Tag Archives: 5.56 NATO

REVIEW: LWRCI Diadem AR-15

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The AR-15 has evolved to become one of the most variously configured guns in firearms history. Here’s yet another step… READ MORE

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Barbara Baird

LWRCI Diadem AR-15

Guns come with stories. These stories create history, and history is being made with the first AR-15 built for women — per what women told engineers at LWRCI that they wanted in this type of popular rifle platform. The LWRCI Diadem is a limited-edition run of a direct-impingement (DI) rifle, produced because two guys from LWRCI met Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman (TWAW), a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, equip and empower female firearm owners. The organization boasts more than 335 chapters in 49 states, with approximately 11,500 members.

David Golladay and David Ridley of LWRCI heard Lightfoot speak on a women’s industry panel at a National Shooting Sports Foundation summit two years ago. They said they were impressed by TWAW and its impressive reach, as well as Lightfoot’s articulate and passionate methods for moving the organization forward. She is a go-to person in the industry for the women’s gun movement and has been featured in national media — including Time, “NBC Nightly News,” USA Today, Fox News, and NRA News.

Further conversations ensued between the two Davids and Lightfoot. She reached out to at least 140 women within the TWAW organization, asking them for their recommendations, and the wheels for the perfect woman’s AR started turning. LWRCI became involved with the women’s rifle movement, supporting TWAW and its chapter leaders by sponsoring and attending conferences. At these events, they talked to women on the range about what they wanted in an AR. The result was the LWRCI Diadem.

To build the LWRCI Diadem, Lightfoot and her team compiled a spreadsheet with the results and sent it to LWRCI to use as part of the design process. Lightfoot understood that LWRCI told its engineers to “give the women what they want.” The first gun rolled off the line in July 2017, with a run of 1,000 units and only available for a short time at a discount to TWAW chapter members across the country. The LWRCI Diadem now is available to the public.

I attended a media event in July 2017 at the LWRCI plant in Cambridge, MD, along with Lightfoot. For the first time, she met the team of engineers face-to-face and found out that the guys learned a few things about female gun owners throughout the process. One of the most surprising things to them was the fact that the women didn’t want any color on the LWRCI Diadem, except for the trigger — which is a Cerakote-applied purple, TWAW’s signature color. They did want, however, the TWAW logo embossed on the lower. Women also wanted grooves on the grip, a specially designed, slimmer compact rail, LWRCI rail panels, and a hand stop.

Lightfoot said they worked on the grip for a few iterations, and particularly wanted to get the feel and balance right. “The balance is remarkable; it almost becomes weightless because it’s balanced so well. And the handguard — it’s been designed for a woman’s hand, so that our hands can wrap the guard and control the gun. We wanted that feature,” she said. Other features requested by TWAW and included on the LWRCI Diadem include fully ambidextrous controls, an enhanced padded buttpad for recoil absorption, an H2 buffer to ensure reliable cycling, an ambidextrous charging handle, and LWRCI’s advanced trigger guard.

The name LWRCI Diadem is a play on the LWRCI DI line of rifles, and adds a touch of royalty. “The name is a DI rifle and also is a crown jewel. It’s a crown jewel of the AR-15 line,” Lightfoot said.

After the plant tour, we headed out to LWRCI’s private shooting range on Ragged Island. We shot a few thousand rounds through the present Diadems (as well as other LWRCI guns) on steel at 100 yards. Lightfoot was right. The handguard worked with my hand size, and the balance felt right. We sent hundreds of rounds downrange, mostly offhand, and at times rapidly. The LWRCI Diadem continued to deliver, pinging the gongs with no malfunctions. The only drawback for me was the trigger. I wanted to work with this gun more to see what it delivered.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) LWRCI’s commitment to ambidextrous operation is evident in the safety selector and bolt-catch release. (ctr.) All controls, including the magazine release, are duplicated on each side of the Diadem. (r.) Engraving on the magazine well and the purple ALG trigger further define this LWRCI DI rifle as the Diadem.

After receiving a test model to try, I took it to my range, and was illuminated. Spending some quality time with the LWRCI Diadem, I saw the rifle, as with all mechanical contraptions, was not perfect. Nevertheless, it came very close to meeting the TWAW requirements as they were explained to me. That said, guess what? All women (like all men) are different and we have our own preferences that might not perfectly match up with those of even a large group of other women.

