The Ensio FireArms company of Finland announced the launch of the KAR-21 semi-automatic sporter rifle, available with 16" or 20" barrels and in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm calibers, convertible from one to the other through by simply swapping a few parts: will it play a role in the incoming new rifle trials for Finland and Sweden?
Europe's latest modern sporting rifle comes straight out of the great white north: the Ensio FireArms KAR-21 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm caliber semi-automatic rifle was announced officially this week by the Ensio FireArms Ltd. company, headquartered in the town of Sastamala, in south-western Finland, best known among shooters and hunters in its home Country and in the neighbouring nordic states for its MERC line of hunting, long-range shooting and tactical bolt-action rifles.
The KAR-21 – whereas KAR stands for "Käräjämies Automatic Rifle", after the name of its engineer, Toni Käräjämies – is a modern, modular, multicaliber firearm conceived to be converted in minutes to suit the needs of various sport shooting specialites, for competition, and certain tactical applications.
The Ensio FireArms KAR-21 is a semi-automatic, gas-operated rifle featuring a short-stroke piston system and a manual gas regulator located just in front of the upper receiver, right above the barrel, allowing the gas system to be adjusted to suit the needs of the user in terms of deployment conditions – such as the use of different types of ammunition, different loads, and possibly silencers.
The KAR-21 is built around an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy upper and lower receivers, and features an AR-15 compatible pistol grip and an M4-type collapsible buttstock mounted on a standard MIL-SPEC buffer tube attached to the rear of the gun via a dedicated interface.
The safety switch is ambidextrous, while the magazine release catch is located on the right side of the lower receiver and the bolt hold-open release lever is located on the left side.
A forward mounted charging handle, located over the handguard, can be reversed upon field-stripping to accommodate left-handed or right-handed operation.
A full-length MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optical sights and back-up iron sights is machined right on top of the lower receiver, for additional stability; the handguard features QD sling swivel cups on both sides and a set of M-LOK slots for additional accessory rails at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions.
The Ensio FireArms KAR-21 rifle comes with a "proprietary" two-stage trigger group (not AR-15 compatible), and is available in two calibers: .223 Remington and .308 Winchester. The .223 configuration feeds through STANAG 4179 compatible magazines (AR-15 type), while the .308 version feeds through AR-10 and SR-25 compatible magazines such as the MagPul P-MAG LR/SR mags.
Modularity and multi-caliber capabilities are the main features of the Ensio FireArms KAR-21 system, with the bolt carrier group and receivers are one and the same for all variants, regardless from caliber.
The KAR-21 can be converted from .223 to .308, and vice-versa, by swapping the barrel, bolt, and lower portion of the magazine well upon field-strip. The necessary components will be sold separately in a bundle, as conversion kits.
The Ensio Firearms KAR-21 rifles feature Lothar Walther button-rifled 41 cm / 16" long barrels – bringing the overall length to 84 cm / 33" or 85,5 cm / 33.66", depending from the caliber – and weighs in at approximately 3,7 kilograms (8.15 lbs). The barrel axis is lower than on most modern sporting rifles, in order to reduce muzzle climb.
All rifles come without any muzzle attachment from factory; a 1/2-28 or 5/8-24 thread at the muzzle respectively for the .223 and .308 variants will allow users to easily install any flash hider, muzzle brake, or sound suppressor according to their needs and preference. A 20" barrel is also available specifically for the .308 caliber variant.
As of today, the Ensio FireArms KAR-21 is a semi-automatic only rifle, conceived for civilian uses and law enforcement application, but a full-automatic/select-fire version may play a significant role in potential military trials in the near future.
Indeed, on May 3, 2021, at the bottom of an official press release from the Swedish Ministry of Defense, the announcement was made that a cooperative effort procedure will start in September to bring Sweden and Finland to adopt a new joint service assault rifle that will replace the Ak5 (local version of the FN FNC) and Valmet Rk.62 rifle variants respectively in service with the Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces.
This led some observers to speculate that the Ensio FireArms KAR-21 may indeed be one of the runners in the upcoming competition. After all, the KAR-21 design meets all the standard for a modern service rifle, and the multi-caliber and barrel swap capabilities could allow the platform to serve in multiple roles, from standard service rifle to designated marksman rifle if need be.
Whether or not the KAR-21 will be submitted to the trials, and whether or not a relatively small company such as Ensio FireArms will be deemed capable to guarantee the production volumes needed to equip the armed services of two Countries, is still left to see in practice.
As of today, direct pre-orders for the Ensio FireArms KAR-21 semi-automatic rifle are open only in Finland, and the price is indeed hefty, being listed at well over 3.000 euro per rifle and over 1.300 euro per conversion kit, with first deliveries expected by the end of January 2022.
Foreign companies that may want to become distributors of the KAR-21 rifle abroad are urged right now to contact Ensio FireArms directly to explore the possibility of reaching a commercial agreement.