Bushmaster Firearms was bought out by a big conglomerate that moved manufacturing to New York. Hundreds of people were left out of work in rural Maine. Nevertheless, the former owner came out of retirement, founded Windham Weaponry, and put men and machines together again to make ARs. Among them is the Model “SRC” that simply means “Sight Ready Carbine” and which affords you the option of mounting visual aids of your choosing rather than accepting what the manufacturer provides.
As with most things these days, the AR weapons platform has its supporters and non-supporters and which includes military personnel among the mix. The AR platform, in its many variations, has been accepted by law enforcement and rejected by politicians. It is one of the most popular platforms among shooters today as it lends itself to a wide variety of uses from target shooting, competition, hunting, and defense. While the cartridge that it was intended to fire, the .223/5.56×45 NATO, is subject to wide debate among shooters, most agree that the AR platform is one of the most versatile to work with. An AR owner can make their personal AR as tactical or as practical to fit their needs (or wants).
When I decided to purchase an AR-platform firearm, I found out quickly that the search was gong to take some time, as there are many ARs out there by many fine manufacturers. Colt, Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Sig Sauer, Rock River Arms, DPMS, just to name a few. There are also choices of calibers and the .308/7.62×51 NATO was my first choice. However, I did not want to invest a lot of money into a new (for me) firearms platform that I did not know if I would like. I had some experience with the M16 while in the military; I did not care for the platform then and I was not sure if I could warm up to the civilian counterpart.
In the course of visiting quite a few local gun shops, I ran across the Windham Weaponry “SRC” and decided that it was worth a closer look. It was in the price range that I had set for myself, I liked the smooth M4-style forearm over the many “multi-railed” systems that I had looked at, and there was no front sight that reminded me of the dorsal fin of a Great White shark protruding from the top of the gas block. I don’t like a lot of stuff hanging off my firearms and the M4A4 Type Flat Top Upper Receiver lent itself to my likings over the more conventional gas-block mounted front sight, as I could mount optics as low as possible and I would not have to worry about interference with the front sight or making the firearm top heavy. I like options.
The specifications for the Windham Weaponry “SRC” are in the lead-in image so I won’t repeat them here except where notable. The Model: R16M4FTT “SRC” is chambered for the popular .223/5.56×45 cartridge, which is widely available, which makes it a plus in my book. Weighing in at 6.30 Lbs.(empty), I would not be expending a lot of energy trying to horse this thing around to various shooting positions – another plus in my book as I age and for the fact that I am basically lazy.
Fit and finish is excellent; the black anodized finish is executed well and there is no play in the upper-to-lower pivot point. Unloaded, the “SRC” is slightly front-heavy but that is to be expected, as there is virtually no weight to counter-balance it in the rear due to the very light, 6-position retractable stock (more on the stock later). Once loaded with a fully complemented 20-round magazine (the “SRC” comes with a 30-round magazine, but I prefer the 20-rounders) the balance point of the firearm is more to the center. The M4-style fore grip is mildly ribbed and fits my hand very well. I have handled some ARs with multiple rail setups and felt like I needed gloves any time that I would shoot them – or invest in rail covers.
Controls are in their usual AR positions; left-mounted safety and bolt lock/release, and right-mounted magazine release. Since I am a southpaw long-gun operator, the location of controls can be confusing at first since most are set up for right-handed operators. I found this not so with the AR. I can flip the safety off safe with the (left hand) trigger finger or thumb and the right thumb operates the magazine release. I have had no problem at all – so far. I find that I can lock the bolt carrier back by using the trigger finger of the left hand or the (right) support hand to depress the locking mechanism while the hand itself supports the firearm around the magazine well. Adapt and conquer, as they say.
