Since the sunset of the federal "Assault Weapons Ban" in 2004, supporters of stricter gun laws have had black rifles in their sights. With a decade's worth of images portraying select-fire M16/M4 variants in the hands of soldiers and Marines fighting the War on Terror overseas and a couple of unbelievable tragedies on our homeland, a sweeping ban on AR-15-type rifles must have looked like low-hanging fruit this last year for gun control advocates. Though efforts were made in a majority of states to ban semiautomatic rifles with magazine capacities greater than a handful of rounds, only California, Colorado, Connecticut and New York were significantly affected by gun control legislation passed within their own assemblies.
Already having some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country, in 2013 California attempted an outright ban on semiautomatic rifles fed by detachable magazines. Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) vetoed the "overly broad bill," saying, "I don't believe this bill's blanket ban on semiautomatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners' rights." He did sign laws further restricting ownership of magazines, requirements concerning firearm storage and a ban on lead hunting ammunition.
In Colorado, two state senators, Angela €¨Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were recalled after supporting gun control laws that limited a magazine's ammunition capacity and universal background checks. Magpul gave away 1,500 of its 30-round magazines as a parting gift before its move from Colorado to Texas.
Connecticut quickly passed gun control laws in April 2013, just four months after blaming guns for the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The laws included background checks on private gun sales, a ban on new-manufacture standard-capacity magazines of 20 and 30 rounds, and the creation of a registry for existing magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges. On April 4, 2013, Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) signed a bill that added 100 specific models to the state's existing ban and redefined the term "assault weapon" to mean a semiautomatic rifle that contained just one feature on its list, features designed to enhance modularity, improve comfort and add functional versatility for the greatest number of shooting participants.
The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act was just one of the new gun control legislations passed in 2013. Signed by Governor €¨Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) a half-hour after it was passed by the state legislature, Governor Cuomo insisted that it was the "toughest" gun control law in the United States.
The SAFE Act bans the possession of any "high-capacity magazine," stating that the maximum capacity for all magazines, with an exception for .22-caliber tubular magazines, is 10 rounds. Previously legal magazines with a 30-round capacity had to be sold to an out-of-state resident or turned in to law enforcement within one year. Originally, this law was only going to allow magazines to be loaded to a maximum of seven rounds, but a federal judge struck down this provision on December 21, 2013. New Yorkers also became subject to an "assault weapon" registry, and, like Connecticut, the identifying list of features went from two to one. As an illustration of the state's attitude toward these gun control measures, 52 of New York's 62 counties passed official resolutions in direct opposition to the SAFE Act within those jurisdictions. Though the law continues to be denounced and modified and is threatened with repeal, most of its provisions will likely remain in effect.
"The SAFE Act isn't working," Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-NY) told Guns & Ammo. "There's little chance it ever will. Today's registration deadline reminds us of what happens when elected leaders choose to make a political statement at the expense of the people forced to pay the price for flawed policies. The SAFE Act is the worst piece of legislation I have seen in my 14 years as a member of the Assembly. From its inception to the process by which it was enacted to the disastrous attempts at implementation, it has been an unmitigated failure across the board. This is a law that was created absent of any public input or participation. It has been costly. It has been confusing. And it has not made New York any safer than it was prior to its enactment. Bad legislation does not get better with age, and time will not make the SAFE Act acceptable to those whose constitutional rights have been compromised."
The Workaround Typically, anti-gun politicians know remarkably little about firearms, which makes for some interesting laws. Legislation is usually focused on a gun's cosmetic appearance or accessories, which have little bearing on lethality. It's unlikely that a collapsible stock or pistol grip could make a rifle any more deadly.
The firearms industry is constantly coming up with new designs to circumvent gun control laws and provide law-abiding citizens with products they need and want. However, some contend that circumvention is a double-edged sword. After all, might the anti-gun politician, in response to these new firearms skirting a law, draft even more stringent or broader-reaching legislation?
The AR-15 platform has been around for a half-century, but in recent years its popularity has soared. To the uneducated and uninterested, an AR looks like a "machine gun," capable of automatic fire as pictured in the hands of troops in battle. It is often regarded as an instrument of death with no legitimate purpose in a civilized society.
Detractors, or those persuaded by their arguments, don't take into account that the AR has become America's rifle of choice for hunting, competitive shooting and home defense due to its lightweight handling, modularity and adaptability to virtually any body type. One company keenly aware of America's affinity for this platform is Troy Defense.
Its parent company, Troy Industries, has manufactured top-quality AR accessories for years. At the 2014 SHOT Show, Troy Defense unveiled a new AR variant that's been flying under the radar but gaining a following in California and New York. It's called the Pump Action Rifle, or PAR.
Since the PAR's action is cycled manually, it is immune to laws aimed at semiautomatic rifles in gun-restrictive states — even New York and California. As such, the PAR brazenly displays a Troy muzzlebrake, more commonly known for improving control during rapid-fire strings while shooting semiauto models.
The PAR features a pistol grip extending conspicuously below the lower receiver. Pistol grips are sometimes enough for anti- gun advocates to categorize modern semiauto rifles as "assault weapons." Troy calls this one a "Control Grip."
Additionally, the PAR utilizes a five-position telescoping stock. Due to the fact that the PAR does not need a buffer-tube assembly, common to semiauto ARs, the PAR stock is also side folding, which reduces the rifle's overall length from 36-5„16 inches (open and extended) to just 26-¼ inches when folded and collapsed.
