Issue 35 Gemtech Integra Dave Merrill This article originally appeared in RECOIL Issue #35, Jan 2018 In mid-April 2016, USSOCOM officially started solicitation for a Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG). The requirements for the contract were extremely lofty and eventually the program was scuttled. Then reborn. Then got mucky again. Thus is the nature of government procurement. Several manufacturers submitted samples, but at the time of this writing, Gemtech is the only one who brought their offering to the commercial market — almost. There are a couple of differences between the SURG upper and the Gemtech Integra, but functionally it boils down to this: The Gemtech SURG upper has just over an inch more rifled barrel, and the overall length of the upper was reduced by 1.7 inches due to government requirements. To be sure, an integral silencer isn’t a normal first NFA purchase. When starting out, buyers typically want something with more perceived utility, such as one of the myriad of multi-caliber silencers. Later, they branch out into specific calibers and guns. An integral is likely at least four or five slots down the list, if one is ever purchased at all. Single-Stamping Across State Lines As an individual, before crossing state lines with most types of legally owned federally regulated firearms like machineguns and short-barreled rifles (SBR), you need an approved BATFE Form 5320.20. Though it’s very dependent on your examiner, it’s not unheard of for an approved form to take four to six weeks to arrive. We know numerous people who were unable to bring their goodies with them to a class or other event for lack of approval. For reasons that we don’t understand and don’t want to ask about, this annoying law about interstate travel applies to all federally regulated firearms, sans two categories: Any Other Weapon (AOW) and silencers. Provided that silencers are legal in your destination state, you can cross state lines with no notice and no permission. Hence, the advantage of the one-stamp silenced rifle. While a one-stamp rifle has certain legal benefits in the United States, there are some additional perks too. Namely, a manufacturer can build it from the ground up with complete integration in mind. The Gemtech Integra certainly isn’t the first gun with a built-in suppressor. In recent years we’ve seen several new models come to the market, such as the SilencerCo Maxim-9. Many integral rifles have a silencer monocore machined into or permanently attached to the barrel. Some psuedo-integrals simply have a silencer welded to a shorter barrel. Both of these methods are easy ways to reach that 16-inch minimum of a non-federally regulated rifle. Gemtech took a different approach with the Integra, opting to weld a sleeve to the barrel that encompasses a removable titanium monocore. With the twist and turn of a 3⁄8-inch socket wrench, the core comes out for cleaning and servicing. The core itself features a sharp edge that cuts any accumulated carbon during removal. There are four angled ports machined into the end of the monocore, making it self-tightening. The four angled ports in the end of the monocore make the Integra self-tightening. Get an endcap strike with a permanently attached core and you’re SOL, whereas the core on the Integra can be readily replaced. Additionally, have you ever try to run military bore patches through a silencer? We don’t recommend it. The ability to remove the entire monocore assembly leaves room for upgrades by Gemtech into the foreseeable future. Perhaps down the line, we’ll see silencer upgrades for this rifle. We admit, seeing that this was a pistol-length gas system with a monocore gave us some pause. But we withheld judgment until we got it to the range. 5.56 silencers are loud. The round’s high pressure and velocity just aren’t conducive to that movie-quiet experience that one can attain with subsonic .300blk or .22LR. Though in theory subsonic 5.56 could be used to further muffle the report, its terminal ballistics leaves a lot to be desired. If you ever want to see a face worthy of being featured in a sad Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial, we suggest observing someone who just shot their brand-new 5.56 silencer for the first time — and who has never experienced one firsthand. You can practically hear “Angel” playing in the background as the tears of sadness and regret roll down their faces. Aside from the caliber being loud in general, the suppressed AR-15 can be unusually troublesome at times. Over the last six decades of development, we’ve seen a series of engineering challenges updating and upgrading the AR-15 to fit current mission requirements. These unplanned impositions ultimately made the AR the modular monster that we currently know and love. Dealing with silencers was but one of those ongoing obstacles. By containing the expansion of hot gases at the muzzle in order to bring down the sound, a silencer can significantly increase backpressure into the system. This can mean malfunctions from excessive bolt speed, bolts attempting to unlock far too early, more pronounced expulsion of gas out of the ejection port, and higher rates of fouling, not to mention a face full of burnt powder. After these last several paragraphs, one may get the impression that we hate suppressed ARs, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Dead Foot Arms folding stock makes for a small package while maintaining functionality. These problems all have solutions in the form of all manner of specialized adjustable parts, weights, and differing silencer designs. Modular monster indeed. The Integra does something different enough that they patented it, and now that said patent has gone through we can share it with you. It’s gone largely unnoticed, mostly because it’s welded to the barrel and hidden by the monocore sleeve. The Integra has a bore evacuator. Like the main gun on a tank. Here’s how it works: ⇒The projectile first passes the primary gas port, and some of the gases travel down the gas tube to begin the cycling of the rifle as usual. ⇒Shortly after this, the bullet passes two additional gas ports. These ports lead into a chamber that surrounds the barrel expressly for this purpose, and a fixed amount of high pressure gas is held. ⇒Once the projectile leaves the barrel, the resulting vacuum sucks the gas in this chamber out toward the muzzle. Effectively, the bore evacuator delays the movement of the gas, giving it slightly more time before it follows the path of least resistance. The end result is that the majority of the extra gas