InRange TV’s Review of The Masterpiece Arms MPAR-556

Ian and Karl have put another rifle through its paces over at InRange TV; this time a Masterpiece Arms MPAR-556. The MPAR-556 is based on the Leader T2 rifle, an Australian design by British designer Charles St. George. Like the Leader, it uses a large amount of stampings, as well as an AR-18-derived bolt carrier and gas system, with St. George’s patented triangular bolt head. First, Ian, Karl, and several other competitors ran the MPAR-556 through their local 2-gun course (differing from 3-gun in that it excludes shotguns). The video of the rifle’s performance is available on

Following up on that, they posted a complete video review of their experiences with the MPAR-556. Unfortunately, their experiences were not highly positive.

Forgotten Weapons has done overviews of the original Leader rifle before, including running it through the same event, though a different course of fire, two years ago:

Ian also posted this field strip and reassembly video a year before that:

And finally, back in SHOT 2012, Ian interviewed Charles St. George:


Interestingly, while the MPAR-556 performed much more poorly than the original Leader T2 rifle, both suffered from lost e-clips on the exact same fire control pin. In light of this, perhaps a different fire control pin retaining method would be advisable.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • tts

    Shame about the problems with the rifle but nothing really looks like a show stopper. Like Karl said if they can fix the issues it looks like it’d be fine gun given how well the Aussie rifle performed.

    Kinda wish MPA would’ve used a plastic rather than steel lower. Would’ve helped significantly with the weight of the gun and made it somewhat cheaper to mass produce but probably would’ve made the balance issue worse. That ‘high speed’ mall ninja forearm gots to go.

    • Dracon1201

      I also wish the MPA had kept the reciprocating charging handle. Those are nice and less complex. The forearm actually kept me from buying one of the MPAs.

      • UnrepentantLib

        There’s just something about that forearm that is jarring to the eye.

        • dave

          +1 I also considered one at one time. The 1/8″ twist ultimately threw me, but that handguard is pretty atrocious

      • The Leader did not have a reciprocating charging handle.

      • Ben

        Seconded. The forearm is terrible in design and execution, and that alone would keep me from buying the gun due to the impossibility of replacing it. Not like a bad AR15 forearm that can be replaced in 30 seconds. Having to remove it and the muzzle device to service the piston is unacceptable.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    The lengths people especially in the US will go to not “just buy an AR-15” is pretty amazing. Apparently there is a market for anything.

    You know, I really hate the modularity, the unrivaled support, the low cost and weight, the high reliability, and the practicality of the AR-15. If only there was a less proven and arbitrarily put together rifle from a single mfg that I could trade everything good about the AR-15 instead to have “something else”. That seems like a great idea.

    • Karl – InRangeTV

      The AR15 is a phenomenal rifle when properly assembled from quality components. You’re correct on all your points…except…

      Many people have an interest in firearms that doesn’t end with the AR15 and thus new (or brought back old) designs have a place in the market place.

      The AR15 should not be the alpha and omega of carbines, products and all future development, in my opinion.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        The AR15 should not be the alpha and omega of carbines

        Like it or not. It kind of is.

        Yea, develop new things, like the SCAR or ACR, but those even with the massive budgets in them don’t significantly improve upon the AR-15. So now take a company with a much smaller budget and push out a niche carbine?

        No matter how poor you think you are – You likely have more money than time. Life is too short to spend messing around with things like this, imo of course.

        Definitely keep trying, maybe something will take. But LOL if anyone thinks this is it. This is a price-point non-AR, I know exactly the target customer so let’s not pretend that we’re holding back progress by just using an AR instead.

        • Phil Hsueh

          I don’t think that they’re necessarily looking to replace the AR nor are buyers either, I think that in the case of buyers they’re just looking for something different to add to their collection instead of just another AR variant. If ARs are your thing and you personally are happy with collecting as many different ARs as you can that’s fine but not everybody out there is like that and don’t want more than one or two of any given type of gun in their collection.

