The Kali Key

The solution to hassle-free AR Compliance
19

Swapping out the original bolt and replacing it with the Kali Key BCG Bundle takes
mere seconds. Manual labor is required to cycle.

California AR owners are all too familiar with the ever-shifting Byzantine requirements necessary to ensure “compliance” in this deepest of Deep Blue states.

Chess Game

Over the years, Golden State owners of Stoner’s world-standard platform have had to become conversant with bullet buttons, fixed, low-capacity magazines, telescoping vs. fixed vs. thumbhole stocks and seemingly capricious state-enforced edicts against which no area of mechanical minutiae seems to be immune.

The end result has resulted in something of a continuing chess match between an unholy alliance of anti-gun bureaucrats and legislators versus a small but creative assortment of AR design talent.

Fortunately, like severing the Gordian Knot with a single slice, sometimes solutions to endless frustration can be breathtakingly simple — like the Kali Key.

Operate the straight pull briskly and don’t ease it forward or you’ll run afoul of the forward assist (if you’re a righty).

The Solution

Their namesake product simply takes the AR-15 or AR-10 completely out of the dreaded “Assault Weapon” category by turning it into a manually operated repeater — specifically a straight-pull bolt action. Once converted, every onerous cosmetic sticking point will fade into irrelevance. The system is manually operated via a “bolt” which resembles an oversize charging handle operable from either side. The Kali Key can be used only in direct-gas impingement (DGI) guns — no piston ARs need apply.

The company claims the “lack of reciprocating mass” in the system results in tighter groups at 200 yards. Being married to the receiver sights of our FN M4 test platform, we shot it at 50 and 100 yards and found it very accurate using .223 Super Vel 62-gr. SCHP and HPR 60-gr. V-Max. An optical sight would, no doubt, have tightened things up a bit.

The entire assembly of Kali Key, BCG and gas diversion block slides into any standard AR without modification.

No-Chase Solution

Converting an AR into a straight-pull bolt action is an obvious benefit to handloaders who don’t want to chase ejected brass. Not to mention lessening the beating those 5.56/.223 cases may take. We found our Kali Key-equipped AR ejected brass positively, yet not energetically enough to require a hike to recover.

Heart of the matter: The Kali Key makes your AR rifle a bolt-action with fewer legal restrictions.

Payton’s best iron-sight 100-yard group with the FN/Kali Key combo was with Super Vel 62-gr. SCHP ammo.

Installation

Installing the Kali Key is pretty simple, even for “non-AR” types. You can opt for the gas diversion block and mounting screws, plus ambidextrous manual bolt handle assembly. Or you can go with Kali Key’s pricier but stone-simple complete carrier group option (which we did). If you went for Option No. 1, just remove the original bolt carrier group and put the charging handle aside ’cause you won’t be needing it.

Use an Allen wrench to remove the two screws attaching the carrier gas key. If they’re staked, alternate between the two with short turns until the gas key can be removed with the screws attached as a single unit. Then get rid of any carbon buildup and residue.

If you went for Option No. 2 like we did, things are even simpler. Just use the supplied screws and attach the supplied gas diversion block to the bolt carrier to a max torque of 48-50 inch pounds. The company recommends using LocTite Red 271 to “seal the deal.”

Granted, Option No. 2 is pricier, but it allows you to instantly revert to the semi-auto assembly within seconds — should you magically find yourself in less-restrictive environs. Essentially, the Kali Key’s Complete Bolt Carrier Group (BCG) allows you to turn your AR from Red State Gun to Blue State Gun or vice versa.

Sometimes glitches come from odd angles and in many cases they’re self-inflicted. Case in point: The rear sight on our FN M4 was all the way to the rear of our Picatinny rail. We kept wondering why our new “straight pull” unit had a tough time going into battery until we discovered it was banging the rear sight assembly just enough to hang things up. Once we moved the sight up one rail notch, all was reasonably smooth and beautiful.

One other caveat: If operating the bolt with your right hand you might find things a touch cramped dealing with the forward assist. You can take advantage of the Kali Key’s “ambi-ness” and run it with your left hand or simply reach over with your right. You’ll have to figure out whatever works best with your particular sighting configuration, be it iron or optical.

Keep the assembly well-lubed, particularly during the break-in period. The company recommends a serious lubing every 500 rounds or so. On the bright side, 500 rounds goes a lot slower with a manual straight pull than it does with the original semiauto setup.

Legal compliance, of course, is at the heart of the Kali Key’s appeal. It’s a swift yet reversible solution to whatever legislative overreach exists. And, hopefully, whatever may come down the pike. But there are practical considerations in its favor as well.

Not all applications for which an AR is useful for require rapid fire. For varmints, paper targets or tin cans, deliberate precision shooting is still the coin of the realm. And, since many of today’s ARs can deliver the level of accuracy once considered to be the realm of traditional turnbolts, why not enjoy it? Despite the fact it’s now a self-loading world, for most purposes manually ejecting brass and chambering the next round isn’t such great a handicap. After all, bolt-action chassis guns have been “borrowing” AR design features for quite a spell now. Isn’t it only fair ARs borrow something back?

Price? Just the Kali Key setup costs $97.95. The whole “BCG Bundle” we used runs $182.95. Versions for .308 AR10 platforms run slightly more.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine October 2020 Issue Now!