The venerable AR-15 is known as a lego gun. It can be highly configured for just about anything the end-user wants. Need a shorter barrel… easy, want a different length of pull… done. This adaptability along with pricing and sheer availability has led to it being one of the most widely used rifles in North America.
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On May 1st, 2020 the Canadian government banned AR-15s along with several other types of firearms. This ended up creating problems for people like myself with numerous rifles on the ban list and a ton of parts for them—especially since all AR-15s were registered to lead to their inevitable confiscation, although that has yet to come.
Instead, our rifles are all now safe queens while the powers that be decide on how they will buy them back. Several AR-15-shaped semi-automatic rifles were sold prior to the ban ensuring they could not attach to the receiver of the AR-15 because if they did they would then be considered a variant by the RCMP Firearms Lab which works similarly to the ATF for those in the States. (The term ‘variant’ is not legally defined and has led to Turkish shotguns with no AR-15/10 internals being banned as variants based on looks.)
Unfortunately, all of those other guns were added to the ban list or later had their registry entries changed to say they were a variant despite what the original entry said. With that Maple Ridge Armoury (MRA) out of Ontario Canada went to work creating a rifle that could use almost all of the parts from an AR-15 but was a straight-pull bolt action.
Careful work was done on the receiver to ensure it was not able to mate with an AR-15 one. With all that work they came out with the Renegade MKII so that we could get some use of our parts that have been sitting around for almost two years now.
Maple Ridge Armoury came out with receiver sets and full builds as well as an assortment of accessories and parts to build the rifle you like. Due to barrel/overall length laws, I opted for a full-build rifle. It came with a 16″ barrel, keeping the rifle over 26″ long in its shortest fireable condition which is the law for any non-semi automatic centerfire. This means the rifle would be non-restricted so I could take it anywhere it was legally allowed to go as a firearm. When they were still legal, my AR-15s were only allowed at the range although they had no barrel length laws due to being restricted, which was nice.
It’s not an AR-15!
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty about what makes the Renegade MKII not an AR-15—other than the fact it isn’t semi-automatic.
The big sticking point for the firearms lab is the receiver of a rifle. If they can get it to mount to an AR15 lower with modification then they call it an AR-15. How much modification they don’t say but I would imagine they try fairly hard. The lower receiver of the MRA Renegade doesn’t have a buffer tube attachment area. Instead, the buffer tube is mounted to the upper receiver.
The next change for the lower is the spacing between the lugs for the takedown and pivot pins. On the MRA Renegade, the gap between the walls of the receiver and the lugs at the front is narrower so the only way to get an AR-15 upper to fit would be to mill those down. Now, if you did that you would end up with a bolt sticking out of your shoulder if you fire the rifle.
Remember, the buffer tube is attached to the upper receiver of the Renegade. The rifle doesn’t take a standard A2 stock off the bat. It is set up to just use collapsible stocks on the buffer tube. You can get an adapter plate that allows you to use A2 style stocks, like when we swapped out the Magpul MOE stock for the PRS. The lower also includes a MOE-K Grip which is one of my grips of choice so no need to swap it out. I did ditch the mil-spec trigger for a Trigger Tech adaptable trigger because that’s how all my rifles are if I can.
The upper receiver has a few more changes to it other than the buffer. First of all, a standard AR-15 bolt carrier won’t work. There is no space for a gas tube, and the upper doesn’t have a slot for a charging handle where you are used to. Instead, there is a slot cut in each side of the receiver for a cocking handle, hence the side charging bolt action.
The bolt carrier slot is also slightly narrower so something like the Lug-Lok from Real Avid wouldn’t fit however MRA makes their own that will fit. The bolt carrier does take a standard AR-15 bolt so you can use whatever short action caliber you want as long as you have the bolt and barrel to go with it.
If you want to use your standard AR-15 barrel you will need to block the gas port of the rifle, since the rifle doesn’t need a gas tube. You can do this one of two ways. You can buy the MRA Gas Port Seal, or you can use the gas block from your rifle: cut the gas tube down short and mount it in the block upside down.
The other option like how I did it is to get a barrel without a gas port in it like the 16″ one that came with my rifle. I have had fantastic accuracy with all my other MRA barrels and fingers crossed this one behaves the same. The MRA Renegade receiver can use standard AR-15 handguards so no need to use something only for this rifle. The same goes for muzzle brakes use whatever you want that fits your barrel. Just make sure you pay attention to how your barrel is threaded. For instance, a 7.62x39mm barrel has a different thread size than a 5.56mm.
What parts are compatible with a standard AR-15?
You can use the grip, buffer tube, carbine stock, buffer, spring, bolt, trigger, handguard, bolt catch, magazine release, safety selector, muzzle brake, and of course the magazine. You can use a couple of other AR-15 parts with your Renegade MKII with a small caveat like the A2 stock with the backplate accessory, or your barrel but you gotta block the gas port. The proprietary parts are the upper and lower receivers, bolt carrier, backplates, and charging handle. So as you can see for those of us in Canada, this receiver set could help breathe some life into an expensive paperweight in our safes.
We spoke about magazines in the last paragraph. You are likely wondering how the rifle has fared with different magazines we have used in it. Being as I am still in Canada, our magazine laws suck much like California or New York. Semi-automatic rifles are stuck with five rounds, pistols with ten, and bolt actions are unlimited—but much like all firearms laws, these come with a bit of a caveat.
Magazine capacity is based on the cartridge it is marked for so a pistol magazine in .40 S&W can hold ten of those bullets. But, it can also potentially hold more 9mm, and if it functions can be used in a 9mm handgun with no issues.
The same thing goes for AR-15 or XCR pistols since they are classified as a pistol. As long as the magazine is stamped for use in a pistol from the factory it can be a ten-round magazine. So for my use of the rifle I have used a Magpul PMAG Gen 2 with a Mag-Pod, Cross Industries 10/10 Cross Mag Pistol Magazines, and some LAR-15 steel magazines—the last two being ten rounders and the first one pinned to five with a pop rivet (pop rivets, just like laws, stop criminals). No magazine-related issues were found so far in the first 500ish rounds down the pipe.
We did have an issue with hard extraction, which we knew would be an issue for the first bit. The Renegade MKII has worse issues with hard extraction for the first 100 or so rounds if you are using 5.56mm but then it starts to smooth out. MRA even lets you know about this and they were not wrong. A few rounds felt like they really locked things up in the first 50ish rounds through the rifle. I just pushed the charging handle into one of the posts at the club. Otherwise, some were just a bit tougher to extract. I am not sure if this is just parts wearing in but the issue has since worked itself out. Something to know since this isn’t some sort of high-end bolt action with a butter-smooth bolt.
The MRA Renegade, as we said before, is a side charging bolt action rifle and the bolt is assisted forward using your good ole buffer and spring. This means your bolt catch still works when a magazine goes empty or you want to lock the bolt back say for cleaning.
The biggest change from the MKI to the MKII is the addition of a bolt catch. Since the buffer is screwed into the upper, removing the bolt so you can clean the rifle as you would do with an AR-15 is a bit of a pain in the ass. Instead, I just use a bore snake with the bolt locked to the rear.
Remember, the Renegade MKII is not a direct impingement rifle so gas isn’t being shot back into the receiver. So taking the stock off will only really be needed if you get the rifle real dirty or you are doing some bolt maintenance. This was one of those changes to keep the RCMP Firearms Lab happy.