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Rosco Manufacturing Signature K9 Barrels: Best In Show Barrels?



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It’s been said before that the heart of a rifle is its barrel. We’ve covered Rosco Manufacturing several times before, having witnessed firsthand their fully in-house approach to producing high-performing AR barrels at affordable prices. In 2021, they launched the first product in a new line of barrels they refer to as their K9 line.

The idea behind this line is to manufacture what Rosco calls a Performance Duty Barrel that blends the best features of traditional match-grade barrels with hard-use barrels intended for duty and defensive use. 

KeyMo muzzles devices mean any suppressor with a HUB mount will be ready to rock.

The K9 line starts with 416R stainless steel bar stock with a continuous taper profile, recessed target crown, finished in black nitride, and with a goldilocks gas port optimized to run reliably in both suppressed and unsuppressed setups. All K9 rifles are chambered in 5.56mm NATO with a 1:7 twist rate, again with an eye toward duty use and military-spec ammunition.

12.5 

The first K9 barrel featured a 12.5-inch barrel with a new gas system length they’ve dubbed “patrol length,” which sits right between carbine and mid-length. The patrol length system increases reliability in shorter barrels when compared to a true mid-length, without the over-gassing and harsher recoil sometimes encountered when shooting carbine-length barrels with suppressors. 

It was released as a branded collaboration with Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics. Rosco recently expanded the K9 line to include two more barrels, each one a new collaboration with a firearms instructor and SME.    

11.5 

The first of the new line is the Kinetic K9, designed in partnership with Jon “Duffy” Dufresne of Kinetic Consulting. Dufresne served in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he deployed multiple times in support of the Global War on Terror before going on to work as an executive protection agent and law enforcement training consultant and forming his own training firm, Kinetic Consulting. 

The Kinetic K9 barrel is an 11.5-inch tube that also features the patrol length gas system. With both U.S. Army Special Operations Command and FBI Tactical Command (SWAT and HRT) adopting 11.5-inch barrels as their standard length for duty carbines, the 11.5 Kinetic K9 barrel offers some marked improvement in both performance and shootability, not just for individual consumers but for departments and agencies who wish to mirror the de facto standard configuration of some of our nation’s elite responders. 

13.95

For those who prefer a longer barrel or a non-NFA configuration, the K9 line now also includes a 13.95-inch barrel with a true mid-length gas system, released in collaboration with Don Edwards of Greenline Tactical. 

Edwards’ career spans more than two decades in Army Special Operations, followed by time with federal law enforcement and as a tactical industry SME. Edwards also started out in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he deployed to Operation: Just Cause in Panama. He later went on to serve in 20th Special Forces Group, serving as a Team Intelligence Sergeant in Iraq and Team Sergeant in Afghanistan. 

The 13.95-inch upper got a Vortex Razor Gen II 1-6x LPVO, paired with a top-mounted Vortex SPARC Solar red dot.

Following his retirement from the military, Edwards worked as a training manager and primary firearms instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, then as the director of military and LE sales for Tactical Night Vision Company before founding Greenline Tactical, where he specializes in teaching night vision operations and scoped carbine marksmanship. 

There has been a veritable explosion in popularity of 13.7-inch rifle builds, with that length providing a pin-and-weld option with faster handling characteristics than even the previously popular 14.5-inch barrel length. Edwards specifically requested the 13.95-inch length to capture the same balance characteristics while offering a greater variety of muzzle devices, which can be pinned and welded to reach 16 inches. 

ROUNDS DOWNRANGE

Our K9 test barrels came to us directly from Rosco, built out into complete uppers with Rosco’s own Purebred upper receivers and handguards with matching BCGs. We ran both uppers on an American Defense Manufacturing UIC-15 SBR lower with B5 Systems furniture, a Primary Weapons System enhanced buffer tube and ratcheting castle nut, and a Rise Armament RA-535 trigger. 

The upper with the 11.5-inch K9 Kinetic barrel got decked out to run as a low-light/no-light gun, with a SureFire Dual Fuel Scout Turbo Pro and Holosun LS-321G infrared laser/illuminator combo. Both of these were routed to a Unity Tactical AXON remote switch for easy control. We also went to Unity for both their short vertical grip and optics mount. 

Both uppers had zero feeding or cycling issues, and also held 1 MOA or better from 10 to over 100 yards.

A Vortex UH-1 holographic sits on a Unity FAST Riser Rail, while the compact 3x magnifier got transplanted into a FAST Flip-To-Center mount. The small amount of excess cable slack on the AXON is wrangled by a pair of Arson Machine M-LOK wire guides.

Staying true to Edwards’ course teachings on carbine marksmanship, we configured his signature 13.95-inch barreled upper with a Vortex Razor Gen II 1-6x LPVO, paired with a top-mounted Vortex SPARC Solar red dot. Both optics fit into an American Defense Manufacturing Delta-C scope mount with their new direct-mount top ring, which is available in several mounting footprints including the Aimpoint Micro-style shared by the SPARC Solar. 

We also took our range testing as an opportunity to swap out the VFG on the 11.5-inch upper to the Onyx Arms Stubby Vertical Grip. This grip appears to be patterned after some of the original SOPMOD Gen 1 “broomhandle” grips, chopped down to a more conservative and practical length. 

The biggest challenge from a range testing standpoint was trying to find an ideal buffer and spring combination that would run both uppers, suppressed and unsuppressed, reliably but with the least amount of felt recoil (as much as there is with 5.56mm). 

