Given that this is a survival rifle, not a 3-Gun rifle, you should not expect to see oversized controls and tacticool stuff like Magpul Bad Levers. In fact, quite the opposite.
Light weight and compactness are the most important attributes for this type of rifle; if the weapon is bulky and not discreetly packable it will be left behind. Ideally the weapon should be weatherproof so you can leave it in your boat, your rig or your bug-out bag.
The magazine release is a rounded circular button located on the left side of the mag well. It’s not intuitive for those of us with AR muscle memory, but it works well once you get used to its location. Similarly, the safety is a simple cross-bolt design that’s not difficult to locate or operate.
The charging handle is well designed and comfortable. The bolt doesn’t lock open when the last shot in a magazine is fired. Nonetheless, like an HK MP5 or Sten, the bolt handle can be pulled back and tipped up into a notch in the receiver to lock the bolt in the open position.
Newer versions of the ASR come equipped with an integral child safety lock located on the right side above the trigger. An Allen key is required to engage and disengage the lock. Turning the screw counter clockwise three turns will result in the trigger being blocked.
The barrel screws into the receiver, held in place by a ratchet. It features a groove to ensure that it indexes consistently with the receiver. It works, but I found the retention system to be a bit “light” for my liking. When Chris first test-fired the carbine, he reported that the barrel nut was too loose. If we’d read the manual (who does that?) we would have discovered that there’s a small allen screw that can be used to adjust the ratchet’s tension. Derp. Pro tip: It works!
A detachable barrel that has true “return to zero” capability is an absolute “must have” requirement for any true multi-caliber survival rifle, and the ASR performs well in this regard. This type of rifle will usually be packed away in luggage or Fitnessdating-sites a bug-out bag; the ability to pack this carbine away discretely is of the utmost importance.
Upper Receiver and Trigger Housing Interface.
The way that the upper receiver interfaces with the trigger housing is also innovative. In the photo above, notice two male pins protruding out of the bottom of the upper. These pins align with and insert into the lower, where they are held in place with two crosspins.
The male pins can be screwed up and down in order to adjust the tension with the cross pins. It takes a bit of trial and error to get the hang of how it works, but once you understand the physics of the system, you can adjust how tightly the upper and lower match up.
I guess I’d call the ASR’s trigger a two-stage trigger. It has a long creepy uneven stage, and then it hits a slight wall. Pulling through the wall breaks the shot. According to my Lyman gauge, the pull weight was around 10 lbs. It’s a lawyer trigger for sure. In short, the factory sear really needs some gunsmith work.
Fortunately, it’s easy to take apart and work on. A few minutes with a Dremel tool and you can vastly improve the trigger. If you happen to screw it up, a new sear will cost you a couple of bucks. I took mine over to the factory (I’m local) and they got mine down to 4 lbs. in only five minutes. It’s not Geisselle good, but its good enough that it’s not a problem.