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Shaolin Rifleworks says they’re making the most accurate AR-pattern rifles in the world. At SHOT Show 2015, I had a good time shooting their .223 and .308 rifles along with this .300 AAC Blackout carbine, but a gusting ~20 mph crosswind meant trying for indicative 100-yard groups was basically out of the question. Thankfully, Shaolin followed up by loaning me the .300 BLK version and I’ve been shooting it for a couple of months now. . .

First and foremost, while Shaolin (SRW) guarantees 1/2 MOA from its .223 and .308 rifles, it “only” guarantees 3/4 MOA from its .300 Blackouts. Of course, in order to guarantee that, it means that’s sort of a “worst case” scenario. Every rifle off the line is tested for function and accuracy in the great outdoors behind Shaolin’s New Hampshire shop, and every rifle must shoot five 5-shot groups within its relevant accuracy guarantee. I believe that’s typically done with Federal Gold Medal Match in the .223 and .308, and with Remington 120 grain supersonic in the .300 BLK.

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Currently, SRW is building its carbines and rifles on a Mega Arms lower receiver and a GIBBZ ARMS upper receiver — both CNC’d from billet aluminum.

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The lower receiver features a bolt release on the right side. Now that I’ve owned the Lancer L15 lower for more than half a year, I’ve become quite used to releasing the bolt with my trigger finger and I like this functionality.

Shaolin_right-receiver

The upper receiver is effectively slick-sided (with some nifty sculpting for strength and aesthetics) as it goes without the protrusion of a forward assist. The most notable feature, though, is the non-reciprocating, forward charging handle. Without a doubt, the forward charging handle is easier to use and is more ergonomically-placed than the standard AR-15 charging handle at the rear of the receiver, and GIBBZ has integrated this one in a very nice, solid, and sleek manner.

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Shaolin uses a Geissele G2S trigger in all of its rifles. But as excellent as that trigger is out of the box, SRW manages to improve upon it by stoning and polishing each unit for a noticeably smoother feel with a crisper, sharper break and a complete lack of creep.

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In the .300 BLK carbine, trigger pull weight for the first stage is 2.5 lbs and tripping the sear requires 4.25 lbs of force. SRW tunes the .223 and .308 triggers quite a bit lighter.

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Go-to handguards are carbon fiber units from Precision Reflex, Inc (PRI), in varying lengths depending on the carbine or rifle Shaolin is building for you.

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Muzzle device of choice is PRI’s Quiet Control Brake, which I have yet to recoil test but is relatively similar in design to the one from Precision Firearms that appeared in Muzzle Brake Shootout #2. It certainly does a good job on the .300 here, keeping things nice and stable with less concussion than with most dedicated brakes.

Shaolin_brake

SRW’s carbine stock of choice is likely my favorite AR-15 stock out there — and the one that’s gracing my CZ Scorpion Evo SBR (paperweight) — the ACE M4 SOCOM. For fans of The Walking Dead, word on the street is that one will be gracing Daryl’s AR-15 in the upcoming season (yes, I realize he’s “the crossbow guy”).

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BCG is a nice Nickel Boron unit, although I’m not sure who manufactures it. I do know it looks like this after 300 rounds without cleaning, half of which I shot suppressed and about a third of which were commercial reloads.

Shaolin_bcg

At this point, I hope you’re thinking something along the lines of, “whelp…yet another AR-15 ‘assembler’ masquerading as a ‘manufacturer.’ I can put an AR together with various nice parts, too.” Yadda, yadda. I’m here to tell you that Shaolin does a lot more than just put parts together. To warrant their claim of “most accurate ARs on the planet,” skill, precision machining, and hand labor must come together. . .

Achieving Accuracy

As much as I’d love to tell you that TTAG got the all-access pass and beat the secrets of Shaolin’s accuracy out of owners Cameron and Neil — although SHOT Show leads me to believe free whiskey would do the trick even better — it’s really no secret at all. The same methods for achieving the best possible accuracy out of a bolt-action rifle are “simply” being applied by Shaolin Rifleworks to ARs.

