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It takes a village: the motley parentage of the ultimate pocket AR.


Nothing kills a good idea quicker than a committee. Had Alexander Graham Bell assigned the telephone project to a committee rather than just doing it himself, we'd all likely be tweeting via smoke signals today. However, there are certain applications wherein engineering diversity becomes a genuine combat multiplier. If you take the very best products from multiple sources and integrate them into a coherent whole, you can potentially arrive at something that is markedly sweeter than the sum of its parts.

The mission was simple enough. Drawing from the state of the art of the finest component suppliers in the business, what might the most compact AR-based firearm look like if you really took the gloves off? The trek took us in some unexpected places but the end result is almost cool beyond words.

Why Exactly?

This was not an unrealistic pursuit, nor was it a mindless Rube Goldberg exercise. This pocket AR was intended to be a functional and effective tactical tool. When Eugene Stoner and a few others birthed the original AR-15 back in 1957, its vital statistics at the time of delivery were around 6.4 pounds and 39 inches long. No one at that time even dreamt how far or how fast this revolutionary design might eventually run. Nowadays the M16 is the longest serving military rifle in American history and the many variations available for the basic chassis really do defy ready categorization.

Our pocket AR is a working gun. The weapon is built around an SBR (short barreled rifle) lower receiver so the length restrictions for both the barrel and overall dimensions as dictated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 no longer apply. It will cost you an extra $200 to Uncle Sam for the privilege but the execution is easy enough. If you don't have a Class 3 firearms dealer nearby just Google "SBR Ownership Fortier" and peruse the superb article my buddy Dave Fortier penned on the subject.

Some purists balk at the fingerprinting and onerous paperwork. However, the government reluctantly admitted that they listen to our cell phone conversations and read our email. It's not like they don't know everything interesting about you already. Embrace the horror and work within it.

To fill this mission adequately, the pocket AR needs to be as small as is mechanically possible while remaining reliable and effective. The end result, amazingly enough, will ride comfortably in a shoulder holster or break down to fit into the center console of your car. When dismantled the little gun will pack into a ridiculously small space. Building the ultimate pocket AR, however, takes a village.

Cry Havoc

The Cry Havoc Tactical QRB (Quick Release Barrel) system cuts the overall length of the gun in half. This contrivance consists of a collar assembly that fits onto the standard threads of your AR upper receiver along with a matching ring that mounts to the near end of your barrel. The eccentricities of the device demand a low profile gas block and a barrel and forearm rail of particular dimensions, but this is all spelled out in the documentation. Cry Havoc will set up their system on your supplied barrel and upper for a nominal fee if you don't feel like building it yourself.



The Cry Havoc QRB system is restricted to direct gas impingement rifles but it is available for a variety of barrel lengths. There is an abbreviated length of steel tubing that locks into the upper receiver to accept the gas tube. The locking collar is secured in place using thread-locking compound included in the kit. While we used the QRB to build the tiniest possible AR rifle, the same kit could transform your common lower from a short-barreled room clearing hot rod into a long-range designated marksman arm in less time than it takes to describe.

The Cry Havoc QRB system allows the operator to throw a pair of levers and instantly slide the barrel off of his AR rifle, splitting the gun in half. Reassembly requires maybe three seconds. The levers snap firmly in place and ride flush so they don't hang on brush or clothing. The engineering of the device is top flight and the execution flawless.

The Chassis

Mississippi Auto Arms is an Information Age success story. Back when dinosaurs roamed the plains the very first Saiga 12-gauge shotguns arrived in-country sporting lame 5-round magazines. Then an auto components company tooled up for a speculative run of several thousand high capacity 10-round polymer stick mags for the Saiga platform. Nathan Yow, the founder of Mississippi Auto Arms who was at the time a starving law student, took a leap of faith and bought them all. As a result, for a time Yow was the nation's sole source provider of high-capacity Saiga magazines. Yow sold the mags online out of his living room while he took law classes in the daytime and invested the proceeds back into the company. Then the Democrats seized the White House and the windows of heaven opened up.

In the first year of the Obama administration Mississippi Auto Arms sold more than 1,000 black rifles. In subsequent years, Mississippi Auto Arms has branched out into manufacturing as well as exporting arms and associated equipment to various friendly foreign governments. Their website offers a bewildering array of guns and gun gear and Yow still dreams up the most fascinating original projects. Some of the most, recent have involved customized AR lower receivers.



The AR lower receiver is the only component that bears a serial number and therefore requires an FFL to transfer. All of our other pocket AR components are freely available uncontrolled through the post. While some of Yow's most interesting efforts have involved putting otherwise non-trademarked sports mascots on his magwells, the receiver we opted to use for our pocket AR project embodies a bit of Civil War history.

