Rifle Review: Precision Reflex Tactical Operator

Parts maker turned gun maker offers “Combat Ready” MSRs that can take on four-legged predators as readily as they can the two-legged kind.
Rifle Review: Precision Reflex Tactical Operator

Precision Reflex, Inc. (PRI) of New Bremen, Ohio, may not be a household “gun maker” name for many shooters, but the company has been part of the gun industry for decades. According to PRI’s Tony Holdren, the company started out as a “job shop” in 1979, and though its owners were shooting enthusiasts and had worked with gun companies in the past, it didn’t really identify itself primarily as a gun or gun parts maker until an unfortunate incident happened at a local correctional facility.

“A sniper rifle had a problem with its rings and bases and basically lost its zero,” Holdren tells me during a phone interview. “They ended up killing a civilian instead of the bad person, so they came to us and asked us to build them a set of rings and bases that would work.” After building the base and rings for the correctional facility, PRI saw there was a need for their solutions and for about the past 12 years has exclusively offered gun parts.

Precsion Reflex Tactical OperatorTheir flagship part is the Gas Buster charging handle for modern sporting rifles that directs gas away from the shooter. Like many advancements in firearms technology, it was a solution sought by the military. “Special Ops guys were running suppressed and they were getting all of that crud back in their face, especially with the ammo they were running, which was really dirty to begin with,” Holdren explains. “We went through several trials and came up with the Gas Buster that runs on the concept of the path of least resistance. We have a couple of channels and slots in it that allow the gas and dirt to flow away from the shooter.”

Not content to just make parts for others, in 2014 PRI added complete modern sporting rifles to its line of solutions. “We have always done uppers, but we just didn’t want to deal with the FFL, transfers and the ATF,” Holdren says. “But our new system we have online for taking orders makes it so much easier to deal with that it just seemed like the next step to do.”

One of those complete rifles is the Tactical Operator that PRI recently sent for review. The company’s tag line is “Combat Ready,” but the Tactical Operator has a lot going for it as a predator-ready rifle, too. For one, it’s equipped with a Recce Rail system that ties the receiver to the forend without extending the full length of the forend. According to Holdren, “[it’s] ideal if somebody is going to shoot hogs or coyotes at night because it sets up real nice for a scope and night-vision.” And if night-vision isn’t your thing, it’s just as easy to set the Tactical Operator up for use with a conventional riflescope.

I opted to go conventional, and at first I tried mounting a Burris 6.5-20X Fullfield II scope directly on the Recce Rail, but quickly found that its 50mm objective bell required rings too high to be practical. To see through it, I had to lift my head completely off the stock, and that can cause everything from parallax problems to unsteady aim. Instead, I simply removed the Recce Rail and the top rail from the forend and mounted the scope directly to the Picatinny rail milled into the upper receiver. That worked perfectly with the height of the B5 buttstock to align my eye with the scope and allow for a solid cheekweld.

Another significant feature for predator hunters is the MTSN QC “quiet” brake, “but it’s by no means quiet,” laughs Holdren during our conversation. Despite the brake’s suggestive name, noise abatement is neither designed into nor intended with this brake — as with all brakes, it’s loud. Instead, if you look up synonyms for “quiet” you’ll find ones like “still” and “settle down.” “Basically what it does is it helps you stay on target… It’s quiet in meaning it quiets the muzzle rise,” Holdren says. “We’ve sold a lot of those brakes to people who use them on .308s.”

When Holdren asked if I had shot the gun yet, I replied, “Oh man, that gun does not move at all!” “That would be because of the brake,” he explained. “I would say definitely the brake [is a great feature for predator hunters] because a lot of times they need a follow-up shot, or if more than one coyote comes in they have a chance at more than one shot. It’s going to keep [the gun] right there,” he concluded.

