When M14 Meets M16: The Fort Ellis XR-86 Frankenrifle

This rifle failed to sell at Rock Island on November 30, 2018.

This rifle is the home shop creation of one Wilfred Ellis, a talented gunsmith form Pennsylvania. It is basically a combination of an M14 gas system with an AR15 bolt and locking system, plus an in-line tubular receiver, M60 flash hider, and side-mounted magazine. Not exactly the sort of thing that will replace the M4 in military service, but an example of the sort of fun gunsmithing projects that you can put together just because it seems interesting to try. Neat!


  1. At first glance I tough it is movie prop. After some thinking it has some external similarity with Johnson LMG, due to magazine sticking to left, “in-line” layout and perforated shroud, though Johnson is recoil-operated, has bipod, no muzzle device and different sights system. I am wondering if Wilfred Ellis known about Johnson LMG.

  2. [off-topic so ignore if you wish]
    Some time ago Remington introduced 700CP:
    that is bolt-action repeating pistol firing 7,62×51 NATO cartridge.
    I presume that such contraption is effect of U.S. regulations, which are black magic for me.
    Anyway do you know any other production bolt-action repeating pistol for 7,62×51 NATO cartridge?

    • You just had to mention the black magic users of the worst kind: Legal warlocks, who always borrow the power of “Big Brother” to get what they want, even if what they want is completely in violation of common sense!

    • That is literally just a Remington 700 with the stock cut off and a short barrel.

      The only reason I see this being for sale is because its easier than putting in for a tax stamp to do it yourself, albeit more expensive.

  3. Strikes me as being rather reminiscent of the TRW Low Maintenance Rifle prototype designs, at least in form. Very interesting.

    • That’s what I thought it was, looking at the thumbnail…

      I wish Ian could get his hands on one, to do a video and shooting session with. I’ve always liked the look, and wondered what it shot like in real life.

      As well, the question has always occurred to me, usually as I was in the prone and resenting the buttons on my uniform for keeping me from getting lower… Why the hell don’t more weapons have side-mounted magazines? They make ever so much more sense than the long magazine monopod… And, in an LMG, they’re also easier to serve, and present a lower profile than a top-mount.

      • The usual “reason” is that the side-mounted magazine “unbalances” the weapon. Compared to a belt feed on a bipod-mounted GPMG?

        My uncle who was in the 2AD during WW2 said that in training in Alabama in 1941, they got acquainted with the tanker’s personal weapon of the time, the M1928 Thompson. The first thing they learned was that using the 30-round “stick” magazine made prone firing next to impossible, unless you dug a hole for the magazine to go into. Hence they quickly adopted the shorter 20-round box, and the 50-round “L” drum, either of which only “stuck down” slightly further than the gun’s pistol grip.

        On the German side, similar complaints were made about the magazines on both the MP38/40 and the entire MKb42 to StG 44 family, both of which had long, vertical (nominally) 30-round magazines. Their predecessors, from the Bergmann Muskete to the Erma EMP, all had magazines coming out one side or the other, not the bottom.

        The Russians seemed to have the best setup with the 71-round drum of the PPSh-41, inherited from the Finnish Suomi by way of the PPD-40. Except that it wasn’t that reliable in feeding, and was by 1943 superseded by the curved 35-round “banana clip”. (Yes, I know a clip and a magazine are two different things.) The Russians seemed unconcerned with the whole prone firing “problem”, but then they tended more toward CQB assault with the SMG, leaving prone firing to riflemen, especially snipers, and LMG teams.

        In the Commonwealth forces, the Sten and its copies and replacements (the Sterlings) always had left-side mounted magazines, and nobody seemed to have a problem with that.

        In Australia, of course, they had the Owen SMG with the top-mounted magazine like a Bren. Apparently, everybody liked it well enough that its successor, the F1, had the same arrangement.

