I have been acquainted with Robinson Armament for a number of years. Their original location was in South Salt Lake City, so a visit or two from a gun nut like me was in order. I recall a night where I was shown the ins and outs of the M96 system to include the top feed configuration. I’ve found their rifles to be consistently rugged, reliable, and of the highest quality. I eventually owned an M96 carbine for a couple years, and although it was a bit heavier than the typical M4 it was more reliable for me. So, when the opportunity came up to test an XCR I was pleased to do so. This rifle seemed to address many of the current trends in the police rifle world and at a reasonable price.
There has been a huge move in the police rifle market into some sort of gas piston or gas tappet system. Each company has their own catchy name, but essentially it is some sort of modified or hybrid of the AK-47 design. There are complete rifles and various uppers that attach to AR15/M16 lowers, and then more radical designs. They all address the drawbacks of the gas-driven bolt in the M16 design yet maintain the ergonomics that everyone seems to find so appealing.
They work better suppressed, operate more reliably when dirty and they support multiple caliber options. The downside, of course, is the price. Our department is moving to the HK416 and just paid almost $1800 for the rifle without sights, over $200 more than last year. People are paying $1500 or more for upper receivers and waiting months to get them, so the XCR falls right into that market at this point and compared to many, it is quite a bit less.
I was provided with a brand-new Robinson Arms XCR with the lightweight 5.56mm NATO barrel, a high-quality magazine, Midwest Industries front and rear sights and a caliber conversion kit to 7.62x39mm. The conversion kit comes with a barrel, bolt, hammer, brass deflector and one C-Mag magazine. The rifle was equipped with a folding stock. It measures 37.75 inches when extended, and 27.4 inches folded. That compares in overall length with a 16-inch barreled AR15, and is much shorter when the stock is folded. It can be safely fired with the stock in either position.
The rifle is well balanced and weighs 7.5 pounds. They have several other barrel choices to fit your application as well. It has a full-length MIL-STD-1913 standard rail on the top to accept all the latest optics and sights, and rails at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock on the fore-end for all the other gadgets you choose to attach. It comes with an easy-to-adjust gas system for various types of ammunition that also
accommodates a suppressor.
A couple of the noticeable differences are the travel of the safety, the operation of the bolt release and the charging handle placement. I will touch on these in the shooting impressions, but they are improvements. The bolt release is at the bottom of the magazine well and is ambidextrous. You push down with either hand to release the bolt. The charging handle is on the left side of the weapon with a large knob. The safety is in the same place as a typical AR but the travel is shorter. The magazine release is in the same spot as a typical AR, as well.
When I picked this rifle up it had come almost directly off the assembly line. This was not used previously as a test rifle. Since this rifle was new, I put it through the required break-in period of 200 rounds. The literature seems to indicate you may have an occasional failure to feed during break-in, but I had no malfunctions at all. In fact, it did not malfunction through the entire test (in either caliber).
I discovered I really liked the Midwest Industry sights, especially the circle-hooded front sight. Having spent many years behind an MP5 I picked it up very quickly. I sighted it in and completed the break-in. During this break-in period I fired it with the stock folded and open. I fired it rapid fire, single fire and performed a number of typical rifle drills. It functioned flawlessly and ejects brass like an AK (brass is thrown, not dropped). I adjusted the gas, as directed, after 100 rounds or so to the #2 setting and still no malfunctions. This rifle was just flat-out fun to shoot.
It was very accurate with the iron sights, very controllable and very easy to maneuver. It would serve very well as a patrol rifle and with a shorter barrel (which is available) in a SWAT role. It was during this portion of the test I was able to really test the bolt release and left side bolt. I really like this change. I found my magazine changes were quite fast. I could either insert the magazine and pull down with the thumb of my left hand, or push it down with the trigger finger of my right hand. For those southpaws out there this would be really slick.
The charging handle is on the side of the gun not the rear, so manipulating it does not require you to move. That can be done with a standard AR, but it is much easier with this system. I fired about 60 rounds through the rifle using my Jet Suppressors 1.75-inch suppressor and it functioned perfectly without having to change the gas setting from #2. Just before going to the accuracy testing I also moved my L-3 EOTech Multi-Purpose Optic (MPO) from my patrol rifle to the XCR. I changed the windage a bit, but left the elevation intact, as it was pretty close.
