VLTOR is a company known for their line of firearms accessories and aftermarket parts, but not many people seem to realize they also make a variety of ready-made firearms as well. Naturally the rifles use VLTOR’s parts where possible, but they don’t skimp on the details and seem to use other brands when they make a superior product. After reviewing their RE-SCAR adapter for the SCAR rifle, the folks at VLTOR asked me if I wanted to review one of their rifles, the XVI Warrior Carbine, as well. Who am I to turn down some quality time with a sleek black beauty? . . .
Let’s start at the back and work our way forward, shall we?
The rifle is kitted out as a standard collapsible-stock AR-15, and their stock of choice this time is the VLTOR EMOD stock. Personally I’m not a huge fan, but it has its good points. The addition of a built-in sling swivel, for example, as well as dual battery compartments (or emergency Twinkie storage for me) along the side of the cheek rest offer some nice storage space and a sling loop at the rear. There’s even a place to mount your Garmin Foretrex 401 if you’ve stolen one off a Navy SEAL recently. What I don’t find appealing is the latch that keeps it in place — it uses a split blade design that I find awkward to use.
Making our way forward, there are two more sling loops attached to the buffer tube adapter plate, a nice touch.
The lower receiver on the rifle is a VLTOR original and sports one of the best features of the gun: a MASSIVE magazine release button. I’m a fan of large “eject” buttons myself, and VLTOR’s version comes as a standard part of the gun. It isn’t an afterthought that has been slapped onto a standard lower receiver. Instead, the thing has been designed into the gun from day one. I think it’s brilliant, and makes ejecting magazines in a hurry much easier. Plus, the checkering pattern on the button is very nice.
Something of note while we’re here: the Warrior’s controls aren’t ambidextrous. The safety selector is only on one side, and so is the magazine release. It’s a design decision that cuts both ways; the lack of ambi controls means southpaws need to do some extra work, but for the vast majority of people the lack of extra gubbins sticking off the side of your rifle means a more comfortable shooting experience.
Flipping over to the other side, there are two features I’d like to touch on before moving forward, both of which aren’t VLTOR parts.
The charging handle on this gun is a BCM Gunfighter — my favorite. The extended latch on the Gunfighter makes it far easier to use in a hurry, and I have no idea why guns are still being sold with the terrible USGI version of the latch when this (and others like it) are available. A larger latch means a better grip on a vital control, and a huge positive in my mind.
Another welcome addition is a Geissele DMR trigger. The stock trigger on an AR-15 is typically abysmally awful, and Geissele makes fantastic triggers. The trick to getting a good trigger is matching it to the intended purpose, though, as not all triggers are ideal for all builds. In this case, I think the Geissele DMR trigger hits the nail on the head for what this gun needs. This is a DMR build, not a gunfighter build.
VLTOR makes both the upper and lower receivers, and as for the upper receiver this gun sports a nice monolithic upper receiver. In other words, the top rail section is one continuous rail that is engineered that way from the factory and not just one section on the A4 upper and a tacked-on free float tube of some sort. The upper is one piece, which makes it very simple to mount extra gear to the front of the gun. Like, for example, a night vision accessory in front of your primary optic. With the monolithic upper, you’ll never have to worry about the tube rotating out of place or wobbling about.
The handguard on this rifle is free floating, meaning that it doesn’t contact the barrel. That’s great for accuracy, and much appreciated. Cut into the sides of the handguard are an even more appreciated addition: keymod attachment points. Magpul might be pimping their M-LOK deal, but in my opinion keymod is the way to go. It makes mounting rail sections or accessories easier, and doesn’t scratch up your hands the way a standard quad-rail configuration (also known as a “cheese grater”) would.
Down underneath that handguard is a removable section. It comes from the factory setup with yet more keymod attachment points, but you can swap that out if needed for other options. It also gives you quick access to your barrel if you want to change something.
Speaking of the barrel . . .
Another external source provided the barrel for this gun: Noveske Rifleworks. The chrome-lined 16″ barrel has a pedigree that is beyond reproach, and I’ve used something similar on my competition rifle for years before switching over to PWS (after I shot the bore out of my old gun). The barrel profile is that of a standard AR-15 barrel, which means not too heavy but also not pencil thin. That provides enough weight and material to keep the barrel stiff while firing and relatively on target without adding unnecessary weight.
