Gun Review: Masterpiece Arms MPAR 556 Gen 2

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Remember the Australian Leader Dynamics T2? It is okay if you don’t, as very few made it here to the USA, but thanks to people like Ian McCollum some are at least aware of it nowadays.

The Leader was designed and produced by Charles St. George in New South Wales, Australia for his firm Leader Dynamics. Eventually the firm was sold and an outfit called Australian Automatic Arms was formed and began manufacturing firearms based on the T2 in Tasmania, Australia. Having spent a significant amount of time on the island of Tasmania, I connected with one of our frequent readers here who posts under the name “tassiebush” and he has an interest in these. His words:

“I’ve seen two first hand. One when the police had it at their exhibit at a gun show. The spoil sport policeman wouldn’t let me touch it or open it up or pull open the bolt 🙁 There was also a dealer (now ex dealer) who used to have one on his back shelf. It was category D which means it’s only available to professional pest controller who can explain exactly why they need one over all other existing options and as soon as they stop that job they must sell or dispose of it.
A friend who I’ll be seeing tomorrow saw a 9mm parabellum prototype being used at the range his dad went to when he was a kid.”

Tasmania truly is the most spectacular place I have ever been to, and if I had Australian citizenship and a log cabin somewhere on the western part of the island, nobody would ever hear from me again!

So what does all this have to do with the MPAR 556? Well the MPAR shares a lot in common with Mr. Charles St. George’s T2 rifle design. It shares the form of the rifle and his patented triangular bolt design.

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The carrier and bolt come out easy and the rifle is very simple to take down and clean:

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The rifle also has an adjustable gas system:

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So how does she shoot?

Well I was certainly eager to find out.

Patrick R. and I took the MPAR and several loaded mags out on a cold overcast day ready to see what this stamped wonder gun could do:

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The gun uses a standard AR trigger and controls, and is nice and easy to operate. I fired the gun a few times to find the lowest gas setting on which it would run reliably (like you would on an FAL):

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After this the gun chugged along great and devoured magazine after magazine!

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Nailing steel and putting rounds where I wanted them to go was easy and I must say that I was impressed with the MPAR.

It was then Patrick’s turn to run the gun, and he shared my favorable opinion:

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All in all we both enjoyed shooting this rifle.

As for the ole’ bullet points:

The Good:

  • Street price of $900
  • It uses many AR15 components (customize as you see fit)
  • Adjustable gas system
  • Reliable as a toaster
  • Great muzzle brake
  • Left side charging
  • AR style controls
  • Uses AR mags
  • Holds sub 2 inch groups at 100 yards with plinking ammo and 4x magnification.

The Bad:

  • The stock has a bit of wobble

The Ugly:

  • The handguard is comically large, and unnecessarily so

 

For $900, I consider this a winner, especially for people who have “AR fatigue”. AR substitutes usually run $1,500 and up, Masterpiece Arms has managed to produce a great stand-in for a great price!



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • SGT Fish

    it is worth it to watch Ian and Karl’s video review and test on FULL30. he really found some serious flaws in the design

    • Nick Pacific

      No kidding. There is a dramatic difference in the conclusions of these two reviews.

    • Dracon1201

      Aye, I think that needs to be discussed before we go any further.

    • Tassiebush

      I do recall Ian and Karl offered constructive feedback to masterpiece arms on what needed to improve. They may well have acted on it? Sounds like the muzzle break is better and no mention of those pins coming loose. Feeds reliably too now so perhaps that hammer was made heavier too? I’ll probably never get to handle one but I’m very glad they are back in production.

      • MPWS

        Yeah, they seem to picked it up. Keeping in mind that the “test” in this article was apparently just limited one.

  • anon

    In Ian’s video there was having a lot of issues. Did you experience anything similar?

    • I did not. Gun ran great.

      • Tassiebush

        Great to hear that they seem to have solved it’s quirks. I really want to see it succeed!

        • Thanks for the snippet in the article!

      • patrickiv

        Was this the same gen that Ian ran?

        • Probably not. It looked brand new.

        • Looks like they were both Gen IIs. Whether they were exactly the same, I’m not sure.

  • I’m surprised that “heavy” didn’t make it into the cons. It’s not a beast, but it’s pretty heavy compared to some of the alternatives.

    Very much agree that MPA needs a slim handguard for this thing, even if means it doesn’t match up with the receiver quite as well.

