The face of war is ever changing, and so too are the challenges presented each time our fighting men step onto a new battlefield. Whether it’s the jungles of the Pacific or Vietnam, or the shimmering sands of a Middle Eastern desert, changes have to be made to equipment and logistics in order to effectively prosecute a campaign against the enemy.
One of the most recent equipment changes the United States Army has been working on is the new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS). Because of changing wartime environments, particularly more urban scenarios, the Army requested bids for a more compact sniper system in 7.62 x 51mm that would be better suited for setup and movement in urban locales. LWRC International took their cue from the ongoing RFP process, and developed their own concept for the Army’s vision.
New for this year, and currently named the C.S.A.S.S., LWRC’s interpretation of the compact sniper rifle project, is an amalgamation of some of the most advanced materials and best design features available on the market today. Though it may appear to simply be an AR on steroids, there’s a lot going on under the hood that makes the C.S.A.S.S. a world-class weapon. The initial run of 500 rifles will bear the C.S.A.S.S. designation, but afterward, the rifle will be named the R.E.P.R MK II.
“ … there’s a lot going on under the hood that makes the C.S.A.S.S. a world-class weapon.”
For a sniper rifle, accuracy is absolutely critical. To achieve a high degree of accuracy with a semi-automatic rifle built on a compact platform is an even greater challenge than usual. The U.S. Army’s M110 CSASS solicitation (W15QKN-12-X-F026) calls for an accuracy specification of an average mean radius of .60 inches at 100 meters.
LWRC’s answer to that accuracy challenge is their heavy, cold-hammer-forged barrel with NiCorr treatment and spiral fluting—with which sub-MOA performance is guaranteed. The fluting is worked into the barrel to help with faster cooling. The barrel has a right-handed twist rate of 1:10 inches. The sample version had the 16.1-inch barrel, but there are versions with 12.4-inch and 20-inch barrels, as well.
To maximize reliability and diminish blowback, LWRC developed a short-stroke gas-piston system that has an adjustable 20-position gas block for fine tuning the weapon for suppressed fire, or to optimize it for different types of ammunition.
As much attention has been paid to the exterior of LWRC’s offering as has been paid to the inner workings. For easier user operation, all controls are ambidextrous, including the safety, bolt release and the magazine release. In addition, an ambidextrous AR-style charging handle is in place.
These features not only make the rifle intuitive for left-handed operators to use, but they also make it easier to operate the rifle when having to switch from one shoulder to the other to fire from around cover.
The upper receiver is a Monoforge construction with an integrated Picatinny rail base. Both the lower and upper receivers are built with aerospace-grade 7075 aluminum. The forward rail system is modular, and the top rail can be removed to access the gas block and returned to 100-percent zero without the use of tools. Other finishing touches include a Geissele SSA-E two-stage trigger, LWRC’s own backup Skirmish Sights and a Magpul MOE+ grip. To meet the standard of making this a compact rifle for work in urban environments, the T&E rifle received for this review was fitted with a Magpul UBR buttstock. The 20-inch variant wears Magpul’s PRS (Precision Rifle Stock) instead.
THE PROVING GROUND
“Thanks to the heavy barrel and the gas-piston system, the compact .308 was a very soft shooter.”
There were some high expectations about the performance of the C.S.A.S.S. once it got on the field, and there was a lot of faith, as well. Overall, that faith was vindicated, and good times were had by all.
The course of the C.S.A.S.S. trials extended over several range sessions, with the first one focusing on trying the weapon, out of the box, with the Skirmish Sights, like a regular battle rifle, to test for reliability. Shooting the C.S.A.S.S. this way was brilliant. Thought not quite as lofty as most AR’s, the rifle was still very manageable, and easy to move with, while shooting.
Saving the high-end stuff for the long-range tests, a supply of 147-grain Lake City XM80 and PMC rounds were used for the first go-around, and there was very little recoil. Thanks to the heavy barrel and the gas-piston system, the compact .308 was a very soft shooter. The sights were easy to adjust and use, and proved to be very effective. The whole experience was quickly becoming addictive.
After the first play session was over, it was time to focus on more serious matters (since it’s a sniper rifle), and that was the accuracy testing, which was conducted during three range sessions. SIG Sauer Elite Performance Ammunition and Black Hills Ammunition provided some of their best loads for the review, so once again, expectations were high.