The 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment was raised on May 4th, 1861, and fought gallantly throughout the entire breadth of the American Civil War. Drawn solely from volunteers native to northern Mississippi, the 11th was comprised of relatively affluent folk who were markedly more literate and educated than was the case with typical Confederate Infantry formations. Company A was raised almost completely from college students at the University of Mississippi and was titled the "University Grays" as a result.


The 11th Mississippi amassed a fearsome record of battlefield achievement and represented one of the few Confederate units that made it all the way onto the Union breastworks at Gettysburg. These valiant Mississippians anchored the left flank during General Pickett's ill-fated charge. This unenviable position left the unit exposed to raking Union rifle and artillery fire and Company A, the "University Grays," fell to a man. Despite withering casualties during multiple engagements the 11th Mississippi soldiered on all the way until Lee's final surrender at Appomattox.






While the thorny issues of slavery versus state's rights have been debated into the dirt, it is incontrovertible that Americans on both sides of this horrible conflict sacrificed mightily for their respective causes. The lower receiver we used for our pocket AR build sports the Regimental standard of the 11th Mississippi Infantry on the left side of the magazine well. These receivers are forged from 7075-T6 aluminum before finish machining and are then Type-III hard-coat anodized. I am a lifelong Southerner and Ole Miss graduate myself, and it seemed a fitting chassis upon which to build the ultimate Southern truck gun. Additionally, I think the Mississippi Auto Arms storefront parked on the square in historic Oxford, Mississippi, is the coolest gun shop I have ever visited.

The Parts

Model 1 Sales has been around since 1994, and I was building AR rifles from their kits back when building your own ARs wasn't cool. Nowadays Model 1 Sales has evolved into your one-stop super shop for everything AR. Twelve different chamberings, five different barrel contours, seven disparate barrel finish options, a myriad of forearm and stock possibilities, and accessory ditzels adequate to bewilder the purist are but a click away. They offer eleven different barrel options in .308 alone. Their print advertisements in Firearms News are always the first place to start and their prices are superb. Whether you want a long-range heavy-barrel AR hunting rifle in .308 or a collapsible AR microgun that will drop into the cargo pocket of your BDUs, Model 1 Sales has literally anything you might need.





A gun is only as good as its parts and I have built maybe a dozen Model 1 guns over the decades for myself and friends, all of which have performed swimmingly. An AR build is within the aptitudes of even the most mechanically inept three-thumbed ape and the few tools you might need are available at Model 1 Sales as well. The only thing cooler than buying a factory-built black rifle is building up the gun yourself to reflect the specific details of your tactical personality. Model 1 Sales will get you there.


Exercising Your Stock Options

Troy Industries produces hard-use weapons, components, accessories, and sound suppressors for a wide array of tactical platforms. Their quality and innovation are second to none and their forte is thinking outside the box. Little exemplifies this axiom better than their new collapsible Tomahawk stock.

The Continuous Cheekpiece sliding Tomahawk stock represents the smallest collapsible AR stock allowed within the constraints of physics. Incorporating exceptional Troy quality and a pair of telescoping rods that slide all the way to the ejection port, the Tomahawk provides a serviceable cheek weld when deployed yet collapses to just about nothing for transport and storage. The stock system includes a proprietary bolt carrier and buffer that facilitates this abbreviated geometry and necessitates a slightly modified disassembly process as a result. However, this rig is painless to install and just cool as a cucumber.

Present Arms Fixtures

You can build an AR rifle with a shop vice and a few hand tools. You'll inevitably rail against the ether when it takes three hands for a couple of the requisite maneuvers, but it can be done. However, building and servicing an AR rifle is much easier with a set of Present Arms building fixtures.

Precision machined from big blocks of indestructible polymer, the Present Arms fixtures act as that third hand for the tedious bits. In fact, I have a friend who lost an arm in a car wreck and uses his Present Arms rig to keep his black rifles in top shape. Exquisitely engineered with precision cutouts and including fixtures to support both the upper and lower receiver assemblies during service, Present Arms takes the fuss out of building an AR rifle.


A modern defensive rifle is simply naked without some proper tactical glass, and Holosun topped off our pocket AR. Holosun offers an array of innovative optical sighting solutions that sport superb quality at prices appropriate for the common man. Holosun sights can feature a built-in solar cell that conspires with the standard CR2032 battery to offer 50,000 hours of run time on its maximum settings. That's more than five years of continuous operation. All this innovation and Holosun red dot sights still cost less than half of what the big guys might.



The Low Profile System from High Threat Concealment is a modular utility belt cool enough to induce the vapors in the Batman. The LPS includes a custom handgun holster along with a pair of rifle magazine carriers as well as matching pistol mag holders. The whole shebang becomes a low profile utility rig that will hide underneath a bulky jacket. The HTC LPS is everything you need to stay prickly with a black gun without freaking out your neighbors. The back of the system can be configured for first aid supplies of various intensities, radio holders, or general accessory bling. The whole rig orbits around what is arguably the best tactical belt I have ever seen.

