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By: Austin Knudsen

A few months back, TTAG was kind enough to post a review I did of the Robinson Armament XCR-M rifle in .308 Winchester/7.62 x 51 mm. The review was not flattering; the sample rifle, owned by a friend, had serious accuracy and reliability issues. Cosmetically and feature-wise, I was very impressed by it. However, after putting several different factory and bulk loads through the rifle, I ended up giving it only a 2-star rating. I added the caveat at the time that Robinson Armament had agreed to ship the rifle back for diagnosis and service. The rifle is now back from Robinson Armament, and, true to my word, here’s a second look at this controversial rifle . . .

My initial review of the XCR-M generated a number of reader comments, some of which offered constructive criticism. Complaint #1: I didn’t use any “match” ammo in my initial test. True, and point taken. In my second shooting session the owner and I included the only factory match ammo we could find- a Hornady Match offering loaded with 168 grain A-Max bullets. Complaint #2: I shot my initial groups at 75 yards, not at 100. True. All groups in this second review were fired at exactly 100 yards. Complaint #3: I didn’t check my scope or mounts. Come on, really? It’s the first thing I checked when the rifle didn’t group. I chose not to write about it in the first review because, honestly, I figured it was so obvious it didn’t merit mentioning. Complaint #4: user error, or the reviewer can’t shoot. All I can do on this one is assure the TTAG readership that I am a fairly proficient and prolific amateur rifle shooter, that I am a long-range rifle competitor who shoots iron-sighted rifles at ranges up to and past 1,000 yards, and that I am fairly good at it. I am not one to toot my own horn, but honestly, shooting a scoped rifle for groups at 100 yards really isn’t that tough of a proposition for me. Take that for what it’s worth.

 

So, let’s get down to nut cuttin’- this rifle had serious issues, and Robinson Armament took it back for service. What was the deal? First, a word about Robinson Armament’s customer service department. Robinson Armament has an internet gun forum reputation for… shall we say subpar customer service. This also came up in the comments of my first review. Following his experience with Robinson Armament customer service, however, the owner of this rifle assures me this bad reputation is completely undeserved. His experience was extremely positive, and communication was excellent. The turnaround time took a little longer than he would have liked, however, with a smaller company like Robinson Armament, I believe this can be forgiven, especially given what was found wrong with the rifle and Robinson Armament’s solution.

 

So what was wrong with the rifle? I quote an email the owner received from Holly Halverson with Robinson Armament customer service:

 

Dear *****

The engineer just came into my office and let me know what was wrong with your rifle; stripped/cross threaded barrel lock bolt. The barrel extension was under sized which was also causing accuracy issues. What we did to fix it: made the barrel accurate, replaced the upper receiver, re-painted upper and lower. It is ready to be shipped back out to you. We will get it boxed and packaged and get it out to you today.

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So, two serious issues were found with the rifle, the barrel lock bolt (shown in the 2 pictures above) was stripped out, which meant the barrel was not properly aligned in the receiver and was probably loose during initial testing. This obviously caused the extraction/reliability issues and certainly contributed to the rifle’s poor accuracy.

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The customer service email also states the barrel extension was undersized.  This is the rear-most portion of the barrel located inside the receiver that the bolt locks into when coming into battery.  If the barrel extension was undersized, it would be slightly loose in the receiver and possibly allow the entire barrel to wobble a little bit. Obviously, this would have a hugely detrimental affect on accuracy.  In any event, Robinson Armament says they fixed it as well.

What impresses me most about Robinson Armament’s customer service in this case is that rather than mess with re-machining or attempting to weld (aluminum weld, no less) up and tap new barrel lock threads into the old upper, they replaced the entire upper and repainted the entire rifle, at no charge to the owner. This to me shows that Robinson is taking customer complaints seriously and is willing to take care of problems. Whatever their old reputation may have been, in this case I’d say their stock went up. Now, I admit I don’t know what she means when her email says they “made the barrel more accurate” (did they lap the barrel? Re-crown it? Cryo treat it?), but what I can tell you is that the proof is in the pudding. Whatever problems this rifle had, they are gone. We spent the better part of an afternoon putting rounds through this repaired rifle, and not only did it never malfunction, it put up some pretty respectable groups.

