Sionics SAR-15

It’s that day of the week again – another AR-15 review on Vuurwapen Blog.

This time, the rifle comes from a new company with an old name – Sionics Weapon Systems.

Without going into too much detail, an unrelated company named SIONICS (Studies In the Operational Negation of Insurgents and Counter-Subversion) was founded in the ’60s by, as the Los Angeles Times described him, a “flamboyant soldier of fortune.” The company made sound suppressors for several weapons before drifting into oblivion as its founder was eventually arrested for allegedly being hired by Larry Flynt to kill Frank Sinatra.

The company of today shares nothing but the name with the company of old; Sionics Weapons Systems (no longer using the acronym SIONICS) focuses on the assembly and sale of AR-15 pattern weapons, not suppressors and celebrity assassinations.

The owner of the company wanted to produce an AR with specific design criteria:

- Utilize quality components

- Ensure tight upper/lower receiver fit and matching anodized finish

- Eliminate as many logos as possible

The result is the SAR-15. I was loaned a T&E sample for the purposes of this review, but had a chance to examine several other SAR-15s as well. This particular model sells for $1,049 with the MBUS rear sight, but without the RVG vertical grip.

In terms of upper and lower fit, the SAR-15s ranged from “tight” to “where’s my hammer and punch?” I prefer a looser upper/lower fit for easy disassembly without tools, but a sizable portion of the AR market does put upper/lower fit high on their list of desired attributes.

The owner stated that the logo was chosen to be “neutral” in the event a police officer equipped with a Sionics rifle used it in an on-duty shooting; more aggressive logos, he felt, would not be beneficial in this instance.

Speaking of logos, other than the one seen above and the logos on the Magpul accessories, there are none to be found on the weapon. As with upper/lower fit, a number of people prefer ARs that do not have obvious manufacturer logos. Those two groups often overlap, so some might be pretty interested in the weapon on that basis alone.

From my observations, people who don’t like excess logos generally don’t like HK-type bullet pictogram markings, especially those with markings in the full auto position, and on the right side of the lower. However, a lot of people do like them, and you can’t please everyone. I doubt that alone will cost Sionics many sales.

Other than the upper and lower receiver, and the Magpul accessories, all of the components used come from Daniel Defense. The owner of the company wanted to source as many parts as he could from just one company, and Daniel Defense was able to provide what he needed. All SAR-15s have hammer forged barrels, M16 carriers, and mil-spec diameter receiver extension tubes, among other features. We’ll get to those in a second.

One of the first things I look at when I pick up an AR is how it was assembled. Certain things are pretty easy to see – whether the receiver extension tube, for example, was held from rotating while the castle nut was torqued. It doesn’t affect function, but it shows how much attention the assembler paid to the task at hand.

Another easily identifiable item is the muzzle device. Of the 4 SAR-15s I examined, 3 were perfectly timed; the one I received for T&E was off by just few degrees. However, as it had been used by other people before me, I can’t say that it was assembled that way. It’s possible that someone removed and reinstalled the device while using a sound suppressor that required a unique mount.

The front sight base is F height and attached with taper pins.

As mentioned previously, the barrel is a DD hammer forged unit, which means that it’s 4150 steel, 1/7 twist, chrome lined, with a 5.56 chamber and leade.

M4 feedramps were machined prior to anodizing and heat treating. The chrome plating is easily visible in this photo.

As stated previously, the weapon uses an M16 pattern carrier group sourced from Daniel Defense. The key was properly staked, and although the bolt was unmarked, DD states that they HP and MP test all their bolts and barrels. Although a notched hammer is used, the carrier is of the shrouded firing pin design.

The BCG does not feature a logo.

I do like the MOE grip and handguards, but am not convinced that the stock is a worthy upgrade over the standard M4 type, for I like both the friction lock and the QD sockets offered by the Magpul CTR, and the MOE offers neither. Other than a decent rubber buttpad, I just don’t see what it does that an M4 stock doesn’t do – beyond not look like an M4 stock.

The ubiquitous PMag is an excellent choice for an OEM magazine, and one that more and more manufacturers are choosing on what seems like a daily basis.

Moving on to the lower… I should mention that the receivers are 7075-T6 aluminum and Type III hard anodized, as per usual. As those who’ve seen the DD LAV video know, it’s also important that the lower is “nicely engraved, not rollmarked” and features a “nice beveled magwell.”

Those who seek perfect fit and finish might be disappointed by the little ding next to the bolt catch roll pin hole. It’s possible that this lower was chosen for T&E and not retail sale because of the ding – a similar mark is the reason one of my Bravo Company lowers was considered a “blem” and sold at a discount. I did not see similar dings on the other SAR-15s, but then again, I did not have as much time to look over them as I have had to look over this one.

I would prefer a little more staking on the receiver endplate, but was pleased to see that an effort had been made. High volume manufacturers use machinery to ensure consistent and forceful staking on this and other areas, but smaller manufacturers may not have the capital or space for this.

The receiver extension tube is mil-spec in diameter and offers six adjustment notches.

All Sionics carbines come with H buffers. I’m glad to see that they made this choice over the carbine buffer.

I’m not a huge fan of notched hammers, but all Daniel Defense lower parts kits come with their peculiar hammer design, so there wasn’t much of a choice to be made.

I also like to see grease on the fire control group contact points, and was disappointed to not see it here, but it’s possible that whoever used the weapon before me removed the grease during a cleaning session.

Conclusion

I will have a range report shortly, but based on my initial observations, the owner of the company appears to have done exactly what he set out to do: build a quality carbine, devoid of logos or markings, with a focus on tight upper and lower fit. The quibbles I have with the assembly of the weapon are easily rectified and often self-correcting as the company matures – note the low serial number of this T&E weapon. Both the owner and the gunsmith expressed a willingness to change their practices as necessary.

I do think that Sionics faces a tough road ahead – there’s no shortage of competition offering cosmetically identical weapons, and new companies often face skepticism from potential customers. However, those who value the concept of matched upper and lower receivers for a tight fit but still want features such as 1/7 twist and a chrome lined, hammer forged barrel might wish to investigate what Sionics has to offer.