Author: Frank Woods
The ARIC (AR Internal Carrier) BCG is a new product by LAW Tactical that just hit market last month, its release having been highly anticipated since it was first revealed to us about four years ago. It’s a sister component to LAW Tactical’s renown GEN-3M FSA (Folding Stock Adapter) for the AR-15 platform; it requires the folding adapter to use, and when the two are combined it allows one to fire the AR-15 repeatedly while the stock is folded.
While this is a new and exciting development as far as AR-15 modifications go, the product has been on the drawing board for at least a decade, and the design behind it has technically been around for decades. Zach Law & Kevin Boland, the chief engineers at LAW Tactical behind the ARIC, spoke with TASKER in regards at length, and that conversation resulted in this exclusive article.
I took the initiative and asked questions to get answers that would help the audience in the commercial market gain a better and more informed understanding of the product, its value and what it has to offer, and how to determine which version to pick for which use. We’ll start by looking at what the ARIC is and what it does, then we’ll jump into selection, longevity, and expectations, before going into the background of where and how the product development started.
BACKWARDS & BROAD
If you’re looking at the ARIC and trying to determine whether or not it’s for you and something you should buy, this is where we’ll get into the utility and what it brings to the table.
Zach’s experience as a member of the US Secret Service Counter Sniper team informed the design approach behind the FSA and the concealment & storage options it provided for. The ARIC takes it a step further by allowing one to fire repeatedly. When I asked about what setting or circumstances this capability would be desirable, Zach told me the ARIC shines in scenarios where one is working from concealment and/or in an executive protection role; In the heat of the moment, one may lack the space and time to deploy the stock from the folded position out of a bag or while within a vehicle.
Although these moments are few and far between in terms of personal use, the demand for this capability has existed since the Gen 1 FSA came to market, especially from those working in a professional capacity. It was in consideration of the commercial market, and the vast options of AR-15 related product it has to offer both professionals and armed citizens, that LAW Tactical approached their Research & Development of the ARIC. The result was what we came to call during our conversation, “Proprietary in a Standardized Manner,” as the proprietary components the ARIC does introduce to the system are overshadowed by its Broad Compatibility & Backwards Compatibility, which were the driving principles to the design approach.
In terms of Broad Compatibility, the goal was to develop a product that could perform the desired function while accommodating as many common configurations of the AR-15 and its BCG components as possible, by taking variables like barrel length, gas system length, and gas port size into account. They accomplished this by avoiding the kind of snags and complications that trying to also factor in niche product compatibility would have introduced to the equation; it’s not to say the ARIC is incompatible with niche products outright (we’ll get into that later), just that resources were committed to the most common uses for the AR-15 in the above described roles and applications.
Backwards Compatibility is where the ARIC really brings versatility to the table, both in form factor and function. The ARIC is a tool-less drop in component that requires zero permanent modifications to the firearm, which therefore makes it reversible; So long as the FSA is installed on the lower, you can alternate back and forth between the ARIC and a standard BCG at will. That the FSA itself is also a non-permanent drop-in component means you could even reverse that also, all of which really plays to the modularity that the AR platform has always been particularly good at when it comes to reconfiguring the rifle for different mission requirements. You could go from a GPR in 5.56 to a compact PDW in .300BLK, or hang out in the middle with a CQR in 5.56, all from the workbench with ease. This serves as a huge benefit in an emergency situation: If your bolt breaks, you can replace it with any standard spec AR-15 bolt; If your ARIC breaks, you can swap it out with a standard spec AR-15 BCG.
When the ARIC first debuted, those less knowledgeable and understanding of what they were looking at or talking about were quick to reveal themselves. Conjecture to the likes of “…we have the MCX at home,” or “So it’s an MCX with extra steps?” or “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to go with a BRN-180?” and “I feel the BRN-180 is the way to go for a folding 5.56 gun for us regular folk” popped up in discussion among those short sighted who hadn’t bothered to look into the details.
Well… fuck your feelings. They’re wrong. But I’ll explain why in a really smooth and easy to digest manner, to help you understand how the ARIC is both innovative and cost effective for the capacity it provides. That’s why this article was written. Take a look here:
I went with .300BLK for this graphic because it makes the most sense for the barrel length to terminal ballistic performance ratio typical of “bag guns” run from concealment. The Q Sugar Weasel is representative of multiple AR builds available on the market, from the factory or user-assembled.
