From out pal over at progunmillennial.wordpress.com
What is the greatest part of the AR-15? If you said modularity, you’re wrong. It’s the lightweight, in-line recoil system. The AR was designed in such a way as to drop the barrel down in-line with your shoulder, and imparting zero extra rotational force besides what little is created by the rotating bolt locking & unlocking. It’s probably the single greatest part of the AR system, in my opinion. Modularity is a close second.
One significant downside to the in-line recoil system is it’s length. Stoner designed it into the rifle’s buttstock, making sure the length didn’t negatively affect the weapon’s size, but that made the buttstock an integral part of the weapon’s operation. Most guns obviously do not require the buttstock to operate, but the AR10/15 does.
This requirement is hardly a shortcoming, seeing as the US military had fielded the rifle since from 1964 to 2022 and killed more communists than anyone else (besides their own governments). Actual usefulness aside, lots of people have wished that the AR style of weapons had the ability to fold their stocks. There are some good reasons for this, mainly storage and concealment.
There are also lots of attempts to add this function to the AR as it is, thanks to the AR’s second greatest attribute: modularity. Here I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the best, current ways to make an AR fold.
I will be using my 12″ AR pistol as my theoretical testbed. As it sits, it is 30″ from brake to brace. I’ll be calculating the added length when assembled as from my un-foldable pistol, but I’ll be calculating the reduction in length when folded as from the fully assembled length. Both numbers will be given as raw numbers and as percentages. As you would expect, these numbers will be variable and my results may not correlate with yours.
1) LAW Tactical Folder
This is by far the most common, most well tested, and most accepted way to make an AR fold. LAW Tactical folding adapters have been on the market for a long time, at least 9 years that I know of. The LT folder is pretty simple conceptually. It is a hinge that sits between the buffer tube and where the tube normally screws into the receiver. The adapter holds the buffer in the tube and allows the tube to be folded to the side, or locked in position.
The LAW Tactical adapter can be fitted to any mil-spec lower receiver, so it will probably fit any gun you already have. The downside to this device is that the gun is inoperable while folded. It can be fired while folded, but it does not cycle. If you do fire the gun while folded, you will need to unfold it and run the charging handle to get the gun operational again.
Its a well known quantity in the gun industry, and it’s tried & true. They can be had lots of places online for somewhere around $275.
Added length to gun when assembled: 1.3″, +4.5%
Reduced Length on gun when folded: 9″ (for my setup), -29%
2) Dead Foot Arms Folding Stock Adapter
This one is a bit more of a departure from the standard AR-15 pattern than the LAW Tactical. Dead Foot Arms has created and sells a folding stock adapter that allows the gun to fire while folded. How can that be? DFA’s system replaces the bolt carrier, buffer, and tube with their own proprietary compressed parts. The DFA adapter has a shortened buffer and carrier which fits into a shortened buffer tube. This shortened system is compact enough that an entire AR stock can be placed behind it on a hinge, allowing it to be folded to the side. The Dead Foot system basically takes all the working bits of an AR and pulls them forward out of the stock.
The downsides to this system are that it is not nearly as well known nor tested as the LAW folder, and it is significantly more expensive. Since the DFA system is more than just a hinge you splice onto a lower between your buffer tube and lower. It is a whole collection of proprietary integral parts, which means you will be replacing stuff in your gun, although they do have a service where they’ll modify a bolt carrier you send them. It will still fit mil-spec and most other ARs. It can be had on their website for $350-$550, though they have an underfolder kit for an extra $100. Looks pretty sick, so that might be worth it.
Added Length to gun when assembled: Cannot determine, but I have heard it’s around 2″-2.5″
Reduced Length when folded: Cannot determine, but looks to be just the stock and ~1.5″ of adapter
3) Cry Havoc Takedown Adapter
Continuing the list in ascending order of deviation, we have the Cry Havoc Take-Down Adapter. This device is more like the LAW Tactical in that it is a piece you splice into an existing gun, except this one goes between your upper and your barrel. Yes, this is a quick-detach barrel system. Unlike most commercial QD barrel systems on the market, this one takes the barrel & handguard off as a unit and puts them back on (supposedly) with no shift in zero. I’d love to get my hands on one and verify this claim. I’ve been looking at this adapter for 3 or 4 years now, and Cry Havoc shows no signs of going away, so I wouldn’t be too terribly worried about them disappearing overnight and you being left in the lurch with an unusable weapon. Cry Havoc’s product is also part of the US Air Force’s GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, so I’m fairly confident that it isn’t junk.
