October 12, 2023
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I know, not a scintillating headline. And I have to confess, when I got the assignment, I was thinking, “I already own a couple of rack-feet of Bravo rifles and pistols, what could Paul and the crew at BCM have done lately that will make this anything other than just another day at the range?” Boy, how wrong I was. The afternoon the BCM RECCE-16 MK2 showed up and as I’m pulling it out of the box, I’m already noticing things that are different. Oh, and a brief aside here for our readers: if you get a new in the box Bravo Company rifle, be prepared to do some serious de-oiling. This carbine was practically swimming in oil, inside of its plastic bag wrapper. That bodes well for long-term storage, or languishing on a warehouse shelf (as if any AR-15 does that, these days) but you’re going to get your hands oily. And if you don’t, then someone at the local gun shop did so in your stead.
OK, the basic (if there is such a thing) Bravo Company rifle, carbine or pistol comes with all the best mil-spec goodness to be had, and then some. A lot of some. The upper and lower are both machined from forgings. The upper has a star forge mark, which was new to me. There was a time when you’d see one of maybe half a dozen different forge marks on uppers. The last time I checked, the number was now over 30, so that gives you an idea of just how large the AR-15 market is these days. The BCM receivers are, of course, made of 7075-T6 alloy, and given a proper Type III hard coat anodized finish. The upper, in addition to the star forge mark, is laser-etched with the BCM logo.
The barrel is made out of certified 11595E steel, button-rifled with a 1:7 twist and it has the proper manganese phosphate exterior finish applied, and of course is threaded at the muzzle for a flash hider or other device. Inside, the 1:7 twist bore is hard-chrome plated for corrosion resistance and durability. Inside the upper, to match the barrel, BCM has installed a mil-spec bolt-carrier group. The bolt is made of 158 Carpenter steel, then high pressure tested and proofed, magnetic particle inspected, and shot-peened. The extractor is tool steel, with a BCM extra-strength spring, and black extractor insert. The carrier is chrome-lined, as is the gas key, and the key is locked down with Grade 8 screws, and those are then properly staked in place.
And that, folks, is the summary of what is left to be the baseline of mil-spec, because just about everything else on this carbine has been improved by Bravo Company and is far above mil-spec. A brief aside here: a lot of the details, and the new parts, that I’ll be discussing are not yet public at the time I’m writing this. Depending on the print date (printers are sometimes hard to pin down) and inventory stocking, they might not be available the moment you get this issue in your hands. So be patient.
Since we’re on the bolt and barrel, let’s start there. The barrel is the BCM enhanced lightweight profile, so it isn’t any heavier than it has to be, but it is plenty heavy enough to stand up to hard use. The gas system is mid-length, one deviation from mil-spec, and a good one at that. A mid-length gas system gives you a less-spikey gas flow to the key and carrier, and the gas arrival isn’t the jolt it can be with a carbine-length system, making the mid-length softer to shoot. The barrel extension has M4 feed ramps machined into it (and the upper) which is also a good thing. All ARs should have the M4 ramps, even full-sized rifles.
The barrel is plugged into the BCM MK2 upper, and that will take some serious discussion to get across how much it is better than mere mil-spec. You may have noticed the large bulge on the left side of the upper receiver. Well, what BCM did was look at the design and needed repairs/breakages of the upper, to see where it was weak or thin, and where it broke, and then shifted metal to strengthen it. They took aluminum from where it wasn’t needed, and basically plastered it to where it was needed. (All of this done, no doubt, in a CAD/CAM 3-D computer program, before ordering up a new set of forge dies.) The extra aluminum on the left side, at the front end, makes the barrel seat stronger and more rigid. With the barrel seat more rigid, the barrel has less opportunity to flex, wobble and otherwise act up, and thus, the MK2 is potentially more accurate than a mere mil-spec receiver would be. The numbers BCM provides are that the MK2 upper is 30% more rigid, and they did this by adding only one-third of one ounce of extra aluminum to it. In front of the upper, the handguard is another example of BCM engineering. The KMR Alpha-15 handguard is 15 inches long, with a full-length top rail, and Keymod slots in seven rows down its length.
