Custom built firearms have always been and remain popular. Many useful features found on production firearms came from small custom shops, builders, and manufacturers. Their willingness to push past the norm moving beyond the corporate quagmire keeps this industry moving forward. It drives innovation and is largely responsible for increased popularity amongst many “atypical” buyers. Innovation while catering to the current or future markets is new to an industry that often builds for last years client. Firearms companies languished in obscurity for decades building for the previous centuries market because “that’s how its done”. When they started making firearms, accessories, and gear for this and the next generation things took off, and continues to rise. Demand based on politics, fear, even paranoia are present, but the real and longest lasting effect has been new users and buyers and they are not satisfied with the “status quo”. They want interesting, new, exiting, and different.
It’s a New World
Spending most of my adult life carrying a firearm for a living my world has always revolved around practicality, usefulness, and the budgetary constraints of police departments. Collecting firearms or purchases based on intrinsic value has been secondary or non-existent. I enjoy firearms but they remain a tool, something much of my generation still experiences. Fortunately my ability to spend time with new and young shooters lets me appreciate the future. Many new buyers are neither preparing for war, the zombie apocalypse or the collapse of government. Home defense or personal protection may be secondary. Its all about enjoying themselves. Much of this current generation enjoys a standard of living us “old timers” just never had. They can buy firearms because they like them, not need them. Camouflage is replaced with design alterations, different lines, and bright colors. Drab accessories are replaced with hats, patches, and clothing designed for wear not war. To be honest, its refreshing and a few companies are targeting this market well, Erathr3 is one of the best.
Sheri Johnson and Sterling Becklin started Erathr3 in 2013 as a small operation looking to innovate and work outside the box. Looking to get back to the “garage days” Sheri teamed with former Noveske president Sterling Becklin to try something different. Less interested in a tactical edge but still creating high quality products. After spending three days with Erathr3 it is clear they are not the norm, but they just may be shortly. They bring a refreshing vitality to a business often mired in gloom and doom.
Along with Proof Research and Leupold Optics Erathr3 put together a media event held at Buck Doyle’s Follow Through Consulting range in Teasdale Utah. Buck’s scoped carbine class is focused on engaging steel targets out to 1000 meters, most of them small. His experience as a combat proven Force Recon Marine keeps him focused on simplicity, accuracy, and getting hits on target without complicated math or knob turning. His long relationship with Todd Hodnett from Applied Ballistics means he relies primarily on either the Horus T2 or T3 reticle. In order to meet the demands of this class Erathr3 built rifles specifically for this task. It provides insight into their mindset. These rifles were designed a month or so prior to the class, machined the week before, and completed the night before they left. While based on an earlier rifle the “Grunt” included features never used prior. It was all about being different, and they accomplished that task very well.
Each rifle was housed in a custom wood ammo crate with each writers name engraved on it. A custom bag included a dog tag with your name, assorted clothing, and even some goodies. Each was Cerakoted in bright Orange, Blue, Yellow, and Green, no camo present. Working with Sheri and Sterling it was a beginning to some of the most fun I have had on the range in a long time. Both are engaging, friendly, enthusiastic, and great to be around. Neither of them takes themselves too seriously, the makings for a great few days. When asked why the colors, Sherri simply told me its fun, and she wanted to do something different. And that just may sum up the whole event.
This rifle started with their EL3L lower receiver, designed to be minimalist yet strong. CNC machined in house it removes as much metal as possible without compromising strength. There are cutaways in the magazine well. An integral trigger guard housed an American Trigger AR Gold trigger. An AXTS Titanium ambidextrous safety was used along with their Raptor Charging handle. Neatly fitting the bolt release keeps lines clean and the release tight to the receiver. Retention pins, magazine release and trigger pins are titanium to save weight. Primary Weapons Systems provided Gen 2 enhanced buffer tubes while Magpul added a pistol grip andCTR stock.
Sterling explained how he designed the upper receiver to match both the front and back of the lower receiver perfectly, all with the same dimensions as the hand guard. It presents a clean line from front to back. each was fit by hand. Recessing the dust cover rod provides a clean and smooth look. He tapered the back of the receiver rail to match the height of the charging handle. It houses a Titanium bolt carrier using a JP enhanced bolt. Using M-Lok on the hand guard provides strong and trouble free accessory mounts. Proof Research provided a Carbon Fiber Wrapped 16” barrel using a mid-length gas system and 1:7 twist rate. Barry Dueck added his RTS (Rapid Transition Sight) along with a SureFire Warcomp flash hider.Leupold provided Mark 6 3-18 power scopes with lighted T3 reticles mounted in Leupold Mark 6 single IMS 34mm mounts. Each was provided in a nylon case along with three 20 round Magpul Gen 3 magazines.