How Will We Tote It?

Desantis gunleather pioneered the point-and-shoot shoulder rig for the MAC-series submachine guns back in the 1970s. Today they offer carry gear for just about anything that expels a projectile. The latest generation of their point-and-shoot subgun rig is called the Desantis DSD.

The DSD is a ballistic nylon shoulder rig designed to support a variety of submachine guns and small carbines comfortably underneath the strong arm for instant access. The weight of the weapon is balanced out by a brace of magazines on the weak side. Pouches are available for either 5.56 or 9mm magazines and the structure adapts to a variety of tactical platforms. The rear end of our Troy Tomahawk stock includes an integral sling attachment point that interfaces nicely with the DSD. The obvious utility involves bugging out in a crisis or general security duties wherein it is necessary to have a weapon quickly available while the hands are free for other things. Such a system would also bring piece of mind in rural spaces where predators are large and walk on four legs rather than two.



Assembly Pearls

The barrel assembly is slightly more complicated than the receiver component but not by much. The gas block has to come off but that is not an insurmountable chore. Think everything through stepwise and hand-assemble the components before applying thread locker. As the components I chose were not on the approved list from Cry Havoc, I found that the supplied gas tube was perhaps l/8th inch too long to allow the barrel to mate with the receiver.

The perfect tool to shave the gas tube down is a motorized grinding wheel but I used my Dremel tool with a small grinding stone instead just to prove it could be done. The same chore could be undertaken with the careful application of a hand file. I dressed the shortened end with a small round jeweler's file that cost me maybe a buck fifty from my local hardware store.


You will spend as much time tuning the latching system as you do building the gun, but the details are plainly arrayed in the one-page instruction sheet that accompanies the Cry Havoc unit. Once the lever settings are tweaked you lock them in place with thread-locker and hit the range.

It is Alive!

When first we squeezed the trigger we realized we had something truly spectacular. Pistol-length AR platforms are notoriously finicky but we found that our pocket AR ran like a champ right out of the gate with several brands of ammo both steel cased and brass. With the reliability questions put to bed it was time to ponder the little microgun's eccentric personality.

The pocket AR is indeed comically tiny. I can break the gun into two pieces and stash it in the most ludicrous of spaces. Our local Office Depot sells generic foam-lined cases that can be customized perfectly for this application as well. Reassembly takes seconds and the resulting package allows you to remain properly armed in some of the most confining places. The gun is surprisingly accurate and moves indoors and within a vehicle as well as an MP5, itself the gold standard for engagements at bad breath ranges. Recoil, while not unpleasant, is surprisingly brisk.

The muzzle blast will part your hair, rattle your fillings, and clear your sinuses all at the same time. When touched off after dark the muzzle flash is clearly visible from Mars. However, the telescoped forearm tends to project the racket and flash forward. While the effect is not particularly objectionable, it is breathtaking to behold. You simply cannot run the tiny little gun without giggling.



The one thing you never seem to hear real world gunfight survivors grouse about is wishing they had brought less gun. The most effective tactical smoke pole in the world is simply useless if it is so heavy or bulky you left it languishing in the gun safe back at home. This pocket AR project rifle brings legitimate black rifle firepower to a package that can be stowed comfortably in a briefcase.

A dear friend with whom I served back in the day as a soldier is now a professional shooter with one of the government's premiere alphabet agencies. He travels constantly on executive protection details and has as his charge the safety of some Very Important People in some Very Bad Places. When the threat level is high, he packs a full auto 5.56mm microgun very similar to this one in a comparable point and shoot shoulder rig. Now that same piece of mind is available to the typical civilian gun nerd with a little front pocket change and a wee spot of mechanical aptitude. It indeed took a village to get there but the destination fully justifies the journey.


By Will Dabbs MD Photos by Sarah Dabbs

Load                          Velocity (fps)   Group Size (inches)

HSM 55-gr. Sierra Blitzking       2,208               0.65

Gorilla Ammunition 69-gr.         1,982                0.7
Matchking OTM

Winchester 62-gr. FMJ             2,178                0.7

Hornaby 75-gr. BTHP               1,959                0.8

Notes: Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph set 10 feet from
muzzle. Accuracy Is the product of 5 shots at 16 meters using red dot
sight. OTM=Open-Tipped Match, FMJBT=Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail,
BTHP=Boat-Tail Follow-Point



Caliber:                   .223 Rem.

Operating System:          Direct Gas Impingement

Takedown System:           Cry Havoc Quick Release Barrel

Barrel Length:             7.5 in

Overall Length:            20.25 in collapsed/
                           24.8 in extended

Weight with Accessories:   7 pounds
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Author:Dabbs, Will
Publication:Firearms News
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Jul 10, 2016
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