Gun Review: Adams Arms C.O.R. Ultra Lite Rifle

P1350992

Over the last couple years, there has been no bigger influence on the firearms market than the emerging sport of 3-gun shooting. As the number of participants has skyrocketed, so too has the number of rifle manufacturers producing firearms to feed that voracious market. Everyone and their brother has a rifle optimized for 3-gun shooting these days, and figuring out which rifle manufacturers have got their heads screwed on straight and actually understand the challenges of the sport can be a challenge. Adams Arms recently introduced a line of rifles specifically designed for 3-gun shooting, and they sent one to me to test out.

The name for their line of high-speed low-drag rifles is “Competition Optic Ready” or “COR.” The way they market these rifles is that the guns are designed and built by pro 3-gun shooters, and therefore the only thing you need to do after it shows up on your FFL’s doorstep is to add the optic of your choice. When it comes to optics, some people like red dots. Others like massive 3-9x power scopes. It’s all a matter of preference, but what generally isn’t contested is the overall design of a great 3-gun rifle. The details are up for debate, but if the overall package is solid then you should be good to go. In general, it looks like the COR line has lived up to those specs.

P1350997

The tagline for this specific rifle is “Ultra Lite,” indicating that it was designed with an eye towards shedding as many ounces as possible. One of the first things to be sacrificed in the name of shedding weight is the buttstock, and Adams Arms has gone with a Magpul MOE fixed rifle stock instead of a more traditional ACS-L or even PRS stock. It’s definitely lightweight, and for me personally I find it to be the exact right length to fit my body, but it’s not perfect for everyone. You trade off weight savings for comfort, but in general this stock should fit most people just fine.

P1360013

Moving slightly forward, we come to the fire controls. Adams Arms has been using the Hiperfire triggers for ages now, and personally I’m a fan. They are easy to tune and offer a crisp and clean break, which is a huge improvement over the standard mil-spec garbage that most companies half-heartedly shove in their firearms on their way out the door. The trigger is one of the most important bits on a rifle, and I’m glad to see that the Adams Arms guys haven’t skimped.

The other fire controls are acceptably nice as well. The safety selector is right-hand only, but lefties can easily swap that out if need be. The grip is a Magpul MOE grip, which isn’t as nifty as a MIAD but it’s perfectly fine. There’s a plastic trigger guard (again, weight savings taking a priority here) underneath, but only a standard charging handle up top. The rifle also comes in a variety of paint jobs, for those wanting to stand out visually. Or you can get it in plain black and be boring.

The real nifty stuff, though, is out front.

P1360002

The rifle sports a 16.5 inch barrel, and a Samson free float handguard surrounding it. Samson makes some good stuff, but they are still using semi-proprietary screw-in rail segments when the rest of the industry seems to be quickly moving to either keymod or M-LOK based rail mounting systems. It somewhat limits your choices when it comes to sticking things on your gun, but for 3-gun you’re going to want to be running as slick as possible anyway.

The muzzle brake is a competition legal VDI Jet comp, which does a fine job of mitigating the recoil of the 5.56 NATO based platform. The gun is rather lightweight, so while the “punishing recoil” of a 5.56 cartridge would normally not be an issue it becomes slightly more annoying in a featherweight gun. With the brake installed the recoil is still a touch heavier than in my usual competition rifle, but it isn’t terrible.

P1360030

The real difference between any old rifle and an Adams Arms rifle is the gas system. Adams Arms uses a short stroke piston system instead of a direct impingement / gas expansion system like the normal AR-15 rifles, which seems to keep the gun cleaner and operating longer than with conventional systems. Of all the short stroke piston systems on the market I like the Adams Arms adaptation best, simply because it is a dead simple design executed very well that is incredibly easy to disassemble and clean.

For their COR rifle, Adams Arms has designed a low-mass bolt carrier. Havng a lighter bolt carrier does slightly reduce he overall weight of the gun, but the real benefit is that a light bolt carrier requires less force to move around than a standard BCG, which means reduced felt recoil due to the operating parts moving around. It’s a good theory, but in practice it still seems to have some issues. The first time they sent me the COR rifle the gun refused to cycle — it would eject the spent cartridge but fail to pick up the next round off the magazine. It’s a classic symptom of an under-gassed operating system, but even running the adjustable gas block in the widest setting available the gun wouldn’t cycle. Adams Arms’ guns are all under a lifetime warranty, so I sent it back and the one they returned worked perfectly. It would be nice if it had worked the first time, but they made it right so I’m not that concerned.

What does concern me, though, is the barrel.

