Mendelian Genetics is a fascinating field of study. By carefully manipulating breeding patterns, scientists can produce orange roses, grain that is resistant to blight and foul weather, the fastest horses in all of human history, and carp that will eat the weeds out of my farm pond while remaining unable to reproduce.
Using the foundational tapestry that God designed into the world from the outset, we can accomplish some of the most extraordinary things by melding the good stuff from one organism with the good stuff from another.
The Avtomat Kalashnikova assault rifle is universally extolled as the most reliable service weapon ever produced. Mikhail Timofeyovich Kalashnikov designed his rifle to defend the Soviet Union from the likes of Nazi invaders.
More than 100 million copies later, the AK rifle has arguably done more to shape the world than any other mechanical contrivance extant. While the ergonomics of the human interface are in sub-optimal places, no one will fault the AK rifle for its mechanical reliability. Kalashnikov’s gun will keep running in the face of the most egregious abuse.
By contrast, Eugene Stoner’s space-age creation, the AR-15, in-terfaces better with the human form than most any other shoulder arm. The rifle is lightweight and well balanced. The controls are right where they need to be for rapid, reliable, safe manipulation. The innate design of the gun lends itself to customization and personalization unlike any other weapon before or since. Nothing runs faster.
Despite the AR-15’s legendary human engineering, the operating system is notoriously dirty. The same direct gas-impingement design that makes the AR-15 lightweight and accurate spills voluminous carbon fouling directly into the rifle’s action. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody took the inimitably robust action from an AKM and crossed it with the sleek, lithe human engineering of the AR-15? It turns out that Faxon Firearms did precisely that.
THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES
It’s actually been tried before. The Israeli Galil strived to meld all that was good from the world’s major weapon systems into a single optimized infantry weapon, and they came close. The Kalashnikov action, FN FAL side-folding stock, and zippy M16 chambering made for a robust though heavy combat arm.
But the Galil suffered from just a bit too much AK influence, so the magazine has to be rocked into place, and the controls are not made for real live humans. Faxon Firearms did it better.
Lots of smart people like guns. Every now and then, those smart folks devote their lives and fortunes to making them better. In the case of Bob Faxon, the founder and chief designer behind Faxon Firearms and the ARAK-21, his personal passion equates to something legitimately new and different.
Bob and his brother Barry are the driving force behind Faxon Machining. In business since 1978, they have produced more than 30 million parts for military, aerospace, oil and gas exploration, automotive and medi-cal applications.
Their parts are employed by the military and in seafloor exploration, as well as within the cars we drive and the airplanes we fly. They are also used on the International Space Station and the Mars rover.
With 37 years of engineering experience, these guys know how to build stuff right. When in 2011 they launched into the task of melding the best features of the AK and AR-15 into a single combat firearm, they ended up with a unique, top-quality product.
The ARAK-21 is available as either a complete rifle or a drop-in upper receiver. The newest versions are completely ambidextrous. The folding charging handle is located at the front, akin to an HK MP5. This orientation allows the operator to manage the action without removing his right hand from the pistol grip. Flip it around backwards and the rifle is comparably optimized for Southpaws.
Everything about the ARAK-21 feels robust. The entire rifle is incrementally heavier than a comparable AR-15, but what you get for that extra mass is a gun that is rock solid on target. There are rails in all the standard places, and any magazine that will feed an AR will feed an ARAK comparably well. There is more railed real estate on the top of the chassis than you might conceivably use.
It is in the details that the ARAK most impresses. The barrel slips out without a fuss and is replaceable with tubes of various lengths and chamberings. Swap out a barrel and you are running .300 Blackout. Swap the barrel, firing pin, and bolt, and the gun shoots 7.62x39mm using appro-priate magazines. The 5.56mm firing pin incorporates a small coil spring to prevent slam fires.
To exchange the barrel assembly, simply unscrew a half-dozen Al-len screws, remove the aluminum forearm, slide the old barrel out, and slip the new barrel in. Exchanging the bolt requires nothing more than field stripping the rifle. The 7.62x39mm firing pin is incrementally heavier than its 5.56mm counterpart, and they are not interchangeable.
Roll the bolt 180 degrees during assembly and it ejects out the opposite side. Both sides of the ejection port are open for bilateral ejection, but the bolt seals this opening tightly when closed.
If a single ejector is good, then two ejectors are better, and the paired ejectors on the ARAK are both redundant and failsafe. All parts are remarkably heavy and robust for extreme service.
