Gun Review: LWRC M6A2 5.56mm NATO

Eugene Stoner designed the AR rifle platform. As the Geneseo gunmaker who employed Mr. Stoner would like to remind you, “AR” stands for “ArmaLite Rifle.” Not “assault rifle.” No matter what you call it, the AR-15 and its current iterations have proven themselves on battlefields ranging from the soggy jungles of Vietnam to the sandy dunes of Iraq. For the past 40 years, the U.S. Armed Forces have relied heavily on the M16, and most recently the M4 (a shortened M16). That was after ArmaLite sold the rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt. In 1963, Stoner began working on the AR-16 – a short-stroke, gas piston rifle made with stamped-steel parts (to make it easier to manufacture and spec overseas). Unfortunately, ArmaLite was reorganized, Stoner left the company, and the AR-16 never progressed beyond the prototype stage . . .

By this time, the effectiveness and advantages of a small-caliber, high-velocity round in combat had become more accepted. Stoner’s replacement, Arthur Miller, incorporated the 5.56 NATO into the AR-16 design. They christened the new rifle the AR-18. ArmaLite put the new weapon into limited production as an alternative to the AR-15. However, the AR-15/M16 rifle had been fully developed, flaws had been ironed out, and ammo improved and finalized. The U.S. military was happy with the M16. They weren’t interested in acquiring yet another 5.56 mm service rifle.

In the end, the lack of marketing was the final nail in the AR-18’s coffin. The design had proven itself in prototype testing; no major flaws had sprung up. In 1968, Arthur Miller became dissatisfied with efforts to market the AR-18 and left the company. While the AR-18 was never adopted as a standard service rifle, the design influenced many later weapons such as the British SA80 and the well-known HK G36.

The LWRCI M6 series of piston-driven rifles are basically AR-18’s. They look, feel, smell, and taste just like a standard AR-15. Most M16/M4/AR15 parts interchange with the M6 rifles. Even the LWRCI lower receiver will pin-up to any AR-15 based upper. The exception being that all LWRCI carbine systems feature their short-stroke gas-piston operating system. The operating system is lightweight, self-regulating, and self-scraping. This system of operation does not foul the moving parts of the weapon with carbon or heat, greatly enhancing service life and reliability while decreasing both user and armorer maintenance.

OOTB

The LWRC M6A2 comes decked out with many parts that AR guys install on their piece anyway. Regardless of barrel length, the M6A2 comes with a mid-length free float rail system. The upper-most portion of the rail is removable to allow cleaning of the piston assembly. Any standard MIL Std-1913 accessory can be mounted to the rail, and since the removable portion is designed to ‘return-to-zero’, one doesn’t need to worry about removing and reinstalling accessories.

The rail design is known as a “monolithic rail”. The railed portion of the receiver bridges seamlessly with the removable portion of the rail. You can run anything from a EOTech with a magnifier, to a LER scope, to an ACOG battle sight. All upper-rail space is usable.

Our test and evaluation M6A2 was equipped with a 14.7” barrel. M6A2 rifles feature a match grade, cold rotary hammer forged barrel with a 1/7” RH twist, and a target crown. The flash hider is the standard, yet effective, A2 affair, with ½” – 28 TPI threading.

The barrel is treated with NiCorr™ surface conversion technology that is designed to extend service life, enhance accuracy, and increases the effective range of the weapon. The action is coated in a proprietary nickel coating (similar to Robar NP3) that provides a hard, permanent, and self-lubricating coating to the moving parts.

Weight of the M6A2 is… heavy! Then again, so is the M4. For a service rifle that is supposed to be lightweight and compact, the focus now is just compact. I think lightweight stepped off the scale and into a Burger King! However, even with its heft, the Even near 7 lbs, the M6A2 does handle and balance well.

Other goodies from the factory include a VLTOR EMod stock, MagPul MIAD (MIssion Adaptable) grip, ProMag PM015 black polymer rail covers, and Troy Industries BUIS (back-up iron sights). Unfortunately, LWRCI only includes one MagPul 30-rd PMag with each rifle purchase. Fortunately for me, MagPul had 3-pack PMag’s on sale the week I picked up the M6A2. I love it when things just work out well like that!