P1350987

This is a “lightweight” rifle build, which means they have taken every ounce out of the gun that could possibly be removed. From a low mass carrier to a lightweight buttstock, there’s nothing left on the rifle that is extraneous. So when it comes to the barrel, the same thing has been done — to disastrous results.

With barrels, despite what some people might believe, the length of the barrel doesn’t have any appreciable impact on accuracy. Long or short, it doesn’t matter that much. What does matter, however, is the quality of the barrel. A stiff short barrel will do wonders for accuracy, but a skinny long barrel is damn near useless past 100 yards. With the Adams Arms COR Ultra Lite rifle the barrel has been profiled down to a pencil thin strip of steel containing the expanding gasses, and as a result the barrel has a tendency to whip around a bit when firing. In fact, the barrel is so thin that I can make it deflect about a half an inch at the muzzle using nothing more than my thumb and forefinger. That barrel movement translates into some painfully dreadful results downrange.

IMG_20141118_133349

This five round group was shot at 100 yards off a rest, and is the best group I had all day out of the gun. The extreme spread of the group is right around 2 MoA, which is OK for a off-the-shelf bargain bin rifle but terrible for a “competition” gun. I take that back — it’s terrible, depending on what you need it to do.

It seems like this gun was designed for the 3-Gun Nation series courses of fire, where the furthest targets are 6 inch steel plates at 50 yards and the whole point is to go really really fast. In that situation, this gun wouldn’t be too bad. It cycles quickly, recoil isn’t bad, and the light weight means you have less mass to lug around with you through corners and around tight bends. It should do just fine in that environment.

The problems start when you move out into the “real” world of 3-gun. 3GN matches are designed to look good on camera, but th average 3-gun match is much different. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a match that didn’t have at least one difficult 100 yard shot, and testing the shooter’s ability to transition from quick close-range targets to small long range targets in a single stage is something that match designers love to do. The best plan for those kinds of matches is to bring an accurate rifle, as the more accurate your rifle is the less accurate you need to be. When seconds count and you need to take a less than ideal shot from a compromised shooting position, having a smaller “cone of uncertainty” with your rifle means you can get good hits with an okay sight picture instead of needing to be dead-on every single time. It saves time, and in matches where the targets can be 500+ yards away it can make all the difference.

P1350992

There’s nothing necessarily “bad” about the AA COR Ultra Lite rifle, the designers have simply made some compromises in order to maximize one statistic over another. In this case they prized a lightweight gun over a super accurate gun, and the result is what you see here. This is a rifle that would be absolutely perfect for the 3GN style matches or most east coast based 3-gun clubs, but for anything in Texas or Arizona (where the long range stuff is king) I wouldn’t even want to try running it with this gun. The only real problem is the barrel — if the guys at Adams Arms had used a slightly thicker profile (and therefore increased the weight a touch) it would be a much better all-around gun, but then it wouldn’t have been as light.

No gun will be all things to all people — all guns make some trade-offs. In this case, the trade-off wasn’t advantageous for me in Texas. But if you’re looking for a featherweight AR-15 rifle with a great piston system that’s ready to go for short range 3-gun matches, this is a great choice.

Specifications: Adams Arms C.O.R. Ultra Lite Rifle

Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Action: Semi-auto
Barrel: 16.5″
Magazine: Standard AR-15
MSRP: $1,799.61

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * *
For the price, definitely sub-par. But then again, that was by design.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Lightweight and maneuverable, this thing is definitely very cool. It loses a point for the fixed rifle stock, though.

Ease of Use: * * * * *
Light recoiling, easy to disassemble gas system, and dead nuts simple field stripping make this a breeze to use.

Reliability: * * * *
I have to knock off a point because the gun didn’t work out of the box, but a trip back to Adams Arms and they fixed it. Zero malfunctions since the trip to the shop.

Customization: * * * *
I’d really love to see a slightly thinner handguard with some keymod or M-LOK attachment points. The Samson rail is cool, but keymod is cooler.

Overall Rating: * * *
This one was really hard for me to decide. I like almost everything about this gun — the stock, handguard, and trigger are all quality stuff, the piston system is really nifty, and even the bolt carrier is decidedly cool. But I think they went a step too far with the barrel profile, and traded off too much accuracy in the pursuit of weight savings. For a 3GN shooter this might be perfect, but for the average Joe dropping over a grand and a half on a competition rifle they need to use it in more than one hyper-specialized subset of 3-gun. As an ultra-light rifle this is a great choice, but it isn’t versatile enough to use for any other purpose. I’d be less disappointed if there were a version with a slightly heavier (and more accurate) barrel available as well, but alas this is all Adams Arms has at the moment for the C.O.R. line.

comments

  1. avatar Mark N. says:

    All this talk about an ultra light rifle and then you don’t bother to tell us how much it weighs? Hmmm.

