DPMS Panther LR-260 AR-15 ReviewBy Jacob Gottfredson
©Copyright 2009, Precision Shooting Magazine
I recently evaluated an DPMS LR .260 AR. The rifle was well built, functioned flawlessly, and was superbly accurate, taking my bolt action sniper rifles to task. The rifle is relatively heavy, approximating 11 pounds. To meet the rising tide of hunters taking to the field with AR’s, Randy Luth downsized the .260 to a hunting version. For whitetails and similar sized soft-skinned animals, Randy has hit the mark.
The more than 3 pound difference between the LR-260 (rear) and the new LR-260L are the shorter, lighter barrel, carbon fiber handguard, and the skeletonized stock.
The popularity of the .260 is rising among competitors in several genres. The sleek 142 grain Sierra MatchKing and 139 grain Lapua Scenar bullets with ballistic coefficients near and above the .6 mark provide an edge to long range shooters. Premium hunting bullets now on the market can move downrange with much the same characteristics, or smaller bullets can provide increased velocity at shorter ranges.
The .260 Remington cartridge provides the shooter with mild recoil and relatively long barrel life. The shorter barrel in the .260 DPMS hunting version does sacrifice velocity, but it is not meant as a long-range rifle. For example, my sniper rifle with a 25" barrel pushes 139 to 142 grain bullets at 2870 fps. The .260 LR AR with a 24" barrel reduces that to about 2750. The hunter version with an 18" barrel slows the bullet to about 2550. For comparative purposes, all were shot and chronographed using the same load of 45.3 grains of H4831sc (a mild load) and 139 grain Lapua Scenar bullets. If one believes that only 1000 ft-lbs of energy is required for whitetail deer, the 260 Remington in the short barreled AR is good to 575 yards. And in the right hands, it performs admirably at long range. A friend, Andrew Smith, took the rifle to one of my 11" wide x 22" tall steel LaRue targets at 900 yards on a recent deer hunt, hitting it time after time until I stopped him. I had only 5 rounds left for the hunt. A few hours later we were both cleaning deer we had taken with the rifle.
Groups with the Hunter version ran about 1.2" with factory ammo. I tried my sniper rifle handloads and it did not like that either. While my sniper rifle load proved well tuned for the larger LR-260, I tried to increase the powder to tune the smaller rifle to get a bit more velocity, but going down hit the node I was looking for. Had DPMS sent two different rifles just like these, the opposite might have been true. It is a matter of barrel harmonics and several other factors. The rifles functioned flawlessly with all loads tested.
Reducing the .308 to 6.5 caliber lets the .260 cartridge fit standard .308 magazines and receivers. Thus one only need rebarrel their .308 bolt rifle to take advantage of the .260’s flatter trajectory (sniper competitors call it a wind cheater) and less recoil. The DPMS rifles shooting the .308 and 260 Remington size cartridges have a beefed up receiver. However, 6061-T6 aluminum has been used to further reduce weight.
The Hunter rifle was fitted with a Custom Miculek Compensator. This reduced recoil as well as allowed the rifle to be kept on target though recoil. As supplied, the carbon fiber stock has a quick release sling attachment. That was easily removed and a Harris bipod installed. Note that the barrel is free floated.
The .260 DPMS AR Hunter version has a carbon fiber hand-guard, shorter barrel, and a skeletonized stock, reducing weight from 11.3 pounds in the LR version to 7.9 pounds in the hunter. Factory ammo grouped in the 1 to 1.5 inch area, about the same as the .260 LR version did with factory ammo. I had tried my handloads that I use in my GA Precision sniper rifle in the LR version, and they shot around .4" for 5 round groups. Thinking that I might have the same luck with the .260 hunting version, I tried them in it as well. My luck ran out. They grouped better than the factory ammo, but a bit more tuning was in order. I spent a time trying different amounts of powder in an effort to tune the hunter. While the LR version liked 45.3 grains of H4831sc, same as the bolt rifle, I wanted a bit more velocity out of the hunter and so tried going up, looking for a node at a hotter powder load. I did not find it, so started going down. It was there that I found the load I was looking for. The first three shots were in the same hole with the 4th a bit to the left and the 5th a bit to the right. I loaded up more at that powder setting and the 260 Hunter hit its stride.
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