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[Review] Faxon 16″ Pencil Barrel: How Light is Too Light?

Want the lightest 16" barrel setup on your AR-15? We hands-on review Faxon's 16" 5.56 pencil barrel for reliability, weight, looks, accuracy, and more.

    Want the lightest 16″ barrel setup on your AR-15?

    You can’t go wrong with Faxon’s 16″ 5.56 mid-length pencil ($175) that weighs in at just a tad over 19 oz.

    Faxon 16" Pencil Barrel
    Faxon 16″ Pencil Barrel

    Compare that with a standard M4 profile barrel that is around 28 oz and you’re talking about serious weight savings.

    I’ll cover fit/finish, shootability, accuracy, bang-for-the-buck and more in my hands-on review.

    By the end…you’ll know if Faxon’s pencil barrel is the right for your build.  Plus a special 5% off code for readers.

    at Faxon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    About Faxon

    Faxon started out in the aerospace manufacturing business so they know their stuff.  And all their barrels are made in-house…”cradle to grave” as they call it.

    Plus…several other well-known brands use their barrels.

    I reviewed a previous barrel…their 14.5″ pencil with a permanently attached muzzle device in my ultimate lightweight build.

    Lightweight Upper Build, Faxon and Brigand Arms
    Lightweight Upper Build, Faxon and Brigand Arms

    It passed with flying colors for something super light and short (full review) but does cost about $100 more.

    I also reviewed Faxon’s claim to fame…the Gunner Barrel which combines the M4/Government profile with pencil characteristics.

    Faxon 16" Gunner 5.56 Barrel
    Faxon 16″ Gunner 5.56 Barrel

    But first…let’s see how their 16″ pencil stacks up.

    Who Is It For?

    • Someone looking for the lightest 16″ barrel out there
    • Someone looking for a softer recoil impulse with a mid-length barrel
    • Someone cost-conscious but wants a well-respected brand in the AR builder community

    Fit, Feel, & Install

    I’m currently testing a bunch of Faxon barrels…

    Faxon Barrel Assortment
    Faxon Barrel Assortment

    The pencil barrel I’m reviewing today is the middle one.

    Great Nitride finish that I like a lot more than the dull standard phosphate.

    M4 feed ramps were smooth and well cut for all the barrels too.

    AR-15 Barrel Ramps
    Faxon Feed Ramps

    I installed it with Faxon’s Ultra Low Profile Gas Block in .625″ ($32) and their mid-length gas tube ($14).  Easy and uneventful.

    Faxon Pencil Barrel with Faxon Gasblock
    Faxon Pencil Barrel with Faxon Gasblock

    For more info check out our How to Assemble an AR-15 Upper guide.

    I also finished it out with a Midwest Industries G3 ML (Best AR-15 Handguards).

    Faxon Pencil Barrel with Midwest Handguard
    Faxon Pencil Barrel with Midwest Handguard

    And a Strike Industries J-Comp 2 brake ($37).

    Best Goldilocks Muzzle Device
    at OpticsPlanet

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Which made for a super light and mild-recoiling upper.

    Upper with 16 Faxon Pencil Barrel
    Upper with 16 Faxon Pencil Barrel

    How It Shoots

    It handled very well since there was still enough weight from the standard 16″ of barrel and a lightweight handguard.  Recoil was also very manageable without an adjustable gas block.

    My previous build with the 14.5 and carbon fiber handguard was a little TOO light and made me feel the recoil…even though I had an adjustable gas-block (Best AR-15 Gas Blocks).

    Lightweight Build Brigand Arms and Faxon Pencil 14.5 Pinned
    Lightweight Build Brigand Arms and Faxon Pencil 14.5 Pinned

    I shot about 600 rounds of various 5.56 and .223 rounds through…no hiccups of any kind.

    Also with both red dots and 1-6x scopes (Best AR-15 Optics) I was able to hit 100 yard and 200 yard steel plates while standing.

    Though I haven’t run it through any rifle competitions…I feel it would do well with quick transitions and out to 300 yards easy.

    As a final comparison of how thin this barrel really is…here it is against the Ballistic Advantage Hanson barrel (full review) and a stock profile PSA upper (full review).

    Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage Hanson, PSA Stock
    (Top to Bottom): Faxon Pencil, Ballistic Advantage Hanson, PSA Stock


    I used my standard testing setup to take as much human element out as possible.

    Faxon Pencil Barrel Testing
    Faxon Pencil Barrel Testing

    Then chose some of my go-to ammo (Best AR-15 Ammo) and set up my target 100 yards away.