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      They don’t list one, and I don’t own a scale. Well, any scale capable of more than a few grains.

      1. avatar Paelorian says:

        Then go to a store and buy one before you publish your review. You’re a professional and an essential piece of information like that which is not on the manufacturer’s website is a must in your review. The whole point of the rifle build was purportedly weight, and that weight is not even in your flawed review. What low standards TTAG has for reviews. The weight should be given for every single tangible item TTAG reviews. It’s a more important specification than even the price (which unlike weight varies).

        I’m guessing based on this review that this rifle sucks. At least, it sucks at being an $1800 “featherweight” AR-15. These are not lightweight components. That 14oz Magpul fixed stock weighs literally twice as much as a more functional 7oz BCM Gunfighter collapsible stock. Thank you dan for commenting on Nick’s review of that stock to give the essential data on it’s weight. I’m willing to bet that handguard is much heavier than, say, a BCM KMR. That pencil barrel makes too much of a compromise. Other companies do this concept of a high-end lightweight AR-15 better. Christensen Arms CA-15 & CD-15 and MAG Tactical Systems AIR-15 would be good examples. Mix and match the best parts from the best companies and put it together right and you can create something even better.

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Go to Grainger.com and find a hanging scale in the 25lb range. This isn’t that difficult.

      3. avatar Eric says:

        Here you go Nick, inexpensive, accurate and with Amazon Prime you can have it by Tuesday

        http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B002TWEXXM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    2. avatar Lee Grim says:

      The weight is 4.6lbs for the upper alone. And the system really is shiite. Three gun comps here on the east coast have (generally) 100-300yds long shots. I made the mistake of building one hell of a lower then bought this pos to put on top. Just like the man said it wouldn’t cycle with the gas going completely too the piston. I get it back and had the wrong BCG in it. It did fire great after that though. Then on the bench cold shots were 2.5MOA @100yds and so I cleaned it, boxed it, and sent it on it’s way. I’m building an upper with AA’s short stroke piston system, a way better barrel, and have been able to keep the upper right at 4.8lbs. AA’s other guns are pretty good. I own a Adams Arms AR-15 Base MOE A3 Gas Piston Upper Receiver Assembly 5.56x45mm NATO 16″ Barrel on a Palmetto Defense lower, Tac-Con 3MR trigger group (Which is a legal fully auto trigger. 4.5lbs trigger pull, and the 3rd position multi-pull auto feature. I’ve gotten it to shoot 640rpm!), no buffer needed. I know this doesn’t give you all the info you are looking for but if you know the weight of your lower it would put you in the ball park.

  2. avatar Michael says:

    That “group” says it all…..no thanks!

  3. avatar tfunk says:

    Hold on a second…you could deflect the barrel a HALF INCH using thumb and forefinger? So, one inch total side to side? That’s ridiculous!

    And, as above- the weight would seem to be important info

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      That half-inch struck me, too. I’m thinking I don’t believe that, as in, it sounds like the barrel isn’t tightened, meaning it is dangerous to shoot. Have someone look at that puppy, that’s not possible.

  4. avatar NDS says:

    That looks like the MOE K2 grip, which I’ve replaced two MIADs with. It’s a far better angle and texture, customization be damned.

    1. avatar Scrubula says:

      So it’s not just for SBRs/ AR pistols?
      All of the reviews I found on it said it was designed for shorter LOP (stock length) ARs…

  5. avatar ropingdown says:

    Samson makes some good stuff, but they are still using semi-proprietary screw-in rail segments when the rest of the industry seems to be quickly moving to either keymod or M-LOK based rail mounting systems.

    Samson Evolution foregrips are produced in both proprietary and keymod versions. Take your choice. For example, in the 10″ length:
    http://www.samson-mfg.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SM&Product_Code=KM-Evolution-10&Category_Code=SHOP

  6. avatar pistol pedro says:

    Please tell me it is april first! I wouldn’t pay $500 for this pos why they glowing review? A 3 gun ready gun please.

  7. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Nick? While RF is getting raked over the coals for hatin’ on LEOs and whatnot I’ll sling a bit your way! 😉 Why no reviews of AKs, brah?!?! Especially seeing as your avatar is holding one!

    Just yanking your chain. I like your reviews, and there is some nice AK stuff out here. Show us some love. Hell, show us the crap so we can avoid it.

  8. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Oh, and that much barrel movement?!?! For real? Thats just scary.

