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VLTOR is here showing off their TS3 rifle. You know, the one that they used on Top Shot season 3 and is supposed to be the bee’s knees. Anyway, I had a chance to sit down and talk with one of the head guys at VLTOR about why they decided to sell the gun with a 15 inch barrel and pinned flash hider instead of adding the extra inch of barrel and letting their customers choose the muzzle device. Here’s their reasoning:

According to VLTOR, 14.5 inches is the ideal barrel length for manoeuvrability. It’s easy to move through tight spaces, balances well and yet still provides enough velocity to make a speedy round fly downrange. The issue is that a 14.5 inch barrel wasn’t giving them enough back pressure to reliably cycle the action, but 15 inches was perfect.

While 15 inches might be perfect for manoeuvring and reliability the ATF is convinced that the extra inch is the difference between a civilized society and hordes of armed anarchists roaming the streets and causing terror. So instead of being able to swap the muzzle device for a muzzle brake (that would be great in competition shooting) or an AAC silencer adapter (for, you know, silencers) they pinned and welded on an A2 flash hider.

VLTOR doesn’t see this as a problem, as they believe their customers just want an A2 flash hider. But by not allowing the customer to make that decision it limits the usefulness of the firearm. In this writer’s opinion I would rather have the extra inch of barrel and deal with the reduced manoeuvrability (however slight) for the benefit of being able to change the muzzle device without angering the powers that be at the ATF. Because really, an inch isn’t going to make all that much difference. In my opinion, at least.

EDIT: The engineering department at VLTOR responded to this article. See the response here.

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  1. …the ATF is convinced that the extra inch is the difference between a civilized society and hordes of armed anarchists roaming the streets and causing terror.

    …and create some sort of bizzare opposite land where up is down and left is right and Coke is Pepsi, even in the DEEP SOUTH!

    But seriously. Lame. Give us the extra inch on your not very exciting AR clone.

  2. It never fails to amuse me how deeply guys love short weapons, even when the gun works less well. The 11.5 inch barrel Commando 16’s (CAR’s) were the bee’s knees in Vietnam, but delivered the fire power of a 9 mm pistol, or slightly more. The Marines do fine with a 20 inch gun but the run-of-the-mill grunt needs 14.5 inches? I agree with you that 1 inch plus freedom is a much better deal than a pinned 14.5 or 15 inch barrel. A short gun is great for from-vehicle shooting, but in practice none of these guns is going to be shot from a vehicle. I’m generally reminded of the end of “Scarface,” in which a drug-crazed Pacino with a super full-auto gun is finished off by a cop with a standard-length double-barreled shotgun. The gun market feels too much like the women’s fashion market these days…”does this gun make me look fat? Is this hip?” The thing is a tool to kill animals or perps. Grandpa did it just fine with a 42 inch rifle. You can, too, if you ain’t runnin’ through the jungle….which you ain’t.

  3. ” The issue is that a 14.5 inch barrel wasn’t giving them enough back pressure to reliably cycle the action”

    Not an AR guy, but couldnt they increase the size of the gas port in the barrel, or move the gas block further away from the muzzle, or is there something i’m missing?

    • I’m not very familiar with this rifle, but it looks like it’s 7.62x51mm, not 5.56. I know Knight’s Armament played around with a 14.5″, 7.62 DI gun a few years ago. They could never get the reliability up to a level they were satisfied with. In the end, they went with a 16″ barrel.

      16 inches is really the minimum length for a 7.62 NATO weapon. If you go much shorter, you start getting into 7.62×39 ballistics with a weapon and ammunition that are both heavier. Not really the best idea.

  4. All the major manufacturers of AR’s seem to be doing this and I really don’t get it. They pin and weld on these flashhiders to make the 16″ minimum and then call it a 14.5″ midlength or carbine but only mention that pinned flash hider in the description.

    I’d much rather have a 16″ barrel with a flashhider Because of the added flexibility of suppressors and what not.

  5. 14.5 inches isn’t enough to cycle the action??? So Vltor can’t pull off what other makers have been doing for years….

    And to the 11.5 inch CAR’s being only as powerful as a 9mm. That is bologna. One of the reasons the mk18 is overtaking the mp5 is because of greater power. 20inch barrels are nice. But not necessary. 16,14.5,11.5 will all do the job.

    • 55 grain 5.56 through a 10.5 inch barrel is still over 900 Ft/lbs @ 2740 fps. What’s that, more than double the energy of .45 acp?

      55 grain 5.56 through a 26 inch barrel Is 1400 ft/lbs @ 3400 fps, 50% more energy, but 16 inches more barrel.

      Trade offs. I wonder who drew the magic line at 16 inches back in the day?

  6. Maybe cutting to 15″ and using a standard A2 was cheaper than cutting to 14.5″ and using an extended A2?

    There does seem to be an odd pricegap between standard A2 FHs and extended A2 FHs. I’m surprised there aren’t more 14.7″ and 15″ bbls out there for that reason alone.

  7. I dont know why they’re touting its mobility either… you’re still carrying around 16 inches of stick without the benefit of actually having a 16″ barrel. Nor do you get any increased maneuverability benefits of actually having a shorter barrel.

  8. Sounds like a cost-cutting measure to me.

    And Matt, I think you would want to move the gas block closer to the muzzle to get better reliability. That would be extending the length that that the bullet travels before gas enters the cycling system, right? I don’t think this is possible while also keeping the AR to some sort of standard where you can still interchange parts/accessories.

  9. As much as I don’t like having to pin a muzzle device, removing it’s not exactly breaking into fort Knox. A gunsmith will swap a pinned muzzle device for probly 30$. If you have a grinder you can remove the thing yourself in about 5 minutes. I have a welder and can attach my own. You can even solder them on if you have a pluming torch. It isn’t exactly rocket science.

    • Except that if you dont use the right temperature solder the ATF deems it not permanent and you’ve just manufactured a SBR if the barrel length is under 16″.

      You’re right about the process though… its not complicated.

    • “A” gunsmith might be able to do this, or “A” gunsmith might fubar your rifle, lose it, give it back with extra damage, or hold it for 6 months without doing any work whatsoever. I’d rather pass.

  10. Nothing wrong with 14.5″ or 15″ barreled ARs with the pinned flash hiders, same ballistics as 16″ carbines so long as the gas system is mid-length, dwell time is the same. I carried a Colt M4 carbine in the Marine Corps with my unit, I could not tell the difference between that and the regular 20-inch M16A2 the grunts had ballistics-wise. If I wanted a long-range rifle, I’d get an M14/M1A .308 or the one our snipers had – an M40A1 Remington 700, instead. This VLTOR TS3 is sweet, I just hope it doesn’t cost an arm & a leg (more than $1,500.00 in my case).

  11. Silly Vltor, can’t seem to keep the story on this rifle straight.

    They bought the barrels from John Noveske and had them cut back to remove the Iron Cross logo.


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