Next Generation Arms X7: The Grey Rifle Review

[ This review was written by acclaimed Science Fiction author Michael Z. Williamson. Photos by NGA. ]

The X7 is billed as extremely accurate, durable and low maintenance. To test this, the first thing I did was degrease it with brake cleaner.

Upon examining this rifle, one realizes a lot of effort went into ergonomics. The VLTOR stock has Quick Detach (QD) swivel mounts on both sides, the receiver end plate has one and there’s one on each side of the hand guard. The hand guard is milled from two pieces of 7075T6 aluminum so well fitted they look like a monobloc. The handguard and rails run forward to the gas block, with side mounted rail sections as well. Next Gen is making those removable for future models.

Mechanically, it has a crisp Geissele trigger that breaks consistently at 5 lbs, a Noveske stainless polygonal barrel, mid-length gas system, BCM bolt carrier group (properly staked) and Gunfighter charging handle, a billet lower with forged upper, a proper impact extruded 4 position buffer tube, also staked, and a very advanced ceramic coating all over. This provides a low friction surface that most gas particulates simply can’t adhere to. The magazine well is flared and cut so even Magpul PMags and Thermolds will drop free easily. The rails are perfectly to spec so no force is needed to slide accessories on. The muzzle brake is loud and blows a lot of gas at bystanders, but recoil is reduced to negligible levels. The charging handle can be slightly stiff for smaller shooters, due to the heavy recoil spring. Sights are optional but available, since most shooters prefer to choose their own.

From a 16″ carbine, sub 2″ 10 shot groups were easily attainable at 100 yards using a scope, good commercial ammo and a sandbag. Best group so far was 5/8″ (300 feet ASL, 53 degrees F, 55% relative humidity, using Federal Premium 62 gr ammunition.)

After several range trips, while prepping the rifle for photos, I found the charging handle tough to work. It felt as if it were jammed. It is possible for a weapon put away wet to rust shut due to carbonic acid. The X7 was simply a little sticky with congealed carbon inside, and a few cycles of the charging handle freed it up. The carbon had stuck to itself inside the BCG, rather than to any components. (There is some accumulation on the tail of the bolt, but I expect it will remove easily when I do clean it). There was no corrosion or damage.
I had a defective magazine that caused problems, including a double feed. The round was jammed between carrier race and bolt face, and would not dislodge. With a staked carbine extension, there was no way to easily remove the BCG from the rear. The only way that presented itself was to grasp the bullet tip with needlenose and crush it enough to get a firm grip, then beat the charging handle back with a rubber mallet. An ordinary charging handle would be destroyed by this process. The Gunfighter was unharmed. The ceramic coating on the handle and the ejection port was unharmed. The coating inside the receiver and on the bolt and carrier was unharmed. It literally looked new when done. Please note the magazine had similar issues with two other rifles, and was disposed of.

I can’t think of another precision rifle that can take that kind of beating and come back for more.
At 530 rounds, a steel case failed to extract. One single drop of oil freed up the extractor enough for it to grip and cycle. I degreased again, and ran another 720 rounds of brass without issue. The tight chamber prefers brass, but will handle steel if it must. Please note that brass is recommended by Next Generation Arms, and most other manufacturers.

During one range trip, the rifle was left lying open in the rain between shoots, for 6 hours. It functioned flawlessly from the 1250 round mark to the 2000 round mark. Three days later, the weapon was dried, the bolt carrier group wiped clean, the bore swabbed dry, and a couple of drops of Kroil placed into the receiver extension, which was finally showing some minor discoloration from the carbon and water.

So, in over 2000 rounds of wet, dirty use (so far), there was one malfunction with a defective magazine, and one malfunction with sub-standard ammo. No cleaning was performed, and only the most minimal of lubrication. I must advise readers that this is an examination of emergency capabilities. All weapons should be properly cleaned and maintained, and repairs, especially with live ammo in the weapon, should not be attempted by anyone not properly trained.

