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Rhino AR-15 Conversion Unit.

Rhino International is one step ahead of the U.S. military. They've improved Colt's AR-15/M16A1 rifle with a sensible, ingenious gas system modification which we recently evaluated. Among other things, this unit addresses an old, lingering M16A1 irritation--cleanliness, a recurring problem that first surfaced in a big way during Vietnam War days.

A late edition of the U.S. military field manual, FM 23-9, Rifle, 5-56-mm, M16A1, contains this revealing information: "In order to keep the M16A1 rifle and ammunition in good condition they must have daily care and cleaning. Under bad weather conditions certain key parts of the rifle and ammunition may need care and cleaning several times a day" (italics ours).

It takes little imagination to visualize what problems this presents to combat troops--or to sportsmen, for that matter. The story of the M16A1's jungle jamming troubles are too well known to repeat here, but they stemmed in part from the rifle's unusual gas system.

In the conventional gas piston/operating rod system as used in M14 and M1 Garand rifles, powder gases act directly on the head of a piston which connects to an operating rod assembly. The operating rod moves the bolt rearward for case ejection. The AR-15/M16A1 sends burned powder gas directly into its chamber to move its bolt carrier and bolt to the rear.

Not surprisingly, the little rifle's action was quickly fouled by this powder residue during battlefield shootouts that called for high volumes of fast fire. This, naturally, led to occasional embarrassing jams. Sportsmen don't fire their AR-15s like hard-pressed servicemen, but can experience somewhat similar powder fouling after a prolonged afternoon at the range.

This is where the Rhino unit shines.

The heart of the Rhino system is its variable-volume gas piston chamber, literally a return to the conventional gas piston/operating rod. The M16A1 gas tube is replaced with an operating rod of exactly the same diameter, located in the same space. The Rhino unit is retro-fitted right into the gun's front base requiring only minimal changes.

Walt Langendorfer, President of Rhino International, sent us a complete upper receiver assembly for the AR-15/M16A1. Our evaluation rifle was a brand-new AR-15A2 from Colt with a one-turn-in-7-inches barrel. Installation took about two minutes. It's simply a matter of drifting out the rear takedown pin and unscrewing the forward pivot pin. Rhino supplied a forward offset pivot pin so a Rhino-converted top receiver could be mounted to our lower AR-15 receiver.

Their package includes a detailed instruction sheet for the conversion. The operating rod, piston and return spring are all made from PH 17-4 stainless steel and their newly made bolt key is cast in 4140 steel. All components in the kit are hardened to 50-55 on the Rockwell scale.

We used 55-grain, jacketed ammo from Winchester, and Federal rounds of the same specifications only in boattail persuasion. All firing was done in the offhand position at a range of 50-75 yards. We first fired the AR-15A2 for functioning and accuracy. It never missed a beat on slow or rapid fire and maintained a tight group.

Then we switched to the Rhino.

Our first sensation was that the Rhino recoil was slightly less than Colt's recoil! Langendorfer attributes this to the fact that the exhaust ports at the top of the unit shunt gas upwards, reminiscent of the Mag-Na-Port system, so it acts like the old Tommy gun compensator in controlling muzzle climb. Secondly, we marveled at its smooth functioning. Frankly, I assumed we'd have at least some problems since the Rhino gas system is adjustable (with a screwdriver).

Its third endearing trait was accuracy. It slammed every bullet exactly where we aimed and virtually duplicated the fine accuracy of the Colt AR-15A2. In plain fact, it is fun to shoot. We alternated slow with rapid fire just to try and gum up its works, but it kept right on and ignored our efforts completely.

Finally, the proof came in cleaning the two units several hours later. Rhino's chamber was noticeably easier to clean than the Colt's.

A side benefit is claimed for military users who convert the M16A2 selective-fire rifle to Rhino's system. The Rhino is designed to tame the '16's normal cyclic rate of 700-800 rounds per minute (rpm) to about half that. Notwithstanding the new three-round feature of the GI M16A2, there are times when a 400-450 rpm rate is quite handy. G&A did not test this particular feature.

So far, U.S. military arms planners have shown little interest in the Rhino. Sportsmen, I think, will want to try it out. It is easy to use, relatively inexpensive and it could prolong the life of your AR-15. Try it and see.

Suggested retail for the Rhino kit is $180. The price of the complete upper receiver Rhino unit may be obtained on request by writing to Rhino International, 215 Shadeland Ave., Dept. GA, Lansdowne, PA 19050.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Rutledge, Lee A.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Dec 1, 1985
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