Black Hills supplied their 168- and 175-grain Tipped MatchKing loads, while SIG offered up their 168-grain Match round, which uses the standard Sierra MatchKing bullet. To balance things out, I also coughed up some 175-grain Federal Gold Medal Match so there would be two samples of each weight.
I quickly found an issue with the 175-grain Tipped MatchKing bullets. The length of this round created an issue with it being first chambered, and cycled on subsequent shots. There were several occasions when the bolt would not fully close or follow-up rounds would jam.
Also, after ejecting several cartridges that had not chambered properly, parts of the tips had apparently broken off in the process—most at a diagonal angle.
A little research was done after that session, yielding some anecdotal reports of this occurring with gas guns (as opposed to bolt actions); it has to do with the 175-grain Tipped MatchKing bullet.
This isn’t an indictment of the TMK bullet itself, since it has an amazing reputation among those that shoot bolt-action rifles. Neither is it the rifle’s issue, either, since LWRC can’t control the tolerances of all the hundreds of loads available for .308 rifles on the market. It’s just one of those things you can’t control, so you move along.
It was smooth sailing going forward. During the next two range sessions, eight five-shot groups were fired with each of the remaining loads, and the results were extremely satisfying. In my hands, the C.S.A.S.S. seemed to prefer the lighter loads more than the 175-grain Federal Gold Medal Match. Even so, the Federal load still met the accuracy specification with room to spare. The best group from that round was 0.87 inches.
The real stars of the exercise were the 168-grain Tipped MatchKing from Black Hills and the 168-grain Match round from Sig Sauer. Consistent sub-MOA groups were easily obtained and the contest was extremely close between these two loads. The Tipped MatchKing’s best group was 0.44 inches while SIG’s standard MatchKing rounds hit the mark with a group of just 0.56 inches.
Considering the 100-yard distance, the difference of 0.13 inches is essentially nothing. That minute difference could just as easily be the shooter, as it is the ammunition—especially in my case, as I make no claims to being a superlative rifleman.
Either way, both rounds delivered outstanding accuracy, and with the group from the 175-grain Federal Premium load, they more than established the bona fides for the LWRC C.S.A.S.S.
NOTES: Bullet weight measured in grains; velocity is average of five shots, in fps, measured 10 feet from muzzle; accuracy is in inches for the best of eight five-shot group at 100 yards.
It’s easy to declare that LWRC has a winner with their new C.S.A.S.S. rifle. The weapon’s accuracy was stunning, and reliability was 100 percent—save that one specific type of ammunition.
Hundreds of rounds of five other brands and various weights were spent through the C.S.A.S.S. without a single malfunction, including the Black Hills 168-grain Tipped MatchKing loads, which provided an outstanding 100-yard group.
In true LWRC style, the C.S.A.S.S. is a phenomenal blend of features and functionality. Were it a symphony, it would be the company’s grand opus. It offers the user the latest in materials technology with a state-of-the-art gas-piston system that is highly tunable for various loads and for suppressed fire as well.
The REPR MK II C.S.A.S.S. delivers surgical accuracy with the powerful 7.62 x 51mm round, and it offers little in the way of recoil. Because of its compact form factor, it can change hats from sniper rifle to battle rifle in the blink of an eye.
It is not only a bridge between two modes of combat, it’s also a bridge for the AR user wanting to step up to a significantly enhanced platform, with which they are already familiar without a steep learning curve. If a high-end, AR-style rifle of this quality has been a long-term goal, keep one thing in mind: Bridges are built to be crossed.
LWRC REPR MK II Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (C.S.A.S.S.)
- Chambering: 7.62 x 51mm
- Magazine: Magpul 20-round
- Overall Length: 37.5 to 41 inches
- Weight: 8.8 pounds
- Stock: Magpul UBR 2 (in next run)
- Sights: LWRC Backup Skirmish Sights
- Muzzle Thread: 0.6 x 24
- Barrel Length: 16.1 inches
- Barrel Profile: Heavy
- Rifling: 1:10 RH
- Finish: Hard-coat black anodized
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the November-December 2016 print issue of World of Firepower Magazine.