The only other muzzle device I’ve used that results in less muzzle movement is a suppressor, so I’m confident saying that this is the best brake I recall ever using on a modern sporting rifle. Making an effective muzzle brake isn’t as easy as it seems. For example, I remember about 15 years ago Colt Competition was working on an AR brake and its owner, Ira Kay, brought a prototype by to see if I could help him with it. While it essentially eliminated rearward recoil, there was still too much muzzle rise so we simplistically began by making the top ports progressively bigger. I’m here to say that you quickly reach a point where you go from muzzle rise directly to muzzle dip from the force of the gas escaping ports that are just a little too large!

Another feature Holdren believes important to predator hunters is PRI’s carbon fiber/aluminum/steel forend. The tube itself is carbon fiber while the collar and barrel nut are aluminum. Steel parts consist of the screws and rails. “The carbon fiber is just so much lighter than the competition out there,” Holdren emphasized. “[It] takes the heat and cold so much better than aluminum and allows you to move the rails around where you want them. You also don’t have to hold onto a quad rail or something [uncomfortable] like that,” he continued.

There was more to like about the Tactical Operator once I got it to the range. One feature I had never given much thought to until using it is the over-size “Military Latch” on the Gas Buster charging handle. Mounting a full-size scope directly to the receiver can cause the ocular bell to crowd the charging handle, making it harder to grasp, especially with gloves on. Instead, the Military Latch just sticks out and all but screams, “Grab me!”

Another nice feature on the sample rifle is the upgraded B5 buttstock. “[It’s] all Mil-Spec and has an all Mil-Spec buffer tube, so if the aftermarket parts folks don’t like the B5 stock they can basically put on any stock they want,” says Holdren. My slightly built 13-year-old son has been a regular tag-along to the range for years, and the quick and easy adjustability lets us both shoot a gun that fits. Another advantage of the adjustable stock is that when I’m hunting places that are cold, I can bundle up in thick layers and adjust the stock down for proper eye relief. 

I have mixed feelings about the Geissele 2-stage trigger on the sample gun. It’s an added-cost upgrade to the Tactical Operator, and its smoothness did a great job of hiding its 5 1/2 pounds pull weight. “It was just a smooth, smooth trigger and we were sort of sold on it…. [W]e thought it was a pretty simple and easy upgrade,” says Holdren of the Geissele trigger. This particular gun may have been an anomaly, and it is a sample gun that goes out to other writers and events, so Lord knows if it has been tinkered with along that journey, but personally I think a trigger upgrade on a $1,700 rifle should be lighter.

The heavy trigger pull, though, didn’t get in the way of accuracy. When I tested the Tactical Operator, it was even hotter than usual here near the Mexican border, so I opted to shoot it for accuracy using Australian Outback ammo because it promises unsurpassed stability in extreme weather. The ammo incorporates what Australian Outback calls “Ballistic Temperature Independence” that, in the .223 Rem. load I was using, sends 55-grain Sierra BlitzKing bullets at 3,264 fps over a wide range of hot and cold temperatures. Neither the rifle nor the ammo disappointed me as the combination consistently churned out half-inch 100-yard groups despite the brutal heat.

When asked about the future for PRI, Holdren says, “We hopefully keep growing like we have been and getting more and more customers. The rifle is something we just kind of expanded on.”

Spec Sheet

Manufacturer: Precision Reflex, Inc.
Model: Tactical Operator
Calibers: 5.56/.223, 6.8mm
Action: gas-operated semi-automatic rifle
Magazine capacity: Two 15-round detachable magazines
Barrel: 16-inch Douglas 416 stainless steel with 1:8-inch twist and MSTN “quiet” straight brake
Trigger: Geissele 2-Stage G2S (Standard AR trigger is standard) 5 1/2 pounds pull
Sights: Recce length top rail with PRI flip-up front and rear sights
Stock: B5 adjustable (six-position Carbine stock standard)
Overall length: 34 inches
Weight: 7.9 pounds
Other: Gas Buster charging handle with military latch
MSRP: $1,750 (as tested)
More Info: www.precisionreflex.com (419) 629-2603


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