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Size really does matter when going covert or grabbing your go-bag. A takedown AR makes good sense, because you don’t reveal what you are truly carrying in that knapsack or small case. In addition, a smaller footprint means you can travel farther and faster.

AR15s from DRD Tactical, Ruger, MGI Military, Cry Havoc and Tac2 let you stow a substantial weapon in a small package. (What’s the expression? “Big surprises come in a small packages.”)

The fact is, the AR15 can already be considered a takedown rifle, because it is modular—but those upper and lower receivers are larger than you think and require a good-sized duffle bag to carry them. These five takedown AR15s—actually, four AR carbines and one complete upper—are not only compact, they also fit in bags you would not normally consider for a full-sized weapon. All these rifles are equipped with 16-inch barrels, making them street legal.

The advantage a takedown AR has over a typical AR is the ability to separate the barrel from the upper receiver. That’s about an 8.5-inch reduction in length when you measure the length of the pieces. It allows a takedown rifle to reside in a knapsack or briefcase.

The DRD comes in a rugged Plano case. The hard case balances all the DRD components, so the case is easy to carry, and there is room for lots of ammo.

The DRD comes in a rugged Plano case. The hard case balances all the DRD components, so the case is easy to carry, and there is room for lots of ammo.

All five takedown ARs reviewed are broken down into a few main components—typically, two or three main parts. Because they are all AR15s, they function like a standard AR15. It is the takedown mechanism and method that are different among them.

I had no issue assembling and disassembling any of the five rifles, but I did note that some takedown methods were faster and simpler than others. It is a great idea to have a rifle packed away in a small package, but if the time it takes to go from separate components to an operating rifle takes too long, that is a liability. Special tools? Forget about it. These are tool-less takedowns.

One thing to note: The rails or handguards on these rifles are not typically compatible with aftermarket parts, because in most cases, the handguard is a key component of the takedown design. Other than the handguard, these ARs can be customized with aftermarket parts—stocks, pistols grips, triggers, BUIS, controls, muzzle devices and optics.


I ran these ARs with optics and open sights. For models that did not include sights, I mounted a set of Meprolight BUIS tritium sights. I used a TruGlo SCP TAC 1-4x24mm variable compact scope, although it gave all the ARs a larger footprint. The SCP TAC features a mil-dot reticle and a capped windage turret, but the elevation turret is uncapped so you can dial in elevation. It comes with an AR-ready mount.

While gathering the rifles for testing, there was this nagging voice in the back of my head: Will it go back to zero? Constant disassembling and reassembling of a rifle makes me wonder how the zero is affected, but as I found out with these rifles, shifting zero was a non-issue. To check how well they returned to zero after disassembly/re-assembly, I used a standardized process for all: Fire 30 rounds, take down/reassemble; fire another 30 rounds, take down/reassemble; fire 10 rounds. After that, I did the takedown/ reassembly process every 10 rounds, up to 100 rounds total.

Another characteristic of takedown ARs you might not realize is that these rifles are much easier to clean than traditional ARs. They provide better access to the chamber area, and some also offer caliber conversions.

Here’s a look at five AR15s I like to refer to as “componentized hardware.”


  • ACTION TYPE: Semiautomatic; gas impingement
  • CALIBER: 5.56mm NATO BARREL: 16 inches; 1:7 RH twist; 4140 steel
  • MUZZLE DEVICE: A2 birdcage 5/8x24TPI
  • TRIGGER: 7.5 pounds, MIL-SPEC single stage
  • MAGAZINE: (1) Magpul PMAG 30-round
  • SIGHTS: None; optic ready
  • BUTTSTOCK: Magpul MOE, adjustable, six positions
  • HANDGUARD: DRD QD 13-inch rail
  • FINISH: Battleworn
  • OVERALL LENGTH (MINIMUM/ MAXIMUM): 32.5/35.7 inches
  • WEIGHT (UNLOADED): 6.8 pounds

MSRP: $2,400


I consider DRD Tactical the Skunk Works of AR manufacturers. The CDR-15 was designed to fit inside a briefcase or normal-sized knapsack, and if things go south and you have to make contact with a bad situation, you can put the rifle together quickly, defend yourself with two to four mags, and then get out.