Set Up

The standard VLTOR EMod stock ($125 if purchased separately) is all-day comfortable, easily adjustable for a multitude of shooters. The buttplate is slightly wider and longer at the toe that most AR-15 stocks. The toe is also rolled under, allowing the rifle to “roll” into the shoulder when being shouldered from the carry position.

The VLTOR stock provides an adequate weld, particularly when using optics or red-dot sights. The EMOD also includes additional storage in the removable, waterproof side compartments (up to four CR123 or three AA batteries). There is an additional weather proof compartment in the clubfoot area of the stock; you can access this compartment quickly, which can hold two AA batteries or other small parts.

Like the VLTOR EMOD, the MIAD grip is also one of the best choices in the industry. Shooters can interchange both front and rear panels to build the grip that best fits their hand. The MIAD grip comes with a detachable rubber core cap for additional storage of up to three spare 5.56mm rounds. MagPuil sells additional cores for storing batteries, cleaning kits, etc.

Feed me Seymour

Even cases that have been heavily lacquered feed and eject with no troubles at all, although it does begin to smell like a nail-salon. Even mixing up types of ammo in the same magazine does not stumble the M6. For those preparing or thinking of a rifle for an “end of the world” scenario, the M6A2 is certainly capable of filling that role. If it is stamped .223 or 5.56, you can use it!

Of all the manufactures and loadings of .223mm and 5.56mm ammo tested, my favorite cartridge is made by Wolf. Mostly known for making cheap, steel-cased military loadings, Wolf also has a “Gold” line. I have found that the Wolf Gold .223 75-grain JHP Boat Tail to be extremely accurate, while also being fairly affordable. Using a Nikon ProStaff scope on a LaRue mount, I was able to keep 5 rounds within a 2” circle at 100-yards. Not a precision rifle in the least, but certainly respectable for a 14.7” barreled carbine.

When plinking, and taking friends or family out to the range, I tend to use targets set out to 25 or 50 yards. Trying to spot .223” diameter holds at 100-yards is difficult, even for a spotting scope. I mostly use Federal 55-gr FMJ ammo. It is cheap and easy to come by, although accuracy at 100 yards starts to look more like a “pattern” than a “grouping”. I do notice that many holes in the paper are elongated; suggesting that the 1-in-7” twist of the rifling demands a heavier load. This suspicion was confirmed when I tried Winchester 45-gr JHP “Varmint” loads. Holes in the paper at 100 yards were more like slits.

Shooting Impressions

LWRC markets the 14.7” as an excellent general purpose carbine, capable of effective fire out to 600 meters. While I certainly won’t be using this rifle for any long range shooting competitions, 300 yard hits on a man-sized target are easily managed.

The trigger on the M6A2 is similar to ones found on combat pistols: moderately heavy with moderate take-up. Initially, I did notice a little grit just before break. That has since disappeared, likely due to the triggers mating surfaces wearing down and smoothing out. While smoother, the trigger is still not remotely good enough for competitive or hunting use. If I decide to push this rifle further, I will certainly consider upgrading to an upgraded LWRCI, Geissele or AR Gold trigger. For now, the factory LWRCI trigger works just fine.

Break it Down

Back at base, the M6A2 breaks down like every other AR-15 rifle out there. Push out the rear pin and you can begin to disassemble. Everything is standard AR-15 affair, with the exception of the piston system and upper rail. To remove the upper rail, you need to loosen the two thumb-screws at the front of the handguard. The upper portion of the rail then slides forward a hair and can then be removed.

When cleaning the M6A2 after a long day of shooting, competition, or training, you will certainly notice one thing – the gun stays clean. As all of the exhaust gases stay out of the carrier group and receiver, cleaning the upper literally takes seconds. A quick wipe down with good gun oil or CLP and you’re good to go. The bolt face and carrier is also easily wiped down. If you use lacquered cases, you will need to brush and clean the chamber and lugs from time to time.

Since the piston-rod and cup is self-scraping and thus self-cleaning, it rarely needs to be actually cleaned. I don’t even consider it “cleaning” really, more like a wipe-down and inspection. The op-rod assembly requires no major lubrication. I simply put a dash of grease on the return spring before assembling. Also, since the receiver gets none of the hot and dirty exhaust gases, the buffer tube and spring stays extremely clean as well. A quick wipe down (I use a 10/12-ga shotgun bronze brush with a lightly oiled patch) and you’re ready to reassemble.

