NWCP Twin set
- By Pete Moore
- 2 Comments
- Last updated: 18/01/2019
There’s little doubt that the generic AR15 has become the ‘it’ gun in the last 30-years of sports shooting. After the self-loading rifle ban of 1988, we thought we’d never see the black rifle again, but the appearance of the straight-pull, hybrid versions to conform to the dictates of a law that banned self-loading centrefires, if anything made this product more popular than to just older practical rifle shooters like me. This platform’s inherent accuracy potential also appealed to those looking for a tack driver, be it for targets or vermin shooting. But it was not until after the later handgun ban that the 22 rimfire semi-auto rifles started to gain popularity too, almost as a surrogate handgun.
At first, the old and bold Ruger 10/22 filled that slot, but when custom shops like Southern Gun Co started offering dedicated, 22 rimfire uppers that would fit and function on 223 Rem AR15 lower receivers did the 22 AR really start to take off. Given that most Action/Practical/Service rifle shooters own not only a centrefire AR but a rimfire version too, normally consisting of two complete rifles and the interchangeability of the generic AR, then why not offer some form of combo that used a common receiver to offer dual calibre use? This is not a new idea, far from it, but what I have here from Wayne Titterton of North West Custom Parts is a sort of package/combo deal that wraps it all up nicely.
On test is the all singing and dancing package that includes a compact Pele-type travel hard case, six magazines – 3 x 30-round Magpul P-Mags in 223 and 3 x 25-round Black Dogs in 22LR for the 22 rimfire upper. Plus, this example was finished off in Cerakote FDE (flat dark earth) other colours available, along with a 1-8x24 CMR scope made for NWCP in a Trinity Force QD mount, I’ll get onto the spec in a minute, which is the sort of thing a serious AR user would consider competition-ready. Price all-in is £3100, not cheap in these days of austerity, but if you were to buy these items separately then you could add around £300 to that; so, worth consideration!
As most of us customise our ARs, Wayne has settled on a specification that makes this package competition-ready. Let’s start with the lower receiver, as that’s the constant in the build: NWCP forged lower, Magpul CTR stock and MIAD pistol grip, Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E) trigger, Odin works XMR3 mag button and short throw Ambi safety lever, ambi mag release and over-sized trigger guard.
So, let’s break that list down; the CTR butt is a good one and comes with a separate locking lever that stops any wobble often encountered on the more basic telescopic systems. The MIAD pistol grip is probably one of the best, with a high, arched back strap that fills in the web of the thumb and gives an improved trigger finger position. The SSA-E trigger is a 2-stage mechanism with the first weight (take up) movement being 2.3 lbs, the second is 1.2 lbs, with a total pull of 3.5 lbs and it’s non-adjustable. It’s shootable and better than a standard AR unit.
The ambi safety is different, each lever is L-shaped and supposed to make operation slicker, but again and though considering an ambi safety essential, I did not like it compared to a standard straight lever set up. Finally, the ambi mag button again not my cup of tea, although it has its uses.
The 223 offers the following; NWCP forged upper, with their side charging handle, the barrel is a light/medium weight, stainless, Odin tube with a 1-8 twist in a choice of 14.5. 16 and 18” options in various profiles, all threaded ½ x 28UNEF and fitted with a 3-prong flash hider/muzzle break and a Trinity Force, 12”, Key Mod free-float forend. The receiver is a flat top with Picatinny base, with the ejection port extend to the rear to allow the cocking handle full run. This item copies the generic Southern Gun Co Speedmaster extended/dog leg shape, but is a welded, one piece build so you can’t adjust the handle angle. The forend is triangular and slim in section also with a Pic rail. It came fitted with a standard T-handle, but Wayne told me a left hand extended unit will be standard. The muzzle break looks cool but is bloody noisy, certainly on the shorter barrelled guns like my 16” tester. Calibre choice here is 223 Rem, 300 Blackout and 9mm.
The 22 has an NWCP forged upper with ejection port cover, case deflector and forward assist. Trinity Force 10” 1812 Key Mod forend, mini Key Mod hand stop, stainless, 12” Green Mountain barrel threaded ½ x 28UNEF, ambi charging handle and a Vg6 muzzle brake. The action is your typical drop-in 22 bolt system and being a 22 LR the forward assist does not work, nor for that matter does the last round hold open. Instead, the Black Dog magazine offers its own ersatz system, with the rising mag platform blocking the bolt after the last round. The muzzle brake is very sexy with multiple blast ports etc, but more cosmetic than functional on a 22 LR semi.
I have my reservations on some of the peripheral build specs and mentioned this to Wayne. He told me that he also offers a more entry level package, which reduces the price significantly. OK not quite as slick, but it will do the job and you can add your personal touches as you want or can afford to. It consists of the same upper and lower with basic 12 and 10” M-Lok forend from Trinity Force along with their butt and pistol grip. Both barrels show standard A2, cage-type brakes, scope and mounts are not included. But, as I always say, whatever turns your crank; some will like the appeal of a totally tricked up package, whereas others will appreciate the reduced cost. However, the 1-8x24 scope is very AR-orientated and comes with a suitable QD mount, plus I like the inclusion of enough magazines for both calibres, along with a strong, airline-capable transit case.
For me, NWCP’s 22 upper was a given, as I’ve tested a few before in various guises, but essentially the same thing. It ran well on my usual cross section of rimfire ammo from light, medium and heavy sub-sonics to standard and HV loads. Feed reliability was good with a few stoppages, mainly due to the occasional low powder charge, which is par for the course for any 22 semi-auto action. Accuracy was hovering around the .75-1” mark at 50m; good enough! I do confess a liking for these shorty (12”) uppers, as they lose little in ballistics but give a lot back in handling and low weight.
With the 223 Rem hybrid, straight-pull rig my first impression was of a sensibly weighted, handy and shootable rifle. The light/medium barrel is not too heavy but is good and rigid to offer consistent accuracy. As always, primary extraction is a concern (un-sticking the case from the chamber) and a must for fast fire, action-type shooting, the larger and better shaped side cocking handle helps with improved leverage, but a well-cut chamber is essential too. I had no problems at all with primary extraction, even with the steel lacquered cased ammo.
I used three loads; Hornady Steel Match 75-grain hollow point, Geco 55-grain FMJ Target and my pet AR reload a Sierra 69-grain tipped match king (TMK) over 24.3-grains of Ramshot TAC (COL 2.250”). See the (223 Performance) table. The 16” barrel robs some velocity in the heavier weights; the Steel Match dropped 293 fps from the factory quote, and my reload 82 fps compared to my 20” Speedmaster. However, the Geco Target at 3043 fps was a tad faster than their quoted 2997 fps. Accuracy was good across the board, so a versatile rifle and I’d guess it would also shoot well with SS109, 62-grain fodder too.
I like this idea of this package, but I’d spec it up slightly differently; however, as an off the shelf product, it will do exactly what you want of it, be it in its basic or top end options.