Last month I spent a few days with Buck Doyle of Follow Through Consulting in Utah courtesy of PROOF Research. During his Scoped Carbine Course we used rifles provided by EraThr3 which featured PROOF Research carbon fiber barrels. They were outfitted with SureFire WarComps and suppressors along with Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 scopes with the Tremor3 reticle and Mark 6 IMS mounts. Barry Dueck also brought sets of his Rapid Transition Sights for each rifle which offers M16A2-style front and rear sights at a 45 deg offset. I use the RTS on my telescopic sight equipped 7.62 gas gun and they are great for taking those close in shots. At Buck’s course it was no different, and I used them quite often in different scenarios.
We fired Hornady 55 and 75 grain Superformance Match cartridges in 5.56mm during the course, depending on whether the rifle was suppressed or not. During shots out past 500m, we relied solely on the 75 grain rounds. This whole combination allowed participants to effectively engage targets out to 1164 yards. This course and firearm setup really increased my confidence in the ability of 5.56mm to reach out and hit targets past 1000 yards. To be sure, there are better rounds available for those distances and we had to use some pretty serious holds to hit out that far, but it’s just something I’d never done before as I consider targets past 600 yards as beyond the application of the 5.56 round.
A Proof-of-Concept Carbine
EraThr3 provided a new proof-of-concept rifle configuration for the course participants which they plan to place into production as, “The Grunt”. They decided upon the design and built them in a matter of weeks but the upper and lowers were cut specifically for this new gun. You may notice that there is no cutout on the upper for the boltcatch. Instead, they milled material from the reverse of the catch in order to give it enough room for operation. Additionally, the ejection port cover pin is captive so there’s no retaining ring. This is also the first time EraThr3 has incorporated a forward assist on a carbine.
Overall, it’s a very lightweight rifle, but an expensive one. These rifles would retail for over $10k with half of that price going to the glass alone, which also added some heft to these otherwise very lightweight rifles. Of course, we wouldn’t have been hitting targets at those ranges without the optics. I know some are going to say that this is one expansive rifle. Yes, it is. Although many folks won’t be able to afford it, EraThr3 is okay with that.
They were very open about the rifle’s components and were more than happy to provide links to the parts where available. Although EraThr3 may substitute some items for production versions of “The Grunt”, the rifles we fired in Utah included the following components:
-16″ Proof Research Carbon Fiber 5.56mm barrel, 1:7 twist.
–Surefire WARCOMP 556 Muzzle Device
-New E3 Billet upper receiver, with forward assist, Hidden dust cover rod, and more rigid design than its’ counterpart, “Project Anorexia” released last year.
-New E3 Skeletonized Lower Receiver with improved features such as a matched grip profile, elimination of roll pin, hidden duct cover rod, and more robust lines.
-New E3 14″ M-LOK Handguard with full length skeletonized picatinny top rail.
–Titanium Bolt Carrier
–Properly Headspaced JP Enhanced Bolt
–V7 Lightweight Portdoor
–V7 Portdoor Rod
-New Titanium EraThr3 Forward Assist
–AXTS Raptor Charging Handle
–AXTS Talon Ambi Safety
–AR Gold drop in Trigger
-Titanium Takedown pins/mag-catch
–Ultra Light Bolt Catch
–PWS Enhanced Buffer Tube/ratchet design end plate & castle nut
–PWS Mod 2 H2 Buffer at 4.5oz
-Magpul STR Stock & MIAD Grip
–Atlas V8 Bipod or FALKOR DEFENSE MANTIS depending on rifle issued
–Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Sights
EraThr3’s Sheri Johnson had this to say about the guns, “These 12 rifles were built with a grip of hand selected parts and accessories, some of which being new to us, and provided just for the event in Utah. As a grassroots, custom rifle manufacturer, we’re not married to a specific line of goods or accessories. Maintaining the ability to reach across the table, work with most everybody in the industry, and configure a handful of rifles for an event like this is what we’re all about. There’s always risk in the unknown, yet that seems to be where we’re most comfortable. There was most definitely plenty of that when we committed to putting on a show in the mountains of Utah. Win, lose, or bust, you can bank on the idea that we’re always out to test the limits, regardless of the venue.”
