A few weeks ago, I received in here for
review an upper receiver for the AR-15 style rifle. For several
days, it sat in the box, as I was busy traveling and working on
other projects. I would notice the box as I walked past it, and
I was thinking, "It's just an AR upper. I will get to it
shortly". However, upon finally opening the box, I was met
with an unexpected piece of machinery. The ARAK-21 is not just
another AR-15 upper.
The ARAK-21 is a long-stroke gas-piston
system that seems to borrow design features from both the AK and
the AR designs. The piston system is simple, rugged, adjustable,
and reliable. The gas regulator (adjuster) has four positions;
three for functioning under various conditions, and another
setting that shuts the gas off completely, rendering the weapon
a manually-operated rifle. The ability to adjust the amount of
gas used to operate the weapon allows it to function reliably if
dry, dirty, using weak ammunition, or with a sound suppressor.
The ARAK-21 upper attaches easily atop a
mil-spec AR-15 lower, using the pivot pin and the rear take-down
pin, just as with any AR rifle. The ARAK-21 does not use the
buffer tube spring to return the bolt carrier into battery.
Instead, the ARAK has its own recoil spring contained in the
upper receiver. This allows the weapon to use standard AR-15
buttsocks, no buttstock, or a hinged folding buttstock, offering
a lot of versatility in weapon configuration.
The upper receiver of the ARAK-21 is machined
from 6061-T6 billet aluminum and incorporates a full-length 1913
Picatinny rail. The unit shown here is finished in a matte
black, but more colorful versions are offered, if desired. The
handguard/forearm also has sections of Picatinny rail positioned
at three, six, and nine o'clock, and each of these rail sections
are removable, if desired. The handguard/forearm is machined
integrally with the receiver for exceptional strength and
rigidity. The ambidextrous charging handle is located alongside
the forward portion of the upper receiver, is spring loaded, and
does not reciprocate with the bolt carrier. The handle can be
easily switched from the left to the right side, if desired. The
ARAK-21 upper can also be purchased in a left-hand version, and
the bolt can be turned 180 degrees for LH ejection.
One interesting and useful feature of the
ARAK-21 is that it is very easy to switch from 223/5.56mm to the
300 Blackout chambering just by switching the barrel unit. The
barrels are button-rifled, and are offered in both medium and
heavy profiles. Switching from one caliber to the other takes
about two minutes, and the only tool required is an Allen (hex)
wrench. Loosening six captured screws along the bottom of the
forearm removes that section of forearm, and the barrel unit
slides forward and off the weapon. Installing the extra barrel
unit is just as easy, and the 300 Blackout uses the standard
5.56mm magazine, which is cheap and plentiful at this time. The
300 Blackout uses a different recoil spring as well, and
switching the spring takes less than one minute, and requires no
tools. The 4150 chrome-molly
barrels are offered in lengths of 12.5, 16, and 20
inches. The 5.56mm and 300 Blackout barrels are threaded 1/2x28
and 5/8x24, respectively, for the attachment of suppressors or
other muzzle devices. The barrels are supplied with the gas
system and a muzzle brake installed. The 223/5.56 barrels are
button-rifled with a one-in-seven-inch twist, and the 300
barrels have a one-in-eight-inch twist.
The Faxon ARAK-21 is a very well-made weapon.
The machining is flawless. The parts mate together perfectly,
and every moving part glides fluidly. The gas system is very
simple, composed of large, sturdy parts, and should be as
reliable as any piece of machinery can be.
For function and accuracy testing, I attached
the ARAK-21 upper to an Anderson
Manufacturing lower receiver assembly. The Anderson is a
high-quality unit with a very good trigger. Atop the ARAK-21
receiver I mounted a Leupold Mark 4 8.5 to 25 power
target/tactical scope, in order to achieve the best possible
practical accuracy from the weapon. Functioning was perfect,
using both the 223/5.56 barrel unit and the 300 Blackout barrel
unit. I did have a problem once with the functioning of the
Blackout, but it was due entirely to operator error. I had
disassembled the weapon for the video, and did not place the gas
regulator in the proper position afterward. Once I corrected
that mistake, the weapon again ran flawlessly. My fault.
I fired both the 223/5.56 and the 300
Blackout using a variety of ammunition to evaluate both function
and accuracy. The accuracy of the 5.56 was mostly in the
two-inch range at 100 yards, but the Blackout fired sub-minute
groups with every type of ammunition tested. With Wolf Gold, the
5.56 grouped just over one inch at 100 yards, but the Blackout
grouped everything into under one inch, every time.
The Faxon ARAK-21 upper receiver is available
direct from Faxon Firearms for $1199 US, as of the date of this
review. Extra barrel units are available for $399 US. The
ARAK-21 is a solid, reliable, and expertly-crafted upper that
offers the versatility and reliability of a long-stroke gas
piston gun with the convenience and economy of quickly switching
calibers. The ARAK-21 is built right, and built in the USA.
Check out the Faxon ARAK-21 online at www.faxonfirearms.com.
To order quality 223, 5.56mm, and 300
Blackout ammunition, go to www.midsouthshooterssupply.com,
out the Leupold Mark 4 and other quality optics online at www.leupold.com.
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