I recently tested the THOR TR-15 Mil-Spec, a custom rendition of the 5.56 mm caliber AR-15 by Thor Global Defense Group. At the end of the test, I found that this carbine was as much Mil-Spec as an AR-15 can get without signing it out of the arms room from the unit armorer.
Thor Global Defense Group is a security solution company that provides training, consulting, crisis management and protective services in total security packages. It maintains an expert staff for security consulting, including site assessments, network, communication consulting and testing. It has specialized services that include physical security surveys and operations in high-risk environments. The group also hosts a variety of training courses for military and law enforcement that range from entry level to advanced operations. Students can train in the facility in Van Buren, Ark.
Thor's Government Issue AR-15 is an ideal law enforcement carbine that has earned the reputation of being simple, lightweight and reliable. When the direct gas operating system was first devised, firearms experts recognized the simplicity and easy maintenance of the platform. Originally designed by Eugene Stoner in response to data developed during World War II, the AR-15 was one of the lightest and most compact battle rifles adopted by a major army.
The AR-15 underwent several revisions, but the basic design is true to the original. It has been in service as a primary combat rifle longer than any other in history. Our TR-15 was a flat-top configured, collapsible stock version with F-marked sights, which means the front sight is configured to accommodate for the difference in the height of the flat-top. The only subtle difference between this carbine and the one issued to me many years ago was a beefier-than-usual gas tube, an improved flash hider and a slick feel when the bolt carrier group slid into the boltway.
Like many carbine builders, Thor Global Defense Group markets a modular platform, which allows them to assemble a carbine to the specs of the agency. Our TR-15 ran smoothly, a testament to the higher end components used to make it. Because of the nature of its business, Thor has enough data on carbines to know which parts wear out and what prevents failure. We did not notice anything in our testing that suggested that this tool would let the user down.
Our TR-15 has a smooth matte finish with precision cut rails and tightly mated pins. There were no spurious tool marks under the hood, and the bolt/barrel extension mating had that gliding feel in the hand like when one shifts an expensive sports car. It wasn't just the fact that there wasn't an upper/lower rattle — one would expect that. The TR-15 felt good all around.
When I talked to the folks at Thor Global Defense Group, I was told that this TR-15 was its basic model. The company can make it any way the customer needs it. When I asked why Thor got into the carbine building business in the first place, I was pleasantly surprised at the answer. Thor Global Defense Group team members use the rifles for their missions. Making them puts them in control of the quality of the product that users stake not just their reputations but their lives on. In this case I believe vested interest drives the quality control.
We put the TR-15 through its paces on a more than 100-degree day in Oakdale, Calif. I expected that by the time we ran through a couple magazines, the heat signature would distort the sighting plane. It didn't, but it also didn't take long to make it too hot to touch. We were shooting within carbine ranges and printing better than expected results with the supplied iron sights.
Probably one of the most overlooked advantages of the AR-15 in law enforcement is the entirely inline system, where axis of the bolt carrier, buffer and recoil system goes directly to the area where the carbine mounts on the shoulder. When a shooter puts the hearing protection on and fires a few rounds downrange with a carbine, there is a distinctive captured spring sound as the buffer is forced down the stock tube. I can only describe firing the TR-15 in an intangible way: It seemed to cycle smoother than its mass-produced counterpart.
Thor Global Defense Group recommends a tactical latch as an upgrade to the basic model. We would add the GG&G-1006T MAD Flip Up Rear Sight with Tritium, a low-profile flip up rear sight, a Leupold Mark 4 1–3x14mm CQ/T scope and a 5.11 Tactical VTAC 2 point sling. This combination would cover all potential shooting situations for a tactical carbine.
Overall the TR-15 was … well … boring. That is, the rifle did what Thor said it would and didn't do what it said it wouldn't. This is a testament for a carbine that is available in the individual officer-purchase price range.
Why do I recommend the product? Simple: Vested interest. Thor Global Defense Group does for a living what we want a firearms manufacturer to do: it uses its gun. This is akin to a climbing rope manufacturer using its products on company expeditions. Does anyone think they will use lowest bidder parts?