Product Testing Articles
by the Staff of Manhattan Shooting Excursions
Product Testing Articles by the Staff of Manhattan Shooting Excursions
Originally Published in The Bullet, The Journal of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association
In the market for military style rifles that is dominated by the AR-15, it’s nice to find something different, especially when made in America by a company that strongly supports civilian firearms ownership.
Robinson Armament of Salt Lake City made its debut in the mid 1990s with the M96 Expeditionary Rifle. The M96’s exterior closely resembled the Stoner 63, and the rifle became a collector’s “must have”, but was very costly to make and not very accurate. The M96 is no longer produced, but the company started making the XCR in 2006. The one we tested was lent to us by the firm to help raise money for your association’s PAC at the annual meeting in May.
Description & General Impression
The XCR is gas operated, semi-automatic, fires from a closed bolt, feeds from a detachable magazine and is available in 4 calibers. The XCR has several features similar to the AR-15.
The XCR has mated upper and lower receivers joined with a pivot pin at the front and a latch at the rear. The extruded aluminum upper extends out far enough to serve as a forend and houses the gas piston system. The aluminum lower is forged and contains the firing mechanism. The barrel, gas piston system, and internal action parts are steel, the skeleton rear stock is aluminum and the AR-15 grip is plastic. Aluminum parts are anodized while steel parts are parkerized. Parts are well fitted. Fully adjustable flip-up iron sights are optional.
The 3 lug rotating bolt and recoil spring are very similar to the AK-47’s but are much better constructed. Gas is vented from the barrel through an adjustable port located above the barrel just forward of the upper receiver, and impinges on the gas piston/operating rod. The rod moves the bolt carrier which causes the bolt to rotate, unlock from the barrel and move rearward after firing. Like the AK-47, the recoil spring is contained inside the operating rod so there are no buffers behind the receiver that would limit one’s choice of folding stocks.
The trigger, hammer, safety, and disconnector are mechanically similar to the AR-15, but parts are not interchangeable.
The XCR has several desirable features which enhance the function, ergonomics and mission flexibility of the rifle. These include:
- User changeable calibers
- User changeable chrome lined barrel offered in 2 lengths and contours
- User adjustable gas system
- MIL-STD-1913 accessory rails integral with the top, bottom and sides of the upper receiver
- Use of AR-15 magazines or drums– A HUGE BENEFIT!
- Left side charging handle/forward assist
- Ambidextrous bolt hold open device
- Integral sling mounting points on the rear stock
Our test rifle was chambered in 5.56 NATO. Three other calibers are available: 6.8 Rem. SPC, 7.62 X 39mm, and 6.5 X 39mm. Changing calibers is fairly simple and costs $549 MSRP or about the cost of an entire standard AR-15 upper receiver group. Conversions include a barrel with gas port, bolt, magazine and brass deflector. Changing the barrel is easy using an Allen wrench to remove one screw. All conversions use standard AR-15 magazines except the 7.62 X 39mm unit; these magazines will be available in early 2008. Given the absurdly high cost of .223 Rem., having a reliable rifle that uses AK-47 ammunition is a big plus.
XCRs have a 5 position, quick adjustable gas system used to make the rifle run optimally with varies ammunition or with suppressors, or shooting in extreme hot or cold weather. The adjustment is done by depressing the gas valve detent and rotating the marked value to the desired setting. This also alters the strength of ejection and allows for fine tuning the rifle after the break in period.
XCRs are available in NY compliant configuration with muzzle brake and 12.5″ or 13″ fixed rear stock; barrels are light or heavy profile in 16″ or 18.6″ lengths.
The XCR’s upper receiver has four integral MIL-STD 1913 style rails which is a cost savings compared to most AR-15 uppers that have a rail mount forend as an option.
The manual is well written with superb illustrations, but the XCR’s malfunction diagnostic chart could have gone a bit further.
Ergonomics & Function
Charging XCR is done with a left side, non-reciprocating handle that allows right handed operators to retain a firing grip and keep their eyes on target. The handle is comfortable to grasp, and by pushing inward, it becomes a forward assist. (Forward assists are used to quickly correct a minor out of battery stoppage or complete a loaded chamber check.)
The XCR shares the AR-15’s pistol grip, fenced magazine release, removable trigger guard and location of safety. The safety operates more quickly with less arch of movement than the AR-15’s. A big improvement over the AR-15 is the ambidextrous bolt hold open catch. Located just forward of the trigger and large enough to engage quickly using the trigger finger of the firing hand, this device allows left and right handed operators to quickly chamber a round while keeping both hands on the rifle.