First, Shaolin acquires the best barrel blanks available. The blanks are turned in-house and are carefully chambered with a reamer of SRW’s own, proprietary design. The barrel extension is precisely trued and matched to the barrel. Receiver and barrel extension are precisely trued and matched. The bolt face and barrel extension are precisely trued and matched to each other. Lug recesses and bolt lugs receive the same treatment along with hand lapping (which often occurs on the other parts as well). Basically, every part that can affect accuracy is trued up to every other part that can affect accuracy. Alignment is absolute, fit is as tight and as precise as possible while, obviously, still allowing reliable function.

Shaolin_extension

The final step is verifying that all of the hard work paid off and, as mentioned, each and every rifle is taken out behind the shop and shot in real-world conditions. This means sandbag rest on a bench, target at 100 yards, in the deep New Hampshire snow if it’s winter, shot by a person who’s physically pulling the trigger and aligning the scope (no remote trigger release shenanigans, etc). For a rifle to ship to a customer, it has to shoot 5, 5-round groups at or better than Shaolin’s guarantee of 1/2 MOA for .223 and .308 and 3/4 MOA for .300 BLK. Again, since this is the guarantee and Shaolin isn’t in the business of throwing a bunch of rifles in the dumpster, this is pretty much considered worst case.

On The Range

Before we even get into accuracy, allow me to make it clear that this carbine is not a one-trick pony. While this obviously isn’t a lightweight build (not that 7 lbs, 2 oz is heavy, either) the balance of the fairly thick barrel profile combined with the M4 SOCOM stock out back is excellent. It’s a maneuverable, easy-to-shoot rifle. The worked-over Geissele trigger is as fast as it is precise, but the ringer is. . .

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It’s reliable. And not even in an asterisk, caveat kind of a way. I put a few hundred rounds through this thing, about half suppressed and half not, about half subsonic and half supersonic, and it ran and ran. This is no small achievement not only considering the precise fit of the moving and locking parts, but really for any .300 BLK at all. To reliably eject both subsonic and supersonic ammo without even having to switch gas settings is awesome. The Syrac gas block is fully tunable, but SRW takes care of the adjustment before its rifles leave the shop. Apparently they do it right, too.

As such, this — or particularly a .223 version — would make an excellent competition rifle for 3-Gun or the like. Fast, accurate, reliable, and well-balanced with just a skosh more weight than the average AR.

It’s the Accuracy, Stupid

Okay, okay. So even though I’ve tasked Shaolin with building me a .223 upper, I remain relatively convinced that there’s some sort of wind curse on me when I pick up one of their rifles. I do most of my shooting in the woods. It’s usually dead calm. While I didn’t again experience the howling winds of the Las Vegas desert, my first outing with the SRW .300 was plagued with an inconsistent, blustery tailwind.

Groups of subsonic ammo — due to how long it takes for the bullet to make it 100 yards downrange; an amount of time easily heard thanks to the delay between gunshot sound and bullet impact sound — strung vertically depending on the level of wind-provided assistance. Zero movement left or right, but repeatedly about 2″ up and down.

Supersonic ammo faired better, of course, as it made it to the target a lot faster. This was typical on that annoyingly gusty day.

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In slightly calmer conditions — it was actually dead still right up to the moment I took this carbine out of its case, when instantly some leaf-rustling gusts began to harass me! — in a different area on a different day around an inch was typical for subsonic loads:

Shaolin_Sig220Sub

Eventually, on yet another outing in the hopes of shooting this thing in still conditions, I realized that I could come up with a straight shot through about 60 yards of dense tree cover that provided a truly wind-free range. So to get a legit, honest representation of what this little carbine was capable of I set up at precisely 50 yards (which also smooths out some of my caffeine-induced shakes), and proceeded to immediately shoot this 5-shot group from a sandbag rest. Yes, five shots truly went through this hole:

Shaolin_Rem120-50yds

So, yeah, the accuracy is there. And this isn’t some sort of ringer rifle or anything, as far as I understand it. This one was built just like every other one out of the shop and it’s been a demo gun for over a year now, traveling around the country going to shooting events and shipping FedEx Ground to the likes of me for T&E. Shaolin says they’ve put about 2,000 rounds through it — including some with this upper on a full-auto lower — and I had a good time adding a few hundred to that count myself.

