THE FLEXIBLE FAXON FIREARMS ARAK-21 XRS
A SIMPLE MATTER OF COMBAT WEAPONS, GENETIC HYBRIDIZATION AND TACTICAL SYNERGY
In biology, a “hybrid” is a genetic mixture. Mules, ligers, beefalo and Cherokee Purple tomatoes are some common examples. Genetic hybridization can yield crop species that are more resistant to disease. “Heterosis,” or “hybrid vigor,” is the technical term describing a hybrid creature that ends up more capable than either parent.
Residing comfortably within this tidy piece of biological etymology we find the Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 XRS.
To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov’s eponymous assault rifle is the most reliable combat arm ever contrived. While its 7.62x39mm round packs plenty of close-range punch, and the gun’s long-stroke gas piston-driven action will suffer the most egregious abuse, the AK’S ergonomics don’t fit any categorized form of human anatomy. The charging handle is on the exactly opposite side that it should be, and the clunky ranch gate safety is as wrong as the “man romper.” Despite this, the AK is the gun that just won’t stop.
By contrast, Eugene Stoner’s Space Age AR15 interfaces with the human form like a third arm. All the switches are right where they should be, and the gun rides at the shoulder, as if you were born with it. While the direct gasimpingement system of operation was, indeed, weird, simple and different for its day, this is not the most reliable way to make a gun. (If only somebody could take all that is good and wholesome about an AK and hybridize it with Mr. Stoner’s cool-guy smoke pole.)
It turns out that the good folks at Faxon Firearms have done just that.
The Faxon story dates back to 1978, when dinosaurs roamed the plains.
Bob and Barry Faxon are professional problem-solvers. In the three decades since the company’s inception, the Faxon boys have done more than 6 million hours of machining and delivered more than 30 million parts. Their components have operated on the ocean floor, accompanied our warfighters downrange, kept our most advanced aircraft aloft and rendered splendid service on the surface of Mars.
In addition to their superlative engineering and manufacturing skills, the Faxons are gun nerds—just like us. When faced with what they felt were some sub-optimal solutions in the field of combat firearms, they did what they do best: They figured out something better.
THE ARAK SOLUTION
The ARAK-21 XRS strives to meld the best aspects of the AR15 and the good stuff from the AK47 into the optimal combat rifle. From nose to butt, here’s how they do it:
The muzzle brake is a proprietary Faxon device that is tunable for shooter specifics. Backing off a locking device allows the brake to be turned in whatever direction might be desired to counteract recoil and muzzle rise. Barrels are 100 percent manufactured in house for optimal quality control. They are button rifled 1/8 for maximal bullet weight versatility and QPQ (quench-polish-quench) nitride finished inside and out. Barrels interchange easily with nothing more complex than an Allen wrench. Tubes are available in a variety of lengths, as well as 5.56mm, .300AAC and 7.62x39mm chamberings.
The gas system is readily adjustable with nothing fancier than a standard set of fingers. The charging handle is reversible without tools and resides in the ideal position alongside the forearm in the manner of legacy HK weapons. The upper receiver is of a unique and aesthetically pleasing geometry. It also sports more railed real estate than you might readily use. There are cooling slots to help keep your nifty, new thunderstick from overheating.
The action can be made to eject out either side by simply reversing the orientation of the bolt. The nature of the bolt carrier is such that it seals off the ejection ports on both sides of the receiver without a dedicated ejection port cover. There are ejection pads bolted to the exterior of the receiver to keep empty cases from dinging up the receiver.
Faxon makes its own proprietary lower receiver, but the ARAK upper is plug-and-play with any MIL-SPEC lower. There are, naturally, several color options. I opted for green on top and black on the bottom for a spot of chromatic dissonance. Oddly, my Faxon lower will not accommodate an X-products drum magazine.
Everything else runs like a champ.
IF ONLY SOMEBODY COULD TAKE ALL THAT IS GOOD AND WHOLESOME ABOUT AN AK AND HYBRIDIZE IT WITH MR. STONER’S COOL-GUY SMOKE POLE.
The lower receiver and buttstock assemblies can be anything AR. Mine sports a nice, soft rubber buttpad to protect my sensitive aging anatomy. The lower receiver controls include the bolt release function, just like those of your standard AR.
