November 18, 2020
Our previous President will perhaps go down in history as the greatest gun salesman of all time because of his very vocal opposition to the Second Amendment. Those years and years of panic-driven sales in AR-15-style rifles have caused a recent lull in sales of these guns, but sales are gradually picking up again, in part because new consumers come of age every day, and in part (once again) due to politics.
As I write this Democrat Presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is very thoughtfully doing everything he can to boost the sales of AR-15 style rifles in America by promising to not just ban them but confiscate them by force from otherwise law-abiding citizens, and none of the other Democrat candidates are speaking out against this. Forget the unConstitutionality of this, as all Americans know, banning or threatening to ban a product has never worked in this country (alcohol consumption actually went up during Prohibition). The very nation of America itself grew from us flipping the middle finger toward an overreaching government trying to take our money, guns, and freedom.
So, if you’re thinking about buying your first AR, or just want to buy another one because of talk about banning them, you’re in luck. There are so many manufacturers of quality AR-15s and AR-15 components that even those of us in the business can’t keep track of them all. One such company I wasn’t aware of until recently was Lionadi (Lionadi.com).
One of my editors brought Lionadi to my attention. In 2018, a veteran created Lionadi. This is a small, family-owned company based in Phoenix, AZ.
Lionadi offers AR everything from precision rifles to pistols in their L4 line, but how they present their product is perhaps unique in the industry. Lionadi has a number of “factory” models, and when you click to that product page you will see a long rundown of exactly what components go into that model. However, right next to that list you are immediately offered choices if you want to customize that factory product, so it is EXACTLY the way you want it when it shows up at your door.
One of the reasons for the popularity of the AR-15 is that the design is so modular. It is possible to swap out every component on the rifle/pistol using simple hand tools and nearly zero know-how (trust me, I can do it, and I’m barely a step above a monkey in gunsmithing ability). However, many people either don’t have the inclination or the time (or both) to “roll their own,” so the Lionadi website offers them the best of both worlds — a “factory” gun that is built exactly to their specs.
I know there are some companies that do some variation of this, but I’ve never seen a company (or website) that made the process so simple and streamlined … while being so detailed. Each option/upgrade is listed by part type (muzzle device, gas tube, upper receiver, etc.) and the upcharge from the base model price (if any), and their in-house selection of upgrades is a who’s who list of AR accessory companies, everybody from Aero Precision to Vltor.
Caveat — there are so many companies making accessories it would be nearly impossible to offer parts from everybody, and so Lionadi has pared it down to those companies that are most highly respected in the industry. And — here’s another pertinent point — they only offer parts/accessories made in America. But let me tell you, that’s not a short list.
If You Build It, They Will Come
For testing I had Lionadi send me one of their L4 Pistols, as pistols are perhaps the best-selling segment in this AR-saturated market — again, Americans want what we’re told we can’t have, and until the unConstitutional NFA is abolished brace-equipped pistols are the closest thing most of us can get to short-barreled rifles, the exact kind of weapon the Second Amendment was written to protect.
Lionadi offers pistols chambered in 5.56 NATO, .223 Wylde, and 300 AAC Blackout. They have three different base model pistols as well, differentiated by barrel length. There’s the L4 Compact with a 7.5-inch barrel, the L4 Duty with a 10.5-inch barrel, and the L4 Patrol with a 14.5-inch barrel. I had Lionadi send me one of the latter.
If I wasn’t clear before, let me restate it here — while Lionadi has base models listed on their website every gun is built to order, which means every gun ordered is fully customizable beyond the base model specs. Lionadi added a few custom touches to the pistol they sent me, so I will cover the base model features as well as exploring the few differences of my test sample.
The L4 Patrol pistol comes with a 14.5-inch governement-profile barrel with a 5.56 NATO chamber and a 1:8 twist. The barrel has a mid-length gas system. The base model barrel is made by Faxon (FaxonFirearms.com), which makes a very good barrel. If you don’t like the Government profile Lionadi offers lightweight “pencil” and thick “gunner” barrels from Faxon as well as various other barrels from Criterion and Wilson Combat, some of which are stainless steel.