goes through the muzzle end instead of back-flowing through the barrel and the effects that come with it. When we asked Gemtech if the bore evacuator reduces the velocity of the ammunition shot, similar to a ported barrel, they told us that if anything it actually increases the FPS. Since the bore evacuator just delays the gas rather than venting it out like an open port in a barrel, this makes a good deal of sense. In order to test it for ourselves we would need another Integra sans bore evacuator, since there are numerous factors that can affect muzzle velocity. BUILD QUIRKS But not everything is all daisies. Because the gas block and sleeve are welded into place, you won’t be swapping out your handguard system anytime soon. Thankfully, instead of a lower-end handguard they went with a Seekins MCSR V2 handguard. If you somehow ended up with a KeyMod and wanted an M-LOK or vice versa, anything in the Seekins MCSR line can be swapped out. Overall, the modular nature of the AR-15 becomes a skosh less modular with the Integra. Take note that depending on who makes your M-LOK accessory attachment, you may have to hit the hardware store for some slightly smaller screws to avoid marring the silencer shroud. While everything fits under the handguard, you don’t have an awful lot of room on the front half. We had to shave down the screws on the Magpul MVG, and at the end of the day it was easier to remove the rail to add grip covers a la the Troy TRX rail. Since the upper receiver itself promises to be perennial on the Integra, Gemtech thought it would be best to go with a high-quality known quantity, the Vltor MUR-1A. It’s the same internally as any other Mil-spec upper, but rocks thicker walls, is fully heat treated, stress relieved, and even subjected to the mysticism of cryogenic freezing. THE JERSEY SHORE Though normally the Integra is sold as a separate upper, our particular example has a corresponding Vltor VRA-R lower receiver, complete with Gemtech manufacturing marks. In addition to the recessed extra large magazine release, the VRA has a set of ambidextrous limited-travel QD sling swivels inset into the lower itself. A lightweight two-stage flat trigger from CMC Triggers completes the package. The Gemtech Integra we received was gaudy to say the least. Heavy with highly contrasted branding, chrome, and polish, this is damn near the rifle equivalent of a bro with a Tap-Out T-shirt and a fistful of energy drink. We wouldn’t have been surprised to see it snorting lines with people who could be cast on The Jersey Shore. Start your fist pumping now. They say beauty is just a light switch away or, in our case, a can of Krylon and a box of replacement parts. Like refacing a lime green 1970s kitchen, a change of color can make a world of difference. We removed and replaced most of the chrome, and swapped out the more egregious branding. Same rifle in a different dress, for sure. But 1,000 times more palatable. Like wearing a Rolex on a NATO strap, there’s just something special and fun about using $12 in paint on an expensive rifle. We won’t apologize for focusing on some aesthetics, as rarely does someone cross a street to meet your personality. Since the Dead Foot Arms system adds several inches to the length of pull if used with a standard stock, a shortened receiver extension and buttstock from an LMT PDW stock tightened up that distance. We also liked how the Dead Foot Arms can be fired when the stock is folded, however unlikely it is that particular feature will be needed. In order to achieve this feat, the crew at Dead Foot Arms uses a truncated bolt carrier and a dual spring setup. AT THE RANGE It’s always nice to know that you’re the first one to shoot a rifle. And we know we were because the CMC trigger wasn’t resetting. Every other trigger we tried worked fine, while the CMC wouldn’t reset with a regular upper either. So, we dropped in an ELF trigger instead. Once you start playing mucky muck with specialized buffer spring assemblies like you have to with PDW stocks, you can run into issues (for a full breakdown, see our PDW Stock Buyer’s Guide in Issue 30). Locking back on an empty magazine was inconsistent before a little spring tuning was performed. Neither were issues related to Gemtech — and you can put the Integra on any 5.56 lower that you want. Gas to the face? None. Zero. Nadie. Nada. The bore evacuator and tuned gas system are great at their job. On a similar note, usually our internals and magazines get scummed up quickly when shooting suppressed due to the dirty backpressure. We are happy to report that nothing seemed any dirtier than a regular-ass unsuppressed 16-inch AR. For science, we also tried the Integra without the monocore installed. This isn’t recommended because, well, it doesn’t work. This rifle is specifically tuned to run with the pressure that the silencer produces. No monocore, no worky. We tested accuracy with match Prvi Partizan 75-grain ammunition, and the Integra printed a five-shot group at just under 1.5 inches at 100 yards. Regarding sound? We’ll rely on folks with $40,000 rigs to make that determination, but Gemtech advertises 131 decibels. This is about on par with an unsuppressed .22LR rifle, and that seems to hold true. We can say that the ejection port noise is greatly reduced, and the Integra was quieter and produced less flash than our other 10.3-inch guns with several different silencers. A nice surprise, since a monocore design isn’t widely regarded as being the most effective. LOOSE ROUNDS We’re not completely sure about the first integral, but arguably the most famous is the Heckler & Koch MP5SD. And the coolest? The OSS’ Nazi-snuffing High Standard HDM. As to where the Integra falls onto the list of viable guns — it has a lot going for it. We wish there was more choice regarding handguards. The enclosed front end largely negates the ability to further refine the gas flow, reducing your options to an adjustable bolt carrier gas key like those sold by Rubber City Armory. With that said there’s still some flexibility on the rear end of the equation with buffer and spring weights. When we started, we looked at the Gemtech Integra like a short-barreled rifle with a silencer attached, but it’s more than that. The thoughtfulness of design, the fine-tuning, and how it sounds all add up to a package more than just a sum of its parts. Actual. Integral. Hot damn. A relatively short, quiet, soft-shooting suppressed rifle you can cross state lines with without asking permission from Uncle Sugar? We’ll be in our bunk. 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