September 28, 2020
Patrick Sweeney took his Bravo Company .300 BLK AR pistol build to the range for a full review. Watch Patrick's video review here.
I regularly correspond with a group of people by means of a method so old it is almost archaic. Retro, even. Called an email digest, this one has for its members two essential requirements: that you be a Gunsite grad, and that you want to be in the group. Recently, one of the members attached a photo of his latest build. It was, simply, an AR-15 pistol, with folding arm brace, short barrel, and chambered in .300 Blackout.
Much discussion ensued, pertaining to handling, performance, terminal effectiveness, and the usefulness of bigger-than-.224" bullets on vehicles, glass and other chance obstacles. All the while, I’m thinking “that’s a pretty cool setup, I wonder … .” and by the time we were done, it was an assignment.
OK, time for a bit of background, and explanation.
The .300 Blackout is the twin to the .300 Whisper, and yes, they can, in many firearms, be used interchangeably. The design constraints were simple, and for those who want to argue, go through the exercise yourself; first of all, it must use a standard AR-15/M16 bolt. It has to work in unmodified AR-15 magazines. It has to hold a full-weight .308" projectile in the right spot to fit the magazine and feed, and it needs as much case capacity as is possible, to allow for flexibility in loading ballistics.
If anyone comes up with a solution to those constraints, that isn’t a clone of the Blackout or Whisper, let us know.
Once you have a subsonic thumper designed, then loading it with lighter bullets makes for a really useful and compact firearm. With 110- to 125-grain bullets, the .300 Blackout becomes a near-equal to the .30-30 and its loads with lighter bullets. Comparing favorably to the .30-30 is never a bad thing.
The AR-15 pistol part is easy: if you start with a lower receiver that has never had a stock on it, you can build it as a rifle, or as a handgun. This has always been the case, but the AR-15 pistol got new respect with the folks at SB Tactical when they came up with the idea of the arm brace, allowing for actual one-handed aiming and firing of the AR-15.
After a little uncertainty in the beginning, the ATF has ruled that using a firearm in a manner that it was not originally designed for does not change its definition. If you think that is not logical, follow the logic of changing use to the end: handguns were originally designed to be fired with one hand. If changing the way they are used changes the definition, then we are no longer shooting a “handgun” when we shoot in the manner that Jeff Cooper championed. We would be shooting a “handsgun.”
The rational result is that an AR-15 pistol, if you happen to momentarily, inadvertently, or accidentally place the back end of the brace against your body while shooting, you have not changed the definition of the object.
For this project, I rang up SB Tactical, and they were kind enough to send me one of their SBA3 arm braces. The SBA3 fits onto a regular carbine buffer tube, and that is an aspect we must go into in some detail. As above, your lower receiver must not have ever had a stock on it. And there is an aspect of purchase that you also must attend to. When you pick up your stripped lower at the gun shop, you’ll have to fill out a form 4473. In section B, question 16 requires that it be identified as “handgun” “rifle” or “other.” Either handgun or other are fine. If it leaves the shop having checked the 4473 as a declared rifle, the moment you put a barreled upper on it with a barrel less than sixteen inches, you have made an SBR. (Short-Barreled Rifle) It doesn’t matter that you haven’t put a stock (or any buffer tube at all) on it. It doesn’t matter that your intention was from the beginning to make it a pistol.
You called it a rifle when you picked it up, and a rifle it will always be. So, don’t make that mistake.
You can make a pistol a rifle, but not the other way around.
This particular lower is a Mega Arms made back when we were having fun contemplating the zombie apocalypse that was going to destroy civilization. (Now we’ve got a flu epidemic that is destroying the economy, and it doesn’t seem like so much fun.) It arrived here as a bare lower, and I put a simple tube buffer on it, as an AR-15 pistol back in the days before arm braces were invented. Since it wasn’t going to be anything exotic, I just dropped in a standard mil-spec trigger, hammer and such, and put a basic A2 pistol grip on it.
The initial build was an 11.5" 5.56 upper that had an A1 carry handle on it, because that’s what I had. It later got separated, and the A1 upper went into a Retro build, while the pistol lower languished in the safe. (That’s the life that some gun writer guns live: built and re-built.)