    Still, good effort for $900, and the cheapest you’ll find a modernized AR-180.

    • MPWS

      How heavy is ‘heavy’? Eight pounds? I consider 7.5 and around to be a standard.

      • 7lbs is the cut-off for me. Modern polymer rifles can generally keep it under that these days. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s noticeable.

        • M

          It doesn’t even have to be “modern”. The AKM is actually a pretty light rifle weighing in under 7 lbs.

          • noguncontrol

            akm is 8 pounds, 7 pounds is the aks-74

    • The weight didn’t really bother me.

      • Ian McCollum

        Our issue wasn’t really the weight, but the balance. Compared to a T2, its really front-heavy.

        • Anon. E Maus

          Have you guys heard back from MPA yet? I really love the idea of the Leader T2, it’s brilliantly cheap and easy to make (the same reasons I love open-bolt submachineguns), so a modernized variant makes perfect sense for the American market.

          I really want MPA to work out the kinks on their version, because man, there’s not enough relatives to the AR-18 in the US.

          The tri-lug bolt is one of my favorite features on these things, because it looks like it would be fast and simple to machine (not to talk about cost effective), while still being a solid and robust lockup.

          • Ian McCollum

            No, we have not. Frankly, we are doubtful that we ever will. Having spoken to a bunch of other owners, it is clear that MPA knew about several of the common problems and decided not to make even very simple changes to address them (such as using a solid extractor pin instead of a roll pin). From our discussion with them, it is also clear that they have no intention of producing a lightweight fore-end either.

  • hikerguy

    I am the opposite of you rightys…I wish the charging handle were a little more lefty friendly. Other than that I think it’s a pretty cool firearm. The price is right too.

  • MR

    Masterpiece Arms…the company that makes the MAC clones? I’ll probably take a look if any of the LGS’s get any in stock, don’t know that I’d make a special effort.

    • noguncontrol

      check out their new plastic lowers.

  • echelon

    Glad that TFB somewhat vindicated the MPAR. I commented on another article and suggested that a person with “AR fatigue” give the MPAR a shot and the TFB author shot me down because they had issues with their gen 1 MPAR or at least another group of people did.

    My gen 1 MPAR had a street price of $700 and yes, it’s front heavy and not lefty friendly, which I am, it is still a neat and relatively cheap alternative to an AR or AK without getting into the $1.5-2k range for a Tavor, SCAR, ACR, etc.

    And I’ve had none of the issues that the others did with my gen 1 FWIW.

    • killa A dog

      I also have a gen1 that has woked flawlessly

  • Joe Danger

    As someone who saw the InRange TV review, I’d really like to see pictures of the hammer and some video of the bolt under thumb pressure to see if the issues have been resolved. Seeing such a fairly positive review that doesn’t address ANY of the issues brought up by Ian and Karl seems a bit odd and gives me a lot of pause.

    • I wanted to evaluate the rifle without any prejudice or pre-existing notions. As such, I have not watched Ian’s video as I knew I would be receiving this rifle to test it months before his video was released. I wanted my review to be my own but I will make an effort to watch his video now.

      • Joe Danger

        That makes sense, but it should’ve been communicated clearly in the opening of the review so we’d have the context in which you reviewed the rifle. For us readers, it’s hard to judge when MPA got with Ian and Karl for their feedback and when you might’ve gotten the rifle, so saying things like that gives us more information to make better judgments on the rifle.

        I would also be interested in seeing a follow up article or even an addendum on this one if/when you find out if the rifle you received was a post-InRange model.

        • It’s possible Ian and Karl got a bad apple. That’s not unusual when you have a new production item.

          In theory, it shouldn’t be hard to get this design to work well, so if that proves to be true I wouldn’t be surprised. The hard part will be maintaining quality while meeting a price point.

          • Karl-InRangeTV

            InRangeTV has been relatively flooded with people having problems with their MPAR guns similar to what we experienced but we’ve been quiet about it in the interest of trying to give MPA the benefit of the doubt and time to do something about it.

            So far they have not contacted us further regarding a second review or another gun with the issues we found addressed.

  • MPWS

    Good article Alex.

    I share your opinion that the hand-guard is bit cheesy (referring to so many holes like in cheese) but you have to do compromise when “guarding your hand”. If slimmer you may feel the heat.

