I’ve long been a fan of Bravo Company uppers. I have a supply of BCM hats to last a long time (you receive a BCM hat with every upper purchase).
One of the things that most impressed me about Bravo Company was something pretty minor: barrel extensions.
Bravo Company products are held to such a high standard that the lack of properly hardened barrel extensions stopped production of Bravo Company upper receiver assemblies for two years.
Keep in mind, we’re not talking about the lack of any old barrel extension. You could buy barrel extensions during that time. However, barrel extensions are surface hardened to a specific number on the Rockwell scale. Those that were available were not, apparently, high enough on the scale.
That’s a commitment to quality.
So, when I was contacted by Paul at Bravo Company with the opportunity to test and evaluate a new Bravo upper, I jumped at the chance. The upper in question is a 14.5″ midlength with a permanently attached muzzle device of sufficient length to bring the barrel OAL to 16.1″.
Several years ago, I was skeptical of 14.5″ midlength barrels. I wasn’t sure that they had sufficient dwell time – the time between when the bullet passes the gas port and when it exits the muzzle – to run reliably in all conditions. However, I heard from people whose opinions I respected (among others, the lathe wizards at Adco Firearms) that such uppers could run very well. So, with some trepidation, I picked up a Sabre Defense 14.5″ midlength barrel and assembled it using parts I had lying around. Although I initially had issues with popped primers and stuck cases, after the chamber was reamed to 5.56 NATO, it ran like a sewing machine. I really liked how smooth the upper cycled. Though some will put down attempts at recoil reduction or muzzle rise reduction on a 5.56 carbine, such changes can make a big difference with regard to rapid follow up shots at distance.
Obviously, my initial feelings about 14.5″ midlengths were just plain wrong. However, it was something that was a pleasure to be wrong about.
The upper I received from Bravo Company was well packaged. This was fortuitous, because UPS made a really decent attempt to destroy the box. However, they were outfoxed by Bravo.
It was equipped with a Daniel Defense Omega Rail 9.0, BCM marked Troy rear sight, a Vltor/BCM Gunfighter charging handle, a BCM bolt carrier group, and a permanently attached PWS FSC556. If you wanted to build or buy an upper with the best components, this is the recipe to follow.
I am a fan of fixed front sight bases. I’ve used quality clamp-on gas blocks with great success, but when it comes to a rifle that I’d stake my life on, I prefer an FSB attached by taper pins. It’s not going anywhere, and it can take a hell of a blow before it fails. Plus, should an optic fail, it’s already “there”, and even if I don’t have rear BUIS up and locked, I have practiced shooting using only the FSB, at least out to a reasonable distance (200 yards). A good, consistent cheekweld is critical here.
As I mentioned, this upper has a permanently attached muzzle device – the excellent PWS FSC556. The pin and weld – located on the bottom side of the muzzle device – is obvious, which is a good thing – there can be no mistake that this barrel has been properly modified and is legal to attach to a non-SBR (or pistol) lower receiver. However, it’s not ugly and obvious. Whoever did this knew what they were doing and had done it before. So, if you like the idea of a 16.1″ OAL barrel but are turned off by the concept of an “ugly” pin and weld, have no fear.
The bolt markings leave no room for error – no expense was spared on the testing procedure front, however small the failure rate may be. High pressure – also known as “proof” testing – and magnetic particle testing can detect cracks just below the surface. Also, note the extensive test firing that was undertaken, as evidenced by the brass marks on the bolt face.
Because of the pinned muzzle device, I was unable to completely disassemble the upper. However, I have disassembled other BCM uppers in the past, and they’ve all been the same – assembled with the utmost care and precision, with no expense spared and no detail overlooked.
Here’s the upper on a Spike’s Tactical ST-15 lower. For those of you who are interested in this sort of thing, the finish on the receivers was a perfect match. This rifle will get a Krylon bath soon, so it’s not of much practical use to me, but it may be to others.
And, finally, here’s the rifle with a few doodads attached. Notice that the center of gravity shifts forward with the addition of the PEQ-2A IR laser/illuminator.
In case you’ve been wondering, this is an absolutely splendid way to blow a good number of mortgage payments. Married men, ensure that you have a good couch before setting out on an endeavor such as this.
Range report will follow tomorrow.
3/20 BCM 14.5″ Midlength Range Report
There was a bit of discussion online as to what this upper would shoot and what it would not shoot, what buffer to use, etc. I’m a big fan of the Spike’s ST-T2 buffer, however, I feel that a slightly lighter buffer may be more appropriate for midlength gas systems. So, for the purposes of this test, I used a standard carbine buffer.
I had the following ammunition with me:
M193 – 40 rounds
M855 – 45 rounds
Wolf .223 55gr – 40 rounds
Remington (UMC) .223 55gr – 40 rounds
Federal .223 “value pack” – 100 rounds
As expected, the weapon functioned perfectly with all of the above. There were no failures of any kind. I even used a “suspect” magazine, which will be the topic of another post, without issue.
Also as expected, the weapon ran very smooth. It’s hard to describe this with mere words. I was using an EOTech 552 mounted on an LT-110 shooting at 3″ Shoot-N-C targets at 25 yards. When I placed the center dot of the EOTech at the 6 o’clock position of the target and fired in a rapid manner, the center dot of the EOTech never left that 3″ circle, even as the action was cycling. It was very easy to track the reticle during recoil.
From a longevity standpoint, this upper is built for the long haul, and I’ve just driven it around the block. I’ll continue testing and shoot for groups at some point in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll just say this: this is an outstanding upper receiver assembly, and is easily worth the cost of admission.