Not too long ago I had a package show up here at the Gunmart Blog Test Kitchen from the good people over at Ballista Tactical Systems. Inside of said package was their incredibly innovative take on the AR15 rail… the Nautilus Rotating Rail.
The Ballista AR15 Nautilus Rotating Rail is without a doubt a radical approach to accessorizing the AR15 platform. Many people (myself included) scoffed at the idea of this rotating design when it first hit the market. I will be honest with you… To me it initially came across as a gimmicky novelty. I chalked it up as something aimed at the “mall-ninja” crowd and pretty much dismissed it out of hand. However, in reality nothing could be further from the truth. This is indeed a serious tool for serious AR15 applications.
The two things that really stand out to me about this product, and what I really want to talk about and get across in this write up are the pure ingenuity of this product’s design, and also the outstanding standard of quality that this product is manufactured to.
The Nautilus is indeed a radical design. The AR15 platform already had a great reputation for versatility and customization before the Nautilus ever came along. What Ballista has done with this new rail system is to take things to the penultimate measure of what can be done to accessorize the AR15 platform. What you get with the Nautilus is a rail that is subdivided into two portions… Both of which can be completely rotated 360 degrees around the circumference of the rail in 45 degree increments. It can be locked in at any particular point that you want to place any accessory anywhere that you want it to be. It really takes the AR15 platform’s ability to be mission specific and elevates it to the place of being every-mission specific.
So how does it work?
Well, the people over at Ballista have engineered a rail that has two independent sections (front and rear). Both rotate independently in either direction on a ball bearing system, and are actuated by two thumb buttons dedicated to each individual section.
The ball bearing system that they have come up with is just superb. You can hold down the thumb button and spin the rail hard to make it literally spin all the way around the circumference multiple times without a hitch. Its very smooth.
On the rifle, you are able to flip through accessories like a Rolodex and put the stuff you’ve got on your rail anywhere you want to with ease. Just push the button dedicated to the segment of rail that you want to move and things move right into place. The thumb buttons are a very simple. They are clearly marked as to which portion they actuate and they are a very effective design that allows each rail to rotate freely when depressed. They are the exact right combination of resistance and usability, and they make the rail a simple and easy tool to use. You don’t have to “click-through” segments to get things exactly where you want them. The rails rotate very smoothly and it seems to have just the right amount of resistance that things don’t “over-rotate”. It really is a wonderful interface.
Instillation is pretty straight forward. If you have the skill-set to remove your old rail and install a new rail, you can certainly install a Nautilus Rotating Rail. If not, an experienced gunsmith or any DIY Gunnie can certainly do it for you in just a few minutes. I would certainly suggest a delta ring tool to aid in removal and the instillation.
The directions call for you to remove the muzzle device, the front sight assembly and gas tube, the forend spacer, and the old rail/hand guards before sliding the new rail onto the rifle. The rail is held on by means of two indexing pins which are tightened down with the Allen wrench once the rail is in place. I actually had some difficulty with this part of the instillation, and found it easier to leave the pins seated as they come from the factory and then slowly unscrew them both a little at a time to let the rail settle into place. Then I went back and tightened them to keep the rail in place. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if you run into problems then you might want to give that a try.
Like I said earlier, this rail is a quality piece. It is constructed of aircraft grade 6061 T6 5011 hard-anodized aluminum, and its as well made as just about any rail out there on the market. Here it is pictured next to my Daniel Defense EZ Car 7.0 Rail. About the only thing that the Nautilus is missing is the rail markings… but that’s not really necessary.
At the range, the Nautilus Rotating Rail really lives up to the marketing hype. It performs great. The entire rail is definitely in-spec and is as true and uniform as anything else out there on the market. Accessories are easy to install and are very secure once they are installed.
The one thing that I really enjoy about this rail is that it gives you a way that you can very easily position a red dot sight with a 45 degree angle for backup duty on a scoped rifle. Additionally, the rail does a wonderful job of maintaining zero on optics and lasers even if they are rotated around the rifle. Just return them back to the spot where you have them sighted in and they are ready to go. I had no problems whatsoever with the various aiming devises I tested while using this rail. All of them maintained a perfect zero.
Like I said earlier… the Nautilus is a serious tool for the AR15. I am completely convinced of that. Still dont believe me about the quality? Well, I will leave you with one more picture of the Nautilus rail from their website that just might change your mind. Yeah, its serious business: