Troy Defense builds quality ARs (that is, both the 5.56mm AR-15s and their bigger brothers, the 7.62x51mm AR-10) and everybody knows it. They’ve also got a long history of manufacturing everything from folding sights to free-float rails to magazines, and they have a catalogue so deep that the only way to give it a sense of unity was to name every single thing in it “Battle-something”. But that’s another story. No, we came here to talk about what may be the ultimate work-around for AR users who are in jurisdictions that, out of deference to Troy’s preferred nomenclature, we’ll call “embattled”.
We won’t spend pages detailing how semi-automatic guns have been popular for hunting use since the Browning Auto-5, which is over a hundred years old. We won’t obsess how the most popular hunting rifle in Canada for most of recorded history was the lightest, fastest, highest-capacity military rifle we could get our hands on, the Lee Enfield. We won’t derail this review with our frustrations about how elsewhere, the AR-15 is now among the most popular hunting rifles ever built, and is simply another link in an endless chain that sees yesterday’s military and police technology filter down to sporting hands because it’s quality technology that succeeded in the first place because it works well, and that fear-mongering about a rifle on the basis of its appearance is just silliness.
But that is all true, for the record.
At any rate we can’t all live in places where the most popular sporting rifle of our era is legal to take into the bush. The same conditions are endured by millions of our American cousins as well, and while we’re hardly happy about that, the one upside is that the market for “workaround” guns is actually fairly large. And that’s exactly what the Troy PAR is: it’s a workaround for people who are (or would like to be) heavily invested in the AR platform, but who are coping with a legal restriction relating to its design. In some cases, the problem is the semi-automatic action; in Canada, it’s because our legislators wrote the name down on a list of random guns that looked scary. Either way, the PAR solves a very specific problem: what if you really want to use an AR in the field, but you’re not allowed?
Because make no mistake about it, the Troy PAR isn’t just a pump action rifle that looks similar to an AR. This is exactly what the AR would have been, if Eugene Stoner had wanted to design a pump-action rifle. It’s radically different in operation, of course, because it’s a manually operated firearm. Don’t get us wrong; this isn’t a variant and you can’t mate your PAR upper with an AR lower, nor do other critical parts just swap in. It’s a different gun entirely. But if we lived in an alternate universe, this is what an AR could have been.
The Troy PAR we got our hot little hands on is the .308 Winchester edition, making it legal to hunt with everywhere in Canada. It is, unsurprisingly, based closely on the Troy .308 AR platform and comes equipped with a pile of what are ordinarily aftermarket goodies, from the Troy Medieval muzzle brake to the modified Troy TRX rail (sections at three and nine o’clock have been milled out to allow for slide function) to the Troy Battleax stock. Our tester model was supplied with Troy folding sights and Magpul P-mags, but ordinarily the Optic Ready model comes bare of sights.
Inside, the Troy PAR continues its menu of AR parts: the trigger group is pure AR and can be swapped out for any standard AR trigger; the bolt carrier is very slightly modified to handle an operating rod in place of a gas key but the bolt is an AR bolt. The barrel is almost an AR barrel, although obviously it has no gas port, but in theory at least, a different AR barrel could be dropped in after the gas port was soldered closed (or before it was cut, if that option is available to you) as long as the diameter is small enough to allow for the action ring to travel around the barrel.
Seeing the Troy PAR’s pump action work is interesting. The slide itself travels on the slots cut into the rail; the design is extremely rigid and operation is fantastically smooth. The PAR is essentially turned into a manual long-stroke piston gun, the operating rod taking the place of the standard gas tube. The bolt lockup is, of course, exactly like a standard AR, and offers the user an interesting, if somewhat academic, insight into the incredible design of the original Armalite: with no spring tension on the action and a more natural grip than that afforded by the AR’s charging handle, it’s possible to feel just how smooth the operation of an AR-type rifle really is. Answer: spookily smooth. We had to look inside with a flashlight just to convince ourselves the bolt really was rotating into lockup.