Part of the difficulties I experienced in testing the rifle came from elements of the design, which, although they were features that satisfied the apparent desires for competition-based furniture, hindered quick and consistent medium- to long-range accuracy testing. For example, the trigger seemed similar to the much-maligned triggers on other LWRCI DI rifles in that it didn’t break consistently, was a little creepy and had a pull weight too heavy for accuracy testing at 100 yards.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
Both front and rear sights can be used as stand-alone iron sights, or folded down if an optic is installed, and both are adjustable using simple tools.

The angle of the specially designed pistol grip on the LWRCI Diadem was too extreme for comfortable and consistent benchrest shooting, and its finger grooves were poorly spaced for my hand when shooting from the bench. The combination of a lightweight, small-diameter fore-end and heavy fluted barrel resulted in slow barrel heat dissipation, causing shot groups at 100 yards to open up unless I allowed at least 3 minutes from shot-to-shot. Once the barrel got hot (difficult to touch with my bare hand), it stayed hot much longer (of course) than a “pencil-barrel” AR-15 I was also testing.

The included back-up iron sights (BUIS) have a rotating drum peep system in the rear sight, and a front post with Heckler & Koch-type “ears” in the front sight. I like how it’s like a ghost ring at its most-open setting. I didn’t use the BUIS for accuracy testing, but did use them for chronograph work. Since the LWRCI Diadem did not come with a scope or mounts, I borrowed my Leupold Mark 4 8.5-25x50mm from another rifle for accuracy testing.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) Proprietary rail mounts allow accessories to be added to the handguard at the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock positions. (r.) The bolt-carrier group is nickel-boron coated and contains an integral gas key.

The LWRCI Diadem showed a preference for certain loads during accuracy testing. I shot both .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO commercial ammunition. With a 1:7-inch twist rate, one might expect heavier, longer projectiles to stabilize better than lighter, shorter ones, and this generally held true. The gun may have shown better accuracy if I had some ammo with 77-grain projectiles, but, alas, I did not and had to make do with bullets ranging from 52 to 69 grains.

The only operational failures during the LWRCI Diadem range time were occasional failures of the bolt to lock rearward when I was using 20-round Magpul PMags and a couple of 10-round sheet-metal variants. There were no lock-back failures with the 30-round PMag supplied with the gun. Admittedly, the smaller mags have already seen several thousand rounds each and may be a bit worn, but since only one mag came with the gun I had to dip into my stockpile for more. That brings up another point: gun manufacturers (I’m not aware of more than a few that are not guilty in this area) need to include more than one magazine with each gun, since failures with semi-automatic firearms of all types often begin with a faulty magazine.

According to my Lyman electronic trigger-pull gauge, the average pull weight over five hammer drops was 7 pounds, 2 ounces. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though; the pull weight spread was nearly a pound, showing the inconsistency I noticed during accuracy testing. I shoot better when the pull is consistent and averaging at least 3 pounds less than the trigger on this rifle. I have heard and read that companies building ARs are intentionally sacrificing consistent and lighter trigger weights to the gods of safety and reliability — and, the triggers smooth-out with use. I suspect LWRCI is trying to keep the price of the rifle down since “everybody installs aftermarket triggers, anyway.”

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) The Magpul CTR stock is equipped with an enhanced buttpad for comfort. (ctr.) ErgoGrip’s pistol grip is designed with a subtle texture and a palm-filling shape. (r.) Magpul’s 30-round, standard-capacity magazines keep the Diadem fed.

I don’t know if any of these thoughts crossed the minds of the designers, but just in case, I’d like to address these concerns. First, call me an idealist, but I don’t think the lawyers for the aftermarket trigger makers that produce consistent, lighter triggers are going to knowingly allow unsafe and unreliable products to ship. Next, this LWRCI Diadem came to me with more than 1,500 rounds on its odometer, so if the trigger was going to get better with use, it should have already done so. Last, I’m one of those who have replaced stock triggers in ARs, but not in all of them. At last count, of the nine AR-pattern rifles in my stable, I’ve seen the need to replace the triggers in two of them.

Some of my ARs have two-stage triggers, some are single-stage, but none are creepy, all are consistent and their drop points range from slightly more than 3 pounds to a little more than 6 pounds. This last argument for mediocre stock triggers certainly should not have been in the manufacturer’s plan for this design, since TWAW members specifically requested purple-colored triggers — it is doubtful they had any intentions to replace what came with the gun. That said, aftermarket options abound.

