Ballistic Advantage 18” .223 Wylde Premium Series SPR barrel
I have wanted to do an SPR type build for sometime but have been side tracked by my bolt guns and long range shooting obsession. Recently, I finished my 6.5 Creedmoor and 6.5 SAUM. I could now turn my attention to other projects. I decided that now was a good time to work on my gas gun collection. I had a great experience putting together my New Frontier Armory 16.1” carbine and I look forward to the same with the different rifles I have planned. What I wanted to achieve with this rifle was something that I could easily reach out to 600 yards with, while keeping the weight and size down. This would make a great rifle for kicking around the desert and woods here in Southern Nevada, but also serve as an inexpensive long range trainer.
My SPR started life as a Bushmaster M4A3 LE. I had the rifle for some time and just never got started on it. The transformation to Special Purpose Rifle began with a rifle stock/buffer assembly and quickly progressed once the barrel arrived. The Ballistic Advantage .223 Wylde SPR Premium Series barrel is the distinguishing feature that separates this rifle from my carbine. One of the first things I noticed when unpacking the barrel was that I loved the smell of the oil they used. I took a moment to enjoy the aroma before wiping it down. Secondly, the matte finish looks very good and I think aesthetically makes for a handsome rifle. Lastly, the fit between the upper receiver and barrel extension is excellent. The barrel contour is on the heavy side for an AR-15 but still lighter than a “bull barrel”. The gas block profile is purposefully extended to work with the OPS Inc. 12th model collar and suppressor. The muzzle is threaded ½”x28 tpi and it’s made to work with a 0.750” diameter gas block, like the Superlative Arms adjustable gas block I’ve chosen to use on this rifle. The Ballistic Advantage Premium Series barrels are made from 416 stainless steel and all Ballistic Advantage barrels have a sub MOA accuracy guarantee with match ammunition.
I got started by cleaning the Ballistic Advantage barrel. I do not do a barrel break in, I instead make sure I start with a clean barrel and jump right into it. The first thing I did was head out after work to function test the rifle. I wasn’t concerned with accuracy or even zeroing the scope, just dialing in the gas block. To do this I bought some Ultramax 55 grain SP ammunition. I wasn’t out long before finishing what I set out to do and headed home to get ready for the next morning. I did notice a little bit of carbon on the exterior of the barrel, in front of the gas block, so we’re definitely venting gas (see “Superlative Arms” below).
Before leaving to shoot the next morning I stopped by Sportsman’s Warehouse and bought Nosler Custom Competition 77 grain HBPT match ammunition, Federal Gold Medal Match 69 grain SMK ammunition, Hornady 75 grain HPBT ammunition and Federal Gold Medal Match 77 grain SMK ammunition. I felt this was a good sample of different factory offerings to get started with. Once I finished zeroing the rifle using the Ultramax ammunition I began shooting 5 round groups at 100 yards with the different brands of ammo. All groups were shot prone, off a bi-pod, using a rear SKD Tactical B.A.L.S. shooting bag. As I continued with my article I was extremely fortunate that Specialty Munitions and Gorilla Ammunition sent different products they offer to add to the list of ammunition I tested. This would allow me to verify that this barrel is in fact sub MOA accurate at 100 yards with match ammunition. My results are contained in the table below. All 5 round groups were measured using On Target, you can find images of each group in the gallery at the end of the article.
|Ammunition||Worst 5 round group (100 yards)||Best 5 round group (100 yards)||Average||Comments|
|FGMM 69 SMK||1.052 MOA||0.68 MOA||0.871 MOA||This ammo shot okay and is widely available but the ammunition is expensive.|
|Ultramax 55 SP||1.177 MOA||0.939 MOA||1.058 MOA||Shot well for inexpensive ammo. The Soft Point bullet isn’t suited for long range shooting but great for varmints and predators.|
|FGMM 77 SMK||1.25 MOA||1.207 MOA||1.229 MOA||I had high hopes for this ammo and prefer the 77 grain bullet. This ammunition is expensive.|
|Nosler CC 77 BPBT||1.35 MOA||1.298 MOA||1.324 MOA||This was ammo I had high hopes for but the result was lackluster. This ammunition is also expensive if not on sale.|
|Hornady 75 HPBT||1.356 MOA||0.714 MOA||1.035 MOA||The second group fired with this ammunition was 0.714 MOA. I think it’s worth revisiting in the future.|
|Hand load||1.048 MOA||0.787 MOA||0.918 MOA||Loaded with Eagle Eye brass, 25.0 grains CFE223, Winchester primer and Nosler CC 69 train HPBT.|
|Specialty Munitions 77 grain HPBT||1.047 MOA||0.868 MOA||0.958 MOA||Solid performing ammunition and shot a 0.9 MOA 6 round group at 600 yards in field conditions.|
|Specialty Munitions 50 grain V-Max||0.883 MOA||0.860 MOA||0.872 MOA||Sub MOA accuracy with this V-Max bullet makes for a great varmint/predator load.|
77 grain SMK
|0.834 MOA||0.750 MOA||0.792 MOA||Another solid performer and good bullet choice for LR shooting with a .223 Rem.|
69 grain SMK
|0.625 MOA||0.615 MOA||0.62 MOA||This was the stand out ammo for the LR shooting, IMO. You do give up some windage to the 77 but it’s hard to argue with 0.62 MOA average at 100 yards.|
55 grain BK
|0.806 MOA||0.502 MOA||0.654 MOA||Another stand out, also from Gorilla Ammo. This was accurate ammo through my barrel and should be suited for varmint control and predator hunting.
