Staying ahead of the trends, Bushmaster has perfected the balance between affordability and quality with the Bushmaster XM-15 QRC (Quick Response Carbine).
The well-earned reputation that made Bushmaster a household name in AR-15 arms, is well served with this throwback-style semi-auto carbine. The blend of AR-15 features, with lightweight and rugged durability, is impeccable. There were some sweet surprises when I first laid hands on this rifle, that I wasn’t expecting.
The XM-15 out of the box is ready to work and is accurate enough for government work.
Seriously. Law enforcement all over the country, and military personnel, carry the XM15.
So with the expectation that any rifle in this class will perform consistently within “QCB” ranges, as well as the incredible amount of continued testing in this manner performed by department armorers, the majority of my testing time was spent on long-range coursework and handling drills.
There is a mini QD red dot optic included that is so-so. It functions ok, has a bit of a bluish reticle tint, but is serviceable. Considering the price point for this carbine, I wouldn’t expect them to beef up on the extra accessories provided.
With the supplied optic, my groupings at 100 yards and out weren’t the tightest. Regular pings on a 12” target weren’t a problem, but I wasn’t happy with the grouping. So, to give the rifle a fair shake, I swapped out the optic to my Primary Arms SLX and immediately saw a marked improvement in my accuracy. I pushed the distance farther and farther out and the Bushmaster impressed the heck out of me. At 500-600 yards she was purring like a kitten. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day on the course.
The Picatinny top rail made swapping out to a better optic very simple and I highly recommend you upgrade for better eyes on the target to get the most out of the XM-15.
Reliability is what made the Bushmaster name, and the XM15 is no exception.
Hundreds of rounds through the rifle did not fail to load, fire, or eject, even with occasionally mixed rounds in the mag. Metal plates, paper targets, barrels, squirrels…nothing down range stood a chance for five football-field-deep fun. The rifle locked back when empty every time, the brass was clear and away without notice.
Not only did Bushmaster focus on good quality design, but they also increased the quality with an added layer of protection with the XM rifles. Since these gas-operated carbines tend to produce a lot of heat, the Manganese Phosphate finish is an important and appreciated step to protect against rust and corrosion.
With so many modern AR-15 options, the XM-15 QRC looks like something out of a GI Joe cartoon. My inner nine-year-old was just itching to get my hands on the short M-4 style handguard and he wasn’t disappointed.
I have to say, the handguard did take getting used to. The habit of my support hand placed close to the muzzle is just not an option with the short guard and holding the rifle with my arms tucked closer is not something I generally need to think about.
When shooting four-shot groups in close repetition, the rifle does get hot, but not too hot to use.
So when my hand got too close to the end of that handguard, the barrel heat had me naturally checking myself to regrip.
The meaty pull on the Bushmaster AR-15 is just what you’d expect from this style of rifle.
There are a lot of ways you can personalize your rifle, (thank you military specifications for being a thing), and folks like to talk about how they need a feather wight trigger for this or that. For this rifle, I just don’t see the need to fiddle with the quality you purchased. This is a go-getter of a machine, and there are plenty of competition rifles that are made for fast and loose. This all-around rifle is made to work just as hard, if not harder than I do.
Magazine & Reloading
There is a generous thirty-round Magpul magazine included for a thirty plus one capacity out of the box. A smart raised rib with mag release button at easy reach from the trigger makes reloading quick and seamless. The controls are to the right, as is the ejection port. Bushmaster did a fine job by sticking to the traditional for these features. The reload action is a natural one, and that’s just the way it should be.
Length & Weight
Not only does the Bushmaster excel at shooting at long distances, but it also won’t break your shoulders getting to and fro.
Defined as “Superlight” by Bushmaster, the five-pound weight is incredibly slight for an AR-15. Six hundred yard courses may have been no big deal in my younger days, but with the sun on my neck and the rocks under my feet, tromping back and forth throughout the day was so much easier without a behemoth on my back.
The minimal weight is mostly attributed to upper and lower receivers forged in aluminum alloy. The 16,” 1:8 twist, pencil-thin barrel extends past the carbine length handguard and is capped with an A-2 Birdcage flash hider at the muzzle.
Altogether, the 35-inch (with stock extended) total length of this weapon weighs about as much as a bag of sugar, and that ain’t too shabby in 93-degree heat.
The Bushmaster XM-15’s practical design allows for minimal recoil.
Again, this is just another example of Bushmaster sticking to what works for good reason.
The handguard may be short, but that allows me to use the extra muscle and solid c-clamp grip while firing naturally. The more compact arm hold surprised me with its functionality that was necessary by design. With the provided optic, as well my own, there was never any issues with the jump in staying on target through the scope to follow my longest shots. To be out on the long-range all day was easy and comfortable.
Without question, the is one of the most affordable options in the AR-15 market.
While other manufacturers worked to push down prices and found themselves making sacrifices in products to do so, Bushmaster played to their strengths and increased quality without increasing price tags. MSRP lists the XM-15 QRC model at just shy of $800, however, the retail price for this Bushmaster can be found as low as the $500 range.
There are some high-quality AR-15 options out there for a bit more hard-earned cash, but if you need a quality long-range shooter, without breaking the bank, this is a rock-solid option.
The Bushmaster XM-15 is an incredible player for so much more than I expected. It’s no wonder that law enforcement and military leaders continue to work with this versatile AR-15. The best rifles for long-range with bolt action may have the market cornered for the far distance workloads, but if you’re looking for something that can excel in close quarters and on the far-flung targets this rifle is about to be your best friend.
Richard Douglas is a firearms expert and educator. His work has appeared in large publications like The Armory Life, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and more. In his free time, he reviews optics on his Scopes Field blog.