The Fort Discovery Expedition rifle is as much an experience as a firearm. Built from top-quality components and presented as a package that is part defensive rifle and part history lesson, the Expedition is a viable utility gun that comes with some nifty accessories, all in an exceptionally cool wooden box. In a sea of otherwise unremarkable AR rifles, the Expedition rifle has a story.

The Fort’s History

In 1792, Captain George Vancouver, commanding the HMS Discovery, established Fort Discovery near modern-day Sequim, Washington. The 210-man crew of the Discovery included 50 Royal Marines, and they made good use of the naturally protected harbor at this location to make repairs to their ship and dry their black powder. At the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this location was soon recognized for its strategic importance in a wild and untamed world.

Captain Charles Wilkes further explored the area for the U.S. Navy 50 years later with a fleet of six tall ships. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson established the area as a military reservation. In 1987, Joe D’Amico established Fort Discovery as a training facility at the same location where Captain Vancouver first made land 195 years prior.

Today’s Fort Discovery includes 3,500 acres of private timberland running along the western coast of Discovery Bay. Spanning elevations from sea level to 2,200 feet, Fort Discovery offers a wide variety of training environments suitable for a comparably wide variety of military training iterations. These include airborne and waterborne insertions and extractions, reconnaissance, maritime operations, survival training, land navigation and all manner of live-fire shooting opportunities.

For military and law enforcement personnel as well as security-minded civilians, Fort Discovery is a state-of-the-art training facility. In recent years, it has been used by the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the British Royal Marines, the FBI, U.S. Border Patrol and many other law enforcement and security professionals from around the world. In keeping with the storied history of Fort Discovery, these guys are now producing their own rifle that embodies the timeless swarthy pioneering ethos of the training facility that shares its name.

What’s In The Box?

The Expedition rifle comes packed in a custom-built pine box with the distinctive Fort Discovery logo burned onto its lid. The box has a pair of cool rope handles and the lid, while hinged for years of use, is secured with a bevy of drywall screws. The box both looks and smells like something with class.

Upon opening the wooden shipping box, I was confronted with real, live excelsior. For those young unfortunates born into the days of bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts, excelsior is what served as shipping material back in the old days. It is an organic straw-like substance that would have guarded the Ark of the Covenant against rough handling once it was crated up in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I didn’t know anybody made it anymore, and the stuff provides a cool retro ambience.

The rifle comes ready for optics along with a nice high-end cleaning kit and a brace of 30-round Magpul PMAGs. The operations manual includes the Fort Discovery story along with some cool stickers and memorabilia. The entire package also includes a unique custom challenge coin that matches the serial number on the rifle.

Challenge coins represent a long and illustrious military tradition, and this one is unique. One side features Captain Vancouver’s HMS Discovery along with the date of his original landing. The words “The Rally Point” are depicted below the ship, and possession of either the coin or the rifle is adequate to gain entrance to the current Fort Discovery.

The backside of the coin includes the coordinates of Fort Discovery along with the elevation and founding date set on a compass rose against a background field of stars. Daggers signifying the Royal Marines also adorn the coin. If you add up the numbers each touched by the points of the daggers you get four, four, four and one. This number, 13, signifies the original 13 colonies.

Rifle Details

Foundationally, the rifle is built around a matched pair of upper and lower receivers machined from a billet of 7075-T6 aluminum. The receivers are then tumbled to reduce the chances of cracking and ensure a smooth finish before being mil-spec hardcoat anodized. In a world awash in AR receivers cut from aluminum castings, billet-crafted receivers can seem like overkill. However, your great-grandchildren will still be enjoying this rifle long after you are gone.

Chambered in 5.56mm NATO, the barrel is cold-hammer forged and chrome lined with a heavy profile. The barrel also sports a 1-in-7-inch twist rate and M4 feed ramps for enhanced reliability. The final product is topped off with a heavy mil-spec phosphate finish.

