Range Review: ZEV CORE Elite AR-15

posted on December 19, 2019

Zev Technologies is well-known for the incredible work the company has done in the handgun world. From its game-changing Glock mods to its very own O.Z-9 pistol (reviewed here), Zev has brought performance and some zing to the standard grocery-getter Glock. Many people are surprised to find out that Zev also makes rifles.

With the purchase of well-known rifle component maker, Mega Arms, Zev entered the AR market. With this move, the company is now offering complete rifles that have the craftsmanship of Mega Arms mixed with the creativity and precision of Zev. The company's rifle division consists of traditional AR rifles, which include a large- and small-frame offering and the Core Elite line, which consists of one rifle and two AR pistols; all three boasting a beautifully crafted bronze barrel. Of all the company's offerings, one stood out to me above the others: the Core Elite Rifle.

The Core Elite rifle, out of the box, is simply a sexy gun. While we pretend to be above aesthetics as serious gun owners, it does matter. It has a Zev custom 416R 16-inch fluted match barrel with bronze PVD coating. The bronze finish peeking out from under the handguard gives it a very nice look without overkill. With a 1:7-inch twist rate and mid-length gas system, the gun is capable of consistent sub-MOA accuracy with high-quality factory ammunition. 

The fit and finish on the gun are exceptional, as I expected. Mega Arms had developed a strong reputation for precision manufacturing and it obviously has carried over after the Zev acquisition. There was no play between the forged upper and lower, and the entire build seemed to fit very well together. They are precision-machined from 7075-T6 aluminum for strength and light weight, finished in true black type III class 2 hardcoat anodizing.

On some rifle builds, you can tell that components were simply assembled to produce a rifle. This is not the case with the Core Elite. Everything on the gun flows well together and makes for a very comfortable gun. This is especially evident with the handguard. The ZEV Wedge Lock hand guard provides a full-length continuous top rail with M-Lok mounting system. The integrated anti-rotation pin ensures a consistently aligned and continuous top rail with the upper receiver.

It is no secret that I am a trigger snob. In this day and age of great trigger options, I believe companies need to step up their game. That is exactly what Zev has done. The trigger for this rifle is a Zev-exclusive, sniper-gray, flat-face AR Gold trigger from ATC with a trigger pull of just 2.5 pounds. It broke very cleanly and had a silly short reset. It is obviously made for serious shooting.

Continuing the speed and accuracy theme, Zev has attached a Surefire WARCOMP closed-tine flash hider, which aids in recoil management and muzzle-flash reduction. It also serves as a mounting adapter for all SureFire SOCOM fast-attach suppressors. Other features that make this a great rifle are a low-profile fixed gas block and the inclusion of a H3 carbine buffer. This increases dwell time and reduces port pressure to ensure reliable extraction and a smooth recoil impulse.

Zev uses a mil-spec, chrome-lined BCG with a manganese-phosphate finish for improved lubricity and corrosion resistance. It also makes for easy cleaning. The safety selector is an ambidextrous model from the good folks over at Radian Weapons. The Zev Slide Lock charging handle permits ambidextrous manipulation with an extended and textured latch for superior grip and ergonomics. The build is completed with Magpul furniture. In total, the gun only weighs 6.67 pounds and has an overall length of 32.5 inches with stock collapsed.

On the range, the gun runs as nice as it looks. The combination of the brake and great trigger allowed me to easily punch sub-MOA shots at 100 yards. I was not surprised by this and was honestly more impressed with how it ran when I pushed it through near/far drills on steel. The gun is fast and very easy to run. It also ate everything I fed it.  I ran everything from Federal American Eagle 55-grain range ammo to some nice-shooting Hornady 55-grain HP match. It all cycled flawlessly with no issues.

I know someone right now is asking, ”What about steel-case ammo?” No, I did not run steel-case ammo though the rifle. I understand that sometimes budgets force us to get bargain-basement ammo, but I would put forth the idea that you would not put cheap regular gas in the supercar you just bought. Spend the little extra and stay with brass ammo.

In the end, the Zev Core Elite is a winner for me in all categories. It is a performer and looks great. It is a pleasure to shoot, and I am sure it will serve any serious shooter well!


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