Upside is that the size reduction of the taken-down weapon is much more than simply folding the stock out of the way. My pistol’s barrel is still 3″ more than the entire buffer tube & brace, and that difference becomes more pronounced when you move into rifles. One downside is that a taken-down rifle is completely incapable of firing. Another thing to remember is that your gun is now in two separate pieces, unlike the other options above. These can be had from the Cry Havoc website for $400.
Added length to gun when assembled looks to be around 1.5″, +5%
Reduction on gun when folded: 12″ (for my setup), -38%
FoldAR is not a modification or adapter, but a company that makes rifles & pistols. They have a barrel-folding system that gets you the benefits of the Cry Havoc above, but does not completely detach from the reciever. They also have a two-fold model, which looks to utilize Dead Foot Arms folding system, though I can’t find proof of it anywhere.
As you can tell from the video, the gun is very compact when folded, although it is also very thick. This gun can be had in pistol or rifle varieties, and in double fold or single (barrel only) fold options. I believe these are only being offered as complete weapons, and not as parts to be added to existing guns.
The major downside of FoldAR guns is that they are hard to come by. Some of the listings on their website are LEO/Veteran/First Responder-only for the time being, and others are out of stock. The ones that you can buy are all $2,000-$2,200.
Length Added to gun: N/A, 26″ – 33″
Reduced Length when folded: 11″ – 17.5″, 58% – 47%
5)LAW Tactical ARIC
This one is the newest entrant into this genre of AR parts, as it was introduced mid-2022. From the makers of the first entry on this list, LAW Tactical has produced a bolt carrier that cycles within the upper receiver without the need of the buttstock. Yes, that does sound a lot like the Dead Foot Arms system, but even a glance at the LAW Tactical product is enough to realize that they’ve created a new system, not license the DFA adapter. Quick overview: LAW has put an AR-18’s recoil system in a package that sits inside an AR-15’s upper receiver [note: there seems to be another company doing exactly the same thing since 2019, Evolution Weapons Systems].
The benefits here are pretty obvious: You completely negate the necessity of the buffer tube at all! You can put a LAW Tactical folder on there and shoot it folded, or you could just plug the hole and put literally anything you want back there. You could put a 1913-rail adapter on the receiver and put any existing folding stock on there. It should fit any mil-spec upper receiver so this is a very accessible upgrade for most. $389 at Brownells, available and in stock as of writing.
Length added assembled: 0″
Length Reduced when folded: 0″
6) Just a Different Rifle Altogether (the AR-180)
Your final and furthest-from-the-AR option is a different rifle entirely. Most non-ARs that also aren’t AKs are generally an AR-180 clone or close derivative. Good examples are: FN SCAR, Sig MCX, Bushmaster ACR, etc. The AR-180 was developed by Armalite as a way for US-allied countries in the Cold War to spin-up domestic arms production quickly. The AR-15 is made using mills and precision machining. Though common today, those things were pretty hard to come by outside the US at the time, and still require knowledgeable and skilled operators. The AR-180 was a redesign that utilized stamping technology instead of milling. Stamping could be brought online relatively quickly and didn’t require as much skill to produce usable weapons. Stamping is deceptively difficult to work out the kinks on initially (The USSR took 10 years and 3 generations to get the AK production figured out), but I can only assume that Armalite planned on working those kinks out themselves and selling a turn-key solution to friendly foreign powers.
Needless to say, history decided that the AR-15 was the superior weapon. Despite that, the AR-180 is still all around us, it’s just hidden within lots of other weapons designs that are still with us today, if not being re-introduced nearly every year. Anything that has an AR-looking bolt in a chunky carrier that rides underneath two receiver-length recoil springs, is operated by a gas short-stroke gas piston, and has a folding stock is based on the AR-180 design. Even the LAW AIRC above is an AR-180’s recoil system designed into the back on an AR-15 bolt! The AR-15 may be America’s favorite rifle, but the 180 has left a very deep, long-lasting impression upon the modern gun market.
…and now the SCAR, ACR, and even the Beretta AXR 100, and the Christiansen Arms XCR, respectively.
If you want a fighting rifle that folds and fires, it will probably be a AR-180 derivative. Or you could always get an AK. Or an FAL or a G3 if you like shooting .308 in a defensive role.
The situation used to be that if you wanted an AR, it was a fixed-stock affair. If you wanted a folding stock, you need to shoot an AK or a .308. Thankfully, that is no longer the world we live in. There are all kinds of options for today’s modern shooter, at all manner of price points and capabilities. We truly live in the golden age of defensive riflery. We all should be taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity while we can. We never know when the next gun scare or weapons ban will come around.
Carpe Diem, and we’ll see you next week.