Gear Review: NextLevel Training SIRT-AR Laser Bolt

 

With the price of ammo on the rise and panic buyers still grabbing every last round they can get their grubby little hands on, practicing with an AR-15 has become an expensive endeavor. This has left a lot of people searching for an alternative means of getting in some trigger time without breaking the bank. At one time, a .22LR conversion kit was the answer, but cheap .22 ammo isn’t so cheap any more. And good luck finding it. Enter NextLevel Training’s, SIRT-AR Laser Bolt, a training device that replaces the AR-15’s bolt carrier group . . .

I have a lot of experience with the military’s MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) gear. When the ammo shortage developed into like mass hysteria, I began searching for something that would serve the same purpose as MILES without having to have a D0D-sized budget. And I was a bit surprised at the variety of designs that are out there.

There are several laser devices on the market that load into the chamber of your AR just like a cartridge and are activated by the firing pin striking a button on the back. That design is functional, but leads to a couple of problems. First, the hammer must be reset after each shot. Having to pull back the charging handle every time doesn’t really make for realistic training scenarios, unless you are practicing for a malfunction.

The second problem is the fact that a firing pin is designed to hit the metal primer of a live round hard enough to dent the small brass cup, thus initiating the primer and firing the round. Eventually, the laser device’s tiny switch is going to take more of a beating than it can handle and will have to be replaced.

There are still others gizmos that stick into the end of the barrel and are activated by the shock of the hammer striking the firing pin. They solve the durability problem, but the hammer still needs to be recocked after every shot.

The SIRT-AR solves both problems by taking the entire firing mechanism of the AR completely out of the equation. It’s a simple design, and the only laser training device for an AR-15 that allows the trigger to reset without cocking the rifle’s hammer. This simple feature makes the SIRT-AR capable of engaging multiple targets realistically, a necessity if you’re training to use your AR in a defensive role.

NextLevel has recently dropped the SIRT-AR’s price from $199 down to $139, so it won’t drain your wallet. With current prices on just about everything gun-related skyrocketing lately, it’s nice to see a company moving in the opposite direction and making their product more accessible. This tactic has apparently worked well for them. I had to wait through a backlog of orders for a couple of weeks before they could ship mine.

Initial installation of the SIRT-AR is a little tricky. The system consists of a plastic device that replaces the bolt carrier group, a small metal rod that serves as the link between the trigger and the SIRT-AR’s switch, and a small plastic guide for the rod with a magnet embedded to hold it into place.

The bolt is simple enough. Just remove the bolt carrier and charging handle, and slide the SIRT-AR bolt in. The tiny rod and guide, on the other hand, take some time to get into place. Since all AR lowers are not machined identically, the plastic guide may need to be trimmed to fit properly. To NLT’s credit, the instructions mention this and they included a second guide in the kit that will allow for installation in more than one rifle if the receivers differ.

My Palmetto State Armory lower was one of the offending lowers that needed a few minutes with a file and a knife to get the guide sitting straight. Once it was trimmed properly, though, the guide just drops into place and is held firmly by the magnet.

The metal push rod is also adjustable to get the proper length for your rifle’s trigger. It’s a trial and error process that can take a little time to get right. One word of caution: I discovered that the rod will work itself out of adjustment fairly quickly from vibration, but after a drop of Loc-tite on the threads, it hasn’t been a problem.

Once everything is installed and adjusted, the SIRT-AR has a fairly realistic trigger feel that’s similar to a mil-spec trigger. When the trigger is pulled, there’s a distinct break and the device emits a laser beam down the barrel that lasts a little less than a second.

The bolt has two small set screws that allow for the laser to be zeroed to your sights or optics and included the proper Allen key for the job. The screws can be accessed through the ejection port and the magazine well, so it can be done while everything is installed.

Once I had it installed and zeroed, I set about using my house as the primary testing grounds. I have to admit that while the SIRT-AR was designed as a serious training device, I haven’t had this much fun with a gun-related accessory ever.

First of all, I could finally run through all of those home defense targeting scenarios that were only possible before with the gun unloaded. After growing bored with reliving my military urban ops training, it didn’t take long before everything in the house became a target. The TV became a continually changing shooting gallery, and the hallway was turned ito my personal shooting range.

The little green dot dancing all over the house soon had the cat in full on freakout mode, and I couldn’t resist taking full advantage of a live moving target! This earned me a few dirty looks from the wife. Luckily, she was out of the room when I used her porcelain doll collection to practice double-tap head shots.

Before I got into any more trouble, I moved operations outdoors. The green laser was plenty powerful enough for daytime use in direct sunlight. It was still easily visible at the limits of my average sized suburban back yard. As the sun went down, the bright green laser lit up the moisture in the air for an effect not unlike shooting tracer ammunition.

For those who own a LaserLyte target system, there’s also a red laser version of the SIRT-AR that is compatible.

Battery life was excellent. Rather than tiny button cells that don’t last long and are difficult to find, the SIRT-AR uses a single CR123A lithium battery. I came nowhere near draining the battery, even after a few thousand shots during this test.

I do have a couple of minor complaints about the SIRT-AR. First and foremost, it wasn’t designed to work with the charging handle in place. I’m a nose to the charging handle AR shooter. That’s the way I was trained in the military and old habits die hard. Without the handle being there, I had to concentrate on getting the gun properly positioned more than normal to maintain the sight picture as if it were there. Would it really have been that difficult to mold in a recess for it to remain in place?

My other gripe is the plastic housing of the bolt itself. It’s seems fairly fragile. True enough, it’s installed inside the rifle and is well protected, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s tough enough to handle any real abuse.

Aside from those minor points – and they really are minor – the SIRT-AR is a great training device for the AR owner who wants to use their gun for more than just punching holes in static paper targets or just doesn’t want to deplete their precious ammo supply until it becomes plentiful again.

Now, where did that cat go? Here kitty, kitty…

Price: $139

Ratings (out of five stars):

Design: * * * * 
Simple and effective, it loses a star for not being able to leave the charging handle in place. I’m sure there was a reason for this, but I find it an annoyance.

Construction * * *
The plastic housing leaves a little to be desired. Either a tougher polymer or an aluminum sleeve would make a world of difference.

Versatility * * * * *
The SIRT-AR is adaptable to pretty much any AR platform weapon. The availability of both red and green laser models allows for use with laser sensitive targets or outdoor use in bright sun.

Value * * * * *
The training value alone from this device by far outweighs its shortcomings. The fun factor is a major bonus and pushes this category over the top.

Overall * * * * ½ 
The SIRT-AR Laser Training Bolt is a great training tool for the AR platform. Minor complaints aside, it really is the best solution I’ve seen for shooting laser beams down the barrel of your AR-15.