The upper receiver and complete lower receiver are one piece in the DRD takedown system. The second piece is the barrel assembly, which includes the barrel, barrel nut, muzzle device, gas block and gas tube. The handguard is the third piece that uses a retaining pin and a cam lock to secure the handguard to the upper receiver. DRD provides a metal cap that protects the chamber ends of the barrel and gas tube, the latter of which is fragile. The barrel nut screws into the metal cap so no debris can get into the chamber area; in addition, it ensures the gas tube will not be bent or dented during transport.

To assemble, lock the bolt carrier group (BCG) rearward, remove the end cap from the barrel assembly, and insert the barrel and gas tube into their respective holes in the lower/upper receiver. All the barrel needs is to be finger tight, but you do have the option of using a wrench on the barrel nut if, for instance, you were doing some extended training. The barrel nut has the same cutouts as a buffer tube, so you can use the same wrench.

The next step is to pull the retaining pin and unlock the cam lock on the handguard. Slide the handguard over the barrel, align the notches, push the retaining pin back, and lock down the cam. Insert a magazine, and you are ready to fire. It took me about 10 seconds to assemble the rifle at a leisurely pace.

The entire disassembled rifle, four magazines and ammo fit inside a hard Plano case (18x14x7 inches). All components fit into cutouts in the high-density polypropylene foam trays and are secured with hook-and-loop straps. The top lid of the case holds the barrel assembly, handguard and two 30-round magazines. The bottom half of the case holds two additional 30-round magazines, the complete lower and the upper receiver assembled, as well as the collapsed stock. In the foam cutout is room for a small scope or red-dot optic, but due to the way the foam is cut, there is not enough room for the TruGlo scope when mounted to the rifle. With all the components in place, there are no rattles during transport, and all the parts are balanced in the case, so it makes it comfortable to carry.

The upper and lower receivers are machined from 7075 T-6511 billet aluminum. An enlarged trigger guard allows for shooting with gloves, and the magazine well is flared to ease reloading.

The CDR-15 followed MIL-SPEC style with the trigger, magazine release and selector lever, but the rest of the DRD rifle was pimped out with a Magpul MOE stock and grip. The CDR-15 came with a battleworn finish that gives the impression the rifle has seen hard duty and is well broken in. The finish is very durable.

The 16-inch barrel is hammer forged and chrome lined with a 1:7-inch twist rate. The barrel has a parkerized finish and uses a mid-length gas tube. The handguard is DRD’s proprietary QD 13-inch rail that features a Picatinny rail at 12 o’clock. It is also compatible with Magpul L-4 rail panels.

I loaded six magazines and packed them, along with the rifle, in a Voodoo Tactical Discreet Level III Assault Pack, which is nothing more than a well-made knapsack that gives the appearance of a gym bag. I walked onto the range with the DRD stowed in the bag, assembled the rifle and got my dope at 25 yards. Then, I fired for accuracy at 100 yards.

The DRD action was super-smooth, and although the trigger was MIL-SPEC, I was able to get some exceptional groups. Accuracy was good, with about 1-MOA groups on average.

Without waiting for the barrel to cool, I wore gloves to disassemble the rifle and stow it back in the knapsack. Then, I re-assembled it and ran the DRD hard. Even after several boxes of ammo were fired, the rifle easily disassembled and re-assembled. Fouling did not seize up the barrel nut.

The CDR-15 can clearly run and hide with ease.


  • ACTION TYPE: Semiautomatic; two-stage piston; three-position regulator
  • CALIBER: 5.56mm NATO BARREL: 16.12 inches; 1:8
  • RH twist; 41V45 chrome moly-vanadium steel
  • MUZZLE DEVICE: Ruger flash suppressor; 1/2-28 TPI
  • TRIGGER: Ruger Elite 452; 4.5 pounds; two-stage
  • MAGAZINE: (3) Magpul PMAG 30-round
  • SIGHTS: Ruger folding; windage adjustment rear, windage and elevation adjustment Front
  • BUTTSTOCK: Magpul MOE SL, adjustable, six position
  • HANDGUARD: Ruger KeyMod rail
  • FINISH: Manganese phosphate/hardcoat anodized
  • OVERALL LENGTH (MINIMUM/ MAXIMUM): 32.75/36 inches
  • WEIGHT (UNLOADED): 7.1 pounds

MSRP: $2,199


The SR-556 Takedown packs away in it own knapsack that measures 22.5x7x7.5 inches. It has MOLLE straps, so it looks a bit tactical.

