Gun Review: VLTOR TS3 Carbine

    VLTOR has built quite a name for themselves by producing quality products for the firearm industry for quite a while, and we here at The Firearm Blog were very excited when we learned that they would now be producing their own rifle to sell in house (albeit using some parts procured from other outfits). The VLTOR rifle debuted on the popular History Channel program “Top Shot” where contestants used the rifle in fierce competition. The rifle was aptly named the “TS3” to mark its premiere on Top Shot season 3. According to the VLTOR website, “The TS3 is actually the result of several different technologies that were originally developed for other specialized weapon applications: The rigid polylithic upper receiver offers remarkable stability, strength and optics mounting solutions; the improved “A5” buffer and recoil system further add to the weapon’s reliability and accuracy, while reducing recoil and making the weapon more controllable; and finally, the exclusive enhancements of the Vltor lower receiver and stock assembly make what was one of the most ergonomic platforms in history even more comfortable and practical to shoot.”


    Above is the VLOTR TS3 as taken directly from the box. Let me say this, the gun just feels right. VLTOR has taken components that are proven and selected them to make a premium carbine that is perhaps the nicest M16/AR15 variant I have ever shouldered. Specs on the rifle include:

    • Vltor TS3 Lower Receiver featuring a beveled magazine-well, large button magazine release and three-position, quick-detachable single-point sling mount.
    • Vltor VIS-2A-AK polylithic/free float upper receiver assembly with 10-inch rail section and bolt assist.
    • Geissele, Hi-Speed Nation Match, DMR Trigger/Hammer Assembly
    • EMod w/A5 Enhancement Kit (Enhanced Modstock) featuring integral rubber buttpad, multiple sling attachments and storage for up to eight AA-batteries or nine-3 volt lithium batteries. A5 receiver extension offers seven different stock placements.
    • Noveske hammer forged, chrome lined, 15-inch, 1-7 inch twist barrel with mid-length gas system.
    • Vltor Compensator (VC-A1) permanently attached to the barrel, making the barrel length a legal 16.25 inch barrel.
    • Bravo Company USA, Gunfighter Charging Handle (BCM-GFH-556-MOD4) designed by Vltor
    • TangoDown SCAR Rail Panels and BattleGrip (BG-16)
    • Diamondhead USA, Flip-Up “Classic” Combat Sights

    So with all the above components, you get a rifle with all the stuff people usually add to their basic carbines directly from the box. However, to me the thing that makes this rifle really pop is the lower receiver. Let me say this, and don’t laugh, but the magazine release is awesome. It is funny how something so simple can make all the difference:


    The rest of the rifle is beautiful as well of course:




    So the gun is pretty and has some cool features, but how does she perform? Well, a range trip and 300 rounds of Fiocchi 62 grain ammunition would test both reliability and accuracy.

    My friend CJ and I took to the range to test the VLTOR. I asked CJ to help me out on this one because he is a veteran F-Class shooter, and the only one I have ever known who uses an AR15 he built in .223 (giving him both caliber and semi-automatic handicaps) in a type of shooting dominated by bolt guns. We set out with 10 loaded 30 round mags and started to shoot at 100 yards after we sighted in my ACOG at 50:


    The rifle’s trigger is fantastic and among the best I have ever felt on, well, any rifle!



    However CJ said that he was not a fan of two-stage triggers. He still liked the layout of the rifle and enjoyed shooting it. Here his is using one of his neutered  magazines after taking some cartridges out of the mags I brought:


    The only problem we ran into is that twice the gun failed to strip the first round from the magazine:


    Other than that though she ran through 300 rounds with ease:


    But how was the accuracy? Well, here is where it gets complicated. The Fiocchi 62 grain ammo is awful. The same day we were out there I was testing another rifle and could not get it to group either. Here is all we could squeeze out of the VLTOR TS3 with an ACOG and the Noveske barrel:





    That is an average of 2.81 inches. All in all, very, very disappointing. I left the range wondering what the heck went wrong? How could a rifle with all the right parts in all the right places perform so poorly. The consensus was the ammo, so I took the gun out again with some Privi M193 ball ammo and this is how she performed:





    Now THAT is what I am talking about. Five 5 shot groups netted me a 1.30 inch average, with a fantastic best of 0.729! Now that put my mind at ease, and I am sure with some really good ammunition I could get consistent sub-MOA groups.

    So, as for my bullet points:

    The Good:

    • Accurate
    • Reliable
    • Extremely well put together
    • Incredible handling characteristics
    • Premium components
    • AR customizability

    The Bad:

    •  AR15 bolt instead of an M16 bolt. Not unusual I guess, but just something I have come to expect

    The Ugly

    • Pinned on flash hider so you cannot add your own muzzle device or suppressor
    • Premium AR at a premium price of $2,495

    All in all the VLTOR TS3 is, in my opinion a great rifle at a price point that reflects all of the high quality parts that are already on it, and that many consumers buy to add to their rifles (hell, the stock/buffer on this gun alone will run you $230!) it really isn’t the most absurd price point I have seen on a premium AR15.

    Alex C.

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