There are probably more rifles available today built on the AR-15 platform than ever before. In fact, the rifle and its components are so highly standardized that when it comes to AR-15s, there’s not much new under the sun.
And when you do see something new—some new proprietary product that claims to improve what’s worked for years—you should be wary. The AR platform is one of the most reliable, lowest-maintenance configurations for assault rifles in the world, which leaves little room for proprietary innovation.
So what makes a rifle from a relatively new company like Sionics Weapon Systems worth the money? The answer is service, accountability, and high-quality components.
Sionics is nearing its third year of business, and has yet to do $1 million in annual sales. It’s a small company, based in Tucson, Arizona, and other than the master gunsmith, the company is staffed by former military and law enforcement personnel.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is a revolution in AR rifles,” says chief of operations, Kino Davis. “We make a really tight weapon, and we don’t compromise anything.”
The goal of Sionics is to make a Mil-Spec rifle as its baseline product that’s ready to use out of the box, and to provide personal, dependable service. To that end, the company has a master gunsmith on staff (rather than an armorer), they shoot a full box of shells (20 rounds) through every firearm they produce, and if one of their rifles malfunctions, they’ll send you a new one in less than 72 hours.
When you call the number on the Sionics website, chances are, the guy who assembled and tested your rifle will pick up the phone. There’s no overseas answering service, no recorded menu of options. It’s a small company that’s prepared to stand behind their rifles.
Also ready to stand behind Sionics rifles is the Buckeye (Arizona) Police Department, among other agencies. Sionics rifles are duty-approved for a handful of agencies in the Southwest, and their clientele grows steadily. Many officers carry Sionics firearms in the field, even if the firearm isn’t agency-issued.
On Internet forums, at gun shows, and in gun shops throughout the country, the term Mil-Spec gets thrown around ad nauseum. But when it comes to buying an AR, Mil-spec is, for many people, the bare minimum, and the only option for high-quality rifles.
When Sionics first started producing rifles, the company outsourced certain components. But that didn’t last long.
“In our effort to make the best rifle we could, we had to take control of every aspect of the manufacturing,” Davis says. “Assembling a bunch of COTS parts was not what we wanted; we are meticulous about what we were doing and what we are making. When we go to a manufacturer to make something for us, we go to the best in the industry and have that part made to our exact specifications and standards; our rejection rate is actually quite high. We don’t believe in passing the QC inspection on to the end user.”
And the QC inspection at Sionics is a thorough vetting. It’s a 30-point checklist designed to find the weakest link in the chain, designed to ensure that the purchaser gets a reliable weapons system.
“Mil-Spec is the baseline, the minimum standard for us,” Davis says. “But Mil-Spec does not always mean the best. The beauty of Mil-Spec is that you can take a rifle that was made 25 years ago in Connecticut and rebuild it with parts made yesterday in Texas… I like to think that our rifles take that extra step and in some cases exceed the Mil-Spec. Proprietary goes away from the essence of Mil-Spec,” Davis says. “With proprietary parts, you’re making people your hostage.”
Bryan Smeltzer is the master gunsmith for Sionics, having been trained at the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School’s Master Gunsmith Program. He shoots a box Mil-Spec ammo through every rifle and is responsible for the QC test.
“As a gunsmith what is attractive to me about the Sionics rifle is all the extensive research with operators in the field to ensure the platforms are functional, reliable and realistic in the real world,” Smetzler says. “These rifles are not made for the Zombie Apocalypse, but rather a solid platform operators in the field can rely on.”
For more on Sionics and technical information on their rifles, go to their website: sionicsweaponsystems.com.