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Foxtrot Mike AR/AK Mishmash: The Gen 2 Mike-102 [Hands-On Review]

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

The very first booth we laid eyes on at SHOT Show 2023 was Foxtrot Mike. They had a rifle we found so outrageous as to be compelling: the Mike-102. It has a mix of features of both the AR and AK, but not in the ways you’d think. Folding stock but still direct impingement. 5.56mm but eats from AK mags. It also shared features with many “advanced” carbines, like a swappable, forward charging handle and some ambidextrous controls.

DESIGN

Because the stock both folds and can fire when folded, one would expect an operating system similar to an AR-180, but here the design more resembles the original shorty, no-stock AR, the Olympic Arms OA-93. 

The standard AR bolt carrier group is truncated, and instead of a buffer and long recoil spring assembly going into a buttstock, there’s a pair of nested coil springs riding on a rod inside the upper receiver. 

There’s a spring for the firing pin and the cam pin is mono-directional, only able to be installed and removed in one direction. 

The gas is tapped at the barrel like a standard AR, moving from the gas block to the carrier key via a gas tube. A non-reciprocating four-position charging handle (left, right, angled up, angled down) sits north of the upper receiver and above the gas block itself. Because of this, both the handguard and the upper receiver are taller than a standard AR — more like an HK416. The brass deflector is replaceable rather than integral.

The 4150 1/8 twist barrel is black nitrided, chambered in .223 Wylde, and held in place via a tapered barrel nut that features flats for easy installation. There are also flats on the muzzle end for easy swapping of non-permanent devices. Initial barrel lengths available for the Mike-102 are 9, 12.5, 13.9, and 16 inches. 

We went with a 13.9-inch barrel with a permanently attached SureFire Warcomp to not only allow for legal length but also to accommodate a SureFire silencer.

The handguard indexes on the upper receiver to ensure alignment and a monolithic look and attached with a pair of Torx screws (and there’s even torque values in the manual). There are M-LOK slots galore here, with attention paid to 45-degree flats.

The lower receiver looks standard, but not. The front of the receiver is angled to accommodate rock-n-lock AK mags, with a steel pin acting as the front pivot point. The magazine release is AK-style, with a generously proportioned, elongated paddle that sits behind the magazine well. The skeletonized trigger guard is integral, the 90-degree safety selector is ambidextrous, and standard AR-15 grips can be used. 

There’s no bolt-hold-open, or ability to lock the bolt to the rear. In lieu of a normal AR-15 buttstock, the Mike-102 has a cap/folding stock adapter that’s held in place with the buffer retention pin. In order to show off the AK-ish-ness, our example is rocking a folding Zukhov stock.

OUTFITTING & ON THE RANGE

Rolling with the theme, we thought we’d get a little weird with the optic selection ourselves. A programmable, rechargeable Meprolight Foresight would serve as the primary optic, complete with a custom reticle we designed ourselves. An EOTech flip-side G45 magnifier rides behind if more clarity is needed at distance.

The 95,000 candela SureFire M340DFT-PRO would serve as a stubby weapon light, articulated to snug the handguard. A Strike Industries LINK Angled Handstop was placed for easy access to light activation. The silencer, a SureFire SOCOM762-MINI2, was used instead of the 556RC2 as a nod to the AK-ish roots of the rifle.

Normally rifles that mix AR/AK attributes feature a short or long-stroke gas piston system, adding to the forward weight of the rifle, but the Mike-102 balances well due to the being DI. 

The charging handle is a bit stiff, likely due to the shorter recoil springs. Once we found appropriate magazines (more on this in a moment), recoil was AR-soft, with the dual coil recoil springs doing their job well as we popped 1/2 IPSC targets at range. 

Don’t let that lack of AR charging handle fool you, however. Even unsuppressed there was some gas to the face, and when equipped with a can it was downright burdensome. We’re already looking at ways to use an adjustable gas block with this rifle.

PROBLEMS & “PROBLEMS”

Some of the problems are merely “problems,” while others are definitely going to be deal-breakers for many.

The first one is aesthetics, but not likely in the way you’re thinking. When someone first lays eyes on the Mike-102, they’ll think “AR-15.” And indeed, it isn’t difficult to see why: the two-piece receiver arrangement, handguards, barrel attachment, and basic gas system are all more than “inspired by.” 

The problem is that when people see an AR-15(ish) gun, they expect there to be a number of interchangeable parts. With the Mike-102, there are very few, and it starts and ends with the trigger group (Hiperfire recommended), grip, and safety selector.

In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a problem — if the Mike-102 looked more like it was a separate rifle entirely. No one really complains that an FN SCAR doesn’t accept AR-15 parts, at least no one worth listening to. What you get with the Mike-102 is an expectation that more parts will interchange than actually do; it sets up customers for disappointment, because the wheels in their heads were already churning.

Similarly, while the charging handle can be configured in multiple ways, it’s not terrible easy to do so. You either need an extremely long hex key to make the swap, or jam a small one in the cavity and unscrew it a smidgen at a time.

