Keep It Short

A Closer Look at Faxon Firearms 16” Le­gal/14.5” Bar­rel


Faxon’s fixed-tip 14.5-inch bar­rels are a game changer for shoot­ers who want the short­est pos­si­ble setup with­out any ex­tra hoops to jump through.

Which bar­rel length should you go with for your ri­fle? It’s a co­nun­drum many AR-15 en­thu­si­asts face. If you’re look­ing for the short­est avail­able bar­rel with­out en­ter­ing into Na­tional Firearms Act (NFA) stamp ter­ri­tory, the un­for­tu­nate news is that there aren’t many choices.

For those who aren’t aware, ri­fles with bar­rels that mea­sure less than 16 inches in over­all length are con­sid­ered short-bar­reled ri­fles (SBR) and are reg­u­lated by the NFA. In or­der for one to legally own an SBR, one must ap­ply for an NFA tax stamp, pay $200 for the plea­sure of do­ing so, and wait any­where be­tween few months or even half a year or more for ap­proval. On top of that, de­pend­ing on where you live, some ju­ris­dic­tions won’t even al­low you to ap­ply for short-bar­reled ri­fle (SBR) sta­tus even if you wanted to jump through those hoops.

16+ Inches

For those and other rea­sons, many shoot­ers choose to go with a 16-inch bar­rel for ease of ac­quir­ing it and cost. Six­teen inches is the short­est le­gal length for a bar­rel with­out hav­ing to ap­ply for an NFA stamp on a ri­fle. In fact, as you may have al­ready no­ticed, it’s prob­a­bly the most com­mon bar­rel length you’ll en­counter while on your quest to build your AR-15.

As you’ll dis­cover, when you add a two to 2.5-inch-long muz­zle de­vice onto the end of your bar­rel, those 16 inches can eas­ily be­come an over­all length of 18 inches or more very quickly. Again, if you’re look­ing to keep your ri­fle’s length as short as you can, this is not an ideal way to go. So how can you get your bar­rel’s over­all length, with a muz­zle de­vice at­tached, to be shorter?

Perm At­tach Limitations

We would ar­gue that the next most com­mon bar­rel choice is a 14.5-inch bar­rel with a per­ma­nently at­tached muz­zle de­vice on it. For a shorter bar­rel to stay le­gal, the muz­zle de­vice must be per­ma­nently at­tached to it to count to­wards its over­all length mea­sure­ment.

The ATF’S def­i­ni­tion for per­ma­nent meth­ods of at­tach­ment in­cludes “full-fu­sion gas or elec­tric steel-seam weld­ing, high-tem­per­a­ture (1,100°F) sil­ver sol­der­ing, or blind pin­ning with the pin head welded over.” So as long as the muz­zle de­vice you choose is long enough to get your 14.5-inch bar­rel to 16 inches over­all, you are good to go.

You’re not limited to just 14.5-inch bar­rels, mind you; you can go with an even shorter bar­rel as long as the muz­zle de­vice you per­ma­nently at­tach is long enough to get it to 16 inches. Get it? Us­ing this method to reach le­gal bar­rel length is com­mon, but it can have its dis­ad­van­tages.

When con­fig­ur­ing a bar­rel to the min­i­mum le­gal limit with a per­ma­nently at­tached muz­zle de­vice, you are locked into that par­tic­u­lar bar­rel, gas block, and hand­guard con­fig­u­ra­tion. The prob­lem is that a non-re­mov­able muz­zle de­vice es­sen­tially blocks the hand­guard’s bar­rel nut or a gas block from be­ing re­moved. It is pos­si­ble to re­move a fixed de­vice, but it can be a has­sle as well as costly, of­ten­times de­stroy­ing the muz­zle de­vice in the process.

For these rea­sons, many choose to go with 16-inch bar­rels. Not per­ma­nently at­tach­ing a flash hider or muz­zle brake means that gas blocks and hand guards can be much more read­ily taken off and re­in­stalled with­out hav­ing to grind off the muz­zle de­vice. This also saves you a trip to the gun­smith.

“shoot­ers are for­ever free to change their weapon’s con­fig­u­ra­tion with­out hav­ing to go to a gun­smith.”

