The Lead Star Arms Grunt is marketed as a duty rifle, though it comes from a competition-oriented brand. It blends some refinements from race guns with a more reserved aesthetic. And while Lead Star is a PSA brand, it does differ from their standard product line.
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The Grunt arrived at my FFL during SHOT Show. The gun ships in a simple cardboard box. It includes one 30-round PMAG, a Lead Star Arms patch and sticker, and a manual that pays homage to military field manuals with its design. The manual has surprisingly good pictures.
I looked over the rifle for any obvious issues and found none, so it was time for zeroing. I used a Vortex Optics Crossfire red dot for this review. It matched the light and affordable vibe of the rifle. I’m generally a fan of magnified optics, but the Grunt was so light that I felt guilty putting more weight up top.
Zeroing was (thankfully) uneventful. The trigger is a fairly crisp single stage with very little creep and no overtravel. Lead Star describes it as a mil-spec fire control group, but it felt cleaner than most mil-spec triggers. It was certainly better than trigger groups on other rifles in this price bracket.
The other notable thing from the zeroing session was the noise level. The brake does quite a bit of braking, which also means it’s loud. Doubly so on an indoor range. We’ll discuss that in detail later though.
Interestingly, the top of the brake features 14 dimples. Many brakes and compensators have ports on top to help force the muzzle down by forcing the gasses up. Perhaps these dimples could be drilled through to add more downward force according to user preference. Or, perhaps they were just intended to look cool.
The Grunt’s handguard is listed at 17 inches in length. That may raise some eyebrows because the barrel is 16 inches long. The top of the rail extends past the shoulder of the muzzle threads slightly. The bottom of the rail extends past the first chamber of the muzzle brake. This additional length makes it easier to punch out your support arm if you are built like an orangutan. On the flip side, this means that many (if not all) suppressors are incompatible with this gun.
The Grunt has no shortage of sling QD points. There are two on the buttstock, one on the endplate, and two on each side of the handguard (one at the chamber end, one at the muzzle end). The stock also features three slots for sling attachment if you don’t want to use a QD. I am generally skeptical of new furniture designs, but this stock is very well executed and it grew on me every time I used it.
The specifications on the PSA website list a 5.56 NATO chamber, but the shipping invoice clearly states that it has a .223 Wylde chamber. The barrel is also clearly marked “Wylde.”
Wylde chambers have caused some confusion among consumers. I’ve had several conversations at the gun counter with people who were convinced that because it says “.223” in the name it was unsafe to shoot 5.56 ammo. That is categorically untrue with the Wylde. It can safely fire both .223 and 5.56 rounds, but it tends to give slightly better accuracy than a true 5.56 NATO chamber.
The included buffer is a standard carbine unit. During the course of shooting, I did try an H2 buffer just to see how it would run. As with most ARs, adding weight to the buffer improved the feel under recoil. The Grunt does not need a heavier buffer, but bumping up to an H1 or H2 may be worth considering if you end up purchasing one.
My preferences in AR-15s tend towards the mil-spec end of the spectrum. I still like carry handles, A2 flash hiders, and fixed front sight posts.
Muzzle brakes and compensators convert recoil into noise and concussion. That’s very true with the Lead Star Enhanced Compensator. The muzzle remains very stable under recoil. But the trade-off is being miserable to shoot indoors or prone. Indoors, the Grunt sounds more like an SBR. Outdoors, it produces a rolling thunder that echoed off the canyon walls. Near the ground, especially in positions like rollover prone, there is a dirt tornado with every shot and gravel is thrown back towards the shooter.
If you can deal with that or don’t often shoot from prone or unconventional positions, you get a gun that seems to just hover on target while shooting without any real effort. But you will absolutely need eye protection if you shoot it prone. At any rate, the soft recoil makes it easy to spot hits and misses. It is very easy to run this gun fast because it is very light, but the typical “jumpy” nature of light guns does not apply here. The brake makes the difference.
I used a variety of ammunition including PMC 55-grain 223, Winchester white box 55-grain 223, PMC 55-grain 5.56, 75-grain plinker handloads, and 77-grain match handloads. Ejection hovered around the 4-o’clock position with all ammunition types. All ammunition functioned normally.
The AR-15 is an inherently accurate firearm, and even more so with a free-floated handguard. There were no malfunctions with any of them. I did not conduct any dedicated accuracy testing, but the Grunt was accurate enough to repeatedly hit steel and 300 and 400 yards.
I tested a wide variety of magazines in the Grunt and they all worked normally. All latched, fed, and dropped free as should be expected. The magazines tested included:
- Magpul PMAG M2 30
- Magpul PMAG M3 20, 30, 40
- Lancer 30
- Surefeed 20, 30, E2 30
- D&H 30
While the overall function of the gun did not raise any issues, there was some observed wear that caught my eye. The top front edge of the bolt carrier below the gas key was worn on both corners. The rate of wear on those corners was accelerated compared to the rest of the bolt carrier group. This did not interfere with the operation of the gun, but I would keep an eye on this to see if anything else developed in a longer-term review.
So, is the Grunt suited to duty use? No, I don’t think so. The inability to use a silencer with the handguard and the use of a competition muzzle brake are disqualifying for a gun that may have to be used indoors, without ear protection, and in close proximity to friendlies. But could it be a beginner or budget-friendly race gun? Absolutely. The Grunt is light, accurate, and extremely stable under recoil. As of the time of writing, it is available on the PSA website for $1,095. All that it needs out of the box is an optic and some oil on the bolt carrier group and you are ready to shoot a 2-gun or 3-gun match.
Specs (From PSA website):
Chamber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel Length: 16”
Barrel Material: 4150V Chrome Moly Vanadium Steel
Barrel Finish: Nitride
Barrel Profile: A2 Style
Twist Rate: 1 in 7”
Muzzle Device: Lead Star Enhanced Compensator
Muzzle Thread: 1/2×28
Gas System: Mid-Length
Gas Block Type: Micro style .750” Diameter
Upper Receiver: Lead Star Grunt Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
Receiver Style: M4 Flat top with feed ramps
Receiver Finish: Custom Finish, Teflon Coated
Forward Assist: Yes
Dust Cover: Yes
Handguard Style: Lead Star Grunt 17″ MLOK Handguard
Bolt Steel: Carpenter 158
Bolt Carrier Steel: 8620
Staked Gas Key: Yes
Lower Receiver: Lead Star Grunt Forged 7075 T6 Aluminum
Receiver Finish: Custom Finish, Teflon Coated
Grip: Grunt Combat Grip, Black w/ Rubber Overmold
Fire Control Group: Lead Star Grunt Mil-Spec FCG
Buffer Tube: 7075 T6 Aluminum Mil-Spec Tube
Adjustment: 6-position collapsible
Stock: Lead Star lightweight 6-position Carbine
Magazine: (1) 30-Round Magazine (where available by law)
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