There is a steel key that keeps the handguard aligned with the upper receiver, so torque on the handguard can’t loosen the barrel nut, or cause mis-alignment with optics or sights. (Just in case you slept through mechanical engineering materials class, steel is stronger than aluminum. The tab will do a better job than aluminum tabs would, tabs seen on other handguard designs.) The BCM KMR Alpha handguard has the cross slots numbered, continuing the numbering from the upper receiver, so if you do remove something for maintenance, you can be sure to get it back where it came from. The handguard is slim enough that if you favor the current multi-gun hold, of clamping your offhand thumb up across the top rail, you can do that. The KMR Alpha, like all BCM handguards, uses a proprietary barrel nut, and the cross-bolts that lock the handguard to the nut, and fix the locating clip in place, are inserted one for each side, to even the torque and maximize clamping power. BCM even designed them to lock each other in place, so they won’t loosen without tools. Not a fan of Keymod? Bravo also makes M-LOK handguards, and there is even a continuing demand for Picatinny rail, quad handguards, if you can believe that.
On the muzzle, we’ve got a flash hider that is also a muzzle device. Most of those that have arrived here in the past have had the BCM Gunfighter Compensator on them. This is a ported and internally baffled flash hider/comp that is the same size as an A1/A2 in its external dimensions. What arrived is the Gunfighter Mod 2-5.56, it does not have internal baffles but it does have three small ports. It keeps the muzzle down, and it does so without subjecting the guy next to you (the next bench, the range officer, or your team member) to your comp blast. It does not do as much to reduce the backwards thump as a true comp/brake would, but BCM has a different way to deal with that, part of which involves the mid-length gas system and the other part the buffer tube.
Back to the upper receiver, shall we? BCM also looked at the forward assist, and determined it to be in need of some attention. First, BCM moved it forward, then they shortened the length of the housing, and added some bolstering ribs to it. The first big change this makes is that there is now a lot more clearance for your hand while working the charging handle. You can actually get a grip on the right-hand paddle on an ambi charging handle (which this carbine has, by the way). By moving it forward and adding the ribs, it stiffens the upper in the middle. Both of these changes make the upper stronger, and neither requires a proprietary barrel, bolt or carrier. On the upper receiver, BCM shipped this one with a Gunfighter MK2 ambi charging handle, and bare of sights. Not a problem, I have plenty of sights, optical, iron or otherwise, to choose from, and I suspect most of our readers do as well.
Inside the MK2 receiver, the extras just don’t stop. BCM did some sculpting on the inside to increase the internal volume and control gas flow, and this has the advantage of lowering gas blowback when running your BCM suppressed. The physics are simple: more volume means less pressure with any given amount of gas, and that means less pressure to come out of the ejection port towards your face. The MK2 charging handle is also modified to channel and control gas flow and keep it away from your face. While the MK2 charging handle works in a USGI upper, it is designed to work in conjunction with the Mk 2 upper for best effect.
Now, in the lower receiver? The contours are all mil-spec, with the expected fence around the magazine button, and the controls all where you’d expect them to be. The pistol grip on this one is the Mod 4. BCM pistol grips change the angle of the grip so it is more vertical, and less work for your wrist when you are muzzle-down in ready. There is no storage in the Mod 4, to keep things as light as possible. The Mod 4 is wider than GI, and there is an added section at the top to fill the space behind the receiver. The last detail is that the front has a small tab that fills the gap behind the trigger guard. The last, first. You may be thinking that the tab will interfere with the lowered trigger guard. It would, except BCM has used their own Gunfighter bowed trigger guard. It is fixed in place, but large enough that a gloved finger will readily fit, so there is no need to hinge it down, even if it could be. So, the tab fills the gap that would otherwise gouge your second finger. As for the extra on top and the changed angle, that is a generational difference. Newer shooters, who have grown up with pistol grips like this, like them. Me, I started shooting when a Colt SP1 was the hottest new thing, and I’m accustomed to the angle of the old pistol grip. And I don’t like the filler on top, because it pushes my hand further from the trigger. But, pistol grips are easy to change, and if you don’t like this one, you can change it.
What I do like, and a lot, is the trigger. BCM starts with a mil-spec fire control set, and then makes everything better. The PNT assembly has the trigger and hammer made of 8620 castings, so they are hard, tough and durable. They receive a three-step heat-treatment process to create a tough core, a hard surface, and fine grain to increase durability Then BCM hand-polishes the engagement surfaces and hones the bores of the pivot holes, then gives the parts an electroless nickel finish. Electroless nickel is a process that deposits nickel on a surface without heat or electricity. It incorporates Teflon particles in the mix to increase lubricity. Think of the gravel in concrete. Even if you grind down the surface of a slab of concrete, you still encounter gravel. And so, should you wear into the surface of an electroless nickel part, you’ll still find Teflon particles there to increase lubricity. Included in the upgrades is the disconnector. Most of the time, disconnectors are stamped out of soft steel, and left pretty much as they fall out of the machine. (The word fugly comes to mind.) BCM first stamps them, then fine-blanks them (this is a process where the part is not just fed through a stamping press, but held in a fixed position while a precision cutting stamp trims the edges) the plate is then disc-ground to be flat. All of this is assembled into a BCM lower using centerless-ground assembly pins.
