Every so often we get a firearm or piece gear that comes across our preverbal desk that raises the questionable eyebrow but every so often we just get a big smile on our faces. This is one of those times. Sitting in front of us is a rifle that has been hush-hush for a while and we must admit, it has been hard to keep this under wraps.
Here at Guns and Tactics, we have had the opportunity to review Primary Weapon System (PWS) in the past. If so inclined check out our past articles on their MK107 Pistol, MK107 Mod2 Upper, and the capable MK216 chambered in .308. Our experience with the Boise, ID based company goes back to their first DC-16 upper receiver many moons ago. While this upper is no longer available and the technology has been updated some, the mission still remains: provide high quality firearms and firearms components. They are specifically known for their long stroke piston system. This system has a proven track record in the venerable AK47 and has been successfully implemented by PWS in both the AR15 and the larger AR10 rifle platforms. For a great breakdown on how the system operates, PWS offers a video showing slow motion cycling in a cutout rifle.
In summary, after the firearm is discharged, the gasses behind the round are tapped off via a gas block. These gasses push a piston head which in turn moves an operating rod rearward. This rod, attached to a bolt carrier group works during the cycling process to load, extract and eject rounds. This is in contrast to the legacy gas impingement system that taps the gas in the same method, but instead of pressing the piston, operation rod and bolt backward, the gas travels down a gas tube into a bolt carrier gas key which then cycles the bolt carrier group. Debating which one is better would be similar to getting into the classic 9mm vs .45 debate. It’s just not worth it. However one things for certain, piston driven guns are cleaner as the gases are not being directed directly into the firearm’s action. This is especially true when shooting suppressed which increases back pressure and gas blowback.
Getting back to the smile on our face. The rifle before us is a brand new MK218 MOD 1-M precision rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. This may sound a little familiar as PWS did release a MK220 6.5 Creedmoor rifle a few years ago as a limited run. The MK220 used a 20 inch long barrel. According to Brittany Strosnider of PWS, the rifle was “overwhelmingly popular with our customers.” She went on to state, “The decision to move to the 18” barrel [MK218] was made because you lose less than 40 fps in velocity, and we felt taking 2 inches off the barrel was easily worth that.” Brittany, who self admits she is somewhat vertically challenged, noted that while she has taken the MK220 6.5 Creedmoor out on elk hunts with great success, the longer 20 inch barrel would hit rocks while hiking and tracking. By removing 2 inches off the barrel it was easier for her to navigate the rough terrain. She finished by saying, “I’ll definitely take the 18 inch Creedmoor out on my next hunt.” We can’t wait to hear all about it.
While similar in size to the MK216 .308 the MK218 MOD 1-M 6.5 Creedmoor has been refined. For example, the forward assist has been eliminated. Both the upper and lower receivers are forged from 7075 T6 aluminum. The receiver is based off the DPMS pattern and takes standard SR25 type magazines. The trigger guard is machined in and the mag well is flared. The 15.1 inch long handguard is slender at 2.0 inches wide and 2.3 inches tall. It is free floating using M-LOK attachment points. The handguard floats around the barrel which is 18 inches in length as implied in the MK218 designation. It is made from 416 stainless steel and is button rifled with a 1:8 twist rate. The adjustable gas block has three positions for normal, suppressed and suppressed high pressure ammo. The charging handle is the outstanding ambidextrous Raptor made by Radian. Of course the rifle features the exceptional PWS patented Enhanced Buffer Tube with six different position settings and their ratcheted lock and end plate with integral QD mounting point. Buffer system is the PWS Enhanced H2 Short (.308) Steel Body Buffer. Furniture, to include the butt stock and grip, are by Bravo Company (BCM). Lastly the trigger is a mil-spec enhanced, PTFE coated trigger that consistently broke at 5.5 lbs on our scale. The machining is outstanding, void of any tooling marks and the anodizing is a very dark, rich black. This is one of the blackest rifles we have seen unlike some other manufactures that have a hint of purple in their anodizing. In summary, it is a very handsome rifle.
We asked PWS what kind of accuracy they were getting and while they don’t publish accuracy expectations due to a plethora of variables that the end user can implement, they do note they consistently see sub-MOA results. R&D round choice for PWS was the Hornady 140 grain ELD which resulted in a velocity read out of 2,588 fps. For those not up to speed, the 6.5 Creedmoor round has been in the spotlight lately because of its outstanding long range ballistic performance and light recoil and common availability.
