Bolt-Action Accuracy in A Semiautomatic Platform: The Drake Associates Athena Rifle System

The Athena in 5.56 NATO. (Pnoto: Austin Van Gilder)

To learn more about the Athena Rifle System visit

Drake Associates is showing off their Athena Precision Chassis Rifle, originally developed to meet U.S. military needs for a semiautomatic sniper rifle. The Athena system combines AR components with a unique lower receiver and forend system.

Unlike a conventional AR-style rifle, the Athena uses a monolithic lower receiver and chassis-style forend that mounts the upper handguard to the lower, not the upper receiver. In that sense, the Athena is more like a bolt-action chassis rifle except it uses a semi-automatic upper assembly.

Here in the case. (Pnoto: Austin Van Gilder)

This arguably gives the Athena an accuracy advantage. According to Drake, the Athena Precision Chassis Rifle is capable of producing on average .6- to .7-MOA groups at over 100 yards, with best groups at just over .3 MOA using commercially produced Federal match-grade ammunition.

The modular forend is ventilated and has a thin handguard with a 12-o’clock Picatinny rail as well as 11- and 1’o’clock M-Lok slots. It also has a short 6-o’clock rail for bipods at the front of the rifle.

From the forend back, it is mostly AR-based. (Pnoto: Austin Van Gilder)

The rest of the components look compatible with standard AR parts. It uses standard stocks, pistol grips, and magazines. It even comes with a regular old A2-style flash hider.

The trade-off, like with most precision chassis rifles, is added weight. With a heavy barrel and alloy chassis, the Athena weighs in at around 9 pounds, give or take, based on the configuration. With that said, 9 pounds is still fairly light for a long-range rifle, especially for anything designed to be used in the field.

A view of the receiver extension and Drake logo. (Pnoto: Austin Van Gilder)

Currently Drake Associates offers the Athena in their Light Caliber configuration chambered for 5.56 NATO. The company plans to follow with a 7.62 NATO semiautomatic chassis rifle.

Prices start at $1,776 which includes the complete rifle with a Satern match 16-, 18- or 20-inch barrel, trued and lapped A3 upper receiver, M16 bolt carrier group, 20-round Magpul PMag magazine and carrying case.

Marketing materials from the NASGW booth. (Pnoto: Austin Van Gilder)

To learn more about the Athena Rifle System visit

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • Larry Burkett April 29, 2020, 6:06 pm

    Be an exhibitor at the 2021 Safari Club International in Las Vegas, Nevada 2/3/2021 – 2/6/2021. Show the hunters what the Athena Rifle is all about.

    Call me at 520-262-3702.

    Thank you,

    Larry Burkett
    Auction Program Specialist
    Safari Club International

  • CD October 27, 2019, 10:02 pm

    Gunsamerica – There is an error in the content of this article

    To clarify the ATHENA Rifle at 100 Yards will shoot .6-.7 moa with 18” heavy contour button barrel and best group attained in button barrel is .366 MOA. Ammunition used was Federal 77gr OTM

    Rifle was Additionally shot At a KD range with a distance of 1062 yards where it was capable of engaging targets with multiple hits on steel target as noted in photo.

    We also tested out Tier 1 Satern cut rifle barrel that yielded .6 MOA consistent with best group at .186 MOA Also noted in photo

    If anyone needs more information please call us at 631-749-1100 or visit the website for additional details
    Thank you

  • Archangel October 25, 2019, 11:22 pm

    A sniper rifle in 5.56 ????
    What are the sniping at 1000 yards with a potentially 62 to 70-ish grain projectile, miniature poodles?

  • chris prenger October 25, 2019, 4:38 pm

    i’m calling bull shit no possible way .

  • Wade Gillis October 25, 2019, 2:25 pm

    Is that a Luth AR buttstock??? Can’t quite make it out… either way I’m waiting for 6.5 Creedmoor, but I like the concept!!!

  • Gordon L Smith October 25, 2019, 11:03 am

    If what is true the military really needs to check these specs out. Talk to any soldier, sailor, SEAL, or Marine and ask them how much difference it would be carrying this rifle as oppose to the Barrett. That alone is one great benefit.

    • Jerem y October 26, 2019, 10:32 am

      A 5.56 does not compare to a .50 cal unless you are referring to the MRAD and still that is in far better calibers that the 5.56

  • Scott M Boiko October 25, 2019, 10:58 am

    Every year there are un-told metric shit-tons of garbage hoisted upon the American gun buying public….this is match grade Hooey…………………..

  • David October 25, 2019, 10:49 am

    Is it gas impingement or piston driven? I agree with others that coitized the 5.56 caliber.

    • Austin Van Gilder October 25, 2019, 11:17 am

      It’s a DI system. More calibers are coming soon.

  • I Love Liberty October 25, 2019, 9:47 am

    They used the wrong caliber and then call it a “sniper rifle.” They should have made the rifle in a 6.5 to 8 millimeter caliber so the rifle could be effective to longer ranges. 5.56 x 45 is not powerful enough to be really effective at long ranges.

    • Austin Van Gilder October 25, 2019, 11:05 am

      This is proof of concept – More “sniper rifle” calibers are coming soon.

    • Sgt. Pop October 25, 2019, 12:41 pm

      Before anyone tries to trash the 5.56 and/or .223, at 1000 yds, best check out the F-class military cal. matches, it’s beating many 308 or 7.62 at 500-1000 yes.

      • Steve October 25, 2019, 8:51 pm

        We’re talking about retained energy and knock down power at extreme distances. My personal experience on the range when a .223 (5.56) hits steel you get a “tink” and little movement. With .308 (7.62) you get a “clang” and the steel is knocked violently hard and swings pretty good.

  • Joe Schmo October 25, 2019, 9:11 am

    5.56 .7 MOA to 1000 yds/ carbine barrel?
    Calling bs

    • Austin Van Gilder October 25, 2019, 11:05 am

      It’s very impressive. Hopefully we’ll get one in soon to run it through it’s paces!

    • David Barnes October 27, 2019, 12:33 pm

      Barrel length does not change accuracy, only velocity (and therefore bullet drop) in equal quality barrels.

  • Thomas Burkey October 25, 2019, 9:07 am

    Love to have one of these !!

  • Daniel October 25, 2019, 8:38 am

    probably needs a huge holdover for 1000 yards with a 5.56 nato round

    • Sgt. Pop October 26, 2019, 9:57 am

      Not sure on a nato loading, but expect somewhere in the 45-50 ft. drop from most F-class loads. That is depending on zero and the particular BC of the bullet chosen. The key to accuracy is maintaining consistency in in the loads (and hold naturally)

  • Bad Penguin October 25, 2019, 8:12 am

    I have rifles that cost more than this one that wont hold a group that small at 100 yards! It appears to be a rifle more capable than most shooters. But it would be nice to take the challenge.

    A 9 lb rifle is nothing except to the millennials and Gen-Xerox. They think a 7.5 lb rifle is heavy. Most will forget that this is not a battle rifle or Carbine.

    If I can sell one of my other rifles this will be my next.

    • Austin Van Gilder October 25, 2019, 11:04 am

      It weighs just as much as the M16A2! It’s very well balanced.

  • Sparky October 25, 2019, 7:28 am

    Hopefully it has M4 type bolt alignment?

    • Austin Van Gilder October 25, 2019, 11:10 am

      Standard AR upper and parts. Only proprietary component (I believe) is the barrel nut.

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