The "Karthago" series of semi-automatic rifles and carbines is the latest and greatest iteration of the AR-15 derivatives manufactured in Switzerland by Astra Defense – and today we take a look at the 12-inch "Commando" version
Once upon a time was Astra-Unceta y Cia: first established in Eibar in the year 1908 and moved five years later in the city of Guernica, in the Basque Country, for ninety years it competed with brands such as STAR and Llama as the "heart and soul" of the Spanish gun industry. All through its history, dozens of pistol and revolver lines manufactured by Astra were exported worldwide, with millions of units sold; enjoying a discreet success among military customers in the early 20th Century and becoming popular between civilian shooters after the Second World War.
Factors such as the shrinking of its market share and the Company's inability to adapt to the changing demands of the public led Astra to bankruptcy in 1998 – but its brand survived at least. Ten years later, in 2008, it revived as Astra Arms – now Astra Defense – this time in the town of Sion, in Switzerland. After a brief stint in the world of 1911-type pistols, Astra Defense focused in the manufacture and distribution of AR-15 rifles and carbines for the military, law enforcement, government, and civilian markets. The StG4 carbines and StG15 rifles first launched in early 2009 would evolve in the MkII Guernica line, leading later to the launch of the MkIII Karthago line in 2016.
We have had the chance to test the StG4 MkIII Karthago Commando 11.9" semi-automatic carbine, one of shortest versions in the Astra Defense rifles line, which also includes a 10.5" variant and several short-barreled pistols variants.
All Astra Defense firearms are manufactured entirely in Switzerland, using last-generation, state-of-the-art CNC machineries.
The Astra Defense StG4 MkIII Karthago Commando 11.9" semi-automatic carbine uses an upper and lower receiver fully forged out of aluminum alloy.
The Karthago line of rifles is engineered, and its components are manufactured, so to reduce all typical tolerance of MIL-SPEC AR-15s basically to zero. Not only is accuracy greatly enhanced, but most points from which dust, water and dirt could infiltrate are sealed out.
This of course does not mean that the Astra Defense AR-15s are not MIL-SPEC: they are indeed, and fully so. As such, they remain completely compatible with all components and accessories manufactured by both Astra Defense and any third party for MIL-SPEC AR-type rifles and carbines.
All of Astra Defense's upper and lower receivers are hard-anodized in black according to MIL-A-8625 Type III specs. The lower receiver of the Karthago Commando 11.9" carbine comes with an integral trigger guard and full ambidextrous manual safety magazine release and bolt-open release, as well as a "dogbone" external bar for the anti-rotation retaining system that holds the trigger group pins in place.
The upper receiver features an oversized cocking handle and forward assist seat, as well as a set of folding sights manufactured by SWT - Schweizer Waffen Technik; the same company manufactures the six-positions extensible stock, which is mounted on a MIL-SPEC buffer tube, and the pistol grip, offering storage space for spare batteries, cleaning tools, and much more.
SWT also manufacturers the Karthago Commando's forend, dubbed the KMS1. A hard-anodized, aluminum machined forend, it is held in place by a set of Allen Screws and features a top Picatinny rail which – along with the top rail of the upper receiver – provides for a full-length attachment platform for otpical sights; it is lightened and ventilated, and comes with KeyMod slots on both sides and on the bottom for further accessory rail segments.
A classic direct gas impingment system, the Karthago Commando 11.9" features a low-profile gas block and a chromed gas tube; the bolt carrier group is also machined out of high-quality steel, using state-of-the-art CNC machineries, and since October it is available in an adjustable version.
5.56x45mm is not the only caliber available: the Karthago Commando 11.9" carbine is also available in 7.62x39mm and .300 AAC "Blackout" variants. The Astra Arms Karthago Commando 11.9" feeds through standard AR-15 type magazines (a.k.a. STANAG magazines), with one SWT magazine issued with each carbine.
Durability, safety and performance are guaranteed with any load, from civilian-grade .223 ammunition to NATO-standard 5.56x45mm ammunition, which makes the Karthago Commando 11.9" carbine a great choice for Police forces.
Following the disastrous terror attacks of 2015 in France, a great number of law enforcement agencies in Europe are partially phasing away their currently-issued patrol long guns (sub-machineguns in 9x19mm caliber) with semi-automatic centerfire rifles in 5.56mm caliber that privilege penetration and accuracy over saturation; for those forces, the Astra Defence StG4 MkIII Karthago Commando 11.9" could be an excellent alternative.
The Karthago Commando carbine comes with a 303 mm / 11.9" cold-hammer forged, chrome-lined barrel with six right-handed high-profile ("HD") grooves and a a 1:7" rifling pitch; the chamber is also chrome-lined for durability.
The muzzle is threaded for a SWT FSS56 high-efficiency muzzle brake which can be replaced with other aftermarket compatible muzzle devices at the user's will.
Standing at about 70 cm (27.½") of overall length with its stock fully collapsed and about 80 cm (30") with the stock fully extended, the Astra Defense StG4 MkIII Karthago Commando 11.9" carbine is a great performer in a small package – and at 2,45 kilograms (5.4 lbs) of overall weight, it's also pretty light for such a greatly crafted gun.
One of the best AR-15 SBRs Made in Europe? Handle one and see by yourself!
Astra Defense StG4 MKIII Karthago Commando - Specifications
StG4 MKIII Karthago Commando 11.9"
Direct gas impingment, semi-automatic, adjustable gas block
Ambidextrous two-positions safety switch
STANAG 4179 (AR-15 compatible) detachable magazines of any capacity
303 mm / 11.9 inches
six right-handed HD grooves, 1:7" rifling pitch, SWT FSS56 flash hider
SWT XCB flip-up front sight
SWT XCB flip-up rear sight, adjustable for windage and elevation up to 600 metres (656 yds)
Full-length MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optics
698 mm / 27.48" with stock collapsed, 782 mm / 30.7" with stock fully open
2,45 kilograms / 5.4 lbs
Forged hard-anodized aluminum receivers; machined hard-anodized aluminum alloy forend; CNC-machined steel barrel and bolt carrier group; polymer stock and pistol grip
Consult your dealer for local availability and pricing