The unfortunate history and hopeful future of the Adaptive Combat Rifle

Miguel Ortiz Avatar
Like Bushmaster, the ACR name will return (Remington)

Players of Call of Duty and Battlefield will be familiar with the Adaptive Combat Rifle. Developed as a replacement for the M4 Carbine, the ACR was touted as the rifle of the future. Marketing material flaunted the system’s ability to quickly change calibers. However, most of these quick-change kits, and the rifle’s full potential, never materialized.

adaptive combat rifle in video games
The ACR has been widely featured in video games and movies (Infinity Ward)

The ACR was initially developed by Magpul Industries as the Masada in 2006. Two years later, Bushmaster Firearms International licensed the design from Magpul. Bushmaster took over production, sales and future development of the Masada and renamed it the ACR. Remington, Bushmaster’s sister company at the time, received the contract for military and law enforcement production and sale of the ACR.

The prototype Masada before it became the ACR (Magpul)

Thanks to its appearance in popular media, the release of the ACR was highly anticipated. However, when it hit the market in 2010, its price range of $2,685–$3,061 turned away many prospective buyers. The military also abandoned the Individual Carbine competition that the ACR entered to replace the M4. Although some accessories were released over time, the rifle did not receive the level of support necessary to configure it to the extent that was advertised.

adaptive combat rifle development
The ACR was developed into a DMR and PDW (Bushmaster)

In 2020, the future of the ACR looked bleak when Remington went bankrupt. The Bushmaster trademark and ACR name were sold to a new holding company. “Nothing [carried over] other than the brand name and a few of the brand name patents,” said Bushmaster Marketing Manager Charli Riordan. The new Bushmaster has the ACR name, but not the patents to build it. In fact, about half of the patents that are part of the rifle remain with Magpul.

bushmaster adaptive combat rifle
The Bushmaster name reached 50 years (Miguel Ortiz/WATM)

With the revival of the Bushmaster name in a new company, now based in Carson City, Nevada, it’s natural for customers to expect the long-awaited caliber conversion kits to come to market. However, the patent issue prevents Bushmaster from providing support to the legacy system. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the support for those older ACR owners,” Riordan said.

Looking forward, Bushmaster does intend to revive the ACR, but in an improved form that doesn’t infringe on any existing patents. “We have to reengineer it completely,” noted Riordan. “We do not have a timeframe, but it is definitely our intention [to bring back the ACR].” Although it is unlikely that a new ACR will offer much compatibility with the original, Bushmaster does hope to include whatever compatibility it can with the new design. Regardless, the next time the name ACR is put on a rifle, it will be from Bushmaster.