Early last year, Advanced Armament made a splash unveiling their Honey Badger PDW. It was a thing of beauty; a custom-designed .300 AAC Blackout rifle that’s no bigger than an MP5SD and with looks that could kill. But as the year wore on, the Honey Badger ran into some trouble. Now, with the unveiling of SIG SAUER’s MCX line, even Kevin Brittingham (the man who championed the Honey Badger’s development) admits that his beloved creation has been bested by SIG’s engineers . . .
I was sitting on Kevin’s porch late one night (and after way too many drinks) when the topic of the Honey Badger came up. As he tells it, the initial response to the new gun from units-which-shall-not-be-named was overwhelmingly positive. They loved the concept, they loved the design, and they even loved the “let’s not take ourselves too seriously” attitude of the packaging (the rifles were delivered in hot pink rifle cases).
The Honey Badger may be an M4 at heart, but only in the same way that Boeing’s new 747-8 is a 747 — the concept is the same but the materials, the operating bits and exterior design were completely new. Advanced Armament re-designed the system to operate without a buffer assembly, engineered in a collapsible skeletonized stock and designed a completely new barrel in order to make the thing work. While this allowed them to take some nifty steps forward, it also meant that there were some serious bugs to be worked out.
By the time that the initial response from the field about the gun was coming back, Kevin had been fired from AAC (the company he founded) by Freedom Group, the engineers in the R&D department had been re-assigned to boost production of existing products, and the Honey Badger hadn’t been touched in ages. Prototypes almost never meet all the requirements for the end user on the first try, and this rifle was no exception. But now, there was no one around to make those changes. Freedom Group hired the interns that had worked on the project previously to come back and try to fix it, but it was too little too late — the damage had been done.
In the meantime, SIG SAUER caught up. Their R&D team, honed by years of working with the military and law enforcement on special projects, had already designed a competitor to the Honey Badger — and they had done it better than AAC. But what was even more important was that Sig Sauer had the ability to respond quicker to requests from the military to modify their design, something that AAC’s mothballed R&D department wasn’t able to do. Freedom Group had traded off long term development for short term productivity and profitability (in keeping with their purported plan to flip the gun companies for a profit), and it seems like it bit them in the ass.
When Kevin first saw the MCX, he knew that Sig had the better product. It was a more well polished design, with a more rugged skeletonized stock and other major improvements. The first time Kevin held one, he dubbed it the “Black Mamba” — the snake that could kill the Honey Badger.
Sig finally unveiled the design for their MCX this year, and even I have to admit that it’s a much better product. The gun is being offered in the standard 5.56 NATO flavor as well as 7.62×39 (for former Soviet countries with a touch of surplus ammo available in that size) and Kevin’s favorite .300 AAC Blackout. So while the actual Honey Badger may be about to be kicked to the curb, the spirit of the firearm and the design concepts (as well as the ammunition that was specifically designed for it) live on.
With the choice of calibers, the better R&D team, and the production capacity that Sig Sauer offers, it’s hard to see how AAC could battle back to win against the old-school gun masters. But then again, it’s happened before.