Accuracy Testing

For the accuracy testing, the owner and I selected 4 different commercially available (read as “what we could find for sale”) loads:

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A Spanish surplus NATO 147 grain full metal jacket, a Russian TulAmmo steel-cased 150 grain full metal jacket, a Hornady match 168 grain A-Max, and an Ultramax 168 grain boat tail hollow point. All testing was done off a bench at exactly 100 yards. As stated before, the accuracy issues this rifle had previously are gone. I did discover this rifle definitely prefers heavier bullets. The best 5-shot group came from the Ultramax 168 grain load, which put up a very respectable 1 ½ inch group.

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The next best group came from the Hornady match load. Honestly, this should have been the best group, but my fifth shot was a called high flier on my part. When I sat back in for a sixth shot, it went right where it was supposed to with the rest of the group. If we disregard the flier, this load gave a very nice 1 3/8 inch group. For the sake of journalistic integrity (and at the expense of my pride), if we include the flier, the group opens up to 2 ¼ inches. Again, the flier was all shooter error, not the rifle or the load.

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The next best group was the TulAmmo 150 grain load, which came in with an approximately 2 11/16 inch group. Nothing to get too excited about. Here is where we started to see that the rifle seemed to prefer heavier bullets.

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Bringing up the rear (and I mean waaaay rear) was the NATO 147 grain load. This load put up a dismal 4 3/8 inch group.

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The most interesting about the accuracy test was that it went exactly like you’d expect it to: the more expensive ammunition shot the best, while the cheap stuff shot the worst.

Reliability

The other big problem with the XCR-M in my first review was reliability, or more to the point, the lack thereof. When I first reviewed the rifle, the chamber had just been cleaned and within 20 rounds, it started to suffer failure to extract malfunctions. These continued throughout the rest of that test. I now know that was a result of a loose barrel that was out of alignment with the bolt as a result of the stripped barrel lock bolt. In any event, this issue was resolved by the trip to the factory. So, after the accuracy testing, the owner and I decided to dump a few magazines full of the Spanish NATO ammo through the rifle to see what would happen. Nothing happened. Well, we shot up a lot of ammo really fast and were grinning like idiots. That happened. But the rifle never malfunctioned.

Another interesting note. To ensure reliability this time out, we turned the XCR-M’s adjustable gas system to its maximum setting.

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After I shot a few groups, we decided we’d better police up all of the spent brass. Only, we couldn’t find any. It was like the rifle had ejected them into a tear in the space/time continuum. The rifle’s owner was watching my groups through binoculars, so he couldn’t see where the brass was flying. It was only after firing a shot to see where the brass went did we learn why: the XCR-M was flinging brass 30 yards. That’s 90 feet for those of you who aren’t into bowling. So a heads up- if you take this rifle to a crowded range, you may want to turn your gas setting down or you are going to piss off all the other shooters to your right who aren’t keen on being pegged with hot flying brass.

I said in my first review that I was very impressed with the ergonomics and controls on the XCR-M, and that if the accuracy and reliability issues were resolved the rifle would have real potential. Well, I potentially may have to purchase my own XCR-M. With heavy bullets, this rifle shoots very well. Equally pleasing was the fact that the remanufactured 168 grain load shot nearly as well as the expensive match 168 grain load. It also appears that cheaper, lighter loads should be used in this rifle only when you’re shooting at ranges inside of 100 yards or when you just want to waste some serious money by pulling the trigger really fast.

