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MagPul Industries' Masada

MagPul Industries' Masada

Finally, something new and interesting from an American manufacturer

"No," I replied yet again, "I haven't seen MagPul's new rifle." My interest, however, was peaked. Everyone I was bumping into at SHOT Show was commenting on this new boomstick. Whatever it was, it had created quite a buzz in the air.

MagPul Industries shook up the industry at SHOT Show by introducing a new fighting rifle dubbed the Masada.

Glancing at my floor directory map, I located MagPul Industries' booth in the Law Enforcement section and set my course. When I arrived I had to fight my way through a crowd of people to get inside. Man, the place was packed.

Looking around, I finally saw what all the hub-bub was about. MagPul, a company known for manufacturing innovative AR accessories, had cowboyed up and designed a fighting rifle of its own. Better still, the company had gone from concept to firing prototype in only four months.

To be blunt, the continuing proliferation of AR-type rifles from ever more U.S. manufacturers is a symptom of the cancer infecting American firearm companies. Rather than demonstrating any technical expertise by developing a weapon of its own, these companies instead persist in assembling components of a 40-plus-year-old ArmaLite design. Then, with their name thoughtfully scrolled on the lower by the true manufacturer, they market it to the masses. Such rampant stagnation and lack of vision has led to American troops being issued Italian-designed pistols and Belgian-designed Squad Autos and GPMGs while our Special Forces are receiving German HK 416 and Belgian FN SCAR rifles.

So it was with some interest that I pawed over MagPul's new Masada rifle. Masada? Yes, Masada. Although MagPul Industries is not Jewish-owned or Israeli-backed, it considers the Jewish defenders of Masada in 72 A.D. to have defined the nature of controlling one's own destiny through their act of defiance to the Roman X Legion.

Me? Well, I think it's a pretty snappy, in-your-face name considering we're going to be fighting radical Muslim extremists for the foreseeable future.

The rifle itself? Well, it's kind of an in-your-face design, too. It didn't take me very long to see that there was a reason for all the hub-bub. Although currently in prototype form only, it's very obvious that the design has a lot of potential.

Officially known as the Masada Adaptive Combat Weapon System, MagPul states, "[It] is rapidly reconfigurable for length, caliber, magazine compatibility, stock type and fire-control setup. Core features include a gas-piston operating system, tool-less quick-change barrel system, multi-adjustable folding stock and integrated storage."

Yeah, say that five times fast.

Pawing it over, you can see some FN SCAR, HK G36, XM8 and good ol' American AR-15 and AR-180 influences. There's a reason for this. MagPul's design team (consisting of Richard Fitzpatrick, Mike Mayberry, Eric and Brian Nakyama and Drake Clark) drew off other designs to produce their idea of a lightweight, user-friendly 5.56mm fighting rifle.

The heart of the rifle is an AR-180-type bolt-carrier assembly. This captured unit utilizes an eight-lug rotating bolt with a spring-loaded firing pin. The bolt-carrier assembly drops into a 7000-series aluminum upper receiver, which is extruded in a closed-box profile for durability. Inside the upper, the bolt carrier rides on heat-treated hardened-steel rails. Bolted and pinned to the front of the receiver is a steel alloy barrel trunnion.

Mating to the front of the receiver is a quick-change barrel assembly. The system consists of an interrupted Acme-type thread and a spring-loaded detent. The design is intended to allow a rifleman to swap out barrels, no tools required, in a matter of a couple of minutes, so a rifleman can swap from a 101?2-inch shorty to an 18-inch DMR tube and back, no wrenches, no fuss.

Better still, the system is built around modified AR-15 barrels to ensure a plentiful supply. In addition, the barrel is freefloated to enhance accuracy.

Mounted above the barrel is an AR-180-type piston assembly. This removes as one unit but can be easily stripped for cleaning. Regulating the flow of gas to the piston is a three-position gas regulator. A rifleman can select "S" for use with a suppressor, "R" for normal conditions and "H" for extreme cold or when the weapon is very dirty. The basis for this simple system has been in use on military weapons since at least the 1930s and is well proven.

The upper is crosspinned onto a lower receiver manufactured from long-strand fiber-reinforced impact-modified polymer. This features fully ambidextrous controls, which are very nicely laid out. Housed inside, one finds a drop-in trigger pack that utilizes standard AR-15 components.

One interesting feature is the option of using standard M16 or AK magazines through the use of dedicated lower receivers. This allows a rifleman to easily reconfigure the rifle to feed 5.45x39mm or 7.62x39mm ammunition from standard Com Bloc magazines. Since the upper, not the lower, is serialized, there is no hassle with buying an additional lower either.

Masada Adaptive Combat Weapon System
MANUFACTURER:MagPul Industries
FEED:Standard AR or AK mags, depending upon lower receiver
CALIBER:5.56 Standard
OPERATION:Short-stroke gas with rotating bolt
BARREL:Quick-change system using modified AR barrels
CONTROLS:Fully ambidextrous
WEIGHT:6.7 pounds with 14 1/2 -inch carbine barrel
STOCK:Folding, standard and precision stocks available

To increase the versatility of the design, the lower receiver is designed to allow easy tool-less changing of the buttstock. Currently, MagPul plans on offering three different stocks: folding, standard and precision rifle. The folding stock not only folds to the right side of the weapon but also telescopes to adjust length of pull. The standard stock does not fold, is more robust and features an increased range of adjustment. Both of these stocks also feature an adjustable cheek riser for use with optics. The third stock is intended for use on Designated Marksman rifles and is similar to MagPul's well-received Precision Rifle stock. This unit features an adjustable cheekpiece and buttplate. All the stocks feature mounting points for QD sling swivels.

Multiple easily changed handguards are also offered in both polymer and aluminum alloy. The polymer handguards are designed to accept bolt-on 1913 rails to allow a rifleman to configure his weapon to meet his specific needs. Basically, you have the option of only mounting the rails you actually need. The aluminum fore-end, on the other hand, features full-length rails.

In addition, a folding front sight is mounted to the weapon and a full-length 1913 rail runs along the top for mounting day or night optics and backup rear sights. Plus, storage space is provided in water-tight compartments in the butt and pistol grip. Weight of a 14 1/2-inch carbine model is only 6.7 pounds.

Although the Masada is at this point only in prototype form, I think it holds a lot of promise. In the hands, the weapon feels fantastic, and the controls all fall easily within reach. From what I have seen so far I am very impressed by what MagPul put together in just four months of midnight oil.

Time frame for release? Don't expect to see a production Masada until 2008, so don't bother calling the company right now. This was just intended to be a first look at an exciting new rifle in the works.

Price? It's projected to be right around $1,400.

As it's still in prototype form, how the design evolves and actually works remains to be seen. However, whether the Masada is a success or a failure, the fighting-rifle bar has suddenly been raised by the features brought together in this user-friendly design.

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