Conclusion

Although it’s looking like I’m cursed with wind whenever I touch an SRW rifle, I’m tasking them with building me a .223 upper anyway. Sometimes you just want to hunt bees at 100 yards, and I think this is the ticket.

While accuracy is the headliner on a Shaolin Rifleworks gun, the opening act of reliable function is still a great show. At $2,500, I think “the most accurate ARs on the planet” are underpriced compared to the competition. Does anybody else guarantee 1/2 MOA accuracy from any semi-auto rifle at any price? This ain’t a cheap AR, but you can certainly get a heck of a lot less for a heck of a lot more money.

Specifications: Shaolin Rifleworks SRW-300BC

Caliber: .300 AAC Blackout
Action: Semi-auto, direct impingement with adjustable Syrac Gen II gas block
Barrel: 16″ SRW custom
Weight: 7 lbs, 2 oz
Finish: fully Cerakoted in various primary + accent color options
MSRP: $2,500 for complete carbine, $1,700 for upper only, $3,415 fully decked out with all SHTF accessories

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy: * * * * *
It’s completely possible that SRW’s rifles actually are the most accurate ARs in the world.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
While it’s an AR-15 and so much of it is just as you’d expect, the forward charging handle, ambi bolt release, ACE M4 SOCOM stock, PRI forearm, and superbly-tuned trigger take the ergos up a couple notches. And, of course, this is SRW’s “default” build, but it’s all configurable if you’d prefer different furniture.

Reliability: * * * *
When I shot it at SHOT Show, this carbine was bone dry and it wasn’t fully cycling. Tolerances are close. When I received it for testing a couple months ago, the bolt had a slick film of FrogLube on it (judging from the minty smell). I proceeded to shoot 300 rounds of mixed sub- and supersonic ammo through it, suppressed at least half the time, without cleaning or lubing at all, and it’s still running smoothly and strongly despite being quite dirty.

Customization: * * * * *
Shaolin’s primary goal seems to be selling complete SRW spec builds, but they’re still a custom shop and happy enough to mix and match furniture and even receivers and other parts. Stick with the SRW barrel for sure, but you can likely specify everything else. And then, of course, it’s an AR so future customization capability is boundless.

Overall: * * * * *
It ain’t cheap, but there are many ARs from other manufacturers touting ultimate accuracy and charging a much higher price, while still not guaranteeing anything even close to SRW’s accuracy claims. As word gets out and orders come in, I’m sure SRW’s price will creep up, but for the time being I’m fairly convinced that they actually are the most accurate ARs in the world at any price…they just aren’t cashing in on it yet.

As I have some AR parts cluttering up my basement, I’m going to be providing almost all of the components to SRW for my .223 upper build, starting with a Lilja barrel blank. It should all come together for a review late this summer, but at this point I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have turn and chamber the barrel and custom match it to extension, receiver, and bolt.

53 Responses to Gun Review: Shaolin Rifleworks 300 BLK Carbine

  1. Man, this thing looks awesome, but I can’t help but feel that the .300 AAC is a fad that people are trying to push too much.

    • 300blk with the proper ammo ( not all ammo does this) expends all its gas within 9 inches so you get full power in short barrels unlike 5.56, 6.8 etc

      • And, proving Leghorn’s comments about barrel length vs. accuracy plus barrel length required for full burn in .300 BLK (right near 9″), Shaolin sent me a message saying that the most recent 10.5″ .300 BLK pistol out of their shop shot “a mess of 0.4 to 0.5 inch groups” (at 100 yards). Sweet.

