We recently sat down with David Rybacki, owner of VKTR Industries, to discuss the VKTR Industries VK-1, a new short-stroke piston AR-15 that is creating a lot of buzz due to its minimal recoil impulse. The VK-1 very recently won the Triggrcon 2023 Golden Trigger award for the most innovative long gun. To learn more about VKTR Industries and the background of the rifle, we visited with Rybacki and got some time behind the rifle. That interview is below:
Q: For starters, can you give me a bit of your background?
For the last decade, we built a company called DRG Manufacturing, a high-volume mil-spec parts manufacturer. We worked with some fantastic folks and created a website called White Label Armory, which has since transformed into Outerwild Outpost. I sold DRG Manufacturing to my sisters in March, moved to Missouri, and created VKTR Industries about one year ago.
Q: Can you talk about what DRG Manufacturing is known for today?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – We create mil-spec parts completely in-house, doing bolt carrier groups, barrels, billet uppers and lowers, forged lowers, and handguards. We do the heavy lifting on parts for the AR-15 in decent volumes. We do 10,000 bolt carriers a month. We grind all the IDs and ODs; we fix concentricies in the grinding process where honing and hard-turning don’t. The result is a bombproof final product.
I created five fully automated robotic cells that run these parts in high volume, unattended, and the process we have in place doesn’t allow them to make a bad product twice. We also do certain things to ensure we never make a bad part while running unattended.
Q: Where did the idea to make a piston-driven AR like the VKTR Industries VK-1 come from?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – We supply around 200 different manufacturers’ parts for their rifles, almost all of which are under NDAs. I’ve had so much fun making parts over the years, working with them for so long; I always thought that someday I might take all that knowledge and create a complete weapon system.
I had an opportunity to purchase the patents for a fully ambidextrous lower receiver. As such, I now had a patented lower that I could hold open and release the bolt from the right-hand side. All the mechanical parts are billet; we don’t like using castings or MIM parts in our weapon systems. I think it’s the most intuitive ambidextrous lower on the market. Also, starting with a mil-spec forging allows us to keep the pricing down.
The next step was doing something extraordinary and unlike anything else for an upper. I had known Paul Leitner-Wise for around seven years, and I called him and asked how he was coming along with his new piston system designs. He said he had a new one ready, and we discussed a licensing deal and how to integrate it into the new weapon system we wanted to introduce into the market.
Q: Can you remind readers who Paul Leitner-Wise is?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – Paul started a company known for its high-quality, reliable piston ARs called LWRC, or Leitner-Wise Rifle Company.
Q: Can you clarify this is not the system that LWRC currently uses?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – This system is entirely different from what LWRC uses. We have our patents, and they have their patents.
Q: Apologies for cutting you off. Please carry on with how the VKTR Industries VK-1 was born.
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – We had the lower, and we licensed Paul’s operating system, The next step was to contact an excellent marketing company I knew in Arizona called Offensive Marketing Group. I had talked with them before but called and told them, “I am ready.” We collaborated and the result was the VKTR Industries brand and our baby, the VKTR Industries VK-1 weapon system.
From the beginning, we intended to be a full weapon manufacturer. We didn’t want to do a ton of parts; instead, we wanted to give the end user a complete package with our eight patents that give you a unique firearm.
Another reason for wanting this to be a complete gun is that our VKTR Industries VK-1 handguard is part of the operating system. It’s not a normal AR “Lego” system where you can start changing things wherever you want. It truly is a complete weapons system that has to be kept together. So, you can’t change the handguard, but it gives you everything you need.
It still gives you true M-LOK modularity with M-LOK on the 3, 6, and 9 positions. The 16” gun weighs 6.8 pounds; it has a ridiculously awesome self-regulating short-stroke piston system that is not adjustable, as there is no need due to its design. You get eight patents on this thing, and when they work together, it’s one of the craziest shooting firearms I’ve ever shot.