The barrel is tipped with a standard A2 flash hider, which works just fine and doesn’t add any cost to the gun, but it is neither high-tech nor sexy. Want a different muzzle device? Lionadi has eight more on the list just a click away, everything from the Surefire WarComp to the Noveske KX5. If you’ve got the money (+$122), I’d recommend the Surefire WarComp. This is the only combination flash hider/muzzle brake I’ve tested that actually does everything it’s supposed to do — taming muzzle rise while providing the same or less flash than an A2 flash hider. This isn’t my opinion, we tested it using a 10,000 frame-per-second thermal camera on the Guns & Ammo TV show against various other muzzle devices.
The barrel freefloats inside a 13-inch Geissele Mk4 handguard. This handguard has a continuous MIL STD 1913 rail along the top. At the 3, 6, and 9-o’clock positions there are two-inch sections of rail at the muzzle end of the handguard, with M-LOK accessory rail slots running back toward the receiver. There are QD sling swivel sockets on either side of the handguard just forward of the receiver.
This handguard is rather sturdily built, but with all of the relief cuts on it (including along the top in-between the rail slots), and the relatively lightweight barrel profile, the overall weight of the pistol is just six pounds 2.6 ounces according to my digital scale, with the pistol balancing over the front receiver pin with the brace fully extended. That’s excellent.
I think the Geissele rail is a good balance between strength and weight and the folks at Lionadi seem to agree, as between color (Black or DDC) and length (13" or 15") you have your choice of sixteen different handguards, but they’re all Geisseles.
Lionadi uses a stainless steel Geissele low profile gas block and an Aero Precision gas tube. The gas block has set screws and can also be pinned in place. As with most of the parts on this gun you have your choice — Lionadi offers fixed or adjustable gas blocks from SLR Rifleworks and Superlative Arms.
The upper receiver and Lionadi-branded lower receiver are both made by Aero Precision, which makes a lot of OEM parts for other companies. Black is standard, but you have your choice of FDE as well, and Lionadi offers a Bravo Company upper receiver as an option. Lionadi offers various Aero Precision-marked uppers and lowers as well, and my only complaint is they don’t offer the arguably product-improved Aero M4E1 lower receiver with its integral trigger guard and flared magazine well.
The bolt carrier group (BCG) has the Lionadi lion logo etched on the side so it shows through the ejection port. It has a black nitride finish and is made by Toolcraft, which not only supplies OEM BCGs to many other companies but also replacement BCGs to the U.S. military.
You have your choice of IonBonded or NiB (nickel-boron coated) bolt carrier groups. Lionadi also offers a gas piston option with a bolt carrier and adjustable piston kit made by Superlative Arms. Piston ARs have pretty much faded from the marketplace due to a sharp drop-off in demand, but there are still those true believers who think pistons are better than direct gas impingement operating systems in an AR. They’re wrong, but God Bless America they’re free to believe it.
For a charging handle there are a number of excellent designs on the marketplace. The Radian Raptor (a bilateral charging handle) in black is standard on this L4. You have your choice of a standard GI charging handle or 16 different models from Bravo Company, Radian, Geissele, or ZEV Technologies. The charging handle on my test sample is a Radian Raptor with the corrosion resistant and extra-slickery NP3 coating which is a dull gray in color. This is a rather wide handle, but you’ll note it does not protrude further from the receiver than the forward assist.
Triggers and Other Upgrades
To fill the lower Lionadi uses a lower parts kit from Aero Precision for the pins and springs. They give you the option of upgrading just about every part in the lower including the bolt catch, the magazine release, pivot pins, and safety selector.
With my pistol the folks at Lionadi upgraded my bolt catch from the standard GI style to Geissele’s Maritime Bolt Catch. The base model gets a standard GI-style trigger, but the standard AR trigger pull is 6+ pounds and usually gritty, which means it is the main impediment to shooting an AR quickly and accurately. Lionadi upgraded my trigger group with an SSA from Geissele. The Geissele SSA is a two-stage trigger which provides a crisp 4.5-pound trigger pull, a vast improvement over the standard AR trigger while being just as bulletproof reliable. It costs a lot more, but it’s worth it.
