As the AR market seems to expand with more and more builders, it is difficult to stand apart. Yet that is exactly what AXTS Weapons Systems has done. Well known for its ambidextrous Raptor charging handles and world-class accessories, this Oregon- based company has established itself as a top-tier player. Led by Vice President Eric Anderson, AXTS has developed the MI-T556, a carbine built not only for long-term reliability, but also for tack-driving precision.
The MI-T556 is a truly ambidextrous rifle. On the right side of the lower receiver, it features a dual-action bolt catch/magazine release and bolt release. The left side has a magazine release in addition to the default controls present on standard AR lower receivers. This includes the popular AXTS Talon 45/90-degree ambidextrous safety selector. The significance of this design cannot be overstated. The ability to minimize motion in regards to the rifle’s manual of arms is one component that separates AXTS Weapons Systems from the pack.
The trigger is a work of art custom-tuned for the platform. Breaking at a crisp 3.5 pounds, its travel is short and clean. The trigger also has a very tactile reset that “clicks” audibly, another unique component that makes this a warfighter’s gun. But AXTS paid great attention to detail in every component. The takedown pins are a great example of this.
Instead of just grabbing random pins and throwing them in, the company chose dimpled pins so you can use a round to drive the pin out. This helps the MI-T556 stand out from the pack. The lower is also furnished with B5 Systems furniture for good looks and performance to match.
The upper and lower receivers are forged from a billet of 7075-T6 aluminum before being perfectly mated. The upper receiver features a titanium forward assist with a black DLC coating. Of course, an ambidextrous AXTS Raptor charging handle is included.
The MI-T556’s bolt carrier is manufactured from casehardened 8620 steel and features a properly staked 4130 steel gas key. The bolt is made from casehardened 9310 steel, then it is shot peened, high-pressure (HP) and magnetic-particle (MP) inspected, and finally coated in a self-lubricating black nitride finish. Bolt lugs are CNC ground and heat-treated for exceptional durability.
Another area where this rifle shines is the barrel. Starting out as a Shilen 416R blank, the match-grade barrel is given a 1-in-8-inch twist and a custom profile in-house. The barrel is chambered in .223 Wylde, the crown is hand-polished, and it’s fitted with a high-quality barrel extension with polished feed ramps. A unique heat sync allows the barrel to dissipate heat at an incredible rate.
The MI-T556’s forend, also made from 7075-T6 aluminum, features a long top rail for sights and optics with Magpul M-LOK slots along the sides and bottom for quickly mounting accessories.
Baptism By Fire
The development path that the MI-T556 has taken is rare in this realm. AXTS built the best gun it could and then took it on the road. Eric Anderson himself enrolled in a large number of carbine classes around the country with some of the best instructors in the world. His goal was to simply run the gun, get feedback from students/instructors and then get an after-action report on the gun.
After investing thousands of dollars in classes, travel, ammo and time, the data was set. There are few other rifles available that provide the exceptional and consitent accuracy of the MI-T556. Shooters routinely produce sub-0.5-MOA groups with 55-, 62- and 77-grain ammunition. The product of this dedicated testing process is an outstanding rifle. The work put into this rifle is a reminder of the two different classes of rifles that seem to exist: those built for the large consumer audience and those built for professionals and serious end-users. Everything about the AXTS MI-T556 rifle screams “professional.”
In fact, a friend of Anderson’s purchased an expensive rifle only to put even more money into it by replacing the trigger, sights and stock. AXTS, however, believes you should have a world-class rifle the moment you pull it out of the box.
Running The AXTS
As with any rifle with significant buzz, it is always best to get it on the range to prove its performance. In other words, we needed to test the MI-T556 with some old-school target shooting. So, the range day would be pretty straightforward and focused on performance. The day began early as the rifle case was cracked open. While the goal was to be impartial, the rifle is immediately good looking. It was obvious that a lot of work went into its design. There were no sharp edges, the tolerances were tight and the gun was well balanced, giving it high marks before I even loaded the first magazine. We added a Leupold 1.1-8x24mm Mark 8 CQBSS scope and an Atlas bipod to wring out the best performance possible.
The weather was perfect as the late Arizona summer provided clear, comfortable shooting conditions. The first order of business was measuring the rifle’s accuracy. To prove a point that serious weapons need serious ammo, I brought along a unique mixture of rounds to test, all professionally manufactured and each with a good reputation. As we started the zeroing process, I began to get a feel for the rifle. The first thing I noticed was the trigger. It is one of the best I have ever run. Its travel was smooth with a crisp 3.5-pound break. A good trigger can make or break a gun, and this one is a winner.
The ambidextrous nature of the rifle took just a moment to acclimate to. It is worth noting that once you experience the benefit of this design, you might look down upon other rifles. The controls allowed for smooth and efficient operations. All of this aside, the serious shooting began. First up was Patriot Munitions’ 55-grain .223 FMJ ammo. Always a reliable round, this ammunition is designed for the average gun. With that being the case, groups were better than most rifles, but not close to what theMI-T556 is capable of. The group average came in at just over 1.5 inches. Next up was Federal’s 5.56mm NATO XM193 ammo, which is ideal for training and practice and has a 55-grain FMJ bullet—the exact load developed for the original M16 rifle. While popular and well made for its intended purpose, it did not allow us to get the most out of the gun. The group average came in at 2 inches, which is completely acceptable for standard guns in this arena. However, we knew the gun was capable of more.
With that, we broke out the CorBon 77-grain .223 Remington MPR ammo and, as expected, the MI-T556 preferred it. In short order most of the rounds were touching and punched a group just under 0.5 inches. This wasn’t a fluke, either, as we achieved the same results with the next five-shot group.
The applications of a rifle with these capabilities are endless. The first thought goes to designated marksmen, both in the military and law enforcement. Police tactical teams have been in search of exceptionally accurate 5.56mm carbines for years, and the MI-T556 fits the bill. It allows for sub-MOA accuracy with the ability to send fast follow-up shots downrange. This platform also allows shooters to more quickly adjust to precision shooting, as most people are very familiar with the AR platform’s simple manual of arms.
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I have no doubt that this rifle would be equally as effective in the hands of warfighters as well. The addition of a well-made variable-power optic would allow any shooter to not only engage in close quarters, but also at extreme distances. Those facing real threats would be well served in taking a long hard look at the MI-T556 from AXTS Weapons Systems. This carbine is exceptionally accurate, well made and ready to fight.
For more information, visit axtsweapons.com or call 503-893-2987.
- CALIBER: .223 Wylde
- BARREL: 16 inches
- OA LENGTH: 32-36 inches
- WEIGHT: 7 pounds (empty)
- STOCK: B5 Systems SOPMOD
- SIGHTS: None
- ACTION: Direct impingement semi-auto
- FINISH: Cerakote
- CAPACITY: 30+1
- MSRP: $2,895
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