The trigger mechanism is standard “military” grade; it is better than the trigger on my SKS but not as good as compared to any of my hunting rifles. The trigger seems to be getting better after use. It is an adequate “combat” trigger but not one I would rely on for precision shooting; it could use some polishing to smooth it out. I do not want to have a trigger job done, but only time and use will tell if that needs to be an issue. I may have found something that will make it a non-issue – the pistol grip.The standard pistol grip is the standard A2 type, which means that one size fits small – and my hand is not small. A decent pistol grip was called for. A quick trip to the Amazon website and I made a purchase of the Hogue Monogrip for AR15/M16. The Hogue Mono-grip has worked for me on many a handgun and I felt that it would be the same in this instance of its use. I made the switch in less than a minute. My hand no longer felt cramped and the trigger pull seemed lighter. I realized that I was not pulling the trigger straight back, as is needed, with the original pistol grip. The finger grooves of the Hogue help to align my hand properly in relation to the trigger. The palm swell of the grip provides the girth that I need and the material of the grip keeps my hand in place, as I found that I was also shifting my grip during actual firing. Another factor is Length of Pull (LOP) and the angle of the hand. Not satisfied with the Hogue Overmolded Pistol Grip, I ordered a Hogue Beavertail Pistol Grip. This grip has an extension and is a grip for larger hands (and caliber) but works great to the SRC. I am highly satisfied with this grip. The stock that comes with the Windham Weaponry (SRC) is like many these days, a six-position collapsible. While I am not a fan of collapsible stocks, I can see the reasons for their being, as they can be easily adjusted for various shooters and situations. However, I am the only operator of this firearm and the firearm needs to be fitted to me. Consider it like pulling a bowling ball from the rack for a leisurely game as compared to using your own bowling ball with the finger holes drilled to fit to your hand – specifically. While you can bowl with either, the difference in results is amazing. I chose to fit the SRC with a standard A2-style solid stock, which will afford me a little less LOP but space to store a few Slim Jim snacks in the butt stock or a cleaning kit should I feel a need for “Tactical Practical.” I can also add a cheek pad, kick pad (increase the LOP and not necessarily to reduce recoil) and/or spare ammo carrier, if need be. The flat-top piccatinny-railed receiver and gas block allows the mounting of many sighting devices. Thus far, a Barska 3x9x42 Generation II Sniper Scope has been mounted on a medium riser and sighted in for a 100-yard zero and a CenterPoint 30mm red-dot sight that has been zeroed at 25-yards takes care of the optics. The scope setup crowds the charging handle a bit, but not to the point where it cannot be operated correctly. The CenterPoint 30mm red-dot sight was originally mounted flush to the top rail, which is where I prefer it, but I had to mount it to a low, .5″ sight-riser mount in order to raise it so to achieve a full sight picture. Initially, I could not get my head low enough (with earmuffs) to square off with the sight so I had to raise it a small amount. Luckily, different heights of risers are available to set optics where I need them. The replacement iron sights will serve as backup while a FSI Sniper 6-24x50mm Scope is going to serve for long-range shooting. If I feel the need to go “classic”, I can also order the sight/carrying handle combination.
For Back Up Sights (BUS), I decided to go with the UTG #751 Tactical Low Profile Flip-Up Front sight, as the front sight that came with the firearm was mismatched to the rear sight; the font sight was too tall for the rear sight and I ran out of adjustment. The LGS had installed a set of sights to sell the firearm. It was too bad that they didn’t take the time to actually bore-sight the firearm and see the mismatch. Although the rear sight was adequate, I decided to replace it with the UTG #950 Complete Rear Sight. It is fully adjustable for elevation and windage. Only a trip to the range would see if the choice of sights would be a good choice.
The beauty of the AR platform is the ease of take-down and the Windham Weaponry “SRC” is not unlike the others. The take-down pin detents are well defined and a slight push of the rear take-down pin makes it accessible for removal. The front take-down pin takes a little more effort to overcome the detent, but a combination chamber empty indicator/take-down pin pusher or the point of your favorite AR ammunition makes the job easier.