When looking at the table its easy to identify its preference for Gorilla Ammunition loaded with the 69 grain Sierra Match King. The 55 grain Sierra Blitz King is our runner up. When combined with this ammunition the rifle is very capable and easily achieves the accuracy guarantee. A talented shooter can easily push the limits of the rifle and cartridge when shooting long range. Something I found interesting was how well the inexpensive Ultramax ammunition performed. I bought the ammunition specifically to dial in the gas block and zero the rifle (which was done initially w/o suppressor). My intent was to save the more expensive match ammunition for shooting groups. After seeing how the ammunition performed comparatively to some match ammunition offerings I was impressed. The ammunition is loaded with a Soft Point bullet and not suitable for long range shooting, but probably great for dispatching varmints and predators.
When you want to achieve sub MOA accuracy, you need to have a capable rifle, capable ammunition and a capable shooter! A rifle isn’t likely to shoot well with all ammunition out there, and that’s just life. One option for tapping into the accuracy potential of any rifle is to hand load ammunition. The process of developing and tuning a sweet shooting load for your rifle can be time consuming is some cases. I did my load with components I had on hand; Eagle Eye Precision .223 Remington brass, Nosler 69 grain HPBT Custom Competition bullets, Winchester small rifle primers and CFE223 powder. I decided on a COAL of 2.275”, which is too long for a Magpul P-Mag but does fit in my 20 round aluminum magazine. I loaded up a small powder charge weight test, and then quickly settled on 25.0 grains for testing.
The Ballistic Advantage sub MOA accuracy guarantee I mention is 3 rounds with match ammunition at 100 yards. I don’t often shoot 3 rounds groups, and course of habit got the better of me. I shot 5 round groups. The median of all 110 rounds fried in 5 round groups included in this article came out to 0.939 MOA. Taking the best and worst 5 round group, and averaging them comes out to 0.929 MOA. Out of 10 factory loads, 6 of them shot sub-MOA at 100 yards. If someone inquires if my Ballistic Advantage Premium Series barrel is sub-MOA accurate I can confidently say; “Yes”. The Premium Series, and other offerings from Ballistic Advantage give shooters very capable barrels, at a price point that represents an exceptional value. I plan to utilize their products on future projects like my 10.5” SBR and 18” large frame 6.5mm Creedmoor gas gun. The .223 Wylde SPR turned out exactly how I wanted. The rifle is handy, capable, very low recoil and fun to shoot! I think the rifle will also be great for introducing people to long range shooting, or just shooting in general. The SPR is going to be capable with a decent selection of match ammunition, but really stand out with Gorilla 69 grain Sierra Match King. I do believe with load development I could get something dialed in to surpass many of the factory offerings, but I’m going to need some time and reloading components to get that done. My Ballistic Advantage barrel has performed as advertised. The SPR easily achieves my original goal for this rifle with any sub-MOA accurate ammunition listed in my results.
Bushmaster upper receiver
- Factory charging handle
- Ballistic Advantage 18” .223 Wylde 1-8” rifle gas length barrel
- Ballistic Advantage melonited rifle length gas tube
- Superlative Arms adjustable “bleed off” gas block
- Young Manufacturing NM SLC BCG
- Bravo Company Machine 13” KMR Alpha hand guard
- Delta P Design 5.56mm Brevis (first generation)
- Nighforce 30mm extra high rings
- Leupold MK 4 3.5-10x40mm
- Harris 6”-9” bipod
Bushmaster lower receiver
- Rock River Arms NM 2-stage trigger
- Rock River Arms A2 buffer/stock assembly
- Bushmaster lower receiver parts
- Magpul Enhanced trigger guard
- Magpul MOE pistol grip
This was also an opportunity to use the new Superlative Arms “bleed off” adjustable gas block. I am a fan of adjustable gas blocks and utilize a side adjustable gas block on my carbine. An adjustable gas block allows you to do different things, mainly tune the gas system for particular ammunition, or have the ability to make adjustments when adding a suppressor. Adjustable gas blocks can also allow you to shut the gas system off and run the rifle like a bolt action, or allow more gas so your rifle runs reliably when dirty. The Superlative Arms gas block I selected does those things with an added feature, the ability to vent or “bleed off” excess gas that does not need to enter the rifles direct impingement gas system. To accompany the Ballistic Advantage SPR barrel and gas block, I used a Ballistic Advantage melonited rifle length gas tube and BCM 13” KMR Alpha hand guard. The Superlative Arms gas block pokes out from the rail making the adjustment easily accessible. I am impressed with ability to vent or “bleed off” excess gas, and how it affected the way my rifle runs suppressed. When compared to a traditional adjustable gas block, the rifle now runs noticeably cleaner when a suppressor is attached, you can see on the barrel where gas vents from the front of the gas black. I am looking forward to utilizing more products from Superlative Arms, including their gas piston kit. The kit includes the adjustable, “bleed off” capable gas block combine with a short stroke gas piston!
This article was made possible, and facilitated by Nomad Media.