Since its genesis, a lot of clever people have sought to improve the function of the Ar-15 rifle. Side-charging handles, ambidextrous controls, and “B.A.D levers”, just to name a few. Some of these features were adopted, and some were fads that quickly fell by the wayside. One company, Cobalt Kinetics, has brought to market some rifles with a suite of features that, in my opinion, greatly enhance the Ar-15 rifle.
Several months ago I was provided a Cobalt Kinetics Eclipse for testing. To date I have shot 300 rounds through the Cobalt Kinetics Eclipse. Distances ranged from 15 yards to 700 yards, and I found the rifle to have a match-grade level of accuracy. Before we get into testing, let’s look at the features that make these rifles special.
Key Features and specification of the Cobalt Kinetics Eclipse
The Cobalt Kinetic Eclipse is a “tactical carbine” and unlike its flashy, space-age looking brothers and sisters, who are more geared towards competition, this is geared towards law enforcement and home-defense. The Eclipse has a collapsible butt stock, A2 compensator, and 15 inch M-LOK handguard. The Eclipse has some features that are found only on Cobalt Kinetics Rifles. Lets look at these features closer.
The receivers and handguard on the Cobalt Kinetic Eclipse are made of 7075 aluminum. Military grade Ar-15’s are made of 7075 Aluminum, but the handguards are typically made of 6061 aluminum. Cobalt is using 7075 for all of the Aluminum parts on their rifles. This will raise the cost, but you are guaranteed to have one of the strongest handguards available. In regard to coatings, the receivers and handguard are type III hard coat anodized then re-coated with Cerakote. Essentially these rifles have 2 layers of protective coating.
The magazine release, selector, and charging handle are fully ambidextrous. The trigger is a drop in, single stage, and match grade. To me, the most interesting feature is the DUAL DROP mechanism found on every Cobalt Kinetics Rifle. The DUAL DROP leverages the forward assist, and not only does it push the bolt into battery if the rifle is dirty, it also activates the bolt-release mechanism if the bolt is locked to the rear. This function can speed up your re-loads, depending on the situation. The DUAL DROP appears as if the rifle has two forward assists. Both function identically. The first time I saw this mechanism was at the 2016 SHOT SHOW is Las Vegas. I thought it was a tad gimmicky until I got to shoot with it at night. This is an awesome feature that I will discuss later.
For the Eclipse, Cobalt Kinetics used a 16 inch, .223 Wylde, 5R, 1/8 twist, button rifled, 4150 CMV barrel that is treated with a lithium-Iron surface conversion. Lithium-Iron surface conversions are very similar to QPQ nitrocarburizing, but yield a stronger and more heat and erosion resistant finish. Lithium-Iron surface conversions are fairly new to the Industry, and to my knowledge Cobalt Kinetics is the only company using this technique on their barrels and bolt carrier groups. What is interesting is that Cobalt Kinetics will drill out their gas port, then do the Lithium-Iron surface conversion. This will mitigate gas port erosion and end users will get a barrel with a very long lifespan.
Cobalt Kinetics rifles have a military grade bolt carrier group. The bolt carrier is made of 8620 steel and the bolt is made of 9310 steel. Like the barrel, the bolt carrier group also has a Lithium-Iron conversion. Lithium-Iron surface conversions are state of the art and, as previously mentioned, Cobalt Kinetics are the only company currently using this technique on their bolt carrier groups and barrels.
Long range and Accuracy Testing
Long range and accuracy testing was done at the family ranch in the Highlands of Central New Mexico. The Eclipse is not touted as a long range weapon, but due to the construction of this rifle I could easily see it used as a “RECCE ” or “Designated Marksmans Rifle”. Prior to long range testing I swapped out the Mission First Tactical Battlelink Stock with a B5 Sopmod Enhanced stock and added some rail interfaces for a bipod as well as tripod mount. The Mission First stock is a good piece of hardware, but it does not mate well with a rear sandbag. For optics I used my trusty Bushnell HDMR. The HDMR is equipped with a Horus H59 reticle. Testing was done prone off of a loaded bipod. For accuracy testing, I used 69 grain, Federal Gold Medal Match ammunition. The Federal Gold Medal Match was loaded with the Sierra MATCHKING BTHP bullets.
Proning out behind the rifle, I dialed down the power on my Horus H59 reticle, aimed at a nearby hill adjacent to my paper target, found a rock, and fired off a round. I observed the “splash” in the grid of my Horus H59, dialed a few mils of elevation and windage, found my original target, fired, and was satisfied when my round impacted very near to my point of aim. Transitioning to an RE Factor Tactical Hitman Target, I aimed at the center of the target, and squeezed off a round. Getting a zero with a Horus reticle and 21 power scope is a breeze, and within 5 shots I had a solid zero.
During the long range portion of testing, I began to appreciate the DUAL DROP feature. The first time I used it, I was reloading from the prone. After ejecting an empty magazine, I inserted a new magazine, and since I float my thumb when I shoot precision rifle, I found that my thumb was immediately in-line with the right forward assist button. Pushing the button, it closed the bolt and I was able to commence firing. Another instance where I appreciated the DUAL DROP feature was when I was reloading my magazines, and experienced an aggressive burst of wind. I looked down and noticed that my bolt carrier was locked to the rear. Wanting to keep dust out, I simply reached down, pushed the forward assist and the bolt closed, thus keeping dust out of the receiver.
