Review: Lithgow Arms LA102 Crossover Centerfire rifle
Running a blog requires a lot of planning and organization. Unfortunately, I don’t plan or organize very well. Often I’ll have an idea, think its great and begin to execute it. The final product looks nothing like what I planned. Just last month I started out building a scout rifle and end up installing a duckbill on a shotgun! A lot of times things just happen around here. Take this review as an example.
I get a text from my friend at Legacy Sports International that said, “Hey, I have a rifle I want you to look at, can I send it?” I said yes. What I got was a bolt action rifle in a box covered in Kangaroo silhouettes and “Made in Australia” all over it. A Lithgow Arms LA102 Crossover centerfire rifle chambered in 308 Winchester.
I was ten years old when Crocodile Dundee came out. That was my introduction to Australia and Australians. A rugged country with rugged people. For those of us in the US, it is important to remember that the Aussies fought along side us in all of our wars throughout this century and the last. A loyal ally that is known for producing outstanding rifleman that can endure rugged conditions. Lithgow maybe new to the US civilian sporting arms market, but they aren’t new to the gun business.
The Lithgow Arms factory was built in 1912 as a response to Britain’s inability to arm it’s colonies effectively during conflicts at the end of the 19th century. Australia is a long way from Britain, and at the time was relatively undefended. An Australian manufacturing facility made perfect sense.
The factory was originally to produce the SMLE 303 rifle (the British Empire’s pattern). Tooling, machinery and skill was provided by Pratt and Whitney USA on an improved technical data package of the same rifle. The factory has operated continuously since through good days and bad on the same site. Lithgow Arms as a brand name wasn’t floated until 2014 when they began designing civil products. A detailed but abbreviated written history can be found here: http://www.lithgowsafmuseum.org.au/history.html
The factory has had forays into civil arms over the 20th century. Discounting surplus firearms, the factory made and produced some civil rimfire rifles back in the day under Slazenger and Sportco brands. Modern civil firearms design and manufacturing started in 2014. According to Lithgow’s sales director, “We’re a 105 year old start-up”!
Hammer forging marks are readily apparent on the LA102. Lithgow forges its own barrels and all Lithgow rifles are equipped with forged barrels except the 17HMR, which are a button rifled.
Since Lithgow produces the Australian service rifle, the F88, which is very similar to the Steyr AUG I asked Lithgow about their relationship with Steyr. They told me: “To be clear, we own all designs produced at Lithgow. The Steyr IP (for the Steyr AUG, renamed F88 for the ADF) was purchased outright in the late 1980s and modified considerably to meet Australian military specifications during initial production. It was never ‘licensed’. Over time the Australian design and manufacture has drifted significantly from the original Steyr AUG – finally resulting in the F90. Steyr had no influence on the LA101 rimfire or LA102 centerfire actions.”
The modern look of the LA102 if fairly unique. Taking the rifle apart, you see design aspects not commonly encountered. While it looks like it is stainless steel, the rifle is actually constructed of ordnance grade steel and coated in Cerakote.
The polymer used to mold the stock is the same used on the F88 service rifle. It feels more dense then most of the stocks I’ve handled. Forward of the magazine well the LA102 has an embedded steel recoil lug. Each action screw also passes through a steel pillar to prevent deformation of the stock.
Like the Tikka T3 and Savage Axis, the bottom of the LA102 has a slot of a recoil lug that is attached to the stock. Unlike the Aixs and T3, this slot exposes the barrel threads. I asked Lithgow about it. Specifically, “Does the cut through the bottom of the receiver for the floating lug weaken the action? Did you model this?” Lithgow replied, “No it doesn’t weaken the design. The barrel trunnion thread straddles the slot in the receiver on the inside and provides support to the slot on both sides. We use FEA where needed to support a strength of design calculations.”
The LA102 moves away from bottom metal, incorporating parts normally associated with it into the receiver. Take a look at the magazine release mechanism above, it is attached to the bottom of the action.
In this photo (above) you can see the trigger, rear action screw housing, and side bolt release. Note the housing for the rear action screw is dovetailed into the tang of the receiver. This was done at allow more bearing surface for the rear action screw. It means the rear lug floats and is always square to the receiver.
The LA102 uses a 3-lug bolt, plunger style ejector and a typical spring loaded extractor. The bolt body is fairly thick and reminds me of the Ruger American or now Ultimatum Precision U300.
The LA102 is fed from a single column polymer magazine. Lithgow does have plans to make the LA102 feed from AICS type magazines in the future.
To get the LA102 Crossover ready for the range I installed a TRACT Optics TEKOA 4-16×44 scope in Warne mounts. I’ve been extremely pleased with the TRACT scopes I’ve had on rifles for testing. Check them out when you get a chance.
Getting behind the LA102 was an interesting experience. While most of the rifle I shoot are fairly similar, the LA102 has a lot of unique features. Take a look at the safety mechanism.
It is a three position lever with a firing pin cocking indicator. The rifle can be on safe with the trigger locked with the lever in line with the rifle, on safe with the bolt unlock (shown above), or on fire (below).
When you do finally fire the LA102, a single stage 2 pound 12 ounce trigger greets you with a wide shoe. It is simply fantastic.
The 22″ long 1:11: twist barrel of the LA102 is a similar profile to a Remington Varmint- not too heavy for hunting, but not too light for target shooting. This is one of the places Lithgow got the Crossover name from. This rifle had muzzle with metric threads, all future LA102s will be threaded 1/2″-28 or 5/8″-24.
The rear of the LA102 stock includes a spacer system to adjust the length of pull to fit the individual user, this is always a good feature and I hope to see it included on more production rifles.
For testing and evaluation I headed to the range with my loaner LA102 and a pile of Federal Gold Medal 168 gr ammunition. This is loaded with the excellent 168 gr Sierra MatchKing bullet. Firing 5-shot groups, prone, from a bipod and rear bag I was easily able to keep groups under 1 MOA.
My second was .846″ (.808 MOA)! Not to shabby!
The Federal Gold Medal had an average 2,646 feet/second with a a standard deviation of 33.9.
After firing these two groups I plinked away at a wide variety of targets. Shooting the LA102 was an absolute pleasure.
What do I think of the Lithgow LA102 Crossover?
- Outside the box. The design of the LA102 is unique, in a good way!
- Light bolt lift. The bolt lift on the LA102 was light. This is typically an issue with 3 lug actions, Lithgow did a great job designing it.
- Nice stock. Even though it was an injection molded stock, the stock didn’t feel cheap or flimsy. It felt solid and provided a great foundation for an accurate rifle.
- It shoots! Just over 1/2 MOA out of the box!
- Looking forward to the future. I’m hoping to see the LA102 offered in additional calibers and compatible with AICS magazines.