The Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle is a solid response to every law-abiding, self-reliant American who needs a proper defensive firearm to secure the home, protect the family and ensure that bugging out remains more vacation than ordeal. Other such guns exist that are reasonably priced, reliable and effective. Except this rifle is as much an experience as a firearm. Built from top-quality components and presented as a package that is part defensive rifle and part history lesson, the Expedition Rifle is a viable utility gun with some nifty accessories, all nestled into an exceptionally cool wooden box. In a sea of otherwise unremarkable AR rifles, the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle has a story.HISTORY 101
Before delving into the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle, a little history lesson is in order.
In 1792, Captain George Vancouver, commander of the HMS Discovery, established Fort Discovery near modern-day Sequim, Washington. The 210-man crew of the Discovery included 50 Royal Marines, who made good use of the naturally protected harbor at this location to make repairs to the ship and dry their black powder. At the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this location was soon recognized for its strategic importance in a wild and untamed world.
Captain Charles Wilkes further explored the area with a fleet of six tall ships for the U.S. Navy 50 years later. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson established the area as a military reservation. And in 1987, Joe D’Amico established Fort Discovery as a training facility at the same location where Captain Vancouver first made land 195 years before.
Today’s Fort Discovery includes 3,500 acres of private timberland running along the western coast of Discovery Bay. Spanning elevations from sea level to 2,200 feet, Fort Discovery offers a wide variety of environments suitable for a comparably wide variety of military training iterations. These include air- and waterborne insertions and extractions, reconnaissance, maritime operations, survival training, land navigation and all manner of live-fire shooting opportunities.
For military, law enforcement and security-minded civilians, Fort Discovery is a state-of-the-art training facility. In recent years, it has been used by the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as the British Royal Marines, FBI, U.S. Border Patrol and myriad other law enforcement and security professionals from around the world. In keeping with the storied history of Fort Discovery, the facility is now producing its own rifle that embodies the timeless, swarthy pioneering ethos of the training facility that shares its name.
When the UPS “Brown Truck of Happiness” rolls down my driveway to drop off a new cardboard box, it always sets my heart aflutter. In the case of the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle, pedestrian cardboard was simply inadequate. This rifle came packed in a custom-built pine box that sported the distinctive Fort Discovery emblem burned into its surface.
The box has a pair of rope handles, and the lid, while hinged to withstand years of use, is secured with a bevy of drywall screws. This box looks and smells like something with class. Upon opening the wooden shipping box, I was confronted with real, live excelsior. For those young unfortunates born into the days of bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts, excelsior is what served as shipping material back in the old days. It is an organic, straw-like substance that would have guarded the Ark of the Covenant against rough handling once it was crated up in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. This stuff, indeed, provides a cool retro ambience. The rifle comes optics-ready, along with a nice, high-end cleaning kit and a brace of Magpul 30-round magazines. The operations manual includes the Fort Discovery story, as well as some neat Fort Discovery stickers and memorabilia. The entire package also includes a unique custom challenge coin.
Challenge coins represent a long and illustrious military tradition, and this one is unique. One side features Captain Vancouver’s HMS Discovery and the date of his original landing. The words, “The Rally Point,” are depicted below the ship. Possession of either the coin or the rifle is adequate to gain entrance to the current fort.
The back side of the coin includes the coordinates of Fort Discovery, along with the elevation and founding date, set on a compass rose against a background field of stars. Daggers signifying the Royal Marines also adorn the coin. If you add up the numbers touched by the points of the daggers, you get 4, 4, 4 and 1. This number, 13, signifies the original 13 colonies.
“The overall cumulative effect is of a top-notch rifle made from top-notch components. I could find no corners cut anywhere.”
Foundationally, the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle is built around a matched pair of billet-machined upper and lower receivers cut from high-grade 7000 series aluminum. The receivers are then tumbled to reduce cracks and ensure a smooth finish before being MIL-SPEC hard-coat anodized. In a world awash in AR receivers cut from aluminum castings, billet-cut receivers can seem like overkill. However, your great-grandchildren will still be enjoying this rifle long after you are gone.
“The rifle comes optics-ready, along with a nice, high-end cleaning kit and a brace of Magpul 30-round magazines.”
The barrel is cold-hammer forged and chrome lined with a heavy profile. The tube sports M4 feed ramps and is stress relieved. The barrel has a 1:7 twist rate and is chambered in 5.56 x 45mm NATO. The final product is topped off with a heavy MIL-SPEC phosphate finish. The Daniel Defense bolt carrier group is magnetic particle inspected. The bolt is shot peened for hardness and durability, and the interior of the bolt carrier is chrome lined. The gas key is properly staked in place, and the extractor includes a booster ring. All internal parts, including the trigger, are crafted to MIL-SPEC standards.
