Stag Arms Stag-15 Model 8 Gas-Piston 5.56mm Carbine


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

December 15th, 2009




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For several years now, Stag Arms has been producing some of the best AR-15 style rifles on the market, known as the Stag-15. Stag makes both normal right-handed rifles, and also has a full line of true left-handed ARs as well., with reversed ejection and controls. Stag builds their rifles upon forged receivers, using high quality parts assembled by craftsmen to high standards. Stag Arms rifles are all built in New Britain, Connecticut.

The AR-15 style carbine is the hottest-selling rifle in the U.S. right now, and it has been ever since our Presidential election about thirteen months ago. Since that time, every maker of AR rifles has been working at full capacity trying to produce enough weapons to meet the demand of buyers who were paying whatever amount it took to buy an AR, believing that Obama would keep his word in trying to ban the sale of semi-automatic firearms. Manufacturers are now slowly catching up with orders, and the buying frenzy has subsided somewhat. Still, there is a hungry market for good quality AR style rifles, and Stag Arms is one of the better makers of such weapons.

While the direct gas impingement system has worked well for several decades in the AR, a lot of shooters prefer a gas piston system, and manufacturers are filling that need as well. There are a few good ones on the market now, with some fetching prices around the two-thousand dollar mark, and higher. Stag Arms has just hit the market with their gas piston carbine, the Model 8, and it is the subject of this piece. The Model 8, and its left-handed counterpart, the Model 8L, are built around a very simple and reliable gas piston system. Gas is bled off from a hole in the barrel, flows through the regulator, and it actuates a one-piece piston and rod system that taps the bolt carrier, moving it rearward, ejecting the spent cartridge case. The spring in the buttstock returns the bolt carrier to its forward position, stripping a fresh cartridge from the magazine and guiding the rotating bolt into its locked position. A spring around the operating rod of the gas system keeps the rod in its forward position until the weapon is fired. The Stag gas regulator has two positions; on and off. The regulator is left in the “on” position for normal operation, and can be quickly switched to “off” if desired. In the “off’ position, the cartridge will fire, but the case will not be ejected. Removing the gas piston rod for cleaning is very simple, and requires nothing more than a pointed object, such as a bullet nose or even a toothpick to depress the button to allow the regulator to be unscrewed from the gas block.  Other than the operating system, the Model 8 is a standard modern AR. It has a forward assist knob, case deflector, and a flattop upper receiver. A Picatinny rail runs the full length of the upper receiver, making easy the attachment of mechanical or optical sights. The Model 8 comes with a very effective and useful set of Midwest Industries folding sights. The front is adjustable for elevation, and the dual-aperture rear is adjustable for windage correction.  Both fold down with the push of a button, and quickly flip up if needed. Both are removable as well, with the front being attached to the Picatinny rail that is integral with the gas block. There is another section of rail at the bottom of the gas block, for the easy attachment of a bipod, laser, or flashlight. The two-piece hand guard is of the oval carbine style, and the buttstock is a six-position telescopic unit. Overall length adjusts from thirty-two and one-half to thirty-five and one-half inches. The sixteen inch barrel is chrome-lined, contoured in the M-4 configuration, has a one-in-nine-inch rifling twist, and has a closed-bottom birdcage flash suppressor attached. The Stag Model 8 weighed in at exactly seven pounds on my scale. The trigger pull is standard AR, releasing with four and three-quarters pounds pressure.

The Model 8 was fired with several different brands and types of ammunition for function, and with four types for accuracy testing. Functioning of the Model 8 was flawless. Every round fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. The ejection pattern was very consistent, and the brass cases showed no signs of damage. Accuracy varied from average to excellent, depending upon the quality of the ammunition fed into the weapon. While on this subject, I often get emails from readers who are disappointed in the accuracy of their rifles. Accuracy depends upon the whole system. The rifle is just one component. The weapon will only shoot as well as its weakest component. It does no good to buy a quality rifle, and then mount a cheap scope. It does no good to buy a quality rifle, mount a good scope, and then to feed it inferior Eastern European military reject ammo. It is a system. The quality of every component shows up on the target range.  This Stag is no different. It is a high quality rifle, and when fed high quality ammunition, the accuracy is match-grade.

For accuracy testing, I mounted my "mule", the Leupold Mark 4 8.5 to 25 power target scope using an ArmaLite one-piece mount. Accuracy testing was done at 100 yards, with the results shown in the chart below. Group sizes are the average of three-shot groups at that distance, with the exception of the TSX handload, which is the average of five-shot groups. Group sizes are listed in inches. Velocity testing was done with the chronograph twelve feet from the muzzle at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, approximately. Temperatures hovered around the thirty-five degree Fahrenheit mark during all testing. Velocity readings are the average of several shots fired, and the results are listed in the chart below. Velocity readings are listed in feet-per-second (fps). Bullet weights are listed in grains. FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. HP is hollowpoint. ASP and FHVL are specialized bullets as loaded into ammo produced by Extreme Shock Ammunition. TSX is a Barnes Triple Shock homogenous copper hollowpoint bullet. AP is a full metal jacket bullet with a steel-tipped lead core. The handload listed uses the TSX bullet with 24.5 grains of Ramshot TAC powder, a Remington small rifle primer, and Winchester commercial .223 Remington cases.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity Accuracy
American Tactical FMJ 62 2952 1.375"
Hand Load TSX 62 2746 0.625"
Winchester USA FMJ 55 2913 2.25"
Winchester USA FMJ 62 2882 NA
Buffalo Bore HP 69 2840 0.75"
Extreme Shock ASP 100 1142 NA
Extreme Shock FHVL 62 2782 NA
Samson FMJ 63 2821 NA
Black Hills HP 69 2688 NA
Wolf Gold HP 75 2565 NA
Lake City SS109 AP 62 2980 NA

As noted above, all ammunition functioned flawlessly, even the low-velocity heavy bullet Extreme Shock ASP. The accuracy of my TSX hand load was superb, as was the accuracy of the Buffalo Bore Sniper ammunition. Even the American Tactical ball ammo turned in a very good performance, and is a good, low-cost choice. That TSX load is my whitetail deer load. The TSX holds together very well, and retains almost one-hundred percent bullet weight, yet expands upon contact. It is a new load for me, but so far, I really like it.

The Stag Model 8 performed very well, as expected. It is a quality rifle that shoots accurately. For those wanting a piston-driven carbine, the Model 8 is a top choice. Built in the USA, and built right, the Model 8 is priced well below its competition. As of this writing, the Model 8 lists for $1145 US, which is several hundred dollars below some other gas piston AR carbines. It comes in a hard plastic case with one thirty-round magazine.

Check out the Stag line of rifles online at

Jeff Quinn




All accuracy testing was done using a Target Shooting, Inc. Model 500 rifle rest.



As these 100-yard groups show, the Stag-15 Model 8 is capable of match-grade accuracy.





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Click pictures for a larger version.


Stag Arms Stag-15 Model 8 gas-piston 5.56mm carbine.





Simple and reliable gas piston system.



Midwest Industries folding sights.