Something that puzzles me though is the muzzle device. I’d expect a muzzle brake on the end of this kind of gun, but instead VLTOR ships the gun with a flash hider. It makes sense for military applications I suppose, but when I’m trying to shoot small groups (as this gun seems born to do), I want as much recoil mitigation as possible.
Oh, and the gun ships with iron sights. Whoopee.
Out on the range burning rounds into the berm, everything on the gun feels pretty much as you’d expect. The stock is solid, which is perfect for transmitting the recoil of the gun to your shoulder instead of wobbling about. Loading and reloading the gun is easy, and the magazine release button works as well s expected. There were some times when it felt like the button might catch under the lip of the lower receiver cutout in which it resides, but it always popped back up to normal. And the handguards did their job admirably, keeping my hand nice and cool even after a couple hundred rounds fired in rapid succession.
As for reliability, there were zero issues whatsoever with any of the brands of ammunition I fed it. Soft point, hollow point, FMJ, whatever.
The real question, as always, is how it performs in terms of accuracy. To test that question we brought it out to the 100 yard range of our super secret testing facility (just off highway 29 in Texas near Austin, west of Liberty Hill), strapped on a nice piece of glass, and loaded up some of our official ammunition sponsor Eagle Eye Ammunition‘s finest 69 grain 5.56 NATO ammunition. The results were pretty darn good.
Center to center, I’d call that a 3/4 MoA extreme spread. The first three rounds fired were damn near touching, but rounds #4 and #5 opened the group up to what you see. In my opinion, that’s a function of the barrel heating up as the firing progressed (we don’t let the barrel cool between shots, because you wouldn’t have time in the field). For a rifle in this price range and with the given spec sheet, I’d call that acceptable. It’s not “OMFG AWESOME” knock my socks off, but commensurate with what you’d expect given the price tag.
The VLTOR XVI Warrior is a good gun, but the problem these days is that having a good firearm might not be enough. With the AR-15 market flooded with bog-standard M4geries for pennies on the dollar and semi-custom rifles a dime a dozen, the key is standing out from the crowd. VLTOR’s offering is a solid functioning rifle, and definitely worth the money. The features that really make it stand out from the crowd are the upgraded parts (Noveske barrel, Geissele trigger, and BCM Gunfighter charging handle) as well as the nifty design features (extended mag release and monolithic upper). I think that definitely makes it a contender for the top spot, but the accessories might put it over the top.
The package deal from VLTOR includes not only the gun, but a padded carrying case (shown above) as well as a couple magazines and an extra couple keymod Picatinny rail sections. It’s a one-shot deal for those looking for a gun they can pick up from the FFL and head straight out to the range, no extra gear required. That’s going to make it very appealing to some people, and definitely eases the sticker shock a good bit.
For me, there are definitely a couple things I would change. Muzzle brake instead of flash hider. Different stock design. And the grip isn’t my cup of tea. But those are minor nit-pics on an otherwise nifty gun.
Specifications: VLTOR XVI Warrior
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 16″ Noveske chrome lined barrel
Weight: 7.25 lbs
Length: 37.5 Inches
Magazine: Two 30-round AR-15 magazines included
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
A heavier barrel profile would have kept the group within a 1/2 inch or tighter, but as-is it’s pretty good.
Ergonomics: * * * *
I’m not a huge fan of the stock, and the grip isn’t my cup of tea. But as far as AR-15 rifles go, it works and it feels like a rifle should.
Reliability: * * * * *
No issues. Hundreds of painful rounds later with no cleaning in the Texas dust and she still works like a Swiss clock.
Customization: * * * *
I’m removing one star for the proprietary handguard system — swapping barrels won’t be easy. Everything else, though, is completely interchangeable with other AR-15 rifles.
Overall: * * * *
It’s a great value for what you get. There are one or two personal nit-picks that are keeping it out of the five star category, but overall the gun is definitely worth the money. Especially given what it comes with, and how it performs.