June 18, 2019
Photos by Laura Fortier
For decades, hunters and shooters have been looking to improve the terminal and exterior ballistics of the AR-15 with cartridges like the 6x45, 6.5mm Grendel and others. Often the goal of these new cartridges was to offer performance closer to that of the 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. So why not take the big step and shoehorn the 7.62 into an AR-15?
The most logical answer is because it couldn’t be done. Patriot Ordnance Factory’s Frank DeSomma—a mechanical engineer who came to the firearms game from the aerospace industry—decided this was legacy thinking. As someone who had already redesigned the AR platform, he ignored the Doubting Toms and went ahead and did it.
Over the years I’ve tested a number of his production guns in various calibers, so I was interested to try the new Revolution. When you first look at this rifle, you’ll think it’s simply another modern take on the AR-15 platform. A good-looking piece, it’s light, quick to the shoulder and with all the features you’d see in a high-end AR-15. But then you notice the magazine well, and that’s when you realize what you’re holding is really an AR-15 chambered in 7.62.
The question I had was, Is it really an AR-15? So I asked DeSomma. He said it is, just one using a 7.62 NATO magazine well and a few slightly modified parts.
“The bolt and barrel extension are the same overall size of the M16 bolt and barrel extension but geometry modified to accept the 7.62x51 NATO cartridge,” he said. “The firing pin is mil-spec other than its increased length. The M16 mil-spec parts include barrel nut, gas piston system, rail system, charging handle, carrier, roller cam pin and buffer.
“So, this design isn’t an AR-10, nor is it a small-frame design like the Colt 901, which others copied years later. This is truly an AR-15 with a 7.62 NATO magazine well.”
The Revolution sports an effective three-baffle muzzle brake to reduce felt recoil. This is threaded onto a 16.5-inch nitride heat-treated barrel with a 1:10 twist. The barrel is fluted to reduce weight, and 14.5- and 12.5-inch lengths are available.
A patented three-inch-long barrel nut serves not only to lock the barrel in place but also to act as a heat sink. The nut surrounds the chamber and throat area, providing 17 times more heat dissipation than a standard mil-spec piece. This is important because heat is the enemy of autoloading firearms. Additionally, this patented design guides and supports the operating rod.
The Revolution’s chamber features POF-USA’s E² dual-extraction system to improve reliability. This consists of four small channels cut into the walls of the chamber. When a cartridge is fired, they allow a small amount of gas pressure to flow backwards and push on the shoulder of the spent casing. This small pressure helps unseat the spent case from the chamber. It also pushes back slightly on the case while the extractor is pulling it from the chamber.
The gas system is simple in design and fairly idiot-proof in operation. It consists of the gas block, gas plug, piston and operating rod. The design has five gas settings for normal and suppressed operation, or it can be shut off entirely. The gas block is solidly pinned to the barrel. Removing the plug provides easy access to the gas system components. Inside the gas block is a reversible piston and behind this is the operating rod, which is supported by the barrel nut at the front of the receiver. The system is designed so it cannot be reassembled incorrectly.
Surrounding the barrel is a 14.5-inch free-floating monolithic handguard system that encompasses the entire length of the upper receiver. This serves to reinforce the top of the upper receiver and is five times thicker than a standard flattop AR-15 upper receiver. The handguard is heavily slotted to reduce weight and to allow for easy mounting of M-Lok accessories.
The design is nicely sculpted to fit the hand well without being overly bulky like some of POF-USA’s previous offerings. Unlike your typical AR handguard, it is robustly anchored in six spots. It looks good, and it enhances the accuracy of the rifle. Plus, it features four QD sling mounting points.
The match-grade barrel assembly is fitted to a distinctive-looking flattop upper receiver. This features relief cuts to reduce weight while still retaining the forward assist. Riding inside is a high nickel-phosphate-coated bolt carrier group that includes POF-USA’s patented roller cam pin. The carrier has a durable mechanical key machined directly into it for the op rod to impinge. The carrier itself is AR-15 size and not the hulking piece found in an AR-10. Another nice touch is the use of POF-USA’s ambidextrous Tomahawk charging handle.
The upper receiver assembly is cross-pinned onto a unique lower receiver. It stands out from the AR-15 crowd due not only to its features but also to the sheer size of its magazine well. POF’s Gen 4 lower features pictogram safety markings, plus a fully ambidextrous safety, magazine release and bolt release.
The design also incorporates an ambidextrous bolt catch button located just behind the magazine well. It’s inside the trigger guard, so the rifle can be easily operated from either shoulder. POF-USA’s drop-in trigger is installed, and it is designed to break at 4.5 pounds. KNS trigger pins lock it into place. To ensure a tight fit, the lower also sports a nylon receiver tension screw.
The magazine well is noticeably flared for fast reloads. What makes it stand out, though, is its length. Pop the included 20-round Magpul magazine into the rifle and it becomes clear this is not your dad’s AR-15. Now keep in mind, both the upper and lower are the same length as standard AR-15 pieces, so POF has worked some voodoo to cram everything you see into a standard-length lower receiver.
Threaded into the rear of the lower receiver is an aluminum anti-tilt receiver extension. This features “carrier cradle” extensions to ensure the carrier is always supported by the buffer tube. This prevents carrier-tilt and premature wear of the buffer tube.
