The idea of a long gun that either comes apart or folds for easier transport is not a new one, but when it comes to ARs, there haven’t been many options other than popping the pins and removing the upper from the lower so they can be stowed side-by-side—until now (you knew that was coming).
I recently had the chance to spend some time with the XAR Invicta from F&D Defense, a rifle that’s truly an innovation in the wide market of AR-platform firearms.
To put it simply, the XAR folds in half, literally. A low profile hinge is located on the left side of the rifle connecting the receiver to the forend. On the opposite side is a hook-and-handle latch that’s custom machined from hardened steel. The latch is robust yet surprisingly low profile.
The rifle is outfitted with a minimalist Keymod handguard with an integrated full-length Picatinny top rail for optics, but make sure your mounts both fit on the rail section atop the receiver, or you won’t be able to fold the gun.
The rifle is outfitted with Magpul furniture, including a six-position adjustable stock and a Magpul MOE-K2+ AR-15/M4 grip with a storage compartment. The barrel comes threaded for a brake, flash hider, or suppressor.
So let’s get to the interesting part, the hinge.
The hinge is robust and has been tested by F&D beyond the expected lifetime of the rifle to make sure it never loosens or develops any play. mfg photo
The mechanism is fairly simple: the hook on the latch catches it’s mount, located on the receiver, and the handle lowers toward the handguard, locking everything in place. As soon as the tension comes off and the latch is even partially opened, the gun cannot fire, and remains inoperable as long as the gun is folded, making it perfectly safe to keep a loaded magazine in the receiver.
Additionally, you can’t accidentally fold the XAR with a round in the chamber, since the bolt face locks into the barrel extension. The bolt must be locked back in order for the gun to fold—otherwise it won’t budge. (If you should release the bolt while the gun is folded, keep in mind you will have to lock it back again before the rifle can be deployed—more on this later.)
To takedown the rifle, simply pop the handle, life the hook, and fold.
The folded rifle is kept from coming open accidentally via a dimple on the handguard that locks onto a stud located on the left side of the receiver (think a quick-detach plunger for a sling).
So what you get is a full-sized AR with a 16” barrel that folds to an overall length of about 16 inches with the stock fully extended that can deploy in about three seconds in the hands of an untrained gun writer.
The rifle is also available in a 14.5” SBR barrel configuration, making the overall folded package even smaller. You could go even further and put a right-folding stock for an even more compact takedown package (left-side folding stocks won’t work).
When you open the hinge, you see a tapered barrel extension and tapered receiver seat that fit into each other for a solid lockup when the rifle is deployed.
About That Hinge
Now, the big question is, how strong is that hinge and will extended use wear it out or result in play?
According to F&D, the hinge is engineered to last “for the life of the rifle and then some.”
“We have tested this extensively on our prototypes, which have been opened and closed thousands of times. Even after more use than an XAR would see in a typical lifetime, the hinge and latches on our test models still deliver a solid lockup that delivers superb accuracy and function…Once the XAR is deployed and locked in place, the hinge and clasp deliver every bit as much force in lockup as any other AR on the market.”
Now, I’ve only had the gun in my possession for about a week, but in those seven days I’ve folded and opened the rifle…an embarrassing number of times. I mean, it’s just plain fun to do, pretending your James Bond or something, preparing the folding rifle in a clandestine setting (with no ammunition or magazines in sight, of course). Plus the whole thing comes in a brand new Pelican case sized to hold the folded gun—which prompted the guys at my gun shop to start telling each other, “Hey, did ya see, Dave’s in the CIA now…”
Anyway, after all that and a solid shooting session, there is no more play in the extra tight hinge than when it showed up in its case.
Let me clarify that: the hinge is fairly tight, but not so tight that it doesn’t swing under the weight of the barrel and handguard. The handle and latch, however, are very tight upon arrival and haven’t loosened up a bit. In fact, when the rifle is locked open, it’s extremely difficult to release the tension on the handle with your bare hands.
Maybe my fingers are just a little extra weak, but I have to use an implement to pop the handle and get it started. After that it, it can be easily manipulated by hand, I just need a little something to pull it away from the handguard a bit so I can get enough of my finger under it.