It turns out my sample rifle was a lemon. Either the previous owner or the factory had over-torqued or cross threaded the barrel lock bolt, which stripped it out and caused the barrel to become loose, causing accuracy and reliability problems. However, when returned for service, both the accuracy and reliability issues were addressed. Beyond that, the customer service experience was excellent, according to the rifle’s owner. Replacing the entire upper, repainting both the upper and lower, and “making the barrel accurate” (whatever that means) at no cost to the owner (who is not even the original owner) proves to me that Robinson Armament is serious about customer service and treating their customers right. Based on my second experience with this rifle and the owner’s experience with the company, I now may have to make room in my safe for a Robinson Armament XCR-M.

Specifications:

Caliber: .308 Win (also .260 Remington)
Length: 37″ collapsed
Folded length: 30″
Weight: 9.25 lbs. empty
Barrel length: 18.6″ (also 16″ and 20″)
Top Rail Length: 20″
Side and bottom rails: 9.4″
Price: $2,500

Ratings (out of five stars):

Accuracy * * * *
1 ½ inch groups at 100 yards. Not too shabby for a battle rifle.

Ergonomics * * * * *
I had previously knocked this category down to four stars because of loose stock-to-receiver fit of the folding stock. This was also fixed at the factory. The ergonomics of this rifle are excellent. While a little heavy, it’s well-balanced, the controls are all in the right places, and the few controls that are in new places work great. Love the non-reciprocating charging handle. The adjustable length of pull stock is a great feature for further shooter comfort. A very good factory trigger rounds out a very user-friendly rifle.

Reliability * * * * *
We experienced zero malfunctions with this rifle in an afternoon of shooting. Granted, we didn’t put 1,000 rounds through it, but compared to the previous experience with this rifle, reliability was outstanding.

Customize this * * * * *
A top rail, bottom rail, and rail on each side of the forearm allow you to mount any accessory, optic, or light you can think of. Add to that that you can put any AR pistol grip on it you want, and you have a rifle you can really put your own signature on.

Overall * * * * *
This is a badass looking rifle that now has performance to match its looks. It’s going to cost you more in ammunition if you want to shoot precision with it, as it prefers heavier bullets not typically found in bulk or imported fodder. Accuracy was very good at 100 yards with 168 grain bullets. When mated with a quality optic, the XCR-M just may be the ultimate “one rifle” to suit all a shooters needs: sport, hunting, and personal defense.

 

44 Responses to Gun Review: Robinson Armament XCR-M, Part 2

  1. I believe the barrel extension would be the part of the barrel that is inserted into the upper, in ar15 style rifles this is the case.

      • I would also like to comment that “Made the Barrel Accurate,” probably meant removing the barrel from the extension and putting it on a new one. I’m willing to bet that it may have been a case of bad tolerances chosen for the upper and extension, and on the bleeding edge of both you ended up with a clearance. Replace both with closer to nominal parts, report problem to QC, make change request to examine fits and manufacturing processes.

        If the loop works correctly, you have a good company.

  2. This is yet another attempt to answer the question that FN (FAL) answered a long time ago. The wheel is yet reinvented.

    • Its not reinventing the wheel, its making a different wheel for a different vehicle and different driving uses.

    • I am not good with FALs, what accuracy are they capable of?

      I stick to AKs for now since they are easy to aquire and you won’t miss them too much if you lose them. I also stick to target guns due to the accuracy/competition aspect and because I can borrow one. In some years I will go after the Dragunov, sure they aren’t sub-MOA but they are capable of MOA with good ammo and maintenance (at least those I have seen). A good middle ground between accuracy and practicality.

        • “Lose” as in “dump it/get it confiscated after DGU”. That and I don’t travel with my guns so getting/borrowing an AK is easier than trying to travel through Europe with a FAL or AR. You can find AKs just about anywhere, about every fifth firearm is an AK if I remember correctly.

          The price is especially important if you have multiple houses and need some guns for fam&friends in each of them. Cheaper/easier to stash 5 AKs than it is to stash 2-3 ARs (shitty M16s if I might add).

