Thoughts on the Magpul/Bushmaster ACR

As anyone who had their finger anywhere near the pulse of the black rifle market knows, the market had become saturated with semi automatic rifles as of July or August of 2009.

The ferocious buying frenzy dried up pretty rapidly.

Meanwhile, the economy continued to get worse. People continued to lose their jobs. Those who didn’t lose their jobs might still have had to deal with reduced hours or pay cuts.

All through this period, a number of people continued to hold out for the release of the Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR), initially designed by Magpul Industries before a partnership with Bushmaster Firearms. It was reported to be a lightweight, reliable, and above all, affordable, carbine – an FN SCAR for the masses, if you will. It had been in development for years, and the release date kept getting pushed back.

Finally, though, a firm date – a release after SHOT 2010.

To say that anticipation had built up to tumultuous levels would be a drastic understatement. The years of waiting were over. The product was all but in the hands of thousands – probably tens of thousands – of fans.

Release, Sweet Release

Until the details started to roll out.

Rate of twist – 1 in 9. “An innovative coating for long life” – not chrome lining.

Weight – over 8 pounds unloaded. Initial claims were in the 6 and a half pound range.

Models – “Basic” and “Enhanced”. The Basic model does not have a folding stock or a railed forend. The Enhanced model does, but…

Price –  MSRP is $2685 for the Basic and $3061 for the Enhanced. While many could put up with all of the above, this proved to be a deal breaker for many, who had planned on spending no more than $1500, perhaps $1800, based on figures released by Magpul and/or Bushmaster.

Many chose to take their frustration out on Magpul. It had been claimed by both Magpul and Bushmaster that the two companies were “partnered” on the project. Several forum posts by Magpul higher-ups scoffed at – or insulted – claims of high MSRPs or other issues by various posters (I was not among them). This has not helped their cause in light of the above information.

However, I feel that anger with Magpul is essentially unwarranted. In my opinion, Magpul made one major mistake – partnering with Bushmaster. When that was announced in early 2008, I lost all interest in the project. I was skeptical of Bushmaster’s ability to deliver the right product at the right price. Anyone who was interested in the ACR should have vented their frustrations with Magpul at that point.

Problems/Explanations/Opinions

Note: the following is almost entirely speculation. It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong about everything you read from this point on.

It now appears that Bushmaster had led Magpul to believe that they had a much larger role in the project than they actually did. The Magpul folks are pretty savvy when it comes to PR – just look at their website. They wouldn’t respond the way they did to pre-release criticism unless they really believed what they were saying. Bushmaster may have been  treating them like a mushroom. Oh, and Bushmaster probably smiled and nodded whenever Magpul may or may not have had input on the project.

As of early 2009, a Remington ACR prototype exhibited signs of overgassing at an industry shoot (Which causes me to ask the question – if it didn’t run right in 2009, how was it running in 2007 or 2008, when Bushmaster took over the project? After all, the anticipation for the rifle was built almost entirely on hype, not concrete knowledge that the design was ready for production as of Q4 2007). I am entirely certain that those problems have been fixed prior to the release of the weapon – however, one way to fix that problem is to increase the weight of the reciprocating assembly. Many people malign the AR-15’s buffer tube without understanding the vital role that it plays in the operation of the weapon. Without that buffer assembly, a heavier bolt or carrier or other associated parts may be required for perfect function in all conditions.

One forumite jokingly suggested the excessive use of tungsten as an explanation for the ACR’s relatively massive weight gain. He may not be far from the truth. The weapon has what is for all intents and purposes a government profile barrel, light weight under the handguards, which is what most AR-15 carbines have – yet those carbines weigh just over 6 pounds in stock configuration. In addition, the ACR makes use of several polymer parts that should reduce their weight compared to the aluminum parts used in an AR-15.

This leaves the bolt and carrier assembly as a likely source for the weight gain, especially when one considers the issues that the ACR exhibited. Nearly 2 additional pounds means that there is a serious chunk of metal somewhere in the rifle.

And that’s not even the (heavier) model with the folding stock and the railed forend, which has a $3061 MSRP.

To be fair, products rarely sell at or above their MSRP for very long, unless there is a lot of demand. We’ll see just how much demand remains for the ACR in a few months, but even a $2400/$2700 street price would place the rifle solidly at or above FN SCAR territory. Furthermore, the ~$2450 SCAR comes standard with a railed forend and a folding stock. Moving down in price, we see offerings from LWRC between $1800 and $2400, the KAC SR15E3 for $1800-$2200, and the Robinson Arms XCR for $1600-$1800. Every single one of those rifles is significantly lighter and offers more features than the ACR Basic model. In addition, every one – with the possible exception of the XCR – comes from a company with a lot of well-earned “street cred” in military, police, or civilian circles (or all of the above).

