Over the last few years, I've had the opportunity to cover the National Association for Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) show for American Rifleman. During the most recent event, I took a few minutes to stop by the TNW Firearms booth. I'd enjoyed working with the company's 9 mm ASP pistol earlier in the year so I wanted to see what they had on tap for the New Year.
The gun they handed me put a big smile on my face. It was the latest version of the Aero Survival Rifle (ASR) which has been available chambered in 9 mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. For 2016, the rifle will now be available in the potent 10 mm cartridge. Although factory loaded 10 mm ammunition is readily available from several companies these days, and more semi-automatic pistols are showing up on the market, only a handful of rifles are available in 10 mm. So, I was eager to find out how this rifle and ammunition combination would perform.
The ASR is a blowback-operated semi-automatic, pistol-caliber takedown rifle originally designed as a survival gun for airplane pilots stuck in the wilderness. It employs an interesting mix of design concepts which makes the platform simple, rugged and reliable in harsh environments. The components are laser cut, milled, or lathed from high-quality billet materials for added strength and durability. The rifle is shipped with a useful set of accessories so that it's ready to go to work when it arrives.
The single-piece tubular upper receiver is milled from aircraft grade aluminum, as is the lower receiver which houses the trigger group. The heavy steel bolt assembly accounts for just over a pound of the rifle's total 6 lb. weight. It's held in the closed position by an AR-type buffer assembly. When a round is fired, the rearward movement of the bolt assembly is slowed by the bolt's weight and the buffer spring. When the bolt has moved completely to the rear and ejected the spent cartridge, it is then pressed forward again by the buffer spring. There are no gas tubes or pistons to plug up or break. Although some pistol-caliber rifle and carbine designs might not be able to handle the increased pressure levels of the 10mm cartridge, this gun is strong enough to handle it with aplomb.
The upper receiver features an integral 9.5" M1913 Picatinny optics rail. An AIM Sports compact 4x32 fixed power scope with a set of medium profile rings ships with the rifle. At the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions, just ahead of the trigger guard, the receiver is drilled and tapped to accept the 3.5" aluminum accessory rail that customers will find in the rifle box along with the necessary mounting hardware. The reciprocating charging handle is located on the right side. Although the bolt does not lock open when the last round in the magazine is fired, the bolt handle can be pulled back and tipped up into a notch in the receiver hold it in the open position.
The Parkerized 4140 steel 16.25” barrel is secured to the upper receiver using a 3.32” ventilated aluminum barrel nut. A few twists of the nut allows the barrel to be lifted out of the receiver for easy rifle storage or for cleaning. The muzzle of this rifle is not threaded but TNW offers threading services for a nominal fee so that muzzle devices or sound suppressors can be attached. The matte black aluminum buffer tube attached to the rear of the upper receiver accepts a commercial-size AR-15 6-postion shoulder stock for an adjustable length of pull (LOP) ranging from 9.50" to 13.50". The stock provided with the ASR features a textured butt plate, a single flush-cup sling mount and four steel line ports (two front, two back) for the sling mount.
The lower receiver is attached to the upper by two removable retention pins. The removable polymer pistol grip is of the AR-15 variety. This gun arrived with the lean, comfortable A*B Arms compact SBR P*Grip installed, which is a good fit for the rifle. A cross bolt safety button is located above the narrow steel bow trigger. The trigger feels like a single-stage model with a clean break and a short travel distance of 0.30" before it comes to rest against the interior of the trigger guard. The trigger was smooth and required 4 lbs. 10 oz. of trigger pull to cycle.
The magazine well is curved along its front edge to provide a finger rest and configured to accept Gen3 and Gen4 Glock pistol magazines. For the 10 mm version of the ASR, compatible magazines include those manufactured for the Subcompact G29, the Standard size G20 and long-slide G40. One 15-round Standard factory magazine is provided with the rifle. The rounded magazine release button is located on the left side of the magazine well and allows magazines to drop free of the rifle when pressed.
