When ARES Defense Systems first came up with the Shrike belt-fed AR-15 upper, the so-called Assault Weapons Ban was still in effect. Shrike took years to develop, but it filled big shoes: capable of box and belt feed, possessed of a quick-change barrel and compatible with registered select-fire lowers. It was the closest that most of Americans could come to a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) in private hands. Six generations later, the ARES Shrike upper is now the FightLite MCR. Unlike the long-delayed original, the MCR is available anytime you want one. Positioned as a SAW substitute, much like the Ultimax 100, the MCR has found military adopters in Africa and Asia, in addition to being quite popular with U.S. shooters.
MCR is a closed-bolt design available with a wide variety of quick-change barrels, in 5.56mm and .300 Blackout in lengths from 12.5 inches to 20 inches. A barrel swap can be done in three seconds without an asbestos glove, thanks to insulated handles. The MCR feeds from M27 disintegrating link belts, same as an M249, but it also works reliably from STANAG box magazines. An adapter to hold soft- or hard-sized belt carriers fits into the mag well, permitting the use of 100 or 200 round belts on the move. A short-stroke gas piston with an adjustable regulator allows both suppressed use without over-gassing and emergency hard use for high-volume firing in dirty environments.
Although the MCR is capable of considerable mechanical precision, it’s not a match rifle due to the optic and iron sights placement on top of the feed tray cover. For shooters who want better than 2 MOA and don’t require quite the volume of fire, FightLite now offers conventional AR uppers in 5.56mm and .300 Blackout. With the same high-grade barrel and excellent trigger, those carbines shoot MOA or better out of the box. In general, the high quality of manufacturing and well thought-out industrial design are the calling cards of FightLite.
With so many states on the banning binge, FightLite also offers a “featureless” SCR carbine. Also available with a wide variety of barrel lengths and profiles, as well as with wooden, polymer and railed forends, the direct impingement SCR looks like a conventionally stocked hunting rifle. It uses all standard AR magazines. Unlike an AR, SCR carbines use an angled recoil spring guide outwardly reminiscent of Benelli action. Accurate and soft-recoiling, the SCR also went through several generations of refinements, ending up with an excellent trigger and stellar ergonomics. Far from merely being a legal AR-15 substitute for restrictive jurisdictions, the SCR has certain advantages: With the grip being in line with the bore line, it points more naturally than the pistol grip designs. The SCR is also available as a handgun, putting a 7.25-inch barrel into the form of an 18th century dragoon pistol—it looks odd but balances well and makes for very natural pointing. FightLite offers low-profile iron sights just for the 5.56mm/.300 pistol configuration.
With surplus rifle ammunition drying up, and more and more people dependent on indoor ranges with pistol-rated backstops, the pistol-caliber carbines have gained popularity. The FightLite MXR system can be configured as a pistol, as a carbine or as a submachine gun. Using a modular barrel retention system, the MXR allows changing barrel lengths and calibers without tools. Going from 9mm to .45ACP to 10mm to 5.7x28mm takes only a few minutes. Blowback operation with varying weight buffers and some bolt overtravel makes for low recoil and smooth action. The MXR has right-handed ejection only, but the reciprocating charging handle is easily reversed. The fire control group is AR-15 style, and magazines, other than 5.7x28mm, are GLOCK-compatible.
All this wide variety of guns comes from the mind of Geoffrey Herring. I’ve asked many technical questions, always getting detailed and logical explanations for why certain features have been added or omitted, or why specific approaches to engineering were employed. The design work and much of the manufacturing are done in-house at the Melbourne, Florida, plant. Given Geoffrey’s background in aviation, a field where small errors can have drastic consequences, it’s no surprise that the QC and testing practices are impressively thorough. Those, along with the sound conceptual basics, explain why the FightLite firearms I’ve used at high-volume range events have all worked consistently and reliably, with excellent accuracy. Incremental development and close attention to detail have really set FightLite apart from the manufacturers of old public domain AR design.