Lancer Systems, manufacturer of the best 5.56 and 7.62 AR magazines on the market, was kind enough to loan me a L30 Heavy Metal rifle for use in my .308 Muzzle Brake Test. Although I had already shot L30s in all of the available configurations, even winning a gun writer competition with one, I still couldn’t bring myself to use this loaner solely for recoil sled testing. So, I put it through the normal review process as well . . .
The L30 ships in a hard-sided case, separated into upper and lower halves. Two, 20-round L7 AWM magazines (also available in 5-, 10-, and 25-round sizes) are included along with an owner’s manual and a tool (a long hex wrench) for adjusting the gas block. A mounted optic will fit in the case as well, by the way, by simply removing the pre-cut foam block from underneath the upper and flipping the upper over so the scope occupies that now-empty space.
The carbon fiber stock is Lancer’s own. Its diamond shape with angled, flat sides provides a nice cheek weld.
Combined with Lancer’s carbon fiber forend and the slick-sided (no forward assist or brass deflector) upper receiver, the L30 looks race-ready.
Rail sections, bipod studs, and other gubbins can be clamped to the slots in the forend. In my case I added a bipod stud and a B5 Systems Gripstop. The factory-installed front sight rail is designed to position a front sight at the correct height.
Lancer manufactures many, but not all of the firearm’s components. The ones that aren’t Lancer’s own are all quite nice, indeed, starting with the RCA high pressure BCG that locks into the heavy profile White Oak Armament barrel. The barrel is 18″ of stainless steel with a 1:10 twist, and isn’t actually chambered in .308 Winchester but rather in .308 Obermeyer — similar but just slightly tighter in every dimension.
A Geissele SD3G trigger fits the bill for this competition rifle. Behind it is ERGO Grips’ Tactical Deluxe grip. Lancer’s lower receivers have some unique features that set them apart from the pack, and seen above is their enlarged magazine release button underneath their right-side bolt release lever.
Also hard to miss is the flared magazine well. Like, really flared. This massive funnel makes magazine changes faster and easier.
Thanks to Lancer’s patented design, though, this isn’t the L30’s only magwell option. Push a single, captive takedown pin and the magwell is easily removed from the lower.
This allows it to be replaced by a handful of other options, including ones that are completely open on either the left or right side. Odd as it may look, this is pretty handy when shooting from a rest. With the rifle on a bipod, bag, or other rifle rest, the side-less magwell can allow for magazine changes without having to lift, rotate, and otherwise remove and replace the gun from its rest.
A polymer-tipped set screw is located inside the rear of the lower receiver and is used to provide tension against the upper receiver to eliminate any play and wiggle between the two.
An AXTS Raptor charging handle provides generously-sized, ambidextrous control. The Picatinny rail section on top of the receiver can be removed and replaced in the event of damage. A 20 MOA rail cant is built into the receiver itself. On the Heavy Metal version tested here, the rail ends just in front of the receiver, whereas on the LTR — Long-range Tactical Rifle — version the rail goes all the way to the front of the extended handguard.
On the other end of the rifle, Lancer’s Nitrous Compensator caps off the muzzle. Included with it are a handful of swappable “jets” for tuning the amount of muzzle rise compensation by reducing (or blocking) or increasing the aperture size of the two ports on top of the brake.
On The Range
The L30 Heavy Metal is designed for 3-Gun style competition, specifically in the “Heavy” divisions where .308 / 7.62×51 NATO is the minimum eligible rifle caliber.
With an 18″ barrel, it’s a fairly maneuverable .308. The barrel’s heavy profile, though, means that it’s…well…heavy, and you can feel that mass when shouldering and swinging the rifle. In combination with the lightweight stock, the L30 HM balances quite front-heavy.
That isn’t entirely negative. The extra weight out front is great from a bipod and it reduces muzzle rise on recoil. I shot some drills involving rapid transitions between targets, and the up-front mass makes me a bit smoother. When targets were relatively close together I was fast but less likely to overrun the next target, whereas when they were far apart I think I got there slightly slower than if the gun had a lightweight barrel, but accuracy was very good. Overall it’s a bit like a shock absorber in a car, dampening and smoothing out movement.