Aside from the cost differential outlined above that shows the budgetary advantage the ARIC & FSA have compared to the BRN-180 & MCX (which is even greater via lesser cost of admission for those who already have FSAs on their ARs), let’s look at how else the ARIC/FSA equipped AR-15 is a smarter choice logistically speaking: As I said earlier, with the AR, you’ve got backwards compatibility with critical components across the board. With the BRN-180 and the MCX, you lose that (and your sealed action system, with the BRN-180).
Though they’re both common receiver modifications that can be used with the AR-15 lower receiver, further modifications are required to the receiver that delete the backwards compatibility you’d need were you inclined to pop pins and switch back to an AR-15 upper receiver group on the fly. Then there’s the big hole in the side of the BRN-180 upper receiver once the dust cover opens that invites damn near all manner of debris to get inside and gum up the action if it gets dropped in the mud or dirt.
This increasingly proprietary nature is even moreso with the MCX if you’re using it with the factory lower receiver, at which point it’s its own rifle all together with no backwards compatibility with the AR-15 at all. In either case, if something breaks or needs to be replaced, you’re limited to one manufacturer to get those parts from, which creates a logistical bottleneck.
Per Capita, the AR-15 has both the BRN-180 and MCX beat in commonality by a LONG stretch here in the United States; we’re focused on function over form here also, so buying “something different” to “keep things fun and interesting” is irrelevant. Where most people already own AR-15s, and a bunch of those people already have ARs equipped with LAW FSAs in configurations conducive to concealment, the FSA and ARIC being drop in parts for the rifle most people already have at least one of is by far the smarter play.
So if you really think about it, the AR-15 + FSA & ARIC is actually like an MCX or BRN-180 with LESS steps, while being the MOST cost effective and logistically streamlined option of the three.
By this point, you should be thinking “Yeah I see what LAW has done here and it’s awesome, I want one.” So let’s figure out which of the two ARIC versions is right for you.
WHAT YOU GET & WHAT TO EXPECT
The original selection table pictured above seemed a little vague, so I asked to determine the boundaries in a straightforward, black and white manner of speaking in addition to what the table provides:
- ARIC-M: Suppressed 5.56 + Unsuppressed 5.56 (avoid weak/low pressure .223 ammo to avoid short stroking, FTE, and FTF malfunctions).
ARIC-C: Unsuppressed 5.56 (If you’re not configured to use a suppressor and/or have no plans to buy one, and if you’re using low pressure .223 ammo). IF YOU USE THE ARIC-C WITH A SUPPRESSOR, your rifle’s cyclic rate will resemble overgassed cycling due to the increased back pressure from the suppressor; you may consider switching to an AGB (Adjustable Gas Block) to tune and tame the cycling rate under these circumstances.
• ARIC-C: Supersonic Ammo with No Suppressor OR Subsonic Ammo with Suppressor. Be advised, this is dependent on gas system length (pistol or carbine); this solution should be compatible with 90% of the products on the market, so understand that a function check will be required, especially in cases where you’re suppressing Supersonic ammo or firing unsuppressed Subsonic ammo.
DURABILITY & LONGEVITY
Being that service life of components is an ever present concern amongst the initiated and informed among those ascribing to the 2A culture, I asked about the ARIC’s T&E phase.
Within six years of development, hundreds of thousands of rounds were fired during the ARIC’s testing; LAW Tactical is certainly not relying on its customers to beta test its product after they’ve purchased it: All together, a cumulative total to the tune of well over 200K rounds were fired in testing, including over 125K rounds fired by third party testers, and using every government issued variety of 5.56x45mm ammo in the process. In one instance, one test sample ARIC has fired up to 20K rounds with no failures, and no preventative maintenance or component replacement. Another testing unit has fired up to 33K rounds with two spring changes at 10K and ~14K rounds.
According to Zach, the ARIC’s spring life is commensurate to that of a standard carbine buffer spring (Sprinco White being the nearest comparable example). In accordance with the standard AR/M4 maintenance schedule, the end-user is advised to change out the ARIC’s springs & bumpers together at 5K rounds, although with the above testing data in mind, it’s like changing the oil in your car: You’re recommended to do so every 3000 miles, but usually you can go a few thousand past that and you’ll be fine. Good to know, either way.
Regardless of how rigidly you follow the maintenance schedule (depending on how many rounds you fire over a given period of time), or in the context of keeping spare parts on hand (as you ought to be anyway), replacement kits including 2x Bumpers & Springs each will be available from LAW Tactical in the near future. That they’re mindful and permitting of end-user serviceability is commendable, despite the proprietary components introduced by the ARIC. Springs & Bumpers will be sold together in kits because they should be changed together/at the same time, according to Zach; if you’ve worn out the springs, you’ve probably also worn out the bumpers.
