By Todd Burgreen
The Ultimate Hunting AR Package
Modern sporting rifle (MSR) terminology for the AR is an industry attempt to help define the growing role that AR-type rifles have assumed beyond strictly tactical “assault” rifles. AR rifles are versatile, easily accessorized and suitable for a wide variety of recreational, sport shooting and professional applications. While ARs were quickly embraced for varmint hunting, caliber expansion has steadily grown in popularity with hunters for larger-sized game as well. The 2A Armament XLR-20 is a great example of the growing potential of ARs in the hunting arena. The XLR-20 highlights all of the AR positives in its MSR form, especially when combined with the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge.
2A Armament is an ISO 9001 and AS 9100 certified advance manufacturing machining shop for the aerospace, medical, prosthetic, motorsports, semiconductor and outdoor recreation markets. This is matched with hand finishing of every AR part. It only takes a visual inspection to realize that this is not mere propaganda. The individual Picatinny rails running the length of the upper receiver and along the proprietary 15-inch 2A Xanthos-lite rail are hollowed out; brass deflector craftily minimized; 7075-T6 billet receivers precision-crafted; 2A Armament X4 titanium muzzle brake on the 20-inch 5R 1:8 4150 steel barrel; M4 feed ramps; titanium gas block at the end of the rifle length gas rod; and titanium receiver pin—you get the point. No detail was too small in quest to shave ounces. Significantly, a full mass bolt group is used. 2A did not want to sacrifice any reliability by modifying/tinkering with this component.
The XLR-20’s barrel features 1:8RH 5R button rifling. 5R rifling was developed by Barrett “Boots” Obermeyer. 5R is different from conventional rifling by changing the shape and configuration of the lands and grooves. 5R use 5 lands and grooves versus the more common 4 or 6 land/groove profile. This puts lands opposite of grooves with another tweak being the transition from the top of the land to the groove is sloped. 5R reduces projectile deformation as it passes through the bore during the firing sequence. More uniform projectile means better accuracy. 5R rifling is easier to clean and less prone to accuracy-robbing fouling. All of this is not abstract theory as 5R rifling has developed a dedicated target shooting following that swears by it.
Without a doubt the 2A Armament XLR-10 rifle will change users’ thoughts on how an AR-10 style rifle can be configured. Often the AR-10 is associated with unwieldy profile, weighing substantially over 9 pounds. 2A Armament has made a conscious effort with the XLR-20 to harness 6.5 Creedmoor potential in a frame more svelte than many AR-15s. The added weight of most AR-10 platforms compared to the smaller AR-15 negates inherent AR qualities of handling in many users’ minds. Not this rifle—6 pounds, 14 ounces as verified on my FFL dealer’s shipping scale. Impressive stuff! The combining of the great handling XLR-20 platform with the increased power represented in the 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge is the key to its allure as a versatile performer afield. I immediately slated the XLR-20 as the ultimate hunting AR package. This is speaking in terms of the XLR-20 lethality and effective range, while still allowing for ease of carry, all combined with precision accuracy.
The accuracy potential of a quality AR-15- or AR-10-type weapon is on par or exceeds a bolt action. The 2A XLR-20 reinforced this assumption. Over the last few years the AR-10 type rifle has evolved into no longer being limited by the capability of the .308Win cartridge—its most popular chambering. This is all thanks to cartridge development that will now fit into the .308Win footprint while still offering improvement in ballistic performance.
The 6.5 Creedmoor was introduced by Hornady in 2007 for long-range target shooting applications. The 6.5 Creedmoor typifies the short and efficient cartridge principle. 6.5mm bullets have a reputation for a high ballistic coefficient (BC) rating as well as sectional density (SD). SD is the ratio of a bullet’s mass to its cross-section. All things being equal, a high SD penetrates better than a low SD. BC is a measurement of how well a bullet moves through the air. Velocity loss and impact of wind drift is minimized the higher the BC rating as the round travels downrange. The final sweetener is only moderate recoil. 120- to 140-grain bullets have always attracted hunters/tactical/target shooters. It is hard to beat 130 grains moving at 3000 feet per second.
I agonized over scope selection. I did not want to put an anchor on the top rail; yet I still wanted the magnification range to take advantage of such a sleek AR chambered in potent 6.5 Creedmoor. We are talking about true multipurpose roles: stalking game while maintaining long-range punch across a clearing. An important part of the accuracy equation is a quality optic to go along with the cartridge and rifle. A SIG SAUER WHISKEY5 3-15x44mm optic was mounted to the 2A XLR-20. The SIG SAUER WHISKEY optic’s versatile 5-times zoom system provides a larger field of view at close ranges and better target acquisition at long ranges. The WHISKEY5 utilizes a second focal plane reticle. SIG SAUER has equipped the WHISKEY5 with an electronically illuminated Hellfire Reticle which can vary the light intensity of the central aiming point from IR (Infrared) dim to HellFire bright for daylight illumination, resulting in a bright, defined aiming point for precision shot placement in any condition. The SIG SAUER optic has many other distinguishing characteristics such as LevelPlex Anti-Cant, HDX glass and LENSARMOR to mention a few.
