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Lead & Steel ARC (All Rounder Carbine) AR-15: The Jack Of All Trades We Need?



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A do-all rifle, a jack-of-all-trades, a peg for every hole. The All Rounder Carbine from Lead & Steel is more than just another AR-15. With a MonoBloc barrel and some smart choices, the ARC might be the best anything rifle you can grab, and it costs a lot less than you might expect.

Just how does it shake out? Is it really sub-MOA? Let’s find out.

SPECS:

MIND BEHIND THE MAYHEM 

This review actually started because of another article, the Best AR-15 Barrels. Lead & Steel’s offering of the MonoBloc barrel caught my attention, and I started looking into it. Soon after, they announced their ARC as a complete rifle.

These days, reviewing a complete AR-15 is generally not high on my to-do list. There are too many, and most of them are unimpressive. The ARC was different for two reasons. First was the MonoBloc barrel, which still commanded my curiosity, but the other was a video from Lead & Steel detailing the parts of the ARC and why they chose them.

The video even goes into some of the nitty-gritty details like tolerances, why one coating is chosen over others, and how L&S plans for those differences in their manufacturing. 

Instead of this being yet another white-label AR-15 or a weirdly hyped marketing gimmick, L&S actually showed thought and consideration into their rifle. 

Not only does every part have some real thinking behind it, none of it is pretentious or pretending to be something it isn’t.

The ARC is built for a hard life. This isn’t a race gun, and it doesn’t feature trendy crap slapped on to help sales. The details are handled well because they matter in a long-use rifle. 

Rifles are also passed through real QC. Not batch QC, but real individual gauging and testing.

All of this to say — the ARC stood out to me as something different and worth taking a look at. A few emails and some waiting later, it arrived at my FFL.

OUT OF THE BOX

Something Lead & Steel stresses in their video and marketing is that the ARC is designed to be your grab-and-go rifle. To quote them: “You do not have to sweat the little things. You pick it up, and you run the shit out of it, and that’s the end of it.

So, that’s what I did. Normally, I at least give a new firearm a good cleaning and lubrication before it goes to the range with me. I do that to get packing grease and other crud out of the gun. 

For the ARC, I didn’t. I inspected it out of the box, but it didn’t have packing grease or metal chips or crud in the bore. It had been fired, as mentioned in their QC process, but it was lubricated and seemed ready to go. 

OUT ON THE RANGE

The day after this rifle came home with me, my morning started with a hacking cough. The 2-gun match I was determined to shoot with this rifle was in 4 days. 3 days later, I dragged myself to the range to zero the rifle. Exactly 4 rounds later, to get a 50-yard zero with the Promethean red dot that shipped with the rifle and a SIG Sauer Juliet 4 magnifier, the ARC went back in my rifle bag, and my range session was over.

The next day would be a trial by fire, but that is supposedly what the ARC is built for. While my local 2-gun match isn’t generally a super high round count for rifles, it does involve a lot of running, kneeling, rolling around on the ground in the moon dust of Tucson, and getting guns generally pretty messy. It’s not uncommon to see at least one rifle or pistol bite the dust every month at this match.

5 stages later (my unlucky self had to do multiple reshoots), the ARC was through its first real use session with zero issues of any kind. 

On the clock and in a match, the ARC was impressive. The balance, the accuracy, it felt great.

Steel inserts for the QD sling swivels are a major durability upgrade that is often overlooked

Since that match, the ARC has gone to two more events with me and a half dozen range trips. My current round count is just under 1,000 rounds (big thanks to AmmunitionToGo.com for the ammo!)

In a way this was a boring review because nothing went wrong. No malfs, no broken parts, no weird ejection patterns, nothing came loose. The ARC simply shot. And shot, and shot some more.

SUB MOA

Lead & Steel claims sub MOA with MK 262 ammo. For those not in the know, MK 262 ammo was developed specifically for the U.S. Navy back in 1999 for longer-range accuracy. Using a 77gr bullet, MK 262 ammo is guaranteed to shoot at least .64 MOA. Lot tested with 10 groups of 10 shots each; the minimum standard for MK 262 is a 2-inch group at 300 yards. Note that this is the quality of the ammo, not the rifle. Navy Mk 12 SPRs don’t normally shoot half MOA, but their ammo can. 

In short, MK 262 is some baller ammo.

A few years ago, I bought exactly 4 boxes of MK 262 ammo because this stuff is expensive. It has come down in price since I bought it, but it’s still about $1.50 a shot. I think I paid $2.50 at the time. 

While I normally don’t shoot this ammo for a review, I threw 10 rounds down range since Lead & Steel specifically said their rifle would be sub-MOA with MK 262. 

Brace yourself: it was. My group measured .85 MOA at 100 yards supported off a front and rear bag using a 5-30×56 Bushnell MatchPro ED. 

My normal ammo was just 55gr bulk stuff, but it still shot extremely well. Everything from steel cased Tula to Federal XM193, it all just worked.

It’s easier to fill space when a review goes haywire, but the ARC just keeps on trucking.

VALUE ADDED

Something nice to see when you take a close look at the ARC is that the little things are done well. Castle nut staking, BCG gas key staking, it’s all done the right way.

The ARC also comes with polymer BUIS. I can’t say they are amazing or game-changing, but they work and are easy to zero, as you might expect.

Something that kind of surprised me was the trigger. Labeled as the Lead & Steel Enhanced Reliability Combat Trigger, it’s pretty nice. Single stage, nonadjustable, 3.5-pound pull, and a flat shoe, the ERCT isn’t a match trigger, but it isn’t a milspec piece of crap, either. The pull is smooth, it feels nice, and it’s just heavy enough to not feel spicy but just light enough that a clean trigger pull for a precision shot is easy to manage.

The Lead & Steel Charging Handle, Open Directed Expansion, or C.H.O.D.E. is a Breek Arms ambi charging handle. It’s a solid handle with some gas mitigation built in for use with a suppressor, but it isn’t anything you wouldn’t expect from a decent modern charging handle.

Finally, for now, at least, the ARC comes with a Promethean LP-1 red dot. I’ve quickly become a big fan of this red dot. It’s a little bulky and on the heavy side, but the large window and protective shell make for one solid optic. From drop tests to running it on the clock, this is a red dot that kicks ass.

All of that for about $1,300 is, in my book, an incredible price. The price and value might change, but as it stands, this is a lot of rifle for under $1,500. Plus, the value of the LP-1 and this is outstanding.

MonoBloc Barrel

This is different enough to deserve its own section, so let’s talk about it.

The MonoBloc barrel is a barrel and gas block made out of one piece of metal. Integrally machined, the gas block is simply a part of the barrel itself. This has some major benefits, but it also has some limitations.

Easy to see how much extra room there is under the MonoBloc gas block area

Some of the benefits are obvious, like there being one less part that can fail. But others take a little thinking, like the fact that because the barrel and gas block are made of the exact same kind of metal, they will heat and cool at the same rate. This, depending on a lot of factors, generally lends itself to being more accurate. 

The integral gas block also has a much lower profile than is typically possible with a normal gas block system. The barrel nut will clear it, and M-LOK accessories can be mounted underneath with no fear of interference. 

In addition to all of that, the MonoBloc Barrel comes with a chrome-lined bore and a match crown.

Downsides? If you like adjustable gas blocks, this can’t be adjusted. Personally, that loss is pretty minor since I’m not a fan of adjustable blocks these days.

One question I have that can’t be tested or proven out until I put a lot, lot, LOT more rounds through this barrel is how the gas port will wear. In theory, it should wear like a normal barrel’s gas port does, but I think it will be interesting to examine when/if I get this barrel into the 10k-20k+ round count range.

Overall, I really dig this barrel.

LOOSE ROUNDS

I can find no faults with the ARC. That said, this isn’t the perfect rifle for everyone. Like the name tries to tell you, it’s an all-rounder carbine option. You can buy or build lighter rifles, you can buy or build rifles that perform better at long range, you can buy or build rifles that are designed to be more of a lot of things.

The ARC is a do-all. It’s a Leatherman, not a Karambit.

If I were designing the perfect rifle for myself, it wouldn’t be a 1:1 copy of the ARC. But as a rifle that I can trust to perform when I pull it off the shelf, even when I don’t exactly know what I’m getting into, the ARC is fantastic. Add in how good of a value it is, and it’s hard to say no.

I plan on running this rifle more in the coming year and will update this article with anything interesting.

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1 Comment

  • crc4 says:

    Your email layout is either poorly designed or my computer doesn’t display it correctly.

    Since when does a dark grey text appear readable on a black background?

    I skip most of your emails as I won’t take the time to fathom what you’re trying to say as it’s unreadable.

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  • Your email layout is either poorly designed or my computer doesn't display it correctly.

    Since when does a dark grey text appear readable on a black background?

    I skip most of your emails as I won't take the time to fathom what you're trying to say as it's unreadable.

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