Sometimes it can feel like there are few real surprises left in the world of firearms. But this is proven wrong several times each year. For example, I had held some preconceived notions about California firearms makers, who operate in a restrictive environment. I had nothing against those brave folks, mind you. I just did not expect them to produce cutting-edge products—perhaps not even those that are permitted in “free states.” My first contact with Franklin Armory out of Morgan Hill, California, disproved all of those notions. Franklin has produced a number of ARs designed for restricted states such as California and easily adapts its weapons for users in other states.

As far as other interesting facts about this company, which boasts all-American products, there is this: “Each rifle, carbine, ‘other’ and pistol that ships from our facility is hand-built with a custom-tuned, single-stage Franklin Armory trigger. To ensure quality and consistency, every firearm is then tested by the company president prior to shipment.” Yes, the president test-fires each firearm. Franklin Armory has a reputation for jumping on projects that need ATF authorization, taking them through government mazes, coming out the other side with approval, and building the heck out of the new firearm. One such firearm is the XO-26b. I had the pleasure of shooting its predecessor, the XO-26, and found it to be a blast. In fact, I have handled three other firearms from Franklin Armory and found the company’s attention to detail and craftsmanship excellent.

XO-26b Pistol
Though technically not new, the XO-26b is a very interesting firearm appearing to be an AR pistol. (I say “appearing” because a vertical forward grip can be legally added to it.) Other folks’ AR pistols may require NFA permits when a forward grip is added, but the folks at Franklin were able to convince the ATF that the overall length (26 inches) of this pistol justifies its classification not as a rifle or pistol but as an “other,” exempt from the vertical-forward-grip prohibition.

The XO-26b is built with the same quality Franklin puts into all of its products. Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, 6.8 SPC, 300 Blackout and 7.62x39mm, the XO-26b comes in a nice variety of calibers. The barrels, all measuring 11.5 inches, have twist rates of 1-in-7 inches, 1-in-10 inches, 1-in-8 inches, and 1-in-10 inches respectively. Barrels are salt-bath nitrided inside and out, providing a deep hardening and wear resistance to the barrel’s exterior and bore. The XO-26b’s barrel ends in a Phantom Toothed flash suppressor. Surrounding the barrel is Magpul a MOE handguard with an RVG vertical grip.

Finishing the forged 7075-T6 aluminum A4 flattop upper is a full-length Picatinny rail. A single piece of rail rides on the low-profile gas system. Forged from the same 7075-T6 aluminum is the lower, which includes a special tension screw to press against the upper and eliminate play. The upper and lower are Type III black hardcoat anodized, and as with all of its firearms, Franklin’s Custom Tuned Trigger is part of the XO-26b package with a Young Manufacturing bolt carrier group. Foam padding covers the lower’s receiver extension, and a Magpul MIAD pistol grip finishes off the lower receiver.

Billet Lower Receivers
Exciting new products for 2013 are Franklin Armory’s billet lowers: the Salus and the Libertas. A number of knowledgeable folks consider a lower receiver machined from billet far superior to one that’s forged. Franklin listened to those folks, but as I have come to expect, the company didn’t simply design a billet lower that looks just like a forged one, but took the opportunity to make improvements. CNC-machined from 7075-T6 aluminum, Franklin’s billet lower receivers have a number of thoughtful features. The magazine well is enlarged and flared for speedy, smooth reloads and has texturing on its front for those who grip the AR in that area rather than on the handguard. There is also a patch of texturing in front of the triggerguard on the mag well—Franklin calls it the Memory Index Point—which provides a tactilely identifiable spot to place the trigger finger when not in register.

While it was designing the billet lower, Franklin also took the time to include an enlarged, integral triggerguard (winter triggerguard) with no irritating gap behind it. On the subject of integral, the billet lower includes integral quick-detach sling attachment points at the back of the receiver, one on each side. Franklin did not forget to include the tensioning screw it’s so well known for. Lowers are Type III hardcoat anodized in black, desert storm and olive drab. The Salus is designed with AR pistols in mind, while the Libertas is for rifles. Lowers will be sold stripped, or complete with the same products Franklin uses on lowers destined for its own rifles.

Franklin has come out with a rifle specifically designed for the fast-paced 3-Gun world: the new 3GR-L. This rifle is built on the company’s Libertas billet lower receiver, which means it comes with an enlarged and beveled magazine well, an integral enlarged triggerguard, texturing in two places, integral QD sling connecting points, a tensioning screw, and anodizing in three colors. Add to all that the excellent ambidextrous Ergo SureGrip. But of course, the features do not stop with the billet lower, as impressive as it is. For the 3GR-L, Franklin has used its own billet upper receiver, built and finished to the same specs as the lower and available in the same colors. The A4 flattop wears a full Picatinny rail and includes an ambidextrous Badger Ordnance Tac-Latch and phosphated bolt carrier group.

The 18-inch, fluted barrel has a few extra touches, including a 1-in-8-inch twist, salt-bath nitriding and a threaded muzzle wearing an EGW compensator. The 3GR-L’s barrel is chambered in 5.56mm NATO and designed with a mid-length gas system. The barrel also sports a low-profile, adjustable gas block and a 13.5-inch, railed FRS handguard. A 20-round Magpul PMag and PRS stock complete the 3GR-L. The PRS stock provides several attractive features, including an adjustable comb height and length of pull and a bottom Picatinny rail. There certainly are more products (new and established) at Franklin Armory than we can cover here! For more information, visit
or call 408-779-7560.

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