ABOVE: POF’s engineers did not just add some extra parts. They perfected this gun. There’s something better about this rifle. Under sustained full auto fire, it is as tame and predictable as most M-16 rifles. This rifle’s weight, balance, and handling belie its compelling qualities.
Patriot Ordnance Factory took its foothold during the first half of the last decade-2004. Americans were still feeling the sting of the events of 9-11. We were actively “up in arms” so to speak. Consumer interest and demand for firearms was on a steady climb. And so was the resultant manufacture and sale of guns. Many new startups would appear on the scene purveying the AR-15 in countless trims and patterns. The black rifle would soon secure itself as the most popular and widely sold rifle in America. It is accurate to say that tens of thousands of Americans became employed in, on, around or otherwise involved in the manufacture and sale of black, semi-automatic rifles. POF would emerge as the first American firm offering a (successful) piston-driven AR-15 variant. The company presented itself with the ideals and imagery and theme of a patriotic American arms maker.
Like most things new, POF may have been misunderstood, or even just overlooked by some of us ten years ago. The company’s logo and marketing certainly appealed to our hearts, but the rifles may have been hard to love for some. They appear humpbacked- the picatinny that spans the receiver and forearm is raised significantly; assumed to accommodate the gas block and piston assembly. POF rifles all come with an audible rattle when the rifle was manipulated or shaken, caused by the floating op-rod. These rifles even lack some of the standard kit of parts, so the manual of arms to the basic AR-15 no longer applies. The POF rifle even includes some new parts- not recognizable by trained armorers of the day. And to make matters worse, it can be demonstrated that many gunsmiths, and armorers, and consumers alike carry misconceptions about the true function and process of the AR-15. These incorrect doctrines fall even farther off-base when applied to the misinterpretation of the POF and its function. The “direct impingement purists” will preach slanderous tales about the “piston” and its alleged shortcomings.
It is best now to seek a fresh understanding and accept that POF does not make an AR-15 with a piston inside. POF manufactures rifles that do indeed incorporate some of the AR’s design cues and interchangeable wear and accessory items. This is just good practice in industry- to design wares that are identifiable and serviceable by the layman. POF has reexamined the purpose and intent of the AR-15, and taken a different and updated approach to the same goal. The gun was designed to exploit modern industrial capabilities. Advanced manufacturing techniques and high performance materials and surface treatments guided the design and process. At the same time, some inherent weaknesses and points of potential failure in the classic AR-15 were revised and redesigned; or even omitted. Some parts of POF rifles are cut on a wire EDM, which was new and scary technology in the 1960s. The receivers are CNC machined from solid blocks of alloy on a multi-axis trunion to ensure perfect dimensional consistency. This process was prohibitively slow and expensive in the period surrounding the advent of the AR-15. All operational surfaces and sacrificial parts in POF rifles are treated with wear and corrosion resistant coatings or surface conversions. POF uses a coating called NP3 to protect the receivers and the parts within. It is a nickel/teflon matrix- superlative in its ability to simultaneously offer supreme lubricity and eliminate the onset of surface corrosion. A surface conversion differs from a coating in that it is not applied to a part- instead a very thin layer of that material is chemically manipulated to impart desirable qualities. A nitride heat treat and conversion process is performed on the barrel, gas block, gas regulator, piston and muzzle brake. This treatment leaves the parts nearly as hard as glass, as corrosion resistant as stainless steel, and to everything but tungsten carbide and diamond they are totally abrasion-proof.
There is a long list of mechanical improvements over the classic AR-15 pattern and operation. These upgrades are made with intention to combat heat, wear, and resultant catastrophic system failure. POF’s rifles incorporate a massive heat sink made of extruded aluminum fins into the barrel nut. This heat sink presents an enormous surface area to conduct and radiate heat away from its source, the chamber. This prevents the aluminum forearm from soaking up heat and prevents any heat from building up in the receiver. The whole of the operating system is housed within the barrel, gas block, and forearm. The gas block provides the expansion chamber that acts against the piston, then vents the gas quickly after it has done its work so little heat is absorbed. The piston is simple. It’s a reversible cylinder that seals the cylinder in the gas block and acts against an op rod that acts against the bolt group. The gas regulator has multiple settings, for normal fire and suppressed fire. The gun is designed to operate at minimal energy level- to prolong service life and inhibit heat buildup. The gas regulator allows gas to flow at a prescribed rate onto the piston. The gas block’s exhaust port vents excess pressure into the forearm enclosure. As this pressure is relieved into the atmosphere, it does indeed increase sound levels. This is one of the two negative side effects of piston operation. And if you’ve got a suppressor affixed to your barrel, the suppressor’s effect will be reduced, as the suppressor cannot affect the release of energy leaving the gas block vent. In exchange for slightly elevated noise levels, the POF rifle gets rid of heat’s side effects and gains perfect and perpetual operation. Fair trade.
