Black Rain Ordnance AR-15 Review
May 29, 2013
The term "Black Rain" means different things to different people. To some, although not likely anyone reading this, it's the 10th studio album by British heavy metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne. To others, it might be remembered as a 1989 American action-thriller movie directed by Ridley Scott and filmed in Japan.
However, in this instance we are referring to a new Black Rain Ordnance, Inc AR-15.
Black Rain Ordnance, Inc., is a precision firearms manufacturer, specializing in the AR-15 style rifle. Only incorporated in January of 2009, it is a relatively young company that from its inception obtained the best possible machinists to manufacture the very finest receivers.
Black Ordnance ARs have a unique look and feel and are manufactured from the best materials available. Initially producing only upper and lower receivers, Black Rain gradually moved to manufacturing all of the AR platform's major metal components. In 2012 they introduced a series of ARs in cal. 7.62x51mm NATO. Shotgun News recently received a caliber 5.56x45mm NATO rifle for test and evaluation. Black Rain Ordnance, Inc. now has sixteen production rifle models with variations bringing the total to 49 different versions.
The model sent to us is a BRO-PG11-18FDE, which stands for Black Rain Ordnance-Production Gun 11-with an 18-inch (457.2mm) barrel and the entire rifle in Flat Dark Earth. The weight of the rifle, without sights of any kind, and empty, is 7 pounds, 10 ounces (3.5 kg). The overall length with the stock fully extended is 38.25 inches (972mm); with the stock collapsed the length compresses to 35.5 inches (902mm).
The 18-inch, button-rifled, polygonal barrel, with three lands and three grooves, has a 1:8 right-hand twist and was made from ordnance grade 416 stainless steel. This twist rate is an excellent and popular compromise for accurately accommodating a substantial range of projectile weights. The barrel is fluted to reduce weight, increase strength, increase the surface area for improved heat dispersion and because it looks good.
Polygonal rifling features "rounded" lands and grooves instead of the sharply defined rifling usually found on rifle barrels. In theory at least, polygonal rifling supposedly provides a number of advantages, of which some are a better gas seal around the bullet, less projectile deformation, reduced buildup of bullet jacket material, reduced sensitivity to stress induced barrel failure and increased barrel life.
While Sir Joseph Whitworth first developed the principle of polygonal rifling in 1853, in recent years it was promoted principally by Heckler & Koch, mostly in handgun barrels but also in some of their high-end rifles, such as the PSG1 sniper weapon system.
The muzzle device is a BRO-HCC (Black Rain Ordnance, Hexagonal Competition Compensator). This is a muzzle brake, not a flash suppressor. Its vertical ports significantly reduce muzzle jump and its large horizontal D slots diminish the recoil impulse. Together, both design features work to keep the rifle on target. The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the model BRO-PG11-18FDE is $2,619, complete with one 30-round Magpul magazine, a soft case, single-point sling, and factory manual.
The finish on the upper and lower receivers and the handguard is a special mix of DuraCoat to match precisely the Flat Dark Earth of the Magpul furniture. DuraCoat is a two-part chemical coating created specifically for firearms. DuraCoat's combination of elasticity and hardness creates a finish impervious to impact, scratching and the external environment. As it's uniquely elastic in nature, it does not chip.
DuraCoat, one of the most popular of all modern firearms finishes, is manufactured and distributed by Lauer Custom Weaponry .
The upper and lower receivers are machined from 7075 aluminum alloy billets. This is a high quality and high cost aluminum alloy with zinc as the primary alloying element. Its distinctive characteristics are strength comparable to many steels, acceptable machining qualities and very good fatigue strength.
The distinctive free-floating handguard is fabricated from lightweight 6061 extruded aluminum alloy. This is a so-called "precipitation hardening" alloy, which contains magnesium and silicon as its major alloying elements. It has excellent mechanical properties and can be welded easily.
The handguard has integral MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces approximately 4.5 inches in length at the front and about 7.5 inches at the rear at the 12 o'clock position. Rail interfaces approximately 4 inches in length with distinctive front and rear serrated ramps have been attached in forward positions at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock.
AR handguards with abbreviated rail interfaces such as these are now becoming more common as full-length rail interfaces are not really necessary and reducing their length marginally lightens the system and provides better gripping surfaces for the support hand.
The bolt and carrier have a nickel boron finish. Electroless nickel finishes are frequently used in applications that require protection from either or both corrosion and wear. These coatings characteristically have high hardness and intrinsic lubricity as well as deposit uniformity.
The co-deposition of inert particles, such as boron nitride, enhances these characteristics. It's becoming ever more common to provide AR bolt groups with an electroless nickel finish of some type or another for these reasons.
This rifle operates by means of direct gas impingement, in the manner of the original M16/AR-15 series as designed by Eugene Stoner, which eliminates the conventional gas cylinder, piston and operating rod assembly. Basically, this method of operation simply means that the high pressure propellant gases moving up through a port in the barrel just prior to the bullet leaving the muzzle, pass into the gas plug (or "block") and then down a tube to "impinge" directly upon the bolt carrier and start the recoil stroke of the reciprocating parts.