The SR-556 Takedown comes in a handy cross-the-shoulder bag. The Ruger emblem is a patch that removes for discretion. (It would be even more discrete without the tactical webbing.)

The SR-556 Takedown comes in a handy cross-the-shoulder bag. The Ruger emblem is a patch that removes for discretion. (It would be even more discrete without the tactical webbing.)

The Ruger disassembles into three key components: lower receiver assembly, upper receiver/handguard assembly and barrel/piston system assembly.

Takedown procedure is simple: The first step is to pull out the pivot and takedown pins and remove the upper receiver from the lower receiver (just as you would with a standard AR15 rifle) and remove the BCG. Take the upper receiver and move the slider bar on the underside of the handguard toward the rear. Then, rotate the barrel assembly clockwise with the muzzle facing away from you, and pull the barrel free from the handguard. That’s it.

When transporting the Ruger, slide the BCG group in the upper receiver, and you will have three main components. Reassembly is in reverse order. The thing to remember is if the BCG is in the forward-most position, it will exert a force on the barrel that can make it difficult to lock the barrel in place. Lock back the BCG when the upper and lower are assembled and then insert the barrel, twist it and it locks in place.

The design of the Ruger is simple and rugged, as well as repeatable and secure. Lugs at the chamber end of the barrel align with grooves in the upper receiver. Because this is a piston gun, there is no gas tube. It took me about 20 seconds once I had the hang of it. The 16.1-inch barrel is cold hammer-forged MIL-SPEC 41V45 chrome moly-vanadium steel, chrome lined and is capped off with Ruger’s flash suppressor.

The Ruger Takedown uses the same two-stage, four-position gas valve system found in the Ruger SR-556 rifles. There are four settings: 0, 1, 2 and 3. The 0 setting closes the valve so that the SR-556 acts like a single-shot rifle. The 1 setting lets the least amount of gas enter the system, while 3 allows the most gas. I like the ability to regulate the gas in the Ruger; it allows you to fine-tune the rifle when using a can.

The SR-556 Takedown uses a forged lower and upper receiver with MIL-SPEC selector lever, bolt release and magazine release. A Magpul MOE SL stock and Magpul MOE pistol grip round out the furniture. The handguard is proprietary to Ruger and is part of the takedown system. It is a KeyMod-configured handguard that is thin in hand. Ruger equips the Takedown with its proprietary folding sights. The front sight is attached to the gas block, and this sight can be adjusted for both elevation and windage. The zero stayed with the barrel, even when I swapped it out numerous times. The trigger is a two-stage Elite 452 AR-Trigger that is also proprietary to Ruger.

The Ruger is a heavy AR, and when you add to that the piston system, it results in very little felt recoil. These two characteristics and the trigger allowed me to get some good accuracy. The trigger averaged a 4.5-pound trigger pull with a bit of takeup in the fi rst stage and a short, crisp break in the second stage.

Using Aguila 62-grain FMJs and Federal American Eagle 55-grain FMJs, I shot three-shot groups that measured 0.22 and 0.29 inch, respectively. I fired the Ruger extensively, as I did with all the rifles, before disassembling and reassembling to see if residue would make the process more difficult. It did not with any of the rifles.

The SR-556 Takedown was pretty darned easy to disassemble and reassemble, and the takedown system is well thought out and rugged. Plus, there’s no fragile gas tube to get bent.

The Ruger uses a gas piston system, which means there is no gas tube to bend.

The Ruger uses a gas piston system, which means there is no gas tube to bend.