MAGAZINE WOES

5.56mm AKs suffer similar problems to the AR-10/.308 AR, in that there were never any widespread set standards for these calibers. While many 7.62x39mm AKs allow for a lot of parts to interchange due to similar dimensions, the same cannot be said for 5.56 AKs. 

Every country that made one (Russia, China, Yugoslavia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Israel, arguably South Africa and Switzerland, and probably more) did so to slightly different standards, to say nothing of the imported weirdness and associated “conversions” here in the United States. The result is that while it’s probably possible to get a 5.56 AK magazine from one country working in a rifle produced by another, invariably it involves modification of either the rifle or the magazine. 

And so we have this issue here. There was a lot of early reporting that the Mike-102 would work with “any” 5.56 AK magazine. In reality, that isn’t true. To be fair to Foxtrot Mike, in their own media and literature, they make no such claims. In fact, the two types of recommended magazines in the manual are AC-Unity and Bulgarian Circle 10 (with FB Radom mags unceremoniously crossed out). 

And this is for a reason: We couldn’t get most other magazines (Russian, Chinese, Yugoslavian, etc.) to even lock into the magwell, and those that did (like Galil magazines) had feeding angles that were too low for rounds to strip off the top.

We also had some problems with Bulgarian Circle 10 magazines, where the magazine would have to be loaded above 10 rounds to have the spring tension required for initial charging; though, curiously it would chug the rest of the magazine after that first shot. Now, one might be tempted to blame the magazine for this, but as these magazines work just fine in the rifle they were intended (a 5.56 Bulgarian AKM), that would be off the mark.

Ultimately, the part of the rifle that first caught our eye and attracted us to it, a rock-n-lock 5.56 magazine, became one of the larger detractions.

This isn’t a problem unique to Foxtrot Mike, however. Nearly all of the 7.62×39 non-AK rifles (especially AR-ish ones) on the market suffer similar issues, working with one magazine (usually Magpul or US Palm, which makes sense) while being hit-and-miss with others. 

Once again, this is an issue with expectation management rather than something tangible. Combloc countries weren’t exactly known for their consistent manufacturing, and while the reliability of AKs is mythical (as in, myth: overstated), their ability to operate within a wide range of dimension variance is quite exceptional.

Eventually, the 7.62×39 AR magazine problems were largely solved by C-Products Duramags, and here the solution would be (drumroll) the ability to operate with STANAG 5.56mm magazines. And Foxtrot Mike already has those rifles with all of the features of the Mike-102, in the form of the Mike-15.

We’re not saying every rifle sharing calibers should have to eat from the same magazines, but AR magazines are a global standard for good reason. Thankfully, the Bosnian AC-Unity magazines that the Mike-102 runs well with are under $15 each.

SPRINGS

Though parts interchange is more about expectations, the real kick in the crotch for the Mike-102 are its springs and small parts. We saw a hint of what was to come when the manual came complete with a little baggy stapled to it containing a pair of spare extractor pins. Even though the bolt is a fairly standard 5.56 affair, the extractor pin is both proprietary and apparently more subject to failure, due it to having to accommodate a firing pin spring.

NGL, spare parts are a good thing to have, and there are a lot of non-AR rifles out there with parts that are hard to source. Kudos to Foxtrot Mike for including them. But it’s the words that accompany them that are more concerning. 

The anticipated lifespan of each pin is a mere 1,000 rounds, or after each time you totally strip down the bolt. Parts swap schedules are a good thing to know, and something very, very few companies release with rifles outside of military contracts, but 1,000 rounds and/or regular maintenance is a steep price to pay here.

And it’s not just the extractor pin, but also the firing pin retracting spring. This little guy fits on the firing pin, which has a retention groove built-in. The anticipated service life is 3,000 rounds, which is better than the extractor pin but still falls short of standard AR-15 parts by a country mile.

LOOSE ROUNDS

The rock-n-lock magazine stuffed into an AR is what first caught our eye, though the Mike-102 ultimately received some of our ire for the same reason. That said, the magazine issues will only be annoying for those who already have a bevy of 5.56 AK magazines, which is to say: not that many people. We are spoiled by the price and availability of STANAG AR magazines (as well as 9mm Glock magazines) but once you step outside of that realm (price out FN or SIG mags sometime) you’re going to have to step up and pay a bit more.

When we were going over all of the proprietary parts at 2023’s SHOT Show, we were adding up everything in our heads. The immediate conclusion was about $2,200, so it was shocking to hear the complete Mike-102 would be priced comfortably below a grand. 

The fact that this rifle can be produced at that price and paired with this feature set is nothing short of astounding. We’ve come across a great many novel designs at price points we knew would be failures, but Foxtrot Mike hit the beer-money mark.

To fix the parts life issues, there will probably need to either be even more proprietary pieces, driving up the price, or a removal of features. This possibly isn’t a case where you can simply swap the bolt and be safe — because it likely was put in place for a reason. But stay tuned, because our gears are turning.

Is the price low enough to make up for the woes? For a rifle used for any offensive or defensive purposes, no. For a cool, weird rifle you show off at the range, yes. 

If you have a stack of boring ready-to-go rifles already, this may be worth it to you in order to grab some eyes, but everyone else should probably wait for Gen 3. 

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