Stag Arms 2TL

posted on October 28, 2010

There was a time when left-handed shooters were treated like residents of a Caribbean leper colony. Back then, the industry didn't acknowledge lefties, much less design firearms with their needs in mind. After all, isn't that what custom gun and leathersmiths were for? In short, being a southpaw shooter was quite costly.

No more seeking solace with fruit-infused beverages adorned with pastel umbrellas. Times have changed. Some manufacturers have gone from offering ambidextrous shooting accessories—a temporary stay to the sores festering from decades of avoidance—to marketing firearms completely redesigned to accommodate the needs of left-handed shooters.

Stag Arms was among the first companies to offer a viable treatment by modifying one of the most popular and versatile semi-automatic rifles of all time for southpaws—the venerable AR-15. The model 2TL is the company's latest offering dedicated to that effort. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of this new AR variant for fear all my years of shooting AR-15/M16s left handed might leave me somewhat desensitized to the 2TL's therapeutic qualities. However, I'm happy to report that's not the case.

The most noticeable departure between this and other AR models is the ejection port location—it's on the left side of the upper assembly. As a result, the dustcover is mounted upside down and hinges upward during shooting. Not having to rely on the deflector as pieces of brass whizz by my cheek at speeds rivaling Mach 1 is quite comforting. Naturally, the bolt has also been reversed—rotated 180-degrees—in the carrier to eject from the left.

The 2TL's M4-style, 16-inch, chrome-lined barrel contains a 1:9-inch rate-of-twist and should produce decent accuracy with a variety of bullet weights. The muzzle is shielded by an A2-style flash hider, commonly found on most of today's ARs. A Samson Star C, free-floating quad-rail fore-end is the perfect match for the rifle's A3-style flat top upper, as it eliminates height variation between the parts, forming a single plane of continuous top rail. This important—albeit, often overlooked—feature offers virtually limitless possibilities for mounting a wide variety of accessories, from dot-sights and variable-power scopes to lasers and lights, making it the shooter's equivalent of a blank canvas.

However, I'm not sure the same amount of thought went into selecting the sights. While I completely understand the reason for choosing a versatile rear sight, such as the 40L flip-up model by Atlantic Research Marketing Systems (A.R.M.S.), I can't understand the advantage of pairing it with a traditional front-sight post. A flip-up front sight used in conjunction with a Weaver gas block would have made much more sense. They're just as rugged as traditional front-sight posts and offer more versatility when mounting optics, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Besides its ejection port, the 2TL's forward-assist components have also been relocated to the left side of the upper receiver. To demonstrate that we lefties are magnanimous, the rifle includes an ambidextrous safety. The gun falls just short of being completely left-hand compatible given the absence of an ambidextrous magazine release (Norgon offers an excellent drop-in model, which would have filled the void nicely). But, more importantly, the addition would have resulted in an AR with truly ambidextrous fire controls.

Despite a crisp pull absent of creep, at 8 pounds, 6 ounces, the trigger was much heavier than I would have preferred. Nonetheless, its single-stage does offer a tactical advantage over two-stage models—especially when you're striving for figure-eight-shaped groups of dedicated pairs at close-quarters-battle distances. A six-position, telescoping buttstock offers a variety of settings, each allowing length-of-pull variation in 3-inch increments to tailor the rifle for the shooter's comfort, or needs. The tip of the buttstock also contains an oval-shaped eyelet for a sling.

For accuracy testing, I chose a Sightron SIIBSS Big Sky 4.5-14x44 mm variable-power scope with a mil-dot reticle (a particularly versatile setup for a designated marksman or for varmint shooting). However, mounting it to the rifle proved to be quite a challenge.

Even a set of Weaver Ultra High Tactical rings couldn't provide enough clearance for a dollar bill to pass between the scope's objective and the top of the handguard. Luckily, a pair of Yankee Hill Machine 1⁄2-inch Picatinny risers from my stash o' parts remedied the problem. The only other accessory used during testing was a vertical foregrip to achieve a sufficient firing hold without exposing my hands to the sharp edges of the quad rail.

Unfortunately, the challenges didn't end there. Conditions for accuracy testing were less than ideal. If the temperature wasn't bad enough—a digit-numbing 22 degrees according to my Kestrel portable weather meter—wind gusts averaged between 10 to 20 mph. For ease of shooting the 2TL off a bench, I swapped the 30-round magazine it was shipped with for a 20-rounder. No failures to fire or feeding problems occurred while shooting.

Each of the two tested loads— Winchester 55-grain FMJ and Hornady 60-grain TAP FPD—shot very well during testing. Groups ranged from 11⁄4 inches to 31⁄4 inches, despite the sporadic wind gusts. Hornady's TAP performed the best, grouping 11⁄4 inches at 100 yards, suggesting that this particular rifle prefers to digest heavier bullets at slower velocities.

For southpaw shooters tired of settling for traditional AR-15s, this offering by Stag Arms is definitely worth considering. The 2TL offers of ambidextrous features without the expense associated with extensive modification. If you're looking for an out-of-the-box rifle with the makings of a jack-of-all-trades carbine, this is it. Best of all, you don't have to dig deeper in you wallet because the 2TL's priced on par with most traditional ARs.

We may have been ignored for years, relegated to long hours of therapy with expensive gunsmiths just to pursue our sport comfortably. But, with companies like Stag Arms paying attention to us now, there's not much reason for us lefties to be sore anymore.


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