          • JumpIf NotZero

            just looking for something different to add to their collection

            happy with collecting as many different ARs as you can

            in their collection.

            Yea… I see the disconnect between us.

    • Vhyrus

      Houston, we have reached fanboy status. I repeat: fanboy is go.

      • Ethan

        HateIfNotMyIdea says its garbage, so that’s good enough for me..

        • JumpIf NotZero

          lol, I’m going to use that

    • ozzallos .

      Or they like piston setups more than AR DI. Which the MPAR is. Go back to sleep.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        That 2008 marketing still going strong 😀

      • Zachary marrs

        DI ar?

        Do you have a link to where i can buy one?

        Unless, of course, you have no clue how ar 15’s and their internal pistons work

    • Ethan

      Thank you for opening my eyes. You’re right, we should never look for anything else. I will never entertain these deviant ideas again.

      You have bashed the last 5 products you’ve posted on and demeaned their users. Maybe you just need to lighten up?

      • JumpIf NotZero

        The irony is that judging by your post history, you’re the type of person to buy into this, then years later “just get an AR”, or never learn any lesson either way.

        • Ethan

          You know me so well. Once again, thank you for enlightening me. I bow before your superior insight into my inner being. Clearly you know what’s best for all of us.

          I know you don’t like this, but people are allowed to be different from you. They’re even allowed to have entirely different priorities, appreciate different things at different times for different reasons….

          ..And that’s really ok.

          I’m sorry if your world is too small to tolerate that.

        • zac

          Speaking of post history, “cult of one,” much?

          *adds next to Lance in the list

      • Sadler

        It’s not like his criticisms are wrong, though. He’s usually spot on with his comments, and he’s shown that he has a lot of knowledge regarding modern firearms.

        And the only thing that this particular rifle brings to the table that’s arguably better than the AR15 is the triangular bolt. But aside from that, why not just buy an AR15? As it stands, there’s no other platform that does everything the AR15/10 does, and does it just as well.

        • Ethan

          Agreed – I certainly wouldn’t take this over an AR, but much like AR/AK arguments, these two guns are not mutually exclusive. There’s no purpose in hating something just because its different .

          This is how progress is made – Someone tries something different, then someone else, then someone else, and eventually a concept is born that catches on, and permanent progress is made in that weapon class.

          That’s the nature of innovation – small steps, some successful, some not, but gradually the industry standard design changes and improves.

    • I agree with what you’re saying, but I don’t really agree with your tone. What’s wrong with having more variety?

      • CommonSense23

        They are lots of reasons why having to much variety is a bad thing. It forces people to invest in dead end products they bring to the table, it overall declines quality of all competing products, and it slows down revolutionary ideas.

        • JumpIf NotZero


          Crowd the market with crap, and then be shocked at all the crap on the market.

          • noguncontrol

            if it is easier to clean or maintain than the ar-15, and doesnt have to be run wet, then it is already better than the ar-15. the same is true of all other alternatives to the ar-15. hell, just the all steel construction means it is more durable than the ar-15, you dont have to baby it as much, with downside being weight. some people dont care about modularity. the only problem i see with this rifle is the reliability , cost and weight.

          • Materials selection is not the only factor in durability, mate.

          • CommonSense23

            How hard is it to clean a AR-15 or maintain one. And if you buy a quality AR15 and run it bone dry, it will go a thousand rounds easy, most will make it to two thousand.

          • Phil Hsueh

            I think that he market will be the ultimate arbitrator of whether or not this design is total crap or not, if it’s crap then it won’t sell and will fade away into history as another failed design, if, however, it turns out that there is something to this design then it will most likely sell.

        • Right, but it certainly sounds like JINZ is going quite a bit further than that, no?

          • CommonSense23

            No, he is honestly on the money. This isn’t a bullpup, or trying something new even if it doesn’t work like the Vector. The vast majority of people who complain about the AR are wanting something that is different just for being different, not cause it works better. I mean look at how much love the SCAR gets from people who have never used it. It looks absolutely awesome and nothing like your AR. Does it do anything better, nope. Or how much people talked about the ACR.

