I tested the Crosman Modular Adaptive Rifle 177 (MAR 177), an AR-15 upper designed to mate with a lower for service rifle competition training. For readers wondering about the job of product tester/writer, shooting stuff like this is always the best part of the day.
The MAR 177 was designed to mimic the form factor, weight and feel of the AR-15/M16 upper. Shooters can run pellets to the target through a match-quality Lothar Walther barrel, with everything but the recoil impulse and noise
The MAR 177 mates to the M-16 lower exactly in the same manner as the real thing: By separating the upper from the lower using the rear disassembly pin and the front pivot pin on a cleared firearm.
The MAR 177 pins to the lower without modification. The completed assembly uses the existing M16 hammer to fire a 177 pellet.
The hammer of the lower literally strikes a firing surface, metering a consistent amount of air to propel a standard .117 pellet to the target. Thus, the soldier's trigger "feel" is consistent when using this tool.
The MAR 177 uses standard rails and has a removable carry handle, dimensionally similar to the M16A2E2 configuration. It can use any front/rear sight configuration, including optics. Next week, I'm going to mount my 3x9x36 Leupold on it, just for kicks.
Historically, military units have relied on the actual equipment to insure soldier readiness and efficacy. TADSS (Training Aids, Devices, Simulators and Simulations) materials are training augmentation, but highly effective, especially with materials that competently simulate the real thing. The MAR 177 is easily one of the best AR-15 style clones on the market today.
For BRM, the MAR 177 is closer to the real thing than a simulator. First, the reservoir, which can be filled from a SCUBA compressed air tank, holds enough for about 120 shots.
They are metered so consistently that I shot several 15-meter targets with groups less than 1cm. For soldiers transitioning from this product to their own M16 upper, it is indistinguishable except for noise and recoil.
Second, the MAR 177 can be used for Shooter/Peer Coaching, a powerful method for reinforcing both shooting habituation and small unit leadership skills. Most simulation products in the inventory have hoses and appliances attached to them.
Third, and foremost, it's a plinker, and plinkers breed competitive rivalries. Competitive rivalries encourage practice. Thus, plinkers make better shooters.
Within the 120 shots range, my MAR 177 fired consistent velocities, tapering off sharply when it's time to fill it up again. There is a clear gauge under at the bottom of the forend, which gives the user a pretty good picture of the remaining pressure.
Standard pellets stayed under 180 m/s and can group on a 25m zero target, although I recommend it at 10m. It's so quiet, one can have a normal conversation while launching pellets.
The MAR 177 is 10 round a repeater with removable magazines, operated by pulling back on the charging handle. The magazines consistently cradle the pellets without distorting them. Obviously, a unit should purchase a fair surplus of these.
Crosman sent me a Benjamin PCP Pump to keep my MAR 177 filled. This is a three stage high pressure pump that couples with the front of the MAR 177 just under the "flash hider."
The flash hider is also a VISMOD of the real thing, except it appears to vent the swirling air that exits the muzzle, known to affect accuracy. The pump is a worthwhile accessory.
I thought it would take much longer to fill the reservoir than it did. OK, why would a trainer prefer this product over a sub caliber trainer like a .22 LR conversion? The cost to operate is likely cheaper over time, compared to a .22 LR and astronomically cheaper than using M855. But, besides cost, what else?
It's quieter. I can't emphasize this enough. When hearing protection is taken out of the equation, the stress level can be reduced.
It requires reduced range distances for the same training successes. If the range requires less real estate, it can increase training time (reduced transportation time) and even put a range close to unit quarters where soldiers can shoot for recreation.
Additionally, this is the tool that can be used to show dependents "what we do at work", which could potentially be a Unit Morale activity.
All right, everyone gets it: This product is just plain fun.