Now here's where things get even more interesting. Each ASR is caliber convertible. One upper receiver and buffer tube assembly is used for all caliber configurations. Two lower receivers are currently available, one for 9 mm, .40 S&W and.357 Sig Glock magazines and the other for .45 ACP and 10 mm magazines. Three interchangeable bolt faces are kept in stock including the 9 mm, .357/.40/10 mm and .45 ACP. Finally, there are five different barrels, each chambered for a specific cartridge. Don’t worry if this seems confusing. TNW provides a conversion parts list table on their website. Customers can select from a variety of hard anodized receiver colors including black, OD Green (shown here), flat dark earth and variegated finishes in black/green and black/pink.
The ASR was a blast to shoot at the range. The rifle feels light, handy and well balanced thanks to having most of the its weight located in the receivers. There’s no sense of muzzle heaviness so the gun swings nicely, making target acquisition quick and easy. All of the controls functioned flawlessly with the trigger proving to be a real pleasure to work with.
Those looking for a convenient means of storing and carrying the ASR rifle and its caliber conversions in the field will be happy to learn that TNW now offers the Bug Out Backpack. Designed to look like a day pack, this bag provides pockets for gun components and ammunition with plenty of room left over for additional gear. There is also a pocket for a level 3 ballistics plate (the kind used in soft ballistic body armor). I was impressed with the quality of the materials and construction of this backpack considering the affordable $99 price tag.
The ASR was tested with a variety of 10 mm rounds. There were one or two failures to feed with a particularly wide-mouthed copper hollow point. But other than that, the rifle properly digested what it was fed without any other problems. Felt recoil was a bit more vigorous than I would have expected from a pistol-caliber carbine, although it was still moderate and controllable with all loads fired.
The 10 mm cartridge produces impressive levels of performance from handguns when loaded to higher pressure levels. Stretching the barrel length out from around 5" to 16.25" promised higher velocities, which turned out to be the case. Formal accuracy testing consisted of bench rested 5-shot groups fired at 100 yards using the AIM Sport optic. Bullet velocities were measured for 10 shots using a MagnetoSpeed V.3 barrel-mounted chronograph.
HPR HyperClean 165-gr. hollow-base flat point practice rounds have a listed pistol velocity of 1290 fps. Fired from the ASR velocity increased to 1548 fps with a muzzle energy of 878 ft lbs. This load yielded a best single 5-shot group of 2.38" with an average of 2.58". The top-notch Double Tap 180-gr. Bonded Defense jacketed hollow points jumped from 1300 fps. to 1519 fps. generating muzzle energy of 922 ft lbs. This proved to be the most accurate load with a best single group of 1.90" and an average of 2.12".
But the blue ribbon for bullet speed went to the new Liberty Civil Defense 60-gr. nickel-plated copper hollow point. This round scoots right along at 2400 fps. when fired from a pistol. Shot from the ASR, bullet velocity averaged 3087 fps. with an impressive muzzle energy of 1269 ft lbs. Accuracy was on par with the Double Tap load delivering a single best group of 2.05" and an average of 2.22".
When it comes to finding a pistol-caliber carbine that is lightweight, rugged and easy to store, the TNW Aero Survival Rifles are hard to beat. Not only is the latest version of this rifle comfortable and enjoyable to shoot, it can be converted to shoot several other popular semi-auto pistol cartridges. Chambered in 10 mm, the ASR is a terrific option for use as a camp rifle, trunk gun, for hog hunting, and personal protection against dangerous animals of the four-legged and two-legged variety.
Specifications Manufacturer:TNW Firearms, Inc. Model: Aero Survival Rifle (ASR) Action: Blowback Operated Semi-Automatic Caliber: 10 mm Receivers: 6160 Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Receiver Finish: Hard Anodized OD Green Barrel: Parkerized 4140 Chromoly Steel Grip: A*B Arms Compact SBR P*Grip Optic: AIM Sports Compact Fixed Power 4x32 with Rings Barrel Length: 16.25” Overall Length: 29.75" to 33.50" Length of Pull (LOP): 9.50" to 13.50" Weight: 6.00 lbs. with Empty Magazine Capacity: 15+1 lbs. Twist: 1:10” RH Rifle Grooves: Six Accessories: Scope, Removable Accessory Rail, QD Sling Swivel, One Glock Magazine, Owner's Manual Rifle MSRP: $799 Caliber Conversion Kits: $205 - $450 Bug Out Backpack: $99