        • I am seriously impressed by .300BLK accuracy, especially so for my SBR (9″). For the record, 110Gr Barnes TAC-TX is my most accurate factory load, with 5 shot groups regularly at 1/2 MOA @ 100, and the all time best being 5 shots @ .40″ CTC. The Remington OTM is typically 3/4-1 MOA, still nothing to cry about.

        • Re: NDS – I’m also getting sub MOA with Tax TX 110’s (out of a 9″ AAC MPW). It surprised the hell out of me I have to say. I was asked to get the data to back up my assertion, but haven’t had the opportunity and favorable weather yet to prove it.

        • ValleyForge – I am also using the 9″ AAC melonite barrel, maybe it specifically loves those 110Gr Barnes rounds? I have a 16″ Remington 700 300BLK that I use for load development and extra quiet fun and even with its fancy heavy 5R barrel does not shoot as accurately as the 9″ AAC.

        • Cool review, Jeremy!

          I’m getting pretty close to MOA with the Barnes Tac 110 BLK from my build. I used good parts and a 416R stainless barrel, but I don’t think I’m quite as nice as this.

          The Shaolin .308 looks pretty cool, as does the Armalite 3 gun and a few others. It’s nice to know that this stuff is out there, even if it is pricey.

    • I agree. They saw what happened with 6.8 SPC so everyone’s trying to keep this thing afloat as long as they can. In less than a decade, .300 will be another option for handloaders who want specialized niche cartridges for specific applications. In a year or two some new wonder caliber will come out and that’ll bury this fad along with all the others.

      • I’ve actually been seeing more and more 6.8 rifles and ammunition offerings in my area (Fort Worth and rural surrounding areas). I think it’s gotten popular as a hog and mid/short range deer cartridge that everyone in the family can handle. Mil-surp. 6.8 ammo has also become available at around $.50 a round and I think that has helped drive it’s popularity as a defense/ranch cartrige that you can actually practice with. Likewise 300 AAC has been coming to local retailers shelves in more varied offerings and at lower and lower prices, and it looks like it’s moving off the shelves pretty well. People here seem to find it useful or attractive for their needs.

        I think the ease with ammo can be manufactured from .223 components will guarantee that it remains popular with folks wanting better performance out of AR pistols, SBRs, and better penetration in tissue for hunting applications. This may just be a regional phenomenon, but based on what I see in my region the 6.8 is more popular now than ever and the 300 AAC is becoming very popular.

        • Can’t we have both? 300BLK AND 6.8SPC are here to stay… they will not eclipse 5.56 and 7.62 NATO calibers but both fill specific roles very well.

          The biggest selling point I can think of for 300BLK is a simple demo of power burn vs barrel length. Take the suppressors off, and stand next me shooting the 9″ 300BLK, and then the 10″ 5.56, both with Surefire brake mounts. One is very… unpleasant.

      • I think the sheer volume of ARs out there, the number of people familiar with their operation, and the level of understanding of how to make them work and work well, will keep the BLK around. There will always be demand for a .30. And in the AR-bloc, I can’t think of how to make a round more “native” than the BLK.

        Not that there isn’t also room for a .277 (or .264 .or 257)…, all of which would make better use of the accuracy potential of modern rifles and optics in general use.

    • I think it would have a chance, if SBRs and silencers weren’t prohibitively expensive and difficult to acquire for most gun owners. As it stands, it has a limited, niche appeal.

      • This is true. If I could easily buy a rifle with a 12″ barrel and a supressor for non-ruinous prices, .300 blackout would be good for that. Still fairly niche, but possibly worth it. As is though, for me? Eh, not worth it.

        • If money was no object I would build that exact setup with a red-dot on it , it would be my home defense/close quarters combat rifle.