Luckily, I found something on board that works perfectly. The cover for the hidden compartment in the Magpul grip is fully removable, not hinged, and it has a nice protrusion on it. I was hesitant at first, since it is plastic after all, but it’s the same high-strength polymer that the grip is made of, and after using it to release the latch handle dozens of times, it shows no signs of wear or breakage.
If you find something better, you could also keep it in the grip as well. A small Allen wrench works pretty well, but you have to be careful about scratches if you use something metal. And after all, as long as the rifle deploys quickly, it doesn’t really matter if it takes a few extra seconds to break down.
What’s more, while at the range I zeroed a red dot sight I’d mounted on the XAR, fired a couple magazines, folded the gun and redeployed it, and the zero didn’t flinch. I repeated this a few times throughout the day and the results were the same—the rifle holds zero after folding.
Since the optic is mounted on the receiver, there shouldn’t be any problem there. What this proves is that the front of the gun locks up to the back the same way every time, which is crucial.
Once it’s open, you have a nimble, lightweight 16” barrel AR that works pretty much like any other AR on the market.
The XAR includes an ambidextrous, short-throw Magpul safety selector switch and a bolt release in the appropriate place. The receiver features a brass deflector and a forward assist. Additionally, the upper and lower separate like any AR for cleaning or swapping out lowers.
The first apparent use for the folding AR is as an always-ready truck gun. The small storage size means it can be easily stowed behind or under a seat. It will even fit in most small, sling type backpacks and can be easily stashed in any larger pack.
When it comes to traveling, it’s a lot easier to tote around a small Pelican case instead of a full-size rifle case and this is an important point: this rifle isn’t a donut spare tire, it isn’t a survival rifle that makes concession for the ability to fold or be taken down.
When fully deployed, the XAR is hardly distinguishable from any other AR, other than the hinge and latch.
Be very careful to check local laws before you plan to carry this gun around in a backpack. Even if the gun is technically taken apart, it can be illegal to carry a concealed firearm that isn’t a handgun, even if you have a concealed carry permit.
That said, if you’re a hunter in a state with overlapping seasons, you could hunt with a shotgun all day and keep the XAR in a pack on the ATV or in your truck for later and do some predator or hog hunting at dusk into the night. Of course, be sure to check your local hunting laws first.
The rifle is chambered in 223 Wylde (which means it can handle both .223 and 5.56 NATO ammunition), but the company says it has been testing an AR10 platform version, which will get the rifle into larger short-action rifle calibers, most likely .308 Win / 7.62 NATO to start. Right now, F&D hasn’t announced any plans for releases in different calibers.
While you have to be careful about mounting anything to the left side of the rifle just to ensure it folds correctly (more on that later), I have mounted everything from a 3-12x 44mm long range scope to a mini red dot to the top, along with every accessory I have on hand, and there’s no problem folding the rifle, as long as everything is mounted along the right side and doesn’t interfere with the handle or latch.
My favorite set up so far is a Rush laser sight from Bushnell paired with the company’s new Advance micro reflex red dot sight. The Rush acts as a high-rise mount with an integrated rail section on top, which is perfect for the Advance and keeps it well clear of the fold-down FAB Defense back-up iron sights. So that’s two aiming devices plus a redundancy.
If I move the laser to the 6 o’clock position under the barrel, I can mount the red dot directly to the rifle and get a co-witness with the irons, so that’s another option as well.
With the first set up, the laser mount and red dot are too tall to use with the irons and would have to be removed to do so. If I were to go permanently with this setup, I would likely install a quick-detach mount on the laser sight/base.
On the right side of the handguard, I mounted a 400-lumen InForce WML White/IR weapon light, which I like because of it’s tapered profile, light weight, and the fact that it has a safety that prevents the light from being turned on by accident while the gun is cased.
The new Rush high-rise mount from Bushnell with integrated laser sight. mfg photo
I didn’t want to add too much to the gun and kept it to the smallest and lightest components I had. Otherwise, it kind of ruins the whole take-down aesthetic and functionality—but if you wanted to, you could attach a high-powered scope, a bipod, and a fully adjustable precision buttstock—the gun will still fold.
That said, there’s something awesome and clean about the minimalist folding rifle with nothing but fold-down irons on top, which is about all you really need, and a 20-round magazine inserted.
So, there are only a couple faults I can find after some limited testing of the XAR.
