Faxon Firearms is the gun manufacturing wing of Faxon Machining. Their “ARAK” rifle project began in 2011 when owner Bob Faxon decided to build his own AR upper that included some of the features he’d been looking for in a rifle. The first big jump was to make the upper utilize a long-stroke, Kalashnikov-style gas piston—leading to the ARAK name.

The ARAK-21 in 5.56x45mm has been their flagship rifle, available as a complete upper and lower, or simply a replacement AR upper. But at SHOT Show 2015, Faxon Firearms demoed their ARAK-31, a purpose built .308 rifle that effectively up-sizes the design advantages of their 5.56 gun.

What sort of advantages? Well, piston-driven ARs are something any experienced shooter should be familiar with. The original AR-15 uses a direct impingement gas system that puts a lot of fouling back into the chamber of the rifle. Like other designs, the ARAK does away with this by integrating a piston into their proprietary bolt, which vents the gases at the handguard while cleanly cycling the rifle. Each barrel has adjustable gas settings for use with suppressors or while fouled.

But they also rise above the other piston-driven ARs to compete with the SCARs, ACRs, and other modern rifles of the world. Faxon has built the return spring into the upper receiver, which means you no longer need a buffer. Now you can slap a folding stock onto your AR and still fire the rifle with the stock folded! Even the bolt in the ARAK is different. It’s an overbuilt version of the AR bolt, with eight locking lugs and dual ejectors.

Since ARAK uppers do not require the use of a buffer tube, a shooter can attach a folding stock to their AR.
Since ARAK uppers do not require the use of a buffer tube, a shooter can attach a folding stock to their AR.

I’ll take flak for saying this, but your AR-15 has a bad charging handle. I don’t care if it’s the one you were issued, or what brand of aftermarket replacement you bought—that charging handle above the stock is an antiquated design. If you don’t believe me, try to shoulder your rifle and then cycle bolt without coming off of your sights. Still don’t believe me? Try using a Magpul cheek riser.

An “up front” charging handle makes a lot of sense, which is why we see it in SCARs, Tavors, H&Ks, and almost any other modern rifle you’d care to name. The ARAK features a non-reciprocating charging handle that sits in the forward handguard, can be switched from left- to right-hand use, and will fold flat against the rail. Now you can use cheek risers on your stock.

Before, you could order your rifle with either a right- or left-handed ejection port, but in 2015 Faxon is going to start shipping rifles with dual ejection ports. This is the sort of thing that gets people on the internet angry: an ejection port on both sides? Why?

There’s a few good reasons.

  • Convertibility: with two ports, a user can switch over their ejection just by rotating the bolt. It’s a single-step process to make the gun lefty friendly.
  • Press checks: think about how you check an AR-15. You rotate the gun and apply a little bit of pressure on your charging handle to move the bolt to the rear. Looking inside, you can see whether there’s brass in the chamber. With a dual ejection port, you can do this same process without taking the rifle away from your shoulder. You use the forward charging handle to slide the bolt back slightly, and just look down into the port in front of you.
  • Gaming: in 3-gun, you’re often required to ditch your rifle in a safe condition during a stage, or unload and show clear at the end of one. In either case, having the clear path through the ejection port makes it easy for anyone around you to determine that the gun is safe and empty.

The reflexive criticism is that “now it’s easier to get dirt in there” because you have a port on both sides. But unlike a conventional rifle, one with two ejection ports allows debris to pass through. If there’s something in there, it’s easier to shake out than an AR.

All these things combine to make a unique rifle, and Faxon is dedicated to expanding the line beyond .223 and 300 BLK. At SHOT Show they demoed their new 7.62x39mm ARAK 21 upper, the .308 ARAK 31, and confirmed that they are planning a brand new rifle that moves beyond the AR-15 lower.

The 7.62×39 option will be available immediately, the ARAK 31 is on schedule for early 2015, but the unknown future rifle will likely be a surprise at next year’s SHOT Show.

Images by Edward Osborne

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