Note: Newer versions of the Robinson Armament XCR-L use a lighter forend with keymod slots. The one pictured here is the older version.
What if you designed a rifle like an AR15, but with easier takedown, piston driven action, swappable caliber conversions, and better ergonomics? Add in the capacity for a folding stock, adjustable gas system, reliable long stroke gas system and a big bad 3-lug bolt, and you have the Robinson Arms XCR. It’s almost as if an AR and an AK47 had a baby. Here in Canada, versions of the XCR with a long enough barrel are Non Restricted, and are therefore more valued for utility than restricted AR-15’s. In Canada, XCR-L’s go for $2800-$3000, while they fetch around $2000 in the US.
Robinson XCR Ergonomics
The Robinson XCR has some smart ergonomic advantages compared with a stock AR15.
The magazine release is ambidextrous and easy to use. I’m not sure if the magazine release is a standard AR15 part, but the grip and mags are all AR15 compatible.
The safety is ambidextrous and quick to engage/disengage as it’s only a 60 degree throw instead of 90. That said, I kind of dislike the fact it’s ambi because the right side safety gets in the way of my index finger when I’m riding up on the frame (as you should be doing unless you’re on target.) If I have my right index finger firmly pressed against the frame of the gun, it can block the safety from being actuated when I’m trying to disengage the safety.
The bolt release is ingenious. It does what the BAD lever does, except it’s ambidextrous and has no spindly external parts to get snagged. The bolt release is right at the front of the trigger guard and is activated by pushing it down. You can also use it to lock the bolt back by pushing up. Combined with the left handed bolt, you can very quickly lock the bolt to the rear to clear a jam such as a double feed.
The non reciprocating bolt handle is on the left hand side of the receiver and I love it. The utility of keeping your right hand on the grip at all times and using your left hand for remedial action is so quick and natural. Although the bolt handle is non reciprocating, you can still use it as a forward assist by pushing it in from the side.
There are multiple options for the rear stock, but most use a folding telescopic stock that Robinson calls the “FAST” stock. Personally, I like solid folding stocks, and this one was quick and easy to use. I found extending the stock to be more awkward because when pressing the button, you can’t pull on the stock as easily as on an AR because most of it doesn’t move. Only a slim piece on the bottom and the butt pad move. So, not as quick as the standard lever on an AR extending stock, but since you can fold the rifle with the stock extended, there’s not much reason to change the length of the stock once you have it set for you.
Robinson also offers a fixed stock, M4 stock, and AR15 stock adapter for the XCR, as well as a pistol version that doesn’t have a stock at the rear.
While this older XCR has a quad rail forend, newer versions use a lighter weight keymod style forend.
Robinson XCR-L Accuracy
Part of the trade off from going with a long stroke gas system and quick change barrel system is that there are more variables than in an AR. Those variables add up to a less accurate system than the AR15. Even with the heavier barrel on this rifle, I would consistently get 3 MOA out of this XCR with ammo it liked. With some ammo that the rifle didn’t like (Tula 223), the patterns were incredibly bad: 8MOA.
At 3 MOA, I would describe the XCR as combat accurate. That’s similar to mil-spec requirements for the M16 (4.5″ at 100 yards for a 10 shot group), but quite far away from the 1 MOA you can expect with a good quality aftermarket AR barrel. Some users have reported better accuracy out of their XCR’s, some worse.
Quick swapping caliber conversions
One of the main draws of the XCR is that it swaps to different cartridges very quickly. By changing the barrel, bolt and with some cartridges, using different mags, you can swap between 5.56, 6.8SPC, 7.62×39, 5.45×39, and 300 blackout. You can also swap uppers, just like you do on an AR15 but that can get expensive if you run pricey optics. The Hex bolt holding the barrel onto the rifle should be blue loc-tited and torqued to spec to prevent it from loosening from shooting.
Cleaning the XCR
Cleaning the XCR is a real treat for 2 reasons:
- The take down button is in plain sight and quickly grants access to the bolt, bolt carrier, and piston: everything that needs to be cleaned.
- Because the rifle is piston driven instead of direct impingement like the AR15, it’s a cleaner action that requires less time to clean.
The only real work when cleaning this rifle is in scraping the carbon off the piston. Thankfully, it’s a small surface and it doesn’t need to be cleaned very often. It’s a quicker job than cleaning off an AR.
Robinson XCR Downsides
Personally, I only had 1 issue with this rifle and it was my fault: the bolt didn’t hold open on an empty magazine at first. Then I figured out the adjustable gas system, adjusted it, and haven’t had a reliability issue since.
As far as potential issues, there are bolts used in places where they could loosen. AR15’s use staking on critical bolts (such as the ones on the gas key) to keep them from moving. The XCR has a single hex bolt that locks the barrel on, as well as two bolts to hold the ejector.
The rifle can be hard on brass, so you may find that your brass won’t last for as many reloads.
I think the biggest downside to the XCR is the cost. It’s about 2X more expensive than a similar spec AR15.
Robinson XCR vs AR-15
A lot of people like to compare the XCR and the AR-15 directly, but I think they each have different goals, evidenced by their design.
AR-15: Inexpensive due to its popularity. Most people build entire rifles or uppers to a particular need: short barrel blaster for CQB, longer heavy barrel for long range shooting, long skinny barrel for coyote hunting, etc. It’s not a great system to fire corrosive ammo through, and it generally accumulates more carbon. The AR15 is a very accurate system, especially for a semi-auto rifle. If your rifle isn’t as accurate as you’d like, swap out for a better quality barrel. The AR15 is a lightweight design and is the rifle to beat as a competition rifle for action shooting like 3 gun.
XCR: Single rifle platform that can be outfitted for multiple styles of shooting. The gas system is useful for not only different weights of bullets, but also for shooting suppressed or shooting when the rifle is really gunked up. Long stroke gas system and big 3 lug bolt should offer good reliability even with infrequent cleaning. The XCR uses more basic tools, where the AR-15 needs more specialized tools (barrel nut, etc).
Here in Canada, the long barreled XCR-L is also non-restricted, offering an option for people without a restricted license to own an AR-ish rifle to go shoot at a gravel pit with. Personally, I wouldn’t use the XCR-L for coyote hunting because it’s not accurate enough. To get a vitals hit on a coyote at 300 yards, you need 1 MOA accuracy. Also interesting for Canadians would be that the XCR 7.62×39 came in a pistol version, so we can get 10 round 7.62×39 pistol magazines to use in our XCR-L’s.
Personally, I don’t have a use for an XCR. I shoot 3 gun, and an AR is a good choice for that kind of shooting. For hunting, I prefer bolt action rifles and for messing around plinking, I prefer 22LR or really cheap ammo like 7.62X39 or 7.62x54R. But that’s me; I’ve got rifles for each of those uses. Some people prefer to have fewer rifles that do more, and a caliber changing rifle like the XCR-L is a better fit for those people. So if you’re looking for a do-all, utilitarian semi automatic rifle, check out the XCR.