In terms of durability and abuse, as with anything mechanical, heat kills; Full Auto suppressed fire will increase component wear rate of the ARIC and any other part of the rifle. But this will be an extreme exception in the commercial market, given the uncommon nature of fully automatic weapons in private hands. Even so, there is yet peace of mind to be had by those quick on the trigger: during testing, the ARIC outlasted a Surefire RC suppressor (shown below); in other words, the suppressor had a catastrophic failure before the ARIC did (the suppressor’s core had come loose from its shell).
This isn’t a condemnation of the suppressor, but rather testimony to the repeated beating the ARIC can take. Aside from the quality manufacturing and durability of the design, it owes this to its weight, or lack thereof: Because the ARIC weighs less than a standard bolt carrier (9.8oz vs 11.7oz), consequently there’s less stress on the bolt lugs during the firing cycle.
All things considered between testing round counts and this impressive feat of reliability going up against one of the most trusted suppressors in professional use, I was compelled to ask: “How many ARICs are in professional hands being used in the field alongside GEN-3M FSAs right now?”
The answer was “Yes.”
TROUBLESHOOTING & TEETHING
To ensure the most reliable function and eliminate as many variables as possible, every ARIC comes with tolerance-matched standardized components: the bolt, the firing pin, etc. This way, right out of the box, everything jives and does its job. With the factory bolt that accompanies the ARIC, you should expect a break-in period up front since you’re working with a new bolt-to-barrel extension interface, having replaced the standard BCG in your rifle with the ARIC; This is largely inconsequential, however.
But, knowing the habits and tendencies of the vast majority of gun owners, particularly those inclined towards ARs and the assembly thereof, it’s safe to assume that there will be those that can’t resist the temptation to use a third party bolt of their own choosing, for whatever reason, despite LAW Tactical having done the work to solve this problem for you by including a bolt with the ARIC.
Therefore we’re presented with a question: Which alternatives are good to go? So I asked. Honestly, Zach said, it depends on who made it; There’s a lot of bolts out there one could buy for a variety of prices, and the golden rule is ever present: You get what you pay for. That being said, if your bolt is in spec, having been made by a reputable OEM, and it doesn’t require some weird outlandish buffer system to utilize, in all likelihood you’ll be good to go.
Which leaves us with another question: If it comes with a bolt that’s tolerance-matched to the carrier that will do the same job as third party alternatives just as reliably… then why change it?
There’s always one guy that’s gotta be different, or special, or whatever. Multiply that to the tune of thousands, and factor in that a large portion of those people tend to leap before they look, then when things don’t go as planned, they want to blame the product and manufacturer instead of owning the fact that they colored outside the lines, and… it should be clear as to why I asked LAW about this. So what about the guys that have proprietary bolts that fit into a standard 5.56 BCG? There’s some flexibility here, with a giant CAVEAT EMPTOR warning slapped onto it in red tape.
The first stop on this train was obvious: Is the ARIC compatible with the Knights Armament E3 Bolt? Yep, you’re good to go as long as you use the cam pin and firing pin that go along with it. So if you’ve got a short barrel SR-15 or SR-30 URG you wanna drop an ARIC into, go crazy.
“But muh wildcat…” Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you guys. I know that the above four calibers aren’t all necessarily “wildcat” cartridges in the traditional sense, but they’re certainly non-standard and less common compared to 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington (and the almost exact degree of parts compatibility .300BLK shares with it). Despite that, there’s a lot of people out there that have ARs chambered in these calibers, and all of their bolts fit into a standard 5.56 sized bolt carrier, which means they’ll also fit into an ARIC. So I asked Zach & Kevin what their degree of compatibility was with the ARIC.
At this point in time, not enough testing has been done in quantity to determine the range of compatibility between the ARIC-M & ARIC-C with all of these to give a definitive Yes or No answer; As far as LAW Tactical is concerned, they might work, they might not. In either case, that’s up to the customer to take it upon themselves to test out and navigate all the aforementioned variables present (barrel length, gas system length, gas port size, ARIC-M or C, etc). In short, if you wanna try it out, go for it, but you’re on your own; LAW Tactical is not culpable for any damages incurred beyond their published use parameters (5.56 & .300BLK).
For those wondering, the ARIC is NOT compatible with AR-15 pattern lowers that replace the receiver extension with a 1913 rail section for attaching folding stocks. Reason being is two fold: First, there’s not enough room inside the lower for the tail cup to fit into where there’d normally be a recess within the threaded area created by the FSA. Second, and more importantly, there’s no one standardized design for such lowers, so there was no way to ensure whether or not if the ARIC worked in one lower receiver like that, it would also work in another. But the LAW gang did think of you guys, and we’ll cover that in a bit.
