The first thing I noticed when I picked up Smith & Wesson’s (S&W) new VTACII rifle was the way the rifle’s slim smooth handguard fit my hand so nicely. Without the quad rail design I usually see, I found the tube handguard with a single picatiny rail running the length of the top to be just about perfect for me. The slots running up and down the length of the rest of the handguard provided a solid grip without the too-sharp edges of many quads that can wear on your fingers and palms.
Later, as I was emptying magazine after magazine at Wyoming prairie dogs, I noticed something else: that same handguard warmed up but it did not get hot.
S&W calls it the VTAC/Troy Extreme TRX Handguard, and it’s just one of the many tactical innovations in this new entry into the gun maker’s M&P15 line of tactical rifles. In July, I had the chance to run more than 400 rounds through the VTACII, on a Wyoming varmint shoot co-sponsored by S&W. It took me a lot fewer rounds than 400 to realize that I’d love to own one of these sweet-shooting, accurate and comfortable VTACII’s. And that it would be a great rifle for tactical hog hunting.
To create this rifle, S&W worked closely with tactical guru Kyle Lamb, president of Viking Tactics and a retired Army sergeant major in special operations. What Lamb and S&W created is a tactical rifle that gets it done on the shooting range and on the ground.
The VTACII is chambered in 5.56mm/.223, and employs a mid-length direct impingement gas operated system. A mid-length system means that the VTACII’s gas tube is approximately two-inches longer than the tube on a standard carbine system. That longer gas tube essentially siphons off slightly less gas than the carbine-length tube. The result?
“The mid length gives you less felt recoil and a slower, less violent carrier velocity when compared to the carbine system,” Tiger McKee, owner/operator of the Shootrite Firearms Academy explains. “Is this important on a defensive rifle? Probably not. But for surgical shooting, especially with magnified glass and for quick follow up shots, it’s a very good thing.”
The VTACII has a 16-inch barrel of 4150 CMV steel, with a 1 in 8-inch rate of twist and a Melonite finish. It also features 5R rifling, to maintain accuracy and to help reduce copper fouling and cleaning times. Compared to standard six-groove rifling, the five lands and grooves of 5R rifling are designed to cause less bullet deformation and, therefore, less bullet jacket fouling of the grooves.
How? First, having one less land and one less groove equals less cutting into the bullet jacket. Plus, according to S&W, the sides of the 5R rifling are cut at a 150 degree angle versus the harsher 90 degree angle on standard rifling. Less deformation equals less jacket fouling in the lands and grooves, which equals better accuracy over many shots, and a rifle barrel that’s easier to clean.
That 1 in 8 twist helps stabilize the longer, heavier .223 bullets I usually use for hog hunting, too. At the same time, the 1 in 8 twist shoots the 55 grainers just fine, as dozens of Wyoming prairie dogs discovered.
A Geissele Super V Trigger is also standard on the VTACII. The Geissele has a light, quick pull and it is among the very best AR triggers I’ve ever used. This trigger was designed exclusively for Viking Tactics, so, yes, the “V” stands for Viking. This trigger gives the tactical shooter a single-stage trigger with a 4 to 4.5 pound pull weight. The trigger isn’t adjustable, which means no adjustment screws to come loose.
The barrel’s tipped with S&W’s patent-pending “Enhanced Flash Hider,” designed to significantly reduce flash signature and to direct gases and sound forward and away from the shooter.
The rifle also has a VLTOR™ IMod 6-Position, Collapsible Stock, providing a nice cheek weld and putting me right at correct level for the scope. It comes complete with a VTAC Wide, Padded 2-Point Tactical Sling (long favored by SHWAT founders), a LPSM Low Profile Sling Mount, and a 30-Round PMAG Magazine. It has a standard Picatinny rail running along the top of the receiver and the handguard, for mounting rear sights and optics, etc. It also comes with a VTAC light mount under the front of handguard, which fits most lights with a .80 to 1-inch diameter.
Given the smooth contour of the VTAC/Troy Extreme TRX Handguard, what do you do if you have some other tactical hog hunting goodies you’d like to attach? The rifle’s packaged with two, two-inch adjustable Picatinny-style rails that can be mounted along the handguard. Now that’s customization!
The VTACII I used was topped with a Weaver Tactical 3-15×50 scope. Now, I don’t usually think of Weaver when I think “tactical,” but I have to say, this is a high-quality optic, able to more than hold its own at distances short and long.
The scope employs a first focal plane reticle with a Mil-Dot. It has large windage and elevation knobs that you pull out to adjust. The pull-out feature means there are no small caps to misplace or lose—something I’ve done more than once. It comes with a matte finish, a 30mm tube, and a side knob for parallax adjustments.
With this rifle and scope package, I killed all sorts of prairie dogs in the 200 to 250 yard range, most of them with a single shot. I took out several dogs at 300-plus yards, some with one shot, some where I walked in two or three rounds and then the final round. The Weaver pulled in lots of light and, even at the longest distances, provided crisp images.
At those ranges, hitting targets that small, much of the credit has to go to the optic, and I’d recommend the Weaver Tactical to anyone looking to put quality glass on their AR.
For ammunition, I spent that day strictly shooting Hornady .223 Remington, 55 grain Zombie Max with green tips. The Z-Max was dead on all day long, with never a jam or misfire in 400- plus rounds.
True, you don’t need a 55 grain bullet to take out even the fattest prairie dog. But that’s what was available, so that’s what I used. Plus, the 55 gr. option would be a fine choice for bigger targets. I’ve seen Hornady tipped ballistic rounds in action before, and the expansion inside an animal is devastating. With an AR like the VTACII able to slam in a quick second shot (if needed), I’d use the Z-Max 55 grain on game up to and including a hog weighing 100 pounds or less, at 100 yards or less, any day.
For the AR-minded hog hunter, this is a great rifle/scope/ammunition combination.