        At Long Branch Arsenal in Canada, Anton Rosciszewski decided to get out of the whole tangled mess by designing his Model 41 SMG, which had a 40-round magazine lying under the barrel, with a rotator in the feed much like the later FN P-90;


        What looks like a magazine housing is actually a fixed vertical foregrip. The magazine was inserted in the underside of the stock, with the tab just ahead of the trigger guard acting like a butt-heel magazine catch on a P.38 pistol. In most other respects, the gun bore a remarkable resemblance to the later Beretta Model 12, internally. (Note where the cocking handle is on the right side.)

        Probably the most extreme answer was the Calico light weapon system;


        Which actually inherited its magazine concept from the Evans lever-action repeating rifle of the 1870s;



        So far, only the Russian Bizon 9mm SMG has used a similar arrangement- under the barrel, in its case.

        The fully-reliable, very-high-capacity rifle/SMG magazine that doesn’t “stick out” in some inconvenient direction or other is yet to come. When it gets here, it may have something other than metallic cartridges loaded with propellant powder in it.



  4. If the creator intended to make an antidote (or a joke if you will) to all those as source used designs, he succeeded. This shows, that there is not one firm formula, how to create a new firearm.

    Just think of it: in usual ‘design cycle’ it takes years, before somethin new gains an approval and acceptance. This guy made functional system in mater of weeks/ months. And he “approved” it himself!

    • “made functional system in mater of weeks/ months”
      In that regard and using existing part, in often not most obvious way, it is somewhat reminiscent of various World War II Partisan makeshift sub-machine guns, like for example:
      BEHA: https://www.forgottenweapons.com/submachine-guns/polish-beha-smg/
      BŁYSKAWICA: https://www.forgottenweapons.com/submachine-guns/polish-blyskawica-smg/
      (the latter used STEN magazines)

      “there is not one firm formula, how to create a new firearm”
      If it would that way, it would be… boring.

      ” it takes years, before somethin new gains an approval and acceptance”
      If you plan to produce it on big scale (which is not XR-86 case) it is better to check if it works as intended in all permitted circumstances, before starting production rather than after.

      • There is no “one right way” to create new weapons. There are, however, plenty of “not so great” approaches to crafting firearms. Patent-dodging is one of those approaches when the work-around becomes impractical to the user.

        • Speaking of patenting… oh man. I was in company who was hoarding patents (they all do it), often never put into production, just to prevent others to get them.
          And I am not talking about internal politics leading to who will have his name at dotted line. You have heard about this enforced “team work”, have you not? 🙂

          • That was pretty much the point of the whole Rollin White affair. Which probably would never have happened if somebody at the U.S. Patent Office had looked at the French LeFaucheux patent when White and Smith & Wesson came to the Patent Office door.

            Samuel Colt did a similar stunt with a couple of double-action (trigger-cocking) revolver lockwork patents. In his case, he apparently din’t trust DA revolvers, feeling they were too potentially fragile. “Locking up” the patents was his way of discouraging the U.S. War Department from demanding he make double-actions instead of simpler, more reliable (in his mind) and more profitable single-actions.

            He needn’t have worried. The War Department,or more exactly Generals Bomford and Talcott, Colonel Craig, and General Ripley, didn’t trust double-action revolvers for cavalry use any more than Colt did himself.

            BTW, the early model Paterson Colt revolving rifles and shotguns used in the Seminole War were not double-actions; they were single-actions with completely enclosed hammers. the ring ahead of the trigger guard had to be drawn back to cock the hammer and rotate the cylinder for each shot;


            It probably helped keep “Florida” out of the workings, too.



      • When you mention “boring” it occurs to me thinking of how standard thinking process works in ‘professional’ environment; I have seen plenty of it. Let’s remember, what is most of times taking place (once it leaves sales/planning department) is often mechanical, repetitious process…. and it gets tenuous and boring at times.

        And…. did I forget spiked with deadlines, outbursts of rush and tension?

