• Soft shooting AR-based pistol
  • Unique length gas system 
  • Created for reliable suppressed & unsuppressed shooting

Innovation, in what seems like an already saturated black gun market, is becoming harder to come by these days. No Sir, arriving at the largest firearms convention of the year with a new color option for your three year old pistol or rifle doesn’t cut it. There has to be more, so firearms companies need to figure it out or said manufacture will slowly regress and die while others pick up the reins, think outside the box and move forward. 

While the legacy operating system of the AR-15 has basically remained the same since its inception, it has been fine-tuned over the decades. Manipulating materials, barrel lengths, twist rates, gas port sizes, buffer springs/weights, round size, muzzle devices and gas system length all have an impact on what kind of shooting experience will be had with America’s favorite rifle to love (or hate, depending on which way you roll). 

Dave Pavlick is an innovator. He has to be. In his previous line of work, if you didn’t innovate, adapt and overcome, you or someone else on the team gets hurt or dies. Spending multiple combat tours as a Green Barret in the Army’s 7thSpecial Forces Group he saw first-hand how well, and how poorly, his issued M4 carbine performed in some of the harshest environments on earth. Taking those lessons learned on the battle field he would go on into civilian life and create a new firearms company, Arsenal Democracy. His goal is to “wring out the last tid-bit of technological advances out of the M4.” 

Pavlick has worked the past five years trying to do just that and more. Arsenal Democracy offers a variety of services and products to include innovative long guns and handguns and parts for the discerning shooter or warfighter. While some of the parts used in their firearms are sourced from other manufactures, the majority of components, including major assemblies, are machined and fabricated in their Freeport, Florida shop. Calling their weapons “Life Support Systems” means Arsenal Democracy employees take their jobs very seriously. They pride themselves as being Veteran owned and operated and being 100% American Made. 

In the spirit of full transparency, this author was one of the original purchasers of their first rifle offering as well as an owner of their original Blackside Glock pistol conversions. Because of those first, positive experiences with the young company, it only seemed natural to keep tabs on how they continued to progress and develop. 

One of their new offerings for 2018 is the CPO. CPO is an acronym for “Carbine Plus One”, referring to its unique gas system which is approximately one inch longer than a standard carbine length system found on the traditional M4 and M4 clones. More on that later. The CPO features ambidextrous controls. This includes Arsenal Democracy’s own AMR (Ambidextrous Magazine Release Assembly) and F-117 Ambidextrous Selector Switch. Also included is an ambidextrous charging handle specifically made to AD specifications. 

The upper and lower receivers are all made by Arsenal Democracy from billet 7075-T6 aircraft grade aluminum. As would be expected the aesthetics of the upper and lower feature the legacy Arsenal Democracy elongated and beveled magazine well as well as the sleek, sloping lines of their forward assist housing. The trigger is the tried and true and wicked fast flat faced Geissele Super Dynamic SD-C. The rail is of their own making and comes in at 10.75 on the CPO and features the MLOK attachment system with integral anti-rotation QD attachment points. These are all the same standard components that can be found on their AD-16 series of rifles. It almost feels strange calling these high quality parts “standard”…

The barrel and gas system combination are unique. 

Backstory: Over a year ago Pavlick was working on a project that had specific requirements for an upper receiver that would run reliably well both suppressed and unsuppressed. This project was known as SURG (Suppressed Upper Receiver Group). He found that using a typical carbine length gas system was overly gassy especially running the weapon suppressed and full auto which started affecting performance. 

Because of these issues Pavlick started looking at different gas systems, gas port sizes and barrel lengths. He jumped from a carbine length to a mid-length system, however found that there wasn’t enough dwell time on an 11.5 inch barrel with a mid-length gas system. Too much dwell time you get an over-gassed gun which will beat up the internals of the firearm, rip rims off cases and feed gasses back into the shooter’s face. Too little dwell time can result in a short stroke where there is not enough gas to cycle the weapon fully, ejecting the spent round and/or feeding the next live round. This is a delicate balance especially when shooting suppressed and unsuppressed where the suppressor creates more blowback, which, if not mitigated, fouls up the internals quicker and ends up, again in the shooters face. There are ways to reduce this affect while shooting suppressed through advancement in suppressor technology as well as adjustable gas blocks and bolt carrier groups, neither of which can be found on the CPO.

Fast forward a year and Dave used the lessons learned developing the SURG project to create a firearm for those that wanted to shoot both suppressed and unsuppressed while maintaining the shorter length of a short barreled rifle or pistol. Thus the CPO was born. 

For the CPO project, Pavlick split the difference between a carbine length and mid-length gas tube settling on a reduced gas port size, a custom 11.5 inch barrel, 1:8 twist rate, chambered in .223 Wylde with a custom carbine plus one gas tube. The standard carbine gas tube is approximately 7.5 inches in length so the “plus one” bumps it to 8.5 inches in length respectively. The result was a soft shooting AR that can be had in either a pistol or SBR configuration and will come in around 6.2 lbs. depending on which stock or pistol brace is used for the respective configuration. 