After several rounds of trial and error, we settled on a Sprinco “blue” extra-powered spring with a Spikes ST-T2 buffer. Sprinco’s color-code system allows easy sorting of springs by power rating, with the blue-coded version being approximately 15-percent stiffer than a standard carbine spring. This combination gave us consistent ejection and a smooth recoil impulse when paired with Rosco’s full-weight BCGs and fixed gas blocks regardless of barrel length. 

The Sons of Liberty NOX Neutral muzzle devices came standard on both upper halves and kept the muzzle flat while also accepting our Witt Machine & Tool MOD1 can, which we capped at the back end with a DeadAir Keymo HUB adapter.

We ran a variety of both 5.56mm and .223 ammo through both uppers and had zero feeding or cycling issues. Both barrels held 1 MOA or better from 10 to over 100 yards. In particular, we found the patrol length gas system to be noticeably more pleasant to shoot when compared to 11.5-inch barrels with carbine-length gas systems. We also suspect that the reduced gap between patrol and mid-length helped us tune a single lower to run both uppers with essentially no difference in function.   

FROM THE SOURCE

We reached out to both Dufresne and Edwards to discuss the philosophy behind their respective barrels.

RECOIL: What made you want to have a signature rifle/barrel? Was their demand for it from your students or audience, or was it something you felt you really wanted to be in the marketplace?

JON DUFRESNE: It started off as something students asked about frequently, especially about my personal choices on rifle selection. As for the barrel, it was a fun project mainly. I wanted the shortest possible barrel (within reason) and the longest gas system that I could get away with. Came out exactly how I wanted, accurate, smooth, and efficient. It also was necessary that it worked with UTM or Sims for NLTA use.

DON EDWARDS: The idea of having a signature barrel just kind of evolved. I never set out to have that specifically. What I do want to do is leave my fingerprints in the industry by helping to design, develop and bring to market products that I enjoy and believe in.

RECOIL: How did you come to the specifications you chose? What are the advantages of those specs? 

JD: Mainly, it was a want to have an 11.5 with a longer-than-carbine-length gas system, that most understand is sub-optimal. With that, I also wanted a barrel that I could shoot out to distance without much of a problem. The hardest part was nailing down the port size for the patrol length gas system. The 416R is the material chosen based on it being strong and durable for prolonged use. 

DE: We discussed this over a couple-year time frame until some prototyping was done. As far as barrel length goes, at the time I was an avid user of the 13.7-inch Purebred. To me, it was and still is one of the best all-purpose lengths. It also allowed for a mid-length gas system, which I preferred for both reliability and shootability. We discussed that by lengthening it to 13.9 and ultimately, 13.95 inches, it would open up many more muzzle devices that the end user could pin and weld to bring it to 16 inches overall. That’s why we went with that length. The K9 taper is something that the guys at Rosco came up with to stiffen the barrel but keep as much of that added weight closer to center for balance.

RECOIL: What do you perceive to be the application of this barrel in the wide array of specific-purpose ARs? 

JD: It really comes down to what you want to use it for and the attachments you add to it. I use a few different setups. One setup has a T2 on a Unity Tactical FAST mount with Trijicon 3x magnifier and another setup with a Vortex Razor Gen 3 1-10x with a Steiner MPS on top. Both setups have a white light and laser to use for day and nighttime. Both setups can do quite a bit, but the barrel works for each. I’ve shot it from 3 yards to almost 900 yards, and it does well depending on the shooter and the ammo used. 

DE: As we [Rosco] worked together, the Bloodline barrels became the daily stars with the 25,000-round torture test and customers claiming MOA or better groups from a hard-use barrel. I commented many times that the only thing the Purebreds had going against them was how accurate the Bloodline barrels are. Sometime around then I started asking what would happen if we Nitride treated or Melonited a Purebred?  Could we get the best of both worlds? A match-grade barrel that would stand up to the abuse. We know things about these modern treatments, such as how they increase ruggedness and also dissipate heat better. Dissipating heat should help with maintaining accuracy over longer strings of fire, which is something needed in a SPR/DMR context. What I think we got is the best all-around hard-use accurate barrel for an AR to date. I, personally, have put about 10,000 rounds through mine and use it for everything from up-close “gas it up and burn it down” drills to shooting prairie dogs at 500 yards, and anything in between. 

COMPLETE RIFLES

These complete upper halves are available for purchase directly from Rosco, as are stand-alone barrels — with matching gas tubes for the patrol length models — or as part of Rosco’s muzzle device. A complete K9 upper with 11.5-inch barrel starts at $715, while the 13.95-inch version is $20 more.

Complete uppers: Kinetic Consulting (top) and Greenline Tactical (bottom).

It should also be noted that these barrels are now available through Cobalt Kinetics, who recently released complete signature rifles for both Kinetic Consulting and Greenline Tactical. 

In addition to the K9 barrels, these guns are built to spec with direct input from Dufresne and Edwards respectively, and feature Cobalt’s new CK-A5 buffer system, RCB-KM brakes that also accept any suppressor with a DeadAir KeyMo mount, and full-length handguards match to each barrel — 10.8- and 13-inch handguards, respectively. 

Both signature rifles, the Kinetic Consulting Cobalt “Bear Claw” and Greenline Tactical Cobalt “Fast Eddie” are available directly through Cobalt Kinetics or by contacting the instructors’ websites. 

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