Sci-Fi and Space Gat 2: The AR-15-Based XCOM X-9

by Vern Evans

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As I wrote in Sci-Fi and Space Gat 1, I feel like most folks are going to recognize Han Solo’s blaster, even if they don’t know it’s called a DL-44. I’ll admit, my next build goes further off in the weeds of nerdity. Cloning video game guns isn’t new, and there are innumerable versions of the Fallout New Vegas Service Rifle out there, and who knows how many builds based upon the various Call of Duty games. My inspiration though was XCOM. XCOM is an old video game franchise that pits a small human rebel group against an alien invasion.

The early game graphics were so pixelated it was hard to say what the assault rifles the team used were. The newer adaptations are a little clearer. Now, even though the games take place in a current day setting the guns aren’t based upon anything specific. The base assault rifle is the “X-9” and we know from screen shots and data that it’s chambered in 5.56mm and built by the fictitious “Valmeer and Vach.” Being that XCOM is probably my favorite game series of all time, I decided to see how close I could come to building a real world X-9.

The X-9 from XCOM: Enemy Unknown looks to be a short barreled 5.56 carbine with a red dot optic and a black and FDE finish. It was a large muzzle device and a protrusion above the barrel that made it look like it could be a piston driven system. It’s kind of chunky overall.

Since I discovered that Bad Attitude did custom lowers, I had them work up an X-9 lower for me complete with XCOM logo, and Valmeer and Vach markings. Since the name was obviously a play on Heckler and Koch, Joel at Bad Attitude used the HK style font and selector markings for me.  Since Bad Attitude doesn’t offer FDE finishes, I got mine in bare aluminum. I picked up a slick-side raw billet aluminum upper from KM Tactical and painted both FDE with Norrell’s Moly Resin. My sloppy paint job gives the gun a bit of a battle worn finish, which is exactly what I was going for. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

I used a basic Anderson LPK, but swapped out the trigger for a flat model that I grabbed from KM Tactical when I got my upper. Trying to find a stock or brace that matched was tough but I ended up going with an FDE Shockwave 2M Blade brace and buffer assembly from KAK Industries, especially since I decided a short barrel would look best on this build.

I picked up a 10.5-inch 5.56 barrel from American Icon and grabbed an Adams Arms carbine length piston kit. The Picatinny piston gas block looked right for the build, and I really haven’t worked much with piston guns so this would give me a test platform to work with. I added a Del-Ton bolt and a firing pin, cam pin and firing pin retainer from Brownells. The game X-9 has a pretty chunky forend and the closest I could find was the Strike Industries two piece polymer Carbine Length Handguard in FDE. This is a pretty robust handguard with a heat shield and M-LOK slots. It installed easily and had enough clearance for the Adam’s Arms piston. I did have to modify a carbine end cap to accommodate the piston so that I could attach the handguards. Adams Arms sells a proper end cap, but I have a Dremel, so I made it work. I also used an FDE Strike Industries T-Bone charging handle. To cap off the barrel I put on a KAK industries flash can, which gave the right fat barrel/muzzle look of the X-9.

I looked for a long time at proper optics for my build. Initially I used one of my Swampfox Kingslayer green dots (I have two of them.) It would have worked fine, but didn’t have quite the profile I was looking for. After some looking I found the new Bushnell RXM-300 red dots not only offered the profile I needed, but had great specs and a reasonable price. This is a fun build. I wanted it functional, but I didn’t want to drop $500 on an optic for what’s basically a range tool.

The last thing I added was a Magpul FDE polymer trigger guard, black Magpul ejection port cover and a FAB Defense AG-43 pistol grip. The AG-43 mimicked the game gun look pretty well. To properly accessorize, I used Amend2 magazines, which work great, and had the right somewhat futuristic look.

I was pretty much done, but I ran the build past a couple of buddies for input. After some suggestions on fine details, I painted the lower portion of the handguard black to better match the game gun finish and wrapped the mag in some red hockey grip tape. Why red grip tape? I have no idea, but it’s on the game gun and was easy enough to do. Maybe they marked their mags with different ammo types for use on different aliens?

While the build was based upon a fantasy gun, I’m actually pretty pleased with how it came out. It’s short, handy and points well. The piston system is slick and something I may consider for other builds down the road. I had never used the FAB grip or Strike handguards before, but have to say I like both. They’re comfortable and provide a solid grip, and both seem quite rugged. The Bushnell RXM-300 optic worked out really well for this build, and I’m going to work with it more and try it on some more conventional builds as well. This may have started as a fun, game-inspired build, but I actually ended up with a pretty functional AR pistol. I may SBR it at some point, and drop a stock on it rather than a brace, once I find one with the right vibe.

It’s Okay to Have Fun

If you only have one AR, and your intention is defense, hunting or competition, then these kind of builds are probably not for you. If you’ve got your bases covered already though, and just want to do something fun, your options are endless. It doesn’t have to be a DL-44 or an X-9 from a game you’ve never heard of either, it can literally be whatever you want. It can be something a little more basic like a Colt 733 clone from HEAT, or something inspired by your movie or game of choice, or just something you dream up on your own.

The variety and availability of AR parts makes it easy to build what you want, whether it’s practical or not. As long as you’re having fun with it, that’s what matters. I think a lot of folks lose sight of the fact that shooting is fun, and not everything has to be deadly serious. There’s a place for that for sure, but that doesn’t mean there’s not also a place for going out and shooting pop cans, steel gongs and alien targets with your favorite customized blaster.

Check Out: Sci-Fi and Space Gat 1: The AR-15-Based DL-44


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