Your basic mil-spec trigger set, as permitted by the government specifications, can have a trigger pull as heavy as seven and a half pounds and still be “good.” (“Good” in military use still includes a trigger travel that feels like you are dragging a bucket across a rutted gravel road, by the way.) I’ve shot rack-grade M4s and M16s with triggers like that, and I can tell you it is no fun. The trigger on this BCM4 felt like it had been tuned by a competition-oriented ‘smith. Usually, when I dry-fire a firearm that has arrived here, I can give you a pretty close call on what the weight is. This one confounded me. It felt, if I just went with the impression of dry-firing, like it was a three-pound trigger. Clean, crisp, with the usual AR overtravel. However, if I really focused on it, and felt how much my finger was actually working, it felt more like the cleanest five pounds I’ve ever felt. So, out came the trigger gauge, to find the true figure: four pounds, seven ounces.
Behind the receivers is the BCM Gunfighter Mod 0 stock. This can be had in the “plain” Mod 0, or the Mod 0 SOPMOD, which has a more-pronounced cheekpad, for a better cheek weld. The internal latch has been improved and upgraded, and it provides a solid lockup to the buffer tube. It has steel components, and thus it better distributes the impact of recoil (and other impacts) so you don’t have small bearing surfaces taking the load. The lockup is tight, and when I first started handling the RECCE-16, I struggled with the stock. I was so used to the sloppy “close enough” unlocking of a mil-spec setup, that at first I thought the BCM stock was a fixed, Kalforniastan-complaint stock. Nope. Included in the packaging was the VBOST, which at first I took to be a zip-tie that had somehow gotten mixed in with the rest of the goodies. Again nope. The VBOST is a sling securing strap that lets you gather up the sling and secure it, so when you are in a vehicle you won’t have the otherwise loose sling flopping around, catching on everything. The stock itself has ambi QD sling sockets, a web sling slot, and as if that wasn’t enough, the receiver plate also has a QD sling socket. There are enough ways to secure a sling on the back end that if you really can’t attach a sling, you probably should not mention it in polite company. While I’m not a big fan of the receiver plate as a sling location (mostly because it is used for single-point slings, and I hate them) it is so low-profile that if you don’t use it, you’ll never notice it.
The stock is installed on the BCM MK2 Recoil Mitigation System. Ever wonder why your M4gery is so bouncy in recoil? Besides the gas jolt, that is? Simple: the reciprocating parts bottom out during recoil, so your shoulder takes that extra hit. BCM looked at this as well as the other parts, and came up with several changes that make the MK2 much softer to shoot. First, they made the buffer tube about 3/4 of an inch longer. It is still made of 7075-T6 aluminum, and hard coat anodized. It now has eight positions, and the exterior diameter is still mil-spec so you can install the stock of your choice, if the BCM stock doesn’t float your particular boat. Inside, they use an M16A4 recoil spring. Yes, a rifle spring, not a carbine spring, so you get more coils. And, they use their own buffer, made out of the same 7075-T6 aluminum as the rest of the carbine, but heavier than a regular buffer. The BCM T1 buffer is 4.7 ounces, their T2 is 5.6 ounces. By comparison, a standard carbine buffer is 3.0 ounces, an H/H1 is 3.8, an H2 is 4.8 and an H3 is 5.4 ounces. More mass and a longer travel means you are unlikely to have the buffer bottom out, and recoil will be softer. This also adds to reliability. The jolt a buffer and spring create when they bottom out speeds up the bolt/carrier return, and the extra vibration might cause the cartridge tack to get wobbly. Smoother is better.
Someone is thinking, “I don’t want a longer carbine, I want it compact.” Really? Three-quarters of an inch is the cost of softer recoil and more reliable function, and you think it is too long? Good, that means there will be more BCM carbines for the rest of us. Ok, my personal checkpoints; I have found that a rifle or carbine must have some things checked or done to it, in order for it to work 100% and last through a class. The gas key must be staked, the extractor must have as much tension as can be managed, and the lower receiver retaining plate must be staked. Also, the leade must be a 5.56 leade or at least a 223 Wylde one (leade is where the rifling begins). All BCM rifles and pistol I’ve had had all those, but I checked anyway. Yep, they always have been, and still do.
