By Jay Grazio, Shooting Illustrated
Few people would consider the AR-15 to be beautiful. Granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes, but there’s very little to stir the soul in drab, black aluminum and polymer. It doesn’t evoke memories like a wood-stocked bolt-action rifle, nor is it an elaborately engraved, custom-fitted shotgun destined for clay-busting duties. At best, it’s a utilitarian tool for punching holes in paper or having handy to defend life and liberty. Sure, there have been companies that have bestowed elaborate Cerakote schemes or ornate handguards on ARs, but as a general rule, they don’t move you.
At first blush, the Radian Weapons Model 1 Rifle might seem to fit in with this pattern. Yes, it’s available in an attractive gray or brown Cerakote (or the more traditional black) that’s applied to the billet-aluminum upper and lower receivers and handguard evenly. The proprietary handguard is attached with four stout bolts and a stainless steel anti-rotation pin and features Picatinny slots running its full length for accessories. M-Lok attachment slots grace the entirety of the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock positions on the handguard for even more accessories, if desired. Not only that, but the remainder of the handguard is skeletonized to facilitate faster barrel cooling as well as weight reduction. Other aesthetic features are intricate Radian logos on the takedown pins, bolt catch and forward assist, and a magazine well contoured to match the Magpul PMag. It’s a neat touch.
From there on in, the Model 1’s features are all function over form, but that doesn’t mean “ugly” by any stretch of the imagination. Lefties and folks who practice with either hand will appreciate the complete ambidextrous nature of this rifle: one can access the magazine release, safety selector and bolt release on either side of the rifle, and the charging handle is designed to be operated by either hand as well. On the left side of the rifle, the bolt catch is oversize for fumble-free operation, while the right-side magazine-release button has its own texture that matches the rest of the rifle. I’m starting to re-think my claim this isn’t a beauty.
Magpul’s excellent MOE K2 grip gives plentiful purchase without being abrasive, while its MOE SL-K stock is minimalist, yet useful. At the other end of the rifle, there’s a SilencerCo ASR flash hider/suppressor mount that, in the case of the rifle we have for testing, is permanently pinned to the 14.5-inch barrel to create a non-NFA-regulated overall length in excess of 16 inches. This is a personal choice, offering the benefit of a shorter overall length (than a traditional 16-inch barrel with a muzzle device at the end) with the drawback of limited attachment options. Devices compatible with Dead Air suppressors are also available. There are other considerations on the Model 1: It’s built to order through the company’s website. Choose your chambering, barrel length, muzzle device, Cerakote color and type (pistol/rifle/SBR).
In the actual operation of the Model 1, the proprietary Vertex trigger is nothing short of marvelous. There’s virtually no takeup whatsoever, and the trigger breaks clean—as in, a white-glove-passing-inspection clean. Combined with a match-grade, 416R stainless steel barrel, it’s not hard to achieve Radian’s claimed sub-MOA accuracy. Even with the 14.5-inch barrel, multiple sub-MOA groups were recorded, even with 55-grain FMJ rounds.
In addition to range-testing the Model 1, I had the opportunity to wring one out at Gunsite Academy at a Crimson Trace event for the launch of the company’s RAD line of red-dot sights. It’s pretty telling that the Model 1 was the chosen carbine—not only do the firearms need to function without incident over the course of the event, they also need to provide accuracy that will highlight the optic. The Model 1 did not disappoint in this regard; in two and a half days of testing indoors, outdoors and in low-light conditions, it worked so well it was subliminal; I didn’t even have to think about it. Out of nearly two dozen shooters, I don’t recall any incidents or stoppages involving the operation of the Radian Model 1.
Perhaps most impressive was the time spent on the steel range. We had targets out to 250 yards, including 8-inch steel plates, on which we were making solid hits, even using 3-MOA dots. More accomplished shooters were getting first-round hits, while the, ahem, rustier shooters like me needed a second shot on the longer targets—but, still made the hit. In any case, the Radian Weapons Model 1 Rifle performed admirably throughout the entire event. Whether carefully threading our way through shoothouse scenarios, making longer shots on steel or simply running offset drills at 10 yards, the performance of the Model 1 was never in question. There’s a definite beauty in a machine that does exactly what it’s designed to do, each and every time you use it.