The Faxon Fac­tor

Ear­lier this year at SHOT Show, we came across Faxon Firearms’ new line of 16” Le­gal bar­rels that solves many of the prob­lems AR own­ers face when choos­ing a bar­rel with a per­ma­nently at­tached muz­zle de­vice. Their goal was to of­fer an op­tion where “shoot­ers are for­ever free to change their weapon’s con­fig­u­ra­tion with­out hav­ing to go to a gun­smith.” No of­fense to gun­smiths, but we like the sound of that!

Faxon’s 16” Le­gal bar­rels are ac­tu­ally 14.5inch length bar­rels that come with muz­zle de­vices per­ma­nently at­tached to them, bring­ing them up to the man­dated 16-inch

over­all le­gal length. So what makes these bar­rels dif­fer­ent from other perm-at­tached bar­rels, you ask?

Let’s first take a look the bar­rels’ pro­files. These 16” Le­gal Faxon bar­rels come in two fla­vors, Pen­cil and Gun­ner. Faxon claims that the Pen­cil pro­file bar­rels are the light­est in the in­dus­try, and af­ter closer ex­am­i­na­tion, we think you’ll be hard pressed to find any lighter. At its nar­row­est sec­tion in front of the gas block, the bar­rel mea­sures a scant 0.50 inches in di­am­e­ter. Its gas block jour­nal is 0.625 inches in di­am­e­ter re­quir­ing a one-inch-long, 0.625inch di­am­e­ter gas block to match.

The Gun­ner pro­file bar­rel is sim­i­lar to the Pen­cil pro­file in that it also has an equally thin 0.50-inch di­am­e­ter for­ward of the gas block jour­nal. What sets these two of­fer­ings apart are the lengths of their re­spec­tive gas block jour­nals and the pro­files aft of the gas block. While the Pen­cil bar­rel ac­cepts oneinch-length gas blocks, the Gun­ner pro­file bar­rel can ac­cept longer 0.625-inch di­am­e­ter gas blocks such as that of an A2 Front Sight Base. Also, the Gun­ner’s pro­file from the ex­ten­sion to the gas block mim­ics the taper found on tra­di­tional Gov­ern­ment pro­file bar­rels. The Pen­cil bar­rel is also ta­pered, but with a thin­ner di­am­e­ter to keep weight to a min­i­mum. The bar­rels weigh in at 1.15 and 1.2 pounds, with the lighter weight be­long­ing to the Pen­cil pro­file bar­rel.


Tak­ing it a step fur­ther, Faxon de­vel­oped a line of ul­tra-slim muz­zle de­vices, called, well, um, Slim. As of now, the com­pany has re­leased two dif­fer­ent de­signs, a three­port muz­zle brake and a three-prong flash hider. Both are sized for 5.56mm cal­iber rounds, mea­sure 2.125 inches in length and are fin­ished in QPQ salt bath ni­tride. At their widest di­am­e­ter, they mea­sure only 0.620 inches, which al­lows a 0.625-inch gas block to pass through. When per­ma­nently at­tached to a 14.5-inch bar­rel, the over­all length of the bar­rel be­comes 16.1 inches.

The Pay­off

Here’s where it all pays off. As we pointed out be­fore, the limitations of hav­ing a perm-at­tached muz­zle de­vice on a bar­rel makes it much more dif­fi­cult and some­times ex­pen­sive to switch out gas blocks and hand­guards due to the gas blocks and bar­rel nuts be­ing un­able to clear the fixed muz­zle de­vice. Even if you re­moved the de­vice, the process of do­ing so can of­ten cause it to be dam­aged or even de­stroyed.

Know­ing this, Faxon de­signed the Slim muz­zle de­vices and 14.5-inch bar­rels to be per­ma­nently at­tached to one another but still be thin enough to al­low hand­guard bar­rel nuts and gas blocks to pass though with ease. The days where shoot­ers are con­fined to their ri­fle’s con­fig­u­ra­tion are of­fi­cially num­bered. We ex­pect this sim­ple yet ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion will be­come quite pop­u­lar with shoot­ers and will spread through the in­dus­try.