  9. avatar Tile floor says:

    1800 bucks is asinine for an AR that shoots like that… Hell you can get a DI AR that shoots much tighter groups for a third of that price… All those Magpul doodads don’t mean squat if the gun can’t shoot accurately… Besides you can buy all that stuff and slap it on your entry level AR for a decent price

    1. avatar robert w says:

      i would much rather spend my money on a colt competition rifle.now its the real deal.1 inch groups in writing or your money back at 100 yards.maybe one of the best rifles under 2000 dollars made.was new to these guns until i got this gem its a keeper.there made by bold ideas in texas check them out.

  10. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” A super-light rifle that isn’t accurate isn’t interesting.

    There are other ways to stiffen a barrel and still have a lightweight result. Carbon fiber surrounding the inner pressure barrel under tension. They cost serious money (like $500 or thereabouts) but they work.

    Christansen Arms has an AR with a carbon fiber barrel, front tube, etc – and it comes in at 6.2 lbs. They come with a 1 MOA guarantee.

    Personally, I don’t see the point of super-light rifles or shotguns. Under 7lbs, I find a long arm to be annoyingly light and “whippy,” but that’s me. I’d rather have a heavier rifle than have to deal with a muzzle break, eight days a week.

    And since a 6.2 pound rifle has only a 4.1 ft-lbs recoil impulse (assuming XM-193 ammo, 55gr pill and 25gr powder charge in a 6.2lb rifle), I honestly don’t see what recoil there is to object to, and even at 6.2 lbs, I don’t see the point of a muzzle brake. Over 25 ft-lbs, OK, I’d start to investigate muzzle brakes – maybe. Up to 25 lbs, there’s no way I’m going to put up with the increased noise.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Although new to the AR platform, I had the same thoughts when I put together my first. Pencil barrels are too thin and whippy to have any great degree of initial accuracy, and that accuracy will only decrease as the barrel heats up. So what’s the point? “A miss is as good as a mile.” And muzzle brakes for a 5.56? Why? The recoil is so negligible as to make them completely unnecessary and only adds to hearing discomfort for no appreciable benefit. And some manufacturers charge real coin for those things. I saved my money and bought an A2, which is perfectly adequate since I have no plans to do any night maneuvers. I would have preferred an unthreaded target crowned barrel, but I just couldn’t find one at the time with the specs I was looking for.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The lack of threaded & target crowned barrels is why I sometimes turn my own for AR’s. It isn’t rocket science… I just order a 1-in-9/8/7 stainless barrel blank and turn it down on the lathe and polish it out. I even make my own gas blocks, just so I don’t need to conform to someone else’s gas block for diameters and screw locations.

        When I do this, I like thick barrels – like 0.850 or even 0.900 in back of the gas block and 0.750 forward of the gas block. It makes them a tad front-heavy, but it sure makes for a rifle that doesn’t move around much at all when I’m getting heavy on the trigger.

        I seriously don’t understand the point of comps/brakes on AR’s. Just don’t get it. I get the point of brakes on rifles from .300 WM on up, but on .223’s? Just don’t get it at all.

        1. avatar LongBeach says:

          Dude, my AR kicks HARD.

          #ImABitch

  11. avatar Mark N. says:

    And if you have the coin for a REALLY light rifle, try this sub-4lb one on for size: http://www.battlearmsdevelopment.com/oip-rifle

  12. avatar LongBeach says:

    $1800 for an inaccurate rifle that isnt really very lightweight or adjustable. Good. I’ll take two.

  13. avatar DekNgo says:

    Who makes that scope mount?

  14. avatar Ryan says:

    Its reviews like this that make me really start to wonder about TTAG…

    1. avatar Robert Farago says:

      Don’t wonder. Make it better. Write for us. You might win an Underground Tactical Bacon Maker in 6.5 Grendel.

  15. avatar Kurt says:

    Nick, What ammo were you using? I have thousands of rounds through multiple of those 16.5″ ultralight barrels and have never had poor accuracy. The barrel has a lifetime 1MOA guarantee, so saying that it is “innacurate by design” is not an accurate statement. The barrels are melonite hardened. I have used it in many Texas 3 gun matches with lots of long range.

  16. avatar C.S. says:

    I own one of these (bought for MUCH less than the $1900 manufacturer’s list.)

    I was having fits while attempting to zero it with 55gr LC XM193. I downsized to 50gr Remington BTHP…instant gratification. Even better? 40 grain Federal Premium Accutips were drilling dimes from a rest. And I have photographic evidence to prove it!

    In the interest of weight vs. accuracy vs. round selection, after reading this review I think the lighter rounds are definitely a favorite (aside from personal experience) based on design- even 69gr Winchester Matchking couldn’t break 1.5″

    Definitely not a “combat” rifle, but definitely a solid option for training/competition where speed is king.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email