The new Custom Billet Rifle from S.W.A.T. Firearms is a match grade precision rifle that retails for the price of an off-the-shelf rifle.
By Chris A. Choat
S.W.A.T. Firearms Industries is a small firearms manufacturing shop based in the town of Campbell, Texas. The shop only has a handful of employees but is turning out some new custom rifles that are very impressive. The new rifles feature the company’s own billet upper and lower receivers as well as new products that the company is adding to their line. The newest rifles bear the designation of the MSR-15 (Modern Sporting Rifle).
This author was first introduced to the company’s quality products when they were contacted about using one of their billet lowers to be used with a, then new, complete billet upper. The new upper featured quick change barrels and the S.W.A.T. lower complimented the design perfectly. (See the article on Faxon Firearms ARAK in Small Arms Review Vol. 18, No. 1.) During the testing for that article, the quality and fit of their lower receiver and all the associated internal parts was quite impressive.
The company is now producing complete rifles and is offering their guns as custom built creations with the customer picking out the options that he or she wants on their rifle. S.W.A.T. Firearms builds the guns one at a time specifically tailored to their use or mission; whether it is a gun built for 3-gun competition or a gun built for tactical operations. The gun built for this article was done as a 3-gun competition rifle. S.W.A.T. Firearms can source most any parts for a custom rifle or the customer can supply their own accessories.
I chose to let S.W.A.T. Firearms build the rifle with some of their newest parts and options that they supply but I chose to put on a railed forearm of my choosing. The one I picked was the new Samson Manufacturing 15-inch Evolution Keymod rail forearm. This forearm is the latest addition to their railed forearm line. The Evolution Keymod features standard Keymod slots at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. In addition, the Evolution Keymod maintains the ability to accept standard Evo accessories at multiple angles around the rail through the original’s cut slots. This allows the user the advantage of a much larger variety of accessories while still having cross platform capability where it is needed most. The new Keymod forearm has the same hand feel as its older brother, but is even lighter. The inside diameter, 1.5 inches, is also the same as the first Evo allowing a sound suppressor to fit inside the forearm for short barrels. The 15-inch model was chosen to cover the new gun’s rifle length gas system. The Evolution rail forearms are totally free-floating, attaching only at the rear around the barrel nut by means of a thermal bushing. The units all come with a Mil-Spec Type III black hard-coat anodized finish.
The main features of the new rifle are, of course, the billet upper and lower receivers. They are both 100% machined, in house, at the S.W.A.T. Firearms shop. They are both milled solid blocks of 6061 T-6 aluminum and are done in a Mil-Spec Type III black hard-coat anodized finish. The receivers can also be ordered with a Cerakote finish in just about any color the customer wants. S.W.A.T. Firearms offers their off-the-shelf guns in colors such as Tastanium Devil, Desert Storm, Dragon Slayer Red and Prison Pink so the shooter has the option of mild or wild.
The upper features a full-length Picatinny rail across its top and can be ordered either with or without the forward assist. The test gun had no forward assist as most 3-guns don’t want that option. Installed in the upper was one of S.W.A.T. Firearms extended charging handles. This handle has an extended, oversize release lever for quick manipulation. The billet lowers all have an integrated cold weather trigger guard that is enlarged at the front to accommodate a gloved finger. The lowers are finished the same as the uppers. Another great feature of the lower is the 60 degree flared magwell at the bottom to help guide the magazine into place. If the shooter is slightly off when inserting the magazine this flare guides the magazine into position. This is an important feature for competitors or anyone in a stressful situation. The test guns’ upper and lower were a matched set and fit together perfectly. This is also helped by an upper receiver tensioning screw that is located in the lower receiver. This small polymer tipped screw can be adjusted from under the pistol grip to provide tension against the upper receiver so that even the tiniest amount of play can be eliminated. Pivoting the upper and lower receivers closed reminds one of shutting a safe door. The lower also came with KNS Precision anti rotation trigger and hammer pins. For those not familiar with these, they are pins that have milled notches on their ends and are locked in position with a mating crossbar. This keeps the hammer and trigger pins from rotating in their respective holes and wearing the holes out. This may not seem like a necessary accessory but is very important for guns that have thousands and thousands of rounds put through them like 3-gun firearms or select-fire guns.
Other features installed on the test gun’s lower included S.W.A.T. Firearms own extended take down pins and their National Match 2-stage trigger. The pins are extended and knurled on the ends to get a good grip on them for easy removal. The trigger on the test gun had a very crisp 2-stage break with a trigger pull of only 3.6 pounds. These are very nice triggers and once you have tried them you’ll want them on all of your guns. The lower was equipped with an Ergo Grip pistol grip. These grips are made of a rubber material that is extremely non-slip and also has very slight palm swells and fit the hand perfectly. At the back end the receiver had a black MagPul CTR collapsible buttstock. The CTR is a favorite as it is simple yet locked up positively with absolutely no wobble or rattle.
S.W.A.T. Firearms uses E.R. Shaw barrels and the test rifle was equipped with an 18 inch model that is a nice compromise between the 20 inch rifle barrel and the 16 inch carbine barrel. This barrel is their SPR (Special Purpose Rifle) model that has a 1 in 9 twist rate. It’s hard chromed as is the AR-15 style bolt that comes in the gun. The barrel is threaded 1/2 x 28 and was capped with one of S.W.A.T. Firearms own muzzle brakes called the MB-3. This brake produced a very mild muzzle blast and absolutely killed all the muzzle flash. The test gun had a rifle length gas system that produced very mild recoil along with positive functioning.
The gun was finished in Tungsten Gray Cerakote. This included the upper and lower receivers as well as the Samson Keymod forearm. The barrel, buffer tube, stock, pistol grip, charging handle, fire control parts, take down pins and magazine were left black that made for a very attractive gun drawing numerous comments at the range.
Testing was done with a number of types of ammunition that included several bullet styles and weights. With the 1 in 9 twist, naturally the gun liked the heavier bullets in the 68 to 75 grain range. In fact one group shot with the rifle put 3 shots into one ragged hole at 100 yards. The trigger probably had a lot to do with this. The group was shot with Hornady .223 75 Grain Boat Tail Hollow Point Match. The gun functioned perfectly with no failures of any kind. It fed and ejected without a hitch, which is expected in a rifle such as this. The gun was fired from the bench and used in 3-gun competition scenarios as well. It is fast handling, very accurate and reliable to a fault. If you are looking for a 3-gun rifle to compete with or a rifle that can be used as a tactical gun, take a look at the new custom MSR-15. It’s a perfect fit no matter what the purpose.
S.W.A.T. Firearms, Inc.
6585 East Interstate 30
Campbell, TX 75422
Phone: (903) 862-2408
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N1 (January 2015)|