Review: Armalite M15TAC16

This multi-purpose MSR from the company that wrote the book on ARs has the right stuff for predator hunters.

Review: Armalite M15TAC16

Armalite’s M15TAC16 is a good multi-purpose firearm. While the basic nature of this carbine is tactical, hence the “TAC” in the gun’s moniker, it is also well suited for competitions such as 3-gun thanks to features including an adjustable gas block and effective flash-hiding compensator. Conveniently, many of those same TAC16 features also translate over to the field, making them desirable for predator hunting as well.

“What sets this firearm apart from others in its class is the price and value for the provided equipment,” explains Joe Hajny, a product specialist for Armalite who took time to answer some questions for me about the gun. “It comes extremely well-equipped verses its competition and still has a lifetime warranty.”

As he went on, it became clear that details on all of the M15TAC16’s features quickly border on too many to list and, according to Hajny, you “Could not build an equivalent gun [for the same price] using retail-priced components.”

Chief among the enhancing features is a 16-inch chrome-moly barrel that is not only chrome-lined, but also double-lapped to ensure a smooth surface for greater accuracy and easier cleaning. “Lapping is before the chrome lining process, to ensure accuracy from our barrels,” explains Hajny. “This also increases the chances that any imperfections in the rifling are removed before the chrome lining.”

Hajny continued, explaining that barrel imperfections could, for example, include hard and soft spots that affect the bullet’s jacket or base as it travels down the bore, which could hurt accuracy needed for long shots at predators. The enhanced lapping combined with the chrome lining not only eliminates that problem, but also increases the barrel life expectancy so that a serious predator hunter’s initial investment in a TAC16 isn’t short-lived.

Two-Stage Trigger

Another accuracy-enhancing feature is Armalite’s adjustable two-stage trigger, but this one isn’t adjustable in the conventional fashion. “Unlike typical adjustable triggers that use a set screw to adjust spring weight on the sear and disconnector, our trigger uses a multi-position spring seat to change the spring rate while ensuring that it cannot come loose or change despite shooting conditions, rate of fire or abuse,” says Hajny as he describes the unique arrangement. 

Adjustment is easy, and at the same time not, because you have to remove the trigger and hammer assembly to adjust the weight. Once removed, there are three position notches on the disconnector that the spring loops around and, depending on which position the spring is in, you can increase or decrease trigger pull weight in 1-pound increments. Unfortunately, adjustment instructions are not included in the otherwise comprehensive owner’s manual, but Hajny says tuning instructions are available upon customer request.

Also tunable is the gas port at the front of the TAC16’s mid-length gas system— a feature I’ve come to love on MSRs since I first used one on an Armalite M15VSR several years ago. These are not superfluous ‘gizzies’ to make one company’s MSR “different” from another. They really do make a perceptible difference. By using a simple 5/64-inch Allen wrench, shooters can adjust the amount of gas used to cycle the action. It allows tuning the gun not just for different loads, but also to tone down the gas for a suppressor or when you want the least amount of recoil impulse for quicker follow-up shots. 

Armalite ships the TAC16 with the gas block in the “fully open” position to ensure reliable function with the widest variety of ammunition. “Fully open” amounts to five full revolutions of the adjustment screw — any more than that and you risk the screw backing completely out. There is a setscrew to lock the adjustment screw in place.

The remaining features are what you’d expect on a MSR with a suggested retail price of almost $1,600. This rifle has a Magpul STR multi-position collapsible buttstock, MOE+ pistol grip and comes with Magpul MBUS flip-up sights. Receivers are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum and the upper has a Picatinny rail for easy scope mounting. 

A slim, octagonal, free-floating handguard is also made with a full-length rail and has anti-rotation set screws that keep the handguard aligned with the upper.

“[W]e have built a lot of redundancy into our handguard,” says Hajny of the set screws. “If for some reason the main screws come loose, the handguard will not rotate. Likewise, the main screws are interfaced with the barrel nut, so they would need to be completely removed to allow the handguard to come forward, however the anti-rotation set screws will also prevent significant forward movement unless they were to [be] completely removed.”

Anti-rotation screws or not, I still would not go so far as to “bridge” a scope between the upper and handguard, but it is nice to know that Armalite has taken precautions to make sure any forward-mounted optical devices stay aligned. Other forward devices are easily mounted in any of the ample number of KeyMod slots on the handguard’s seven other surface flats.

“Everywhere you look on the M15TAC16 we have added premium equipment that the end user would’ve likely added from a third-party source,” says Hajny. “Like many other high end MSR’s, we don’t skimp on quality. Every gun is test fired for function and is QA’d numerous times throughout the build stages. The ‘Mil-Spec’ features are not overlooked like hard coat anodizing, MPI and HP testing BCGs, chrome-lined barrel as well as years of testing to ensure a long lifespan of our firearms.”

At the Range

Before going to the range, I topped the TAC16 with a Trijicon 2.5-12.5x42mm AccuPoint scope and secured a Griffin Armament GP5 from Silencer Shop because I wanted to see how the gun handled the extra gas from using a suppressor and what effect the adjustable gas block had on that. The TAC16 comes equipped with an OSS Banner flash hiding compensator that I’ve seen described as a “cross between the internals of a jet turbine and a pine cone.” It’s non-indexable, meaning there is no dedicated “top” side and uses a crush washer, which made it simple to swap out for the direct-thread suppressor.

For loads, I selected Black Hill’s 55-grain soft point because I’ve usually found that load accurate when reviewing rifles and it’s a reliable coyote killer. Because the TAC16’s twist rate is a tight 1:7, I also selected Nexus 77-grain OTM. Both Nexus and Armalite are part of the umbrella group, Strategic Armory Corps that is quickly developing lines of products such as rifles, ammunition and suppressors that strategically complement each other.

My shooting began with tuning the gas block to the Banner flash hiding compensator and Nexus load. My reasoning was that since the suppressor creates greater blowback, if I had adjusted the block to the suppressor, I could end up undergassed when shooting without it and that could cause some reliability issues. Instead, I’d rather the block be tuned without the suppressor, and be a little overgassed when suppressed. If you’re someone who is going to switch a lot between suppressed and unsuppressed, you might want to consider a switch block, otherwise, tune the block to the way you’ll regularly shoot.

Best accuracy without the suppressor was with the Nexus load that averaged 0.98-inch for five, three-shot groups at 100 yards. Though the Plain Jane Black Hills load has always been a stellar performer for me, in the M15TAC16, it wasn’t so stellar, averaging 1.22 inches — then I put the Griffin Suppressor on. With the suppressor, the Black Hills load tightened its group average down to 0.70-inch. With the suppressor, brass was ejected about five feet forward between the 1:00 and 2:00 position, suggesting the expected overgassing, and without the suppressor, brass ejected between 3:00 and 4:00.

Trigger pull was smooth and I noted that it has an energetic reset that lifts your trigger finger a little. Pull weight was 5 ½ pounds with the spring in its middle notch and I was fine with that. The beefy thickness of the buttstock made this one of the most comfortable MSRs I’ve ever handled, and for you lefties that comfortable thickness is on both sides. Similarly, the Raptor charging handle and selector switch are ambidextrous.

“The M15TAC16 is able to be configured to any shooter and shooting style, making it a versatile MSR that can be enjoyed by users for many generations,” says Hajny. To him, the right customer is typically well-educated and recognizes the quality and value. Shooters looking for a base model firearm with only a couple of options will want to look elsewhere.

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