The only difference is that the BRO-PG11-18FDE rifle, Black Rain's competition model, has been equipped with an adjustable gas block. A low profile type, it adjusts from the front and employs a detent to lock in place rather than a somewhat less reliable counter-thread locker.
Adjustable gas blocks allow you to reduce the reciprocating velocity of the bolt carrier. This, in turn, diminishes the recoil impulse, which permits faster target reacquisition. Many believe that the currently popular short-stroke, piston method of operation is not best suited for Stoner's M16/AR-15 envelope.
New for 2013 is the Black Rain trigger group. This is a single-stage-type, modular drop-in unit with a trigger pull weight of 3.5 pounds. The hammer, trigger (with a smooth front face and rear surface with large serrations) and disconnect are made of S7 tool steel and encased in a blue bright dipped, anodized aluminum alloy housing. The trigger pull weight on the SGN test specimen is 3.75 pounds, but with objectionable creep. Black Rain's engineers need to go back to the drawing board on this component.
After examining and testing literally dozens of ARs, I can honestly say that I believe that Bill Geissele of Geissele Automatics makes the very best triggers for these rifles. The bottom line is simply that the more you shoot, the more trigger sensitive you become. To their credit however, Black Rain uses KNS anti-rotation trigger group pins.
Black Rain uses the MIAD (MIssion ADaptable) pistol grip from Magpul Industries Corporation on their rifles. This grip features interchangeable front and rear straps to adjust for hand size, as well as a range of storage core options that include CR123 and AA/AAA battery cores and spare bolt and firing pin cores.
The BRO-PG11-18FDE rifle is equipped with one of Magpul's finest stocks, the UBR (Utility/Battle Rifle). This modular, collapsible stock for the M16/AR-15 series provides the stability of a fixed stock with a consistent cheek weld in any of its seven length-of-pull positions. It has an integral preset system that allows immediate access to a preferred position. Its heavy-duty lock mechanism and multi-shell construction offer exceptional durability under the impact conditions encountered during malfunction clearing drills. It's more than durable enough to accommodate caliber 7.62x51mm NATO ARs as well.
The UBR also provides extra counterbalance weight to significantly improve the handling characteristics of full-length rifles and weapons with muzzle-heavy accessories and/or bull barrels. It comes with a black rubber buttpad. It features optional components, such as dual-side sling mounts and metal strike plates. This is Magpul's best and most expensive AR stock system.
A 30-round Magpul magazine is also included. Available in either black, green or flat dark earth in 20- or 30-round capacity, Magpul magazines feature a four-way, anti-tilt follower that enhances feeding reliability, a constant internal curve for consistent round stack regardless of round count, a true 20- or 30-round capacity that eliminates the need to download, and a floorplate design that aids in magazine extraction from pouches and eases disassembly.
The lower receiver's magazine well is both enlarged and flared to facilitate installation of magazines under high-stress environments. The trigger guard is enhanced somewhat by enlargement and, in my opinion, strengthened significantly by its one-piece configuration. It's large enough to permit the use of gloves without the necessity of a hinged bottom, which structurally weakens that area of the lower receiver.
The controls on this rifle duplicate the type and location of those found on the M16 military rifle series. They are not ambidextrous. On the left side of the BRO-PG11-18FDE lower receiver is the vertical bolt hold-open release lever and the fire selector lever, which uses international bullet symbols.
Three bullets at 3 o'clock indicating the full auto position (completely inoperative on this semiautomatic-only firearm), a single bullet at 12 o'clock for semiautomatic fire, and a single bullet with a diagonal line through it at 9 o'clock to indicate the safe position. While these symbols are repeated on the right side, the selector lever is absent.
The magazine catch is located on the right side, protected from accidental release by an integral three-sided guard just to the rear of the magazine-well.
The upper receiver has the usual obligatory M16/AR-15 features on the right side: a spring-loaded dust cover over the ejection port (which when open says "LET IT RAIN!!"), an M16A2-type empty case deflector immediately to the rear of the ejection port, and the ubiquitous, but almost never used, "bolt forward assist." Black Rain Ordnance rifles are furnished with a so-called tactical charging handle, which was designed to direct the force off of the roll pin and into the body of the charging handle during support-hand-only manipulations.
Precision Reflex BUIS
We installed BUIS (Back Up Iron Sights) from Precision Reflex, Inc. Their rail mounted, flip-up front sight and flip-up rear sight are also available in Dark Earth, but we chose to install the standard black versions for purposes of contrast only on the BRO-PG11-18FDE rifle's 12 o'clock MIL-STD-1913 rail interface.
The front sight is designed just like the barrel-mounted flip-up front sight. It can be used on any MIL-SD-1913 rail interface and in the rear position lies to the rear. Its square post can be adjusted for elevation zero and has a protective hood. It carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $118.
