‘THE EDGE’ RACE RIFLE
By Roni Toldanes
Lloyd De Santis watched as a shooter lifted the rifle from the display table during a recent gun show.
“I’ve heard many good things about this .223,” said the shooter, gently rubbing his left hand on the colorful and smooth receiver of the new rifle called The Edge. “So when is the new .308 version coming out?”
De Santis flashed a smile and replied, “You’re holding it.”
As owner of the Colorado-based RND Manufacturing, De Santis is accustomed to this reaction toward his race rifles. For several years his company has established a reputation for churning out high-quality .223 rifles. They are the kind of rifles that top shooters use in 3-Gun action shooting tournaments.
Competition shooters are known to be a picky bunch. They buy factory-produced rifles only to bring them to a custom riflesmith for a complete re-work and installation of aftermarket race parts. RND guns are designed just for that meticulous clientele. Each part that must be replaced and every “accurizing” necessary for improved performance have already been blended into the rifle before it leaves the factory.
In 1995, IPSC Grandmaster Benny Hill won the rifle championship at the USPSA 3-Gun Nationals with a .223-chambered The Edge. A year later, top shooter Michael Voigt won the overall national championship also using an RND rifle. At the 1996 Masters’ Long Range Rifle event, The Edge was again the victorious gun in the capable hands of Team Caspian’s Bruce Piatt.
Most 3-Gun action shooters prefer the .223 caliber because its lighter recoil allows them to fire faster shots during timed events. But for high-power rifle competitions, the .223 is not the ideal caliber. So De Santis faced the challenge of building another rifle capable of handling bigger ammo similar to the .308 but with proven features like its .223 predecessor. He went back to the drawing board and, after a few months, finally produced his .308 version.
“We actually started from zero,” says De Santis. “The only things that we didn’t manufacture were the trigger group and the barrel.”
Produced by the Oregon-based Pac-nor, the barrel features button rifling, the method of choice in the accuracy arena. Unlike the three other methods of making barrels (broach, cut and hammer forged), button rifling produces a mirror-like internal finish that gives the bullet a smooth travel area. This results in consistent and accurate hits.
Pac-nor handlapped the massive 20-inch barrel to produce an outstanding surface finish and uniform groove dimensions prior to shipping it to the RND plant, where it was then chambered and throated.
The huge tube originally measured one-inch at the muzzle end. De Santis fluted the barrel to reduce weight, improve cooling and maintain rigidity. And because the .308 barrel is heavier than its .223 counterpart, De Santis designed a stronger hexagonal receiver.
The RND rifle’s upper and lower receivers were machined from a solid piece of aluminum to achieve tight tolerances. The two parts underwent handfitting, preventing unwanted movement that might distract the shooter when the rifle is fired.
Internally, De Santis attacked the trigger assembly by setting it at 3-pounds. While top shooters prefer a light two-pound trigger, he chose a slightly heavier pull to prevent any accidental discharge. Despite this setting, the trigger breaks without take-up or over-travel.
Externally, the .308 version is almost identical to its .223 counterpart. This offers the multi-gun shooter a unique advantage. He can shoot the .223 rifle and the .308 rifle at different shooting events using the same shooting style and stance. While other shooters would have to learn how to shoot a .223 AR-15 and a .308 bolt-action rifle, RND gun owners don’t have to because their two guns have almost identical dimensions.
Mike Voigt, winner of the 1996 USPSA 3-Gun Nationals, says that among the potpourri of features in this rifle are the handguard vents that allow the barrel’s heat to dissipate under the gun. The vents, Voigt says, reduce the possibility of having a “mirage effect” that may irk the shooter while peeping through his scope, thereby producing inaccurate hits.
Voigt singled out the straight line movement of the RND’s semi-auto bolt as the ideal configuration for high-power shooting. Unlike other .308 rifles such as the M1A and the M-14, the RND rifle produces less muzzle flip because the gun recoils in a straight line directly towards the shoulder.
“Because this gun doesn’t kick as hard, you can spend more time ‘reading the wind’ and trying to achieve better shots,” Voigt says. “And since you don’t have to work the bolt, you can shoot the gun faster when wind conditions are most favorable.”
De Santis knows that a good part of the equation to achieve an accurate rifle is selecting an appropriate handle, or stock, that fits the shooter. He installed an adjustable butt stock, allowing shooters with long arms to extend the butt by an inch and a half. With a perfect fit, the user gets better hits. There’s no pulling of the shoulders that can cause muscle tension and inaccurate shots.
The butt plate comes with a Pachmayr rubber stock to help cushion recoil. It was installed on a dovetail that allows it to be moved up and down. It’s a great advantage for shooters who intend to use the rifle for both offhand and prone shooting. The camber is also adjustable to accommodate both the southpaws and righthanded shooters. And for additional comfort, De Santis installed a polyurethane rubber grip from Stock Options.
De Santis manufactured a higher and thicker charging handle to give the shooter a full-knuckle finger grip. He also created a flat-top Weaver mount, which he elevated, making it easier for the shooter to position his eye relative to the eyepiece. Extractor and ejector parts have been polished and fitted, as are all other contact surfaces. And an RND titanium firing pin was installed to provide more reliable ignition and a slight edge in lock-time
De Santis lightened the hammer for faster travel. He created several slots on the handguard, allowing the shooter to install a bipod without any restriction on the adjustment level.
Another excellent feature was the removal of the roll pin that holds both ends of the lever and the bolt catch release. It was replaced with a set screw that permits the user to remove the bolt without “beating up” the gun.
After the internal modifications were completed, De Santis gave the gun a racy external look with different colors, mainly “to get away from the nasty assault rifle look.”
Bruce Piatt, the 1996 Masters Long Range Rifle champion, says RND rifles “function flawlessly every time” during the heat of competition. “And they look like high-tech mountain bikes.”
You can clearly see the blue, black and silver colors so you probably think this rifle was painted, right? Wrong. Those colorful parts, made of hard aluminum, were subjected to a process called “oxidalic plating.”
“The colors were grown from the metal through oxidation,” says Piers Wiggett of PK Selective Metal Plating in Santa Clara, California. “The colors have become part of the metal so you can’t rub ’em off.”
“I call this my urban camouflage,” De Santis says with an impish smile. “When it’s inside a car, no one will think it’s a real gun.”
This handsome rifle, indeed, is poetry in cold steel.
De Santis dreams of the day when someone will eventually conquer Camp Perry, the world’s most prestigious long-range rifle tournament, using The Edge rifle.
The .223 version has proven itself as a successful rifle in the world’s toughest action shooting events. And most of the country’s top shooters agree that it’s only a matter of time before the .308 starts winning at major long-range rifle shooting tournaments.
Champion rifle shooter Benny Hill compares his experience of shooting other high-power rifles to the severe torture one gets from driving a dilapidated Volkswagen Beetle that failed to pass the California emission tests. “But shooting an RND rifle is like cruising around the city on board a sleek Mercedes Benz,” Hill says with a grin.
We must agree. Like a luxury car, this RND race rifle delivers unparalleled performance, comfort and reliability in one neat package – straight from the factory.
(Roni Toldanes was managing editor of Gun World, the oldest firearms magazine in the United States; group managing editor of Knives Illustrated, and editor of Gun Games, America’s shooting sports magazine. He also worked as editor-in-chief of weekly newspapers; news editor, senior copy editor, assignment editor and editorial board member of major daily newspapers in California, Texas, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia. He covered southeast Asia as a foreign correspondent and chief editor of an international news agency.)