Bolt lugs are radiused in a series of curves rather than the more traditional square angles for improved mechanical durability. The exceptional attention to detail and durability is obvious when you paw over the rifle’s sundry parts. As the recoil spring assembly is retained within the receiver, the gun will take a side-folding stock if desired.
Each barrel assembly includes an easily adjustable gas system tuned for the specific cartridge. Adjusting the system requires nothing more than a standard set of fingers and allows the operator to customize the ac-tion for the load. Every sort of brass-cased ammo I could find ran flawlessly on a common setting.
Steel-cased blasting bullets needed the gas plug bumped up a notch. There was still so much reserve power left in this rifle that I honestly doubt you could induce a stoppage short of filling the thing with concrete.
RUN AND GUN
The world’s newest, best smoke pole is no better than its magazines. ProMag recently introduced a patented AR magazine that is as innovative as the Faxon ARAK-21. The ProMag Rollermag carries the same 30 rounds of 5.56x45mm ammunition that a comparable AR mag might, while doing it with much more style.
The body of the magazine is a proprietary carbon-fiber blend they call Technapolymer, and the chrome-silicon treated springs will outlive your grandchildren. But what really sets the Rollermag apart is its unique follow-er.
The British Sterling submachine gun uses the best subgun mag on the planet. In this case, the follower is a pair of roller bearings that make the magazine easy to load and ridiculously reliable.
In contrast, the Rollermag uses polymer rollers to interface the follower with the mag body. As a result, internal friction is minimized, fouling resistance is maximized, and the resultant feeding solution is unnaturally smooth and utterly reliable. Rollermags fit comfortably into all your existing web gear and, despite their revolutionary features, cost no more than a typical box magazine from most anybody else.
Our test rifle came with 7.62x39mm magazines in five- and 30-round capacities. These bug-ugly boxes sport exaggerated curves to accommodate the innate taper of this .30-caliber cartridge. They ran flawlessly. Despite their unattractive appearance, these boxes fit just fine within the standard AR mag well.
The Faxon ARAK-21 is a bit more front heavy than a comparable AR, and this makes an already stable platform rock solid. The rifle keeps its recoil mechanism nested up inside the forearm, so there is no springy twang next to your face during firing, as might be the case with your AR.
The rifle I tested was chambered for 5.56mm as well as 7.62x39mm, and it ran like a scalded ape in both calibers. Controls will be familiar to anyone who has ever hefted an AR, and the forward-mounted charging handle is perfectly arranged for access by the weak hand whether your primary handedness is right or left. The ARAK-21 is arguably the most naturally ambidextrous long gun on the market, given its instantly reversible ejection.
Accuracy is more than adequate for any reasonable tactical applications, and double taps are simply delightful. The gun maneuvers well in-doors and drops rounds right where you want them out to the limits of the cartridge. The proprietary muzzle brake on the ARAK, combined with the long-stroke operating system, keeps the gun on target painlessly through long strings of fire.
Love is a complicated term that has been embraced, abused, and maligned throughout human history, but I did find that I developed a deep and abiding affection for the ARAK-21.
If you’re looking for that elusive one gun to do everything, Faxon Fire-arms may have found it with the ARAK-21. Versatile, customizable, robust, and capable of shooting both .22- and .30-caliber rounds equally well with minimal fuss, the ARAK-21 is built like a tank while remaining perfused with an engineering elegance that is obvious the moment you crack the receiver open.
From its proprietary adjustable muzzle brake to its monolithic receiver, everything about the Faxon ARAK-21 is just different enough to be an improvement without losing track of the cool stuff that defined its es-teemed parentage in the first place.
You can’t swing a dead cat in America today without hitting some-body bodging together rifles in their basement. Some are extraordinary and some are rubbish, but most are AR-15 derivatives. Faxon Firearms, however, has brought something to the American firearms market that is legitimately fresh, new, and different.
Combining the very best features of the long-stroke gas-operated recoil system that makes Kalashnikov’s rifle such an unstoppable war ma-chine with the elegant ergonomics of Eugene Stoner’s spaceage wondergun makes for a truly remarkable piece of iron.
The ARAK-21 maneuvers like an AR but keeps on keeping on like an AK. The ARAK-21 from Faxon Firearms really is the best of both guns.
Will Dabbs grew up in the Mississippi Delta and has a de-gree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi. He is Airborne qualified and accumulated 1,100 hours flying UH-1H, OH-58A/C, CH-47D, and AH-1S helicopters. He currently works in his own medical clinic and maintains a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturing business building sound suppressors. He has written commercially on the subject of firearms, medicine, and survival for more than 20 years.
L3 EOTECH, INC.