The upper receiver rails allow for mounting various accessories from flashlights to forward grips. If mounting iron sights, the sight radius is 16″ compared to the AR-15’s radii of and for standard and carbine configurations. The grip is identical to the AR-15 and allows for the same sort of customization.
The XCR’s fairly heavy 6.5lb. two-stage trigger has slight creep and takes conscious application of good trigger technique to shoot well partly because the weight differential between the first and second stages is slight. To fire the XCR with precision, “learn the trigger” by dry firing and focusing on three things: the weight and travel distance of the first stage, and the increase in pressure and creep for the let off. This allows you to understand exactly when to pause between stages while refining your sight picture before the break. Robinson Armament has a prototype match trigger that may be available in 2008.
We thought the standard AR-15A2 grip is entirely too narrow, and recommend a thicker, target type unit for precision shooting. They are available in the aftermarket, and it will greatly help you manage the trigger.
We found the handling and ergonomics of the XCR very good except for the length of pull on our 12.5″ stock which we feel is about 1.5″ short. (Newer versions of the XCR have slightly longer stocks.) The XCR’s tubular stock has a soft rubber cover on the comb, but affords little space for an adequate cheek weld. A clip-on cheek rest would help, but none are now made for the XCR. (Such units are made for AR-15s.) Users could easily sight through the iron sights or through a medium high scope mount. Recoil is negligible despite a narrow butt.
Field stripping for cleaning is easily accomplished. Simply push the rear receiver lock forward, swing open the receiver group and remove the bolt group, gas piston/operating rod and recoil spring. The bolt slides out of the carrier without removing pins such as on the AR-15. Cleaning the chamber is also easier than with the AR-15 because you have no “star” to contend with. You can remove the barrel and gas valve by using an Allen wrench, but don’t do it unless necessary.
We tested the XCR for accuracy by mounting a 3-12X scope, and shooting off sandbags at 100 yards using Remington PMC 55 grain FMJ and Black Hills 68 grain HP ammunition. The averages are mean of 10, five-shot groups. Note that this test is more rigorous than the typical gun test that uses the mean of only 5, five-shot groups.
Ammunition Smallest Largest Average
Remington UMC 55 grain FMJ 1.5″ 2.25″ 1.96″
Black Hills 68 grain HP Match 1.0″ 2.25″ 1.58″
The XCR is not intended to be a target rifle, but it’s practical accuracy– the accuracy it is capable of when factoring in ease of shooting—can be significantly improved with a lighter trigger, target type grip, and longer rear stock with a broad cheek rest.
Function testing included Wolf Military Classic and Silver Bear ammunition. There were no stoppages despite a warning that low pressure Wolf ammo may require a break in period before functioning perfectly.
Our test XCR has a 1/8 twist which is optimal for bullet weights of 65-70 grains, but 1/9 is standard. Robinson Armament believes that the 1/9 handles heavier bullets just as well as the 1/8 twist. Faster twist rates are available as a custom order.
We advise you to get a brass catcher since the XCR ejects brass directly to the right and with considerable force creating a potential hazard to other shooters on the line. Adjusting the gas system may change the trajectory, but we did not attempt this.
The XCR is caliber versatile, reliable, easy to maintain, and has several commendable features. It’s gas piston operation has virtues compared to the AR-15 but with the trade off of being inherently less accurate. The rifle shot good groups for its design and accuracy can be improved with a few changes, some of which can be made by the consumer. Our customer service contacts with the company were all positive, and the firm is innovative and responsive to consumer feedback for improvements to the rifle. Finally, Robinson Armament demonstrated that it is 100% pro-gun by lending this XCR to the HARDWARE staff to use at our Annual Meeting fundraiser– that’s reason enough to check out their rifle!
Action: Semi-automatic, gas piston operated, fires from the closed bolt
Caliber: 5.56 NATO, 6.8 Rem. SPC, 6.5 X 39mm, 7.62 X 39mm
Capacity: Uses AR-15 magazines
Barrel Length: 16″, 18.6″ light or heavy with 1/9 twist standard
Construction: Steel and aluminum with plastic grip and rail covers
Length: 37.6″ with 18.6″ barrel and short stock
Weight: 7.5lbs. unloaded
Length of Pull: 12″ with short stock
Trigger Pull: 6.5 lbs., two-stage
Optional Access.: flip up iron sights, rail covers
Warranty: One year
MSRP: $1,550 excluding flip up sights ($195), rail covers ($33)
Manufacturer: Robinson Armament
PO Box 16776
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Categorised in: Uncategorized
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