          • I am not defending the MPAR’s failings. JINZ made a broader statement than that.

          • CommonSense23

            The way I read it makes me think his statement was about buying something not based off its performance but it being a special snowflake. Other people have chimed in kinda proving his point.
            I understand people might have just want to buy a gun just because and they want something new. Hell I have a completely irrational love of the M14. But let’s label things as such and just generally bring a honest opinion of what the purpose of the gun is.

          • Ethan

            The point is that people are INNOVATING, not whether or not they’re product is likely to succeed. You can’t demean someone for dreaming beyond what is currently available, even if that dream isn’t realized by the general populace.
            If an exponential leap in technology is the minimum standard for any new idea we’d all still be running around with sharpened sticks..

          • CommonSense23

            There is nothing innovative here. That’s my point. This doesn’t bring us better performance, or even show us a path is currently a dead end, or how to get better production processes. This is a gun that was designed with being cheap as its sole function.
            When you flood the market with items like this it overall slows down innovation, and hurts the quality of everything else.

          • Ethan

            Of course there is. Someone makes it cheap, the next person makes it cheap and reliable, the next person makes it reliable and better performing and so on and so on..

            That’s how most of the weapon systems we have today were made – they originated as a contract won by the lowest bidder and evolved from there.

            Look I’m not a big fan of this platform, but it extremely short sighted to say that it doesn’t warrant interest. Change happens incrementally, and with many failed experiments. There is no shame in that.

      • Sadler

        Not all variety is good. Recycling a design in a poor manner, like this MPAR, is not good variety.

        • That’s clearly true, but does that really justify a statement like JINZ’s?

    • Jump, here’s what I take issue with here, as clearly as I can say it:

      The AR-15 (specifically one of good make – at this point, I think folks know which ones those are) is the rifle I would recommend to a new shooter looking to get into the black rifle market. It is further one of the finest military rifles I know of, and is easily one of the most well-understood.


      This does not mean that alternatives should be discouraged. I am critical of would-be AR-15-killer designs as much as you are (ask Faxon Firearms, if you don’t believe me), but they should be encouraged to participate and market their designs, not discouraged as your comment seems to be designed to do.

      If the industry participates, and throws the best its got against the AR-15 in fair competition, and the AR-15 stays on top, then it’s proven to be the best. If the industry does so, and beats the AR-15 in fair competition, then the AR-15 will have been surpassed, and rightly so.

      So what’s wrong with wanting something different?

      • Phil Hsueh

        Totally agree. I’d also like to add that if nobody bothers trying to come up with something new to compete against the AR then we’ll never get anything that will. If enough AR alternatives come out and/or do well enough on the market then eventually other manufacturers will take note and start to make this new AR alternative and thus bringing down the prices or come up with their own design because they now realize that the market will (now) support something whose designation doesn’t start with an A and end in either an R or a K.

    • n0truscotsman

      Its tough to venture outside the AR realm. Its even tougher now since the AR holds all the good cards.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        I realize now where the hate directed at my comments comes from.

        “firearm-purchasers” don’t like just buying the default. Cheap ones do the same but get mad when nom-default options cost a lot. This the defense for a gun that comes from a budget mfg that brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Most serious people that want a tool, the right tool, will just get an AR. People who get caught up in marketing don’t like that apparently.

        Case in point, any time there is a “new” AR gun or mfg, it gets railed here. Any time there is a 2k+ gun it gets railed. But offer up a cheap non-AR and it gets love despite being clearly inferior overall.

  • Panfried

    While I think the MPAR 556 needs some work (Those handguards are DISGUSTING), It’s nice to see something that ISN’T another ar15. And before somebody says I don’t like the ar15, it’s a quality, reliable, modular system that works. I would know. I have one and I love it, and there are few other products that hold a candle to it at its price point. But sometimes it’s nice to have “something a little different” and there’s no reason to talk down to anybody who thinks that way. When I see all the keymods and quadrails and magpul furniture it’s almost as if that custom feel that the ar15 had is gone. Everything went so custom it went cookie-cutter. It’s almost at the point where if you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to make your AR15 all “special snowflake” all you’d need to do is get an A2 configured rifle with “GI” furniture. Some people just want a rifle that isn’t what they already have, or what everybody else already has, and it’s not like they’re going to war with it or anything.

