Sara Ahrens’ Offbeat: Where Sara reviews the Colt Pro CRP-18 — a 3-Gun ready, modern sporting rifle.
Last summer I had the opportunity to learn how to compete in 3-Gun for an episode of The Outdoor Channel’s “Shooting Gallery.” Not having any prior experience in 3-Gun competitions, I found myself scrambling to obtain the necessary gear and equipment. One piece of equipment that is necessary in order to give myself a fighting chance in a competition is a sporting rifle outfitted for 3-Gun competitions.
I contacted Colt Firearms in search of a sporting rifle for 3-Gun, because it manufactures a full line of competition rifles. I selected the 3-Gun ready CRP-18. I immediately noted the 3-Gun customizations. The first characteristics I observed included the match-grade, polished stainless-steel barrel, adjustable gas block and extended charging handle.
The extended charging handle requires installation, so I immediately attempted to separate the upper and lower receivers. The upper and lower receivers are so tightly fitted that I struggled to disassemble them … I felt like a weakling and I’m grateful no one witnessed my struggle! The upper and lower receivers are precision forged, making them structurally solid.
I eventually succeeded in disassembly. Upon removing the bolt carrier assembly, I noted that it lacked lubricant, so, I disassembled the bolt carrier group to inspect and lubricate it. Again, I noticed very tight tolerances. Now, understand that the majority of my experience in working on rifles has been as an armorer for law enforcement. Our rifles are old and abused. So, aside from my own personal sporting rifle purchase, this is only the 2nd sporting rifle I have handled that can be considered “brand new.” So, my astonishment in the tightness of the upper and lower receivers and the bolt carrier assembly may be misguided, since I’m comparing it to only 1 other gun. The Colt Pro CRP-18 is notably sturdier and the tolerances are tighter than what I have.
My first range experience ends in defeat
The Colt Pro CRP-18 is stamped as “.223,” but, the manual indicated that either .223 or 5.56×45 ammo, can be used. I used 5.56×45 factory ammo. I fired my first round from the firearm with ease. With my second shot, I heard a “click” but no “bang.” I attempted to perform a malfunction drill, but couldn’t cycle the bolt. I could see that the locking lugs were locked up in the chamber and the charging handle stuck. I suspected there was a live round in the chamber, so I removed the magazine, placed the weapon on safe and fought with the charging handle, before eventually admitting defeat. I took it home and asked for my husband’s help. My husband also is certified to work on this platform, and I felt redeemed when he, too, struggled. With teamwork we unlocked the locking lugs and cleared the round.
I contacted Colt and sent the firearm back. They advised that the gas block had rotated slightly … in all fairness, this may have happened when we forced the charging handle back to clear the round. Since this malfunction, I have researched my experience, and found many such instances online. Most of the forums I read described this issue as occurring “during the break-in period,” and correcting itself after firing rounds. I didn’t observe any obvious signs of pressure problems with the spent casings, but suspect that the 5.56 ammo may have contributed.
Second trip to the range ends on a happy note
Colt sent me a replacement firearm. And, just to make sure, I changed ammunition to .223. I experienced no further hiccups. The tolerances on the second rifle are just as tight as the first, might I add. I took the firearm to the range, and realized its potential.
I enjoy the balance of the Colt — it’s not front heavy. The barrel has a thin profile and is fluted, this adds to the feeling of balance. The Geissele, 2-stage trigger has a clean break and no “take up” or “travel.” It is a mere 3.5 pounds — not too heavy or too light. Although the CRP-18 doesn’t come with sights, it does come with a Picatinny rail. I mounted my EOTech optics and I am able to shoot a respectable group at 100 yards. Colt guarantees an accuracy of 3 rounds, within a 1-inch grouping, at 100 yards. I didn’t quite get those results (closer to 3 inches, but that’s the operator, not the firearm). Once I had a grouping I was comfortable with, I moved on to shooting drills at closer distances.
For a new competitor, purchasing a firearm like the Colt CRP-18 eliminates the guesswork in customization options. Unfortunately for me, several weeks after getting comfortable with the rifle, I broke my back. This injury interrupted my plans to compete in 2013 … but there’s always 2014.
Visit Colt Competition Rifles for more information.