Fitted to the receiver extension is a lightweight MFT six-position adjustable stock. This is nicely contoured and has a non-slip rubber pad.
The rifle has an overall length of just 34 inches with the stock collapsed and weighs in at only 7.3 pounds. Fit and finish are excellent, and it’s a nice-looking piece that will impress your friends.
So why would you want a 7.62 AR-15? Handling POF-USA’s Revolution gives you the answer. Traditional 7.62 NATO rifles, such as the G3/HK91, FAL and M1A/M14, are all heavy, with the handling qualities of a ’71 Buick on skinny bias-ply tires.
This is not the case with the Revolution. The AR-15 is inherently smaller and handier than an AR-10. It has a less bulky feel than the AR-10, making it faster to handle and less fatiguing to carry over hill and dale or simply to shoot.
What about recoil? One of the virtues of the 5.56 AR-15 is its soft-shooting nature. I had my doubts about the 7.3-pound Revolution until I fired it. Using standard NATO ball for a quick function check, I was shocked at how light recoiling it is. The gun is smooth shooting and easy to control.
This is due to a combination of things, including the effective muzzle brake, how the gas system is set up, lightweight reciprocating parts and the action spring. POF-USA has balanced all of this in such a way to make the gun light recoiling with little muzzle movement. Follow-up shots are fast, and the rifle is eminently fun to shoot, although a bit loud.
For probably as long as I have been alive, the 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. has been viewed by many as the perfect universal rifle cartridge for civilians. While it has lost some of its luster over the years, many still feel this way. This is due to its availability, the maturity of the cartridge, variety of loads, quality of ammunition, exterior ballistics, terminal performance and penetration of intermediate barriers.
It offers performance similar to 19th century .30 and .32 caliber military cartridges, yet it does it in a shorter and more efficient package. While commonly loaded with bullets weighing 147 to 180 grains, it handles projectiles as light as 110 grains quite well.
Due to its popularity, companies frequently update and improve loads, projectiles and powders on a much larger scale than most other cartridges. It is one of the first cartridges to benefit from new technology where less popular designs have to wait for the technology to trickle down to them. While the design is mature, there is still work being done to further improve its performance on the battlefield, in competition and in the hunting fields.
The two things many find most appealing about this cartridge are its performance and sheer availability. It puts a reasonably heavy .30 caliber projectile on target at a respectable velocity. It will reach out to 1,000 yards with accuracy and will handle all North American big game when used wisely.
On the defensive side, it can penetrate intermediate barriers and outmuscle lesser intermediate cartridges. It is widely available around the world. Any store selling ammunition will have some on hand, so whether you’re on a hunt or there’s some sort of emergency, you’ll be able to find it.
So how does the Revolution perform? Very well indeed. POF-USA guarantees it will shoot into one m.o.a., and my review rifle did noticeably better with certain loads. As you can see in the accompanying chart, Black Hills Ammunition’s 175-grain OTM load shot the best, averaging 0.75 inch for four five-shot groups from the bench at 100 yards.
Firing prone off a bipod, I was able to make rapid hits on steel silhouette targets at 200, 400, 450, 500 and 550 yards. Once I figured out the drop and wind deflection, I was able to post a five-shot group measuring 8.5 inches at 800 yards. You really have to be on your game in the wind once you get past 500 yards.
Hornady’s 110-grain TAP load proved just the ticket for making rapid multiple hits inside 100 yards. Recoil was easy to manage, and the muzzle stayed flat while running various drills. This is a great load to consider if overpenetration is a concern. Many suburbanites would never consider using a .308 rifle for personal protection, but the 110-grain TAP load will penetrate less than most common 9mm loads.
During testing I found the Revolution’s handguard shape and size to be comfortable in the hand. The controls are well laid out and easy to operate. I particularly like the ability to lock the bolt back and release it from a firing grip.
The trigger has a bit of creep but breaks cleanly. The stock is comfortable, and the buttpad provides a lot of surface area and doesn’t slip around. There are multiple sling mounting points, including a QD mount at the rear of the receiver.
Unlike a conventional direct-impingement AR-15, the Revolution is easy to clean after a day on the range. There’s no big buildup of carbon on the bolt and carrier, so you don’t need to laboriously scrub down the action. And still the rifle is easy to strip when you want to clean and lubricate it.
Is the Revolution perfect? No, it shares the drawback of all 7.62 rifles. The ammunition is heavy and relatively expensive, and the mags are bulky compared to 5.56 mags. While the muzzle brake does a great job reducing recoil, it also generates a great deal of blast, and the flash is quite noticeable in low light. I also wonder about long-term durability of the bolt in the field. Plus, with a suggested retail of $2,700, it is certainly expensive.
Even so, the Revolution will appeal to many who desire a rifle capable of performing a variety of diverse tasks. It’s accurate and reliable, and the 7.62 cartridge hits hard. The only issue I ran into during testing was extraction with Russian Silver Bear ammunition’s zinc-coated steel cases. This load simply would not work, so I stopped using it. Otherwise, the Revolution ran without issue. All in all, it’s an impressive piece of engineering. More to the point, it’s also fun to shoot.