Examining the innards of the firearm revealed no tool marks and the quality of machining and assembly is excellent. The ejection port cover is nicely stamped and snaps into place with authority.
The bolt carrier and charging handle are removed in the usual AR fashion. The bolt carrier is robust and disassembly is accomplished within seconds; push the firing pin retainer pin to dislodge it, remove the firing pin retainer clip, remove the firing pin, rotate the bolt forward and rotate the <> pin for removal, move the bolt back and remove the <> pin, and then remove the bolt from the front of the bolt carrier. Assembly after cleaning/inspection is just as fast. The bolt material is of Carpenter 158 Steel and while sufficient for my purposes, I may opt to swap it out for a better assembly of different material. As it is, the bolt assembly works just fine, thank you. A complete set of bolt parts is available from Windham Weaponry for a reasonable price, should you feel the need for spares as I did.
The Windham Weaponry “SRC” is accompanied by a plastic case and a sling. The case is adequate and the sling is a simple 2-point affair. While the sling will do what it is intended to do, I will be replacing it with a quick-adjusting Condor Speedy 2 Point Sling (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007IWZNDM/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i03?ie=UTF8&psc=1) for field use. The reason that I like this sling is that I can quickly remove it from the firearm if need by simply clicking buckles that are located at each end of the sling. A soft-sided tactical bag now houses the firearm when transporting. If that is not enough, I also house the firearm within a Bore-Store that not only affords an additional layer of protection during transportation but also affords protection against moisture while stored in the safe. No coddling of my firearms – no sir, not me.
Of course, regardless of how good a firearm looks or how well it is made the main point is “will it shoot?” Well, yes, it does, but before I get into that, I would like to mention customer service. I had ordered the stock for the ”SRC” on line. I established an account and placed the order, as was required. Later, I decided to order the spare parts kits and tried to login. The site would not let me, stating that my name was not recognized. I tried a bit later with the same result. I e-mailed Windham and made them aware of the problem. In the meantime, I called Customer Service to order the parts. Ron Roberts greeted me and I explained that I was going to place an order over the phone because of the problem with the web-site. He apologized, looked up my name and saw where I had ordered the new stock. He told me that he would simply add the order to my existing order. However, wait! There is more! I had requested over-night shipping and that was something that they could not do because of the holiday. Most of the people were gone (and besides, it was New Year’s Eve), so they could not prepare it to ship next day. I was surprised that Customer Service answered at all, to tell you the truth. I expected to be sent to India or someplace that I could not pronounce let alone understand the person taking the order. No sir! This was Customer Service at Windham Weaponry.
I told him that I did not expect them to ship it the same day I placed the order and I was just looking to receive it a day after they shipped it. No problem. In fact, I was given a discount on each item ordered and that they would waive the shipping fee (even though overnight was the costliest mode of shipping). As promised, I received the items overnight from the time they were shipped. Now, that is service the way service should be!
(By the way, if you visit http://www.windhamweaponry.com/content_meet_our_team.asp, you can view photographs of the employees of the company – most of which were with Bushmaster prior to its sale.)
I opted to let my local gunsmith replace the stock so that I would be assured that everything functioned properly. The LOP is less than the 6-position stock but it is more comfortable to me and it has storage space for a cleaning kit. With the new Hogue Beavertail Pistol Grip, Caleb was ready for some range time again – but with some new fixtures. If you have not read my earlier posts on the Windham, CALEB is my new companion’s name; it stands for Carbine, Army Like, Evil Black.Imagine if you will the scene from the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” Shown at left is John Travolta (Tony Manero), his mind and feet walkin’ to the beat, walkin’ down the street, walkin’ down a New York street. Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive! Imagine if you will in his left hand is a tactical gun case that contains Caleb, the Windham Weaponry “SRC”, all protected and ready to take down – disco balls. Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive! Now, put that completely out of your mind (You can’t can you. It’s embedded now and it is swirling like a disco-beat in your brain) and substitute “Ha, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ dry, stayin’ dry!” Wet, cold and rainy it was. Thank goodness, it was an indoor range.
