It’s been a while since I found myself on the KD range shooting in service rifle competitions. Right after I founded my last company (T1G), I spend a few months bouncing around the East Coast competing. I never shot any outstanding scores, but it was always a learning experience no matter what range I was on. Once things got busy at work, free time became non-existent, so competitions were out of the question. I sold my service rifle and gear but always had great memories of the time spent on the range with friends. Fast forward seven years, and I now have time once again!
When I started looking around for reputable gunsmiths who specialize in service rifles, there were a few that kept popping up. John Scandale from Keystone Accuracy was one of them. John has an engineering background and also shot on the Army National Guard rifle team for six years. He tooled up his machine shop in 2003 because he wasn’t happy with the work some of the gunsmiths were putting out. All of the local smiths didn’t impress him as being that fantastic and some tried to lean pretty heavy on their brand of pixie dust, which he detested. John said it best when I asked him what make his uppers so special “There are no secrets, but some guys lead you to believe that there are”. Running his machines wasn’t much of a problem since he have a lot of machining experience as a machinist in 80s with much larger machines and much tighter tolerances. Strict tolerances and good machining practices seem to be a good recipe for an accurate, well-built rifle. Being a machinist with a skilled shooting history has helped John out quite a bit. As a result, he has an excellent idea of what works for a particular application. This made my decision to roll with Keystone Accuracy rather easy. John had an upper out to me a few weeks later.
When I got the upper in the mail, I went over it with a fine-tooth comb. I have a keen eye for details however I found no flaws whatsoever externally or internally. The upper was flawless! You can tell a craftsman built it. One thing that was rather different from this upper when compared to my last one was the rail.
Starting in 2015 rails will be legal for service rifle competition (as long as they meet spec). My upper had one of the only approved rails on the market, the new Geissele Mk7 rail. Bill Geissele started making triggers for service rifle in 2004 and has been kicking ass since. In January, he released the Mk7 rail. Why a rail on a service rifle? Do you see any service members (Army or Marines) with A2 hand guards with their rifles anymore? I think not! However everyone uses the A2 standard round handguard for service rifle competition. This rail was made especially for service rifle shooters. It’s connected to a 2.25” barrel nut, with a lot of surface area that keeps the rail stiff as fuck. At 3.6lbs, the rail is not lite, nor do you want it to be. The sling mount is a heavy steel insert that is screw mounted and is built like a Russian brick shit-house. Per the rule book the sling mount has to be within a 1/2″ of its standard point, and with the Mk7 rail and sling mount it’s within 1/8” of that point. If you want a heavier front end, you can insert two lead weight that slide and screw into the inside (steel inserts) of the Mk7 rail. These weights can be customized as you need. Since it’s a quad rail, and according to the rules you can add rail covers (rubber), so now you have rubber on rubber contact (glove to rail cover). The US Army and USMC should be running the Mk7 rails this year.
When I went to shoot the rifle for accuracy, I took a number of loads with me. These ranged from light 69 grain type, all the way up to 80 grains. I mounted a US Optics 1.8-10 on the A3 upper and after a quick zero, I began shooting groups for accuracy. With each load, I shot six 5-round groups. While some might call this overkill, I call it getting a good idea of what they rifle will do with a particular load. The worst load printed a .80” average group size, and the best load average group size was .43”.
When it came time to put on the rear carrying handle and zero the iron sights, I was expecting it to take an hour or two. You see on these rifles the front sight is adjustable for windage. However there is no easily repeatable way to adjust it. Once your rear sight is mechanically centered, you have to back out three set-screws and tap the sight left or right. Then tighten back up and shoot another group. Normally this takes a while, as you want to get the front sight to within 1/2″ of center before locking it all down. Since this upper had a rail on it, NO need to fuck around with such a long and drawn out procedure. I mounted my Aimpoint Micro-T1 on the rail and zeroed the dot. Then a moved the front sight to the dot, pulled off the T1 and confirmed zero. DONE! Very fast and only took 12 rounds.
When I pulled the T1 off and went back to iron sights, I was able to consistently print 1/2″ groups at 100yds. It had been a while since I spent so much time concentrating on the front sight post of a rifle, but it felt great! In the days where the more shit you have strapped to your rifle the cooler you are, it feels great to go back to the basics of sight alignment and sight picture. If you are in the market for a service rifle, I’d look no further than Keystone Accuracy, accurate, great customer service and well built.
Rail: Geissele Mk7 with weights and sling mount
Barrel: 20” Heavy service rifle profile, stainless steel with a Wylde Chamber
Front Sight: CLE .080”
Flash Hider: Modified to 1/2-28
Gas block: CLE (F height) adjustable for windage
Upper: Stock modified by Keystone to accept the A2 height rear sight
Carrying Handle: Keystone modified with two hardened steel pins
Rear Sight: Rock River NM modified by Keystone
Related: Back to the Basics