Last year, during the 2016 SHOT Show, I stumbled upon a smaller booth on the lower level chock full of AR-
platform modern sporting rifles. While there were more AR exhibitors than any outdoor writer could possibly shake a stick at, this one really caught my eye; after all, it’s not every day you run into an edgy black AR-15 with gold-colored components like the action, barrel, forward assist and barrel. It was quite a sight to see … so I did, close up. I liked what I saw and so will discerning customers.
Sure, one could say I’m a tad biased because Radical Firearms is right here in the lone star state, but my integrity is not so easily bought (not for sale at all, actually). Not long ago, I finally had the opportunity to work with a Radical Firearms RF-15 .223 Wylde. While this RF-15 lacked the Pot O’ Gold-finished components, it did come standard with a polished stainless steel barrel! Of course, while the bling was a nice touch, this RF-15 was definitely more about the quality it was built. Even more important is part of an even better story that talks about the company standing behind it.
Founded in 2013, in Stafford, Texas, just outside of Houston, Radical Firearms is small, family-oriented business with a pension for raising standards of quality while challenging competitors to meet the needs of discerning cost-conscious consumers. It’s a quality I find especially considerate, especially while our economy remains fragile at best. As an unapologetic patriot and Marine Corps veteran, Radical Firearms pro-veteran staffing (around 25 percent of the company’s 77 employees) and continued HR focus on welcoming more into the family also resonate with me. If those flag-waving, uncompromising character traits aren’t enough to make you think long and hard about what Radical Firearms has accomplished in a short 3-year span, consider that Radical Firearms has donated over 500 Blue Line Rifles to law enforcement!
Veterans, a thin blue line, great pricing and the genuine character Radical Firearms both collectively and individually. At least with those employees I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, the task I was given was: “Please spend some time with our RF-15 and let us know what you think. Be honest.” What more could I ask for? Free reign over a Radical Firearms RF-15 and a platform upon which to share my thoughts — good, bad or somewhere in the middle. Let’s take a look.
The Walk-Around: Radical Firearms RF-15 .223 Wylde
Aesthetically, from butt to brake, Radical Firearms’ RF-15 modern sporting rifle certainly looks the part, with an aggressive full-length Picatinny rail, MBA-1 adjustable stock, Ergo SureGrip rubberized pistol grip, black anodized finish and polished 416R stainless steel barrel. The Mil-Spec safety lever, BCM Mod-3 Charging Handle and billet dimpled bolt-catch, magazine release and forward assist only add to the feeling that there is more than meets the eye. One additional note on looks is that while the rich contrast between premium black anodizing and polished stainless steel might be eye candy for me, consumers seem to be flocking toward this trend in droves, as evidenced by MSR offerings exhibited at the last couple of SHOT Shows.
One Of These Is Not Like The Others
Concerned with the feedback of their most valued customers — America’s law enforcement community — Radical Firearms chose to employ a low-profile .750 adjustable gas block and slim, skeletonized 15-inch FTR free-float handguard for lightweight carry and exceptional balance. LEOs also asked Radical Firearms to buck the norm and reverse their keymod pattern.
Their logic was simple, hard impacts in close quarters — i.e. walls, doorways, window frames, etc. — can cause accessories to shift to the back of standard keymod systems, allowing them to loosen or fall off, perhaps when they need them the most. Reversing the keymod pattern effectively eliminates this problem.
A Look Under The Hood
Let’s face it: a Corvette just wouldn’t fly with a 1.8L engine. While the Radical Firearms RF-15 .223 Wylde looks great, finicky competitive and recreational shooters and hunters expect performance to back it up. This RF-15 doesn’t disappoint. Like any quality firearm, fit, form and function matter.
While the industry has long been saturated by firearm builders engaging in little more than piecing together modular AR parts and branding the lower with a catchy brand name, Radical Firearms has been busy perfecting complete factory builds. Yes, you read right. Radical Firearms rifles and pistols are built from the ground up by passionate, precision-machining, detail-oriented Texans with a penchant for pulling the trigger and easily achieving sub-MOA results.
Heading up a hefty list of premium components, this RF-15 boasts a .223 Wylde chamber. It was designed by genius gunsmith Bill Wylde and is essentially a standard in high-level shooting competition, the .223 Wylde chamber truly optimizes ballistic performance and precision of both .556 NATO and .223 Remington ammunition, especially with competitor favorite 80-grain bullets, although my work was completed with Federal Gold Medal Sierra Match King 77-grain BTHP ammunition.