When it came time for this project, I took a Bravo upper in .300 Blackout that I had gotten for a different project, to match up with this lower. And therein we see the appeal of the AR-15 to many people: you can, as long as you pay attention to the legal and mechanical details, make your AR-15 pretty much whatever you want it to be.
The Bravo Company upper is not the only one they offer, not even just in .300 Blackout. But for this project, it was perfect, and Bravo attends to the details, so you won’t have to.
OK, we’re part of the way there. The upper, coming from Bravo as an assembled upper, needed no extra work on my part. (Thank you. Bravo, for making it easy.) The .300 Blackout upper uses a pistol-length gas system, which is pretty much a requirement if you expect your .300 to cycle with subsonic ammunition. They mark the upper as to caliber (always a wise thing to do when involved with the .300 in any capacity) and provide it with an ambidextrous charging handle.
The lower, I placed it flat on the bench, and used my Real Avid multi-tool to loosen the castle nut holding the plain buffer tube on. It was at this point that I remembered that I had been using the lower for several projects over the years. The paint on one side was a clue, but the big clue was that the castle nut had not been staked. Every castle nut here usually gets staked, but this one hadn’t been. So clearly, even though I can’t remember all the projects this went through, it had been built as a test-mule AR-15 pistol.
I then slipped it onto a lower holding fixture from Real Avid, and spun the castle nut back, unscrewed the buffer tube, and made sure I saved the buffer retainer and spring, and the rear takedown spring.
Then it was time to assemble the LAW Tactical Gen M3 folding stock adapter.
The adapter comes as an assembled hinge adapter, and the carrier adapter. You’ll need a couple of allen wrenches, but they will be standard English (not metric, thank goodness) sizes, that you’ll have on your allen wrench tool.
There are instructions, but just so you know the drill, and to add some data, I’ll describe. You first have to take out the carrier retainer on the LAW adapter. On the bottom of the hinge assembly there’s a small allen-head screw. Loosen and remove the screw, and pull the retainer off. Inside there is a spring and the carrier retainer. Pull those out and set them aside.
With the lower still in the holding block, press the hinge assembly against the lower, as if it were a retaining plate on a regular carbine stock assembly. You’ll compress the rear takedown spring into its tunnel, and you want to nestle the raised part of the hinge into the recess machined in the lower. (Again, like a retaining plate.)
Now take the castle nut-looking threaded tube, and screw it into the hinge assembly from behind. The threads of the new nut engage the threads in the receiver, and this is what you will be using to hold the hinge assembly in place.
Once it is in place, use the provided wrench (a flat piece of mild steel) to tighten the nut. Make sure everything is still aligned, and the takedown spring is compressed into the tunnel, not pinched and flattened outside of it. The instructions say to tighten “until the wrench flexes” which I took to mean put some muscle into it. When I was done, I took a look at the wrench and realized I had bent it. The adapter hadn’t seemed to notice. LAW Tactical makes some pretty stout gear.
Once tightened in place, make sure everything is properly aligned, and then tighten the lock nut that is on the right side of the adapter. You will notice that the new lock nut does not come forward far enough to trap the buffer retainer. That’s because it will be re-installed on the adapter, not the lower receiver.
Now you stuff the carrier retainer back into the adapter, insert the spring that powers it, and re-install the retainer and screw for them.
Next you install the buffer tube onto the adapter as if it were a lower receiver. Keep the hinge assembly open, and then begin screwing the buffer tube into it. Once the buffer tube gets close enough, install the retainer and its spring, and hold them down while you continue to screw in the buffer tube. Stop once the tube traps the retainer, and the tube is properly aligned. Now press the receiver plate against the LAW adapter and spin the castle nut down to hold it. You don’t need the receiver plate to capture the takedown spring, that’s been done for you by the LAW adapter, but you will need a piece to stake, to hold the castle nut in place. That is the sole job now of the retaining plate.
Check everything for alignment, and then properly stake the castle nut into place.
Buffer assembly is as if nothing had been changed, except that you install the spring and buffer weight when the adapter is open, not closed.
The last part of the assembly is to install the carrier extension, and here I have to offer up just a bit of a grump with LAW Tactical. The carrier adapter is an extension that reaches across the gap created by the folder adapter. Without it, there would be an inch or so of dead space behind the carrier. The adapter has a pair of rubber o rings installed in it, and you simply press the adapter into the rear of the carrier. I can see the adapter falling out, if the folded pistol gets jostled, or something presses against the adapter from the side. Also, if you have one of the gelded Colt carriers, from back in the day when Colt was being obsequious to authority, then the adapter might not be as secure as you would like.