My usual procedure with testing rifles is to unbox, check the serial number, log it in, and give it a look-over. I make sure there are sights of some kind, and if not, install them. Since the BCM4 (MK2 RECCE-16) came without sights, I went into the optics annex and sorted through the gear. Oh-ho! A Meopta Meostar2 in 1-6X power, and a matching 30mm LaRue QD SPR. I’m set. It was easy to assemble the mount and scope, and to fit the mount to the rail (the LaRue has adjustments for the QD levers, very clever) and pack gear for the range trip. OK, time for criticisms from the gallery: I do not break-in rifle bores. Period, end of subject. I make sure there is daylight down the bore, load up and start working on getting the scope zeroed. That was easy, and then I started my chrono work. Once that was done, it was back to the 100 yard range for accuracy work, and shooting from the bench. At no time during this process do I poke a rod down the bore, no brush, not even a patch. Nothing. Unless I’m spending a literal grand on a barrel alone, time spent “breaking in” a barrel is time and ammo wasted, as far as I’m concerned. As I was shooting the first few groups for zero, I began to wonder what was up. I wasn’t seeing groups. Sigh, more hiking down to the target line, to find out that the MK2 was shooting like a match gun. I wasn’t seeing “groups” as in random arrays of five shots spread across a two-inch aiming paster. No, I was seeing tight clusters that from the bench looked like single holes. Holy cow!
The top-grade steel of the barrel, whatever magic or trickery that BCM put into it, and the more-rigid MK2 receiver were all doing their work properly. Now, I have shot rifles more accurate than this one. I’ve got one where the barrel alone costs as much as any one of a whole lot of complete AR-15s would run you. Another that is a joy to shoot but would be a pain to carry anywhere. But a carbine this light, shooting like a Camp Perry-class rifle weighing 17 pounds? Oh my. In the course of testing various loads through it, I also used some Norma frangible ammo that I want to give a shout-out to. Frangible ammo is what you’ll use in a modern indoor training facility, or a shoot-house with doors and walls, using steel plates as targets. The bullet shatters into a powder on impact with steel, and minimizes ricochet or risk. (Lead-core bullets, on steel plates, indoors, at three yards? An injury waiting to happen.) However, most frangible ammo is pretty casually “accurate.” When I test-fired the Norma at SHOT Show, I ignored the close targets (as is my usual practice) and aimed at the furthest ones that particular range offered. I noted the miss (demo rifles are almost never properly sighted-in, there’s always some Kentucky windage you have to apply) adjusted and then proceeded to hammer the far-off steel at will. So, in testing here I found that the Norma frangible was at or just over 1 MOA in accuracy, when most of that I have tested in the past is more along the lines of “pie plate at 100 yards good enough” accuracy.
All the ammo worked, and the included BCM-marked magazine proved to be reliable, to no great surprise. It has been a long time since any magazine maker has stayed in business while offering bad magazines. The BCM MK2 RECCE-16 is light, handy, slim and soft in recoil. I can’t promise you that every Bravo Company rifle, carbine or pistol will be as accurate as this one has proven to be, but given the work they put in to create a quality product, even those that fall short of this one will be plenty accurate. The new MK2 recoil mitigation system is worth every bit of extra length it adds. So, what is the Bravo Company RECCE-16 MK2 for? It would make a very nice competition rifle or carbine, given the accuracy, soft recoil and gas handling. The MK2 flash hider isn’t the best comp, but the best comp blasts others. It would make a first-class defensive carbine, since it is light, fast-handling, soft in recoil and not blasty. And if you run yours with a suppressor, then you get the full benefits of the gas-handling MK2 upper and charging handle. The BCM MK2 RECCE-16 is what an M4 could be, if the DoD had done continual upgrades and improvements, instead of chasing the semi-annual current “this will obsolete everything” pie-in-the-sky program that invariably ends up producing nothing. But, I guess the people involved there have to get their career tickets punched by heading up yet another fruitless program. Sigh. Just buy BCM MK2 carbines and call it a several-decades upgrade. And if they won’t, we should.
BCM RECCE-16 MK2 Specs
- Type: Hammer-fired, semi-automatic
- Caliber: 5.56
- Capacity: 30+1 rds.
- Barrel: 16 in.
- Overall Length: 32.5 in.
- Weight: 5 lbs., 15 oz.
- Finish: Anodized aluminum, black oxide steel
- Handguard: KMR alpha free-float, keymod
- Grips: BCM Mod 3
- Sights: n/a
- Trigger: 4 lbs., 7 oz.
- MSRP: $1,820
- Contact: Bravo Company Mfg.
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