’ offering for this market is the LRT-SASS.
Simply put, the LRT-SASS is an AR-15 on steroids. It is larger in size, larger in caliber, and heavier in weight. The LRT-SASS I used for this review arrived in a padded “gun case” with the owner’s manuals, two 19-round magazines, one LRT with four position handguards with covers, Mangonel front/rear flip-up sights, a sling, and a Harris bipod—all in all, a ready-to-use package. The one thing I noticed with the LRT was the heft of the package. The LRT-SASS tips the scales at 11.45 pounds, nearly double the weight of an M-16/AR-15 series rifle. This extra weight helps take the recoil and increases the life of the rifle.
After getting the LRT home, I gave it a close going over. The fit and finish of the rifle are impressive, the bolt and charging handle move smoothly, and breakdown did not require any tools even though they fit tightly. The LRT is all-business matte black. I think DPMS did a fine job building this rifle.
The operator’s manual told me the rifle uses a 4140 chrome-moly barrel, with six-groove 1:10 twist, so the LRT-SASS should shoot most .308 cartridges well. The upper receiver is made from thick-walled 6061 T-6 extruded aluminum, while the lower is made from a milled solid billet of 6066 T-6 aluminum. Both are hard anodized for durability and Teflon-coated to help ensure the LRT’s corrosion resistance.
The LRT uses nothing but the finest of controls, too. The trigger is a JP Enterprises adjustable trigger, factory set at four-and-a-half to five pounds. For operator comfort, a five-position clubfoot Vltor stock is installed and the forearm rails come with wide covers to protect the rails and your hands. The Panther Tactical grip fits the hand well.
After perusing the owner’s manual, I rounded up a number of .308 rounds to give the rifle a quick test shooting at the range. To see how the LRT functioned and felt, I grabbed a bunch of loose ammunition. The mix included military surplus, reloads, and various factory loads. I wasn’t all that concerned about the exact loads I had because I had limited range time.
I set up a few I.D.P.A. targets at the 50-yard backstop to see how well the sights were regulated on the LRT. Since this was a mixed bag of ammo, keeping the bullets in the “0” ring of the target would be considered good enough. I was surprised that not only did the LRT feed all the rounds, but the first 19 rounds sneaked into a sub-two-inch group. It seemed like the sights were fairly well set from the factory and the LRT was ready to roll.
Next I set up a 10-inch Shoot-N-C target from Birchwood Casey at the 100-yard backstop. Again, this was not a test of the LRT-SASS’ accuracy, but how well it functioned. The LRT, again with iron sights, was keeping 19 rounds in fairly tight groups of about five inches.
Since the LRT had proven itself to be a fine shooting rifle with iron sights, I was curious to see what it would do with optics. Since this rifle has a flat top and a four-position forearm, optics that can be mounted on this rifle range from red dots, to ACOG-type sights, to telescopic sights, depending on your needs.
For optics on the LRT I chose to use a Trijicon ACOG, a Burris Tactical Speed Dot, a Meprolight Reflex, and TruGlo’s Infinity 6-24X44 with fine crosshairs for a telescopic sight. I selected this cross-section of scopes as a good representation of close-quarter optics to long-range precision optics.
To start, I wanted to see just how well the LRT-SASS shot. For this I mounted the TruGlo Infinity scope. Now some may grouse about this choice, but I have found that TruGlo’s optics are durable, clear, they hold zero, work well, and are affordably priced.
I bore sighted the rifle and rounded up a supply of premium ammunition from Black Hills, Hornady, Remington, Federal, and Winchester. This is a good mix of premium ammunition and represents most off-the-shelf ammo. Bullet weights were 168-grain and 175-grain boat tail hollow points, which are known for their match grade accuracy.
The LRT/TruGlo combination delivered consistent half minute-of-angle accuracy at 100 yards. The shooting was done using the Harris bipod from a bench and prone. I prefer not to use a bag rest to test a rifle’s accuracy because I am not aware of anyone who carries sand bags on a callout. I try to shoot the rifle as it would be used in the field.
After giving the LRT/TruGlo a thorough shooting at 100 yards, I wanted to shoot it at a longer range. The longest range I have to shoot at my local club is 200 yards, so that would have to suffice. And realistically, 200 yards in a police tactical situation is a very long shot. The LRT continued to perform superbly and was consistently shooting three-quarter to one MOA groups. This is about as good as I can make a rifle function, although I am sure there are many out there able to shoot one-hole groups at 200 yards.
