Wellington Service Rifle shooter Gerry Veugelaers checks out the latest model...
Windham is not a name that grabs the average shooter’s attention first hand. In fact, it sounds more like a Subway sandwich than an AR15, but once you know that the Windham factory once made Bushmaster firearms, I trust you will take a lot more notice.
Bushmaster shifted its manufacturing to New York but the original owner of Bushmaster, Richard Dyke, decided not to let the Windham plant die and created Windham Weaponry out of the ashes.
For the IPSC test Gerry fitted an Aimpoint sight with a 2 MOA red dot.
I have now handled several models of the Windhams and can say that I am impressed. Having owned just about every mil-spec copy of the AR15 rifle there is by all the top manufacturers, I believe the Windham sits right up there in design, options and quality.
To date, everything I have seen has been oriented more towards sporting rifles than military specification so I was pleasantly surprised to have the latest carbine turn up to evaluate.
A Windham rifle equipped with a Trijicon Accupoint scope (left) beside the carbine reviewed here – top quality ARs from the firm that made the original Bushmasters.
The AR15 platform is as close to Gun-Lego as you can find, and of the 90 odd rifles I have built over the past three years, I doubt any two have been identical. Guys ring and ask, “I’m after an AR15”. Of course my first question is “For what purpose?” AR15s come in short barrel, long barrel, match chambered, multiple twists, free floating, non-free floating, flat top, bull barreled, and the list goes on. In light of this bewildering range of options, Windham’s carbine could be classed as “entry” level in all areas except quality.
A 1:9 twist, 14.5”, 5.56 chambered, 1/2x28 TPI threaded M4 profile barrel with a pinned on low-profile gas block is mated to an A3 mil-spec receiver, M4 Guards, ACE style stock and a Hogue grip. Inside is all business, the standard single-stage military trigger is mated with a very Bush-Mastery looking bolt carrier. In short, good quality, mil-spec, robust parts all round.
The carbine’s 14.5” barrel has a 1:9 rifling twist, and is threaded, with a counter-weighted profile.
The carbine runs the tried and tested direct gas impingement system making it lightweight and accurate. On the down side, however, the AR15 standard trigger is not a thing of beauty, often running at the 6-8 lb. mark out of the box, but a quick polish and adjustment had it down to a clean 5.5 lb. let off which is about as far as you can go with the standard unit without replacing parts and still have reliability. I have seen 4.5 lb. units that misfire and double so if it concerns you, invest in a Timney trigger unit or similar. However I have little trouble shooting decent groups with the standard trigger.
Gerry believes that pinned-on gas blocks like this one on the Windham are more reliable than the adjustable types.
Completing the package is an excellent steel 5-shot magazine. As a nice touch, there is an accu-wedge fitted inside the receiver to remove any slop between upper and lower. The rifle even came in a plastic hard case.
The M4 profiled barrel is still .750” in diameter at the gas block and I have had fine accuracy from this weight and style of barrel. I also run one in my own IPSC rig. Sub MOA is the norm in my own accurized, free-floated 1:9 twist 14.5” Bushmaster. The pinned-on gas block is preferred for reliability and is an excellent, all round selection. Anything with screws or adjustable bits will eventually let you down.
Factory AR triggers come at up to 8lbs pull weight, but lightly polishing and adjusting them can bring this down to a safe 5.5lbs.
Range testing was next on the cards, but the Wellington weather fouled my chances several times so testing was a bit spasmodic. I decided to fit my 6-18x Mark AR Leupold for the initial testing and see just what I could wring out of this lightweight rig. I wasn’t disappointed. The Sellier & Bellot 69 grain Match load easily cut MOA several times in between wind gusts, and my own 77 grain Sierra Match King load came close to this as well. The 1:9 rifling twist will handle most .224” projectiles up to and including the excellent 77 grain Sierra SMK, but it is best with projectiles of 69 grains or less due to velocity loss in the shorter barrel.
Highland, Sellier & Bellot and Hornady ammunition were among the brands Gerry used for testing.
Switching to 55 grain factory loads from Sellier & Bellot and Highland produced clean 1.25 MOA groups with excellent consistency. My own do-it-all handload – the Hornady 55 grain soft point on top of 25 grains of AR2206H, came in at just over 1 MOA. Feeding with the Windham was flawless despite my then spending the rest of the afternoon burning through some 100 rounds of assorted ammo I had on hand, annihilating rocks and bits of clay birds on the 200 yard mound.
Admittedly, I had expected maybe better groups given the optics, but I put the slightly larger than expected groups down to the non-free floating fore-end as Windham barrels are tops.
The Leupold AR scope and the Sellier & Bellot 69 grain ammo proved to be a good combination.
High speed accuracy and reliability from the Windham – Gerry was able to fire eight shots in less than three seconds.
I also ran a few groups with one of Shooting Systems Research’s prototype AR15 suppressors fitted, and was pleasantly surprised to note that the groups tightened somewhat. Blowback was also reduced over other designs I have tried and the muzzle forward design worked well with the 14.5” barrel. Running a suppressor also reminded me to grease up the buffer spring to reduce spring noise as the “can” made the action work a bit harder. Functioning was, once again, flawless.
Switching to an Aimpoint red dot, changed the carbine from a precision rifle, easily capable of 250 yard shots on medium game into a fast handling, accurate hunting rig that would be close to ideal for bush hunting, IPSC or chasing annoying tin cans down range.
My Aimpoint runs a 2 MOA dot and allows for precise aiming out to 200 yards or so. Red dots get a bad rep but I was able to shoot 1.5 – 2 MOA groups with most ammo. Well and truly minute of goat out to 200 yards. in the hands of a decent shot.
Taking the carbine to my local IPSC range, I ran it through several “Flying V” drills at 15 yards which tests cycling and handling. In A Category format, with one of my seven shot mags loaded (plus one up the spout) I was able to shoot a reduced V formation of three targets with eight rounds with two rounds at the center target, then two right, back with two center, then two left. The average time for the eight shots was around 3.2 seconds with my best being 2.8 seconds, a tad slower than my usual rig which is a bit heavier, making my shot to shot transition times faster. Pointing was excellent and reliability perfect.
So the question is, what would you use a Windham like this for? Easy, anything you want to. This model Windham is a short, handy, accurate semi-auto carbine with a fast twist barrel, well-tested military design and endless modular possibilities. You have a practically unlimited choice of factory ammo or hand loading, and can add a multitude of accessories.
The real question is what can’t you do with it?