July 09, 2015
When the subject of AR and AR-like rifles comes up, for some reason Patriot Ordnance Factory — better known as POF-USA — doesn't seem to get the love other brands do. I don't understand why. Maybe POF-USA is just too advanced. Frank DeSomma, the owner, is one of those engineering types who leave engineering advances in their wake like some people leave coffee-cup rings on their desks. And his latest innovation, the ReVolt, is proof positive of the company's forward thinking.
The foundation of the ReVolt is the company's Gen4 rifle series, which features a lot of improvements over the basic mil-spec AR design. What you will not find on the ReVolt, regardless of how hard you look, is a self-loading operating system. There's no gas tube, no piston, no gas port. You see, while a cursory glance might have you thinking this is yet another AR, it's actually a straight-pull bolt action.
POF-USA machined a rectangular socket behind the piston thrust shoulder/alignment fin on the bolt carrier. The socket accommodates the charging bar, which features a pair of operating handles at the back for ambidextrous operation. To operate the action, all you have to do is grasp the charging handle and pull back. When you let go, the AR buffer and spring drive the bolt home.
Why convert the country's most popular semiautomatic rifle into a manually operated one? The company wanted to bring to market a rifle to meet the needs of shooters in states where a standard AR is problematic to own. With a ReVolt upper receiver on a mil-spec 5.56/.223 lower, the gun is no longer a semiautomatic and therefore no longer subject to restrictive laws, enabling shooters in problem states to enjoy their rifles and comply with the law. And the complete ReVolt rifle itself is the answer for those who like AR styling and are seeking a super-accurate bolt-action rifle.
Complete rifles are available as the 5.56 ReVolt Light and the 7.62 ReVolt Heavy. A separate 5.56 complete top end will fit any mil-spec lower and ships with a capture pin that replaces the front pin. This pin is easy to install and permanently attaches the receivers to one another while still enabling the rifle to be broken open for cleaning and maintenance in the traditional AR manner. (Do note that you can, if you live in a nonrestrictive state, simply attach the ReVolt upper using a traditional pin, allowing you to change out uppers as you would on any other AR-15.)
The capture pin is present on complete ReVolt rifles, too, which means you won't be swapping out receivers on those guns. If you bought a ReVolt upper in order to make your mil-spec AR meet state restrictions and then one day move to a more permissive state, you can take the rifle to a gunsmith and have him remove the capture pin. But you won't be able to do it yourself. The same applies if you bought a complete rifle and then move to a place where you can have a swappable-receiver AR.
I received a ReVolt Heavy for review. Beyond its unique operating system, there are a lot of features to like about the ReVolt. It has a free-float handguard, with plenty of cooling slots and removable and attachable Mil Std 1913 rail segments. There's a top rail and forward rail segment, so you can bolt on backup iron sights and still leave room for optics and other accessories.
Inside the handguard is a match-grade, nitride-treated barrel, crafted out of Mil-B-11595 4150 steel, with an oversize barrel nut on the back and a triple-port muzzle brake (also nitride-treated) on the muzzle end. The large barrel nut acts as a heat sink, pulling heat out of the chamber and providing a larger surface area for cooling.
The muzzle brake does an energetic job of dampening felt recoil, but if you don't want it you can always unscrew it and replace it with a plain flash hider or suppressor attachment device. The barrel twist is 1:10, and the muzzle threads are 5/8-24, both standard for a .308.
The barrel is fluted and chambered to 7.62 NATO, and it features POF's Gen 4 E2 extraction technology. Those with a long memory (or who have read deeply) will recall the HK G3 had a fluted chamber. Since the G3 lacked primary extraction, the HK engineers "floated" the case in the chamber by redirecting gases from the case mouth back down the grooves, or flutes, in the chamber. This worked and made extraction possible, but it meant brass had a short service life. With the E2, DeSomma and the crew at POF have refined and redefined the design. The four E2 neck grooves in the chamber reduce the friction the case neck experiences — directing gases onto the case shoulder, easing the extraction force needed and increasing reliability. (The company also says the design increases extractor life five times over standard.) The E2 design means every time you work the action you'll be ejecting completely reloadable brass. And the 7.62 NATO chamber means you can use any factory 7.62/.308 ammo without worries. In short, the ReVolt is built to work regardless of the conditions — hot, cold, wet, dry, who cares?