          No, it isn’t illegal just frowned upon by the law.

          PS: I don’t drink/smoke, rather spend the money on ammo, gas or whatever I need now.

  3. Hi Austin,

    A barrel extension on an AR15 is that cylindrical component immediately behind the chamber into which the feed ramps are milled. My bet is that its the same part on the XCR.

  4. A barrel extension on an AR-style weapon is what the barrel is attached to and is in turn attached to the upper receiver. The locking lugs you see in the chamber would be part of said extension.

  5. Looks nice. It always sucks when people get a lemon to review. It’s a nightmare for the company who made it.

  6. The barrel extension is at the chamber end of the barrel. It being undersized would make it a loose fit in the receiver. Someone trying to rectify the loose fit could have over-tightened and stripped the barrel lock bolt thinking it was just a loose bolt causing the looseness.

  7. Sounds like one root cause of the initial problems.
    Barrel extension was too small, so whoever assembled it cranked down on that barrel lock bolt, which likely puts pressure on the barrel extension, until it stripped.

  8. The barrel extension is the (sort of) screw on sleeve on the chamber end of AR type barrels. It is the “locking lug” area for the bolt. Trying to explain it simply, the O.D. Of that extension was too small and therefore was allowing the barrel to “wobble” a bit where it is inserted in the upper receiver. They have the quick change barrel setup so that’s a slight issue.

  9. As others have said, the barrel extension is the “nut” that is screwed on to the barrel tenon on AR-pattern rifles. The barrel extension is fluted to match the locking lugs on the bolt, as well as being machined to set the headspace between the bolt face and the rear of the cartridge when the chamber is of the proper depth and the tenon is of the proper length.

    Once the tenon has been cut and the chamber reamed on an AR-style barrel, the extension is then screwed on, torqued to specification to achieve the crush, and then it is pinned to the barrel to prevent backing off. The pin is left long to index the barrel into the upper receiver, so that the feed cuts on the back side of the extension are properly located on the bottom, left and right of center, to aid in feeding cartridges out of the double-stack magazine.

    Stoner was an OK gun designer, but he was a hell of a manufacturing engineer. The AR barrel extension allows a whole lot of fiddly issues of headspacing a chamber and bolt to be wrapped up in two pieces that can be machined to tight tolerances (the extension and the bolt), and the rest of the rifle can be made to much more modest specifications. With Stoner’s design, the issue of how clapped out the receiver(s) are makes no impact on the headspacing issue. Most AR barrel suppliers can supply their barrels with the extension pre-installed, and once you have the extension installed and a spec bolt has been used with a “Go” and “No Go” gage to check the headspace, you’re done – you can install the barrel or put it on the shelf for later.

  10. Thanks guys. When I wrote this a few months back, my AR ignorance was really showing as I didn’t know what a barrel extension was. I then did my homework (which I should have done in the first place) and learned what a barrel extension is. I edited the review and sent it to the Editor for posting. They accidentally posted the original uncorrected version. The error was discovered, and the corrected version was posted within minutes. My thanks to TTAG editorial staff for the quick catch and for publishing.

  11. Thanks for the update. I’m curious how the gun would do with 175 grain ammo, but a 4-load review with groups definitely gives an idea of accuracy potential. I may have been one of the commentors bitching about scope mounting – didn’t mean to give offense. The first review led me to believe there was an issue with something, and it turns out the issue was the rifle itself and not the operator.

  12. I guess the first question, to me anyway, is did a gun in this price range leave the factory with the problems. If so, that reflects badly on the manufacturer, if that were so. However you later state that this is a second hand rifle with history unknown that you borrowed from a buddy for the review. Since that hasn’t been determined here and that this questionable history was known (?) at the time of the first review, I wouldn’t have published such a negative article without determining that first.

    Minor issue, the repairs mentioned that would have required welding of the aluminum probably weren’t done because 7075 aluminum is not weldable. Replacement was the only option.