    In Ian’s report there was mention of light tap due to small mass of hammer. Is the firing mech actually direct transfer from AR? I believe not.

    Other than that, the action is slick – well, St.George had done his homework.

  • MPWS

    BTW, how would you compare it against Remington (or Freedom arms, for that matter) ACR? As you say, this seem to have huge advantage in price, for one thing. But there might be more……

    • Patrick R.

      I think I would rather have the ACR, but for the money I would go with the MPAR without hesitation.

  • Thank you for the kind words and the constructive criticism. I genuinely appreciate it.
    Ian seriously does a great job but has more connections and a larger budget than I do. The way we do things here is not like a magazine. Think of each individual writer as a cell within a larger organization: we are each limited by our own time and resources. That said we all have full-time jobs and it is hard to compete with organizations and people who are able to do this for a living.
    One thing I can promise you is that I will never declare an “unboxing” as a review!

  • Esh325

    It’s certainly an interesting rifle for somebody who wants an AR15 alternative that isn’t very expensive. That video on full30 though makes me question whether it’s a good rifle though.

  • Was this a “post-InRange” model? I recall Masterpiece Arms saying they would be making a few changes.

    • It is possible I suppose depending on when he let them know, which would have to have been long before he published his video, but who knows how far before publishing the video he sent over the list of grievances.

      • Ian McCollum

        We did not notify MPA of anything until after the review posted. This rifle appears to be identical to what we had – a good thing to check would be the extractor pin. If it’s still a roll pin, then they have almost certainly not made any changes between our gun and yours.

  • Squirreltakular

    What was the weight as-is in the pictures?

    How many rounds did you shoot? Any malfunctions at all?

    What type of ammo?

    • The weight did not really bother me to be honest. As long as a gun weights under 10 pounds I am good. According to them it weighs 7.8 pounds though, which is fine.

      The rifle had a 1:9 twist barrel.
      I shot 300+ rounds or so.
      Brass cased Federal/American Eagle M193 mostly.
      Accuracy was acceptable for a $900 rifle.

      • Shoulda sent the gun to me, TFB’s resident weight snob. 😉

        • MPWS

          You’ve got that right! -))))
          Weight is all you case for… and forged receiver, of course.

          • I don’t see any reason for a modern design to be over 3 kilos unloaded with an M4 profile barrel. :

          • Guest

            .50 bmg compatibility?

          • Not even that.

      • Squirreltakular

        For a $1200+ AR, those specs would be a deal-breaker, but for $900? That’s pretty sweet.

  • Icejon

    Does the upper fit on an AR-180B or AR-180 lower? That would be a good test for me of function since I do like the adjustable gas piston on this model compared to the AR-180.

  • gunsandrockets

    Interesting. Like a cross between an AR-18 and an FAL.

  • noguncontrol

    This would be better if the receiver was plastic. Because of the guide rods, the bolt carrier does not touch the receiver, you dont need to use steel. Plastic upper, plastic handguards, plastic stock, equals lightweight rifle.

  • Lee

    Laughed out loud at that user name “Tassiebush” …in joke amongst the antipodeans.

  • Karl-InRangeTV

    That muzzle device and handguard cover looks the same was what we had.

    How do you address the issue of removing the entire muzzle device to be able to clean the gas system?

    Did they change their warranty statement to remove the lines that steel cased ammunition violates the warranty?

    Fire ~1000 rounds and then see if the bolt is binding in the carrier, how many rounds were fired?

    It appears you didn’t have a problem with light strikes on military grade primers?

    Fire ~1000 rounds, again, did any of the stock pins walk out?

    Essentially, how many rounds were fired in this review?

    We didn’t initially experience issues until we put real load on the gun, many of the problems would not be found by a plinking session.

    FYI: MPA did tell us that they’d get back to us with a second, improved gun…no word yet.

    We have been flooded with people complaining to us about having the same problems with their commercial guns and with no resolution but we’ve been quiet about it in an attempt to give MPA the benefit of the doubt to make good on their claims to our findings.

  • n0truscotsman

    With that pricepoint, Im tempted to buy one and run it like a molested ape to really see how it holds up.

    Standard “wipe down and grease” cleaning, a myriad of brass and steel case ammo (seperate iterations, then mixed), magazine types, etc. Probably 5k rounds minimal.

    Why didnt they just go with a free float tube?