When Phil told me I would be getting another AR-15 in for review, I found myself dreading the arrival of yet another black rifle. In my mind, there is only so much that you can do with the AR-15 platform that would come even remotely close to impressing me. Once the MGS Citizen Rifle showed up at my FFL, a quick glance over the rifle revealed that while it was a very nice collection of parts, the only clue that the rifle held a secret power was the rifle length gas tube stuck to a 16″ Criterion 1:8″ twist barrel.
You now have my attention.
The rifle shipped in a plastic Plano rifle case with one magazine and not much else. I was rather pleased with the inclusion of a proper case; I never seem to have enough of them when I head out to the range. My expectation that the MGS Citizen was a nice collection of parts was more than confirmed; MGS must have thrown the entire catalog of Fortis parts at it.
Once I got out to the range I wanted to take a much closer look at the components used to build the rifle out. Is it possible that the rifle lives up to its near $2,000 MSRP? Based on my initial scan of the rifle, if it shoots well it will be well worth it.
When we take a look at the upper and lower receiver, you find they are standard forged units. The lower parts kit used to assemble the lower receiver is of very nice quality; I suspect it may be a DPMS parts kit with an AXTS Talon ambidextrous safety as well as what appears to be a nickel boron coated trigger that feels like it has been worked on by someone who knows what they are doing.
While I wasn’t able to identify the trigger guard with my very limited research, MGS did have it laser marked with their logo and used the screw method instead of a roll pin, my personal favorite way to build my lower receivers. That little gap that typically resides between trigger guard and grip that can tear up a finger quickly is absent on the Citizen, the trigger guard, and grip meld together beautifully leaving no sharp edges.
AXTS has a strong presence on the rifle as well; The Citizen comes with not only the Talon selector set up for a 90-degree throw, but they also include the equally excellent AXTS Raptor charging handle as standard. While these two parts aren’t game changing on their own, I really appreciate their inclusion.
To continue with the great rifle parts train, MGS fitted a Fortis QD Endplate to the Citizen. I will deduct some points for their failure to stake the end plate properly. It may not be considered essential for most AR-15 builders; I don’t own a rifle where it hasn’t been done. If the Citizen rifle were to live the remainder of its life in my safe, the first thing I would do after it was paid for is stake the piss out of the end plate.
Up front, a 14” Fortis Switch free float handguard is installed over the 16” Criterion barrel and Fortis low profile gas block. This is the first time I have had a chance to play with the Switch for an extended period. The diameter is darn near perfect, and it feels great in hand, even if it is KeyMod. The coolest feature that I would never, ever need is the switch on the bottom of the rail that when flipped, allows the handguard to be removed.
I do want to point out the barrel nut design, notice that it is smooth so the handguard can slip on and off, I also appreciate the fact that it no longer needs to be timed to allow the gas tube to pass through. After building a single upper with that style barrel nut, I refuse to use anything else because of its simplicity.
I don’t exactly know why that is an important feature, but it did give us a chance to drink in that excellent Criterion barrel. With a reputation for being some of the best on the market, the Criterion barrel had my attention from the moment I pulled the Citizen from the case. With a 1:8” twist rate and a .223 Wylde chamber, the barrel has the makings of an excellent shooter, especially with the Criterion name behind it.
Also marked with the MGS logo is the AXTS Raptor charging handle. We just reviewed the suppressor friendly Freedom Bone that is identical to the Raptor with the addition of gas ports along the top to keep gas face at bay. You can check out my review HERE, but the TL;DR version is that the AXTS charging handle is very, very good.
While I had the charging handle out, I pulled the bolt carrier group out as well. I feel as though I recognized the bolt carrier group as being produced by someone, but can’t quite put my finger on who it is. Either way, it is nicely finished in a Black Nitride and the machining work is spot on. Oh, and the gas key is properly staked like someone should expect when buying a premium part.
On the back side of the rifle, you find a Vltor Emod stock mated to a Mil-Spec Vltor receiver extension. I liked the easy to reference numbers but didn’t find them to be overly useful. The EMOD has some rather nice features that come at the expense of weight. I won’t go too far into the EMOD stock; it has been around long enough for there to be hundreds of reviews on it. Some of the highlights of the stock are places to put batteries, a porthole for viewing numbers, a metal strike plate, and QD attachment points.
That super nice Criterion barrel is topped off with one of the more efficient brakes I have had the pleasure to shoot to date, the Fortis muzzle brake. The included control shield is also a nice touch; I know my friend Scott appreciated me using it while he was shooting groups and I was blasting away for photos.
Installation of the control shield is stupid easy. Make sure the tab on the inside of the shield is lined up with the groove in the brake, slide it on until it stops, then turn the control shield counter clockwise until it clicks
I started shooting at my 8” steel plate at 50 yards to zero the Aimpoint M4 I threw on the Citizen, to my surprise the dot was about an inch high at 50 yards. After I was comfortable with the zero, I loaded up several magazines and emptied them at the pace of about a shot every half second with only two misses out of the 120 rounds I fired in that string.
After that series of four mags on target, I loaded four more up and experimented with the brake both covered by the blast diverter and without, I found that the blast diverter did its job rather well and didn’t reduce the effectiveness of the brake too terribly much.
With it being as easy to shoot the MGS Citizen fast and accurately, I was left in awe. When the rifle first arrived, I was eager to get it to the range, review it, and send it back. Now I am left with a very hard decision, do I shell out the money to keep the rifle in my safe? Since I have a little one on the way my gun budget isn’t near what it used to be making the decision harder than ever. Even my shooting buddy Scott wanted to know if he could buy it after shooting some groups at 50 yards with the Citizen.
Since we were already set up on the 50-yard line, we just shot groups from there. Either way, the group Scott shot with some of the IMI Razor Core 77-grain OTM ammo I brought out for accuracy testing is nothing short of majestic. Scott put ten rounds into one ragged hole with only a wooden block, a towel, and a sock filled with beans. That Criterion barrel is incredibly accurate, and the rifle length gas system does a great job of keeping that soft recoil impulse 20” AR shooters enjoy as well as an increased lock time.
While at the range I noticed that the nickel boron trigger was one of the nicest Mil-Spec units I have ever run across and had to put it on my trigger gauge. Coming in at just under 5 pounds every time I tested it, it was pretty impressive, but I still would have liked to see a high-quality unit like a Geissele, CMC, or other well-known aftermarket trigger fitted.
What do I think about the MGS Citizen rifle? It has to be one of the best turn key AR-15s I have had the pleasure to shoot so far. After I was able to unload hundreds of rounds on a 8” plate at a fast pace without breaking a sweat was enough for me to take notice. When Scott shot an incredible group, I was amazed. After the day had ended, the MGS Citizen had eaten 620 rounds of ammo consisting of Wolf, TulAmmo, IWI, Federal, and Fiocchi.
With rifles in this price bracket, it is easy to have high expectations that the rifle sometimes has a hard time living up to. This time, my expectations were that it was going to be a nice rifle but nothing that stands out from a crowd. If I wasn’t wrong again I often am.
If I were in the market for a rifle in this price range, the MGS Citizen would be at the top of my list over even building my own. Whatever magic they worked with this thing is enough to pry a few more dollars than normal out of my hands.
Does anyone want to gift me two grand? I’ll give you a hug and a high five.
MSRP for The Citizen is $1999 as tested; the Aimpoint M4 is not part of the package. Currently, MGS’ website is under development, but you can find their contact information on their website HERE or Facebook HERE to inquire about the Citizen.