If you want to upgrade your trigger group you have twenty-one different options from ALG Defense, Velocity, and Geissele. And I’d recommend having Lionadi doing it, rather than deciding to buy an aftermarket trigger later and installing it yourself. Lionadi doesn’t charge you full retail plus install fees on these accessory upgrades. Most of the time they’re charging you less than full retail and eating the cost of the install (as they’re building the gun for you anyway) — for example, the MSRP on a Geissele SSA trigger is $240, and Lionadi upcharges just $210 for it installed.
The pistol grip is a Magpul MOE+, which has a rubbery grip texture. The MOE is standard on the L4 Patrol, and you can choose a GI-style A2 pistol grip (which will save you $14.95) or several other choices from Magpul in a variety of colors. My pistol grip came in FDE.
As this L4 Patrol is a pistol and not a rifle, it does not come equipped with a stock. The standard pistol arm brace provided with the L4 Patrol is the SBM4 from SB Tactical. This is a non-adjustable brace that mounts on a round pistol-style buffer tube, and if you’re going to upgrade any part of your pistol from Lionadi, I’d recommend going to an adjustable brace in addition to swapping out the urk-blech GI-style trigger group (urk-blech is a technical gunwriter term I just made up meaning “not so good”).
Lionadi offers several different braces made by SB Tactical, the inventors of the AR pistol-stabilizing arm brace. My test pistol came equipped with SB Tactical’s ground-breaking SBA3 pistol arm brace in FDE. This brace mounts on a Mil Spec receiver extension and is five-position adjustable. When fully extended the back of the brace is 12.5 inches from the trigger.
And a quick reminder, as I’m seeing a lot of comments on the internet by people who apparently haven’t been paying attention: the ATF clarified their position on pistol arm braces in 2017, and as long as you do not otherwise modify the brace, firing your pistol with the brace touching your shoulder does not change the legal definition of that firearm. As in, it’s still a pistol. As in, it’s legal. Just don’t modify the brace (such as by removing the velcro strap or blocking the opening through which you would insert your arm to use the brace as intended).
Lionadi will also install a LAW Tactical side folding adapter for your buffer tube if you desire. These units are very cool, and allow you to store and transport your AR in a much smaller container without having to separate the upper and lower receivers … but you can’t fire your gun with the brace folded, and they’re not cheap ($270).
Inside the Mil-Spec receiver extension is a standard carbine buffer made by Aero Precision, but you can upgrade to Geissele’s Super 42 braided wire spring and buffer.
You Pay For What You Get
The base model Lionadi L4 Patrol runs $1165.00. My test sample had a few upgrades and alterations. Let’s add them up.
- SBA3 adjustable brace replacing the fixed SBM4 (+$40).
- The MOE+ texture Magpul grip added an additional $4.00 to the cost.
- The NP3 coating on the Radian charging handle adds another $50.00 to the total.
- Geissele Maritime Bolt Catch, +$29.00.
- Finally, the Geissele SSA trigger is an additional $210.00
If you add up the above, it’s an additional $333 to the cost of the pistol, for a total cost of $1,498.00. Would I have chosen these same upgraded options on this pistol if I was building it for myself? No, but that’s the beauty of the AR-15. It is a wholly modular design. The great thing about the Lionadi website is it allows you to pick and choose every part on your rifle/pistol and have them put it together for you, resulting in a totally custom one-off piece, without having to do any of the work yourself (unless you consider clicking your computer mouse work).
FYI for anyone who is interested in my particular tastes … I don’t care for rubberized pistol grips, the Maritime Bolt Catch is wasted on me, and I would get a standard finish on my charging handle … but the two biggest ticket items, the SBA3 brace and the Geissele SSA trigger? Those are two upgrades I would definitely choose, as they are worth every penny. Or you could just buy the L4 Patrol as is, because as it comes from the factory it is a darn solid choice for what I consider a mid-sized AR carbine … even though it’s a pistol.
Why So Long?