All that being said, if you’re ever not sure, even after reading this far, ASK! The folks at LAW Tactical even set up a dedicated email address to field your questions; Send any inquiries in regards to ARIC@lawtactical.com and they’ll get you sorted.
Before we get into what’s in store for the future from LAW Tactical now that the ARIC is here, let’s look to the past and learn where the ideas and design inspirations for it came from.
When I first saw the ARIC and how it worked all together as a system with the AR-15, my initial impression was that it reminded me of the old ZM Weapons LR-300. For those unaware, this was a design from the early 2000s (that more recently appeared as an XM4 blueprint skin in 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War), before the BRN-180 and MCX were even a thought in anyone’s mind; it was the OG attempt at giving the AR-15 the folding stock and fire while folded capabilities:
In layman’s terms, it accomplished this by chopping the back end off of the bolt carrier and moving the buffer spring from the rear of the lower receiver to the front of the upper receiver by way of an extended gas key and op-rod style spring that sort of resembled a long-stroke piston system like that of the Daewoo K2. This eliminated the requirement for the receiver extension and buffer assembly, thus permitting a folding and/or collapsible stock to be installed in its place and allowing the rifle to be fired repeatedly while the stock was folded.
The design was later sold to Para USA, who then modified the handguards and sold it as the TTR, and the design fizzled out from there. The original version and its distinct handguard, from the era before free float 1913 rails became the standard, definitely had a cool factor vibe to it, and in that respect it seemed like a missed opportunity that was ahead of its time; if you’d seen one, you definitely didn’t forget it.
With all this in mind, the ARIC + FSA struck me as a more streamlined execution of what the LR-300 attempted to accomplish, only less reliant on radically redesigning the internal operation of the gun using proprietary components (thus making it not very unlike the aforementioned BRN-180 & MCX by comparison). So I asked Zach and Kevin if the LR-300 served as a design inspiration for the ARIC; the answer was No. In fact, the ARIC owes its inspiration to designs much older than the LR-300, going back to the progenitor of many modern firearm designs, and its predecessors before it: The AR-18, AKA AR-180.
LAW Tactical had been receiving end-user requests for “fire while folded” capability from both the professional and commercial markets ever since the Gen 1 FSA hit market back in 2012. It had been on the drawing board since then; the question was how to do it, as there are only so many ways it could be done within the confines of the AR-15’s upper receiver (such as the aforementioned LR-300). So the obvious route was to look at not only the AR-180, it being the premiere example of a Stoner design that could fire while folded, but all the rifles that could trace their design lineage back to the AR-180 that had come out since then. Someone must have figured this out without realizing it at some point. As it turned out, Stoner himself had figured it out, before the AR-180 had come around. Enter Kevin Boland, formerly of Knights Armament Company.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Boland, drawing from knowledge and experience gained from his time at KAC (which owns the Institute of Military Technology, a privately owned reference collection of firearms that houses many of Stoner’s prototype AR series designs), recalled that the AR-16 (the 7.62×51 progenitor to AR-180) was the progression of a design that started as the AR-12. Although pictured above with a short-stroke gas piston system, the AR-12 originally featured a direct-impingement (DI) gas operation system; This was changed to a more conventional short-stroke gas piston in the AR-16 after ArmaLite sold the production rights and patent to the DI system to Colt Firearms.
With this, the concept of a fire-while-folded design incorporated within a DI system was basically already proven. All they had to do at that point was make it fit and function inside the upper receiver of an AR-15. Together, Zach & Kevin took inspiration from the design approach and principles of the AR-12, AR-16 & AR-180 designs. They then reverse-engineered them, in the process downsizing and combining them with the AR-15’s BCG design and upper receiver dimensions. From this, the ARIC was born.
IN THE FUTURE…
The story of what the ARIC is, what it brings to the table in terms of capability, and which one you should buy ends here. But the ARIC’s story has only just begun; I did take this opportunity to ask the guys at LAW about what the future had in store for the ARIC, and which doors it opened that they were choosing to walk through.
At some point, YES, you will be able to buy the ARIC & FSA together as a bundle, in cases where you don’t already have an FSA, or you’re starting a new build all together and this would be part of a “kit” to that end. However, the decision and timeframe of when/where/how for this largely depends on LAW Tactical’s vendor network and their available inventory; you’ll probably see retailers like Big Tex Ordnance or Brownells offer these two together as a combo first. Either way, keep your eyes peeled.
