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The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Phase 5 P5T15 Rifle Review

Guns are unquestionably an integral part of the fabric of America. So too is entrepreneurship and starting your own business. So why not combine the two? Some say that the way to make a small fortune in the firearms business is to start with a large one. But that’s not always the case. Phase 5 Weapon Systems got its start making gun parts — their trigger guards, to be exact. And they’ve grown since then, producing ambidextrous charging handles, extended bolt releases, AR pistols, and other components, both under the Phase 5 brand and under contract for other large manufacturers. Now, Phase 5 has started making complete rifles. Here’s their story.

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Phase 5

Ken Montes grew up in Texas, of modest means. He learned early that if there was something he wanted, he’d have to make it himself. Thus began his passion for fabricating things. His love of cars and motorsports — and an unfulfilled dream of becoming a race car driver — led to a decade of designing suspension components, followed by several other business ventures. By the latter part of the 2000’s, he was a partner in an architectural metalworks company. Always a shooter, he began tinkering in his garage, coming up with ideas and designs for parts to customize his guns.

He designed and made what Phase 5 now sells as its winter trigger guard with a water jet in his garage. A local gun store owner saw it, liked it, and asked if he could place an order for 30 of them. Encouraged and inspired by family members who were in the military, Montes parted ways with his metalworks company and started making gun parts. Always fascinated by controls, ergonomics, and how end users interacted with firearms, he began producing an ambidextrous charging handle next — he had plenty of other ideas but was constrained by his equipment to items that could be machined out of flat stock. And thus, Phase 5 was born.

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Brownells began distributing their products, and the business started to grow more quickly. Phase 5 made a strong push into AR pistols, developing components and barrels as well as selling complete pistols. They also began licensing to and manufacturing for some very large firearms manufacturers. Fast forward to today — Montes has successfully built a firearms business with a strong revenue base and a tight-knit team of employees. ‘Murica, indeed.

Another AR-15?

There’s certainly no shortage of AR-15s in the marketplace, but they truly are the modern day musket so no need to complain as there’s something for everyone. The Phase 5 P5T15 is configured as a well-appointed basic general purpose carbine, intended to emphasize both performance and reliability. Montes described that first and foremost, the rifle was designed with law enforcement agencies in mind — which explains a number of the design choices. It also serves as a basis for Phase 5 to iterate and refine its future offerings. Let’s walk through its build sheet.

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The P5T15 features a 16 inch 4150 chrome-lined button rifled barrel, chambered in 5.56mm. It features a 1:8 twist, a spec that we quite like as it can effectively accommodate a nice range of commonly used loads. It's also a bit less common to find in a chrome lined barrel. The barrel has a mid-length gas system and is topped off with an A2 flash hider.

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The upper and lower receivers are forged, and the lower sports a nicely beveled magazine well. Sprouting forth from the upper is Phase 5’s own Lo-Pro Slope nose handguard, 15 inches in length. It has an attractive and functional profile, with quad Picatinny rails near the muzzle, complete top rail, QD sling attachments at both ends, and slick side and bottom surfaces in between. Underneath the handguard is a low profile gas block.

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The bolt carrier group is a standard Mil-spec M-16 variant. We should note that Phase 5 doesn't stake its gas keys, for similar reasons as Young Manufacturing. They do thoughtfully include witness marks. We won’t delve into the debate on this here, but dear readers please feel free in the comments below!

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The receiver extension is carbine-length, with a Mission First Tactical Battlelink stock. The trigger is from CMC, the flip-up front and rear sights are from ARMS, and the pistol grip is also from Mission First Tactical. As you might expect, the rifle has Phase 5’s winter trigger guard and ambidextrous charging handle. But you might to be surprised to learn that it lacks other signature Phase 5 components such as their extended bolt release or receiver sling mount. It doesn’t have an ambidextrous selector switch either. This harkens back to Phase 5’s original design concept — to appeal to law enforcement agencies, they omitted these additional customizations.

At the Range

We headed to the bench to zero the rifle and test for accuracy. Freedom Munitions provided their M193 55-grain ammo, which chronoed at an average of 3,190 fps (87 degrees) and turned in mostly 2-3 MOA groups. The best group was 1.9 MOA and the worst was 4 MOA. We also had some Gorilla 69-grain SMK match ammo, which was pretty consistently 1.5 MOA out of the P5T15 with a velocity of 2,880 fps. Pretty good for a chrome-lined barrel.

We utilized the Accu-Tac SR-5 bipod during our bench sessions, and it provided a very stable foundation. The spring-loaded feet worked well and the rotation feature was very nice.

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At just a tad over 7 pounds (without optics), the rifle is neither particularly light nor heavy. It doesn’t zip around during transitions like a lighter gun might, but the weight certainly helps mitigate the lack of a muzzle brake. We’ve gotten a bit spoiled running such devices more often than flash hiders. Combined with the mid-length 16 inch gas system, the P5T15 is noticeably more jumpy under recoil than, say, an 18 inch rifle-length gas rifle with a compensator. But this is an AR-15 after all, so it’s still plenty controllable, and for an unsuppressed duty gun the flash hider is a solid choice.

