Lithgow LA102 Outback review

Review: Lithgow LA102 Outback centrefire rifle


The Outback combines two of Australia’s most prominent home-grown shooting products: the Lithgow Arms LA102 centrefire action and the Southern Cross Small Arms TSP X aluminium chassis, creating a hard-working, practical firearm.

All Lithgow had to do to create this new model was forge a short little 46cm (18”) sporter-weight barrel to fit to its well-known action, then do a deal for the chassis that Southern Cross (SCSA) makes in its NSW factory. 

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
A very practical rifle, the Lithgow Outback is tough and hard-wearing

Add the LA105’s steel 10-round magazine and ship ’em out.

It was an obvious thing to do, according to the factory’s recently reinvigorated management, and it’s one of a series of new rifles just released by the factory, which has promised even more more treats in the near future.

The TSP X chassis is made up of four main parts: the butt assembly, trigger housing, fore-end central chassis inlet into which the LA102 receiver is mounted. 

An AR-type pistol grip is screwed on behind the trigger guard and there’s a black-anodised adaptor bolted to the bottom to facilitate the use of the LA105 magazine.

The bedding includes a recoil lug held firmly in place by a pair of clamping screws, and the bedding is a solid setup.

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The central chassis component is shaped to perfectly cradle the LA102 action, with ultra-stable bedding

The fore-end has M-Lok slots on the bottom and sides for attaching accessories. If you want to use a sling, four cups accept quick-detached swivels, one up front, one in front of the magazine well and one either side of the butt.

The TSP X chassis allows adjustment at the butt. Length of pull can be increased from 345mm by inserting 5mm spacers; three are supplied. The cheek piece can be quickly raised without tools to get your eye aligned with the scope.

The chassis weighs just under 2kg, and the whole rifle with empty magazine and its muzzle brake fitted weighs a hefty 4.6kg. 

That’s enough to give the Outback stability, both on a rest and when swinging it offhand onto a moving target. 

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The Outback in its primary role, shooting from a supported position to accurately knock off ferals

It does shoulder and shoot well offhand, despite the impressions you get when you first lift it.

Still, its main purpose is being shot from a rest of some kind. I fitted a Magpul bipod from which it shot very well, both on a bench and on the ground.

Between the Outback’s weight and the chassis’s design, felt recoil is significantly reduced. This is one of the most docile .308s I’ve ever shot, especially with the brake fitted but even without it.

Lithgow’s updated brake design is a ripper. The 25mm-wide brake has three rows of ports and Lithgow’s testing indicated it made a 27% reduction in recoil. However, by enlarging the rearmost pair of port and shaping them to vent gasses upwards at a 45-degree angle, the designers reduced muzzle jump by 84%, a significant achievement. 

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The Lithgow Arms muzzle brake is excellent, reducing both recoil and muzzle jump by a significant amount

It makes the Outback a real pussycat. Getting back on target after a shot is easy, seeing your fall of shot is virtually a given, use of thermals or night vision is greatly enhanced and you can shoot all day without feeling battered.

However, the muzzle blast can’t be ignored with the brake attached and ear protection is pretty much essential.

The LA102 action is the familiar one, now featuring a fluted bolt. When new, the bolt had a hint of stiction on closing but with a bit of use and proper lubrication it became less of an issue. None of this was evident on the LA102 Hunter I tested recently, which was very smooth.

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The SCSA chassis takes only a few minutes to strip right down

Otherwise it’s business as usual for the wide-bodied three-lug bolt and the very strong action with 16cm Picatinny rail on top. 

Ditto the trigger, which is fully adjustable; as I was usually shooting from a rest or over a bipod I set it lower than usual to a 1.1kg let-off with virtually no creep, and it was a delight.

The barrel is far lighter than the LA102 Crossover’s. It tapers within 9cm of the receiver to a diameter of 21mm before slowly slimming down to 17mm at the start of the muzzle thread.

The magazine release is great. Pivoting in the front of the trigger guard, it can be actuated from inside or out, by either hand. The lever is tactile in operation and holds the mag firmly.

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The paddle-style magazine release provides flexibility in how you use it. Mag is a steel AICS-type 10-rounder

Being steel in aluminium, the magazine does rattle a bit when attached but you can cure this with a couple of strips of tape on either side.

Accuracy was good, the Lithgow .308 barrel’s 1:11” twist rate stabilising up to 180gn bullets to give quite acceptable results. I did all the tests with five-shot groups, given the role this rifle will often play in feral control. Results are in the table. 

As stated above, shooting offhand with the pistol-gripped rifle comes naturally, more so when you adjust the cheek piece to suit the scope’s height, and then it’s as quick to aim as anything. 

I did do some stalking with the Outback. Obviously, I’d prefer to take a Hunter for a walk, but the Outback was fine in the role. 

From a vehicle or lying behind a bipod, the Outback was a champion.

Lithgow LA102 Outback review
The Southern Cross TSP X chassis has adjustable length of pull and cheek piece

Its stability enhances your ability to shoot accurately, even at moving targets. The 10-round magazine enables prolonged targeting of mobs of ferals. The limited recoil and comfortable ergonomics, especially from a rest, increase its effectiveness further.

Lithgow’s Outback is a tough rifle available in a handy range of calibres and is up to heavy-duty work on feral animals.

A more detailed version of this gun test will be available in the June 2024 issue of Sporting Shooter, on sale from 13 May (including electronically after then through Zinio).

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Lithgow Arms, Australia
  • Action: Turn-bolt
  • Calibre: .223, .243, 6.5 CM, .308 (tested)
  • Barrel: 46cm (18”), sporter profile, 1:11” twist (in .308), threaded muzzle
  • Chassis: Southern Cross TSP X, aluminium
  • Finish: Barrelled action, Black Cerakote; chassis, SIG Grey Cerakote
  • Magazine: 10-round detachable steel box
  • Safety: 3 position
  • Trigger: Single-stage, adjustable
  • Sights: None; Picatinny provided
  • Length of pull: Adjustable from 334mm with spacers
  • Weight: 4.6kg with brake and empty magazine
  • Price: Around $3000
  • Distributor: Spika

 

 

 


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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