Having said that, and considering that most carriers are as hard as a tax auditors heart, I don’t see how they could have done it any other way.
When you close the LAW folder, there’s an engagement lug that pushes the carrier retainer to the side. When you open the retainer springs out, that’s the spring you installed after you had bolted the adapter to the receiver. The folder locks in place when it is opened, so you don’t have to worry about it folding on you when you need it. To fold, press the button on the right side, and hinge the buffer tube to the left.
An assembly or disassembly detail of the LAW folder is something you have to know. The carrier extension makes the carrier longer. That’s obvious, right? But with the adapter installed, the action won’t hinge open if you push just the rear takedown pin across. To take the completed pistol apart, you have to push both pins out, and them lift the action up in front and pull it forward out of and off of the lower.
To re-assemble, the reverse, stuff the upper down and back into the lower, then push the front pin across, and then the rear.
Ok, so that leaves us with a completed AR-15 pistol, chambered in .300 Blackout. Now what? Well, first of all we have to have some way of aiming it. The Bravo Company upper came complete with their most-excellent folding BUIS. And every rifle should have back-up sights, even if they are the main sights. One detail of the Bravo sights I love is that the rear sight gives you the option of having the small or large aperture as the default one. I always want the large as my default, and hate rear sights that force me to use the small aperture as the default when folded. As much as I insist on having iron sights as an option (and think everyone should learn how to use them), I’ll always go with optics as the first choice.
In this case, I went with two for the testing. The main setup would be an Aimpoint Micro. The ones I have are now old by the standards of red-dot sights. The newest Aimpoints I have are “only” T-1 and S-1 vintage, but they still work, and probably will continue to long after my nephews have inherited my gear. I use them with an Aimpoint riser and QD mount. Although, in all fairness, the world is awash in mounts, QD and otherwise, and risers and adapters for red-dot optics. The general quality is now so good you can hardly go wrong.
For general use (like as a defensive tool) I’d be happy with a red-dot like my Micros. But for accuracy testing, I recognize that I am the weak link here, and need magnification. So, I opted again for the Primary Arms SLx 1-6x24 ACSS-Raptor. This is a one-to-six-power scope with a First Focal Plane reticle, and a reticle with bullet drop compensation. Now, the Raptor has its reticle regulated for 5.56 ammunition. Which is a good thing if you are using a 5.56. In a .300 Blackout, the ranging isn’t so useful, but then again, who uses a .300 Blackout past 100 yards? If I zero one inch high at 100 yards, I’m down not quite three inches at 200 yards. In a defensive situation, I am hard-pressed to find a defensive engagement or law enforcement incident much past 50 yards, let alone 200. Most incidents will be the length of a Buick, and some few would be across a small parking lot. If I take this pistol hunting, I’m not shooting at a deer past 150 yards in any case.
But the illuminated horseshoe of the Raptor, and the zooming aspect of the first focal plane, makes the 1-6x24 very useful on top of a .300 Blackout pistol.
I mounted the Primary Arms 1-6, as I usually do, in a bomb-proof scope mount. In this case, a Geissele Super Precision. Yes, I am mounting a $400 scope in a $350 mount, but I want a scope to be solidly attached. If I could weld them on, I’d be tempted to. (Welcome to the world of a gun writer.)
For magazines I snatched a handful out of the magazine bin, and came up with the usual suspects: Mission First Tactical, Magpul and Surefeed. The first two are polymer, the last is aluminum, the company who has been making real-deal military-spec magazines for the government, for decades.
And finally, there is the matter of the muzzle. I could just stick with the regular A2 flash hider that came with the Bravo Company upper, but where’s the fun in that? So, I took the flash hider off, and installed a mount for the Daniel Defense DDWave suppressor. The quick-attach system allows me to pack the pistol away with the suppressor off, and not take up any more room than needed. And if I need/want the suppressor, it is a matter of seconds to install it.
Transport of the Bravo-LAW pistol (I’ve got to come up with a name for this beastie) is a puzzlement until you notice how many people wander around town with backpacks, messenger bags and the like. Long-gone are the attaché cases of the 20th century. So, I rang up Vanquest, and talked over the likely possibilities. The one that was tops of the list was their ADDAX-25, a low-profile backpack. Alas, that one had all available samples locked up in a warehouse that wasn’t being serviced, because, well, the Governor didn’t deem it an “essential” service. Hey, some of us think it is essential.