It’s just so flat it doesn’t have a lot of recoil. It does not kick up. It doesn’t kick back. There is also an incredible balance to the gun. The best thing for me is that the gun is just a crazy system, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The worst thing about it is that nobody can believe it until they shoot it. It’s one of those guns where I just have to hand it to you and ask you to shoot it.
We went to TriggrCon this year, and the consensus from everyone was that “this is the flattest shooting gun I have ever shot in my life.” One instructor told us it was like a video game “cheat code,” but in real life. One instructor took our 10.5” gun and mag dumped it as fast he could and ended up with a fist-sized group at 10 yards, something he couldn’t do with the gun he had been using prior.
Q: Can we dive into the piston system a bit deeper?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – We have known Paul Leitner-Wise for a long time and made parts for him in the past. He’s a phenomenal engineer. With this new operating system, he had 20 years to perfect his original design. The way his system works is so incredible. A typical piston system usually has three vent holes to release gas for function.
This new system inside the VKTR Industries VK-1 has six…, three of which are there for function. Three of them are there to bleed gas. Once the gun is done functioning, the other three open, so you now have all six holes open, and this just dumps gas out.
No matter what grain ammo you use, suppressed or unsuppressed, the VK-1 is the first system I know that can self-regulate gas and dump/bleed/get rid of overpressure at the operating system. The other thing the VK-1 has that nobody else does is our Long Advanced Carrier Path for our cam pin. Inside the cam path, we’ve fixed Stoner’s original design.
He had wanted 22.5-degree travel from closed to open to turn the bolt and lock it. With the technology that Stoner had at the time, they were able to get a 20.7-degree cam path. So, if you look at your normal ARs, you will see a line in the upper receiver where the cam pin hits the upper. The steel cam pin will clear out the aluminum on the upper, so you’ll see that line. It clears it, and it will function. You also find in a standard AR that the bolt lugs will come in contact with the barrel extension, rubbing each other slightly as they open and close.
On the VKTR Industries VK-1, with our patented system, the lugs do not touch, and the cam pin does not hit the upper. This makes it very smooth with zero resistance. The extra 2-degrees also impacts dwell time. We open later, and we close later. With just that 2-degrees, we dump around 15-20,000 PSI worth of pressure out of the system before that bolt carrier group opens. By dumping that pressure out of the system before it opens, you get a very crazy soft shooting rifle. With a Carbine Spring and Carbine Buffer, no need for anything else.
Q: Can you give more information on the bolt carrier group?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – It’s a true one-piece bolt carrier group. We are also developing a DI bolt carrier group with the same cam path we’ve discussed. The piston bolt carrier group is a one-piece design that is a universal piston design that will work in a wide variety of piston guns like LWRC, Adams Arms, HK416s, Caracal, etc., but it gives you that perfected cam path and that dwell. When you change out the bolt carrier group in these guns with ours, you will see a much softer shooting gun with even that simple swap.
Q: Can we discuss the VK-1s handguard briefly?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – Most handguards that are produced are simple extrusions. You get the ID and OD the way they are needed and then poke holes in them. What we do is truly machine every single surface on the handguard. All six sides of the handguard are machined. We chamfer everything and take the extra time needed to make it smooth. It’s a very low profile, slim handguard with a lot of thermal dissipation built into it, and the barrel itself allows the piston system and the barrel to dump heat massively under sustained, heavy fire.
Q: Is there anything else we have not asked that you want to let readers know?
David Rybacki of VKTR Industries – Your readers should understand that I know what it means to build high-quality parts with an unmatched focus on durability, reliability, and precision. Taking that love for parts and fulfilling my dream with the VK-1 has been a fantastic experience. We’ve got an incredible lower combined with the industry’s best, softest shooting upper.
It’s not hype, and I am not selling anyone a story that cannot be verified as soon as they fire the gun themselves. It’s been an honor to bring this new piston system to the market in a gun that I think is the perfect all-around package. I hope your readers can get their hands on one and see and feel it for themselves. It’s unlike anything else, and I can’t wait for people to learn more about it.
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