When I first heard of Cobalt Kinetics it was at Shot Show 2016 when they showed off their competition rifle. It was a very wild looking AR-15 with some interesting features set up for the competitive shooter. Earlier this year they came out with a new 50 state legal Model 27 lower receiver. Cobalt Kinetics sent us their top of the line 27 Expert in for review.
Space Force or Race Gun?
The aesthetics of the 27 Expert are certainly something out of this world. I have gotten some comments on Instagram that it looks like something out of a video game like Destiny or Mass Effect. Why is it called the Twenty Seven? 27 is the atomic number of Cobalt and since Cobalt is an element, the moniker Twenty Seven is a nod to going back to basic elements. The 27 rifle series is a nod to traditional rifle grip ergonomics.
I have always known Cobalt Kinetics rifles as competition 3Gun rifles due to their auto features. When you shoot the last round, the bolt locks back like any traditional AR but it also auto drops the magazine. Then when you insert a fresh magazine the bolt automatically closes. See the video from almost three years ago. At around 46 secs into the video, you can see me shoot the Cobalt CARS rifle and then reload it.
The Expert is a competition-grade model Twenty-Seven. The Expert comes equipped with the control and speed enhancing features developed for Cobalt’s legendary TEAM rifle. The technologies behind Cobalt’s patented PRO brake and patent pending PRO buffer system have been well proven by numerous national and world level multi-gun match wins. The Twenty-Seven Expert delivers unmatched competitive superiority without restriction. Shooters living under restrictive gun laws are no longer forced to compromise performance to meet compliance laws.
The 27 Expert does not have the CARS (Cobalt Advantage Reload System). Instead, it has the same features as their TEAM rifle. The most prominent feature is the Dual Drop bolt system. This is a linked pair of ambidextrous forward assists. When the bolt locks back on the last round, you reload and reach up with your shooting thumb to press one of the forward assists to close the bolt.
The Expert is a race gun and while it does not look like it, it does have pseudo-MLOK slots. According to Skylar, Vice President of Cobalt Kinetics, they elongated the MLOK slots for aesthetic reasons. There are elongated slots at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions on the handguard. I attached a blue Strike Industries SI Link Curved grip onto the Expert and it matches the aesthetics of the rifle very well.
How Ergonomic Can The 27 Expert Be?
Before I got my hands on the 27 Expert I was a little bit concerned about the ergonomics, especially with regards to accessing controls. I have tried a similar concept in the Fightlight Industries SCR. But due to the modified AR receiver and shotgun style stock/grip, it pushes my hand further rearward. This made it impossible for my index finger to press the magazine release. An ambidextrous magazine release was needed so I could change magazines with my support hand. But this is not the case with the 27 Expert. I can reach the mag release, forward assists, and trigger without having to adjust my firing grip.
The 27 Expert is nearly fully ambidextrous. The only thing it is lacking is an ambidextrous bolt catch.
Almost Zero Recoil
One characteristic my friends and I noted while shooting the 27 Expert, is how soft recoiling and flat it shot. There was very little recoil and muzzle climb. I shot it standing up and attached a big Surefire light at the end of the hand guard. Watch how the light beam doesn’t move.
I noticed my friend Kyle had a tiny hint of muzzle climb when he shot the 27 Expert.
I am not sure which component or combination of components attributed to the soft recoil and lack of muzzle climb but there are a number of factors. First of all the bolt carrier group has been significantly lightened.
The 27 Expert comes with the complete PRO buffer kit. There are three recoil springs of varying stiffness and two additional tungsten weights. You can read how to tune the recoil system here. I was pleased with the performance of the 27 Expert that I did not feel the need to adjust the recoil system.
At the other end of the rifle, the Expert comes equipped with the Cobalt Pro Muzzle Brake. You will notice there are no vertical ports to compensate for muzzle climb but Cobalt claims it reduces muzzle climb. The barrel on this Stage II Expert is a heavy profile with fluting so the gun ends up weighing the same as the Stage I, which has a lighter weight barrel.