Even with the brace collapsed, this pistol is 30¼ inches long. Why choose such a long barrel, when the seeming advantage of a pistol is that it can be much shorter than 16 inches? Especially since 14.5-inch barreled rifles with permanently attached muzzle devices are so common? Everybody seems to be shortening their rifles, so a long-barreled pistol seems like somebody woke up on Opposite Day. But no, there are two good reasons:
- The longer the barrel, the better the ballistics and terminal performance of whatever cartridge/bullet you choose to use (I’m talking .223/5.56 here, the 300 Blackout was designed to be pretty much maxed out in a 10.5-inch tube). I’ve chronographed a number of .223 and 5.56 loads out of stupidly short barrels. Sure, 7.5-inch barreled ARs are short and cute and travel well, but most 55-grain loads out of 7.5-inch barreled guns barely do 2,200 fps, while producing huge flash and abusive concussion. Been there, done that, no thank you. If you look at the numbers for barrel lengths, with any tubes shorter than 11.5-inches velocity drops off dramatically.
- Legal reasons. Many states are like my home state of Michigan — even with a CCW (Concealed Pistol License here) you can’t keep a loaded rifle in your vehicle. This, technically, isn’t a rifle, but with a 14.5-inch barrel this pistol walks and talks like a rifle … or at least a carbine. 14.5 inches will get you nearly everything possible out of that .223/5.56 cartridge while still remaining a pistol, which means you can legally take it across state lines without additional paperwork, unlike an SBR. This means you can have an AR-15-type rifle performance tucked away on your vehicle’s bug-out bag, at all times, if the SHTF. A 5.56 pistol with a barrel this length gives you the best of both worlds.
Years ago when I worked for an armored car company we weren’t allowed to have rifles in the trucks, but we could carry/have with us any handgun we wanted. Currently in Ohio, licensed private investigators and security guards can carry whichever “pistol, revolver, or shotgun” they have qualified with, but they’re out of luck if they want to have a loaded rifle with them. This Lionadi L4 pistol would jump through those loopholes nicely.
The Sound of Freedom
Prior to heading out to the range I checked out the pistol in detail, examining it for any issues. I didn’t spot any problems or sloppy work. The pistol seemed to have been put together by someone who knew what they were doing, down to aggressively staking the castle nut, a thing many slacker AR assembly houses seem to forget about.
For short range fun I topped this pistol with the Micro Max B-Dot from Hi Lux (Hi-LuxOptics.com). This red dot is similar in size to the Aimpoint Micro, but when actually tested in extreme cold head-to-head against a Aimpoint Micro T-1 the Hi Lux won. It is inexpensive because it is built in China, but to exacting standards — just like your iPhone (except Hi Lux products aren’t listening to everything you’re saying).
For accuracy work I topped the Lionadi with my favorite 1-4X scope, the Trijicon TR24 with post reticle. This fiber optic and tritium-powered scope has a bright triangle reticle during the day that at 1X works just like a red dot, but there are no batteries to die, making it both idiot- and EMP-proof. At 4X it is capable of handling any problem you might have up to and including all-out war with Canada. Sure, that’s unlikely … but that’s just what they want you to think!
With the scope cranked up to 4X and the help of the great Geissele trigger I was able to shoot up to the barrel’s capabilities which, depending on the ammo, ranged from just under 1 MOA to just over 2 MOA. This kind of accuracy is great, but it also is pretty darn common these days, showing just how spoiled we’ve all gotten.
Speaking of spoiled, the pistol ate everything I fed it. It boringly fired every time I pulled the trigger. Boringly reliable rifles and pistols are great fun to shoot, but not so interesting to write about — I know, those are gunwriter problems, and you don’t care.
When you have people who know what they’re doing put together a rifle or pistol, using quality parts, you get exactly the kind of reliability I experienced with the Lionadi. Not bad for a pistol that was custom-built at a near-production price.
Lionadi L4 Patrol Specs
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Weight: 6 lbs. 3 oz empty (as tested)
- Overall length: 33.0 inches (brace extended), 30.25 inches (brace collapsed)
- Receiver: Forged aluminum Aero Precision
- Barrel: 14.5-inch Faxon Gov’t profile, mid-length gas system, 1:8
- Muzzle device: A2
- Brace: SBA3 5-position adjustable (SBM4 standard)
- Pistol Grip: Magpul MOE+
- Forend: 13-inch Geissele Mk4
- Trigger: Geissele SSA, 4.5 pounds (as tested)
- Sights: None
- Accessories: One 30-round Magpul PMag
- MSRP: $1,165.00 ($1,498.00 as tested)
- Manufacturer: Lionadi Inc.; lionadi.com
Lionadi L4 Patrol Performance