When AXTS Weapons Systems introduced its MI-T556, it represented the Oregon brand’s first foray into the carbine/AR arena, and AXTS hoped it would become a standout in a crowded market. But the refined engineering behind AXTS’ first complete AR offering has had nothing to do with beginner’s luck.
Known widely for its Raptor charging handle and for the design of the field’s first truly functional ambidextrous lower/controls, AXTS has been putting out innovative rifle parts that have shaped and set industry standards since 2009.
In spite of that success, AXTS CEO Eric Anderson explains that from its inception, AXTS always had its sights set—so to speak—on being a gun company, not just a parts company. For Anderson and company founder Josh Underwood, turning out its first full rifle has meant taking the time necessary to ensure that, as a whole, it would deliver the same high quality and performance that are expected of each of its individual parts.
In a market that many considered saturated, Anderson still believed there was room for improvement. He cited his own and others’ experiences spending hard-earned cash to buy a gun, only to turn around and spend more, whether on a trigger job, new barrel, or layer of Cerakote™.
Even with all the positive feedback they were receiving from customers of the AX556 lower, they were determined to put out a gun that was not only accurate but “complete”—with all the upgrades and improvements built in—right out of the box.
Since the MI-T556’s introduction at the 2015 SHOT Show and after nearly a year of road-testing and prototype refinement, consumers will finally be able to get their hands on this fully ambidextrous carbine that, according to the company, consistently gives sub 1/2 MOA performance with 55-, 62-, and 77-grain ammo, and comes with an impressive package of finish and furniture.
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THE MI-T556 STATS
The MI-T556 is a fully ambidextrous rifle featuring AXTS’ RH/LH bolt catch, bolt release, and mag release, as well as its Talon 45/90 ambi safety selector. Barrels are Shilen 416R blanks with a 1:8 twist that are custom-profiled, hand polished, and chambered in .223 Wylde, with an option of 10.5- or 14.5-inch lengths.
Featuring a DLC-coated titanium forward assist, the upper receiver matches up seamlessly with its M-LOK handguard. Other key features include AXTS’ signature Raptor charging handle, Knights Armament 600M Micro Sights, AR-Gold trigger, choice of either the Silencerco Saker Trifecta flash hider or muzzle brake, and Cerakote finish. Suggested retail price is $2,895.00.
THE MI-T556 ROAD TEST
In January 2015, after completing all of the standard manufacturer’s testing, Anderson took the MI-T556 on the road—literally—to stretch its legs and experience its form and function by running it through no fewer than 15 carbine courses with some of the most established trainers and experienced shooters in the industry.
After thousands of rounds downrange and miles down the road, he was happy to see the MI-T556 performing consistently at the top of its class during each outing. And with the benefit of the feedback and experience of real end-users, Anderson was able to incorporate some final cosmetic and functional refinements before its current release.
AXTS MI-T556 FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Right off the bat, I was pleasantly surprised to pick up the MI-T556 and find it is not only lightweight but also well balanced. The rifle is both visually and functionally streamlined. The lack of sharp edges around its controls and handguard shows an attention to detail that can be appreciated by those of us who have sliced up fingers and hands on quad-rails and ejection port covers too many times to count.
Every surface and edge that could be smoothed or refined on this gun has been, providing more comfortable contact and easier manipulation, whether coming on and off barricades or moving against other gear.
Taking our first shots using the AR-Gold trigger felt smooth, clean, and precise. Like the rest of this gun, the M-LOK handguard was smooth and had a good diameter for a comfortable grip. The AXTS Grey Cerakote finish contributes to its overall clean look.
While impressed by Eric’s extra-mile due diligence, we still couldn’t resist the opportunity to give it a run ourselves and see if we could duplicate the MI-T556’s performance under our own set of challenging conditions.
Rather than chalking up the typical review stats on the square range, we wanted to push the limits of this gun and see what it can do in a field environment.
We started by enlisting former Recon Marine and owner and founder of Follow Through Consulting (FTC) Buck Doyle to help us run our evaluation. Situated amidst nearly 2,000 acres of scenic but rugged terrain just outside Utah’s Capitol Reef area, FTC’s range facility provided the ideal venue, with courses of fire ranging from 100 to 1,000 meters and with the added elements of high altitude and often unpredictable winds.
For this evaluation, Buck set up the MI-T556 in a Scoped Carbine configuration in order to optimize its performance for both the close-in fight and out at the supersonic threshold of 770 meters. We went with a Leupold Mark 6 3-18 with Tremor 2 reticle, Accuracy 1st scope level, and a set of Dueck Defense Rapid Transition Sights™ (RTS). Ammo used was 77-grain Corbon Match.
Both the Mark 6 and the RTS were zeroed at 100 meters in the prone position using a B&T Industries Atlas bipod and rear bag for support. Buck was easily able to acquire sub MOA with the Mark 6 and “even with old eyes” knocked out an MOA with the RTS.
TRUING THE MI-T556
Utilizing a Kestrel Applied Ballistics Meter, we entered the gun, ballistics, and direction of fire, with the atmospherics being automatically collected by the Kestrel weather instrument. In turn, the Kestrel provided the appropriate range and an estimated hold in mils to true the MI-T556.
After this information was input, the Kestrel gave a suggested range of 770 meters holding 7.8 mils. At the time, we had a 15mph wind at full value. After establishing a good prone shooting position, we began to relieve the scope of any parallax and/or scope shadow. Using the Tremor 2 reticle, we aligned the 7.8 mil line with five wind dots (representing 15 mph, favoring left into the wind) on the bottom edge of the gong target at 770 meters.
Shooting twice to establish a true, the point of aim/point of impact was with eight mils and five wind dots instead of the predicted 7.8 mils with five wind dots. We entered the eight mils as our actual hold into the Kestrel, pressed enter and trued the MI-T556 at the supersonic threshold. Now the Kestrel could give us our exact holds from 25 meters out to 770 meters.
After truing, Buck took the MI-T556 through a rapid target engagement drill, beginning with a 40-yard run to elevate his heart rate before going prone, then immediately sited in with 4.3 mils elevation and held with 15mph winds before engaging the target as quickly and accurately as possible for 15 rounds in rapid succession.
This is a drill often run by Buck in his courses in order to enforce the fundamentals of marksmanship under duress in practical shooting engagements. The MI-T556 setup allowed him to sustain an MOA grouping at 550 meters, which we were very happy with given all the natural and self-induced variables imposed.
In addition to its consistency, accuracy, and ergonomics, one can’t help but gain an appreciation for the engineering and craftsmanship behind the MI-T556. There is no doubt that AXTS’ practice of machining its own parts inhouse leads to a higher level of quality control and results in tight-fitting parts and smooth finish.
The time and effort spent testing and evaluating this gun in the factory and in the real world have resulted in a package and finish that will hold up to hard use, and the MI-T556 has already proven to maintain its performance over the long haul.
Even though the MI-T556 is the first complete rifle we’ve seen from AXTS, we don’t consider them newcomers to the gun-making scene. Until now, we’ve had to appreciate this company’s innovation in parts and pieces. We’re looking forward to being able to find everything in one place.
The MI-T556 is an accurate, impressively engineered, and intelligently crafted rifle that is sure to make its mark in competition or defensive shooting.