Conclusion

The MSRP of the LWRCI M6A2 may put it out of reach for some people, it really isn’t that much more than a standard Colt M4. If you factor in the cost of replacing the stock ($125 MSRP) and grip ($40) on a basic AR (something many AR owners do anyway), the price separation begins to shrink. Throw in the Troy Industries BUIS (about $200 for the set), quad rail ($275), rail covers ($30), and PMag ($25), the difference in price becomes relatively non-existent. What you are getting though, is a well-tuned hot-rod directly from the factory.

While still a relatively young company, LWRCI continues to search for and develop the latest technology, in an attempt to bring their customers the most reliable, the most durable, and the best handling rifles and carbines in the world. The M6A2 is an awesome firearm that impresses even the most hardcore direct-impingement (excuse me, “internal piston assembly”) AR fan. The M6A2 will not likely end the DI vs. piston-system debate, but it gives piston-driven AR consumers another superb option from which to choose.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Caliber:  5.56 NATO and 6.8mm SPC
Barrel Length:  10.5″, 12.7″, 14.7″, 16.1″
Weight (unloaded):  7.3lbs (16.1″ barrel)
Length (overall length):  33.3-36.5″ (16.1″ barrel)
Rate of Fire:  Semi-Auto or Select Fire (LE/GOV Only) 850rpm (+/- 100rpm)
Rifling:  1/7″ RH (5.56); 1/10″ RH (6.8)
Stock:  VLTOR EMod
Pistol Grip:  MagPul MIAD
Sights:  BUIS Front and Rear
Magazine:  MagPul 30 rd. P-Mag (5.56) or Barrett 30 rd. (6.8) (Where applicable by State Law)
Muzzle Device:  A2 Flash Hider: 5.56 – 1/2 – 28 TPI; 6.8 – 5/8 X 24 TPI
Finish: Black, Olive Drab Green (Cerakote), and Flat Dark Earth (Cerakote).

RATINGS (out of 5 stars)

Style * * * *
Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but flys like an eagle! It is an “ugly black rifle”, although it can be had in olive drab and flat dark earth. There is no ugly handle on top, nor is there an obtrusive gas block in front of the hand guard.

Ergonomics * * * *
Feels like any other M4/AR-15 on the market, albeit with a nicer stock and grip.

Reliability * * * * *
This is where the LWRCI M6A2 shines – nothing, not even lacquer coated, steel cased military surplus ammo can slow her down.

Customizable * * * * *
It is still AR-15 based, so put on whatever your heart desires. Red dots, lasers, vertical grips, lights, etc etc – the world is yours to accessorize. The M6A2 uses mil-spec buffer tubes and standard trigger pins, meaning everything can be changed if so desired.

Overall * * * * *
The M6A2 is the result of the AR-18 meeting modern manufacturing processes, computer-assisted engineering, and 21st century surface coatings. The M6A2 is likely the best performing modern-tactical rifle on the market.

20 Responses to Gun Review: LWRC M6A2 5.56mm NATO

  1. avatarLance says:

    Did you have the 14.7″ barrel or the 16.1″ barrel? The 14.7″ would be an SBR.

  2. avatarPatrick Carrube says:

    I’m not 100% sure, but I did purchase this gun sans any tax-stamp. It is my understanding that how the NFA SBR laws currently sit, any rifled gun (as opposed to a smooth bore) has to have a total barrel length of at least 16″. The 14.7″ barrel with a 1.5″ flash hider (not legally considered a “flash hider” by BATFE) brings the total length of 16.2″, which doesn’t require a tax-stamp. There are limitations to that law, such as the barrel attachment(s) need to be considered “permanent” (i.e. pinned and/or welded).

  3. avatarLance says:

    Oh, I thought that 14.7″ was the total barrel length. With the permanent flash hider bringing it to 16.2″ you’re in the clear. I was thinking that TTAG had really grown if you guys were doing NFA reviews. Not that you shouldn’t do NFA reviews.

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      We are indeed growing, and you can expect an SBR test from me later this year :) Until then, thanks for checking out our non-NFA firearm reviews.

  4. avatarTTACer says:

    You must have been pretty good this year if Santa brought you that!

