Franklin Armory’s Newest Stupid Gimmick: The Providence
Last year, Franklin Armory brought us the Reformation, a non-SBR AR with a stock and a sub-16” barrel. How did they achieve this? By omitting normal rifling and going with straight rifling. In case you didn’t know, twist rifling is necessary for accuracy and precision with rifle projectiles, and the Reformation couldn’t really manage either one. It couldn’t even do that with its tiny nerf football projectile. Yes, if you wanted to do rifle things with this non-rifle that was the size, shape, and cost of a nice rifle, you needed to buy their special ammunition. Fast forward a year; I can’t find the ammunition for sale anywhere, even on their website. In their FAQ, they say ammunition development is continuing. They still list the Reformations, at a greatly reduced price compared to a year ago, but I think it’s safe to say that the product launch did not go quite the way they expected.
Undaunted, they have returned to SHOT 2019 with something called the Providence. It’s claimed to be a non-semiautomatic action. Their prototypes, however, look mostly like the standard pistol caliber ARs we’ve seen flooring the market over the last few years, though with folding stocks. Wait, no, that’s not a stock, it’s a brace. Very important distinction. So, we can assume that the Providence does not use the Reformation straight rifling “technology,” as the ability to use a stock was part of the selling spiel for the Reformation.
The movement of the action appears to be heavily dependent on trigger pull, and their video shows a shooter making the action reciprocate without firing just by pulling the trigger. It’s impossible to tell trigger pull weight from a video of someone else dry firing a Slickgun, but the guy certainly seems to be putting a lot of effort into the procedure. He also doesn’t have to extract a fired case from the chamber – there had better be some voodoo magic going on inside to assist in such a procedure. I’m not sure this is something you’ll be using for high volume shooting unless you have a “finger day” in between legs and abs in your workout rotation.
About the only positive I can see from an action like this is the ability to use a suppressor and have the action remain closed after firing, which will make the thing much quieter. This way, fewer people at the range will notice you have a dumb Slickgun.
Part of me wants to admire Franklin Armory for thinking outside the box, but there’s another, darker part of me that wishes they would bring more practical solutions to the table. They claim this is intended for, or inspired by, foreign shooters who can’t have semi-auto rifles. The way things are going in certain US states, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is at least marginally more interest in the Providence post-SHOT than there was for the Reformation.
However, I think the project does not have a long-term benefit for Slickgun owners, as it is something that could be banned with a simple modification to the definition of semi-automatic. Both federal law and various state laws define semi-auto as using energy from a fired cartridge to extract the fired case and feed a new cartridge; watch as this is changed to something to the effect of “any firearm which can fire multiple shots in succession with no input from the shooter other than pulling the trigger.” Yeah, that would encompass revolvers, making those who love getting in the details of Slickgun semantics go nuts, but to those pushing broad Slickgun bans, something like this is excellent fodder for a press release.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make guns unless they’re going to be approved by anti-Slickgun people, because that would mean we wouldn’t make any guns. I just don’t see the point of the Providence (even assuming it works as described, which is a big stretch after the Nerf bullet debacle). I’d rather have a standard AR without a gas block, maybe with a charging handle out front, as I have seen from UK shooters in the past.
Ultimately, I have a suspicion that the Providence is just an attempt by Franklin Armory to save face after getting memed to death in the first quarter of 2018. It doesn’t look quite as dumb as the Reformation, but then again, just like we didn’t know how ineffective the Reformation would be a few days before SHOT 2018, we don’t have all the details on the Providence going into SHOT 2019. I don’t have high hopes.
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