  13. Warning – Do a search for Robinson Arms Customer Service before you buy

    I got one of their rifle a few years ago for testing. It failed. They sent me a second. I failed. They never bothered to send me a 3rd.

    If they abandon the platform like they did their last, customers will be out in the cold as no one else makes parts. Ill stick with SCAR or AR15s

  14. I have a question for Nick.

    Did Robinson know that they were providing customer service to a writer for a gun blog seen by millions of people every month?

    If they did, then their “redemption” is meaningless.

    The repairs to the rifle are also nearly meaningless. Who is to say they did not take a perfectly standard example of their product and blueprint and tune it within ten thousandths of an inch of production tolerances.

    In summary, If they knew who was sending in the gun, they would have to be utter fools to not go through it with a fine toothed comb. So what really happened is that you sent in a bad performing production rifle. And you got back a well gone over T&E sample.

    I look forward to hearing the answers to these questions.

    Don

    • I have a question for you.

      Do you realize that Nick wasn’t involved in this and that the gun is the personal rifle of a friend (who was not named) of a reader that submitted a review and has never done anything else for TTAG?

  15. I’d expect a whole lot more than this for $2,500. You could easily build an AR10 that would out shoot this thing for $1,500 or less. You can buy guaranteed 1 moa AR10s for $1700. Even building a rifle would be less time and trouble after you factor in having to send the thing back. I don’t get the five stars.

  16. Holy crap! I just looked at the comments to the original review. Check out these gems from the owner of Robinson Armament:

    “Fourth, if you post a bunch of whiny petty negative stuff here or anywhere, I guaranty very slow service. I have made that a policy. Yes, we’ve made lots of mistakes with service but that is behind us.
    Now for some parting comments. I am very happy with the current state of the XCR. It continues to gain in popularity. A great part of our sales are to Military and Law Enforcement professionals. Though we’ve got the XCR to the point where is nearly perfect, we are not stopping. We will continue to perfect the platform and add accessories. Work continues on the XCR .308. It will be finished when it is perfect and we hope that will be soon.

    We appreciate those who stand by and support us. They are true patriots. We have to question the motives of those who continue to tear us down on this forum. They cannot stop us. Their petty feeble minds are easily exposed. The XCR will gain momentum until it covers the whole earth. There is no other platform like it and it is the best.

    Sincerely,

    Alex J. Robinson
    General Manager
    Robinson Armament Co.

    P.S. Don’t expect me to read and respond to this post. It is for your information only.'”

    • Wow – if you don’t “stand with them” then not only are you going to get slow service, but your patriotism is called into question? If you don’t care for Robinson Armament products, you’re what: a traitor? Treasonous? Good God.

    • Alex Robinson showed his true colors here, in his own words.

      Hell, even if he wasn’t a raving narcissist, I’m not giving Robinson Arms thousands of dollars for a gun with
      1) so many quality control issues
      2) so many poor accuracy reports
      3) reliability issues

      Thanks, but absolutely no thanks.

    • I am pretty sure this statement is from 2-4 years ago. People grow, change. If I ran a company I would not want people bitching or belittling my employees.

      • you should also not give the buying-public a reason to bitch and hire good employees. people who’ve spent their money have a right to complain, of course he doesn’t have to hear it and can take forever to fix their things but that just digs his company’s grave deeper. the only solution is to operate on the up-and-up, do everything right, develop a positive reputation and watch the big-fucking-dollars roll in; a success you can be proud of. either that or embarrass yourself and your company on the regular in front of millions of people, dooming your financial ventures into failure and lose all credibility. damn, i love the system we’ve created.

  17. I think having to send a rifle back to the manufacturer for a major overhaul should cause some sort of lowering of the “reliability” score.