I asked about how the production version of “The Grunt” will be rolled out and EraThr3 CEO Stirling Becklin related this to SSD, “Our objective with the Grunt is to address those end-users who aspire to have the most refined, yet rugged rifle available, and we acknowledge that this limits our customer base to a small fraction of the industry’s make-up. All the better, and we’re proud to be in a class of our own. The Grunt will be available at two price-points, one with a carbon barrel, Ti parts, etc., and another being a sub $3k model with a more standard bill of materials, including a single-point cut 416R stainless barrel, but maintaining the same level of accuracy and attention to detail.”
What’s Up With Those Colors?
The rifles we used at the course were offered in a variety of vibrant colors and Sheri did play a trick on me, initially pairing me with a pink rifle. She told me that the colors were inspired by a box of crayons and sure enough, she included a pack in each rifle case among with a bag of Skittles.
She said, “Production rifles probably aren’t going to ship with a bag of candy, but you never know how things may just stick.” Turns out, the Gray tone on the rifle I used for the event is kind of their trademark color, and is more likely a standard color than any of the others that showed up on Buck’s range.
But Does It Shoot?
Whenever you write about a gun, people obviously want to know if it can shoot. At least with carbines, generally they all do and in this case, yes, it does. At this point in the game, Stoner-style rifles aren’t exactly rocket science and EraThr3 has already been building them for several years. Virtually no expense was spared. Take one look at the rifle’s components and you see that it’s going to work unless they don’t know how to put them together. Like I already said, EraThr3 does.
No torture tests were run on the guns we shot and we didn’t go downrange and measure shotgroups. This was a course on long range gunfighting, like a service member might encounter in Afghanistan; shooting from one ridgeline to another. Once they were zeroed, hits were the evidence of the weapon’s fidelity. The guns worked well. Rather than the weapon, it was the environment we had to contend with for those hits. Temperature swings and shifting winds tested our ability to compensate and the high altitude of the range location drained our bodies. Despite this, the rifle didn’t let me down.
However, I’ll give it all to you; the good, the bad and the ugly. I did have two ammo related malfunctions. No biggie, I applied immediate action, and went right back to it. But this wasn’t like shooting a typical long range course of fire. Although we used 20 rd PMags, we went through a lot of ammunition, engaging targets both near and far.
Additionally, EraThr3 did an awesome job mounting the SureFire WarComps on the PROOF Barrel blanks. The timing was perfect; threaded right on with no need for crush washers. However, they had to learn a thing or two from SureFire about mounting the WarComp to ensure that it would offer correct alignment for a suppressor. Consequently, not every rifle was equipped with a suppressor during the event lest we risk a baffle strike. This stuff happens, and I’d say it had a lot to do with how quickly they built these rifles.
In the end, neither one of these issues detracted from my experience. My goal for attending this event was to see if I could effectively engage targets past 1000 yards with a 5.56mm rifle and with this combination of rifle, optics and ammunition, I could. Mission accomplished.
As I understand it, most of the rifles we used on the course are going to put up for sale at a discount to benefit some USMC charities in honor of Buck Doyle’s service. I’ll post details as soon as I get them but I can tell you, they’ll go fast.
EraThr3 on Erathr3
I had a great time in Utah and got to do some really fun shooting. This was also the first time I had met anyone from EraThr3 but I think this note they sent me sums them up best, “Call us boutique, niche, crazy, or whatever else makes it easy to recognize our inability to conform to the masses. Truth is, we’re just a handful of misfits out to make our own luck and do what makes us happy. It’s what started the madness, and is sure to drive us into the future.”
Shout out to DEFCON Group for the images!