Despite the appearance of these features, they have real function when adaptability is needed to conform to shooters of different physical statures or possessing various degrees of dexterity.
The PAR doesn't require the infamous California "bullet button." The bullet button is a replacement for a standard detachable magazine release and requires the use of a tool, such as the tip of a bullet, to remove the magazine.
Obviously, how many rounds a magazine holds is not dependent on a rifle's action, so many states are legislating specific capacity restrictions. In California, a magazine can hold no more than 10 rounds (a pre-ban magazine being the only legitimate exemption in California). Hence, the law-abiding PAR is delivered with a 10-round magazine from Troy Industries. (It is a high-quality one.)
Without the extra action parts necessary for semiauto fire, the PAR is lightweight and easily maneuverable at only 6 pounds. With its stock folded, it's easier to transport this rifle in a discreet case, even one intended for something such as a tennis racket. This feature means that it can also be deployed and fired within the confines of a vehicle much more compactly than even an AR with a fully collapsed stock.
Not to skew reality, the folded-stock PAR is fundamentally a heavy, clumsy pistol without a shoulder mount and happens to fire the .223-caliber bullet. If you can live without the semiautomatic capabilities of an AR, the PAR is actually a more adjustable system. Plus, there are benefits to a pump-action rifle, such as saving brass. By manually cycling the action with the forend, you can control how fast you fire and where spent cases end up. Theoretically, at least, accuracy potential could be improved for the lack of the mechanical action used in a standard AR's cycle of operation. If you've taken any pump-action firearm into the hunting fields, you know that you can more quietly load a round into the chamber by cycling the pump action than you can by slapping the bolt catch to release the spring-loaded carrier group.
Working the forend seems to intuitively help the hand in driving the muzzle between multiple targets, and it runs cleaner. All the expanding gases exit the muzzle with the bullet, meaning there's less carbonic debris littering the bolt-carrier assembly and chamber.
Drawbacks? Perhaps there's a bit more felt recoil because a buffer system isn't present to help absorb energy within the stock.
Though the PAR is not an AR, it's actually kinda cool. But on the range, is this just a gimmick, simply designed to make a political statement?
Trigger Time Accuracy testing was accomplished at the industry-standard 100 yard line. I fully extended the PAR's folding stock for a stable prone position. I noticed that the stock fit wasn't perfectly tight, so I contended with my target bobbing and weaving a bit. Although this problem was largely mitigated through proper positioning and the use of sandbag rests, a sturdier or more rigid stock for future production models would undoubtedly provide a more stable shooting platform. (Then again, a folding stock on a California-compliant AR-style rifle more than makes up for a little stock wobble.)
At the bench, I fired four five-shot groups with five different loads ranging in weight from 55 to 69 grains. In order to assess the accuracy of the PAR, I folded down the included set of Troy BattleSights and mounted a Bushnell Elite Tactical G2 DMR 3.5-21x50mm scope atop its continuous Picatinny rail.
I opted for the HPR 55-grain Spire Point HyperClean ammunition for the first testing. The round performed well, printing a sub-MOA group, with an average group size of 1.44 inches. It was readily apparent that the PAR was capable of sub-MOA accuracy and only held back by a stiff Mil-Spec trigger. (I later measured its trigger weight at 7½ pounds.)
Since the PAR will accommodate any AR trigger group, swapping out the trigger shouldn't be a problem and will result in more consistent groups.
The 60-grain Winchester PDX1 Defender was not the PAR's favorite pairing. Groups measured from just under 2 inches to nearly 3 inches, with the best group coming in at 1.88 inches and the average group registering 2.34 inches.
Black Hills' 69-grain MatchKing load produced the best overall showing, with a 1.38-inch average grouping, but only bested a respectable .95-inch group.
The other 69-grain round tested was Federal Sierra Gold Medal Match. It performed consistently with an average group size of 1.41 inches, with the best group printing 1.05 inches.
The tightest two groups of the day were achieved with 55-grain Hornady Tap Urban. The runner-up measured .83 inch, and the winner was a mere .68 inch. If an AR enthusiast worked at it and installed a different trigger, the PAR could be a real tackdriver.
After accuracy testing, I loaded the 10-round magazine, chambered a round, then topped it off for maximum capacity. I was able to fire all 11 rounds in rapid succession with very manageable recoil. Was it as fast as I could fire 11 rounds from a semiautomatic AR-15-type rifle? No. But Californians would sure save time by not having to contend with a bullet button in order to reload.
The PAR did not incur any malfunctions during this evaluation, and I suspect that, being that it's a pump action, there's less likelihood for one of the common malfunctions associated with the AR's gas-impingement system to occur. However, as with any pump gun, it is still possible to short-stroke the action.
Not limited to the victims of the SAFE Act, the PAR is a viable alternative for those who have recently had their rights infringed upon. Regardless of whether you live in a prohibitive state such as New York or California or in any other state, Troy's PAR offers a few unique benefits that deserve consideration to round out the tools in your safe. Not only is this unique rifle fun to shoot and hunt with, it's also practical for home defense purposes.
The lawful use of firearms is more a part of our culture than headlines would have us believe. The AR is often regarded as "America's Rifle." The PAR is a solution for citizens who choose to reside in prohibative jurisdictions. Regardless of what laws may be passed against gun owners, innovators like Steve Troy are clever and persistant. With the SAFE Act, New Yorkers have only enabled the bad guys to effect their violence with less concern of facing an adequately armed victim. Unfortunately, the greater state of New York has lost to its city.