Bar­rel Qual­ity

Com­pletely man­u­fac­tured in-house, Faxon’s

bar­rels are fully stress-re­lieved, air-gauge tested, and fea­ture an 11-de­gree tar­get crown for ac­cu­racy. They are made from 4150 CMV steel, and like the Slim muz­zle de­vices, are fin­ished in QPQ ni­tride for dura­bil­ity.

The bar­rel is but­ton ri­fled with a 1:8 twist, fea­tures a mid-length gas sys­tem, and is fin­ished with an M4 bar­rel ex­ten­sion. To en­sure the bar­rel’s qual­ity, each goes through a bat­tery of tests as well as a mag­netic par­ti­cle in­spec­tion and is checked for headspace by pre­ci­sion cus­tom hard­ened gauges.


We got the chance to take Faxon’s 16” Le­gal Pen­cil pro­file bar­rel con­fig­ured with the Slim 3 Port Muz­zle Brake to the range for some run-and-gun ac­tion to see how it per­formed. Pen­cil bar­rels are light­weight by def­i­ni­tion and are suited for medium to close-range shoot­ing, so the course of fire we set up re­flected that type of us­age.

With pa­per and steel tar­gets to ei­ther side of us, we were forced to shoot in al­ter­nat­ing di­rec­tions on the move for much of the string of fire. The bar­rel eas­ily made our ri­fle more than a pound lighter com­pared to how it was con­fig­ured be­fore, and with very lit­tle weight for­ward of the gas block, the ri­fle was no­tice­ably quick to point from tar­get to tar­get. Us­ing 5.56mm 55-grain FMJS, we were able to shoot 100yard groups rang­ing from 1.5 to 2 inches. Mind you, we are not pre­ci­sion shoot­ers so your re­sults may vary for the bet­ter. The small stature of the muz­zle brake had us doubt­ing just how ef­fec­tive it would be at mit­i­gat­ing re­coil. It ac­tu­ally did a sur­pris­ingly ad­e­quate job at keep­ing the ri­fle’s nose down, but the bar­rel it­self prob­a­bly negated some of its ef­fec­tive­ness due to the lack of over­all weight. That’s the trade­off for hav­ing a su­per-light ri­fle, how­ever. We no­ticed that the bar­rel did heat up quickly and spread our shots out some at longer dis­tances, but not enough that it wouldn’t be in­ef­fec­tive in de­fen­sive sce­nar­ios. It would still hit minute-of-man with­out bat­ting an eye.

Fi­nal Thoughts

Thanks to Faxon’s 16” Le­gal se­ries of bar­rels, you are no longer locked into a sin­gle con­fig­u­ra­tion when opt­ing for a 16inch over­all bar­rel length for your AR-15. The bar­rel and muz­zle brake com­bi­na­tion we tested car­ries a re­tail price of $259, which isn’t bad for both a qual­ity bar­rel and pinned muz­zle de­vice.

Al­low­ing for up­per re­ceiver con­fig­u­ra­tion changes with­out a spe­cial trip to the gun­smith is a big deal for AR own­ers that like to re­con­fig­ure their ri­fles from time to time. Faxon has added a vi­able op­tion for those seek­ing the short­est le­gal length bar­rels with­out fork­ing out for an NFA stamp.

A bar­rel with a per­ma­nently at­tached muz­zle de­vice locks you into that par­tic­u­lar bar­rel, gas block, and hand­guard con­fig­u­ra­tion. Re­mov­ing a fixed de­vice is pos­si­ble but costly and can cause dam­age in the process.

Faxon’s per­ma­nently at­tached Slim muz­zle de­vices on its 16” Le­gal bar­rels al­low hand­guard bar­rel nuts and gas blocks to pass though with ease.

Right: A Faxon

16” Le­gal Pen­cil bar­rel com­pared side by side to a reg­u­lar Faxon 16-inch Gun­ner bar­rel. No­tice how the per­ma­nently at­tached muz­zle brake al­lows the 16” Le­gal bar­rel to be much shorter than the 16-inch bar­rel if it had a muz­zle de­vice at­tached to it. The bar­rel is but­ton ri­fled with a 1:8 twist, fea­tures a mid-length gas sys­tem, and is fin­ished with an M4 bar­rel ex­ten­sion. Each goes through a bat­tery of tests to en­sure its qual­ity.

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