“It’s the quietest 5.56 ever,” the guy at Silencer Shop boasted. I’d stopped by their Austin, TX HQ to borrow something for review. But I didn’t walk in with an idea of exactly what I wanted to check out. An integrally-suppressed AR-15 upper receiver that’s as quiet as a supersonic 5.56 has ever been? Yup. Sign me up . . .
Naturally, the first thing I did was take it apart (yes, it’s the very rare 5.56 can that disassembles for cleaning). That’s it? Color me surprised to see such a tiny, monocore baffle design in there. The core is 6AL4V titanium and the tube is titanium as well.
Not only is it small — about six inches long — but the core effectively has just two full baffles plus the “end cap.” This is GEMTECH’s patented “G-Core Technology.” For those who don’t think suppressor manufacturers are using computational fluid dynamics programs and other tech to model gas flow, guess again.
The INTEGRA (why am I yelling?) comes with a disassembly tool, but that square hole in the front of the monocore conveniently accepts a standard 3/8″ socket wrench, too. Lefty loosey to remove it from the threaded muzzle on the 10.5″ barrel that’s hiding down inside of the tube.
Also worth noting are the four small ports in the front of the 5.56 INTEGRA’s core. Those apparently vent gases from inside the muzzle chamber area, and do so at an angle that imparts a clockwise spin to the core. Basically, it’s self-tightening.
As cleaning the inside of the tube on an integrally-suppressed upper — if it can be cleaned — can be a herculean feat, the INTEGRA’s core has a nifty feature engineered right into it. Both the top and the bottom are designed with a near full-length carbon scraper edge facing in the anticlockwise direction. Unscrewing the core, which means causing it to spin inside of the tube, scrapes the inside wall clean. Carbon deposits are shaved off and come out with the core.
While the core clearly fits very snugly and precisely inside of the tube, it’s intentionally left “open” at the rear. Gas and pressure are free — encouraged, really — to flow backwards over the barrel and take advantage of the absolutely massive expansion chamber that exists from the core’s first baffle all the way back to the gas block.
And what a nice gas block it is. The “GEMTECH / NEMO Arms patented gas block” does double duty as the suppressor tube’s rear cap. In fact, the gas block and the cap are one-in-the-same, machined from a monolithic piece of what I assume is titanium as it’s very nicely TIG welded to the Ti tube. It doesn’t get cleaner than this.
The gas system is pistol-length, but forget about timing issues or excessive gas to the face. Since this upper was built to run exclusively suppressed, the gas port sizing was tuned just right. Or, perhaps it’s getting its gas pressure from inside of the tube instead of bleeding it off of the barrel. I actually can’t say for sure, but I can say that the result is a smooth-shooting, perfectly sorted AR-15 with less blowback gas than any other suppressed 5.56 AR I’ve shot.
Actually, that isn’t the end of the story. At first I wondered why the barrel was so heavy (thick) between the receiver and the gas block, but later learned that GEMTECH has managed to incorporate a functioning bore evacuator into the INTEGRA’s barrel.
That’s right! Similar to the system used on tanks to prevent cartridge combustion gases from coming back through the breech and killing everyone in the tank, GEMTECH has built bore evacuation into the INTEGRA. As demonstrated in the animation above, the point of this system is to suck the gas and debris from inside of the barrel’s bore out through the muzzle, whereas without it the opposite happens. In addition to proper gas system tuning, this system explains a huge part of the INTEGRA’s gas-to-the-face-free, quiet experience.
Thanks to the permanently-attached tube, the legal “barrel” length of this upper — in both 300 BLK and 5.56 — is 16.1″. So it’s a one-stamp set-up (it’s a suppressor, but it doesn’t make an SBR).
Inside the VLTOR Modular Upper Receiver is VLTOR / BCM charging handle and a Ballistic Advantage bolt carrier group. Barrel manufacturer isn’t specified, but Ballistic Advantage makes great barrels (I run their 8.3″ BA Hanson on my 300 BLK SBR) and it’s certainly possible GEMTECH went with BCG and barrel from the same shop.
Ahead of that extremely nice receiver is a 15″ Seekins Precision handguard with full-length top rail, MLOK slots on the sides and bottom, and QD sockets front and rear on the sides and bottom.
All of these non-GEMTECH-manufactured components are not only high quality, but they work together seamlessly. Fit, finish, look and feel are exemplary.
Out on the range it all came together quite nicely. Shooting inexpensive CapArms “Superior Range Ammo” it’s fair to say I was quite surprised by just how quiet the INTEGRA is. Yes, despite the hype.
Look, I don’t shoot a .223/5.56 AR-15 without ear protection. I chalked it up to the supersonic crack of the bullet simply being too loud or at least too uncomfortable, and maybe the AR sending too much gas and pressure back through the action. Naturally, I began my first range session with the INTEGRA with plugs in place. It seemed quiet. Very quiet.
Removing the plugs subjected me to the INTEGRA’s full, ~131 dB (with 5.56) average volume level. Which, for the first time, really sounded like it was all supersonic bullet noise. It seemed like the loudest sound itself was coming from out in front of me — a crack seemingly generated some 15+ yards downrange. I could clearly hear that sonic boom traveling towards the rock wall 500 yards distant, then the sound of the bullet impact making its way back to me.