    • Panfried

      And to tack on some wishful thinking, I’d love if armalite brought back the ar180b. With improvements, of course like an integrated top rail and the option for a metal lower reciever. I wonder if armalite would make any money off it.

      • fmike15

        Nodak Spud make a nice aluminum lower for the AR 180 and the “B” model. I’ve been keeping my eye out for a “B” model because of this.

        • Panfried

          I am aware of it and should I get one that was to be my first accessory for it. I’m still kicking myself because I hesitated and let a 180b slip through my fingers at a local gun store, thinking it’d still be there. It’d just be nice to see new ones come off the factory. I feel like armalite is just riding off of their name and their AR15s don’t really do anything that BCMs or PSAs do better. (At less cost, even.)

          I think they’d have a neat little something going on if they released it again. Its a piston .556 under $800, plus it might bring in the aforementioned “Not an AR15” crowd. I like my AR, but if they did that, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. Hell, I’d almost buy two.

  • Ian McCollum

    For the record, Karl and I had a polite and productive phone call today with Phil Cashin, President of MPA. He is going to address the problems we had, and provide an improved rifle for followup. We are looking forward to seeing the fixes and improvements – we are genuinely eager to see this rifle on the market in a fully functional form.

    • UnrepentantLib

      Thank you for that. I’d love to see them succeed with this.

    • WFA

      Perhaps Karl should drop Charles a line and get a few tips from the original designer.

    • adam

      There customer service in my experience has been excellent and fast.

  • Peter Nokeo

    Too bad Masterpiece didn’t outright copy the Leader T2 and save themselves the trouble

    • mikee

      Agreed – with some technical modifications and refinements, the Leader could have been an excellent concept taking over from where the AR 18 left off!

  • mikee

    Just another piece of junk! Performs worse than the original Leader! Circlips again – you gotta be joking!!!

    • Ethan

      Agreed. You must build us a better one mikee. Get on that.

      • mikee

        Yes I would, but the Australian government banned them in 1996. The basic design concept is sound. From my experience the original Leaders functioned well until the circlips kept disappearing into the weeds! Replace the circlips with H&K type plunger pins would help the original leaders immensely to start with.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Many many moons ago “Gun Tests” Magazine called the base rifle a menace to the operator. Geoff Who figgers ‘nuf ‘sed.

  • Tassiebush

    Our govt killed off this gun’s previous manufacturer Australian Automatic Arms so I’m glad to see them being made again.I wish the new manufacturer the best of luck with the teething problems. It’s rare for anything to be flawless in the first instance.

  • MasterBlobby .

    “Australian design by British designer”. Would that not make it a British design?

    • He was an Australian resident at the time, born in Britain.

  • UCSPanther

    I think one of these without the quad rails would look like a 1970s era AR18…

  • n0truscotsman

    I like that there are more non-AR rifles out there, but, at the same time, I consider few of them “serious fighting rifles” ™. I personally wouldn’t recommend anything else but a SFR, since money and time are both finite things. But things like this are good for curiosity.
    Dont expect something like this to be as reliable as a big name AR15 or AK. Not enough maturity. Time will perhaps tell. It is still the duty of the customer, just like it always has been, to research and ask somebody how knows.

  • Vitor

    “hey, see this old cool gun, lets make it much heavier and less reliable”.

    • scw

      Unfortunately this happens every day. I have lost count of how many of my clients while try to keep things simple by using an existing design, but end up “improving” it by making small changes. Almost always the “updated” design is inferior.

  • Ian McCollum

    It’s a copy of the Bushmaster M17, which was designed by the same guy as the Leader – Charles St. George.