The State of the Union…Er, AR

posted on April 23, 2015

Jim Hodge is no stranger to most NRA American Warrior readers. With a background in law enforcement and government service, his Hodge Defense rifles are well-known in what we’d call “absolutely, positively gotta go bang” circles. In NRA American Warrior #19, we traveled to San Antonio to actually build a MOD-1 rifle side-by-side with Hodge and his team. (Perhaps) needless to say, shooting the rifle was gun-guy nirvana. We couldn’t catch ’em at the actual magic performed during our build, but we know there was some involved somewhere.

Over the last year, there have been a lot of changes in the AR landscape, and Hodge was gracious enough to let us go back to the well, so to speak, and get his unique perspective on what’s happening in Stoner-pattern rifle land.

AW: In the wake of the threatened bans of a couple of years ago—when seemingly everyone was an AR maker—what trends do you see now in the less-frenzied demand environment?

JH: After the big push of getting product out to the market, I believe standards of quality suffered. The market noticed, and now demands more accountability for quality in offered rifles. There were companies (small and large) who invested in growth to keep up with demand and who will now see a sort of “capital crunch” in their operations. This all but guarantees a shrinking industry footprint, but also presents an opportunity for these companies to separate themselves from the competition through new product development. I think the mid-level carbine manufacturers will suffer in sales, while the low- and high-end providers will stay roughly static in their respective markets. 

AW: As you know, the MOD-1 knocked our socks off. How has that rifle been faring since our visit? 

JH: Great, still a demand. The MOD-1 will be getting a facelift with a new forward rail assembly, stock and grip. We will be offering the MOD-1 with Magpul’s SL line of stock and grip. As for the forward rail assembly, we developed it in conjunction with Mega Arms; it's a sleek, robust and light weight system in M-Lok. We incorporated the use of 7075T6 in the hand guard, and a 6AL-4V titanium barrel nut. 

AW: It surprises us, but the DI vs. piston discussion is still raging in some quarters. We’ve shot multiple examples of both over a long period now and are perplexed by this. They seem different, rather than one being obviously better in all applications than the other. Mind giving us your thoughts? 

MOD-2 is fully developed, pre-production, and limited commercial runs have been issued.

JH: There’s a place for both. I see a trend in companies that were exclusively manufacturing piston guns moving to DI in certain applications. I believe a piston upper has its place on shorter barrel lengths—10.3”/SBR setups, or in combination with a carbine-length gas system—for instance. For longer barrel lengths and mid- or rifle-length gas systems, I don’t believe there’s a distinct advantage to a piston system. 

AW: Any thoughts on caliber? Massive griping about 5.56x45 is still everywhere, but how rational is this in your opinion?

JH: I know the U.S. government is not moving off the 5.56 caliber for a long time to come. But I also see improvements in projectiles and propellants. With these advances in technology, terminal ballistics are coming along in step. I do like other calibers such as 300 BO and the 6.5C, but the market support is still far greater for the 5.56.

AW: You gave us a sneak peak at MOD-2 when we were here a year ago. What’s the status of MOD-2?

JH: MOD-2 is fully developed, pre-production, and limited commercial runs have been issued. We are looking at this summer for a commercial launch to the masses, albeit in small runs. Currently, we are answering the mail on various government programs, and they are keeping us plenty busy.

AW: What other AR-pattern trends do you see? 

JH: First, the PDW (personal defense weapon) trend (AR pistols, SIG MCX/MPX, POF, FN, CZ, etc.) is definitely here, and will have staying power for a couple of years. I know it’s not all “AR-pattern,” though close enough in terms of weight, configuration and handling characteristics. I think its kind of a throwback to the HK94-MP5ish “it’s just different” muse. So many folks see the same thing over and over, and when a new style hits the market, people gravitate to it. Second, I believe more creativity will be seen in “billet” receivers, for good and bad. “Creative,” certainly. Useful, well-advised? We’ll see, I guess.

I’m also hoping for a sort of renaissance in optics—better choices, and at better prices. I think we’ll also see more night vision products mainstreamed, and hopefully at more palatable price points there, too.

AW: Thanks, Jim. And a last, obvious question: When can we get our mitts on a MOD-2?

JH: Late summer sound good?

AW: Well, no. <<Sounds of whining, generally inaudible complaints, barely muffled cursing>>

JH: <<Laughter>>


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