Arsenal Democracy’s Reaper-33 Rifle
“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fireside Chat of 29 DEC 40
Arsenal Democracy is a young firearms company based in Florida. The men behind AD, James Pechi and David Pavlick, are both current or former “18 Charlies” (18C, the MOS for Special Forces Engineer Sergeant) with 7TH Special Forces Group. Their earnest intention is to leverage operational experience with the most recent, relevant technology and accessories to bring the best possible weapon to the end user. Their background and experience is fairly unique in the firearms manufacturing industry, where only a few companies (most of them also small “niche” manufacturers) are veteran-owned, producing veteran-designed and -built rifles. Though many would (rightfully) argue that combat experience may not have a direct correlation to engineering and design ability, Arsenal Democracy is confident they can apply lessons they learned while deployed to what they build for shooters here at home.
The newest Arsenal Democracy offering is the Reaper 33 rifle. It was designed and built in collaboration with Nicholas Irving, a former sniper NCO with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. The Reaper 33 is currently offered in 5.56mm, with .300BLK coming in a few weeks. It is currently offered in Cerakote color of choice (including “Arsenal Grey”). Hypdrodip options in Kryptek, MultiCam and other ‘flages will be available after the first of the year. The initial offered price is $1,776.00 (1776).
The upper receiver is a 7075 T6 Arsenal Democracy custom, hand-fitted to the extension of a 14.5″ Shilen 416R SS barrel, equipped with a Templar Tactical flash hider, an Arsenal Democracy rail, AXTS Raptor charging handle, 16 setting adjustable gas block and chrome lined BCG with microslicked keys.
Asked about the barrel choice, James says, “We went with the Shilen because of the way they rifle the barrel. The way it impresses on the bullet, it creates less ‘bite’ as it travels down the barrel….and we went with it because honestly they’re just a bad ass barrel maker.” Pechi advises that he believes traditional polygonal rifling “seems to be going away” because it causes an arguable 2-7% loss of accuracy, whereas ratchet rifling (the kind in a Shilen barrel) improves both barrel life and accuracy. He also describes them as a huge supporter of the military, citing that as an added benefit of doing business with them. The barrel has a 1:8 twist, mid-length gas tube and is hand lapped with a medium-heavy contour.
Asked about their rail, he says they teamed up with SLR Rifleworks of Florida to produce it. It’s the only rail he is aware of with both QD (Quick Detach) mounts and key mod and pic rail capacity in the same rail. You can use the Picatinny section on the first part of the rail if you don’t want to go out and purchase new accessories, and/or attach key mod compatible across the remainder. This way you don’t have to replace your LA5/PEQ, Mini-Scout light or whatever unless you just want to. The 13″ rail has 5 QD points with 3 sides of Key mod attachment points and weighs just under 13 ounces.
Gas block – the Reaper 33 gas block is 16 position adjustable. This allows it to go from a closed position (making the AR like a bolt gun, in a way) to fully open. It’s made so the shooter can tune the amount going through system. Not that the -33 is tuned at the factory at sea level so it is, as Pechi puts it, “perfectly gasses, but not over-gassed, so you can still get maximum effect from a can.”
Other aspects of the upper receiver; the buffer is only 117 grams and the bolt carrier group is full auto rated for the rifles sold to LE and military. The rifle will ship with the buyer’s choice of QD slash-hider or muzzle brake (or both). The flash hider was co-developed with Templar Tactical and is built of extremely tough steel for glass penetration. It is threaded so you can put a can right on and is tack welded to the barrel.
The lower receiver is a 7075 T6 Arsenal Democracy custom lower with a Geissele 2 stage trigger. Both the safety and the mag release are ambidextrous. The buffer tube is a PWS416 T6 buffer tube with 2 built-in QDs and the drain holes in case the rifle has to be submerged. The buffer itself is a microslicked tungsten powder buffer that weighs just 117 grams. The rear take-down pin and bolt catch uses a set screw instead of a roll pin and both the butt stock and pistol grip come are Mission First Tactical models (the former is their Minimalist Stock, 5.9 ounces, the latter their EPGI16, which has multiple interchangeable straps for customization).
Asked why they chose the Norgon Ambi (which is authorized for Marine Corps use) for the mag release, Pechi explains that it is a high quality part that allows them to accommodate left-handed shooters.
I also asked about the mag well, which is EDM cut. As you can see, it is somewhat different than that of your more typical rifle. James explains that they opened up the mag in part because of body dynamics. Many people grab the front of the mag well when they’re changing shooting positions; the Reaper-33 mag well was designed for this and other ergonomic reasons, as well as to allow water to drain from the upper and lower receivers. He advises that the magazine fit is still tight enough to keep out sand, dust and detritus.
Overall the rifle looks well balanced. Pechi says you can rest the rifle on your hand (if loaded with a full magazine) and it will rest there without tipping. If you want to know more about a small, veteran owned company that seems justifiably proud of what appears to be a very nice rifle (I haven’t had it on the range yet), visit ArsenalDemocracy.com or follow them on Facebook.
“We want people to buy American made firearms,” James told me, “and not just American-made, but veteran American-made. Anyone with further questions or concerns should feel free to e-mail or call, we are available 24 hours a day: 850-296-2122, customerservice(at)arsenaldemocracy.com or ArsenalDemocracy(at)gmail.com.”
Here’s some quick video of Nicholas Irving shooting the Reaper 33 – if you’re curious, Reaper is the moniker other Rangers hung on Irving during his last deployment to Afghanistan. 33 is the number of HVTs and their cronies Irving eliminated on national mission target hits. He currently teaches precision rifle, combat carbine and pistol in Texas and is currently finishing Reaper, a book to be published by St. Martin’s Press.