TFB Review: Franklin Armory PDW-C7

    Franklin Armory PDW-C7

    Franklin Armory PDW-C7

    Does quantity have a quality of its own?

    The Franklin Armory PDW-C7 is at its core a compact 5.56 AR Pistol with a 7″ barrel.  What sets it apart from other factory AR pistol offerings, however, is its factory installed BFSIII binary trigger.  One can debate the hazards and merits of binary triggers all one wants, but there’s no denying one facet:  In the words of Unknown Hinson, they are “funner than hell”.  One can put an outstanding volume of fire downrange for a fraction of the cost of a proper full auto.  The PDW-C7 isn’t just a one-trick pony, however.  It does come nicely outfitted with the following features:

    Sling not included

    Ready to go out of the box (minus sling)

    Factory Specs:

    • Barrel length+Type:  7.5″ Medium Contour
    • Handguard/Upper: 9″ FST
    • Sights: Magpul MBUS
    • Twist: 1:9″
    • Badger Ordnance Gen 2 Tactical Latch
    • Bolt Carrier: Salt Bath Nitride
    • Lower: Pistol
    • Trigger: BSFIII
    • Gas system: Pistol Length Lo-Pro
    • Muzzle Device: Triumvr
    • Brace: SBPDW
    • Grip: Magpul K2
    • Length: 23.75″-26.25″
    • Caliber: 5.56 NATO
    • Weight: 5lbs 5oz per author’s digital scale
    • MSRP: $1827.99

    Initial Impressions:

    The PDW-C7 came in a serviceable plastic case.  The Franklin Armory PDW-C7 is pretty much set to go right out of the box, as it is equipped with backup sights and a 30 round Magpul Gen3 magazine.    Outwardly, it seemed put together pretty well.  The handguard and brace assembly were attached securely. The selector switch clicked positively into place in all three positions, and the muzzle device was on securely.  The upper and lower did have a somewhat loose fit, however.

    On inspecting the internal components of the upper receiver, I could not help but notice that the gas key was staked, albeit improperly.  Its not a total deal breaker, but as this price point I would expect a bit more precision at that point of assembly.  The recoil spring and buffer assembly were also quite dry, and required initial lubrication, as did most of the upper receiver.

    Almost perfect...

    Improperly staked gas key

    I will say that the SBPDW brace and K2 pistol grip assembly were perfect for this little pistol.  Though these sliding braces can be beard-pullers, it’s nice to have the adjustability.  The K2 grip keeps one’s hand and wrist at a pretty optimal angle for good control of this little AR pistol.  The trigger is pretty decent in both semi and binary mode.  In semi mode, it breaks at 4lbs, and in binary, the break is at 5lbs.  My only complaint on the trigger was a gritty, imprecise reset of the BFSIII in semi mode.

    BFSIII markings

    The BFSIII trigger group is the main attraction of this firearm

    Reliability and accuracy:

    For initial reliability testing, I used the PDW-C7 with both an Aimpoint H2 RDS and the Magpul MBUS sights that were provided with the firearm.  After getting the gun zeroed, I ripped through 300 rounds.  There were no failures to fire, extract, or eject except for one bad primer that failed to ignite even with a solid hit.  Even after 150 rounds straight fired as fast as I could via binary mode, the handguard was still not too hot to hold.  I was unable to ever achieve hammer-follow, no matter how fast I ran the trigger or how much I bump fired it in either semi or binary.  The BFSIII provides an entirely different and novel range experience than normal semiautomatic fire, and should definitely be tried if one has any interest.

    The only malfunction I encountered was that when having a cheek weld on the brace, the charging handle would have an annoying tendency to unlatch and smack me right on the tip of the nose.  I surmise this is due to two main reasons:  Franklin’s upper is overgassed (a common problem amongst short AR platforms), and there is too little material on the upper to the rear of the latch engagement.  This allows for the latch to come loose on its own during recoil.  This particular malfunction became a major annoyance during accuracy testing.

    As to the compactness and maneuverability of the gun:  The PDW-C7 pointed well and was easy to use in and out of vehicles and in the shoot house.  The provided Magpul hand stop made for positive, safe and repeatable support hand placement.  It also was good for supporting on various barricades. The brace has a nice plate to hook a single point sling into, and the gun was light and unobtrusive when slung.

    good off a barricade

    The PDW-C7 is very easy to use on a multitude of barricades and tight cover

    Accuracy and Velocity Results:

    I used a Leupold Mk4 MR/T set on 6x magnification for accuracy testing at 100y.  All results are 5 shot groups, fired from a front rest.  The barrel was cleaned and allowed to cool between 5 round strings.  All group averages are measured edge-edge, with the bullet diameter then subtracted.  Loads are listed in order of accuracy.

    Testing at 100y

    Set for testing a variety of ammo

    1. Black Hills 75gr BTHP: 1.87″
    2. Black Hills 77gr BTHP: 2.05″
    3. Black Hills 50gr Moly V-Max: 3.12″
    4. Hornady 60gr TAP-LE: 3.45″
    5. Black Hills 68gr BTHP: 4.08″

    Author’s note: I also fired American Eagle XM193 55gr, but got wildly inconsistent velocities and poor accuracy.  TFB’s own Nathaniel F. elucidated to me the pre-existing issues with these particular rounds as to poor/inconsistent performance in short barrels.  

    The 1:9″ medium contour barrel seemed to prefer the heavier 75 and 77gr loads the best.  Velocities ranged from 2296 FPS with the 55gr load to 2176 fps with the 77gr.  While accuracy was on par with my PSB equipped Galil pistol, it was less than other AR pistols in both .300BLK and 5.56 I have tested.  As per the charging handle coming unlatched and whacking me in the nose: I encountered this unpleasant malfunction 5 times during the 100 rounds I fired during accuracy testing.

    Flash-Bang

    One more item of note:  The Triumvr “flash hider” muzzle device did not work well with several different loads.  The muzzle flash was notable even in full daylight.  This is to be expected with such a short barrel, however.

    After-action

    Cleaning the upper receiver components after firing 400 rounds revealed a few things:  The Salt Bath Nitride finish wore off the bolt quite easily in a few places.  Furthermore, there was indeed chipping and wear around the hook of the charging handle latch as well as the upper receiver latch recess.  I did not try another charging handle/latch, but I would recommend Franklin Armory work on the dimensions of the recess and the power of the latch spring in the future to avoid this issue.

    Overall Impression:

    The Franklin Armory PDW-C7 was reasonably accurate, and 100% reliable as far as the firing cycle goes.   The only glaring issue was the charging handle latch problem.  That being said, at $1827.99 it has some serious competition in higher-end AR pistols. If one is looking for a fun gun that is ready to go out of the gate with an outstanding binary trigger that normally costs $429 as an upgrade, this is the firearm for you.

    Pros:

    • No failures to feed, fire, or eject in 400 rounds of testing
    • Reasonably accurate at 100y with heavier-grain bullets
    • Good furniture, trigger, and ergonomics, very compact
    • Comfortable to hold even after a large volume of fire

    Cons:

    • Bolt shows wear early on
    • Charging handle latch issues
    • Flash hider doesn’t do much for hiding the flash
      retracted brace

      brace retracted…

      extended brace

      and extended

    For more information, please visit Franklin Armory

    Thanks to HSS for logistics help and range time.

     

    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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