  18. The Robinson XCR is a really great concept that I bought into and really hoped would be awesome in practice. My XCR-L was a MOA shooter. Ergonomics were great, although it’s heavy. What wasn’t great was the out of battery detonation that occured at range. Robinson claimed it was a product of my reloads, that I was using ‘soft’ primers. There’s something wrong with the bolts on these guns. Every round I fired, factory or reload, created an inverse primer pocket (portruded out, not in), even went real light on a batch using less than minimum powder charge and the primer looked the same. Ultimately the gun suffered an out of battery detonation. The round exited the right side of the receiver with the bolt 2/3rds of its travel forward. After multiple phone calls and emails, Robinson fixed the rifle, but I found that shooting it still resulted in the same odd primer divet. If you’ve got an XCR and your primers don’t look right, stop shooting it NOW.

  19. Sorry, 1.5 MOA from a .308 is pathetic. At the price they’re asking it’s downright insulting.

    I shoot 0.5″ groups with the plain-jane DPMS that sits in my safe, and do so with most 168gr BTHP “match” loads. It has never failed me, and even if it did, I could easily replace whatever parts needed replacing or just buy 2 or 3 replacements for the price of the RobArms.

    This XCR-M is like a Ferrari replica made out of a clapped-out Pontiac Fiero. Sure, it looks the part–but it doesn’t measure up when it comes to performance.

  20. Still waiting to hear if Robinson knew they were fixing a review gun or just something owned by a philistine.

    • Robinson did not know it was fixing a rifle used for review. One of the reasons I did not identify the rifle’s owner in the original write-up is so we could ensure anonymity if/when the rifle was returned for service. When the owner contacted RA, they were not informed that this was a test rifle, and would have no way of knowing that it was.

      • Thanks Austin,

        As you could imagine, whether or not RA knew this was a test gun could be a huge factor in the quality of service the customer receives. You may want to consider adding the fact that RA did not know this was a test gun to the article.

        • they definitely saw the original review and probably recognized it and it’s problems when they got it in, if they had seen the review before they got the rifle in.

  21. At least you got an explanation of what happened. I had to send my POF P308 back after 100 rounds and it just reappeared somewhat cleaner and with no explanation of their findings whatsoever. Haven’t fired it since. I really wanted to love that rifle after what I put down for it, but I learned back in the lean years and my Hi-Point days that the best warranty is one you never have to use.

    And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that after your first review they just put out a BOLO on all incoming XCR-Ms. They’re small enough that the volume would be low.

  22. Thanks for doing the follow-up. I have an XCR and have shot it for years. I love the damn thing and it runs like a raped ape. I previously posted some negative comments about the previous review, but you have vindicated yourself sir and I greatly appreciate it. Thank-you again!

  23. I’m also an XCR-M owner and have had experiences somewhat similar to the reviewer. Initially I had great wallet regret after discovering it would only hold 4 minutes with white box ball, but I’m glad to see match ammo is capable of better groups. On the reliability side of things, I followed the manual’s recommended 300 round break in on full gas prior to dropping the gas. During the first 100 or so I had some really strange malfunctions, like the fixed ejector hitting the brass so hard that it flipped a full 180 before leaving the gun and stovepiped, in addition to sending burning hot brass flying down clear from one side of the firing line to the other at my public range. After the break in, I set it to position 3 (also per the manual) and it’s been golden. Still kicks brass flying, but a lot softer to shoot and no malfunctions. I realize .308 is really expensive for 25 yd and in shooting, but with a Micro T1 and a muzzle brake, the gun is an absolute hoot to shoot, and very mild recoil (With a brake, comparable to my 14.5″ middy 5.56mm AR with no brake).

  24. Not really sure on the author’s “liked heavier loads” conclusion. I noticed as the loads got lighter so did the cost and quality of the ammo. That might have more to do with it than the weight.

    I have an XCR-M in .308 with a 20″ barrel. It liked Remington Core-Lockt and Winchester Power Point in 180 Grain, HATED Federal Power Shock in 180, and absolutely LOVES Hornady 150gr Superformance SST.

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