On the back end we have a fully adjustable stock from Luth-AR — a new company from another force in the AR arena, Randy Luth. The stock offers adjustments in cheek riser height and length of pull, and it's significantly lighter than other stocks that do that same. The adjustments are nice, and the lighter weight should be a real crowd-pleaser.
The ReVolt's safety/selector, magazine release and bolt release are ambidextrous, and there's a button inside the trigger guard that locks back the bolt — a positioning that makes this control ambidextrous as well. The trigger guard is integral to the billet-machined lower, and the entire lower is coated with NP3, an electroless nickel/Teflon coating from Robar.
The upper, also machined from billet, is finished with NP3 as well. The upper does include a forward assist, and the brass deflector is a machined wedge, which I think is a whole lot better looking than the pyramid on mil-spec ARs.
The ReVolt's fire control is a single-stage design, and the hammer/trigger combo has been machined and fitted to provide a clean, crisp trigger pull. The trigger also boasts POF-USA's enhanced Finger Placement design, with the trigger bow shaped to put your finger at the best location for leverage.
The hammer and trigger are held in place by KNS non-rotating pins, which reduce wear on the pin holes in the lower receiver. Non-rotating pins are more of a concern for those who have select-fire lowers, but locking down the pins prevents any potential interference with the relationship between trigger nose and hammer sear. Basically, you get a clean, crisp trigger pull for the life of the rifle.
At the rear of the lower receiver interior you'll find two tensioning screws the assemblers use to make sure the fit between the upper and lower is snug without being binding. You won't need to mess with them on a complete rifle, but they could come in handy if you choose to put a ReVolt 5.56 upper on your mil-spec lower.
On the top of the upper receiver, you'll note the optics rail is secured to the top deck of the upper receiver. The rail is also integral to the free-float handguard. This means that, unlike a lot of other designs, the POF-USA free-float handguard does not depend on clamping onto the barrel nut to be securely attached. The extra upper rail reinforces the top of the upper receiver, and the attachment means the free-float handguard is not going to be a source of front-sight wander, and it's a more secure place to mount accessories.
Inside the ReVolt Heavy upper receiver, you'll find a .308-proportioned bolt and carrier. The carrier is nickel-plated for ease of cleaning, low friction and long service life. The bolt, extractor and firing pin are hard-chromed — a wise choice for these high-stress parts. The cam pin has POF-USA's roller-cam feature, which reduces friction.
All this is important because friction between the upper, bolt carrier and roller where they touch has to be so low as to be difficult to measure. The finishes and designs POF-USA employs here accomplish this mission. The low friction eases worries about lubrication — both from the low friction and from the lessened ability of dirt to attach itself to either receiver or carrier. The setup also makes the action buttery smooth and slick.
I worked the action quite a few times before I ever fired a round through it and then quite a bit when testing it, and I'm pretty sure what we have here is the fastest-operating bolt gun ever made. Yes, you do have to pull back harder with this one than with a typical turnbolt — at least in theory, but theory and practice differ. If you want to work a turnbolt quickly, you do it with force. Spring or not, you are going to run the bolt hard. And with the ReVolt, once the bolt is pulled to the rear, you simply let go and get your hand back on the pistol grip as the bolt goes forward.
Better yet, do it left-handed. Prone, from a bipod or rest, you could work the bolt with your left hand (for right-handed shooters; lefties reverse as usual) while firing with your right, and neither one has to leave where it is. If speed of accurate fire is what you're after, I can't see why a shooter who's practiced with the ReVolt couldn't be as fast as someone with a semiauto.
