Larry Vickers On The ARES-16 Belt-Fed AR-15 Upper

As part of his Vickers Tactical series on interesting and rare firearms, Larry Vickers got some trigger time on the ARES-16 belt-fed upper receiver for the AR-15. This upper receiver, formerly known as the “ARES Shrike” (a much better and more creative name in my opinion), attaches to a standard AR-15 lower receiver giving it the ability to use M249 belts in a very lightweight and accurate package.

Unlike most light machine guns, the ARES-16 operates from a closed bolt for greater accuracy. Because of this, and the emphasis on its ability to also reliably use USGI magazines through the magwell of the lower receiver, there’s some implication that the weapon was designed with special reconnaissance in mind.

According to the manufacturer, the whole package can weigh as little as 7.5 pounds in some configurations, a great improvement over the 17 pound M249. The ability to use a standard lower receiver is very attractive, and reminds me of the Stoner 63 concept, whereby assault rifles and light machine guns would share most of their parts, allowing for much cheaper production of automatic support weapons.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Manny Fal

    Anyone know why the M249 and similiar light machineguns are so overbuilt?

    • Tom

      The M249 and it ilk are designed to be able to put sustained fire down range something this system will struggle with. I would suggest that the M249 is still the better all round LMG for normal use. Whereas this would make an excellent weapon for SpecOps types who may on occasion need to put down serious firepower for a short period of time such an ambush or if the SHTF and the need arose to put down covering fire.

      Though I can not help but think this would (assuming it works as advertised) have made a great weapon for the Marines IAR :).

    • Gregory Markle

      So they hold up under the harsh conditions that they are generally subjected to under real world conditions. There are reasons why Colt abandoned development on their AR belt fed upper, because they only real market out there are guys with registered lowers and it is HIGHLY doubtful that these systems can be made robust enough for military usage. The Shrike/ARES-16 has been in development since the mid-90s, the company screwed over the people who pre-paid for uppers and funded their development in the late 90s and early 2000s, they had to change the name because of huge quality control problems associated with the name Shrike, and the uppers I’ve seen in the wild have been plagued with issues. The idea is great in theory but the reality has been anything but so far…it would be nice if they’ve turned the corner with this project but it will take more than a Vickers puff piece to convince those who’ve been following Geoff’s antics for almost two decades.

      • “Vickers puff piece” makes me chuckle

      • Yeah, I’d wondered about that. The Shrike has been in development for a long time, and you mentioned the name change which is something that always confused me.

        I certainly wasn’t going to call out that there was something fishy based on that alone, but what you say makes a lot of sense.

        Anyway, machine guns end up being heavy once they’re fully troubleshooted. Every now and again you end up with a “miracle gun” like the PK which is way lighter than it should be, but usually that involves design compromises of its own.

        I would love to see lighter weapons get introduced, but somehow it never quite works out that way. Either a lighter weapon fails when pitted against a heavier (but more reliable) one, or the weight spirals and the light gun isn’t so light anymore.

        • Wetcoaster

          With a closed bolt and a fixed barrel but belt feed, I imagine overheating would be serious concern in any situation that makes use of the Shrike-16’s unique features.

          I imagine part of the reason machine guns end up over-built is the disporportionate effect it has on a squad or section’s firepower if one were to fail compared to a rifle or carbine.

        • sianmink

          Wasn’t the Ultimax getting pretty close to that? Was hearing a bunch about it but then it kind of fell off the map.

        • buzzman1

          Look up the old definition of Heavy and Light MGs and how each fit into combat doctrine.

      • n0truscotsman

        That is the same guess I made, although I have no experience with the Shrike admittedly.

        The belt-fed AR was done back in the days of the AR10 (recently posted here) and it was found inadequate for the same reasons.

        For the AR role, you need a belt-fed, quick change barrel weapon. A standard assault rifle configured for automatic fire (with the few odd ends perhaps like a heavier receiver and thicker barrel) is not going to be able to cut the same level of mustard sort of speak. That is why the acquisition of the M27 really perplexes me (the main reason supposedly was mobility, or lack thereof, with the M249).