Steps have been taken to mitigate the effects of wear and the impending degradation and failure it causes. The bolt carrier cam pin has been replaced by a roller bearing. The receiver extension has been improved by extending the ventral surface to combat carrier tilt. Carrier tilt is the other negative side effect of piston operation as it can cause irregular wear on a receiver (if unchecked). The op rod floats in the forearm while the bolt is locked at battery so there is no pressure on the barrel at the moment of ignition. The chamber of the POF rifle now features a fluted section to reduce case adhesion to the chamber wall. This fluting utilizes gas pressure to assist and ease extraction. And of course, to repeat, everything in and on the rifle is either coated with a protective film or treated by a high performance surface conversion.
The controls of the POF have been updated and optimized from the old design. Operation and control of the POF rifle is fully ambidextrous. The bolt catch is activated from within the trigger guard, by the trigger finger. The right side bolt release can be tripped by bumping a paddle located just above the magazine release, which is still found where it belongs. The conventional bolt catch lever is still located left side, mid-receiver for those from the old school. The left side magazine release is located just above the trigger guard opening and can be accessed with the thumb of the forward hand or the index finger of a left-handed shooter. Besides bringing ambi control to the rifle, POF has greatly improved the fire control mechanism is the form of a cassette-type trigger pack. It’s a unitized drop-in unit that is available in several variations of pull weight, and trigger blade style. There is even a POF full-auto trigger pack available on the accessory market, for use in any existing M-16. These trigger units are truly excellent even among competitors’ more expensive offerings. The receiver is not the only mounting pad for optics. The forearm provides uninterrupted rail stem-to-stern. The rear portion of the rail section interfaces with the receiver. This is the real reason the top rail is located higher than normal. This design feature strengthens the overall assembly and improves accuracy by not allowing any shift or misalignment between the mounting surface of the receiver, and that of the forearm. Optics and sights can be mounted anywhere on the top rail without limitation. The taller rail should not be seen as an obstacle when mounting optics. One can just use lower mounting hardware to achieve correct head alignment while maintaining a proper cheek-weld. The newest generation of POF makes room for large objective scopes by featuring removable rail sections atop the forearm structure. Every conceivable argument in contra of the POF rifle and its design or features can be explained away with sound logic and reason. Nothing on this gun is arbitrary. Every little detail has been considered and built to a purpose.
In practice and application, the POF distinguishes itself from other rifles that share similar heritage. It is professional grade. It’s heavy duty. The POF is more robust, and is designed and built to operate reliably in conditions far outside the comfort zone of the original AR-15. The rifle’s failure threshold has yet to be firmly established. The results and proof of the company’s adherence to its established goals and values can be reviewed on the internet. One need only search “POF Torture test.” There is one particular government agency that abandoned its “test to failure” only for budget concerns. The rifle in contention had burned over 60,000 rounds of .308 with only some minor part swaps (extractor, various springs, etc). That rifle never even showed an appreciable loss in accuracy. That department simply ran out of ammo and the funding to buy more. There are many examples of this same result. The only failures belong to the people who have set out, in vain, to wear down a POF rifle. Much ammunition and money could be saved by the broad acceptance of this suggestion: That POF builds a superior rifle. Few companies will ever own their motto like POF owns its motto of “Relentless Reliability”
Now to address the question of a full auto 7.62x51mm NATO rifle. Here again, many have tried, and most have failed. The 7.62 (.308) is a powerful cartridge. The last 60 years have shown select fire .308 rifles frequently to be impractical and uncontrollable. Compromises have been made on the part of government and military bodies. Assault rifles have been created in anemic calibers to facilitate improved user control. Situations that call for a more powerful weapon have been left with high-powered semi-automatic rifles. Full-auto .308 capable platforms are large, heavy, and are commonly crew-served or hard mounted to vehicles. No longer is this the case. The P308 FA has hit the scene and has been dropping jaws and opening eyes. Contrary to our expectations and even our understanding, the P308FA is imminently controllable. It is perfectly reliable. This rifle has the portability and agility of the M4 rifle. This capable package comes with no compromise to the .308’s potential and power. In action, on full-automatic, the P308 gives its user (in the short term) the power and presence of an M60, and (long term) the handling and utility of the basic M4. Making no exaggeration- with the P308FA, firing 7.62x51mm 147 grain ball ammo in our tests, we were able to match the accuracy and hit the percentages of an M-16 chambered in 5.56. The POF trigger unit allows for precise and deliberate first shot hits and the superbly balanced operating system facilitates the continued and focused engagement of a target. Decisive discrimination is this rifles qualifying skill.