The roller portion of the handles on the charging bar is removable, although the underlying stem will remain. If you want only a roller on the right side, you can remove the left-hand one — and vice versa. And in a nifty piece of engineering, the handles themselves function as tools to tighten and remove scope mounts and rail accessories.
I spent my time on the bench punching gratifyingly small groups and running a few drills. My home range doesn't have the elbow room for long-range shooting or for the kind of tactical field shooting where the ReVolt could excel, but what I did manage to do was quite encouraging.
I had just received a delivery of M118LR ammunition, with its stellar 175-grain Sierra MatchKing bullet, which hits the sweet spot in terms of weight and diameter. It is long enough and heavy enough to be accurate at distance but short and light enough to enable the cartridge to feed well in .308 Win.-chambered actions and also be pushed to velocities fast enough to be useful without undue pressure.
It can, however, be picky about the self-loading rifles it plays well with, and that's the beauty of the ReVolt. It's not a semiauto, which broadens your ammo choices. For the same reason I also tested the rifle with Hornady's .308 Superformance. It's wonderful ammo, but some semiautos simply don't like it. Again, not an issue with the ReVolt. The rest of the ammo I selected with an eye toward seeing how the gun performed with different weights and styles.
I mounted my apparently indestructible Leupold Mark 8 1.1-8x24 scope on the rifle via the equally bombproof LaRue mount. The scope's high-end 8X is plenty good enough to wring out accuracy at 100 yards, and accuracy was what I got — in spades. The muzzle brake wasn't quite efficient enough for me to watch bullet impacts at 100 yards, but I also wasn't being shoved around on the bags. The groups were so good I had to keep myself focused on reticle alignment and trigger press so I wouldn't be distracted by seeing small clusters forming through the scope.
To give you an idea of how well the ReVolt performed, the vanilla-plain M80 ammo the military uses is not noted for brilliant accuracy, so that a rifle could shoot it to just over one m.o.a. is amazing — and the kind of rifle you need to know about.
At no time were there any malfunctions. I did find myself hesitating a few times after breaking a shot, wondering why the trigger was still "dead" on my finger. Then I'd remember I had to work the bolt. Also, it took a while to stop wanting to push the charging handle forward instead of simply letting go and allowing the operating system to do what it's designed to do. If you've run bolt-action rifles for a few decades, the reflex to push after pulling isn't easy to overcome, but eventually I got past it.
The company's specs put the ReVolt Heavy at 9.2 pounds, although my sample measured 9.5 on my scale. At an empty weight of over nine pounds (more with scope, sling, magazine and ammo), the ReVolt Heavy isn't exactly a woods-stalking rifle. While hunting wasn't a primary consideration in designing the rifle, the ReVolt would certainly work well as a hunting rifle when accuracy is a greater concern than weight — such as hunting out of a blind or in the varmint fields. And in those cases weight can be an asset, not a hindrance.
I have a bunch of .30 caliber rifles in the rack that don't tip the scales under 9.5 pounds, and only some of them deliver sub-m.o.a. consistently. So the accuracy results I saw in the ReVolt certainly put it in a class by itself, and for the recreational shooter who wants a tack-driving AR-style rifle not affected by restrictions on military-styled semiautos, this is your ticket. Ditto for those who hunt in states such as Pennsylvania where semiautomatic rifles are not permitted for hunting. Heck, since it's a straight-pull you could even take it to foreign countries that frown on self-loaders.
Another segment of shooters who might want to check out the ReVolt would be those who are entering precision shooting competitions where bolt guns rule. Here you'd have a rifle capable of rapid fire, allowing you to take advantage of a good wind condition but not be penalized in the reloading arena because you can load right up to published maxes without worrying about high pressure bending the op rod of a gas-driven rifle.
I'll admit, those are somewhat small niches, but many shooters live where it's simply not easy or possible to shoot a standard AR-10 or AR-15, and they need to know about the ReVolt. It's a smokin' hot rifle, with a design (and name) intended to serve the shooting public and tweak the noses of legislators while doing so. Enjoy the nose tweaking.