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      Actually, I picked this up last year (early) and it sat in the safe for a few months. I eventually took two different carbine courses, played with a couple of different setups (scoped first, and now an EOTech), and after seeing the direct impingmen- I mean internal pistol system vs external piston system discussions on TTAG, I thought I’d do a write-up for all to see. The common complaint of piston-driven AR’s is that they suffer from carrier tilt to the point that they are considered unreliable or they will wear out too fast. This was certainly true of many early models, but designs have been improved substaintially. I have around 4000 rounds (+/- 200) through this rifle – mostly .223, but around 600 or so of 5.56 NATO, and have yet find any appreciable wear on the buffer tube, or the rest of the gun for that matter. I know many other LWRC, POF, etc owners that shoot 3-gun competitions and their guns also run flawlessly – they of course are much harder on the rifles than I am.

  5. avatarJay S. says:

    Hey, look! Another AR clone! yawn….

    • avatarPatrick Carrube says:

      um…. not quite! This is rifle is far from the $600 Bushy on the shelf of your local gun ship.

  6. avatarJimmy Jenkins says:

    I am planning my first AR purchase and I think I will go with the M6A2 LWRC in camo pattern. I’ve read too much positive info on this gun and a thousand flies can’t be wrong. This smells like a sweet rifle.

  7. avatarJohnny Lee says:

    I have the M6A2 6.8mm spc and the Stag 8-6.8 mm spc but no time to compare and contrast them. I’m thinking of scraping the entire bunch and settling on a 50 round AR-57? What do you think of that?

    • avatarm32 says:

      io sinceramenie ti consiglio una mk 48camo o un m416 cqb é una bestia

    • avatarMatt says:

      I think that would be foolish. Ballistically, the 6.8 beats anything in its class and only needs a SMG length barrel to do so.

      5.7 is a silly SCHV round whose claim to fame is an ability to airhole kevlar (I’d like to see spitzer bullets in a Tokarev) unlike a pistol cartridge. PDWs and their rounds only exist to let their intended users (non-combatants) fill the air on rock & roll in hopes of increased hit probability. They were designed with that need for ultimate controllability on full auto in a compact weapon system, and high capacities in mind. Penetration wise, I bet your 6.8 would go inch for inch with it and a lot more than that on auto glass and car bodies. AND still deliver more than a hatpin wound profile.

      Don’t do it dude. Nice gimmick or keeping up with the tacticool Joneses, but pretty pointless cartridge without FA capability, that and a 16″ AR really ought to be firing something a lot heavier than 5.7mm. A 9mm or .223 would even be preferable IMO, and I damn sure don’t say the .223 is preferable to something else very often.

  8. avatarPA Ray says:

    I bought my first LWRC a couple weeks ago and started breaking in the barrel the other day. There is nothing about this M6A2, Tricolor, not to love. My first impression is that the recoil is almost non-existant. The standard single stage trigger is far superior to the stock, single stage on my Bushmaster.
    I’ll put some glass on it and test it for accuracy after the break-in period.
    This rifle is on its way of becoming my very favorite firearm.

  9. avatarRon says:

    I bought a LWRC M6A2 in 6.8 about a month ago. My wife and I loved it so much, the I picked up a 2nd one in 5.56 the day after we put about 100 rounds through the 6.8. 100 rounds and the chamber is still clean, no problems with the rifle. I was keyholed 10 rounds at 75 ft with the iron flip up sights. Can’t ask for more.

  10. avatarchad haire says:

    so why did the tester Lube a rifle with CLP on a surface that has been coated with non lube nickle-teflon type coating?????? and as far as the 6.8 being such a great cartridge, BS. 7.62×39 AR-15 converted rifles perform about the same, and at 18 cents per round vs. 50 cents for the 6.8. Too bad LWRC doesnt offer a factory conversion. They should.

  11. avatarConner woods says:

    Hey great review did u shoot any 556nato through the m6a2 I don’t mean 223 rem

  12. avatarCecil Sick says:

    I would like a copy of this article for my files. Thanks,

  13. avatarBJK308 says:

    Most every m4 is 14.7 with a perm attached muzz break making it not an sbr but 16. And legal for another few months at least I hope

  14. avatarDon Garrett says:

    I would love to see a TTAG review of the LWRC REPR.

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