The X7 is not cheap, but it’s a fair price for the combination of accuracy, durability and ergonomics. It’s on par with other high end ARs, and pushes the envelope on materials and capabilities. So far, I am convinced this is a rifle one can trust one’s life to. It is a pleasure to shoot, amazingly accurate, and tough as a keg of nails.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Lance

    Looks awesome and I do ask hows its weight is it better than a HK 416?

    • cc19

      A shop near me had an MR556 and it was noticeably heavier than your typical AR; somewhere in the range of 9 lb I believe. X7 lists around 6-7lb according to their website.

    • Other Steve

      What an odd question to ask…. Do you know what the HK is? Do you understand what the X7 is? The differences between the two are large enough that they are on two completely different areas of the AR field. They are common in that they are both shaped like ARs.

      The HK is piston, this is gas. The HK is full quad rail, this is a modular. The HK uses a very heavy hammer forged barrel, this uses an off the shelf Noveske barrel. The HK uses a forged lower that retains compatibility with other ARs, this uses a billet and proprietary upper and lower with no compatibility by design. The HK is all HK all the time, the X7 is a Noveske barrel, Geissele trigger, BCM parts, etc when it makes sense to use those.

      These two guns have very little in common. The HK is a fancy 8.5lb AR for collectors and bench-rest shooting, the X7 is made as light as possible and at home in 3-gun and other competition use.

      Do you want to know the weight of a performance speed boat vs an Italian sports car as well? Apples to Elephants at best.

      • Other Steve

        Oops, nevermind the incompatible uppers part. I was looking at X8 renders. X7 looks like it might.

  • Mike

    Next time pop both receiver pins, apply pressure to top of upper while sliding upper foward. The two sections will seperate.

  • MarkM

    Accumulation of carbon on the bolt tail means nothing. It does not interact with any working parts. Since it’s the head of the gas piston in the cylinder portion of the carrier, the affect is exactly the same as accumulation of carbon on all other pistons – nothing. And exactly why those gun owners choose it.

    Piston to piston, they all get dirty.

  • Ken

    I like reading Next Generation Arms’ website. They have a cool blog talking about the development of their rifles.

    I’m not really an AR guy, partially because they all seem to be carbon-copies of each other and nobody is pushing the envelope. But NGA seems to be going the opposite way.

    • Other Steve

      At the expense of incompatibility. Which is fine really. If you’re going to own one gun the X7 seems great. If you’re going to want the very highest performance the X7 seems great. If you’re going to want a gun that shares parts with your other guns then the X7 falls a little short. I personally like the commonality, but if I was competing it wouldn’t matter so much.

      It looks like a nice concept and the build quality looks great. Before I bought into the idea however, I would want to make sure the company was going to be around in 5-10 years in case I need something down the line.

      This is more the issue with entire designs like the XCR or even the HK MR556 that uses practically no standard AR parts. At least the X7 uses a standard barrel, trigger, stock, and bolt/carrier.

      Looks like a nice setup.

  • Brandon

    It’s a beautiful weapon, impressive parts list too. The only improvement I could think of would be a forward charging handle (Adcor BEAR style), I wonder how it stacks up vs KAC or Noveske.

  • W

    Ive seen some pretty intriguing AR15 evolutionary designs out of Idaho. First there is the gas piston rifles from Primary Weapons Systems (which utilize a long stroke gas piston system instead of the short stroke used by a overwhelming majority of other competitors), then there is another company called Quality Arms, which makes custom Ar15s with exclusively nickel BGC’s and hammers and left or right hand ejection (which can be switched by changing the bolt held in the butt stock). I have to get my hands on one of these NGA X7’s. 😀

  • For what I’ve seen this gun is making people very happy. It certainly looks great. I like the overall look of it.

  • Chris

    What vert grip is this, I really want to buy one.

  • Nathan

    Please explain what double feed malfunction would ever require removal of the receiver extension? I am either completely misunderstanding the malfunction he is describing, or he is describing a ridiculous method of clearing a round that is stuck between the bolt and charging handle. Someone have a better understanding? Maybe a pic of the malfunction?