The Highlands of Central New Mexico tend to be a very windy place. Conditions were typical for Spring. Temperature hovered in mid-60’s, and I had constant full value wind that fluctuated between 8 to 15 miles per hour. Shooting tiny groups in full value wind is less than ideal, but the Eclipse was engineered for real-world application, and wind is often a constant. I could probably have shot sub .5 MOA had I shot through a tunnel, but overall I was pleased. I tested two brands of ammunition, the previously mentioned Federal Gold Medal Match, as well as some 55 grain PMC Bronze. I shot 3, 5 round groups of each ammo type. At 100 yards the average 5 shot group of the Federal was .75 MOA, and the 55 grain PMC Bronze had an average 5 shot group size of 1.5 inches. After shooting the three, 5 round groups, I loaded a magazine with 10 rounds of Federal Gold Medal Match and did a drill that I refer to as “10 Rounds in 10 Seconds.” The point of this drill is to fire 10 rounds as fast as possible at a target 100 yards away. You want to be accurate, but the point is to rapidly heat the barrel to get an idea of functional accuracy. According to my timer, I shot 10 rounds in 12 seconds and had a 1.5 MOA group. Impressed by the accuracy of this rifle at 100 yards, it was time to start moving back.
For long range testing, I hung two targets, an 8×10 inch steel plate as well as an 18 inch gong from our TFBTV Sponsor, Grizzly Targets. At this point of my testing, the wind picked up and I had to contend with 12 to 15 mile per hour wind. I shot at 500, 600, and 700 yards. I had a 100% hit ratio out to 500 yards on the 8 x 10 inch steel plate. Hitting the 8X10 inch plate became very difficult at 700 yards, but I was able to get solid hits on the 18 inch steel gong. I probably could have pushed it to 1000 yards with some 77 grain Sierras, but for all practical purposes, if you want to shoot past 700 yards you need an Ar-10 and a high B.C round. Below is a video of my 700 yard shot.
Short Range Testing
Short Range testing took place at some BLM land near my home outside of Albuquerque. For the short-range portion of the test, I re-attached the Mission First Tactical Battlelink Stock and installed a mini red dot sight. For this test I used a smattering of Federal XM193 and PMC Bronze. The Cobalt Kinetics Eclipse handled very well. The ambidextrous controls, crisp lightweight trigger, BeatenZone AMBI-7 charging handle, and enlarged magwell all melded together for a nice-handling rifle that was very efficient to operate.
After zeroing the red dot I did some static shooting on an 8 x 10 inch piece of steel at 25 yards to familiarize myself with the ambidextrous controls. I really appreciated the DUAL DROP feature when I started do shoulder transitions. For example, I manipulate fire control with my right hand. If I was behind a barricade and shooting around the right side of it, my left hand would be on the handguard and my right hand would be running the trigger. If I went to shoot around the left side of the barricade and I wanted to minimize my exposure, I would switch shoulders. This would place my right hand on the handguard and my left hand would be operating the trigger. I found that, if my magazine ran dry while shooting around the left side of a barricade, all I had to do was eject the magazine with my right hand, place a new magazine in the rifle and hit the right forward assist button to activate the DUAL DROP feature. These rifles are truly ambidextrous, and if an end user were to lose the use of one hand during a violent confrontation, they could run one of these rifles one handed. My respect for the DUAL DROP feature multiplied ten-fold when the sun dipped below the mountain, and I started shooting around barricades at night. While doing reloads in the dark, I found that I was a lot faster when using the DUAL DROP feature to close the bolt after reloading a new magazine. I found it was especially helpful when wearing gloves.
Below are some videos taken while shooting at night. In both of these videos I was practicing shoulder transitions.
Cobalt Kinetics makes excellent hardware. If you were to compare these rifles to any other Ar-15 in existence, in my opinion, these rifles would be in the top percentile. Cobalt Kinetics is making military grade rifles that are state-of-the-art, and their quality control is second to none. When I first saw the DUAL DROP features at the 2016 SHOT SHOW, I thought it as a tad gimmicky. After shooting north of 300 rounds and spending 9 hours on the range with the rifle I think it is an awesome feature that a certain segment of the market could appreciate. The DUAL DROP’s are just big buttons that help you reload faster. People that get in gun fights, especially at night, could appreciate this feature, as well as Users who have musculoskeletal injuries. If the need arose, these rifles can be operated one-handed. The Cobalt Kinetics Eclipse, as demonstrated, would shine in a variety of roles. This year Cobalt Kinetics is bringing their patented CARS system to market. The CARS system ejects an empty magazine, then when a new magazine is inserted in the rifle, the bolt will close. I got to shoot a CARS equipped rifle at SHOT SHOW and it was pretty neat. If you live in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area, and you want to check out a Cobalt Kinetics Rifle, BMC Tactical in Albuquerque has them in stock. Cobalt Kinetics rifles are very pricey.The Eclipse model I tested has an MSPR of $2,395. If you cannot afford one, contact BMC tactical and they can build you a custom rifle. It may not be state-of-the-art, but it will be nice and very reliable. BMC Tactical has a world class armorer on staff.
Cobalt Kinetics is fairly young company. It is staffed by a dynamic group of people who are passionate about innovation and quality. With their knowledge and capabilities, everything Cobalt does will be top notch. I look forward to what the future brings for this company, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for an Ar-10 derivative. Perhaps a .260 Remington with a 22 inch barrel…