Patriot Ordnance Factory came online in 2004. The P308FA was announced in 2010 (on POF website, video menu, select teasers and select the bottom one that shows a close-up of the receiver. It’s quite compelling).The gun only started seeing daylight in 2013. Why did take so long for POF’s engineers to release a select-fire rifle? The best explanation we got is that it’s not as easy as simply installing the appropriate full-auto parts. Sure, the P308 would have worked with only the haphazard installation of the required bits. But it would not have worked so well. POF’s engineers applied some technical finesse to reach this level of refinement. After much scrutiny, their experts were able to identify the nature of these small tweaks. The details of these minute improvements and adjustments may go unnoticed but the gross effect of POF’s efforts is significant.
There exists a set of unique rules and theories that address the physics as they apply to the fully-automatic weapon. In fully automatic fire, recoil impulse at high rates effectively becomes thrust. Operating pressures become residual. Forces generated by the cyclic function of the weapon tend to “carry over” and can retard or otherwise interfere with the proceeding stages of normal operation. Repetitive motion generates incredible heat and wear. Metals can “de-alloy” from concentrated heat and repeated heating and cooling cycles. Coatings and surface treatments can lose their binding properties. Heat can transform lubricant into an abrasive or even an adhesive. Springs can lose their force constant and go limp. Metal parts can expand and bind. As a barrel heats, it grows and offers less friction on the bullet which can lower peak operating pressures and delay timing. There is indeed more to a full auto than drilling a new pinhole for an auto-sear. And there is a world of understanding that must be firmly grasped to make full-auto operation really advantageous. POF, by luck, skill, or maybe only by the grace of the gun-gods, has balanced the system. Contrary to what is known and understood in the industry, POF has done it. Our writers and experts are industry experts and have authoritative experience with all things guns. We never saw this thing coming.
The P308FA has no place in the civilian market due to current laws. It’s only and always going to be a military and law-enforcement firearm. A relative new-comer like POF would expectedly encounter some resistance from the Military and Law Enforcement market, which has generally been served by only 2 or 3 big brands- brands that have been making exotic small arms suited for military and law-enforcement for many decades now. But the P308FA has found a secure position among domestic departments due to its well-earned fame as an indestructible force multiplier. This rifle can and will make America’s streets safer; or any other country’s streets or jungles or deserts. It is match grade machine gunnery incarnate.
POF has cracked the code on how to design, create, prepare and protect a rifle for use and abuse. Pressure, wear, heat, abrasion, adhesion, erosion, friction, and oxidation are non-issues. These potential causes of failure need no further consideration. Recoil, handling, reliability, and accuracy have been tuned and tamed to near perfection. POF has solved the mystery and quelled the mystique of the piston gun. Make no mistake- the modernization of the AR-15’s design concept is not an affront to the classic rifle. The AR-15 and its contribution to America’s identity is not at risk nor in question. POF pays humble and deserved homage to the AR-15 and its roots. But there can be no advancement in the profession of arms if we cannot accept that old technology must yield to the new. The P308FA is a preeminent example of the next generation of the American gun.