I had been using Federal American Eagle for the reliability testing, so I started out with a 10-shot string at 50 yards. At this range I used the L-3 EOTech with the 3.75x optic attached. Why 50 yards? Because that’s a real distance for most police rifles. I performed all of the accuracy testing at this range. Truth is, 99 percent of the time these rifles are deployed on traffic stops and perimeters on homes. If there is an active shooter at a school, 50 yards will still be the norm for most. I have even seen officers in strictly urban environments use 25-yard zeroes. In any case, anything that changes from 50 to 100 yards is probably the shooter not the rifle.
So, the 10-shot string measured just a bit less than an inch. I am using this target to test the repeatability after the barrel change, but it was a clear indication of the rifles accuracy. I fired all of the groups using my SWAT jacket over the hood of my car as a rest. It is safe to say this gun is as accurate as these things get, especially with a lightweight barrel. It seems to parallel the results with my accurized AR in that the 55-grainers seem to be the preferred bullet weight. The bonded stuff was fine, but a bit less accurate. It fed it all with no issues including the Federal Tactical.
I took the rifle apart and checked the action, and as expected there was little to no fouling. That is the joy of these systems with no gas in the action. I followed the instructions in the owner’s manual for the barrel swap. Even taking my time this was very simple and quick. One screw and the barrel comes out, simply swap bolts in the bolt carrier, change the brass deflector and you are good to go. With the 7.62x39mm conversion you need to change the hammer spring. Please note the small retaining pin that holds the trigger pin. Once that is removed, it slides right out and the bigger hammer spring slides right in. When I made the swap back, the whole effort took only a couple of minutes.
Shooting this rifle in this caliber was very pleasant. It shoots almost as softly as the 5.56mm caliber. An AK, especially with a folder, can beat on you after awhile, but not this rifle. It is clearly a bit heavier as the barrel is larger as well as the ammo. It is not at all heavy, but it is clearly heavier than the 5.56mm version. As I only had one magazine and it slowed me a bit, but I put about 200 rounds of Russian ammo through this rifle and it never malfunctioned. The C-Mag worked fine, I just wished I had a couple more. At the writing of this article C-Mags were back ordered. Robinson tells me they have a large order that should arrive shortly, so multiple magazines can be acquired there, and I have seen it on other sites as well. It was not only fun, it was pretty accurate. I posted a 50-yard group under the same conditions of 1.25 inches, and I did not even have to change the settings on the L-3 EOTech.
I swapped everything back to the 5.56mm caliber and put a couple of magazines through it to make sure there was no operator error in assembly. I then repeated the 10-round string I had fired previously. It was pretty much in the same spot. To me, there was no change that could be measured and I would not feel the need to re-zero if I made a caliber change or removed the barrel to clean it. I see no need to do that, but if you so choose, that’s fine. In breaking it down at the end of the day, it is a breeze to clean. The upper easily separates from the lower, so there is no real need to remove the barrel for cleaning.
This rifle is an excellent choice as a patrol rifle. It is lightweight and well balanced. It is reliable, accurate, works when it is dirty and is easy to clean. The design is simple, and rugged enough to stand up to a patrol officer’s use and abuse. The fore-end is close enough to a typical AR that it will fit in most racks that already exist in a patrol car. It works well suppressed or unsuppressed and can accommodate all the tactical goodies you can afford to buy.
I really like the bolt release mechanism and it retains enough of the AR15 ergonomics to make transition and training easy. The folding stock is certainly not necessary for a patrol rifle, but you can get it if you like. It accepts the myriad of AR15 sighting systems out there and worked very well with my L-3 EOTech MPO. The barrel conversion is simple and works, although I would like to see more than one magazine manufacturer for the 7.62x39mm caliber.
Officer price on the rifle equipped as tested (minus the conversion) is about $1500, which puts it close to some of the uppers and less than many similar rifles (including some standard AR15s) making it a viable choice for a patrol rifle. The conversion kit is a bit over $500 and there are other caliber choices. You can also get a 6.8mm SPC caliber and there is a 6.5mm caliber in the works. All are simple barrel swaps that allow you to maintain the equipment you already have on the rifle. It is a great rifle that works well, is versatile and is priced competitively for officers.