As an all-around, go-anywhere, do-anything rifle, the CORE 15 Scout carbine is a top contender. Accurate and reliable, this is also an affordable AR15.
by Bob Campbell
The AR15 rifle is, to me, the Winchester ’73 of this century. Useful for hunting or personal defense, useful as a lawman’s gun, and also a great all-around rifle for building skill, these rifles serve thousands of Americans well. There are more-powerful rifles and a few more accurate, but none as versatile as the AR15. The rifle illustrated is the newest addition to my modest AR15 battery. While “best” is a relative term, I do not own a rifle better made than CORE Rifle Systems CORE 15 Scout. Some have more features, but then so do the higher-grade CORE rifles.
I have been prodded for the last year or so, not to test and evaluate this rifle, but to own and use an example. My oldest son, Alan, can do things with a rifle — and a lathe and press — I could never do, although I can still shoot with the best of them. Alan is also the best shot I know. Several times he has mentioned the fit and finish of the CORE rifle. The CORE slogan, “Where mil-spec is just a starting point” seems to be true.
The rifle illustrated is one of several models offered. The Scout is the base model. However, this is similar to a Colt 1911 Series 70 in concept. If you begin with a great handgun, you may upgrade the barrel and barrel bushing and have a match gun. You may add combat sights and have a good combat gun. On the other hand, you can just purchase a Combat Elite out the door.
The CORE rifle offers much the same options. If you buy a cheap 1911 or a cheap AR15, you will have to replace it at some point when you reach the skill level at which the firearm is limiting your performance. With the CORE rifle, you may add a superior optic or front rail at a later date. In my case, I already own a heavier AR15 with a heavy forend and a good quality scope. I like the Scout rifle for faster work and will probably leave it as issued.
I don’t think it makes horse sense to start with a cheap rifle. I have also seen many, many parts guns that simply did not work. It is fine to build your own if you use quality parts but so many do not. When you consider the amount you will expend on ammunition and training during the course of a few years, the price of a good rifle over a cheap rifle isn’t that great. Besides, the CORE rifle is affordable and well made of good material.
I began my examination by popping open the receiver and checking the bolt. The bolt carrier key must be properly staked or the rifle simply isn’t worth having. The CORE carrier looks good. Next, I checked the trigger. The compression is smooth enough with some take-up and a clean break. The rifle is delivered without sights, so I added a carrier handle with aperture sights. A good fit and all looked well.
The rifle is supplied with a single magazine. I added a stack of Magpul PMAGS and various aluminum magazines from the ready drawer. They have been proofed by previous use, so any problems would have been due to the rifle or ammunition, not the magazines.
Choosing my ammunition wasn’t difficult. The Winchester 55-grain FMJ USA White Box load is a great place to start. Accurate, clean burning, and always reliable, this is my number one resource for checking function in a new AR15 rifle. I lubricated the rifle well and locked the first magazine in. I loaded 25 rounds in the 30-round magazines. These first 25 rounds were far from boring but uneventful. Every load fed, chambered, fired, and ejected normally.
The rifle was sighted in at 25 and then 50 yards. Fifty yards is about the limit of my ability to register excellent groups, but the 100-yard groups are not bad, just below the potential of the rifle. It is no mean trick to keep three shots in two inches at 50 yards with iron sights, which I consider good off the bench rest. I fired a few of the Winchester Ballistic Silvertip loads. These are excellent choices for all-around use in.223. The Ballistic Silvertip is offered in 50- and 55-grain weights.
Frankly, with an iron-sighted rifle, it is almost just making empty brass to test such a load at long range. However, each load proved more accurate by a margin than the FMJ load. I like to confirm zero with a new rifle — just in case I get a shot at a coyote or broad-side a deer. I also fired five rounds of a dwindling supply of the Winchester 69-grain MATCH loading. This is a credible loading with much to recommend at the football-field mark.
Settling into a solid firing position off of the benchrest, I kept the rifle as solid as possible and squeezed the trigger straight to the rear with concentration on the sights. I took about a minute per shot. I usually fire three shots at 100 yards, but fired five and took the long walk with anticipation. I did not earn bragging rights, but three of the five rounds were in two inches, the other two opened the group to a full 3.5 inches. The dog will run, but it needs good glass to see the way.
Once I confirmed the zero, my grandson and I fired four magazines at targets at known and unknown ranges. Paper is good to confirm sight regulation, but firing at this type of target builds field skill. The CORE rifle handles quickly and has proven completely reliable. You cannot ask for more than that.
Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).