Of course, there is a penalty to be paid for all the AR parts commonality: this is still a pump gun, and it doesn’t have the gas-powered extraction of an AR. As such, Troy advises that steel-cased ammo is verboten in this rifle: it just won’t extract reliably. They’ve done everything they can to ease extraction, including fluting the chamber (a decision which has prompted mixed reactions, incidentally: fluted chambers tend to shorten the life of brass although we’re already seeing reports from reloaders who are reusing brass without issue.) Additionally, some critics have speculated that the fluted chamber doesn’t work well with the rotating bolt design. We’re not engineers, but Troy assures us that this is not an issue, and we’re inclined to believe them. They’ve built a lot of guns. But this isn’t a rifle most people will use for huge volumes of surplus ammo anyway.
So we loaded up the Enterprise with brass-cased .308 and headed to the range. And we were not disappointed.
Shooting the Troy PAR
We took a selection of .308 ammo from Federal, Winchester and Hornady, partly because we wanted to see if there was any basis to the speculation we’d heard about the fluted chamber interfering with extraction. Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: every single round we fed the PAR, from every manufacturer, extracted without issue. We didn’t use steel cased ammo because Troy says not to, and as a result we had no issues with any ammo from any manufacturer. We feel absolutely comfortable saying that this rifle does not have extraction issues.
On top of that, there was no detectable distortion of the brass. Not with 147 grain mil-spec stuff; not with 175 grain match ammo, not with anything in between. Whether this holds true across the board for every single chambering, would couldn’t say, but we’d guess that at the very least, the .308 and .223 versions will not have issues, because pressures in .308 are typically higher and the geometry of the chamber is such that the larger round will have more unsupported brass. If the .308 works fine (and it does, in case that’s not clear) then the .223 should work just as well. We’re chalking the poor extraction theory up to more internet rumour-mongering.
The other notable feature of this rifle is its accuracy. In some ways this shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was: functionally, this is basically a high-quality AR-10, with fewer moving parts at the time of ignition. It’s a little more challenging to shoot offhand for repeatability so if you’re really interested in shooting target rifle from a standing position, this may not be your thing for the simple reason that the motion of racking the slide is a little disruptive to an ideal target stance. But this isn’t a target rifle, it’s a brush gun with the accuracy of a target rifle. Using the Federal Gold Medal Match, we found it to be the equal of many bolt guns we’ve used, and with generic Winchester White Box and Federal XM80 (which is essentially factory seconds of Lake City M80) it would still turn in easy two inch groups when shot unsupported from a bench. The free float rail allows the use of a rest or even bipod if you want to really maximize your accuracy, but the bottom line is that this rifle is unlikely to be a significant hindrance in accurate shooting. We were amazed with its performance at 100 yards. The 1:11.25” barrel seemed to really like the 168 grain Hornady A-max loads, incidentally, although performance at the limits of our personal shooting abilities are difficult to chalk up to ammo alone. But if you want to wring accuracy out of one, we’d start with the A-max or Federal Gold Medal Match.
Is the PAR the solution?
Whether the Troy PAR works for an individual shooter or not is difficult to say. There are a few non-restricted black rifle options in Canada, although nothing this close to the AR platform is readily available, and at the price point it’s being offered, nothing can touch it: the .308 optic ready edition is barely over $1100, and the .223 edition starts a penny shy of a grand. These are extremely well-built and smartly engineered rifles for that money, and if you’re looking for a compact, high-performing brush gun that’ll drop jaws in hunting camp, plus drop targets at any range you feel comfortable attempting, this is your rig. In particular if you’re invested in the AR platform, as so many of us are, we think this gun has a lot going for it. Sure, there will always be people who don’t want to see black guns in the bush, and at the other end of the spectrum people for whom a manual-action rifle is somehow an affront to their beliefs. That’s fine. For the rest of us, tragically mired in the reality of Canadian gun laws, and looking for a solution to the non-restricted black gun conundrum, well, this is established, proven,Troy Defense quality, reliability, and durability, and you can take it in your truck wherever you want to go. We’re calling the Troy PAR a solution par excellence.