  • ACTION TYPE: Semiautomatic; gas impingement
  • CALIBER: .223 Rem./5.56mm
  • BARREL: 16 inches; 1:9
  • RH twist; M4 profile; 4150 chrome moly-vanadium steel
  • MUZZLE DEVICE: A2 style; ½x28 TPI
  • TRIGGER: 7.6 pounds; MIL-SPEC single stage
  • MAGAZINE: (1) 30-round
  • SIGHTS: A2-style front, no rear provided
  • SAFETY: Left side, two-position lever
  • BUTTSTOCK: M4 style, adjustable, six positions
  • HANDGUARD: Quad rail
  • FINISH: Manganese phosphate/hardcoat anodized
  • OVERALL LENGTH (MINIMUM/ MAXIMUM): 32.75/36 inches
  • WEIGHT UNLOADED: 7.1 pounds

MSRP: $1,299

The barrel retaining block and bail secured in position

The barrel retaining block and bail secured in position

The MARCK-15 Hydra comes disassembled in three key components and is stored in a standard-sized hard pistol case.

To take down the MGI, first lock back the BCG. A bail, located on the underside of the handguard, is flipped open, which allows the retaining block to slide toward the muzzle. This reveals two barrel retaining arms, which are easily rotated 90 degrees outward to disengage from the barrel. The barrel/gas tube assembly is then pulled out from the handguard.

When assembling the MGI, the gas tube needs to be lined up with the hole in the upper receiver. The handguard remains attached to the upper receiver and has a cutout so alignment of the barrel is made easier. On average, the MGI took about 20 seconds to completely assemble. (But you need strong fingers to work the bail.)

The benefit of the MGI is the ability to not only swap barrels for a simple caliber change—5.56 to 300 BLK; it also has the ability to swap out magazine wells. As a result, you can run 7.62x39mm ammo through it using AK magazines. Some 12 different caliber conversions are available, from .22 LR to .50 Beowolf.

Built with a forged 7075 T6 aircraft aluminum upper and lower receivers, the MARCK-15 Hydra is equipped with a standard, M4-style stock and A2-style pistol grip. The selector lever, magazine release, bolt carrier release and trigger are standard MIL-SPEC, while the rail/handguard is quad style.

I packed the MGI into the VooDoo pack and found it was easy to tote around—even with the TruGlo scope attached. In the included hard case, the TruGlo scope did not fit when mounted to the rifle. That’s what BUIS are for. Otherwise, the hard case was balanced and carried well.

At the range, the MGI rifle offered good accuracy, even with the heavy MIL-SPEC trigger. Shooting .25-inch three-shot groups at 100 yards with Aguila and IMI was not a hard task. On average, .57-inch groups were the norm. Disassembling and reassembling the rifle were relatively fast, and fouled components did not hinder the process. The zero was very repeatable, and it ran flawlessly.

I liked the versatility of the caliber conversions and the small footprint when disassembled.


  • ACTION TYPE: Semiautomatic; gas impingement
  • CALIBER: 5.56mm
  • BARREL: 16 inches; 1:7 RH twist; 4150 chrome moly-vanadium steel
  • MUZZLE DEVICE: Multi-ported compensator
  • TRIGGER: 6.6 pounds; MIL-SPEC single stage
  • MAGAZINE: (1) 30-round
  • SIGHTS: Proprietary folding front, Magpul MBUS rear
  • SAFETY: Left side, two-position lever
  • BUTTSTOCK: M4 style, adjustable, six positions
  • HANDGUARD: TAC2 aluminum tube FINISH: Manganese phosphate/hardcoat anodized
  • OVERALL LENGTH (MINIMUM/ MAXIMUM): 33.37/37.25 inches
  • WEIGHT UNLOADED: 8.5 pounds

MSRP: $1,195

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The TAC2 Discreet Carry AR15 Carbine comes in a plain briefcase just like the ones you see office workers and business folks carry to and from their offices. Except instead of lunch and a copy of the Wall Street Journal, there is a disassembled AR15 carbine.

Assembling the TAC2 is fast. Open the bolt by holding it slightly open and insert the barrel assembly—ensuring the gas tube aligns into the upper receiver. The lock plate, which is part of the barrel assembly, has two tabs that align with the barrel nut. Hold the barrel into the upper receiver, and release the bolt from finger pressure. Slide the forend tube over the barrel, and screw it tightly onto the barrel nut. Done. It takes fewer than 10 seconds to assemble.

The TAC2 uses a forged MIL-SPEC upper and lower receiver. An M4style adjustable stock is added the lower, along with an Ergo pistol grip. TAC2 also equips the Discreet Carry with a RediMag magazine carrier, so the rifle can come out of the case with two magazines.