Another possible factor for the low recoil is the weight of the 27 Expert. Empty it weighs a stout 8.49lbs. Then add the 2+ lbs combined weight of my Primary Arms Platinum 1-8x and Midwest Industries QD mount. This puts the 27 Expert over 11 lbs. My kitchen scale limit is 11 lbs and this current setup exceeded that limit. I do have a slight problem with the weight. The 27 Expert is supposed to be a competition rifle for people in restrictive states. While there are various forms of competition this gun is supposed to be a California Compliant version of their TEAM 3gun rifle. From the 3Gun competitors, I spoke with, they all prefer a lighter weight rifle. I prefer a lighter weight rifle as well for competition. They are easier to drive to the target when they are lighter. At least that is how I perceive them to be. The weight and the recoil system of the 27 Expert make this a soft and flat shooting rifle but hefting it and moving it from target to target seems slow to me. Each shooter has different priorities, of course, like my friend Tom M. who likes a heavier gun when shooting USPSA Pistol Caliber Carbine. He is fast but I have been able to match his speed with lighter weight guns. Even though the Expert is a bit heavy, it balances the weight rather well. It is not front heavy like some guns.
I reshot the Cobalt in daylight so I could film it in slow motion and showcase the low recoil.
So How Does It Shoot?
I was able to get sub-MOA groups with relative ease and that was just using the Primary Arms 1-8x scope. The group above was my best 5 shot group using 55gr .223 ammo. Some other groups were a little larger due to flyers but I am sure that is mostly due to me and not the rifle. The Expert comes with an ATC Gold Flat Trigger and it is phenomenal. Short reset with a crisp break at a 3.5lb trigger pull.
The 27 Expert is a stunning rifle to behold. Its aesthetics are second to none. But there is a cost to all the unconventional design. Just a stripped lower 27 receiver retails for $699. They call it the Forged Upper Conversion Kit. While that seems a lot for an all billet machined lower, don’t forget it comes with the stock and grip. The closest competitor would be Fightlight and the SCR lower costs $575 and while it is cheaper, it requires a proprietary BCG and buffer system. Also, it doesn’t look as cool as the 27.
This 27 Expert rifle is Cobalt’s top of the line Stage II and has a hefty price tag at $3,760.00. I like the ergonomics like the dual drop bolt controls and that it is California Compliant without sacrificing much. However, I have issues using it as a competitive rifle for multi-gun due to certain magazine incompatibility. While California does have a 10 round magazine limit, I did try some larger capacity magazines that my FFL friends have. So if someone in California wanted to shoot a multi-gun match out of state they might want to use a larger magazine. Unfortunately, due to the flared mag well design of the 27, the Magpul D60 and the Surefire quad stack magazines do not fit. The magwell flare hits the wide magazine bodies of the Magpul and Surefire. This prevents the magazine notch from engaging the magazine catch. This is a bit of a downer if you want to shoot open division with this gun as those magazines are quite popular, especially the D60 drum. So, for now, you would be relegated to using 40 round PMAGs with magazine extensions.
The hand guard is wide and seems to add some of the weight to the gun. I personally prefer a narrower and lighter handguard. Also, the Expert hand guard lacks any useful top rail other than attaching a front sight. This makes it a bit annoying if you want to run certain accessories like a laser or clip-on device like thermal or Night Vision. I know it is designed to be a race gun and it is like complaining that your Ferrari doesn’t have much trunk space–this could be mitigated by cutting MLOK slots in the top of the handguard.
One nice thing about the 27 Expert is that it is an AR15 at heart so you can just swap to a more practical upper if you want to use certain accessories like a clip-on night vision and laser. The stock has a lot of adjustment but the open section between the end of the buffer tube and the upper portion of the butt pad has a tendency to get caught on gear and the lanyard of my custom molded earplugs.
The takeaway is that I do love how it shoots and how it looks. It is certainly eye-catching at the range and gets a lot of comments. If you want something well built with good accuracy that makes heads turn, take a look at the 27 Expert.