An offshoot of RSW Aviation, North Star Arms is the second and more commercial firearms endeavor that has sprouted from the Arizona company. The elder RSW-related gun company is the better-known Profense, a maker of improved M134 Mini Guns in 7.62 and its downsized 5.56 little brother that started when RWS was looking for gun pods for its aircraft.
North Star has only gotten into the AR game very recently, and from the outset it sought to build a low price point gun (around $1K) with premium features that would be tough to beat in its class. We came across our test gun in kind of an unorthodox way, but before we get into that, let's go over those specs for those who are curious.
We first came across the NS-15 while at Gunsite in Paulding, Arizona, during a suppressed carbine event last August. Most of the carbines on hand for use in the course were ArmaLite M-15 LTC (Light Tactical Carbine) models with 16-inch barrels provided by Strategic Arms Corps. However, there were a couple of North Stars on hand as well. As I've shot lots of ArmaLites before but never seen one of these, my easy choice was a North Star NS-15.
In the course of sighting in the MBUS3s and switching back into field testing, we chewed through half a can of German military surplus MEN-marked M193, a few boxes of Tula 62 grain .223 – remember, you can run .223 in a 5.56 but should stay away from 5.56 in a .223 – and some South Korean PMC X-TAC. I added another 700 rounds to my count on the NS-15, pushing well past the 1,200 mark, with at least half of that suppressed. Keep in mind the carbine had been well-used before its run-in with Guns.com, having been on the range at several prior events.
When it came to reliability, the carbine was a champ, logging three cleanings (one in Arizona and two in Mississippi) when it got especially sluggish, and two quickly-cleared stoppages (a failure to fully eject Tula on a PMAG and a double feed with German ammo in an old steel Colt-marked 20 rounder mag.)
When it came to accuracy, the NS-15 excelled for a 16-inch barreled carbine with a polished Mil-Spec trigger and no magnification. At Gunsite, I easily managed the practical targets both on the flat range and in the Scrambler and Shoot House. Back in Mississippi, working off the bench and on sandbags, I was able to get some very nice groups with match-grade ammo.
Pros & Cons
High quality, accurate barrel.
Lots of M-LOK slots, QD cups, and Pic rail length.
Good fit and finish.
Reliable, even under rough conditions and with a suppressor.
Could have a better trigger.
Grip/stock may not be for everyone.
North Star has an MSRP on the NS-15 series of $1,099, but we have been carrying them for a good bit less than that in recent months. When it comes to ARs at about the same price (or cheaper), there is a *lot* of competition out there, such as the Diamondback DB-15, DoubleStar Forged Star, the IWI Zion-15, S&W M&P Sport, and Springfield Armory Saint Victor. I've shot most of those, some extensively, and the NS-15 can definitely hang with its competitors and even outshines many, especially in terms of accuracy.
Competition is a good thing, and the NS-15 has taken the field ready to play.