Radical Firearms capitalizes on the .223 Wylde chamber for 3-gun and other competition shooting with that polished stainless steel 1:7 twist match-grade barrel mentioned earlier, a crisp 3-pound CMC single-stage trigger and Fail Zero nickel-boron coated bolt carrier group, specifically designed for longer life and trouble-free operation, even in extreme competition and law enforcement environments.
Breathe, Relax, Aim, Squeeze
While the Radical Firearms RF-15 .223 Wylde seems to have all the right stuff, proof ultimately lies only in performance. Not only do your customers deserve a quality build, they deserve exceptional value, precision accuracy and a ridiculously reliable shooting experience. Radical Firearms, so far, has blessed me with over 1,000 bangs for the buck without a single misfeed.
Trigger pull was as I had hoped — short and remarkably crisp. The RF-15’s 3-pound CMC single-stage trigger felt lighter, but when tested was quite precise. While the RF-15 does not feature the popular M4 telescoping stock, I believe the Luth-AR MBA-1 provides a truly customized shooting experience with adjustable comb height and length of pull. The result was an exceedingly comfortable AR-platform shooting experience. More importantly, especially because the MBA-1 stock offers more adjustability than the M4 types, this setup truly offers one-size-fits-all shootability for youth and adults of most shapes, sizes and physical abilities. The adjustability works whether the rifle setup features fixed sights or a scope that has low, medium or high mounting.
After dialing in the Sightmark Core TX 1-4×24 Tactical Riflescope, I settled in behind the RF-15 and drilled a five-shot sub-MOA group — ¾ inches to be exact. Quite impressed with the RF-15’s precision, I shot another group and remained at sub-MOA. This is the advantage of a match-grade barrel with .223 Wylde chamber. I feel certain grouping could be maintained at .625 or better given the right shooter and conditions.
While the RF-15 .223 Wylde is exceptionally light, weighing in at about 6½ pounds, the black-anodized RF Zero Shift stainless steel muzzle brake does its job exceptionally well in redirecting energy to further reduce the negligible recoil we are already familiar with and settling back on target more quickly. Relying on my Marine Corps rifle qualification experiences, rapid-fire of 10 shots in 60 seconds (at 100 yards, not 200 or 300) resulted in a sub 2½-inch group, while unloading a full 30-round magazine in three minutes still resulted in a sub 3-inch grouping. It was impressive for a first run and shot placement improved dramatically, back to sub-MOA, when I settled back in for some relaxing slow fire.
Longer range shooting was also quite effective with the RF-15 .223 Wylde proving to be a MOA rifle, grouping 1¾ inches at 200 and sub-3 inches at 300. I shot out to 500 and hammered a 6×9 steel silhouette target consistently, even with rising temps and a light, varying cross-breeze; a pretty solid performance for a .223 Wylde with an 18-inch barrel, Sightmark Core TX 1-4×24 riflescope, the challenged eyes on an aging gun writer and typical longer range variables.
While I have seen even tighter grouping from precision .223 Wylde rifles, I have not seen this level of precision and reliability from an AR platform modern sporting rifle at the price point Radical Firearms makes it available. My assessment, as it relates to bang for the hard-earned buck and demanding competitive and recreational shooting enthusiasts, as well as security professionals and law enforcement, is that a rifle build of Radical Firearms quality, performance and reliability is going to be tough to beat.
Suggestions for improvements for the Radical Firearms RF-15 .223 Wylde are hard to come by, especially in terms of value and the premium AR-15 class shooting experience customers are sure to enjoy. Sure some customers may decide they want more — i.e. heavier match-grade bull barrels, carbon fiber-wrapped accessories and rails, custom finish, piston vs. gas impingement, an even better stock system perhaps with a monopod, etc. — but in reality, doing so might increase cost to $1,000 to $1,500 more, thus would cater to a much more niche target market.
For what it is, the RF-15 delivers amazing performance at a mid-range price point, perfect for shooters at all experience levels. It also includes a lifetime warranty. Given the opportunity to improve without much of a price variance, I would shop around for another stock system. While the Luth-AR MBA-1 stock is truly a great fit for the RF-15 and offers great adjustability, I would love to see even simpler one-handed adjustability on the fly and a bottom rail piece to accommodate a monopod. It’s something I believe promotes even better accuracy than the use of my trusty squeeze bag.