First, when the rifle is folded, it is susceptible to dirt and dust, like any broken-down rifle would be. In the Pelican case, there isn’t much to worry about. If you stow it anywhere else like a bag or pack of some kind, then it could become an issue depending on what your doing and if you have random stuff floating around in your bag.
It would be wise to visually inspect the barrel and chamber, which is fairly easy to do just by holding up the gun, to make sure it’s clear before deploying the XAR.
Second, the fact that the rifle folds does slightly limit the types and location of accessories you can use and the handle on the latch does take up some Keymod real estate on the right side as well, but unless you’re running an AN/PED-1 military style laser designator, you shouldn’t run out of space.
If you are used to having any accessories attached to the left side of the handguard, they can’t live there on the XAR or the gun won’t be able to fold. Same for any longer scopes that would require the front mount to be located in front of the receiver on the rail. Of course, there are a number of mount solutions for ARs that can overcome this limitation.
One last thing—as I said before the rifle can only be deployed or folded the bolt has to be locked back.
When carrying the folded rifle around in a bag instead of the Pelican case, pretty much every time I pulled the gun out, I found the bolt had released while being bumped around. It’s not a huge deal, but the bolt has to be locked back again, which can be slightly awkward with the rifle folded.
Additionally, if you put the folded rifle in a bag and the bolt gets released in transit with a magazine inserted, it will strip the top round off the mag like its supposed to, which will then be floating around in your bag.
Is there a solution to this? Well, the DIY approach would be to wedge something between the release tab and the receiver so it can’t be tripped, but then that’s also something you have to remember to remove when deploying the rifle (and something else to lose).
The addition of something like the Magpul B.A.D Lever would make it a lot easier to lock the slide back with the gun folded, but it won’t stop the problem of losing a round off the magazine.
For the purposes of science, I put the XAR in its Pelican case and rolled it down a short flight of stairs. The rifle emerged completely fine, with the bolt still locked back.
The XAR retails for $2,499 in a complete package that includes a Pelican Air 1525 case with a custom foam insert, XAR tshirt, and a special edition serial number, which is a little on the pricey end.
However, you can buy an upper from F&D, which will give any lower the folding capabilities of the XAR while retaining your trigger, bolt, grip, safety, and stock, for $1,199, which is a lot more doable for most gun owners.
A deeper range test will commence with a variety of ammunition and magazines, but so far, the XAR seems to be a solid option for an always-ready truck gun, bug-out bag rifle, additional hunting firearm, or if you’re simply traveling with a rifle and don’t want to haul a full-sized gun case around. Plus, with the right accessories and carrying options, the XAR would make a fine survival rifle for any type of vehicle, or even for a pack.
UPDATE: After several sessions at the range, the XAR performed flawlessly, with no malfunctions or difficulties feeding from Magpul PMAGs of various sizes plus a few old aluminum mags. It greedily ate Federal Premium 73 grain Gold Medal Berger HollowPoint Boat Tail, 62-grain Federal Fusion MSR, Federal 40-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, and some bulk-package American Eagle 55-grain FMJ Boat Tail ammo without a hitch—I got the best groupings with the Berger HPs.
Overall, groups were as expected at 50 and 100 yards and it functioned well with a red dot and iron sights.
The few additional controls and the hinge that allow the gun to fold went entirely unnoticed at the range until the gun had to be broken down to go back in its case—a task that was as easy as it was the first time, even when grimed up.
Most importantly, those sights remained zeroed where I’d left them after breaking down the rifle and deploying it again. Without that, this product would be fairly meaningless, but because it can hold a zero after being collapsed, the XAR Invicta is a great option for a multi-purpose AR, a compact-storage truck gun, and any number of other self-defense applications. In some cases, it could even make for rather convenient hunting rifle.
|F&D Defense XAR Invicta Specs|
|Caliber:||5.56 NATO / .223 Remington|
|Action:||Semi-Auto, Proprietary Direct Impingement Gas System|
|Barrel:||16″ or 14.5″|
|Magazine:||Magpul 20-Round P-Mag Included|
|Stock:||Magpul, Adjustable Stock|
|Safety:||AR-15 style selector, Magpul short-throw switch|
|Rails:||MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny Top Rail|
|Handguard:||Keymod Low-Profile Forend|
|Grip:||Magpul MOE-K2+ AR-15/M4 Grip|