The flip-up rear sight is designed to work on a same-plane aperture system that allows the operator to choose between two different apertures (large and small) without losing zero. It can be installed on any MIL-STD-1913 rail interface and is fully adjustable for windage zero. Its low profile permits the use of optical sights and top rails and it folds into a locked and secure position to the rear. When extended, the distance from the base of the sight to the center of the large aperture is 1.4 inches. The manufacturer's suggested retail price of this sight is $137.
Vickers Combat Application Sling
A properly designed combat carry sling is an absolutely essential piece of equipment. Blue Force Gear, Inc. markets an interesting line of slings designed by my personal friend, Larry Vickers. The Vickers Combat Applications Sling is a two-point configuration that permits a variety of carry and shooting positions. I personally prefer that type instead of the excellent single-point sling provided by Black Rain Ordnance, Inc. with the BRO-PG11-18FDE rifle.
An ambidextrous design, the Vickers Combat Applications Sling is sized for use over body armor. Fabricated from the highest quality materials and stitching, its quick-adjustment capability enables the operator to swiftly adjust the sling's length without excess webbing hanging loose.
Various methods of attachment are available and the sling is available in black, coyote brown, olive, MultiCam, camo green or foliage green (US Army ACU pattern). We selected the MultiCam sling for this rifle as it contrasts nicely with the rifle's Flat Dark Earth finish. It costs $45. Better yet, however, is the padded version of the Vickers Sling, which features a 2x22-inch closed-cell foam pad. The Vickers Padded Sling costs $55 and I recommend it highly as it's without doubt the most comfortable combat carry sling I have ever slung around my shoulders. Best of all is the Padded Vickers Cobra Sling with a quick-release buckle kit for $120. The Cobra buckle is usually fielded in life-support scenarios and will not open under load.
If you attach a combat-carry-type sling to a tactical rifle using the sling mounting points directly under the rifle, the rifle will invariably roll outboard inhibiting the operator's ability to deploy the weapon quickly from the slung position. Furthermore, slings of this type are essential when the operator needs to transition to his handgun and the sling must retain the rifle as close as possible to the torso.
Attaching the Vickers Combat Applications Sling to the BRO-PG11-18FDE rifle was easy because there are short MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock at the forward end of the free-floating handguard and rear mounting points on the left and right side of the Magpul UBR buttstock. A Blue Force 1.25-inch Rail Mounted Fixed Loop was used to attach the sling to the front of the rifle and a pushbutton sling swivel was already attached to the UBR buttstock's mounting hole.
SureFire X300 Ultra WeaponLight
To the MIL-STD-1913 rail interface at 3 o'clock we attached SureFire's brand new X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight.
Already one of SureFire's bestsellers, the powerful X300 Ultra features a high-performance LED that produces 500 lumens of blinding white light focused by a Total Internal Reflection (TIR) lens that provides a tight beam with extended reach and significant surround illumination for peripheral vision.
This virtually indestructible and incredibly efficient LED generates tactical-level lightâ€”more than enough to completely overwhelm your opponent's dark-adapted visionâ€”for 1.5 hours per set of batteries. The high-strength aerospace aluminum alloy body is MilSpec hard anodized for toughness and is O-ring and gasket sealed to make it weatherproof. The new X300 Ultra can be attached to either a handgun or rifle as its patented Rail-Lock system permits quick detachment to and removal from either Universal or MIL-STD-1913 rail interfaces. Its integral ambidextrous push/toggle switch provides one-finger operation for either momentary or constant-on operation. Optional grip switches for pistols and an XT07 tape switch for rifles are available.
Because an LED flashlight emits light from only one bandwidth of the visible color spectrum, it appears to project a somewhat bluish light that is softer and less harsh than that generated by a xenon bulb. Coating a blue LED with a yellow phosphor creates the illusion of white light but with a distinctive bluish cast.
In addition, LED flashlights provide longer battery life than incandescent light sources because they are more efficient with regard to lumens per watt. Thus equivalent amounts of light are produced with less energy. Further, a number of SureFire's LED flashlights are run at lower than maximum levels and that also decreases the energy consumption. SureFire is committed to the LED concept and more and more lights in their product line feature this type of illumination.
The X300 Ultra LED Handgun/Long Gun WeaponLight features a body length of 3.60 inches and a weight of only 4.0 ounces with batteries. The bezel diameter is 1.13 inches. It uses two 123A lithium batteries. The price of the X300 LED Weaponlight is $299 and at this writing they are backordered for at least 10 weeks. Believe me, it's worth waiting for as this is currently SureFire's best WeaponLight for handguns. The new 500-lumen X400 WeaponLight, which features a laser aiming device has not as of yet gone into series production.
Shooting with the 5.5x22x56mm NXS Nightforce scope off the bench for accuracy was tougher, thanks to "inferior mirage" so often encountered in Arizona.
The Vickers Combat Applications Sling is a two-point design that enables the operator to swiftly adjust the sling's length without webbing hanging loose.
The Magpul UBR buttstock provides the stability of a fixed buttstock with a good consistent cheek weld in any of its seven length-of-pull positions.