A very, very close second choice was their Envoy 17, a messenger bag, so in short order one of those appeared on my doorstep.
Along with the ENVOY-17 they sent a selection of optional accessories; dividers and adapters to compartmentalize the interior. There are plenty of extra slots and pouches already in there, to stash everyday items, as well as the folded pistol, spare magazines or more, like a med kit. Pretty much, the limits are your imagination, wallet and how much weight you are willing to pack. The Envoy is lined in bright orange, so you can readily see your items inside, and don’t have to go pawing through the interior to see what you are looking for. Also, the flap has a zipper on top, down its length. You don’t have to rip the Velcro to open the flap, you can slide the zipper and reach into the bag that way.
This would also make a fabulous travel bag, as long as you were thorough in removing all the items that TSA might be grumpy about.
One aspect of the Envoy 17, is that with this setup, and the Daniel Defense muzzle device, it is a tight fit. I have to work to get the pistol into place, and I might have to re-think my choice of mounts or suppressors for this pistol. For now, I’m sticking with them, but you may read about a change in the future.
For ammo, I swept an assortment off the shelf, both supersonic and subsonic.
On the supersonic front, I used Hornady 110 V-Max, not because it is the best self-defense load (it would suffer in barriers, but Hornady is up-front about that, it is a varmint bullet) but because it is quite often the most accurate bullet, and load, in any given caliber. And so, it was here.
I added some Barnes TAC-TX, an all-copper bullet of 110 grains, and have an enviable reputation for barrier work and expansion in ballistic gel. Next up was another all-copper bullet, the SIG 120 grain Short-Barrel. The load is tuned for short barrels, like pistols, and SIG uses a blackened case to make it easy to sort out.
Last was a Remington load, their Accu-Tip 125 grain. It is no longer listed in the Remington lineup, which is a shame because it performed quite well.
For the subsonics, I grabbed SIG, Remington, American Eagle and Gemtech. Of the four, Gemtech is no longer made. It was offered for a short while, but when S&W bought Gemtech, the ammo didn’t make the transition. Too bad, because it is very quiet and soft in recoil, but it has one interesting quirk. In a lot of firearms, it won’t properly cycle the firearm unless there is a suppressor on board. And so it was with the Bravo Company LAW folder. Without the DDWave suppressor, the Gemtech ammo was a single shot. With the suppressor, it ran 100%, and locked open when empty.
For ammo, I opted to try both supersonic and subsonic loads, because you never know what you’ll need for a defensive tool.
This pistol has just gotten a promotion. It will no longer be a built, re-built and re-re-built test-mule. That part of its service life is over. The Bravo upper, the SB Tactical arm brace and the LAW folder make it such a useful combo that it is going to be this way going forward. From this point on, it undergoes a different process; it will have a set of magazines that it is tested with, and provides 100% reliability. (A lot easier today, but still a process I undertake.) I’ll stake the parts that need staking, I’ll paint-in the things that need painting. It will get its own optics set-up, and the irons and optics will be zeroed, and the load noted. And the load will be either a supersonic or a subsonic, because they can hit to sometimes wildly different points of impact.
I will seriously consider installing an upgraded trigger set, like one from Geissele, or LaRue.
Then the whole thing will get a paint job, and ride either in the rack, ready for work, or in the Envoy-17, ready for trouble.
It has found a purpose and station in life. Some other receiver gets moved up from the waiting shelf to “test mule” status.
Ultimate Bravo Company AR Pistol Truck Gun Specs
- Type: Self-loading, gas-operated pistol
- Caliber: .300 Blackout
- Capacity: 30+1 round
- Barrel: 8"
- Length: 18" folded, 26.5" extended
- Weight: 7 lbs. 3 oz.
- Trigger: 4.5 lbs.
- Finish: Parkerized steel, anodized aluminum
- Maker: Bravo Company, BravoCompanyMfg.com, (877) 272-8626; LAW Tactical, LawTactical.com, (267) 209-0529; Your Workbench (you know your website and phone number)
Ultimate Bravo Company AR Pistol Truck Gun Accuracy Results