The 2A XLR-20 was initially sighted in at Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC) Range #2 with a 100-yard zero. Different 6.5 Creedmoor loads were fired from the bench to determine a base accuracy level. Various loads from Hornady and Federal consisted of a mix of hunting and match loads to illustrate the ballistic flexibility inherent in both the XLR-20 and 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge. These specific loads were Federal 120-grain Trophy Copper, Gold Medal Berger 130-grain Hybrid Match and 140-grain Nosler Accubond. Hornady was represented by the 129-grain SST. This is just a small splattering of the 6.5 Creedmoor loads available from each company with other companies offering even more. Overall, accuracy was impressive with no load producing groups over 2 inches at 100 yards with some bordering on ¾-inch. The Timney flat trigger is a real treat with the XLR-20. A short take up is finished with a 2-pound break.
2A Armament’s Titanium Regulated Bolt Carrier (RBC) shows 2A’s commitment to be an innovator in the AR market. Discussion of this arose when I contacted 2A about a certain ammunition over-accelerating the bolt and causing malfunctions. 2A was aware of this and named it before I mentioned the one I had used. 2A developed the Titanium Regulated Bolt Carrier (RBC) for their AR-15 first with the AR-10 platform quick to follow. The RBC is an ultra-lightweight carrier with a gas regulating gate built into the carrier itself. This provides a drop-in, extremely lightweight solution for those looking to tune their AR’s gas system and minimize the felt recoil. It eliminates the need for adjustable gas blocks and allows the firearm to be restored to a factory full-weight system by simply swapping your full-mass carrier back into your firearm. The RBC has infinite adjustment from fully open to fully closed on the regulating gate. The RBC can be tuned to most combinations of ammunition, buffers, springs, suppressors, barrel lengths, etc. The RBC is fully adjustable through the port door and does not require the firearm to be broken down for adjustment.
After the bench-work testing innate accuracy at Echo Valley Training Center’s (EVTC) Range #2, I performed some of my normal field tests. These consisted of shooting prone off a bi-pod or pack at clay pigeons at 300 yards from prepared “dug-in” positions offered at EVTC. I fired and acquired the next target as quickly as possible on the 4.33-inch diameter clay pigeons. The 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge combined with the ergonomic well-tuned XLR-20 proved potent. Other range work consisted of shooting B-27 man-targets out to 600 yards on EVTC’s Known Distance Range. 2A XLR-20 accuracy combined with premium ammunition and the clear SIG SAUER optic enabled center mass shots with ease.
The EVTC Jungle Walk Range was used to get a sense of handling of the 2A XLR-20. Targets were set up randomly along the meandering 275-yard range. A shooter had to move down the path until a target was spotted. The XLR-20 was more than manageable in terms of handling when carrying and engaging targets from the standing or kneeling position. After all, it is an AR which is renowned for basic ergonomics. Further field testing consisted of carrying the XLR-20 deer hunting in both VA and WV; after all it is an MSR.
A Useful Accessory
An Eberlestock X31 LoDrag II Pack proved a natural companion to the XLR-20 during T&E. The X31 LoDrag II is the latest evolution of the Eberlestock LoDrag series. The X31 incorporates a tactical weapon-sized scabbard. It has a unique contour shape that tapers at both the top and the bottom, giving the pack an excellent close-to-the-body ride. The X31 is fully compressible with pairs of side-mounted compression straps that draw the load upward to optimally position over the wearer’s center of gravity. MOLLE-10 lightweight webbing is used, to which you can attach conventional 25mm MOLLE accessories. The Eberlestock X31 LoDrag II Pack serves as an excellent example of Eberlestock’s simple, practical ingenuity. There’s no digging and wrestling with your pack to free an item—it’s quick at hand. Designed to be a highly functional, minimalist, lightweight tactical pack, the X31 incorporates a rifle scabbard. If you carry your weapon on your back, you’re much more agile and effective than if it’s stuck in your hands or on a shoulder sling all of the time; there’s simply no better way to move about in an organized fashion. By having the pack carry the rifle, your hands are free for all of the things you need them for when you are traversing terrain. Furthermore, Eberlestock makes it so that you can get your weapon out the pack without having to unstrap everything that you’re wearing.
Many contend that the 6.5 Creedmoor chambered in an accurate semi-automatic like the XLR-20 is the epitome of an MSR. In the same vein, the semi-automatic sub-7-pound 2A Armament XLR-20 offers advantages most other AR-10 rifles, or for that matter bolt action rifles, cannot compete with. A trained marksman will definitely be able to put to good use the ballistic advantages offered by the 6.5 Creedmoor XLR-20 with its precision semi-automatic firepower. The XLR-20 sacrifices nothing in terms of accuracy. Yes, first-round hits are paramount; however, do not underestimate the importance of fast follow-up shots after observing initial impact or if more targets are available.
Rarely does merely unpacking an AR get me excited any more. Such is the prevalence of the AR/MSR platform. A true credit to its popularity. However, with the 2A Armament XLR-20 direct impingement AR you know something special is at hand. 2A Armament did not enter into the AR market without serious forethought and a conscious decision to try and separate its ARs from other offerings in a cluttered AR market. The XLR-20 succeeds in this mission.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Echo Valley Training Center
Federal Cartridge Company
Hornady Mfg., Inc.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)|