    I shot at a pace of about 1 round per 5 seconds.  And let it cool until I was able to grip it with my hand before going on to the next group.

    Faxon Pencil Barrel Groups
    Faxon Pencil Barrel Groups

    I had some extra Wolf Gold in another mag so I shot about 14-15 in the first group.

    PMC Bronze (.223) fared the best at about 1 MOA while the others were 2-3 MOA…even the Gold Medal.

    This matches up with what I found in the 14.5″ pencil review where PMC performed the best and others were OK.

    Faxon 14.5 Pinned Pencil Accuracy Tests
    Faxon 14.5 Pinned Pencil Accuracy Tests

    Also…it looks like overall the groups for regular plinking ammo for the 16″ pencil were tighter.  The Wolf Gold for the 14.5″ were off the target.

    I’m going to chalk it up to the slight increase in velocity going from 14.5″ to 16″ barrel.


    • Barrel Material: 4150 CMV Steel
    • Barrel Type: Button Rifled
    • Barrel Caliber: 5.56
    • Barrel Twist: 1:8
    • Barrel Length: 14.5”
    • Barrel Profile:  Pencil
    • Barrel Gas System: Mid
    • Finish: QPQ Nitride
    • Gas Block Diameter: .625″
    • Weight:  1.2  lbs
    • Magnetic Particle Inspected

    By the Numbers

    Reliability: 5/5

    No failures of any kind in 600 rounds.  Feed ramps were cut well, gas block holes were in the right place, and it was easy to install onto my upper, handguard, and brake.

    Accuracy: 4/5

    Does the best with PMC Bronze .223 ammo (even better than match) at 1 MOA while others open up to 2-3 MOA.

    Looks: 5/5

    Great Nitride finish that’s so much better than standard phosphate.  No defects or unevenness I could find.

    Bang for the Buck: 5/5

    An awesome barrel for around $165 (after coupon below)…I’d expect it to compete with barrels $100 more.

    Overall Rating: 5/5


    Fit, finish, and reliability are all up there.

    Top of Upper with Faxon Pencil Barrel
    Top of Upper with Faxon Pencil Barrel

    I would nitpick how it’s finicky with ammo…but you really can’t complain at the price.

    I solidly recommend the Faxon 16″ 5.56 Pencil barrel for all your lightweight builds where weight,maneuverability, and price trumps extreme precision.

    at Faxon

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    And to thank you for reading to the end…Faxon is hooking up readers with a 5% off barrels codeFXPPTBARREL5

    It will do its job as long as you stick with PMC Bronze (or match ammo).

    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Are you going to get Faxon’s pencil barrel?  Or do you already have one?  Check out our review of Faxon’s proprietary Gunner Barrel that combines M4 and Pencil barrel profiles.

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    4 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Brian T

      My wife and I shot 3 gun back to back with my Faxon pencil barrel 16in. The free float handguard got so hot she had to hold the magwell at the end of her run. This was probably 240 rounds in a 20 min span. She still nailed the steel plates they had at 75 yards. That barrel remains on the rifle, we now pack a pair of gloves and the SHTF rifles have standard heat shielded handguards.

      July 21, 2019 8:27 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I used the Faxon pencil and found it could do 1.25 inch 5 shot groups with some mediocre 55 gr. gun show reloads repeatedly using my rolled up jacket over an ammo can, with a 4 power scope at 100 yards. I did not see any POI shift as the barrel heated after a dozen rounds or so.
      I met the president of Faxon at the NRA show in Atlanta and was impressed with his sincerity of pleasing is customers.

      April 18, 2019 3:46 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I've built 3 builds based on that exact barrel (2 for sons, 1 for wife), and one on the 10.5" version as well (ULW SBR). I've been very pleased with Faxon's pencil barrels. Not quite as accurate as the slightly heavier Ballistic Advantage pencil offering (anecdotally) comparing directly to two other builds in which I've used the BA middy pencil. However, what has impressed me the most has been how little heat shift that occurs with the Faxon from cold barrel to hot barrel, related to PoI shift. Faxon really got it right in that dept as all three of the 16" Faxon pencils I've built have had very very little PoI shift from cold to hot. Very unexpected for such a ULW profile.

      July 10, 2018 6:25 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Eric Hung

        Nice, thanks for sharing your experience! I also didn't see a lot of shift compared to my Faxon 14.5 pencil.

        July 15, 2018 5:29 pm
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