The L30’s controls are excellent; contributing heavily to making the gun fast and precise to run. With an oversized magazine release and magazine well, mag changes happen rapidly and are almost impossible to screw up. Once you’re used to it, the right side bolt release is intuitive and is even faster than the standard, left side control. Geissele’s SD3G is a great, single-stage trigger, and I love the feel of the Deluxe ERGO Grip with its fatter palm swell. The safety selector is a standard, left-side-only affair.
As the .308 Obermeyer chamber specs have the various dimensions between one ten thousandth to eight hundredths tighter/shorter than .308 Winchester, I had concerns about reliability while firing standard .308 and 7.62×51 NATO. Turns out it’s a non-issue, as the L30 ran without a hitch.
I fired nine brands of ammo through it, including two steel-cased loads (lacquered Brown Bear and zinc-plated Colt), hollow points, soft points, and ballistic points, and it ran it all. I was also able to fire about a dozen rounds with a Dead Air Sandman Ti suppressor on the muzzle with no change in function. The rifle was never cleaned, and as you can see above it was plenty dirty.
Accuracy was a mixed bag. Whether it’s due to the chambering or some other aspect of the L30 Heavy Metal’s particular configuration, I can’t say, but it definitely displayed strong preferences for certain loads. I’m confident this is a highly accurate tack driver with loads it likes, of which I’m sure there are plenty, but at the same time it showed relative disdain for other loads.
Gorilla Ammo’s 175 grain OTM was the clear preference among the ammo I had handy. Gorilla had donated it for the .308 Muzzle Brake Test, and thankfully I had some left over to use here, because it was a standout. I shot three groups under 0.75 MOA with it, with the 0.602 MOA, five-shot group pictured above being the best of the day.
With BECK, Eagle Eye, and Australian Outback, it was averaging right around 1 MOA for five-shot groups. Over and over, the the other quality ammo I put through the L30 HM was right at 1 MOA.
It was the affordable ammo that the L30 turned its nose up at. Aguila, PPU, Brown Bear, Hot Shot, and Colt were only good for 2.5 to 5 MOA groups.
Still, for whatever reason the rifle’s practical accuracy seemed to exceed what I could produce on paper. I was absolutely crushing a 5″ round and 4″ square swinger target at 300 yards with the Brown Bear junk. With such minimal rifle movement on each shot, I could see the bullets impact the steel and the biggest delay to firing the next shot was waiting for the target to swing back into position. A 10″ or 12″ gong at 400 yards was never once missed, despite shooting fairly rapidly and breaking the trigger as soon as “middle-ish” sight alignment was achieved. Again, all while using the Russian steel-cased stuff.
I regret not having any Federal GMM here while I was testing the rifle, as I’m curious how it would have grouped. However, if I owned the gun I’d definitely budget for some ammo experimentation to try and hone in on which load it likes the best at any price, and which load it likes the best at an affordable price.
One gripe that possibly nobody else will care about is that the muzzle threads don’t go all the way to the barrel shoulder, and the little section that isn’t threaded is the major diameter not the minor diameter (land rather than groove). A crush washer fits over that section, but most muzzle brakes and flash hiders (and Lancer’s own lock washer that ships with its Venom brake) stop on it, leaving a gap between muzzle device and barrel shoulder should a crush washer not be needed. Thankfully my Sandman’s threads are slightly recessed so the two shoulders met up fully.
The heavy, stainless steel barrel does look pretty good when paired up with a matching brake. Making that happen without a shim, though, becomes much more difficult thanks to that muzzle thread design. Lilja’s Heartbraker is seen above, and a Precision Armament Accu-Washer was used to time it. Interestingly enough — perhaps a complete coincidence — this washer is effectively the exact same thickness as that unthreaded section on the barrel.
