[ 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.