Carbine captures attention

The police carbine is a tool which overlaps the capabilities of the handgun and long-range rifle. Most multifunction tools do a variety of jobs but do not necessarily excel in any of them. The police carbine is the exception to this rule. The AR-15 carbine is an effective close quarter instrument. It also can be summoned from the patrol car to provide deliberate precision fire. One such carbine is the DoubleStar AR-15 Patrol Rifle, which "Law Enforcement Technology" recently tested. This rifle proved itself both a reliable and accurate multifunction tool for the patrol officer.

DoubleStar has been in the AR-15 manufacturing business for eight years. J+T Distributing, its sister company, co-located in Winchester, Kentucky, has been in the rifle parts business for more than 25 years. Under the DoubleStar logo, the family-owned business ventured into manufacturing complete units.

DoubleStar begins with forged receivers, adding premium parts such as a DoubleStar six-position M-4 style stock, GG&G MAD (Multi-Aperture Device) rear sight, Yankee Hill Machine four-rail handguards and Hogue rubber pistol grips. Several options, including trigger and bipod upgrades, are available.

Why an AR-15?

The most convincing argument in favor of using an AR-15 for patrol is the tremendous amount of data users have accumulated about them. Generally, an AR-15 will work in almost any condition unless it is treated very, very poorly. An AR-15 can get a dunking and come up shooting. It can be dropped, dragged, cooked or frozen, and still perform reliably.

The AR-15 is an engineering marvel. Although it is a gas-powered rifle, meaning the pressurized gases escaping from the chamber are used to work the action, it uses this gas in a unique way.

Most gas-powered rifles use pressure to work a piston, which in turn works the bolt, which locks the cartridge in the chamber. Hot gases are bled through a hole in the rifle barrel. These gases move a piston connected to the bolt. The piston unlocks the bolt, which extracts this and brass, feeding and chambering another cartridge.

An AR-15 does not have a piston. Gases bled from the barrel unlock the bolt directly. The bolt is a multi-lug piece that precisely mates with the lugs in the chamber, rotating to lock the bullet until ignition. This bolt fits into a carrier, which aids in an efficient seal of the gases.

The AR-15 rifle is lightweight, handles high chamber pressures, and fires a lighter, lower recoil bullet. The rifle's geometry places all recoil absorption mechanics directly in line with a shooter's shoulder, making it the lightest recoil battle rifle in service.

The pistonless AR-15 also has a distinct disadvantage. Because superheated gases travel directly into the bolt and chamber area, the steel must be especially hard and durable. Instead of a simple accumulation of dirt, everything is baked on. Because lockup tolerances between the bolt and chamber run in the thousandths of an inch, scrubbing the bolt and its components is the key to keeping it running.

The rising AR-15 star

Testers found the DoubleStar AR-15 Patrol Rifle was obviously in the upper echelon of law enforcement AR-15s. The bolt assembly glided smoothly through its full cycle while brass ejected into neat piles. The upper and lower sections mated without any play in the major parts, including tight front and rear pins. Anyone who has carried an issued M-16 knows poorly mated uppers and lowers rattle near the pins, which is annoying but inconsequential. The patrol rifle accepted magazines with a positive click and fed bullets without incident. Throughout the tests, there were no failures of any kind.

The patrol rifle came in the flattop-equipped configuration with a modular forearm that sported four parallel M1913 rails, suitable for mounting a forward grip, sights and lights. Additionally, the precision-machined forearm protected and freefloated the barrel. Freefloating allows the barrel to flex unencumbered, creating a consistency in bullet impact, adding to the firearm's accuracy potential. Freefloating is only a minor issue with an AR-15, as few barrels actually contact any part of the upper, but the consistent barrel tension from the forearm does. This was evident when testers fired it at longer ranges.

At the heart of the AR-15 system is the extractor. Experience in replacing this part taught DoubleStar to install high-quality extractors with the company logo on them.

There are several conditions which will cause an AR-15 to fail to spit out bullets; most are not related to the design or quality of the rifle itself. They are, instead, ammunition-, magazine- or maintenance-related failures. Few failures cause the user to stop and break out the cleaning rod or partially disassemble the rifle. A failure to extract does. The quality of the extractor indicates the manufacturer's attention to detail. DoubleStar fitted premium parts under the hood. The hardened extractor had an aggressive hook and was powered by stiffer than Mil-Spec springs.

DoubleStar ships a 1/9 match barrel, unless chrome-lined is requested. The chrome-lined barrel is more corrosion resistant; the match barrel more accurate. Unless officers plan to drag their rifles through the jungle, then wait a few weeks before cleaning them, testers recommend the match barrel. The difference in accuracy is subtle but worth it.

The 1/9 twist of the patrol rifle is consistent with the industry standard of light, flat shooting cartridges for law enforcement such as Federal Cartridge's TRU (Tactical Rifle Urban) products and close quarters entry specialty munitions from The Hunting Shack. The rifle was typically loud but delivered very little flash from the muzzle.

Rifle shooting is one of the few businesses where mundane, predictable minute shot groups can make others pay attention. Testers took notice of this rifle. The trigger broke cleanly and had the short travel typical for law enforcement rifles. Reviewers wielding the Patrol Rifle easily achieved rapid fire center mass hits within 50 yards and tight precision groups past 100 yards.

This rifle can be sighted in for close quarters battle and still render combat effective hits at other ranges. This has a lot to do with the approximately 3,200 feet per second (fps) muzzle velocity and 2,750 fps velocity at 100 yards. Most trajectories for bullets weighing less than 60 grains hardly vary 7/10 of an inch within 100 yards. That is the epitome of carbine range flat shooting.

The DoubleStar AR-15 Patrol Rifle is a moderately priced, precision manufactured carbine suitable for the law enforcement market. It easily met accuracy and reliability standards for a law enforcement carbine. Agencies considering a department-wide purchase cannot go wrong.

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches Administration of Justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.