Lancer’s L30 Heavy Metal looks like a high-tech race car and, compared to many .308s, it feels the part as well. It’s top quality from stem to stern. It’s a soft, flat, fast shooter with excellent controls, a great trigger, and some innovative features such as the swappable magazine well. Accuracy is quite variable based on load, but it’s a very solidly sub-MOA gun with ammo that it likes. Regardless of load, the L30 will run it reliably.
The main downside for me is price. With an MSRP of $3,344.99, it’s at the premium end of the AR-10/SR25 market. Not that it doesn’t deserve to be, but that makes it a large investment and it also means most other .308 ARs are possible alternatives at the same or lesser cost. The L30 Heavy Metal may be one of the smoothest, sexiest options out there — and one of the few that looks the part of a competition rifle rather than a battle rifle or sniper rifle — but it does command a premium.
Specifications (Lancer Systems L30 Heavy Metal):
Caliber: .308 / 7.62×51 NATO
Action: Semi-automatic, direct gas impingement (rifle length gas system, adjustable gas block)
Trigger Pull Weight: 2.42 lbs (normally closer to 4 lbs, but this is what my sample measured at)
Barrel Length: 18″
Overall Length: 39.5″
Weight: 9.5 lbs
Capacity: 5, 10, 20, or 25 rounds with Lancer L7AWM magazines. Compatible with any SR25/DPMS style .308 mag.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
Lancer uses 168 grain Federal GMM for its L30 HM test targets, and the few I’ve seen all hit right around 0.75 MOA. I know the gun is capable of better, since I had two groups just slightly better and one at 0.602 MOA using 175 grain Gorilla Ammo loads. Lancer states that once the barrel is broken in, 0.5 MOA is a realistic expectation with the right ammo. “With the right ammo,” of course, is why I’m giving the L30 just four stars here — its accuracy can be highly ammo dependent.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The stock, grip, controls, magwell, and forend are all spot-on for me. The muzzle-heavy balance seemed a bit odd at first, but in practice I came to like it a lot; the L30 HM swings nicely and stays rock steady under recoil.
Reliability: * * * * *
A tight chamber and no forward assist? I expected a glitch here and there — especially when the rifle started to get dirty and I was shooting it in below-freezing, snowy conditions — but that never happened. Steel-case ammo, soft point ammo, 145 grain to 177 grain ammo, it ran it all.
Customize This: * * * * *
It’s an AR platform (SR25/DPMS) with standard dimensions, so customization is near-limitless. The handguard allows mounting of rail sections all over, and even the magwell is swappable for some truly unique options. A QD socket is integrated into the buttstock, and can be added elsewhere on the rifle (receiver rail or handguard) as desired. If you’re so inclined, Lancer also sells L30 kits with various handguards (the upper receiver is only compatible with Lancer’s own models), like this one with 19″ handguard.
Overall: * * * *
The L30 Heavy Metal is one of the nicest looking and nicest shooting semi-auto .308s I’ve had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with. For the folks who can afford the asking price and the premium ammo to wring the most out of it, it’s a solid top-tier choice that won’t disappoint.
“Rail sections, bipod studs, and other gibbons can be clamped to the slots in the forend.”
If you can get that past the ASPCA it would be even better than a trunk monkey.
Seriously, nice review, but I’m thinking the next .308 in my future will be a K&M bullpup.
LOL. I meant “gubbins.” I call my two little girls gibbons pretty often so it must have slipped haha. Edited.
TTAG, is it possible to differentiate by color legitimate TTAG article web links from the vigi-links?
Yes, that would be handy. On a regular browser you can see the destination URL if you hover over the link, but that’s not an option on mobile, and it’s a problem.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been putting all of the links I add manually in bold text so they stand out, but all of them were reverted to standard text in this review before it published. I’m checking with the brass to see if there’s a ruling on this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it violated vglink’s terms, and obviously we all know that those auto-links are an important way that TTAG pays the bills so there probably is a direct financial downside to making it obvious which links are and are not added by vglink.
…if I can I’ll make that text bold again. If it’s still normal after a while here though, know there’s a reason for it that prohibits us from making either type of link stand out vs. the other.
