Somehow the ARES Defense SCR had passed under my radar until it showed up for review. When my editor handed it to me, I opened up the box and thought–yep its an AR…. Oh wait. Is this an AR? Yeah, but no?! I was taken aback for a moment while I stood there looking at the rifle, trying to wrap my head around it. It looks a bit like an AR crossed with a semiautomatic shotgun. And it’s damn cool.
To AR or Not To AR?
Who wants an AR inspired rifle that’s not truly an AR-15? The answers to this vary. The SCR is 50 state legal. So there’s that. If you want a rifle with similar capabilities, but can’t own terror-inducing AR-15s, this will have some appeal. And then there are those who just don’t like pistol grips. They’ll find this gun compelling, too. So how close is it to an AR, really? I’ll come back to that in the end.
So what is the SCR? Lets get the specs out of the way first.
- Caliber .223/5.56 and 7.62X39
- Barrel 16.25” (carbine) 18” (rifle) 1/9 Twist
- Length 37” carbine 39” Rifle
- Stock Sporter, Short Sporter or Monte Carlo
- Handguard Magpul MOE
- Black Anodized Finish
- 5.7 lbs
The above specs read like an AR, except for the stocks. The review gun has a Monte Carlo style stock and was the first thing I noticed that made me scratch my head. There’s no room in there for a buffer tube.
There are a few other obvious things that are typical on an AR platform rifle that missing: a shell defector, forward assist, and muzzle break. The next thing that sticks out is the size and shape of the lower. It is smaller and shorter than Mil spec. The lower with the Monte Carlo style stock gives this rifle lines that are reminiscent of a Remington 742 or 750. The SCR also has a cross bolt style safety behind the trigger and not the lever found on most ARs. And where is that buffer tube?
Then there are the “hey, I’m an AR” things. The upper looks like an AR upper. It should because it is. It has the charging handle like an AR, for example. The ARES SCR lower will take any standard AR upper as long as it has the cut out where the full auto sear would be. The SCR utilizes some of that space for its trigger group to help make the lower smaller. It also takes AR magazines and ships with a 5 round one. The handguard on the stock model is a Magpul MOE and can be swapped for another AR handguard of your choice.
How it Works
So how does this rifle work without a normal buffer tube? Well, if you have ever been inside a Remington 1100, Mossberg 900, or other similar gas operated shotguns, you can probably figure it out. The bolt carrier on the SCR has a hinged rod that pushes on a recoil spring in the stock just like the above-mentioned shotguns. A simple and yet ingenious idea that works amazingly well on the review gun. Getting the rod lined up in the retainer cup in the stock does take a little trial and error. It has the two pins that hold the upper and lower together, like on an AR, but it is a bit harder to put together because you have to position things perfectly.
No Bolt Hold Open
The stock SCR does not hold the bolt back when the magazine is empty. Actually, It doesn’t hold it back at all. AERS does have a solution for this. They sell what looks to be a very simple add-on bolt catch. This sells for around $30. Here is some text from AERS about it from their Facebook page:
Installation is accomplished by removing the magazine and clearing the rifle of all ammunition. Next, separate the upper and lower receivers by pushing out the two captive takedown pins. Next, remove the plug that is factory installed in the lower by sliding it out the left side of the receiver. Install the bolt catch assembly by sliding in into the receiver and seat it firmly into its slot. Reassemble the receiver halves by following the instructions in the User’s Manual. That’s it!
Fit and Finish
This is a part of the rifle that screams AR. The stock is synthetic and the upper and lower is black anodized. The finish is well applied and free of blemishes. There is a little bit of wiggle between the upper and lower. It is not a whole lot of movement, and didn’t seem to affect anything, but it was there and felt I should mention it.
The SCR has a section of rail on the top of the upper but does not come with sights. According to their Facebook page, ARES Defense is planning on offering some iron sights for the SCR in the near future. Of course, with the rail, you can put just about anything you want to up top. However, whatever you pick it should be low mount. With the Monte Carlo stock I went with a couple of low mount options for an optic. The higher mounts would not let me get my cheek down on the stock.
I used an Aimpoint H1 and a Weaver Tactical. Both worked really well on the gun, though the low mounted scope wasn’t nearly as compact and maneuverable as the low mounted H1.
I ran a plethora of brands of .223 and 5.56 ammo through the SCR without a single malfunction. It ate cheap steel cased Russian ammo and Hornady V-Max without problems. 30 round mag dumps from a P-mag and slow fire from the supplied 5 round all went smoothly.
I couldn’t really tell much difference in felt recoil versus a regular AR. I was curious if the different angle of the stock would make it feel differently. But since .223 is not exactly a heavy recoil round, I couldn’t tell much difference. Nor did muzzle rise seem exaggerated. With the AR hand guard, you can use whatever style grip you like to use with an AR.
The review gun was very impressive punching paper and ringing steel at the range. With the Weaver Tactical mounted, I took the SCR out to 100 yards. One group of 5 was just under an inch, though most were just over. It was also pretty windy (10-15 mph gusts) so I didn’t take it out any further on paper.
I did shoot some 10 inch steel plates at 200 and 300 yards with good consistency (especially considering the wind). Does the rifle have that kind of potential for long range work? I think so. It has at least as much potential for long range work as your typical AR in .223.
The above groups were all shot from a bench on a sled. The groups opened up when fired from the shoulder of course, but the bench groups show what this rifle is capable of.
Room for Improvement
There are two things that I would really like to see changed on the SCR. There were three, but the bolt catch seems to have been addressed.
The 1st one is pretty minor. I do not like the way the end of the muzzle is done. There is not really any crown to protect the muzzle. The barrel is not threaded, either. I understand the lack of the threaded barrel. They are trying to make this a 50 State legal rifle.
There is an angled cut at the muzzle like Ruger does on a lot of their revolvers, but it is not very deep.
The other is a bit bigger. The trigger on the SCR. It is rough. For one, the trigger is hard–around 10 pounds. There isn’t a ton of grit in it, but there is a lot of creep and a mushy feeling reset. This is another one of the places where this is not an AR. You couldn’t just drop in a new trigger in this rifle, like an AR Gold or the like. Because of the smaller lower, the best I can tell is that this is a proprietary trigger. It is easy to see how it works, and I am pretty sure I could get my files and stone out and make an improvement. I would do this if it were my gun and not a review sample.
But look at the accuracy potential of this gun. Think what it would be if you had a much lighter, crisper trigger. I don’t think I’d have had so many group-killing random fliers.
Other than the trigger, the SCR is a good rifle and it would be great with a better trigger. I love the way it feels and shoulders. I cut my teeth shooting shotguns and hunting rifles and really prefer the way a Monte Carlo style stock feels. The rifle is very accurate and reliable as well.
The MSRP is around the $850 mark on the review rifle. Ares also offers a lower for around $500. That is for a complete lower and the bolt carrier group to use with the stock.
But let’s get back to the real question at hand. Is this an AR pattern rifle? Yes and no. If you want it to be a 50 state legal hunting rifle, it certainly can be. If you want it for home defense in places where idiot’s laws prevent one form owning an actual AR-15, the SCR will certainly provide you with that, too. I’m inclined to treat it like I would any AR. It runs almost as fast. The safety is fast enough. The magazine button requires a longer reach, though. And there may be just a bit more of a delay between shots (partly because of the clean muzzle and partly due to the trigger). The reality, though, is that these delays are hard to measure without a stopwatch. From my perspective, the SCR is a solid workingman’s rifle in its own right, and a fantastic option for those living under tyrannical rule.