        • What I wanted to say, there is a thick black line between hobbyist enthusiasm and typical work assignment handed from top down. And it does not matter what the final product is. Same crap 🙂

        • Or use some spare parts. I am far from being expert but it looks in U.S. there is big market for various so-called “aftermarket” parts, so I presume same is also true for “vanilla” spare parts of more popular guns, to which AR-15 belongs.

  5. This gun could be in the movies. Only 1 special effects person, with clout, needs to see this, and realise how sexy the Fort Ellis XR-86 would look. The rifle looks cool. But when Ian pulled the trigger group off!! Add a bit of plastic and it’ll look like a handgun so cool even Mel Gibson in his prime would like he couldn’t handle it. Much less than 100% of action movie executives would think that was worth having in their movie!?.

  6. I wish someone would put a 10 shot non-detachable rotary magazine on an Ar-15 upper fed individually or by stripper clips like the M1941 Johnson. I think that would be a lot of fun to shoot and load.

  7. I met Will Ellis once when he showed up at a full auto shoot with two of his personal M-60s. Quite a character. He wet one gun barrel with oil and ripped through a 200 rd. belt firing from the hip until the barrel caught fire, then he just threw it down on the ground and walked away.

    • I grew up adjacent to Abington township (went to the high school, graduating in ’81), but unfortunately never knew of the guy. Sounds very “metal”. 😉

  8. My inner “Mr. Picky” is demanding that I point out that in 1986, the so-called Picatinny Rail was not yet defined, and that they were still doing the Weaver Rail “thing”.

    Mil-STD-1913, dated February 3, 1995–That’s what defined the “Picatinny Rail”, and the provenance of it actually goes back a ways to the civilian AR market, which was using Weaver Rails epoxied onto the top of cut-down AR-15 upper receivers. This is also why early Canadian C-series rifles have Weaver Rail-spec rails, and not the Picatinny. I don’t know when they rationalized it all, for the Canadians, but I’ve seen early variants of the Leitz ELCAN optic that didn’t like the Picatinny when you went to mount them up on it.

    Trivial Pursuit-style quibble, but it is a valid one. From appearances, and just looking at that video, I’d say “Weaver Rail”, not “Picatinny”. Without a micrometer and the spec in hand, though… Be hard to really say.

    • “This is also why early Canadian C-series rifles have Weaver Rail-spec rails, and not the Picatinny. I don’t know when they rationalized it all, for the Canadians, but I’ve seen early variants of the Leitz ELCAN optic that didn’t like the Picatinny when you went to mount them up on it.”
      It was Pic rail right from start. I was involved with the project adopting Leitz sight. This started about year after C7 full scale production took off.

      • I could swear Canada was doing their railed rifles long before 1995…

        And, there are Canadians who have told me that the original C7A1 and C8A1 rails were Weaver-spec, and that the US took the idea, glommed it up with an existing artillery sight rail system, and created the Picatinny standard from that, much to the annoyance of the Canadians, who then had to change everything up to match US. I remember handling the C7A1 well before any such thing was being discussed here in the US, when working with PPCLI guys at Fort Lewis in the very early 1990s…

        Also, there is Wikipedia: “The C7A1 (Diemaco C7FT) replaces the iron sight/carrying handle used on the C7 with a modified Weaver rail for mounting optics. Canadian development of rails preceded U.S. standardization of the MIL-STD-1913 “Picatinny rail”, so the “Canadian Rail” or “Diemaco Rail” differs slightly. There are 14 slots instead of 13, and each slot is narrower. The height of the rail is also higher, allowing the use of normal-height front sight post whereas a Picatinny rail requires the use of a higher F-marked front sight post. During development, the original rails were vacuum-bonded to the top of a bare receiver. For production, the rail and receiver were made out of a single forging.

  9. Trigger as a cocking handle is the best example of clever home gunsmithing, not to mention other good stuff here.

    Also, there is a good balance between existing gun parts and ones he made himself, so its not just retarded looking “frankenstein” some wannabee gunsmith cobbled up completely from existing bought parts kits.

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