The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Skeli X11

We Get Hands-On With a Gen 3 Prototype Carbine from Skeli

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

It’s perhaps a measure of this great country that despite our troubles and differences, there’s still room for the garage inventor. Oh sure, most new products are the result of collaborative teams of worker bees toiling away in a cube farm, but even in the firearms industry, the culture of innovation is still alive and well on an individual level. One such entrepreneur is Tyler Skellington, the creator of the eponymous carbine you see here. While we usually don’t report on new guns until our readers can lay hands on them, this one piqued our interest, as its story embodies the spirit of individualism that defines us as a nation — the spirit that involves someone deciding that, since nobody said it can’t be done, he might as well just do it.

To be clear, a number of areas on the X11 still need work to refine them. It’s the nature of the beast when you’re dealing with a prototype in the latter stages of its development, and we have confidence that the bugs will be ironed out by the time this hits the shelves of your local gun store later this year. Or early next — you all know how this works … In the meantime, let’s run through the salient features of the X11, and you can decide whether it’s worthy of consideration for your collection.

Overview
The X11 design incorporates elements from America’s favorite rifle, while seeking to address some of its drawbacks. Housed inside an extruded aluminum upper receiver lies a short-stroke piston acting on a bolt carrier, which rides on twin guide rods. In order to allow the user the greatest degree of flexibility when it comes to aftermarket options, great use is made of AR-15 components, while weight is reduced by employing polymer wherever possible.

The Skeli X11 Prototype is simple, easy to break down, and promises a high degree of modularity.

The Skeli X11 Prototype is simple, easy to break down, and promises a high degree of modularity.

Upper Receiver
In 1963, Eugene Stoner’s design team at Armalite in California came up with an alternative to the just-adopted M16 that made great use of stamped steel, rather than machined aluminum. Requiring simplified manufacturing techniques as compared to the space-age M16, the AR-18 skirted patent restrictions (Armalite had already sold the M16 design to Colt) and could be produced in countries with a less well-developed manufacturing base. Had the AR-18 been introduced first, it’s likely that it would’ve been a commercial success. Instead, it languished in the shadow of its sibling, doomed to compete with the first-born M16 and the attention lavished on it by a doting defense family. Like a second child, the AR-18 had to compete for resources that had already been spent on its predecessor, and by that time, the novelty of a 5.56 combat rifle had worn off.

Nonetheless, the AR-18’s architecture played an important role in influencing the design of other, more successful weapons. Britain’s SA80 bullpup was once described in the press as, “An AR-18 shoved up the arse of an EM2,” a reference to that country’s pioneering, yet ill-fated service rifle of 1951. Its use of twin guide rods and recoil springs allowed the entire assembly to fit inside the receiver — unlike the AR-15 — permitting use of a folding stock. And its gas piston made for a cooler-running and cleaner bolt carrier group.

The 3D printed prototype we got to mess with utilized a hinged folding stock and a healthy number of currently available AR-15 control parts.

The 3D printed prototype we got to mess with utilized a hinged folding stock and a healthy number of currently available AR-15 control parts.

The Skeli X11 is the latest rifle to make use of Armalite’s work on the AR-18, while bringing the concept into the 21st century. It starts out with a one-piece extrusion, rather than a stamping, incorporating a full-length Picatinny rail up top. Unlike the AR-15, it’s this component, instead of the lower, which forms the serialized part of the gun and is regarded as the actual firearm.

In addition to its rail, there are sufficient M-LOK slots cut into the sides to give mounting points for every occasion, and it’ll ship with a reasonably slim polymer handguard to address the usual complaints of heating, endemic when placing an aluminum rail system close to the barrel. That barrel, by the way, can be swapped out in under a minute by undoing the conspicuous nut, located just forward of the chamber. While it’s not a toolless system, it does mean the oft-quoted advantage of 300 Blackout requiring just a barrel change can be fully realized.

The nimble X11 leverages a number of existing technologies, improved with the founder’s own design input.

The nimble X11 leverages a number of existing technologies, improved with the founder’s own design input.

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