Third Degree: Stag Arms’ Model 8 - Training -

Third Degree: Stag Arms’ Model 8

A gas piston AR-15 worth firing



Dave Spaulding | From the January 2010 Issue Friday, January 1, 2010

Like many of you, I’ve watched the gas piston AR-15 enter the market. However, not wanting to be the guinea pig for any new product, I didn’t partake. But when Stag Arms announced the introduction of its new gas-piston gun, I took a closer look. Having used a number of Stag’s guns throughout the years, I knew the company had done its homework.

The Model 8 has a 16", M-4 style barrel that’s chrome-lined with a 1/9" rate of twist. The 5.56 military spec chamber accepts 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington ammunition. As most readers know, the two ammo types aren’t identical. They have minor differences in internal pressure and case dimensions. It’s OK to shoot .223 in a 5.56 chamber—not vice versa.

The gun comes from the factory with a six-position collapsible stock to adjust length of pull. The flat-top receiver comes with a Midwest Industries flip-up rear sight that’s adjustable for windage. The MI flip-up model front sight is also mounted on a rail gas port that directs the gas flow that cycles the piston. The rest (e.g., grips, fore ends) is standard mil-spec M-4 hardware, including a single 30-round magazine.

The difference between this gun and other Stag models is under the fore end: A short stroke piston action is easily serviceable and vents all gases away from the shooter and action of the rifle. The one-piece stainless steel bolt carrier with integrated carrier key prevents it from coming loose or being damaged. Some modifications have used a more traditional staked-on key/anvil, which haven’t stood up to the pounding a gas piston will deliver. But the solid, one-piece bolt carrier is 8620 steel that’s coated with manganese phosphate for added durability. The pads on the bolt carrier prevent carrier tilt, greatly reducing wear on the rear of the lower receiver and buffer tube.

The fit and finish of the Model 8 is top notch. The upper to lower fit was quite snug with no rattle or other indication of sloppy part fit. The trigger had a nice initial press with little stacking and a short, crisp reset. The trigger measured right at 5 lbs.

I tested the accuracy at 50 and 100 yards, with varied loads. I used an EOTech XPS-2 for 50, because this would be the optic I’d use if this were my duty gun. I like a 50-yard zero because it works for my anticipated needs anywhere from contact distance to 200 yards, keeping all rounds in a chest-size area. However, I’d also like to know how precision accurate a long gun is, and this means shooting it at 100 yards. I used a three-power ACOG for this. The accuracy test results are in the box at the right.

With a one-in-nine rate of twist, many feel bullets over 62 grains won’t stabilize, but I have a one-in-nine Model 3 that shoots these heavy bullets just fine. The heavier bullets also worked just fine in the Model 8. However, it was the Hornady 60 grain polymer tip load that the Model 8 really liked. In the end, it’s up to each officer/agency to determine which load works best based on operational parameters.

I put together 1,000 rounds of both 5.56 and .223 and began shooting. I loaded and shot as much ammo as fast as I could through the Model 8, performing snap shots, multiple targets, varied shooting positions and any other training-related drills while testing the gun. What I didn’t practice was clearing malfunctions, because the gun ran through the 1,000 rounds without a hitch. The group size remained consistent, and the Model 8 proved both accurate and reliable.

The gas system has two settings—on and off—so it’s adjustable for semi-automatic fire or single shot. The large knob at the front of the gas block is where this adjustment can be performed. In the end, the Model 8 is a robust, easy-to-maintain, lightweight carbine you can take into harm’s way with great confidence.


Stag Arms Model 8

Accuracy Test Results

      Load                                             50 yd     100 yd

Corbon 53 grain DPX                            .75"        1.75"

Hornady 60 grain TAP                          .50"         .75"

Corbon 62 grain DPX                            1"       1.75"

Remington 69 grain Match King          .50"       1.25"

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Dave SpauldingDave Spaulding, the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year and Law Officer's Firearms columnist, is a 28-year law enforcement veteran who retired at the rank of lieutenant.


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