Just swap out the barrel if you want to run .300AAC. Add a sound suppressor, and you maximize the versatility. Supersonic rounds will drop whitetail deer. The subsonic sorts are just about movie-quiet. The adjustable gas system lets you tweak the amount of gas you need for reliable function.
The 5.56mm barrels come in several lengths, and the adjustable gas system does let you optimize the system. The gas piston is self contained within the barrel assembly. The .300AAC and 5.56 setups use a common bolt and firing pin.
Swap the barrel, bolt, firing pin and magazine, and the ARAK-21 XRS runs Ivan’s 7.62x39mm rounds. The magazines sport a fairly bizarre curve to accommodate the AR magazine well, but they were entirely reliable in our testing. The complexion of the gun changes when it is launching those slow, fat .30-caliber rounds. Because the 7.62x39mm is the ballistic equivalent of the old, standby American deerslayer .30-30, there is little better for hunting medium game, particularly in brush. Although they look functionally identical, the firing pins are different and are not interchangeable.
Swapping between calibers requires you to turn out a handful of Allen screws to exchange the barrels and then install the right bolt assembly. With a few spare parts, you can run all three calibers through a single rifle. It is actually kind of cool to be able to compare the 5.56 and 7.62x39 rounds through precisely the same chassis. It is tough
to say which one is better. The experience is not unlike driving a showroom-new Corvette alongside a vintage muscle car: Both have their own unique merits.
The Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 XRS is incrementally heavier than a comparable AR. However, this gives the gun a more substantial feel and keeps it on target better, particularly in the heavier chambering. The front-mounted charging handle has that of a conventional AR beat all over the place. The charging appendage, itself, folds flush when not in use, yet it allows the gun to be run quickly without shifting the grip of the firing hand.
Magazine changes are identical to those of a standard AR and set the standard for everything else. The ARAK-21 XRS improves upon the AK in all respects. Recoil is dreamy—regardless of the setup.
The ARAK-21 XRS yields fine combat accuracy out to the limits of the cartridges it fires. The trigger is a bit creepy, but if it offends you, this is rectified easily enough with a drop-in replacement. The meticulous attention to manufacturing detail ensures that the gun is reliable and straight shooting. (Before I got the gas system tweaked, I did very nearly asphyxiate myself from blowback gases with a sound suppressor installed. The action is so powerful that it ripped the rim off a defective sticky case. However, once you get the gas system dialed in, the gun just won’t quit.)
The ARAK-21 XRS is fun on the range and handy in tight spaces. It runs as well indoors as any AR carbine and would make a proper vehicle gun, should the need arise. The unique manual of arms takes a little getting used to, but it remains fast, comfortable and fun.
THE GAS SYSTEM IS READILY ADJUSTABLE WITH NOTHING FANCIER THAN A STANDARD SET OF FINGERS.
They say that variety is the spice of life, and in no corner of the world does a consumer in possession of a healthy credit card find more variegated options than does the American gun nerd. While a stroll through the local gun emporium will turn up more firepower options than might readily be categorized, in the Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 XRS, you find a great deal of flexibility.
Capable of running multiple calibers easily, the ARAK-21 XRS is refreshingly different. In a time when the addition of a new barrel length to their otherwise pedestrian AR black rifles is cause for some companies to alert the national media, Faxon Firearms offers something legitimately fresh and innovative.
Despite the unusual nature of the design, the ARAK-21 XRS is a proven weapon. I have owned mine for several years now and run it quite a lot. I would trust my family’s safety to the gun and would feel comfortable with it by my side were I truly in the suck. Innovative, versatile and delightfully unusual, the Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 XRS is tomorrow’s tactical hybrid.
Above: The action of the ARAK-21 is easily reversible without tools. Because the upper is a dropin addition to any standard AR lower, the basic controls will be familiar to anyone who has run an AR rifle.
Left: The proprietary Faxon Firearms muzzle brake is both effective and easy to use. A locking component allows the brake to be custom oriented for optimal efficiency.
Far left: While the ARAK-21 uses any standard AR lower, the recoil system is enclosed within the forearm.
This allows for the addition of a side-folding stock if desired.
Left: the Bushnell AR optic offers just the right balance between closerange rapid target acquisition and mid- to long-range precision. This second focal plane, 1-4x24mm, adjustable optic incorporates the Bushnell Drop Zone BDC reticle.