All controls are MIL-SPEC, as is the trigger. The upper stays mated with the lower, which helps reduce assembly time and makes for a neat package. The barrel component uses a carbine-length gas tube and a low-profile gas block. The muzzle is capped off with a multi-ported compensator. Just to the rear of the muzzle device is the TAC2 proprietary front sight that folds flat. The third component is the aluminum handguard, which has a knurled texture so you can grip it firmly when tightening it. The TAC2 is well balanced in the briefcase and fits into a knapsack.

The TAC2 showed balance at the range, too. The weight of the TAC2 hovers at 8.5 pounds; that weight, along with compensator, helped reduce felt recoil. Mounting the TruGlo scope, I squeaked out good accuracy (you can see that this is a trend among these takedown ARs).

The Aguila ammo gave me the tightest groups. I had no failures, and disassembly/reassembly was not an issue, even when the TAC2 was fouled from shooting. Remember: Gloves are required. AR barrels heat up faster than a cheap toaster and stay hot.

If “business casual” is the required dress code, the TAC2 Discreet Carry AR15 is a great option. Fast to deploy and with good accuracy, the TAC2 gives you 60 rounds at your fingertips.

You can also get the TAC2 Discreet Carry as a kit and assemble it to nearly any MIL-SPEC upper and lower with no permanent modifications.


  • ACTION TYPE: Semiautomatic; gas impingement
  • CALIBER: 5.56mm
  • BARREL: 16 inches; 1:7 RH twist; 4150 chrome moly-vanadium steel
  • MUZZLE DEVICE: A2 flash hider
  • SIGHTS: Magpul MBUS front/rear
  • HANDGUARD: BCMGunfighter KMR
  • FINISH: Manganese phosphate/hardcoat anodized

MSRP: $800

The Cry Havoc QRB upper was mated to a PRA lower. The setup disassembled to a small footprint.

The Cry Havoc QRB upper was mated to a PRA lower. The setup disassembled to a small footprint.

Unlike the four other rifles tested, the Cry Havoc QRB (“quick-release barrel”) comes as a complete upper or kit. I assembled the upper to a PSA lower, which fit as if they were designed to fi t each other … with no wiggle. Assembling the Cry Havoc took me about five seconds. This is one fast AR15 to deploy.

There are two components. To assemble the QRB, lock back the BCG, insert the barrel and lock the two hooked levers. Done. It takes longer to read how to assemble the carbine than to actually do it. Because the design has both the upper and lower receivers assembled as one component, the speed to assemble the QRB is greatly reduced. I also tried fi ring the unit with only one hook clasped (I do not recommend this), and the rifle kept firing.

What I like about the QRB setup is that a pin protrudes over the gas tube, which is the fragile piece of all the gas-impingement takedown ARs. This pin protects the tube in case the upper is accidentally dropped.

Another nice feature is that the QRB can use nearly any aftermarket handguard. The only limitation is that the handguard must have a clean break at the upper receiver. Handguards with alignment or anti-rotation lugs or pins will not work unless the lugs or pins are cut flush.

Handguards that do fit include the Midwest Industries SS G2, YHM Customizable, BCM GunFighter KMR Free Float Hand Guard, among others. This system also uses MIL-SPEC barrels with a maximum barrel diameter of .985 inch. As on the TAC2 Discreet Carry, the Cry Havoc system can be installed without permanent modifications.

The full upper from Cry Havoc came with a forged MIL-SPEC upper receiver that was plain-Jane and with no forward asset— not that I needed the forward asset when I ran the upper.

The 16-inch barrel has a 1:7 twist rate and is manufactured from 4150 chrome moly-vanadium steel with a midlength gas system. An A2 flash hider capped off the muzzle. Iron sights were Magpul MBUS folding sights.
The Cry Havoc with the TruGlo optic mounted fit inside the VooDoo knapsack, along with the PSA lower and plenty of ammo.

I ran it hard and could not get it to choke. Gloves are recommended but not really needed with this system, because the barrel and handguard are one component. Even grimy, the rifl e reassembled with ease. And there were no issues with the rifle going back to zero after disassembly.

If you want speed, the Cry Havoc QRB is a good option.


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.