On a previous trip to the range, Caleb exhibited one failure-to-eject. I now had put a hundred rounds through him and was about to embark on just 20 more – 2 magazines of 10-rounds per magazine. Caleb has a new stock and a new pistol grip. I would re-zero the red dot sight at 25-yards with the new low riser block and zero in the new iron sights at the same distance. Caleb was ready. I was ready. I could hear the voice of Al Bundy, “Let’s Rock!”
I wanted to keep the same ammunition for re-zeroing the red dot sight and for sighting in the iron BUS. Being somewhat of a cheap-skate, I choose the Monarch (Made in Serbia) Brass .223 Rem, 55-grain Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail that I picked up at Academy Sports. I had heard some good things (and bad) about this ammunition so I thought that I would try it out. It could not be as bad as some, I would think.
While my shooting is not indicative of a more exhaustive study, it would tell me what I needed to know in a brief evaluation of a not yet broken-in firearm.With the CenterPoint Tactical 30mm Red/Green Dot sight mounted on the .5-inch riser, I expected to readjust the zero from the previous range session, as it was mounted flush on the top rail. I ran the 100-yard sight –in target to the 25-yard line. I needed a little more visual feedback so I had used the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C self-adhesive target. I squeezed off the first shot, grabbed the binoculars and was very surprised by the shot landing just high and right of center. I put the caps on the adjustments and fired the remaining nine rounds. You see the results above. I ran another 100-yard sight-in target with the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C self-adhesive target overlay down to the 25-yard line. The red dot sight was mounted to the .5″ riser and this was quickly removed by loosening two thumbscrews. I mounted the UTG #751L front sight to the gas tube mount and the UTG #950RS was quickly mounted to the flattop picatinny rail of the SRC. Both sights only require one thumbscrew to attach.
The first shot was slightly high and left. I used the UTG Front Sight Tool to adjust the front sight up a bit and fired the second shot. The second shot hit lower and a quick re-adjustment resulted in a close-enough-for-government-work impact. Two clicks of right adjustment on the rear sight and I was as close as I was ever going to get to center under the current circumstances. The results are in the image above
Since I was tight on time, only twenty bench-rested rounds were fired out of a Lancer magazine without fail; no FTEs and no FTFs. Caleb was now sighted in with multiple brands of ammunition and with three type of sights; the Barska 3x9x42 Tactical scope, the CenterPoint Tactical 30mm red/green dot sight, and my backup iron sights. Only one more optical solution to go – a long range scope; the FSI Sniper 6-24x50mm Scope W front AO adjustment and red/blue/green mil-dot reticule. I have read good reviews on this scope and have decided to take a chance with it, as it is within the range of my budget for such a device and I can use it on other present and future firearms. It will be zeroed in as soon as the weather breaks and I can get to an outdoor range with sufficient distance.
In summary, I am still on the fence concerning the AR platform. It is highly versatile, but versatility does not make for my safety keep. I have a preference for 7.62×39 and a high preference for .308/7.62×51; neither of which I would consider a “house gun.” I have learned that owning an AR-platform rifle or carbine tends to make one yearn for another. Owning an AR-platform rifle or carbine also tends to make one spend money to get the firearm “personalized”, but that applies for many other firearms as well. Moreover and thus far, I have a complete set of springs, plungers, pins, and a complete fire control replacement. And, then there is the upcoming trigger job.
I am starting to enjoy the AR platform and the Windham Weaponry “SRC” will come into its own with me. There still is a desire to own the Springfield M1A1. I don’t think that desire is going away any time soon and that itch will be scratched – but not yet. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy Caleb, the Windham Weaponry “SRC” before I decide to take that plunge. Besides, Windham Weaponry also make the AR10-based .308/7.62×51 that could prove interesting. The M1A1; however, is in a class all of its own.