The custom magwell includes four grit grooves for optimal reloading under abysmal conditions, and there is an ambidextrous single-point sling attachment. There is also a fold-down Magpul backup sight. The trigger guard is machined in place for simply ludicrous durability, and the magazine well is cut with straight corners to help keep it clear of crud in the field. The specially designed magazine release can be used with gloves on. The furniture all comes from Magpul, so it comprises the best and most ergonomically optimized stock, forearm and pistol grip available. The overall cumulative effect is of a top-notch rifle made from top-notch components. I could find no corners cut anywhere.HOW DOES SHE RUN?
The manual of arms is standard AR and, as such, should be foundational dogma to anyone clutching this hallowed tome (that is, American Survival Guide). I’ll spare you the rehash. Suffice it to say that the rifle runs fast and true. Magazines drop free cleanly, and the trigger and sundry controls are crisp and positive.
“A properly-adorned expedition rifle will keep you and yours safe in the face of the most reasonable threats — and most of the unreasonable sorts, as well.”
I mounted up some quality Lucid glass for distance work. This variable-power optic features nitrogen-purged, weatherproof tubes and perfect lenses. There is a side-mounted parallax knob and an ocular diopter adjustment. The 1/8 MOA adjustment knobs are easy to manage without tools, and their associated caps simply push down to lock. These scopes suck light in better than a black hole and are robust enough to outlast you.
Lucid optics offer all the top-end features you could want at a fraction of what other top-end name-brand scopes might set you back. The Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle shoots as well as you might expect for a custom-built, combat-quality smoke pole comprising state-of-the-art components. Despite my tired eyes, I could handily print sub-2-inch groups at 100 meters, and the rifle ate everything from high-end, namebrand target ammo to cheap, steel-cased, imported blasting bullets with ease. I would trust my life to the quality and reliability of this rifle, even under hard use.
For work at “bad breath” ranges, I topped the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle with a Lucid HD7 red-dot optic. The HD7 is rubber-armored and just about indestructible. It feeds from a standard AAA battery and sports four user-selectable reticles. The HD7 also includes a sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness of the reticle for ambient conditions. If you have to go from bright sunlight to dim indoors and haven’t the time to fiddle with your glass, the HD7 does the work for you. All this “awesomeness” comes standard, and the sight costs markedly less than its competition.
“The furniture all comes from Magpul, so it comprises the best and most ergonomically-optimized stock, forearm and pistol grip available.”
There are a lot of black rifle manufacturers competing for your hard-earned dollars these days. Their quality ranges from exquisite to abysmal, with everything in between. In the case of the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle, this is a top-end utility weapon executed with unusual class and flair. The historical angle gives the gun character, and the quality of execution is obvious throughout.
“Suffice it to say that the rifle runs fast and true. Magazines drop free cleanly, and the trigger and sundry controls are crisp and positive.”
Whether the Fort Discovery Expedition Rifle rides in a squad car, resides behind the seat in your pickup or rests in the corner of your closet, a properly adorned Expedition Rifle will keep you and yours safe in the face of most reasonable threats —and most of the unreasonable sorts, as well.
› UPPER/LOWER RECEIVERS: High-grade 7000 series solid aluminum billet
› FINISH: Hard coat anodized to MIL-SPEC standards
› BARREL: Cold hammer forged, 16-inch chrome lined, heavy contour with M4 cut feed ramps, stress relieved, headspaced with MIL-SPEC heavy phosphate finish; 1:7 twist rate chambered in 5.56 NATO
› FURNITURE: Magpul MOE stock, hand guard and grip
› BOLT CARRIER GROUP: Daniel Defense; magnetic particle inspected (MPI), shot-peened bolt, extractor booster, chrome-lined carrier; staked gas key
› MAGAZINES: Two Magpul PMAGs
› MSRP: $1,792
|HPR 60-grain V-Max||
2, 732 fps
|HSM 55-grain BlitzKing “Blue Thrill”||
2, 895 fps
|Gorilla Ammo 69-grain Matchking||
2, 621 fps
|Hornady 53-grain V-Max||
3, 035 fps
|Hornady 75-grain Boat-Tail Hollow Point||
2, 516 fps
|Federal 62-grain Full Metal Jacket Boat-Tail||
2, 824 fps
|Winchester 64-grain Power-Point||
2, 741 fps
Notes: Best four of five shots fired from a prone position at 100 meters in wet, windy conditions
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.