We are all well aware that ever since it appeared that either Obama or Clinton (Hillary) would win the Democratic primary, way back in the beginning of 2008, the rifle market has been soaring. The firearms market in general has been doing very well, but - just as happened during the Clinton Gun Ban years - AR style weapons have been in such demand that manufacturers can't crank them out fast enough. That has led to a number of companies growing into the market and Thor Global Defense Group (Thor GDG) was one such company. I received on of their TR-15 for T&E a few months back and thought I'd share what I learned.
Oddly enough, having handled a fair number of AR-style weapons, the first thing I noticed on the ThorGDG TR-15 was the extended charging handle. Having "cut my teeth" on a M16A2 way back in the day, and not having experienced heavily customized rifles through the course of my career, this simple custom feature took me by surprise, then bothered me, and then pleased me.
Since I had never dealt with one before, but having never had a problem with a standard charging handle, I at first didn't see the advantage. Working at the range with gloves quickly helped me to remember the days of leather-encased wool-lined gloves on the range on cold days in the Army. The ease with which that charging handle can be manipulated to pull, lock back, etc is increased thanks to the extension. It also allows for the option (if you handle your weapon this way) of using the thumb and index finger to pull back the charging handle rather than the index and middle fingers. The bottom line for me was that ultimately I saw and appreciated the advantage in having the extended charging handle.
Thor GDG makes their rifles available (per their website) in three barrel lengths:
- 14.7" NFA
Note that the barrel lengths include the length of the flash suppressor. So on my test rifle, the actual rifled barrel length is just under 15" plus the length of the permanently welded flash suppressor making it just over 16". The flash suppressor used is one of the variety of "custom" types available as opposed to the standard "bird cage" type. I think this adds a more custom appearance to the rifle and is certainly no less functional. In fact, there seems a much larger demand for longer or "extended" flash suppressors on AR-style weapons. The clean-steel weld point was something I asked about and was reassured it's not standard "finish". The rifle I had for T&E is one of the early production models and, as such, was almost a prototype build. Imperfections in finishes aren't uncommon on such and it certainly didn't hinder performance in any way.
A fairly common feature on most contemporary AR-style rifles is the removable carry handle. Also common is the fully adjustable rear sight incorporated into the carry handle with apertures for close range and distance targeting. Since the front sight is fixed, if the carry handle is removed to mount an optic, it should be one that sits high enough so that the front sight doesn't hinder performance. Since I'm a big believer in redundancy, there should also be a pop-up or flip-up rear sight and the optic should be positioned so that if it fails the front and rear sights can still be used - commonly referred to as "co-witnessing".
Since I live in the wonderful state of Maryland, the TR-15 had to be shipped without magazines. Typically it is shipped with one 30-round mag, but Maryland doesn't allow that except for current law enforcement professionals purchasing rifles on letterhead. So, rather than purchasing an assortment of 20-round magazines at the gun dealers that handled the transfer for me, I dug through my closet and pulled out 4 MagPul 30-round magazines.
My first day on the range was spent zeroing the rifle and then testing for accuracy. Once zeroed, and firing from a rested position (prone, sand bagged), firing sub-MOA groubs was quiet easy. Most of the 3-shot groups fired were less than 3/4" with several 1/2" and two sub-1/4-MOA or less than 1/4" (those end up being three shot one hole groups obviously). Those were the exceptions and not the rule, but for a CQP-style AR weapon, consistently shooting sub-MOA groups is good - especially when you also take into consideration the less-than 15" rifling and 16.1" barrel length overall.
In the course of approximately 250 rounds of firing I experienced no malfunctions. The weapon fed, extracted and ejected clean. The now-seemingly-standard six-position adjustable stock made it easy to shoot with and without any body armor or equipment vest. The adjustable stock makes it easier to maintain a comfortable length of reach / pull as the thickness of armor and gear in front of your shoulder changes with "the mission".
The TR-15 is gas operated so it can get as dirty as other rifles of similar design. I used Federal ammo for all testing and the 8+ magazines worth in the first day on the range wasn't sufficient to cause any malfunctions due to unburned powder, carbon, grit, etc. I was quite pleased with the rifle's performance and used it as the test bed for another review (the FailZero AR-15 Kit review linked below). I look forward to mounting an optic on it and procuring a pop-up rear sight. My sling of preference is the 3-point Swift Sling from BLACKHAWK!. With the sling properly adjusted, if I experience a stoppage with the rifle, I can drop it to hang and go to my sidearm - my 1911 included in the bottom picture accompanying this article.
It would be inaccurate to say that Thor Global Defense Group (Thor GDG) is "new" to the gun manufacturing business because they've been making parts for so long. However, as they branch into making complete weapon systems they go beyond showing "promise". The quality control demonstrated in how "tight" this weapons was built is easy to see in the down-range groups. Any "battle rifle" needs (in my humble opinion) to consistently shoot sub-MOA and this particular rifle averaged 1/2- to 3/4 MOA. When I did my part (basic marksmanship is a perishable skill I need to practice more often) the 1/4-MOA groups show what the rifle is capable of. With retail prices starting at just under $1,000 and law enforcement pricing available upon request, I think we're going to see big things from Thor GDG.