        Notice the history behind such weapons. The only successful one really was the RPK.

        The one that I’m very curious about is the Stoner LMG.

        • buzzman1

          as I recall back in the 70’s the army came out with a belt fed M-16 to be used as a replacement for the M-60 tank 7.62 MG’s. It failed miserably and eventually lead to the use of the M-240 in tanks and later infantry.

          • n0truscotsman

            I havent heard of that. Interesting. And foolish.
            For CFV machine guns, 7.62>5.56, IMO.

  • Rich Guy

    Hard to beat a PKM for real world LMG/SAW use. For a IAR, this is not terribly bad, but the entire concept of the IAR still has yet to be truly proven IMO; the most used/most common is the RPK IAR’s.

    • I’d say the IAR has a pretty solid history behind it. The M1918 BAR, M16, and RPK are all highly successful examples of the type.

      • Rich Guy

        Well…. The BAR weighed as much as a PKM or many belt feds now.

        And the RPK had a pretty well documented over heating issue (mainly from firing from closed bolt). I have not read enough about the M16 IAR variants to say anything, other then the M27 (supposedly) is super accurate.

        • The BAR was heavy, yes, but everything from that period was heavier, too.

          There was no M16 IAR variant. Before the M249, the M16 was issued as an IAR to the designated Automatic Rifleman in the squad for fire support.

    • n0truscotsman

      The PKM has had an edge for quite a while. You have a 7.62 machine gun that weighs 19 lbs, with a quick change barrel, and of course, the kalashnikov gas system that is perfect for machine guns.

      it is also inexpensively and easily made from stamped steel. The space age, expensive titanium M240L is still heavier.

      I agree with you though. The idea of the automatic rifleman using what is essentially a bulked up assault rifle with a heavier receiver and barrel, being magazine fed, is pretty much refuted by belt-feds, which are heavier, but perform for the intended task at hand.

      • One thing I never hear mention of is the PK’s excellent trigger. It’s just about ideal for what I’d want out of a machine gun.

        • n0truscotsman

          I think its excellent all around 😉 but im very biased in favor of any hardware that is Russian.

          Is the Russian Army phasing it out of service though? I see more and more units posted with what I know now as a “Pecheneg”. Im rather curious.

          • Rich Guy

            Well, from what I know the PKP has a “fixed” barrel and “improved” version of the Lewis gun forced air cooling system that prolongs barrel life. Is this better then a quick detach barrel? Only the Russians behind the trigger know that.

            And yes, it is supposed to be the new LMG of the Russian Federation. However, like how the MP443 and the various other handguns over the past 10 or so years were supposed to be the “new official sidearm” yet the Makarov and Stechkin are 90% of issued sidearms, the PKM will be around for a very long time I think.

  • billyoblivion

    Not higher, longer.

    • buzzman1

      That’s what he ment by sustained rate of fire. The small AR barrel would over heat and burn out fast and with no way to change out the barrel it would be a useless piece of scrap metal before a firefight would be over.

  • mechamaster

    One of my favorite weapon systems, but Ares-16 are more a ‘belt-fed capable Infantry automatic rifle’ than a true machine gun. LoL.

    It has advantage and disadvantage from closed-bolt mechanism like HK 21 even they have Quick-change barrel capability.
    I wish they create Open-bolt module that capable to fire semi-auto like Israeli-made Negev or hybrid firing mode mechanism like FG-42 ( ‘closed-bolt semi-automatic’ + ‘open-bolt full-auto’ )

  • Tyler

    I think California is a bunch of BS

  • Does that FNC have an AK5 handguard? Or were Swedes involved somehow?

  • Sam Pensive

    i wonder where this squad’s 40mm air burst rounds are…
    or maybe even a captured RPG.

  • A guy named Joe

    Don’t forget that these work very well with the slidefire setups, folks.

  • sianmink

    I am shooting jealousy bullets at you right now.

    *bew bew bew*

    (That’s what jealousy bullets sound like.)

  • Juice

    Surely I’m not the only one who sees Larry as the Guy Fieri of firearms?

  • n0truscotsman

    Who in the hell is firing the shotgun in the background!? 😀