MGI Hydra Switch-Barrel System: A Modular AR-15 Development

   01.18.18

MGI Hydra Switch-Barrel System: A Modular AR-15 Development

The case above and all of its contents (not including ammunition) weigh 23.4 pounds. The contents are an MGI Hydra rifle, .223 Remington and .50 Beowolf barrels, two bolts, a .22LR conversion kit and magazines for rimfire and centerfire cartridges. Since the airline weight limit is 50 pounds, this leaves quite a bit for the appropriate optical sights on QD mounts. As an alternative, the same optic may be used for all barrels, with notes taken as to the number of clicks between zeroes for each caliber.

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This sample configuration provides foraging and practice .22 caliber, a stout short-range beast-stopper and a flat-shooting medium range option. Many other calibers are available, some of which require specific magazine wells. Fortunately, the mag well is also modular. While not necessary for this combo, a mag well specific to 9mm Glock magazines or another type may be installed in seconds.

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The barrel latch system is simple, requires no tools and returns the barrels to zero without any noticeable shift of impact. To pull a barrel, the padded lever under the handguard should be pulled away from the receiver, exposing the locking pins.

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At this stage, the barrel and he attached gas tube fulls forward, and out of the handguard. Barrels in a wide variety of calibers, weights and lengths are available.

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In some countries, switch-barrel rifles result from regulatory restrictions on the numbers of receivers. In the US, the main benefit of such a system is the efficiency in weight and bulk. While the system isn’t cheap, it’s quality. With airlines restricting not only the weight of individual cases but also the number of long guns brought by each traveler, this becomes a viable way to bring along a multi-purpose kit. For example, a person hunting with 458SOCOM might want a 5.56 barrel just in case the less common ammunition becomes unavailable at some remote location, or if the hunt goes from targeting feral hogs to removing burrowing rodents.

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The example I use has a functional but dated quad rail, while newer configurations use slicker and lighter forends. In general, the optimization is towards efficiency when traveling by puddle jumper plane or ATV. While the 3-4 caliber package is costly at first glance, it ends up being both less expensive and lighter than the equal number of conventional upper receivers with fixed barrels. The quick-detach barrels also permit but smaller and less obvious cases to be used for transport. The longest part is the dismounted barrel, about 18 inches counting the muzzle device and the extension for the bolt lockup: that fits diagonally into a 10 by 15 inch container. A pistol box hidden within a regular suitcase is far less likely to be pilfered than something that looks like a rifle case. And, with the promised harassment of visitors promised by certain Las Vegas hotels, lower profile travel might be the way to go.

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