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Preview – Ares Defense MCR

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Photography by Kenda Lenseigne

It’s Time to Get Your Rambo on

For most civilian shooters, the opportunity to shoot fully automatic firearms is as rare as it is fun. Often, when a person shoots a full-auto for the first time, they will deplete the entire magazine in one trigger pull, then get annoyed at their idiot friend who is recording the affair on a cell phone held vertically.

Dumping a mag through an AR or a sub-gun at Knob Creek is no doubt a worthwhile endeavor, but current or former military who were properly trained in the use of machineguns know that this isn’t an effective use of the firearm. When the lead is flying both ways, a standard rifle magazine holding 30 rounds can be emptied plenty fast enough on semi-auto — no assistance from an auto sear is required. If you have a machinegun and are using your weapon to suppress a target, it’s best to stuff ammo into that pig via a 200-round belt.

Enter the Ares Defense MCR, or Mission Configurable Rifle. The MCR is a belt-fed 5.56mm upper for the AR-15 lower. This ingenious design was meant to be a replacement for the military’s M-249 SAW light machinegun. Now, we would drink FN Kool-Aid even if Jim Jones himself poured it for us, but the MCR has so many advantages that we had to have a taste of Ares Defense’s concoction.


Ares Came, Ares SAW, Ares Conquered
Upon picking up the MCR, we noticed it was lighter — much lighter — than the SAW. At 9.1 pounds with bipod, the MCR came in at just over half of the SAW’s mass. This weight saving was dramatically noticeable on a short run to the top of the hill we were shooting from and would undoubtedly be appreciated by anyone carrying it into combat.

Since the MCR uses a standard AR-15 or M-16 lower, the options for stocks, grips, triggers, magazines, and anything else in the vast ocean of AR products become available on a light machinegun. Unlike the SAW, a full-auto MCR lower also has a select-fire option, so the shooter can choose to release a single, well-aimed round at an individual target if a civil war volley of fire wasn’t called for. Though the SAW has a welded-up afterthought that will accept the STANAG magazine (and chew the hell out of it), the MCR was designed from the outset to feed from either mags or M27 links.

Like an AR, the MCR upper can be removed from the lower, so the disassembled gun can fit into most backpacks. Pull out the quick-change barrel, and the package becomes downright tiny. The magazine release is in the same ergonomic location and would be a seamless transition for anyone used to the AR platform. The MCR more closely resembles an M-4, effectively camouflaging the machine gunner from being targeted by people who do not like to be shot at by machineguns. Also, the manual of arms is the same since the MCR fires from a closed bolt.


Before anyone goes crying about cook-offs or runaway guns being dangerous, please understand that we have personally seen more negligent discharges on SAWs than on any other weapon. We’ve seen users ride the bolt home on a round thinking they were closing the bolt, like in training, which resulted in a very loud surprise. We’ve had a runaway gun when the pin holding on the rear pistol grip and sear fell out while disengaging the safety. It’s also not the best of ideas to ride around in a bumpy vehicle where the only thing keeping your firearm from letting a good burst go is a ½-inch sear holding back all the potential energy of the recoil springs.

The MCR’s forward quad Picatinny rail system allows for the use of better bipods, lights, and optics, and allows them to be swapped out by the shooter as their needs change. However, the handguard is proprietary, so unlike the ubiquitous AR, it cannot be switched out for aftermarket systems. The handguard is also short, so if you want to use a Chris Costa-style grip, you will leave your epidermis cooking on the gas piston. Our sample brandished burnt fingerprints from the previous bearded shooter.

The chrome-lined, hammer-forged, 1/7-twist barrel can easily be removed by locking the bolt to the rear, pushing a button, and pulling it straight out by the carry handle. This aids in cleaning and also allows for rapid barrel changes as they heat up under sustained fire. Each barrel has a removable, short-stroke piston positioned on the left side with adjustments for off, suppressed, regular, and dirty. The newer SAWs have no provision for cleaning the gas port, nor do they have a setting for suppressed fire.


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