The Daniel Defense bolt carrier group is magnetic-particle (MP) inspected, the bolt is shot peened for hardness and durability, and the interior of the bolt carrier is chrome lined. The gas key is properly staked in place, and the extractor includes a booster ring. All of the internal parts, including the trigger, are crafted to mil-spec standards.

The custom magazine well includes four grit grooves for optimal reloading under abysmal conditions, and an ambidextrous QD single-point sling attachment is included at the rear of the lower receiver. For sights, the rifle features an A2-style post up front, and Fort Discovery includes a folding Magpul MBUS rear sight. The triggerguard is an integral part of the lower.

The specially designed magazine release is amenable for glove use. The furniture all comes from Magpul, including the collapsible MOE stock, handguard and pistol grip. The overall cumulative effect is of a top-notch rifle made from top-notch components. I couldn’t find a single area where a corner was cut.

In The Field

The manual of arms is standard AR, so I’ll spare you the rehash. Suffice it to say that the rifle runs fast and true. At the range, empty magazines dropped free cleanly, and the trigger and sundry controls were crisp and positive.

I mounted a quality Lucid 4-16x44mm L5 scope on top of the rifle to measure its accuracy at distance. This variable-power optic sports a nitrogen- purged, weatherproof tube and perfect lenses. It also has a side-mounted parallax knob as well as an ocular diopter adjustment. The 0.13-MOA adjustment knobs are easy to manage without tools, and their associated caps simply push down to lock. These scopes suck light in better than a black hole and are robust enough to outlast you. Lucid offers all of the top-end features you could want at a fraction of what other name-brand scopes might set you back.

The Fort Discovery Expedition shoots as well as you might expect from a custom-built, combat-grade weapon built with state-of-the-art components. Despite my tired eyes, I could handily print sub-2-inch groups at 100 yards, and the rifle ate everything from top-quality target ammo to cheap steel-cased imports with comparable aplomb. I would trust my life to the quality and reliability of this rifle, even under hard use.

For work at bad-breath ranges, I topped the Expedition rifle with a Lucid HD7 red-dot sight. The HD7 is nearly indestructible thanks to its rubberized exterior. It feeds from standard AAA batteries and sports four user-selectable reticles. The HD7 also includes a sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the reticle for ambient conditions. If you have to go from bright sunlight to dim indoor settings and don’t have the time to fiddle with your glass, the Lucid HD7 will do the work for you. All this awesome and the sight costs markedly less than its competition.

Thusly configured, the Expedition rifle maneuvered well indoors and hit hard downrange. Unencumbered by a lot of portly ancillary bling, the basic AR rifle is a remarkably lithe and lightweight combat tool. The Expedition rifle is an apex predator among its contemporaries.

Packed With Character

There are a lot of black rifle manufacturers competing for your hard-earned dollars these days. The quality of their products ranges from exquisite to abysmal, with everything in between. In the case of the Fort Discovery Expedition, this is a high-end weapon executed with unusual class and flair. The historical angle gives the gun character, and the quality of execution is obvious throughout.

Whether the gun needs to ride in a squad car, reside behind the seat in your pickup truck or rest in the corner of your closet for home defense, a properly adorned Fort Discovery Expedition rifle should be able to keep you and your family safe in the face of most reasonable threats.

Fort Discovery Expedition Specs

Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
Barrel: 16 inches
OA Length: 32-36 inches
Weight: 7 pounds (empty)
Stock: Magpul MOE
Sights: A2 front, Magpul MBUS rear
Action: Direct impingement semi-auto
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 30+1

Fort Discovery Expedition Performance

Load Velocity Accuracy
Federal American Eagle 62 FMJ 2,824 2.10
Gorilla 69 SMK 2,621 1.35
Hornady 53 V-MAX 3,035 1.55
Hornady 75 Match BTHP 2,516 0.80
HPR 60 V-MAX 2,732 1.50
HSM 55 Varmint Blue 2,895 0.75
Winchester 64 Super-X 2,741 2.20

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best four-shot groups at 100 yards.

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This article was originally published in “AR Rifleman” 2018. To order a copy, visit

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