When Magpul introduced the prototype of their Adaptive Combat Rifle at the SHOT Show some years back the rifle created more than a stir. When I was invited to go over the “hill” here in Colorado to test the ACR prototype there were six variations, one in 7.62x39mm with a special lower receiver designed to use AK magazines. I spent several hours shooting two of the Magpul preproduction selective fire ACR’s in 5.56x45mm (.223). Both ran quite well in both semi- and full automatic.
Made largely of high strength polymer, the ACR’s upper receiver is of aircraft alloy wherein are housed its multi-lugged bolt and carrier, non-reciprocating cocking handle and barrel with its short stroke gas piston. A Mil Spec 1913 rail runs atop the receiver, mating with another on top of the handguard. On the sides and bottom of the handguard are ancillary rails for mounting accessories. The rifle uses a fully adjustable buttstock that folds to the right side and the .223 caliber ACR uses any AR-15 magazine.
It wasn’t long after that when Magpul licensed Remington to develop and produce the ACR. Actually, Bushmaster and Remington (both part of the Freedom Group) worked on the development jointly with Remington handling the selective fire version and Bushmaster making the semi-automatic rifle. As one would expect, there were glitches along the way. Not all of the Magpul prototypes were interchangeable. Designs had to be finalized, drawings made and CNC machine programs prepared, all of it taking a year or more. One new option was a simpler buttstock.
When it was ready, I was lucky enough to be invited with others to Memphis, TN, to wring out the first of the production Bushmaster ACR rifles. There, for two days, we fired a half-dozen semi-automatic ACR’s, some with suppressors. Through several thousand rounds of .223 ammunition I heard a rumor of one malfunction, but I could never verify it. I was impressed.
More recently I was invited to a Freedom Group symposium where a number of this entities new products were introduced, some of which I have recently covered here. One of them was Remington’s new ACR-PDW, a 5.56x45mm selective variation of the standard ACR with a 10.5” barrel. New only to the public, this weapon was submitted to the Individual Carbine program at the NDIA in 2012.
Defining the Personal Defense Weapon can be like trying to herd cats! In the case of the .223 caliber ACR, it is chambered for a round that is arguably a “battle” cartridge, having an effective range out to 600+ yards. That is, of course, when it is equipped with a barrel of 20 inches or longer. Using a 10.5-inch barrel, however, greatly reduces the effective range of this or any .223 shoulder arm to half the normal distance.
Thus, in the ACR-PDW the .223 becomes a PDW cartridge, but the ACR has a wild card. While many .223 caliber semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15, are able to use barrels of different lengths, most require replacing the entire upper receiver group to do so. The ACR, however, was originally designed with a quick-change barrel system, not unlike that used on many military machineguns. Simply unload the ACR, lock the bolt to the rear, remove the handguard, rotate the barrel’s locking collar a few degrees and remove the barrel group to replace it with another. With three standard barrels lengths offered, the Remington ACR becomes a selective fire .223 caliber rifle for all seasons. In the case of its Bushmaster sister ACR, the main difference would be a semi-automatic version requiring registration as a short barrel rifle (SBR) with a one-time tax of $200.00.
On To The Trail Walk
After a classroom introduction of the new Remington ACR-PDW, my group drove out to Gunsite’s Trail Walk with the single ACR-PDW on hand. In dozens of trips to Gunsite, I had never traversed this particular range, which runs along a hillside with steel targets positioned across a valley from about 150- to 240-yards away. Not only are these targets of different colors, but they’re also not always easy to spot.
In order to be able to follow others and take pictures, I opted to go first. I picked up the ACR-PDW, which was equipped with an Eotech Red Reticle Sight. Pointing the gun down range, I checked the chamber for being empty, closed the bolt, set the selector to semi and pressed the trigger. The let off was surprisingly good. I put the safety ON, adjusted the brightness of the Eotech’s reticle, inserted a full 30-round magazine and made ready.
Following the instructor, I headed up the trail to the #1 marker and stopped. The target there was about 100 yards on the other side of the valley. I knelt, aimed and pressed with the crack of the ACR followed by the “WOP” of the bullet hitting the steel. The targets grew more difficult not only to hit, but also to see, but kneeling allowed me to hit most of them on the first shot. The final two were the most difficult, requiring laying out on a tree limb to see the target 240 yards out. It took me three shots to hit this one, finally aiming at the left edge. The rifle was shooting to the right for me.
On Gunsite’s South Range, shooting the ACR-PDW on full automatic brought no surprises. It handled very well with short and not so short bursts, and I never saw it malfunction. It also did not get hot to the touch, even with shooters standing in line to get behind it. Although moving groups from station to station limited my shooting the ACR-PDW to about 200-rounds for me, I had to give it high marks.
The Remington ACR-PDW is, of course, restricted to law enforcement agencies, as are all selective fire variations of the rifle that are defined by their barrel lengths. However, as noted, the semi-automatic only sibling made by Bushmaster can be owned by law abiding citizens in most states, registered and approved as a short barreled rifle by the BATF&E with a one time $200 tax. As such, that model can also be equipped with the longer quick-change barrels that will fit any of the Remington or Bushmaster ACR chassis.
Specifications: Remington ACR-PDW
Caliber: .223 Remington.
Muzzle Velocity: 2,200 fps.
Operation: Short stroke piston, rotating bolt.
Type of Fire: Selective: Semi- and full automatic.
RPM: 550 rpm.
Barrel Length: 10.5 inches (16” and 20” also available).
Rate of Twist: 1-in-7 inches RHT.
Overall Length: 20.75” to 30.25”.
Weight: (gun alone) 6.63 pounds.
Feed Device: Any Ar-15 magazine.
Sights: Magpul MBUS.
Stock Furniture: Black or flat dark earth.
Finish: Matte black.
About the author:
Having fired his first shot at the age of 5 by killing a pig his uncle was going to butcher, Gary Paul Johnston began a lifelong interest in firearms, hunting and shooting. Beginning a 28-year in law enforcement in 1963, Gary worked every division, always favoring uniformed patrol where the action was. He began writing in 1976 with nearly 2,000 articles on firearms published to date, along with two books, Custer’s Horses and co-authoring The World’s Assault Rifles. Having attended more schools on shooting and tactics than he can count, Gary is still learning, He says that if he can pass on even a little to others of what he has learned he will have achieved a worthy goal. Gary and his wife, Nancy, also a retired police officer, live in Colorado, are both Life Members of the NRA and strong 2nd Amendment advocates. Gary is also featured on MidwayUSA’s Gun Stories.