The new class of semi automatic carbines

   I tested several models of Franklin Armory's new semi automatic carbines. It was exciting to get a chance to shoot tactical products made only a couple of hours from my own home. I found that Franklin Armory produces reliable cost-effective tools for individual officer purchase and department issue.

   The showcase carbine in the company's inventory is the HSC-15 (Homeland Security Carbine-15). It comes standard with a 16-inch chrome-lined barrel and a forged 7075-T6 receiver and upper. All models are available with a six-position stock. The Franklin Armory upper has a unique feature, but more about this later.

   Franklin Armory is part of a California corporation that has been around for 20 years. The firearms side of the business is relatively new. It is also an anomaly, simply because restrictive California laws have chased many businesses away, especially businesses related to the firearms industry. Jay Jacobson, the business-savvy president of Franklin Armory, recognized the opening and capitalized on it.

   The opening? Few were making carbines for the California market. Franklin Armory can provide California products and also meet the needs of law enforcement agencies.

   Just for clarification: Several items on a standard AR-15 make them illegal in California. As I understand it, some believe that making gun laws more restrictive will reduce crimes with firearms. I am unsure what created this logic, but citizens who wish to own firearms must comply by not having certain characteristics on their guns. Franklin Armory products exported out of state or sold to law enforcement professionals will not have these characteristics.

   When I interviewed Jacobson, he candidly pointed out that reliability is on the forefront of the company's philosophy. Franklin doesn't make boutique carbines and call them tactical. (Note: They do make a .25 WSSM and I shot one, but this article is tactically driven, not about driving tacks).

   The HSC-15 looks and feels like a typical AR-15 carbine. It comes standard in 5.56, and is designed to be safe to shoot .223 or 5.56. As most people know, 5.56 and .223 are similar, but not necessarily interchangeable. Carbines designed for 5.56, according to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) need a little beefier chamber to handle the additional 10,000 cup. The HSC-15 can also be configured for other cartridges like the 6.5 Grendel and the 6.8 Remington by changing out the upper.

   The HSC-15 receiver is cleanly machined and the matte finish is evenly applied. It looks like a common MIL-SPEC part until one looks down from the top at the small protrusion in front of the rear disassembly pin. This is the specialized tension screw, a very unique feature. This is the reason why the Franklin Armory lower is really law enforcement friendly.

   Law enforcement carbine users know that there are some products that will work in a wide array of situations, but no single solution works for all of them. They accommodate special applications by either owning a lot of different types of long guns, or modifying their carbine to work a range of tactical problems.

   Officers and agencies are getting smarter. If they own one good lower, they can mate it with their repertoire of uppers. The problem is, not every upper cleanly mates with every lower. There is some play deliberately engineered into them. This creates a little slop or "battle rattle" in some carbines.

   The Franklin Armory has an adjustable tension screw with a nylon tensioner that cinches everything up. A simple twist of a 3/32 Allen wrench, and the upper swap is complete.

   An officer can own one lower and several uppers. The 6.8 Remington is for the call out, the .223 is for the sling ride into the remote marijuana field, the "shorty" is for warrant service.

   The existence of a "really good complete lower" has sparked some debates among my friends. I like the 1/9 twist because I practice with lightweight bullets and 1/9 rifling can stabilize most projectiles lighter than about 70 grains. My friend told me that he uses 75-grain Hornady TAP T2 (No. 8126N) rounds, a cartridge with absolutely superior performance. This calls for a 1/7 twist. I hadn't thought of the 75-grain TAP bullets, but they are a good reason to have a 1/7 upper handy.

   Franklin Armory has a service where the law enforcement officer can have a badge number or even a badge engraved on the receiver. The charge is nominal and I was surprised how quickly this request can be filled. For agencies making a bulk purchase, this could aid in inventory maintenance (and pride of ownership).

   The fact that Franklin Armory is a small shop is advantageous to the operator. The stakeholders can personally ensure that everything that leaves the shop meets their expectations.

   The HSC-15 uses a MIL-SPEC trigger assembly. When I tried it out I noticed the military feel immediately. The trigger has a noticeable creep, where one can feel the release part of the mechanism engaging the hammer sear.

   Target shooters do not like creep, because it can cause a slight movement while squeezing the trigger, which is somewhat imperceptible in a tactical carbine. For the HSC-15, the amount of trigger creep is about right. Moreover, this is in keeping with the design philosophy of making the product reliable first. MIL-SPEC parts are not for ideal conditions, they are for safety and reliability.

   I shot a 6.8 Remington upper on the HSC-15 carbine, which Franklin Armory also carries. It was a medium weight barrel and operated smoothly. The HSC-15 comes with a six-position collapsible stock, and I generally prefer a solid stock when shooting this platform and 30-caliber bullets. Although it tossed brass a bit further than I am accustomed, it tossed bullets out the business end rather well. I shot it as quickly as I could cycle it and held the muzzle down comfortably.

   The 6.8 Remington has a lot of promise for law enforcement, and it will someday be widely adopted. It runs about 60 to 80 percent of the energy of a .308 and will still operate in a standard AR-15 (HSC-15) receiver. It has excellent performance at moderate distances, and does not significantly impact an agency's logistics.

   I could have shot the Franklin Armory 6.8 all day comfortably. All of Franklin's products I've shot were reasonably accurate, and there were no indications that would cause one to question reliability.

   Franklin Armory is a relative newcomer in the industry. It makes its products in the United States of entirely U.S. parts. They are law enforcement friendly and cost effective.