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The Ares Defense Shrike 5.56 is an air cooled, dual-feed weapon that fires the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. The Shrike 5.56 can be supplied as a complete weapon, or as a low-risk upper receiver “performance upgrade kit” to existing M16-type service rifles and carbines.
The Shrike 5.56 has gas-piston operation, a quick-change barrel with fixed headspace and MIL-STD-1913 rail interface for the mounting of accessories. It can fire from standard 30-round STANAG magazines, 100-round Beta C-Mag drum magazines, and M27-linked SAW ammunition from 100-round “soft-pouch” and 200-round hard plastic SAW ammunition containers. At 7.5 lbs complete weapon weight, the Shrike 5.56 is the lightest rifle caliber belt-fed machine gun in the world. The few examples that have made it into circulation have no proper mounts available for "soft-pouches" or 200-round hard plastic SAW ammunition containers.
The Shrike production model has recently emerged from development. There exist some notable differences between the current model and the older prototypes.
EXP-1: The initial proof-of-concept prototype. It features a modified M249 handguard, a unique firing mechanism and a quick-detach barrel latch derived from the Stoner 63.
03A: The production model. It has a compact side-mounted gas system different from the previous prototypes, and its firing mechanism is also significantly modified. It has a circular handguard. The barrel latch and some other components are similar to the EXP-1.
ARES-16SPW receiver: This receiver was designed by Ares specifically for the Shrike system. It is identical to the mil-spec M16 receiver, except its magazine well is cut away to save space. Shrikes mounted on this receiver can only use M249 box magazines with linked ammo, but they have a smaller vertical profile.
Ares AAR: Lightweight Infantry Automatic Rifle for squad support. Features quick-change barrel, telescoping stock, MIL-STD-1913 optics mount and rail interface handguard with USMC Grip-Pod system. Feeds from 30- and 100-round magazines and can be user-configured to dual-feed (belt and magazine) in minutes with optional belt-feed module.
Ares AAR/C: Ultra-Compact Infantry Automatic Rifle for squad support. Features quick-change barrel, side-folding stock, MIL-STD-1913 optics mount and rail interface handguard. Feeds from 30 and 100 round magazines. Compact design maximizes portability and dismounted maneuverability.
This production variant can be fitted with multiple Picatinny rails. These enable it to mount various commercial scopes, flashlights, lasers, and even secondary underbarrel weapons such as grenade launchers and shotguns.