Ahh, the good old days of the mid-2000s. We had nu-metal, Call of Duty, and a ton of guns primed to be the next big thing.
The SCAR, the HK416, the XCR, and the Remington/Bushmaster ACR were all supposed to be the military weapons of the future.
Some of those designs stuck around, and some faded away.
Today we are diving into the ACR — from its humble origins to its untimely disappearance.
Table of Contents
The Early Days
While Remington and Bushmaster eventually came to be the owners of the ACR, that’s not where it started.
The ACR, or Advanced Combat Rifle, originally came from a company you might have heard of — Magpul. They developed the weapon, and it was called the Masada (no relation to the IWI Masada).
Magpul took design cues from several rifles to create a very modern platform.
The gun uses a short-stroke gas piston, a folding stock with a modern design, and tons of polymer used in the rifle’s construction. Polymer parts include the original M-LOK handguard, the pistol grip, stock, and more. Predictably, the gun uses standard AR magazines for most of the chamberings.
The AR series and its military variants are inherently modular, but the Magpul wanted to push it a step further. The concept was a platform that could quickly swap calibers and barrel lengths to mission parameters.
Users could swap calibers and even lower receivers to utilize AK magazines and the venerable 7.62x39mm round. Different barrel lengths were available to convert the rifle from a carbine to a PDW or a DMR.
Barrel swaps could be done in under two minutes, and lower exchanges were just as quick. The upper was the serialized portion of the weapon, much like the FN SCAR.
This was Magpul’s vision, and development began in 2006.
In 2008, Magpul reached a deal with Bushmaster to help produce the carbine.
Bushmaster would take over the development and ultimately production of the carbine. At this point, Bushmaster and Remington were both under the parent company, Freedom Group.
Remington was set to produce select-fire variants of the ACR for police and military contracts, while Bushmaster would make the rifle for everyone else.
It wouldn’t be until 2010 that the ACR premiered. The Remington variant entered military trials to try and replace the M4, and the Bushmaster variant hit the civilian market.
Bushmaster released the rifle with an MSRP between $2,600 and $3,000. This pricing led to immediate backlash from the public, as the original price was supposed to be $1,400.
In addition to the pricing issue, a recall was issued for the ACR. In some cases, the rifle could accidentally fire in full auto. That sounds more like a feature than a bug, but the ATF disagreed.
The Army’s M4 competition spanned from 2010 to 2013, but they never adopted any of the proposed replacements.
Stalled-out civilian sales and a lack of military contracts signaled the beginning of the end for the ACR.
Despite this, ACR did see massive success in the pop culture world — popping up in high-profile projects like Terminator Salvation, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, and Discovery Channel’s Future Weapons.
The Real World
Even with its widespread notoriety, the ACR didn’t achieve much success in the real world. Owners of the ACR were constantly wondering where the conversion kits were.
The big draw to the weapon was the ease of converting the gun to various calibers and configurations; It took eight years for Bushmaster to get the kits on the market.
Only two conversion kits were released, 6.8 SPC and .450 Bushmaster. Many ACR owners felt that it was too little, too late.
6.8 SPC and .450 Bushmaster aren’t the calibers most ACR owners clamored for. They wanted the promised .300 Blackout version and the 7.62×39 option that accepted AK mags.
Very few owners were excited about the conversions Bushmaster released.
In 2020, Freedom Group declared bankruptcy, and Bushmaster shuttered its doors and was sold off.
Franklin Armory purchased Bushmaster and immediately announced a revival of the ACR later that year. As of 2022, we have yet to see new ACRs on the market.
While the ACR over-promised and underdelivered, the concept remains intriguing.
Many people genuinely want to see the original vision of the ACR realized. A fully modular platform with readily available conversion kits at around a $1,500 MSRP.
Hopefully, the ACR will make a comeback with the promised conversion kits and modular parts and pieces to make it stand out.
What do you think about the ACR? Let us know in the comments below! Interested in other cool caliber-convertible weapons? Check out our section on the Robinson Armament XCR in our article, The Best 5.56 Rifles That Are Not AR-15s.