To see how the LRT-SASS handles, I set up a number of clay pigeons on the backstop at 100 yards. The rifle quickly dispensed the dozen or so clay pigeons with one shot each, as quickly as the rifle recovered from recoil and was set on target. It had little muzzle rise and tracked quickly from clay pigeon to clay pigeon.
The LRT handled remarkably well. Thanks to its weight, follow-up shots were fast and accurate. There was little or no muzzle flash thanks to the proprietary Panther Arms muzzle brake/flash suppressor.
The LRT proved itself more than capable of performing as a full-fledged tactical rifle. Because of its size, I wanted to see if the LRT was capable of performing as a close-quarter battle carbine, albeit one on steroids. I know there will be those who feel an 11-pound rifle is not the ideal CQB weapon; but then again, an AR-15 can weigh just as much with all the stuff that gets strapped onto it.
To keep the weight down on the LRT, I avoided hanging a “ton” of gear on it. I opted not to use a vertical forearm. It just didn’t feel right on the LRT and it added extra weight.
One item the LRT requires to be a serious tool is a sling. It comes with a single quick-release sling point on the Vltor stock, but lacks on the forearm sling attachment. So I ordered a Midwest sling mount with quick-release sling stud from Brownells. It attaches to the rail of the forearm with a clamp just like a scope mount, and it’s very tough and secure.
To aid in carry and employment of the LRT, I attached a Spec Ops Universal Mamba. This three-point sling fit the quick-release studs on the LRT like a dream. It keeps the rifle slung directly on your chest and allows the user to quickly mount the rifle or transition to a sidearm as needed.
If you use the LRT-SASS in a CQB role, a weapons-mounted light is a good addition. Insight Technologies makes a number of high-intensity lights for handguns and long guns and I chose to use the new SSL1. The SSL1 puts out 80 lumens and works very well at CQB distances out to 30 or so yards. Like its predecessors, it’s a fine light for duty use.
To use the LRT in a CQB role, I installed a Trijicon ACOG TA11E because of the features it offers. The first and foremost reason I chose this sight is that it is a 3.5 power unit. This power works well at close ranges and allows the operator to make solid hits at distances out to several hundred yards. Next the TA11E uses both a fiber optic light source and in low light it is tritium powered so it’s very versatile.
If you prefer a dot sight, mount a Meprolight M21 Reflex sight. It uses fiber optics to light the sight during the day and tritium at night. This sight is offered with various dot sizes and even a triangle as the aiming point. Whatever configuration you choose, the M21 easily mounts to the LRT; it is durable and gives the operator fast sight/target acquisition in a myriad of conditions.
To see how this rifle worked for CQB, I set up I.D.P.A. targets out to 50 yards. These were engaged on the move, kneeling, and standing with double and triple taps. The ACOG or Reflex was mounted on the rifle, and the LRT performed well. Granted, an M4 would have allowed for faster shots, but the LRT-SASS performed admirably. Thanks to the weight, the rifle recovers very quickly between shots. Both the ACOG and Reflex sight aided in making the LRT an up close and personal CQB rifle.
After shooting the LRT for accuracy, up close and fast, it was time to clean it. Since this is essentially an AR-15, disassembly was fast and easy. Drop the magazine, lock the bolt to the rear (ensuring the firearm is empty and clear), release the bolt, push out the rear take down pin, pivot the upper receiver off the lower, retract the charging handle and bolt, and you are ready to clean the LRT. If you like, punch out the front pivot pin to make the cleaning process a little bit easier. After you clean and lube the LRT with your preferred products, simply reverse the take down process to reassemble the rifle.
Overall, I found the LRT-SASS to be an outstanding rifle—among the finest I have had the pleasure to shoulder and shoot. It handles well, is amazingly accurate, can double as a CQB carbine if need be…what’s not to like?
If you’re looking for a new tactical rifle for yourself or your agency, the LRT-SASS should be among those considered. The rifle is designed to meet a wide variety of applications and to accommodate a wide variety of accessories: lights, IR designators, and various types of optics and bi-pods. Because of this versatility it is my humble opinion that it will meet and exceed your wants and needs.