By Jacob Gottfredson, GUNS Magazine
In 2008 I wrote about ArmaLite’s AR-50. I liked the rifle so much that I bought it. I do not regret the purchase; I have had a ball with it. If you put a .50 BMG cartridge next to a .308 cartridge, it would be strikingly similar to putting ArmaLite’s AR-50 next to their new AR-31. Scaled down: yes, similar: yes, but with significant improvements.
The rifle came to me with 5- and 10-round magazines and a Steiner 3-15x50mm riflescope. It was similar to the big AR-50, yet different. The barrel was housed with a 20-minute angled rail from the back of the receiver to the end of the forearm to ensure your scope doesn’t run out of elevation potential out past 1,000 yards. The buttstock design makes the rifle look a bit spacy. I liked it.
At this time ArmaLite is making two versions: The Standard and the Target. Both are modeled after ArmaLite’s AR-30A1. The buttstock assembly contains adjustments that allow it to be customized for both female and male shooters, and with a great latitude in heights and weights of both. The cheekpiece is vertically adjustable up to 1 inch without the use of tools. The length of pull can be adjusted from 13 inches to 15 inches. The buttpad is adjustable for height. All that makes for a very flexible and comfortable rifle to fit any shooter.
The long Picatinny rail allows the use of ancillary items as well as a scope and night vision devices; rails have also been attached to the sides of the forearm. A 1913 accessory rail was also added to the bottom for additional accessories such as sling swivels or monopods.
Alan McCrea shooting the new AR-31, splashing steel downrange. The rifle
handled well with very little recoil. The muzzlebrake allowed the rifle
to move straight back so he could see splash on the steel target at
200 yards. The scope is Steiner’s new 3-15x50mm Tactical.
The muzzlebrake is the same as that used on the AR-30A1, scaled down from the one used on their .50 BMG rifle, which I found to be extremely effective. In fact, I found the recoil on the .50 to be much less than many of the thunderboomers hunters have grown so fond of. The AR-50’s ejection system works like glass. The AR-31 follows in its footsteps, providing a substantial ejection system, large ejection port and rapid, reliable cartridge ejection. Single loading is fast as well.
However, I am not a huge fan of the safety/fire switch—it is much too stiff to operate quickly (this is a personal opinion of course). Some might like the additional safety heavy movement provides. On my AR-50, the rotation is 90 degrees. On the AR-31, the rotation is a full 180 degrees. I found that to remove the bolt, the safety switch had to be in the safe position to move past the cheekpiece. The rifle I evaluated was brand new and bolt manipulation was a bit stiff. It might move more easily with more use.
The magazine well is configured to allow fast and easy insertion. The release is located so the shooter can extract the magazine and catch it with the same hand, keeping it from falling in the mud or being damaged or lost.
The buttstock can be removed for compact transportation or storage in confined areas. In fact, the muzzlebrake is so efficient the rife can be fired in the pistol position with the buttstock removed. The barrel is competition-grade, married to ArmaLite’s patented V-block receiver bedding system.
With the scope mounted in the 34mm Burris rings, it was time to hit the range. The .50 BMG ArmaLite was built with the 1,000-yard benchrest competitors in mind, and their endeavor worked. The rifle is extremely accurate at long range. Was the AR-31 built along the same line of thinking? It was off to the range to find out.
A couple of things became immediately evident. The recoil was astonishingly mild, but I expected that. And it was accurate, which I also expected. The rifle was quite simply built with accuracy in mind, and I believe ArmaLite succeeded in their goal. I shot Hornady A-MAX and Atomic Match, Black Hills Match, Federal Match and ASYM PRECISION Ammo through it, most of which featured 168-grain bullets. With a tuned handload, I expect the rifle would do even better. As it was, all loads shot well, but this particular rifle excelled with ASYM PRECISION ammo, and that was the load chosen for the 200-yard portion of the test.
The ejection port is large and allows ample clearance
upon ejection and ease of single loading.
The safety lever must be rotated a full 180 degrees to fire.
The stock is adjustable for length of pull and cheekrest height.
The machined aluminum buttstock is removable for transport.
The detachable muzzlebrake is patterned after the very successful AR-50 brake, and is the same as the one used on the AR-31A1 in .300 Win Mag. It allowed Jacob and Alan to see target hits through the scope.
Although the ArmaLite bolt-action rifles in this series look simple, they were built with considerable logic and foresight in mind. The stock comes off with the turn of a screw. The butt is adjustable, as is the cheekrest. The safety, although large and quite stiff, works well and without as many clicks and bangs as it is swiveled to the “off” position. The trigger is more than enough as-is. ArmaLite used their normal aluminum V-channeled forestock to bed the octagonal receiver.
I cleaned the rifle prior to the tests. I found that the cheekpiece had been modified to receive a cleaning rod. It takes a rather long rod, which I had. It worked perfectly, but a regular bore guide can be used by first removing the cheekpiece assembly. I suggest getting a rod long enough, as it is much easier than removing the cheekpiece every time you clean the bore.
ArmaLite supplies their own scope base already attached to the rifle for use with any Weaver-style rings and features a 20-MOA sloped base.
Four shots brought the rounds to the bull at 100 yards. We then moved farther out and switched to steel with a red dot painted to act as an aiming point. I shot the Nosler A-MAX first and punished the red dot. Using the same point of aim, I switched to the Atomic ammo. The group printed about 6 inches below the dot. Alan McCrea took over, and using the Black Hills 175-grain Match ammo found that it, as well, printed low. We switch again to ASYM, which printed at the bottom of the red dot. All this is expected in most rifles. The harmonics of each bullet, shape, pressure and velocity will group differently at longer ranges. We painted the target and tried the ASYM again.
In this great ammo drought I wasn’t able to shoot as much as I would’ve liked, but I shot enough to give me reason to believe the AR-31 has considerable accuracy potential. I have grown rather fond of it.
Jacob tested the ArmaLite AR-50 in the GUNS June 2008 issue. The .50 BMG
(left) dwarfs the .308, but both ArmaLite rifles share design concepts
and looks, except the AR-31 does so on a smaller, lighter scale.
Maker: ArmaLite, Inc.
P.O. Box 299
Geneseo, IL 61254
Caliber: .308 Winchester
Capacity: 5, 10, 15 or 20
Barrel: 24 inches, double lapped, chrome moly, 1:10-inch twist
Stock: Machined buttstock, machined grip frame with AR-style grip, 3-section extruded fore-end
Cheekpiece: 1-inch vertical adjustment
Buttpad: 2-inch horizontal adjustment
Finish: Manganese phosphated steel, hard-anodized aluminum
Overall Length: 47.4 inches (maximum)
Weight: 14.1 pounds
Sights: None, 20 MOA angled 1913 base provided
Next page, the Steiner scope