LWRCI did not create this rifle from whole cloth, as several of the LWRCI Diadem’s features are the same or similar to other rifles from the company’s DI line, including the integrated gas key on the rifle’s nickel-boron-coated bolt-carrier group, a spiral-fluted NiCorr-treated barrel and LWRCI’s Monoforge upper receiver. It did, however, meet the requirements for a group of women who knew what they wanted. To date, Lightfoot says feedback about the Diadem has been extremely positive. “The women appreciate that the gun is not ‘girly,’ and that it’s in black,” added Lightfoot.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15

LWRCI Diadem AR-15

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Reloaders Corner: AR15 Chamber Options

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It’s vital to understand “which” chamber is in your AR15. What you don’t know can create big problems. Here’s why.


Glen Zediker


I’ve talked over or at least touched upon this topic, here and there, in other articles. And this week I got four phone calls asking for advice on “which” AR15 chamber I’d recommend. I guess that sort of spurred creation of this article. My primary goal (always) is to answer questions, and ideally before they are asked. So…

NATO mark
A TRUE NATO load always has this mark on its base: the cross-in-a-circle stamp. Some commercial ammo that appears to be mil-spec may or may not be, but err on the safe side.

There are a few options today, and, no, it never was “simple.” There have always been two distinct chambers cut for .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO. And that’s the difference right there! See, .223 Rem. is a commercial round, 5.56 is a mil-spec round. Yes. They are “the same,” but they’re not. The difference is in how these two are loaded with respect to pressures. NATO is a whopping lot hotter. To the tune of +15,000 PSI.

The differences in the chambers are, pretty much, that a NATO has a significantly longer throat or leade or freebore, whichever term is preferred. This is the area in a chamber that extends beyond the case neck cut.

Chamber-All gage
I use a Hornady LNL OAL gage to find out exactly the length of the chamber throat. Get one at Midsouth. This read shows “NATO” by the way. Sierra 80gr MatchKing at 2.550 inches to touch the lands. Wylde should read 2.475. SAAMI-minimum will (usually) be 2.395.

This area in a chamber accepts the initial gas expansion, so, in one way, it can be looked at like an expansion chamber. More room for expanding gases effectively reduces stress on the case. When this area is lengthened, there’s more room, less pressure build. When this area is shortened, there’s less room, more pressure build.

As said, .223 Rem. is short, NATO is long. Take a NATO-spec round and fire it in a .223 Rem. chamber and there’s too much pressure. The .223 Rem. will “fit” just fine; there’s no influential differences otherwise in chambering specifications between .223 Rem. and 5.56.

You’ve probably heard all that before. It’s very important to know. “Which” chamber affects making loaded ammo choices, and also in interpreting reloading data.

NATO pressure
Here’s “real” NATO fired in a commercial .223 Rem. chamber. Ouch. The imprints and general beating the case head shows are the result of the additional pressure in the NATO loading, and the .223 Rem. chamber’s inability to excuse that much extra pressure.

Short history as to the reasons these two chambers exist: .223 Rem. in civilian, commercial application was a varminting-type round, along the lines of .222 Rem. When SAAMI (Sporting Ammunition and Arms Manufacurers Institute) laid down the specifications for that round it did so based around the prevalent short .224 bullets of the day, which were often 52-grain flatbase designs. For best accuracy with the little bullets, the throat was kept short, decreasing the distance the bullet had to travel to engage the lands or rifling. Some, most, me included, call this chamber a “SAMMI-minimum.” The mil-spec ammo assembled for M16s used a 55-grain boat-tail loaded to a higher velocity, and the longer throat was specified to handle the extra gas.

What matters is knowing that you don’t have a .223 Rem. chamber. A NATO can handle anything.

Most AR15s I’ve handled in the past good long while have NATO chambers. It’s the only thing that makes any sense for someone, anyone, who wants to fire sto-bot ammo. Not all the mil-type commercial loads (like the “white box” varieties) are true NATO spec, but if the ammo is not marked “.223 Rem.” it might be a tad amount to a lot hotter than a short-throated gun should handle. True NATO ammo has a distinct marking on the case base.

There is now another what’s become “standard” chamber for AR15s, and that’s the Wylde. Named for AR15 accuracy pioneer Bill Wylde, this reamer specs fall between SAAMI-minimum and NATO. Bill started cutting these chambers for NRA High Power Rifle contestants who needed more room in the throat to accept the long 80-grain bullets but not so much room that the shorter 69-grain bullets were having to leap a gorge to engage the lands. A compromise. A Wylde is a good chamber, and a good choice.

Compare .223 chambers
Here’s the best way to see what’s going on with AR15 chambers. These are Sierra 80-grain MatchKing bullets loaded to an overall cartridge length that has the bullet touching the rifling. Left to right: SAMMI-minimum .223 Rem.; Wylde; NATO. Wahoo. Big, big differences. There’s a little more than 0.150 inches between the SAAMI-minimum and the NATO and that space in the throat handles the extra PSI of NATO-spec loadings. It is also, by the way, how to know (or one way to know) the actual “length” of a chamber throat.