The Mission First Tactical furniture is comfortable, and the single stage CMC trigger broke cleanly at around 3.25 pounds on our trigger pull scale. While testing and dry firing the trigger, we found the reset a bit odd — as we carefully released pressure, it would feel like the trigger had reset at a certain point but in fact needed to be released just a smidge more. However, during live fire we never noticed this and never failed to reset the trigger.

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The Phase 5 ambidextrous charging handle works as advertised. When we first received the rifle, we wondered why the flip up rear sight was installed one slot forward of where you'd normally expect it. In fact, we moved it back to the normal spot when we were taking studio shots of the rifle. But later when practicing support side manipulations, we realized why. The forward assist is bad enough, trying to remove your fingernail when charging on the right side, but when the ARMS sight is installed in the normal position, you'll constantly bang your knuckles on it. For left handed shooters who don't mind losing the forward assist function, a slick side upper would be a more comfortable combination with the ambidextrous charging handle.

The ARMS flip up sights are quite hefty, with a lever that you depress to release the spring-loaded sights and two rear apertures. They pop up into position quickly, but we did find them to have some play in the deployed position.

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In Action

The next task was to put the rifle through its paces, so we headed out to an action rifle match. In order to play in the Tactical Optics division, we mounted a Trijicon TR25 1-6x scope in an Aero Precision mount. The Aero Precision mount is quite slim and light — and very economically priced. The split rings hook into each other at the top, which gave us some pause while installing the optic, but the mount performed just fine and held zero throughout our testing.

We ran Tapco magazines, which were 100 percent reliable. And the P5T15 was too, throughout the match as well as the rest of our testing. The clean and light trigger helped with precise shots and also allowed us to rip off quick follow up shots. As described earlier, the rifle didn’t shoot nearly as flat as a typical competition setup, but with a little extra attention and technique it definitely got the job done.

The TR25 1-6x scope has a fiber optic illuminated reticle (look ma, no batteries!), a very appealing concept — and one which many shooters have enjoyed over the years with the previous 1-4x variant. Unfortunately, the TR25’s illuminated center dot is quite small and was harder to pick up at speed than we would have liked. As a result, we never used the adjustment knob on top of the scope, which allows you to dial down the brightness. Additionally, the center post is noticeably thick, and the 5 MOA spaced reference points were too far apart for what we needed for the match (which had targets out to about 375 yards). All that being said, the TR25’s glass is very clear and nearly as easy to use at 1x as a red dot sight. The zoom ring has a built-in cattail, making it easy to dial magnification up and down as needed.

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In later testing, we mounted a Trijicon RM07 RMR red dot sight on a Warne 45 degree offset mount. It worked well to switch between near and far targets when we had the TR25 dialed up to 6x, simply canting the rifle to bring the red dot into view for close targets. With the rear backup sight installed, we didn’t have enough room for the Warne mount behind the scope, so we had to mount it in front. We had to be consistent with our canted cheek weld to be able to pick up the RMR’s dot quickly.

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Overall, Phase 5 achieved their goal with the P5T15. As a general purpose defensive or duty rifle, It’s nicely configured, reliable, and about as accurate as you could expect a chrome-lined barrel to be.

SPECS

Make: Phase 5 Weapon Systems
Model: P5T15
Caliber: 5.56mm
Barrel Length: 16 inches
Overall Length: 33.8 to 36.9 inches
Magazine Capacity: 30 rounds
Weight Unloaded: 7.1 pounds
MSRP: $1,776
URL: www.phase5wsi.com

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Price as shown:
Trijicon TR25 1-6x24mm Riflescope MOA-Dot, $1,399
Aero Precision Ultralight Scope Mount 30mm SPR, $95
Trijicon RM07 RMR Sight, $708
Warne 45 deg side mount adapter, $62
Accutac SR-5 Bipod, $235
Total, $4,275

Thanks as well to our friend, competitive shooter Jessica Hook, for taking photos with us. Check out her Facebook page and YouTube channel.

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Follow us on Instagram, @RECOILmagazine and keep an eye out for these hashtags: #recoilmagazine, #recoil, #shotshow2016, #mediadayattherange and especially #recoilSHOT2016.

We will updating the Constant Coverage article, well…constantly. Bookmark that here at this link or click on the image.

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What is the NSSF SHOT Show?

The NSSF SHOT Show (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show) and Conference is an annual event held by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Typically attended by thousands of people from all 50 states and over a hundred countries, it is (quite rightfully) described as the “…world's premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, law enforcement, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, and related products and services.

Imagine the Worlds' Fair, but packed with everything from mini-guns and every breed of body armor, bows and boots; from eye pro and ear pro to optics and ordnance, socks to swords…you get the idea. If you'd like to see a sampling of the companies who will be showing at this year's SHOT, there's a live map right here, though it doesn't reflect the organizations set up elsewhere, in hotel suites, etc.

View imagery from our coverage of last year's SHOT Show right here.

2016 SHOT Show

January 18 — Media on the Range (numerous shooting facilities in and around Las Vegas)
January 19–22, 2016
Sands Expo and Convention Center
Las Vegas, Nevada
Hours:
Tuesday, January 19 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 20 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 21 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday, January 22 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Shot-Show-2016


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