        • (also that would be my first AR build, and likely my only one as I don’t see a benefit to having multiple AR’s)

    • @DickDanger, let’s not forget that you could order an identical rifle from them in .223, with the only difference being a 1/2 MOA guarantee instead of 3/4. …and it’s all custom so you can select the colors you want and spec some of the parts if you so choose, etc etc…

    • LOL. That’s a weird mistake. Text amended so it no longer states that the lower has an ambi safety. Again, of course, they’re effectively a custom shop so if you want an ambi safety you can darn sure have one, but this rifle clearly doesn’t haha. Thanks.

  2. The accuracy guarantee is awesome but Les Baer also offers a half moa guarantee and while msrp is a bit higher they are selling for a bit less than Shaolin.

  3. The accuracy guarantee is awesome but Les Baer also offers the same .5 moa and their guns are selling for a bit less too.

  4. Nice rifle. I’m generally not one to care about the aesthetics of a well made tool, but this may be the ugliest AR I’ve ever seen.

    • Ugly was … not the word that first came to mind upon seeing the photos.

      Rather, it reminded me of certain, shall we say, accusations of inadequacy made by various anti-gunners.

    • I kinda like it- It has a futuristic “space gun” vibe to it. Might be nice in white. It would make you look like a stormtrooper. Of course, then your accuracy would suffer.

  5. Looks like good stuff out of their rifles. Surprised to see a high end, accuracized 300BLK. Seems like most are built to pop up close targets with a suppressor.

    Les Baer’s are guaranteed for 1/2″ MOA and are a similar price range. JP’s are similar prices, but without the guarantee. However, all the JP’s I’ve encountered (mine included) can produce those kinds of results, just no guarantee/certification. Not sure what happens if you would get a dog. Their customer service is reported as good, though.

    Whoever you go with, accuracy generally costs money.

    300BLK is an awesome cartridge if it suits your purpose, doesn’t really replace 5.56

    • Ah, so they do. The last time I looked at their rifles maybe a year or so ago, I believe it was a 3/4 MOA guarantee… maybe they had to keep up with the little guy 😉

  6. Start with quality products, machine, modify, and assemble them with expertise and attention to detail. Care about what you are doing.
    The old way of doing things right is rare, but as SRW proves, it works every time. Good on yall.

  7. I’ve been looking at the Harbor Freight website, thinking of buying this one. Oh wait, that’s a pneumatic grease gun for the zerk fittings on my tractor. My mistake; carry on….

  8. Maybe it’s my monitors or the filter used for the photos but everything except the receivers, barrel and rails look to be a subtle purple color… That’s a standout rifle in a very weird way (IMHO)… Bet it shoots well though…

    • It is a subtle purple in most lighting. But when you order an SRW rifle it’s built for you and you get to choose from a drop-down menu of color options for both primary & accent color (or do both the same).

      • Thanks for the reply Jeremy… Looks like a solid rifle and it sounds like your customer service is on point… God Bless…

    • I know it’s a weird concept, but SRW is a custom rifle builder so if you don’t like the upper or the handguard you can spec whatever one you please. Either provide it to SRW or have SRW order something else for you instead, and they do stock other options, too. This is just their preferred build. Plus you spec all the cerakote color(s) as well. …And for the record, that handguard is carbon fiber and there ain’t no scenario in which the heat is getting to your hands. The big holes along the top at 11:00 and 1:00 provide most of the heat venting, I’d assume.

  9. Jeremy, great review, as have been all of your’s past. But, most anxiously waiting for the Ruger RPR 6.5cm review, as are many others….

  10. Congratulations! You have invented the semi-automatic crutch. http://tinyurl.com/pm83b75

    That thing is hideous. If it had a sig-brace it would actually be a functional crutch.

    That being said, I like the finish and the charging handle design.

  11. Another excellent review, S-man. Thanks. I’ve been searching for new 300 SBR and their 10.5″ would definitely seem to be a contender. I love the side charging handle. Love the attention they put into their rifles. That earns some major respect

    * Do you have any concerns about how dirty that bolt got after 300 rounds?