Here’s how it breaks down, according to me:
SAAMI-minimum or commercial .223 Rem. chamber is good for those who are wanting the best accuracy from light bullets. Can’t run mil-surplus ammo or NATO-spec commercial though.

NATO is for anyone who wants to shoot anything and everything out there safely.

NATO stamp
There’s a few ways I’ve seen “NATO” marked on barrels, and I’ve seen a good number of barrels that aren’t marked at all. That’s terribly irresponsible. Look for “5.56” since that seems to have become the more common way to denote “NATO.”

Wylde is more or less an “Improved NATO,” and my experience has been that it will safely handle true NATO loads, even if that’s not its intended design. I base that on spent case condition. It will shoot a little better than a NATO with lighter, shorter bullets. The Wylde is available more and more commonly now from different manufacturers and in “drop-in” accessory barrels.

winchester .223 ammo
If you have a “.223 Rem.” stamp on your barrel don’t feed it any ammo that is not clearly likewise marked “.223 Rem.” Should say the same on the case headstamp. If it doesn’t read “.223 Rem.” do not fire it in a barrel stamped “.223 Rem.” This ammo is safe for any AR15. If you don’t see a stamp on your barrel, find out…or just fire .223 Rem.

The preceding was adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available here at Midsouth. For more information on this book, and others, plus articles and information for download, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

Five Guns Every Shooter Should Own

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Owning firearms takes money, which comes as no surprise to anyone here at MSS. So one important question is, when you’re building your collection, what are your must-haves and can’t-do-withouts?

Everyone’s list is different, but here’s one that makes a lot of sense to us for five guns every shooter should own:

#1
.22 LR rifle and ammunition to feed it. What action and brand of rifle? Your pick. How much is enough rimfire ammo to have on hand? We think keeping a rolling stock of 5,000 rounds minimum is about right.

#2

.22 LR handgun. A complement to #1, so it can be semi-auto or wheelgun.

#3
Defensive concealable handgun. Most will prefer semi-autos, but wheelguns are fine. Need to keep on hand at least 500 to 1,000 rounds minimum — and extra mags or speed-loaders depending on your pick.

#4

Semi-auto battle rifle. 5.56 chambering is a mainstay, of course, but 30-cals do more farther away. Again, money raises its ugly head when you’re counting round inventory, but we think 1k is the minimum to have on hand for this.

#5
A 12-gauge shotgun. Pumps are famous for their reliability, and upkeep is minimal. Rounds to have on hand include at least 250 bird-suitable shotshells (#7’s), a similar amout of buckshot loads, and a similar amount of slugs.

If we were to expand the list one slot, we’d next include a bolt rifle chambered in the same cartridge as #4, which would suggest the semi-auto and bolt gun both be .308s. Another way to go would be to co-chamber #3 and #4 in a handgun round, such as the 45 ACP. A handgun-cartridge-chambered carbine has a lot going for it, but you would have to accept reduced range.

What’s your lineup of five must-have firearms? Let us hear about it in the comments section below.

 

MSS isn’t recommending any particular brand or models here, just a suitable collection of five should-have firearms. Top, Ruger makes several rimfire rifles and handguns that can make this list, including the SR22 pistol, the 10/22 rifle, and the 22/45 pistol. The company is also selling suppressors for them now as well. Cans are handy, but optional, on our list. Second from top is a suitable self-defense sidearm, this one being Springfield Armory’s 1911 Range Officer Pl9129LP chambered in 9mm Luger. Below that is a semi-auto self-defense rifle; this one is a Daniel Defense DDM4V7LW chambered in 5.56 NATO. And rounding out our list is, bottom, a Mossberg 590 Magpul 50669 Pump 12 Gauge. What does your list include?
MSS isn’t recommending any particular brand or models here, just a suitable collection of five should-have firearms. Top, Ruger makes several rimfire rifles and handguns that can make this list, including the SR22 pistol, the 10/22 rifle, and the 22/45 pistol. The company is also selling suppressors for them now as well. Cans are handy, but optional, on our list. Second from top is a suitable self-defense sidearm, this one being Springfield Armory’s 1911 Range Officer Pl9129LP chambered in 9mm Luger. Below that is a semi-auto self-defense rifle; this one is a Daniel Defense DDM4V7LW chambered in 5.56 NATO. And rounding out our list is, bottom, a Mossberg 590 Magpul 50669 Pump 12 Gauge. What does your list include?