A lot of times you hear the claim that “this product sets a new bar for blah blah blah,” but it is seldom true. With AR-15s, it is almost never true. The technology itself has not changed much since the 1950s. You can cut a barrel in a different way, slower. You can cut the tolerances down. You can build components out of more efficient materials. But the core capabilities of the rifle have not changed.
Often the price has changed though. It is not uncommon to find “regular old” AR-15s at SHOT Show with over $3,000 price tags.
The Drake Associates Athena rifle is a completely different thing, for real, and the MSRP is only $1,799.
Chris Drake has a long history in bolt gun chassis, and helped develop the Savage Stealth series of chassis guns. In that development, he had to boil down what makes a chassis work, and why it is essential to keep the entire barrel, from the chamber forward, as a free float entity.
On the AR-15, the chamber is captive by the barrel nut, and that barrel nut is the mounting point for products that are commonly termed “free float” forends. That means that the barrel is not truly free floating. When the rifle is rested on a bipod, a pack, a sandbag, a sled, or even your hand, there is pressure on the barrel nut, and that pressure interacts with the harmonics of the barrel when a round is fired.
It is impossible for that pressure to be consistent from shot to shot, and this means that the harmonic feedback waves in the system negatively effect accuracy. This is no gimmick folks. Meditate upon it. There is no way that a captive barrel nut cannot effect accuracy.
The Athena completely free floats the barrel nut, because the chassis is mated to the actual receiver. There is no product like this in the market, period.
Drake Associates has run the system through apples to apples testing with factory ammo, and the same barrels from the same maker. Bare bones accuracy enhancement has been in the 40% range, delivering easily groups in the sub minute-of-angle range with the same high end parts in the Athena.
At $1,799, with nothing else to buy, that makes the Athena a game changer across many disciplines, from competition shooting to varmints to sniper work, to just a totally cool and reasonably priced gun to bring to the range.
We hope to get an Athena rifle in from Drake Associates at some point soon for a full review. It seems very promising, and Chris Drake seems to be dedicated to bringing a ground breaking product to market at a more than competitive price. The first wave of guns will be in the .556 family, soon followed by the larger .308, 6.5, 6mm family. Exciting stuff.
Learn More at Drake Associates: https://drakeassociates.us/