According to Pavlick, “When you shoot this, it doesn’t feel like a normal 11.5. It doesn’t feel like a 10.5. Unsuppressed it feels pretty close to your typical 14.5. It has about an extra 2.5 inches of dwell time, so when you put the can on it almost tricks it to thinking it has even more dwell time so it actually shoots smoother with the can on than off.” He goes on to compare shooting the 11.5 CPO suppressed to shooting a 16 inch AR15 suppressed. Pavlick wanted to make sure his latest brain child worked suppressed, unsuppressed, fully automatic, semi-automatic as well as the now popular full-semi-automatic. Yes, that’s a thing now thanks to those supposedly in-the-know. We digress. 

Regardless, the CPO was designed to do work. As of SHOT Show 2018 they plan to also offer the CPO in .300 blackout with a 10.5 inch barrel. Pavlick cautioned against going much shorter primarily due to the lack of real estate (or rail estate if you will) on the top rail as the shorter rails reduce the ability to mount the back-up iron sights, lights and lasers often used by shooters.  

The test sample we received was the pistol version. Instead of a stock it featured the Gear Head Works Tailhook Mod2 which is a unique arm brace with five adjustable length of pull positions to accommodate all sizes of shooters. The Tailhook features a hook that unlatches and hooks under the shooters forearm and will support the pistol very easily one handed without any straps like other braces on the market. It is very comfortable to shoot off hand, two handed, or from the cheek weld position. The Tailhook was specifically selected by us due to its unique features and 7 ounce weight. It should be stated the Tailhook is not typically offered with the CPO. The KAK Shockwave or Maxim PDW brace will be offered. 

Another thing to note is our CPO came with a 1:7 5.56 barrel instead of a 1:8 .223 Wylde barrel. This was due to the fact our test pistol was pulled from a separate production run for another project. Pavlick states that, while the .223 Wylde variant is more accurate, the 5.56 package was specific to the special project submittal package requirements they were working on. In order to get us the pistol more quickly, they pulled from the 5.56 run as it was readily available at the time.

Once our pistol was in hand we grabbed a 500 rounds of .223 55g Rainier Munitions ammunition and slapped on the first available optic we had on hand which happened to be an Aimpoint PRO in a ZRO Delta mount. First day at the range was a crisp winter Pacific Northwest day hovering in the high 40s with little to no wind to speak of. The CPO coupled with the Aimpoint and Rainier Munitions ammo put out acceptable groups off the bench and prone at 50 yards with the best groups fitting inside a quarter. Not bad for zero magnification and aging eyes. 

For the next session we went to a variable magnification optic by Mercon Optics. Mercon is a newcomer into the optics market with their first offering called the MK1. The MK1 is a 1-6x magnification in a 30 mm aluminum housing that comes in around 18oz without the mount. Reticle is calibrated for 5.56 and is located in the 2ndfocal plane. The reticle has 11 illumination settings with an off switch between each illumination setting. Eye relief is generous at 3.5 inches. The optic was securely mounted in an American Defense Manufacturing mount.

Zeroing the optic was pretty straight forward and the results were good. Our best three shot group measured ¼ of an inch at 100 yards. Well, we were actually working on a five round string, but we threw the last two which opened the group to one inch. The trigger in the CPO is built for speed, but even still the produced groups with the 55 grain Rainier Munition was impressive. Keep in mind the CPO has an 11.5 inch barrel. One thing is for certain, it shoots better than we do.

There were zero malfunctions shooting suppressed or unsuppressed with 90% of the rounds fired suppressed. The only issue we had was with bulkier magazines fitting into the mag well. We used a variety of magazines throughout the testing and found that some fit easily, some very snug and some didn’t fit at all. Those that easily fit are the Magpul PMAG, USGI type steel/aluminum magazines, Mission First Tactical, Hexmag and it assumed other standard magazines with a more traditional slimmer profile will also fit. Those that fit snuggly and required effort to seat and strip out (but still functioned) are the Lancer AWC, ETS and IWI. Those magazines that did not fit/seat in the magazine well are the Surefire 60/100 mags, Tapco, and other bulkier magazines where the magazine body quickly flares out. It should be stated that most drum mags will not work with the CPO or other AD-16 rifles due to the shape of the magazine well. Just something to keep in mind. When the issue of drum mag and Surefire mag fitment was brought up Pavlick cheerfully exclaimed, “Luckily the mag well on the AD-16 will not accept such heresy.” To each their own, but Pavlick isn’t losing any sleep over it.

Shooting the CPO is a blast regardless of how you shoot it. Unsuppressed it points muy rapido. That being said, the majority of the shooting was done suppressed with our titanium CRUX suppressor. While noticeable in forward weight it was minimal thanks to the light weight suppressor and blowback was minimal due to the unique gas port size and the carbine plus one gas tube length.

The CPO is currently in production but is currently only offered as an “off the menu thing” according to Pavlick as it is not listed on their website… yet. Orders can be placed by calling Arsenal Democracy direct at this time. CPO rifle will run approximately $2,150.00 which is the same price as their AD-16 rifle. Note as the CPO is an SBR all NFA rules and regulations apply. For the pistol version it can be had with a KAK shockwave for an additional $40.00 while a version with the Maxim PDW brace will tack on another $220 to the CPO price. All other pistol brace types should be negotiated with Arsenal Democracy directly.  

For more on Arsenal Democracy and their CPO, visit their website at: arsenaldemocracy.us

Text by Steve Coulston / Images by Zerozone & Steve Coulston

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