    I’ve really kinda been hoping for a reliable piston shortie this time because of my experience with 300 DGI getting a bit dirty a bit quick, and also getting a lot of gas in the old grill (however it has been surprisingly accurate being FF and all, and is very light). My other contenders are the MCX (yeah, I know, not early adopting into that platform, so keeping my expectations realistic) and also possibly the ARAK once they do a shortie 300 (purportedly soon to come) and of course there’s always the Mk109, but know it’s a bit on the under-gassed side, so doesn’t like un-supressed subs, but I wouldn’t really be running it like that anyway)

    My other concern is how well that HG handles the heat, but apparently you’re saying it’s excellent in that regard?

    Thanks in advance. You are still the review-king, sir. Peace

    • Ehhh, I didn’t think the bolt was too bad considering. It also gave no indications at all that it was thinking of slowing down or anything. The main reason it’s so dirty looking is that they run it pretty wet w/ lube so the carbon slurries it up, plus obviously I was shooting suppressed a lot. Oddly enough, blowback was a non-issue. It might be the .300 getting a pretty darn complete powder burn before even encountering the gas block? Not sure, but there wasn’t enough gas or crap coming out of the bolt/ejection port to be annoying at all. I’ve had worse from my 5.56 piston AR.

      The HG is functionally excellent but not my cup of tea aesthetically. But between the heavy barrel and the insulating properties of carbon fiber I never got even remotely close to feeling warmth through the HG, which isn’t the case in my go-to 5.56 AR even after a single mag dump (Magpul MOE handguard). It doesn’t look like there’s a ton of venting, but those holes on either side along the top are likely more than sufficient and if you compare it to your mil-spec M16 handguard, which is basically an oven sealed on both ends haha, it’s obviously a big improvement. But this is the spec for a precision rifle, and PRI makes it for that purpose, so sustained high rates of fire isn’t the HG’s intended “use case.” Besides, you could build one with whatever HG you pleased (see my comment above yours)…

      • Good feedback. Thanks man. Agree, not aesthetically pleasing to me either honestly, but good to get some info on how well CF seems to handle heat (and understanding it’s primary use case is not high rate of fire, and it has a somewhat heavy profile barrel). I’d definitely have them build me a shortie with something different. Maybe a KAC URX or something. And gotcha, if it was running wet and much of that suppressed, that would definitely add to the slurry factor. Overall, I like it. It’s on the list now… Let’s see how the 300 piston game plays out a bit. Who knows, maybe I’ll go DGI again. You sure do get the accuracy and that’s hard to give up. I love the fact that they will build a gun to your specs and they seem to take pride in their work, so big kudos to SGW.

  12. Glad some people have money they can enjoy. I’m not jealous but my budget doesn’t allow for toys in this used car price range. Keep up the great reviews though.

  13. So they make match grade barrels and barrel extensions and know how to assemble the rifle with high cost components for +$1700.
    I dont get what makes this rifle special.

    • Yes, that’s the gist of it. They turn the barrels and chamber them with a proprietary reamer, then assemble everything after truing all of the mating surfaces so all of the parts align properly with all of the other parts. For their effort, machining skill, and labor hours the output is a sub-1/2-MOA, semi-automatic, .223 or .308 rifle, making it quite possible the most accurate AR-pattern rifle anywhere. All at a cost that’s less than or significantly less than most of the high-end rifle competition that brags about 1 MOA accuracy. As mentioned in the review, doing this machining and hand fitting isn’t rocket surgery but nobody else is bothering to do it or they aren’t doing it as well, and the resulting accuracy is what makes Shaolin’s products special. Whether you put value in that additional accuracy or not is totally subjective, as obviously you can get a perfectly functional AR-15 for like $600.

  14. This gun keeps getting sexier and sexier every time I look at it. And allegedly it’s a performer. Might have to find a safe queen to unload and start doing some tire kicking around this.

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