On that and the next range outing I actually shot without plugs quite a lot, even plopping down for accuracy testing without going back to the ear pro. In fact, I was listening to talk radio on my cell phone’s speaker the entire time. A pleasant range day for sure.
I got the INTEGRA nicely rested and generally sighted in with the CapArms range fodder, then grabbed a box of their 60 grain V-Max and shot a five-round group at 100 yards. Sure, it’s only a 10.5″ barrel and match accuracy isn’t exactly a top design parameter, but group at 100 yards it did.
IMI’s 77 grain 5.56 Razor Core shot slightly tighter groups.
Followed by a couple groups with the superlative 69 grain Federal Gold Medal Match.
Even with me behind the trigger, the INTEGRA is fully capable of 1 MOA, five-shot groups and it’s doing that in a hearing-safe, 16″ barrel length equivalent package.
Right off the bat — the first rounds through this new INTEGRA — I suffered some feeding problems. It was pretty dry in the upper and seemed like the BCG was a bit slow. At some point through the second magazine it began running smoothly and confidently, though it still exhibited a failure to feed or to return completely into battery once every other mag or so. It never failed to lock open on empty, so I do believe the carrier was receiving enough gas to cycle fully.
Before the next range outing I lubed the BCG and swapped lowers, as Silencer Shop had warned me that the upper doesn’t play well with some ambi bolt release lower receivers. In this particular case I think it was just a little lube that did the trick, as another 150 rounds went downrange without a single hiccup.
The smooth recoil indicates a well-tuned gas system. Combined with the bore evacuation system there’s a distinct lack of gas and debris to the face. There’s also less gas- and pressure-induced noise escaping the action than I’m used to with a suppressed AR. Overall the INTEGRA runs smoothly and precisely, with none of the violent cycling exhibited in most ARs when a suppressor is simply slapped on the business end.
It also balances nicely without feeling nose-heavy, as the complete upper weighs five pounds dead-on and the titanium core accounts for precious little of that. Basically, it’s around a half pound heavier than a standard, 16″ barrel complete upper with long handguard and M16 profile BCG. While out on the range shooting offhand and transitioning between targets, the INTEGRA feels solid and purposeful, but not heavy or slow.
Airspace between the tube and the handguard is relatively limited, but a single mag dump didn’t get things uncomfortably warm. Turning two full mags into [limited] noise and smiles? You’ll want a glove for that business, and will likely find your support hand starting to migrate closer to the receiver and farther from the suppressor tube. In my normal range day use the heat didn’t come into play. I’d gladly run this upper in a 3-Gun match, too. Out on a hog hunt? Absolutely. Apparently the INTEGRA is in use by Special Forces (UK, I believe?) now as well.
While it isn’t actually the quietest 5.56 AR-15 setup ever, it likely is the quietest one of its length. 131 dB on a 10.5″ barrel is unheard of, and GEMTECH has done it with a single tax stamp. The INTEGRA’s core is also easily removed for cleaning and the gas system is tuned just so. That, combined with the bore evacuator, kept the action extremely clean — basically right on par with a well-tuned, non-suppressed AR. Impressive.
Specifications: GEMTECH INTEGRA 5.56
Caliber: 5.56×45 (also available in 300 Blackout)
Action: direct impingement, non-adjustable gas block integral to suppressor tube, bore evacuator system
Rifled Barrel Length: 10.5 inches (10 inches in 300 BLK)
Twist Rate: 1:7
Total Effective (legal) Barrel Length: 16.1 inches
Weight: 5.00 lbs
Suppressor Materials: 6AL4V Titanium monocore, titanium tube
Rated Volume Level: 131 dB (128 dB in 300 BLK)
Parts Included: Complete, ready-to-run upper with BCG and charging handle
MSRP: $1,999 (~$1,855 on Silencer Shop, who is the exclusive retailer and distributor. Available via Silencer Shop and their dealer network)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability * * *
Honestly, if it were lubed from the factory it probably would have run without a hitch from the factory. Plus I ignored Silencer Shop’s advice that ambi bolt release lowers might not play well with this upper. After the first mag it ran okay, with a feeding issue about once every other mag. After lubricating the BCG and swapping lowers, it ran absolutely 100 percent with four brands of ammo. I’d need a couple months with the INTEGRA to really rate its reliability with high confidence, though, so we’ll call it average.
Accuracy * * * *
1 MOA isn’t anything groundbreaking these days, but to do it out of a 10.5″ shorty barrel, suppressed, is impressive. Even with cheap plinking ammo I was consistently in the 2 to 3 MOA range and never shot anything over 3 MOA.
Sound * * * * *
Probably the quietest “SBR” AR-15 ever. Especially at the shooter’s ear, thanks to the lack of noise out the action, the INTEGRA is amazingly quiet.
Design * * * * *
From the carbon-scraping core that’s easily removed with a socket wrench (heck, just the fact that it’s a take-down 5.56 can in the first place) to the bore evacuation system and the incredibly clean, monolithic gas block / suppressor tube rear cap, the design of the INTEGRA is extremely well thought out and innovative.
Overall * * * * *
It ain’t cheap, but it’s definitely effective, well made, and innovative. Fit and finish are awesome and all of the parts were chosen and assembled with care. The INTEGRA is compact, yet industry-leading quiet, and as clean and gas-free as it gets. It’s a hell of an upper receiver.