Coronado Arms is in the business of making finely crafted bolt action rifles. Founded in 2012, they seem to have made some beautiful products and are building their reputation. This past year they came out with an unexpected addition to their line of products: an AR-15 pattern semi-automatic rifle. While at first glance it might look just like any other black rifle on the market, there are one or two improvements over the bog standard rifle that Coronado Arms has included that make it stand out a bit over the competition . . .
Let’s get the outsourced parts out of the way first. The gun uses products from some of my favorite companies for the user interface components, specifically Magpul for the stock and grip and Battle Arms Development for the safety selector. The BAD-ASS is one of the best safety selectors on the market and I’m surprised more people don’t include it in their builds. As for the Magpul stuff, I’m generally not a big fan of the STR stock but it does balance the rifle nicely.
The last outsourced part is the one that matters most: the trigger. Coronado opted to use a Geissele trigger in this rifle, and as you’d expect it works very well. It’s nice to see that they didn’t cheap out when it came to the trigger, unlike some other semi-custom AR-15 makers.
Most of the features of this rifle are things we’ve seen elsewhere. For example, a lower receiver with a built-in solid triggerguard and nicely machined lines is something you can get from MEGA or Aero Precision or Franklin Armory or any of a number of other manufacturers. Coronado Arms does it just as well, but that doesn’t really differentiate their product in an already crowded market.
What makes the Coronado CA-15 so special is the upper receiver, and two specific features thereof: the extended rail and the handguard attachment.
With most AR-15 rifles (such as the PWS rifle pictured above), the manufacturers follow the standard M16A4 design for the upper receiver and simply slice off the carry handle and add a top rail. This keeps the rifle in-spec and allows many more options for aftermarket parts and accessories, but it creates a bit of a problem as well. The M16A4 upper receiver is great if you have a red dot or an ACOG, but if you have a scope with a longer tube you run into some issues. In particular, thanks to the short rail length you can’t use separate bases for the front and rear of the tube — you need to use a cantilever mount. It’s not an ideal solution, but in most cases its a sufficient solution.
With the Coronado Arms CA-15, you don’t need a cantilever mount. In fact, you can use standard Picatinny scope bases and don’t need any fancy one-piece mount at all. The extended top rail allows you to mount your scope bases with a wider stance, which in turn makes the scope more stable and should improve accuracy.
The second benefit is that the attachment point between the handguard and the upper reciever has been strengthened. Usually this attachment is done using three or four screws and a proprietary bracket, but with the CA-15 there are about seventeen screws holding the handguard in place. The immediate effect is that the handguard is much more solidly attached, which means that optics mounted to the forward section of the handguard will experience less wobble and remain in-line with the primary optics. This is especially beneficial for those who use a night vision attachment in front of their scope for nighttime hunting, since any shift in the relative position of the two parts will have a massive impact on the accuracy of the rifle.
Speaking of accuracy, we have a small problem in that department.
When the rifle first arrived at my FFL, the only thing they said in the email (alerting me that the gun had arrived) was “your barrel is bent.” When I went to pick it up, I realized they were right: the barrel was off-center compared to the rest of the rifle. I took it to a second gunsmith who confirmed that the barrel wasn’t concentric to the handguard and not in line with the rail. At that point I figured accuracy testing was pretty much useless. I contacted Coronado Arms and let them know about the issue, and they immediately sent out a replacement upper receiver.
With the new barrel, everything on the gun was finally looking right. Out on the range the gun worked as expected, with no malfunctions or other issues. As for accuracy, the gun ran right around 3/4 MoA for me with good ammo and taking my time. Not the most accurate thing I’ve ever shot, but definitely on par with what a gun this expensive should be able to do.
My only real concern with the rifle is in the quality control department. The specs are good, the parts selection is excellent, and the finished product is definitely appealing. However, these guys knew full well that they were sending this gun to be reviewed. One would assume that such rifles would, if anything, get more scrutiny going out the door. The fact that an off-center barrel found its way out in the wild makes me a little wary of their quality, but for a company that has only been around for two years they seem to be doing pretty well otherwise.
Coronado Arms CA-15
Caliber: .223 Wylde
Barrel: 16″ 1:8 twist
Weight: ~8 lbs.
Operation: Gas expansion
(Rifle DOES NOT come with bipod or scope)
MSRP: $1,995 (Website)
Special thanks to Alamo Tactical in San Antonio, Texas for being an awesome FFL.
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * 1/2
About average, maybe a hair more. Especially given the price.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Feels good to me. The user interface components are all chosen from quality manufacturers, and the finish feels smooth.
Ergonomics Firing: * * * * *
It feels like an AR-15 should. Solid.
Reliability: * * * * *
No malfunctions, no complaints.
Customization: * * *
The custom receiver and handguard restrict the options, but the keymod handguard lets you kit it out with whatever accessories you want.
Overall Rating: * * * 1/2
I’m going to remind everyone that 3 stars here at TTAG means acceptable. Worth the money and meets the specs, but doesn’t blow us out of the water. I’ve tacked on another half star for the nifty upper receiver design, which really is the star of the show for this gun. It’s a nice design and seems to be well executed. Unfortunately the misaligned barrel makes me hesitate to give it a higher rating.