Southern Gun Co LR9
- By Pete Moore
- 0 Comments
- Last updated: 15/12/2016
Bob Clark of Southern Gun Co (SGC) has been making weapons solutions and alternatives to the norm for many years now. He first came to my attention about 10-years ago with his straight-pull AR15, the Speedmaster. Though mann-opp ARs were around before Bob came along his design did away with their awkward, rear-mounted T-handle and replaced it with the more practical, purpose-built receiver with ambidextrous cocking handles.
Bob’s ARs became the thing to have, I have owned a few in my time and his next idea was even more unusual – the LA9. Looking like an AR carbine it was a lever action mechanism that used a hinged pistol grip to cock the action. Chambered in 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) it ran on Uzi SMG magazines and offered a hi-tech and practical alternative to the pre-1900 lever-actions now being used as surrogate handguns. This design moved on to the LA30, same thing but chambered in US .30 Carbine. I even shot a prototype version in 223 Rem, which was interesting but never went into production.
At that time Bob told me he was thinking of making a kind of semi, self-loading mechanism. OK we all know that self-loading centrefire rifles and pistols (+ 22 rimfires) are banned, however the law has definitive and legal descriptions of what we can own and also how things work. A good example being the Section 1 Large Firearm, which has to have a minimum of a 12” barrel and be 24” overall (butt to muzzle) and no less. So someone thought up long barrelled revolvers and revolving carbines plus .22 rimfire long barrelled semi-auto pistols, all conforming to the 12/24” requirement. The government hated it, but they re-wrote the rules and we are only obeying them to the letter!
So let’s take the definition of a self-loading firearm - a mechanism that at one pull of the trigger fires, extracts/ejects and reloads. So what if you could interrupt that cycle with some manual input; it would then not conform to the definition and therefore not be illegal? I had seen a long barrelled SVI pistol offered by two ex-pistol shooters with an interrupter back in 1999/2000. You put the mag in and cycled the slide and it locked open. Pressing down on a re-designed slide release let the slide run forwards to chamber. After you pulled the trigger the gun fired, ejected then locked open, requiring the shooter to operate the slide catch after each shot. Certainly clever and with a fail-safe built into the catch as if it was tampered with the gun would go into lock down. However, they never marketed it!
Bobs original idea was to use CO2 gas (cylinder in the butt) to cycle the action of an AR15. Here you fired and the rifle remained closed, a press of a separate button and the gas system operated the bolt to eject and reload. Apparently it worked but the problem was changing the power supply and also the consistency of the action due to the variations in gas pressure.
Blow By Blow
Bang up to date and replacing the LA9 is the LR9 (Lever Release 9mm), which I would best describe as an interrupted blow back system. Like the SVI pistol the motive power is generated by the cartridge with the heavy bolt blown back on firing and being held rearwards by the special interrupter catch. The shooter simply presses down on the catch and the bolt runs forward to chamber and load. This ain’t no semi-auto by definition, but once you get your head around pressing two separate controls to ready then fire the rifle it’s very convenient to shoot. So let’s take a look!
Unsurprisingly the LR9 looks like an M4/CAR15, though uses SGC’s new full billet upper and lower receiver set, which is solid but heavy. Some of the controls are altered to suit the mechanism, the mag released is still in the same place and the 25-round Uzi clip free falls from the well when it’s pressed. The safety though the same style of lever has been re-positioned on the right above the trigger. On the left where it would be is the all-important lever release (LR). Mounted parallel to the action it’s a big, rectangular paddle that hinges at the rear and is pushed down by the firing hand thumb.
Due to the nature of the design there’s no manual hold open as the mechanism automatically does it each time it fires as I have already said. Initial charging is by the standard, rear-mounted T-handle though augmented by an extended TAC-latch on the left.
The layout shows a buffer tube with a TDI Arms telescopic butt, the pistol grip is the standard A2 (single finger lug) type and up front is a round, free-float forend. Typically there are no iron sights but a flat top/Picatinny receiver for optics. The barrel is short at just 12 ½” but very heavy in build and threaded for a muzzle brake or even moderator! The LR9 measures 29 - 32 1/2” given the stock position and weighs a seemingly heavy 7lbs 13oz less magazine and optics. The bolt alone weighs a hefty 13oz and is totally different from the AR15 as there’s no separate rotary head as the LR9 does not lock up as it’s a blow back system.
Personally I think it’s an ugly looking gun with none of the aesthetics of the AR15! But by the same token it’s well put together and conceived and in a world of special guns the LR9 has that factory feel, fit and finish about it.
For testing I fitted a Meopta ZD 1-4x22 RD compact scope in the new Warne R.A.M.P. mount that I looked at last month. Apart from functionality and reliability I was intrigued how this 9mm carbine would perform out at 100-yards. Ammo went to two brands - PPU 115-grain FMJ and some RG 95-grain JSP. But first to get my head around the system.
My wife is very fond of telling me that a man can only do one thing at a time and that only females can multi-task, well guess who’s multi-tasking now? Operation is simple, slap in the magazine and cock the bolt and you are ready. Push down on the lever release paddle and the bolt will go forward and chamber the first round, all you then do is pull the trigger. Gun go bang, bolt blows back and ejects then remains locked up at the rear, press the LR and you’re back in business.
The trick is to learn the cadence of the operation, which takes no time at all and you can achieve a practical rate of fire with the added advantage of not having to break your firing position to operate, levers or cocking handles. Seriously impressed! Though one aspect you do have to get used to is that 13oz of bolt clanging forward tends to make the muzzle dip a little, so you have to recover your sights.
Reliability with the PPU/115-grain ammo was 100%, however the flat soft point of the RG caused some feed problems. Though Bob told me the rifling twist is very slow so would also suit those who want to reload using lead bullets. To be honest the FMJ is ideal fodder and still a reasonable buy with a lot of ex-military stuff around. With the ZD on top the LR9 is easily capable of holding 2” at 100-yards, which I thought pretty good for a 9mm and maybe a bit better with a finer reticule.
Plus & Minus
There’s little doubt this is a gun that does exactly what is says on the tin and well too - and I really enjoyed using it. If I was back in the Action/Practical shooting scene then an LR9 would be high on my list. However, here are my personal observations. The barrel is too short and heavy for my liking and the T-handle is not ideal for initial cocking, certainly with a scope fitted. But you could not have the integral, L/H cocking slide of the Speedmaster, as gas could blow back and hit you in the face. I would have liked to have seen a bit more width and length to the LR lever too, as I’m unsure if a deeper pistol grip like the MagPul would allow your thumb far enough forward to operate it.
Finishing off I asked Bob about future developments. He said he is experimenting with using Glock magazines instead of the Uzi as the supply is more reliable. This would then open up the LR9 for more calibres choices. 223 Rem is not an option, only pistol cartridges such as 10mm Auto, 40 S&W, 45 ACP etc. This is not yet cast in stone apart from the 9mm Parabellum, but seems highly likely given the demand. As I said this is the standard model and with all their guns SGC offer a build sheet so you can just tick the boxes to get the gun you want. For me that would be a medium weight, 16” tube, with brake, 4-way forend, QD iron sights, Magpul grip and ACS stock in 10mm Auto – I could live with that!
Check out GunMartTV video page to watch a video of the LR9 in action