For testing we topped the rifle with our trusty Leupold ER/T 8.5-25×50 with Horus Reticle secured with a DLOC-M4mount from ZRO Delta. We also utilized the ZRO Delta DLOC-SS bipod adaptor to mount our Harris bipod. While the rifle does come standard with the PWS PRC 30 compensator we swapped it out for a CRUX muzzle device to host their 6.5mm Saxon sound suppressor. Because, if we are going to shoot a long stroke piston driven 6.5 Creedmoor, it was going to be suppressed, taking advantage of the adjustable gas block. Come on, if you have the means, go for it, right?. The rifle also comes standard with a gas block adjustment key and a single Magpul 20 round magazine. For our range session we also brought along magazines from Hexmag and Lancer. While we couldn’t get our hands on any Hornady 140 grain 6.5 Creedmoor we were able to obtain a few boxes of Prime 130 grain HPBT Match + 6.5 Creedmoor. This was by no means going to be a hard use reliability test due to the amount of rounds on hand, rather a quick toe-dip into the PWS 6.5 Creedmoor world. Personally, we aren’t too concerned with PWS reliability based on our past experience with their products, but your mileage may vary.
At the range we were limited to a measly distance of 100 yards, but that would be appropriate to zero the rifle. We removed the rifle from the case, attached the suppressor, adjusted the gas block to position 2 and then separated the upper from the lower. Next we removed the charging handle, op rod/piston and bolt carrier group as one complete unit. With the internals removed we placed the upper on our shooting bag and got a visual bore sight of the target down range. Keeping the upper in place, we observed the target through our optic and adjusted it until the optic and the barrel bore were looking at the same thing. Hopefully that would get us on target quickly, saving precious (and expensive) ammunition. The rifle was put back together and 5 rounds loaded into the provided Magpul magazine. It should be stated the rifle was not cleaned, oiled or had any other maintenance done on it other than adding the optic and bipod. Up until this point, it had never been fired outside of any test shots PWS may have conducted at the factory.
Temp was 75 degrees Fahrenheit with little to no crosswind. As this was a public range, the only prone shooting position we had was on a rectilinear plywood box elevated about 18 inches off the ground that was way too small for us. So after getting into a very uncomfortable prone position, a round was cycled into the chamber and we took aim. Taking the safety off, the trigger was slowly pressed rearward. The single-stage trigger, even at 5.5lbs, felt heavy. Once it broke, it was fairly crisp. Recoil was very pleasant with a nice little rearward shoulder nudge. More tame than a .308 in our opinion. The suppressor, gas block and piston system combination removed any gasses from entering the action and hitting the shooters face which is fairly common (and annoying) while shooting direct impingement gas guns. With the Leupold it was clear the first round hit about an inch low and left of point of aim. Not bad for a grunt bore sight. Four more shots were delivered and at distance looked promising. It was only once the line was cold and we got down range did we see the results. The first five rounds shot out of the rifle measured 0.8 MOA. Well ok then.
We cycled through our ammunition and various magazines, not experiencing failures or malfunctions of any sort. Ironically, the first cold bore shots of the day were the most accurate. As the day and the barrel heated up the rounds spread out to a 1 MOA average. It is our opinion that a more stable shooting position, a cleaner 2-stage trigger and potentially a heavier round would result in .5 to .75 MOA accuracy. Obviously at this point, that is speculation, but from what we have seen out of the box we feel that is an accurate assessment. This rifle can shoot and if the slab of meat behind the gun does its part, the rifle will return the favor.
Our only comments regarding improvement could be going to a 2-stage trigger and using a ambidextrous safety. Other than that, the rifle is solid and stable. No furniture or receiver wobble of any sort. It is a pleasure to shoot, uses the historically reliable and rugged long stroke piston system and aesthetically very pleasing to the eye.
So the question that begs to be answered is when will this rifle be available and what will it cost? According to PWS the rifle will be debuted at Triggrcon 2018 which is held from July 26 through the 29thin Bellevue, Washington. At the time of this writing that date is rapidly approaching at just under two weeks away. The rifle will ship to dealers the week of the event. The cost for the complete rifle will be $2199.95 USD which in our opinion is a steal. Upper receiver sets will run $1499.95 USD with complete lowers costing $549.95 USD. Stripped lowers will also be available for $209.95 USD. Of course if you would like the MK216 and MK220 in .308 those are currently available. But for those wanting to get into the 6.5 Creedmoor game, the PWS offering is just around the corner. In fact, when this publishes, it very well could be shipping to a dealer near you.