Here’s something that caught my eye amongst coverage of the annual National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers trade show this month. It’s the .223 / 5.56x45mm ATHENA Precision Chassis Rifle from Drake Associates which was allegedly developed to provide a high-performance alternative to the US Military’s MK11/MK12 and M110 programs. 

The ATHENA features a Drake high-performance 18-inch, button-cut, heavy match barrel, and has some other interesting design features that deliver high-performance at an affordable price for the commercial and LE market.

What makes the Athena so unique, and what enables it to deliver impressive accuracy, is its solid monolithic lower receiver and fore-end. While the Athena uses a classic-style AR upper receiver/barrel assembly, the upper assembly – and the upper handguard – drop into the monolithic chassis-style lower, and the upper handguard also fastens to the lower handguard, not the upper receiver. In theory, this should provide a much more solid and tight seating for the upper receiver, while still utilising the two standard receiver pins of an AR system. Of course the precision and tolerances with which the upper and lower assemblies are manufacturing and put together will also have a bearing on the accuracy that comes out the other end.

Speaking of what comes out the other end, Drake claims to have achieved an average accuracy of .6-.7 MOA, with a best performance group of .366 MOA, using 77 gr. Federal OTM ammunition.

Thanks to its AR heritage, the ATHENA utilizes standard, familiar controls, and will accept any AR-compatible trigger packs, pistol grips and stocks. And thanks to its Picatinny rail system, it is compatible with whatever accessories you want to add to it as well.

The ATHENA is currently available in .223 / 5.56x45mm, with a .308 / 7.62x51mm version coming soon. A 6.5 Creedmoor version would also seem like a logical next step.

Suggested retail price is for the .223/5.56mm rifle is $1,776.00, and further details can be found on the Drake Associates website.