I won’t bother discussing the barrel for very long, but suffice it to say that a 1/9 M4 profile barrel that the manufacturer refuses to divulge finish specifications for is not going to inspire confidence or a long line of willing buyers. The only remotely (but not completely) rational explanation I’ve heard for buying a 1/9 barrel is the use of 36-40gr varmint bullets. Does Bushmaster think that varmint shooters will line up to buy an 8 1/2 pound piston operated carbine with what is essentially (for accuracy purposes) a lightweight barrel – for $2500-$3000?

Apparently they do.

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7 Comments

Filed under Firearms, General Opinion

7 responses to “Thoughts on the Magpul/Bushmaster ACR

  1. mitch

    Good summary of recent events. The internet whipping Magpul received will go down in the history books. I think its safe to say that regardless of how many consumers are upset about the ACR price tag they will still buy Magpul products.

  2. shawn

    good write up

    magpul over hyped the gun during the m4 criticisms without havin it. then let a company (bushmaster) that could fuck up a 1 nce funeral take over. The rifle has no point to exist anymore

  3. Aaron

    Magpul should have done all the manufacturing in house. I understand why they went with a big dog like Bushy, but look what it has got them. You want something done right, you do it yourself, which is what they have done up until the MASADA. Take back the rights and re-release it with all its promises. Otherwise, I’m buying a TAR-21.

  4. Sean

    this was a good read, i think you hit everything. i was really interested in the masada when i first caught wind of it last year, i really hate what bushmaster did with it, i wonder if its changed enough that magpul could make go back and make the original masada design.. maybe im just dreaming

  5. Bobby

    I know a lot of the recent updates to the ACR seem outlandish, but I own a Bushmaster ACR Enhanced model. The price tag is high but it fires much better than my Colt AR- 15 or M4. It’s very accurate, after you spend an hour getting it sighted in, and fun to shoot. 2500 rounds and no malfunctions. The price is steep but I would buy it over a Scar, XCR or any other modular rifle. Thanks for your thoughts, well written page.

    • I agree with Bobby. I purchased my ACR on October 12th. The *day* it arrived to my FFL dealer on the 15th, he notified me of the recall. I was beyond pissed. I had waited months for this rifle, only to have to send it back?!? That Monday, I called Bushmaster with my ACR’s serial number and sure enough, it had to go back. So, without ever having put a round through it, I boxed it back up in the same packaging used to ship it from the gun shop I purchased it from, and sent it back to Bushmaster. Three weeks later and multiple phone calls to Bushmaster trying to confirm when it would return to me, it arrived back, new and improved with a titanium firing pin.

      I’ve pondered why they wanted to entire rifle back just to swap out a firing pin, and this is what I’ve come up with. Bushmaster is a major player in the AR market, and is banking on the ACR’s growth in the govt/l.e. market as well as civilian. The reports of slam fires and fully automatic fire put them in a tough position. They could send out firing pins to all ACR owners and call it a day. With any other rifle, that would probably be good enough. For the ACR, it just wasn’t. Future government contracts and the growth of the rifle depend on consumer confidence in the platform. While a lot of people online have ripped on Bushmaster for the ACR being too expensive, and now for the recall, stepping back and looking at the situation reveals a company that *is* standing behind Its product. Recalling all ACR’s couldn’t have been easy – or cheap for that matter. However, I believe it was the *right* decision for the safety of ACR users and the future of the rifle. People take for granted that the AR platform has had decades to be refined, honed, modified, and basically, perfected as it is today. The ACR doesn’t have that luxury. It is a first generation rifle whose aim is to unseat and supersede the most successful rifle design (aside from the AK) in modern warfare history. From Bushmaster’s perspective, and from every person that buys an ACR, it has to be right, right now.

      From what I can tell, as of the date of this post, I think they’ve succeeded in creating a production rifle that fulfills the performance goals of the Masada.

      As of today, I have taken it to the range twice; the first time to sight in my Eotech 2-0 and, of course, for function testing. The second time at the range was again, for function testing, and for minute adjustments of the Eotech, which resulted in consistent hits on the 200 yard gongs. I have to admit, I’ve only put around 400 rounds through it so far. However, I’ve had zero FTFs or FTEs. It’s also important to note that the ammunition used has been a mix of .223 and 5.56, consisting of six different types – Federal A.E. .223, Federal A.E. 5.56, Lellier & Bellot 5.56, PMC .223, Fiocchi .223, and Remington .223. I currently have 1500 rounds on their way, which should help verify some of the conjectures I’ve made in this post.

      More info to come…Please see my blog for updates!

  6. Great work i have seen that you have provided lots of great information.i am in the Ar15 tactical bussiness if you need any kind of Accessories we will deliver that in US.Please check my website AR-15tactical.com and AR-15 Accessories
    Thanks
    Evan

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