American Survival Guide - - NEW PRODUCTS - BY WILL DABBS, M.D.

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-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.


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.



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.

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