Better practical accuracy than paper-target accuracy — it’s good to see that I’m not the only one with that affliction.
I can smack solid targets that require 1 moa accuracy with my Marlin Model 60 all day long, but getting a group that size on paper to show for a review? Gad, that was frustrating. Dunno why, but I suck when it comes to shooting at paper.
That Lancer gun is a sweet-looking machine. If only I had enough money to buy one…
I don’t read or watch other reviews while I’m testing a gun for review myself, as I don’t want to risk it coloring my opinion or experience. But after writing up my review I usually do read around or watch a couple YT videos to see what other people said, and in this case I’ve seen the L30 HM accuracy corroborated almost exactly. For instance, the review from Shooting Illustrated that showed approximately 1 moa from decent ammo, 0.75 MOA from match ammo, and strong dislike for a brand that isn’t “cheap” but does have a reputation for poor accuracy in most rifles. Other publications showed similar, including one that got a best 5-shot group of 0.69″ with 175 grain ammo, which closely mirrors my results. I’ve also personally seen the same ~1 MOA with decent (but not match grade) ammo accuracy out of 5 or 6 other L30 rifles shot by like 15 different people. Anyway, bottom line is I’m confident that the results I got from the bench are true to what can be expected from the rifle and that there wasn’t too terribly much human error mixed in, although I’m sure there was some. Plus, of course, I’m shooting outdoors where there are breezes and it drizzled lightly off and on while I was shooting groups. Is it likely the rifle would shoot a bit more accurately were it locked in a fixture and fired in an indoor range under completely stable atmospherics? Sure.
As for why it does sometimes seem to be the case that “practical” accuracy slightly edges out bench testing accuracy… no idea. Normally I’d blame myself for pulling shots on the bench but I feel good about the validity of the results in this particular case.
““With the right ammo,” of course, is why I’m giving the L30 just four stars here — its accuracy can be highly ammo dependent.”
Isn’t that the case with any rifle? Projectile shape and mass, type of powder, amount of powder, variation from round to round, etc. affects every rifle. I’ve seen people report groups smaller than .75″ @ 100yds from a Saiga .308 with hand loads, but with steel cased ammo it may be 4-5″
Yeah to some degree. This is a fairly extreme degree. I wouldn’t say the velocity deviation in some of the inexpensive ammo is ten times larger than that of the Gorilla’s, but some of the accuracy groups were effectively 10x larger. Some of that is due to the ammo being less consistent but some is also due to the rifle not liking it and exaggerating that ammo inconsistency. As a point of comparison, my base model Adam’s Arms AR-15 upper shoots Gorilla’s 69 grain at about 3/4 MOA and shoots Brown Bear and every other cheap crap, including cheap reloads, at like 2 to 2.5 MOA. I feel like that’s consistent with the ammo difference but going from under 3/4 MOA to 5 MOA is fairly extreme and some of that can be attributed to the gun itself. I have a nice bolt-action .308 on the way here shortly so we’ll see how that groups the same ammo brands. The last one I tested was the Century Arms C308 and it wasn’t a very accurate gun at all, but it grouped match stuff at a bit over 2 MOA and cheap stuff at 5 MOA so it’s still less of a spread.
Did you ever notice how hot the hand guard would get? I have the same hand guard on my 3 gun AR (5.56) and was surprised at just how dang hot it would get. It was much hotter than the AP Custom piece that it replaced.
To be fair it also cooled down pretty quickly as well.
The handguard itself doesn’t seem to get hot, but there are a lot of slots in it and if the barrel is radiating heat you can feel that on your hand. Lancer does make versions with fewer slots or even with no slots, in which case they’d protect your hand better than even a solid aluminum handguard. I’ve found that the material of the handguard itself doesn’t get as hot as that of a metal one. With the thick barrel on the L30 HM here, you have to put a lot of rounds downrange in a fairly brief period of time to get to the point where the barrel is heat soaked and then radiating enough heat off to feel it through the slots in the handguard.
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