While the ARIC isn’t compatible with AR lowers that have a rail where the receiver extension would be, there are plans to develop an adapter that’s basically like an FSA that doesn’t fold, with a rail where the receiver extension would thread into. This would give you the ability to use MCX, BRN-180, AK, etc style folding and/or collapsible stocks with a standard AR upper with the ARIC inside on the lower, because the adapter would also provide the space/room for the tail cup to nest into. BE ADVISED however, in doing so you would lose the immediate backwards compatibility of being able to swap out an ARIC and a standard BCG at will. I’m sure someone will think of some reason to want to do this; I can’t, but whatever.
While the FSA already works with basically any piston operated URG (Upper Receiver Group) that one can park on an AR-15 lower, the ARIC as it exists now is only compatible with the DI operation system. So it made sense to ask whether or not a version of the ARIC that’s compatible with Piston AR URGs (like the HK416 for example) was in development or planned for. Yes, the Piston ARIC is in development, BUT it won’t be done in the “one size fits most” approach that was taken with the original ARIC; rather, these will be proprietary to specific system(s) individually and developed in conjunction with the manufacturers of those systems. Which Piston AR systems in particular? Well I asked, but only so I could say I asked, since I already knew the answer: For now, that information is classified.
Here we’ve got ourselves an “If this, then therefore that” scenario that I wasn’t going to avoid asking about because I knew some of you were thinking the same thing as I was: With the original FSA being available for the M110 package, and the new HK417 spec FSA having been developed for the likes of the M110A1/M110E1/G28 (as you can see above), the question thus became: If the technology exists, why not build it? This pertaining to a larger 7.62×51 spec ARIC built for the likes of the SR25 and HK417, giving them the same Fire While Folded capability of comparable battle rifles.
We’ve already established that the ARIC, although broad in its application in terms of compatibility, actually caters to circumstances that could already be considered “niche,” since there are only so few times someone would want to fire a rifle with its stock folded. If you’ve never done it, try it and look at your target, you probably won’t be trying to do it often after that. So given that firing while folded is already a limited case scenario, the first thing to point out is how much smaller that Fire While Folded eventuality is for a Battle Rifle firing a full powered cartridge like 7.62×51; In short, it’s even more niche than doing it with a CQR or PDW, basically. It’s even less when you apply that to precision role configurations like the M110 SASS and M110A1 CSASS; I don’t know anyone who does it on purpose, and at work we call that a clue.
That’s not to say the answer is NO, however. If, perhaps, down the line, the team over at LAW Tactical can find a compelling reason to justify diverting their resources into R&D and the associated costs for such a product, then MAYBE. But that’s not the “Start a petition and get a bunch of random commercial market customers to tell LAW Tactical that if they made it they would go out of stock in an instant” Maybe, that’s a “We’ve got a lot more better things to do in the time being than worry about that, but we might get bored someday” Maybe, so don’t read into it and start holding your breath.
Although the concept that gave birth to the ARIC had been initially dismissed by KAC R&D, it certainly wasn’t without merit, as others had attempted it before (Stoner himself even with later designs): the ZM Weapons LR-300 is testimony to this; the ARIC accomplishes the same function in a much more streamlined and standardized way.
Having done so, LAW Tactical has enhanced the utility of the AR-15 and therefore extended its longevity well into the future; Using two drop in components, the operation of which are hinged on already standardized components (and with the Folder already having an NSN), the playing field upon which the AR-15 and its comparable competitors stand has been considerably leveled.
Up to now, the consensus among those that knew their way around the AR was that the design had plateau’d; if you had fully ambidextrous controls, and a seven sided M-LOK rail, there was little left if anything that could be done to enhance the platform, outside of perhaps an external piston system and a LAW FSA, both of which have been held in a “Take it or leave it” regard. Now however, the situation has changed.
Suffice it to say, thanks to the innovations of LAW Tactical, there is now nothing comparable rifle designs can do that the AR-15 can’t. And this is only the first generation of the ARIC; it will be interesting to see how the design is upgraded and refined in the future, and what capability that will allow for, not unlike how companies such as KAC and LMT improved upon the AR-15 BCG in their own ways. In the meantime, while there was little doubt to begin with, the AR platform– hailed as one of the finest warfighting implementations of the last century– isn’t going anywhere. It was already hard to justify replacing it with “next gen” designs; now it’s virtually impossible to do so, once you consider the cost and logistics.
The LAW has been rendered; The Stoner Rifle is King. Long live the King.
Stay in this L.A.N.E.
Join the discussion on this and related topics: