Check out the ASR: http://www.tnwfirearms.com/ASR
Buy one now: /tnw
TNW has a pretty damn cool survival rifle on the market. The TNW Aero is possibly the easiest rifle to pack in a survival or bug-out bag and comes in the 3 most popular pistol cartridges: 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP. It is solid in the way you want a survival rifle to be: strong but not so over-built that it weighs too much to be practical.
Before we get into the meat of this review, I want to talk a little about the thought process of a “survival rifle.” This term can mean a lot of different things to different people. It really boils down to what scenario or environment you would most likely find yourself in needing to survive. If you are in the Panhandle of Texas or Eastern Colorado you might think a bolt action in .308 (or bigger!) is the way to go. Downtown in a large city, that bolt action isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good and a short barreled pump shotgun could be a better choice. So we plan, or at least should plan, for where we are and were we will most likely be.
But what does someone pick that travels all over the country? Or someone who lives in a rural area but commutes to work in a big city? Or even say a pilot that could end up in a swamp, desert, forest—or even in a metro area? What do you choose when you need something that isn’t task-specific? In my opinion, this is where the pistol caliber carbine really comes into play. Is it the best choice for each one of these environments individually? Hell no. But it will do the jobs, with emphasis on the plural JOBS. Couple a pistol with a short and light rifle that both take the same ammo and magazines and you have a winning combination for just about any of the shit that can hit the fan. Oh, and make them in the most common calibers too.
Ok, now on to the review at hand.
Here are some specs on the Aero:
- 16.5″ Barrel Length
- 33″ Overall length and 17.25″ with Barrel Removed
- Available in 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP
- Uses Glock Magazines
- Weighs 5.5 lbs
- Hard Anodized Coating
- Semi-Auto Direct Blow Back
- Includes 4x Scope, Magazine and Upper and Lower Rails
- Collapsible AR Stock
- Available in different color finishes including Black, Pink, Grey and Green
The Areo Survival Rifle is a pretty simple idea. I mean that in a good way. Most survival equipment should follow the old KISS idea: Keep it Simple, Stupid. This is a blow back design–no gas system here to get fouled. It also helps with reliability with a spectrum of different loads and bullet weights.
The barrel is very easy to install and remove. There is a threaded sleeve that mates to the receiver to tighten everything up. The receiver also has a wide grove that the barrel indexes on to keep everything in alignment. Speaking of the barrel, TNW offers a threading service for those who want to instal a suppressor or other device. Our review sample has a plain barrel with a slight bevel to protect the muzzle crown.
The other big design feature of the AERO is its ability to change calibers. TNW offers conversion kits. If you have the 9mm or .40 you can change between those two calibers by simply swapping the barrels and using the correct magazines. To go to .45 ACP from either 9mm or .40, you have to swap the barrel, mag, and the trigger housing.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that what we’d conventionally call a “receiver”–i.e. the piece of the gun that contains the trigger group and mag well on your typical AR–has been labeled a “trigger housing.” This is significant, as it means the lower isn’t the serialized part. The upper is, which means there are multiple options for how you can swap calibers.
The gun will soon be available in .22 LR, .22 MAG, and .17HMR. They also offer a pistol version that has an 8 inch barrel and no stock on the AR style buffer tube.
I ran the Areo with all sorts of different ammo. 119 grain steel cased Russian made cheap stuff all the way up to Hornady Critical Duty–all preformed well. During the first 50 or so rounds, I did have a couple of malfunctions. I had one failure to extract and three rounds that the nose got hung on the top of the receiver while the bottom of the case was still in the magazine. Those three seemed like magazine issues more than a problem with the gun. Whatever the cause, they did not repeat during the 500 rounds I put through it. I used factory Glock magazines and some aftermarket ones.
The trigger is good but not great. There is a bit of take up, not a ton but not a small amount either. It breaks clean enough and at 5 pounds. This is a survival rifle and the trigger is more than good enough for this job.
The review gun came with a 4X AIM brand optic. I had some issues with this glass. It took me longer and required more rounds to get it zeroed. I was never happy with the groups I got when using this optic. Even at 25 yards, repeatability was inconsistent. I am not saying that the Areo is ever going to be a target rifle, but I should be able to hit clays or shoot a 1″ group from 25 yards with a pistol caliber rifle. Never happened with the AIM scope mounted. It was so bad that I’d initially blamed it on the rifle itself.
I switched over to a Burris XTR II and everything changed. 5 rounds touching at 25 yards? No problem. 1.5 inches at 50? Yep, it can do that and bust clays on the berm one after the other. With a good quality optic, I was very impressed with the consistency of the review rifle. The Burris is probably overkill on this rifle as it is a big for packing this rifle in a back pack.
So what is the ideal optic for a gun like this? For a true survival rifle, I have to insist on iron sights. This is the Aero Survival Rifle. If I’m buzzing around in my plane, and I crash it, there’s no guarantee that the AIM scope is going to survive the impact. Or the Burris. Or any red dot. Irons, though–no worries. To really maximize the potential of the iron sights on this rifle, the ASR would need a much longer forend/barrel shroud, which would increase weight. Still, the railed top does allow for a decent amount of distance between the sights–better than you’d get on a full sized pistol.
The AIM is a good size and honestly would be good enough in most situations. And if I crashed and was lucky enough to walk away, I bet the AIM would, too. But I’d still throw a pair of backup sights in the pack, just in case.
I have had the Areo in for a couple of months during this review process. I carried it in a backpack in my Jeep as a survival rifle. I am confident it would have filled the roll nicely. I live in a big town, but travel into rural areas a couple of times a week. A breakdown type carbine is a great choice for my situation. Pack a bag with the Areo, 4-5 loaded magazine, 2 boxes of ammo, a first aid kit, water and a bit of food and I have a great little survival kit. Oh, and a Glock in the same caliber as a carry piece makes the whole package complete.
The only real way to test it, though, would be to head out and really rely on the rifle for a while. While we’re dedicated to the reviews we write here on GunsAmerica, that just didn’t seem practical. But this is package that has a lot of potential. As a personal defense weapon, the 9mm is solid. And the long barrel will push +P rounds past the 1,500 FPS mark. Typical 9mm will run faster than it will from a pistol–closer to the 1,200-1,300 FPS mark–possibly faster. Those speeds are excellent for self defense. And they’re enough to take down game.
The TNW ASR has an MSRP of $799 and the caliber conversion kits are around $200. That’s not bad for a gun that can do what this one does. While it has a serious side, the ASR is fun, too. Some survival guns just seem so bent on being a last-ditch option that that’s all they end up being good for. But not this one. I had more fun plinking with this gun than many of the rifles I’ve reviewed. And it is a great teaching tool, as there’s almost no recoil. That’s an important element, I think, as you won’t mind shooting it. Neither will your significant other. Or your kids. And when you’re out having fun, popping clays on the berm or poking holes in cans, you are building a set of skills and learning to use a gun that we all hope we’ll never need.