Photo by Rab Cummings
The AR frenzy has slowed down. Supply has finally started to catch up with demand and, to paraphrase style maven and ex-jailbird Martha Stewart, this is a good thing–especially if you’re in the market for a black gun.
Gun buyers can now take a more critical look when shopping without worrying that inventories will vanish within hours of being stocked. This, in turn, is forcing gunmakers to be smarter about what they produce. To catch the eye of discerning customers, they are offering more value for less money.
A case in point is Colt Competition Rifles. This company, which makes guns under license for Colt’s Manufacturing Company, has come out with the CSR-1516, a stripped-down version of the CRX-16 that retains much of the more expensive rifle’s construction.
Their price difference is $410. I tested both to see which is the better value. The point-by-point cost breakdown is presented opposite, but that’s only part of the tale.
The real question is, does the more expensive rifle perform proportionately better?
At the range, I shot bullets from 55 to 77 grains, which the 1-in-8 twist barrels on both rifles are designed for. In each case, the more expensive CRX outshot the CSR. Whereas the CRX printed sub-1-inch five-shot groups with each load, the CSR did so only with Nosler’s 55-grain Varmageddon. The smoother trigger on the CRX certainly helped in this regard.
But the accuracy of the CSR-1516 is quite good, averaging 1.322 inches for five-shot groups at 100 yards, compared with the .981-inch group average of the CRX-16.
In other respects, the CRX is more refined, and its performance and design scores reflect this. Its muzzle brake and oversize charging handle, for instance, help it shoot and reload more smoothly. But at the end of the evaluation, the CSR, by virtue of its $989 price, is the better value. The rifles ended up in a tie with respect to their overall ratings–but they arrived at that destination by different paths.
How They Compare
Some upgrades are worth the price, others you can live without
1. Charging Handle: $29
The oversize latch on the Badger Ordnance charging handle is a real boon when you need to get a round in the chamber after your gun runs dry. Advantage: CRX
2. Hogue Overmolded Grip: $35
The plain rubber grip on the CSR-1516 works just fine. There’s nothing wrong with the Hogue grip, but your $40 is better spent elsewhere. Advantage: CSR
3. Forward Assist Assembly: $30
The Forward Assist is traditional on AR rifles but is not necessary to keep your gun running. Most training techniques don’t call for its use when your rifle malfunctions. Advantage: CSR
4. Dust Cover: $25
The dust cover is a nice option, but it’s not a necessity. Yes, it can keep grit from entering the receiver, but it only works if you remember to close it, which most shooters rarely do. Advantage: CSR
5. MP Tested Bolt/Bolt Carrier: $55
The more expensive bolt has been pressure-tested and inspected to make sure there are no minute flaws that could cause a failure. This is for peace of mind more than anything and doesn’t really buy you much. Use this money for practice ammo instead. Advantage: CSR
6. Bold Ideas Modular Handguard: $136**
The handguard on the CRX offers more flexibility when it comes to configuring accessories on your rifle–plus, it just looks cool. That said, the plain handguard on the CSR is a free-floating design and can take rails at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. It does the job and saves you money in the process. Advantage: CSR
7. Bold Ideas Two-Chamber Muzzle Brake: $70
The brake on the CRX does an excellent job of keeping muzzle rise to a minimum under recoil. The $70 is money well spent. Advantage: CRX
8. Cleaning Kit: $40
The kit is handy, yes, and comes with a test target certifying the rifle’s sub-MOA accuracy. But assuming you already have cleaning supplies on hand, you don’t need it. Advantage: CSR