Scoped Carbine starts from prone getting used to the Horus reticle utilizing the “12 inch” rule. It is a simple ranging rule effective on targets as small as 12 inches out to roughly 600 meters. With a sweet spot of 200-500 meters it is perfect for most situations. Using the patented scale in the scope you measure a 12” circle giving you a hold in mils. Hold that at the top or bottom of the plate, read the wind and press. Wind dots allow you to estimate the wind and just add dots. Day one you work out to 1100 meters focusing mostly on 600 meters and closer. Hornady provided their Superperformance 75 Grain BTHP match and it proved very accurate. Marked 5.56mm it has a higher velocity than most of their .223 ammunition. Rated at 2910 fps from a 20” barrel it was flat shooting at closer to 2800 fps through the Proof Research 16 inch barrels. Day one saw hits on steel in two shots or less out to 600 meters. Winds ranging from 10-20 mph made it tougher at 800 and 1000 meters, but I hit both. It was almost too easy, so long as the wind was held correctly it was a hit. Timed for right handed shooters the Warcomp held the muzzle in place with no rise. The Grunt was soft to shoot staying in place even during rapid fire sessions.
Once the scope and reticle are familiar you move to barricades and hay bails engaging targets from 50-500 meters. The idea being to get your heart rate up so you run / jog to various positions and engage ISPC sized steel plates or Larue knock down targets. My first run through went without a single miss on steel knocking them all down in turn, even the steel at 508 meters. One things for sure, the “Grunt” is light, a true pleasure to run with. It is easy to maneuver, carries well, stays in place for follow up shots, and made it pretty easy to get on target quickly.
There is no knob turning in this class, nor do you spend countless monotonous hours studying math or zeroing your rifle. Each rifle was zeroed to hit close to the middle on a 6 inch steel target. This rifle held dead on to my Kestrel readings and provided for consistent hits at extended ranges. It did so with the Hornady, along with Black Hills 69 grain TMK and Barnes 70 grain TSX; all on the same zero with no perceivable shift in holds. Having run near a dozen different rifles and calibers through this course that is exceptional. It did so without cleaning the bore only wiping down the BCG once while adding oil occasionally.
Back at my home range it was tested for 100 yard groups along with some more static shooting at range. Nothing changed, it was accurate producing groups with all three types of ammunition under .60 inches. Hornady’s 75 grain SuperPerformance provided the smallest group measuring right at .50 inches.
Having driven to the event my rifle never left my possession. It was given no attention between courses or days other than by me. It went into the back of the truck covered in fine dust folded in my Eagle HSRC drag bag and stayed that way. This rifle never suffered a malfunction. Pulling the bolt carrier out after day one it was moderately dusty but functioned perfectly. It was not removed again until done and it was still not bad.
American Triggers AR Gold worked flawlessly, not something often experienced with drop in triggers. My lack of enthusiasm for drop ins is pretty well known. This one was crisp with some take up that was tactile and not loose. There were no soft primer strikes and the trigger pins never walked. These were set up in the 3 pound range and were quite predictable.
During the three days I used Barnes 70 grain TSX, Black Hills 69 grain TMK, Hornady 75 Grain 5.56 NATO, and a couple different 55 grain loads. They all functioned without issue. Brass timing was different, common with a super light bolt carrier, but it never failed to eject. It was also tested at my home range with all of them using a SureFire RC2 5.56mm SOCOM suppressor without issue. Surefire has done a nice job on this, having used most of their prior models there is a noticeable difference in back pressure.
Along with some fun at the expense of gun writers these rifles are going to be sold by Erathr3 at a reduced price for a few Veterans charities, another reason for the bright colors. Each will be equipped as tested so keep your eyes peeled for that on the Erathr3 website.
This is the lightest AR I have ever tested, it was pleasant. The older I get the less a rifle weighs the better, and this was about as light as it gets. Once the shooting started there was no noticeable increase in recoil or second shot accuracy, just a back and shoulders pleased by the lack of weight.
These are custom rifles with a custom rifle price tag using custom touches that are both useful and cosmetic. Each rifle is hand built. Erathr3 is geared towards having fun and selling a few rifles with a serious attention to detail. If you are looking for cheap get it done guns you will need to go elsewhere.
I came away with a great appreciation for both Sherri and Sterling’s enthusiasm and focus and understanding of today’s buyer. Both take what they do seriously, each rifle is a personal creation not a slab of aluminum and other parts slapped together. Yet, they were incredibly fun to be around and spend time with. If you are in the market for a great rifle that works great while having some fun at the same time then make sure you add anything from Erathr3 to the list, and maybe keep your eyes open for the bright green one I used!
Caliber/Gauge: .223 Wylde
Barrel: 16.1 Inches
OA Length: 32 Inches (Collapsed)
Weight: 4.7 pounds (bare Rifle)
Sights: Optics Rail / Dueck Defense Sights
Stocks/Grips: Magpul MOE grip / NRX Hand Guard/ Magpul CTR stock
Action: Semi-Automatic / Rotating Bolt / Gas Impingement
Finish: Cerakote (Lime Green in this case)
Capacity: Accepts Standard AR 15 / M16 Magazines
Load Velocity Accuracy
Black Hills 69 Grain TMK 2800 .50 Inches
Barnes 70 Grain TSX 2750 .60 Inches
Hornady 75 Grain BTHP 2770 .58 Inches
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps) by Pro Chrony Digital chronograph. Accuracy in inches for three 5-shot groups at 100 yards. Groups fired from prone using a bag as a rest.