Product Review: Guns of Mid-South Tactical Network

A couple of years ago, champion 3-gun shooter Taran Butler showed me his .223 carbine that was made for him by his gunsmith, Paul Ertzgard, of Mid-South Tactical Network (MSTN).

What impressed me initially was how lightweight and responsive the carbine felt in my hands. The balance of the gun was just about perfect and I knew intuitively that it would be an absolutely marvelous performer in the field.

I am not a big fan of the current trend to see how clunky and bulky we can make an AR-15 or AR-10 by adding on all sorts of heavy components because we think we need them. Such things as heavy barrels, heavy forends with all sorts of rails and attachments, bipods etc. all add up, or, more accurately, slow things down.



If you want the best and won’t be satisfied with less, MSTN builds one of the best in the field.
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Sure, if your mission calls for a perimeter watch and you have one of the excellent Grip-Pods that you can throw on for the mission, no problem. That is a static situation.

But the huge advantage the AR-15 has over its predecessors is its lightweight configuration and speed with which it can be deployed by someone who really knows how to drive the gun. In an armed encounter, this speed can be very decisive in determining who wins and who loses.

I contacted Paul Ertzgard shortly after that conversation with Taran and learned some more about him and his philosophies of gunsmithing.

Paul, with his business partner, Wes Grant, started business in 2001. He is a serious shooter and shoots extensively with his equipment. Not being satisfied with the current crop of AR’s out there, he set out to build one that would meet the needs of both him and the current generation of top end shooters looking for the ultimate in performance.

Finding the best components that blend lightness with durability and performance is not an easy task. MSTN took a long time acquiring components to meet mission requirements. MSTN experimented with such things as carbon fiber forends, top end barrels, trigger components etc. and then did exhaustive shooting tests to determine what was working and what needed to change. They also relied on top performers to give them feedback and help steer them in the right direction. Reliability was a key issue and was never sacrificed for the sake of convenience or artificial performance in shooting matches.

Ergonomics is the hidden factor that determines how responsive a weapon will be when you are really driving it hard.

Knowing how big the barrel should be, how long, where the weight is distributed, where the balance points are etc. all contribute to this “feel”. That is what takes the longest to figure out and that is what makes the gun stand out from the rest of the field.

Through years of testing and working with top competitive shooters, military and law enforcement professionals as well as their own extensive R&D, MSTN perfected its various weapons systems and continues this process relentlessly to this day.

I sent my DPMS .223 and one DPMS .308 rifle and a .308 upper to MSTN to work their magic on them. I have to say, it was worth the effort and then some!

The .223 Carbine was a mirror image of the one I handled before. In shooting tests involving rapid acquisition of targets at various distances from all kinds of shooting positions, it was very responsive during reactive shooting drills. Again, excellent ergonomics contributed to this performance.

The .308 Carbine started life as a DPMS Heavy Barrel at 11 lbs. It shot very accurately but it was fairly heavy as was the .308 upper. What I envisioned was a lightweight, very responsive 16” barrel .308 that weighed around 8.5 lbs. and a slightly longer and heavier, 20” barrel .308 upper for perimeter and longer range work. I wanted handling characteristics similar to the .223 with the superior energy of the .308 cartridge.

I was very pleased with the .308 carbines when I received them. The 16” .308 is just as fast in its handling as any of the current mid-weight .223’s out there. The 20” upper, while slightly heavier, allows me to use longer range loads and reach out to farther targets with superior energy and ballistics. The trigger was crisp and clean and definitely contributed to precise shot placement at speed.

MSTN put rails only where you would need equipment. They give you the option of adding or subtracting gear, based on your mission requirements. This helps keep the gun responsive.

In accuracy tests, I was amazed by how well all components did. PSA PRO STAFF Members, Richard Kendall and Keith Carr, conducted the handloading and accuracy tests with the .308 weapon systems. PSA PRO TEAM Member, Keith Garcia, did some of the testing with the .223. The .223, with custom handloads and Nosler bullets, shot into ½” at 100 yards consistently. It shot well under an inch with factory loads as well.

Using Nosler Accubond bullets in the .308s, 3 shot groups measured less than one inch consistently. , When Richard and Keith switched to 155 Nosler Custom Competition bullets, the groups shrank to ¼” – ½”! This is phenomenal accuracy for a semi-auto tactical gun!

MSTN builds guns for high performance. While they are more expensive than the over the counter guns, you truly get what you pay for with MSTN.

The MSTN/DPMS .223 Carbine consistently outperformed other .223 carbines during our series of speed/accuracy testing drills. It was much faster on swinging from target to target and stopping precisely as well as the speed of target acquisition for single targets and different ranges. This is directly attributable to the light weight and excellent ergonomics noted earlier. Couple this with its outstanding accuracy and you have an ideal combination.

Practical Shooting Academy PRO TEAM member and instructor, Keith Garcia, a law enforcement officer from Bay Area Rapid Transit in California, took the MSTN .223 upper to the 2008 USPSA Multi-gun championships and finished 2nd overall with the gun. First place was taken by Taran Butler, also shooting an MSTN gun.

If you want the best and won’t be satisfied with less, MSTN builds one of the best in the field. They can be reached at or call 423-847-3703. They offer law enforcement discounts when you sign up for an account. Tell them you read about them in PoliceOne!

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