Thursday, October 2, 2014

Black Rain Ordnance BRO-PG13 308 Rifle Review

Black Rain Ordnance BRO-PG13 308 Rifle Review

I felt my love fest continuing with Black Rain Ordnance products as I opened up my latest BRO rifle on my FFL dealer's table. What a gorgeous custom rifle and the kicker is you can walk into any gun dealer and buy this same rifle shown here - no custom gunsmith and no waiting for months.  Although I own two other rifles from Black Rain, those were both in 5.56 format, but this beast is chambered in my favorite all around utility cartridge; .308 Winchester.  For those have not owned a Black Rain rifle, they may look (and are) so tricked out that you really expect there to be a catch when it comes to performance, however they still remain one of the top performing factory rifles I have tested; delivering the reliability you expect from any top shelf rifle with premium accuracy plus the obvious head turning looks.

As a guy who has owned and fixed over a half dozen .308 AR platforms, I have become Tier 1 tech support, diagnosis and tuner on the often problematic DPMS 308 platform for many friends and some readers. I actually picked up one 308 DPMS rifle stupid cheap which was being sold as non-functional and another sold cheap due to "reliability issues". Generally it only took $10 in parts, or just a magazine swap, and some tuning to make them hum perfectly. The DPMS 308 format has proven itself to be far less forgiving to little issues which would not impact reliability on a lighter shooting and shorter cased AR-15 format.

 Custom fluting on the BRO rifles deliver a
great custom touch and reduce weigth.
The flash hider looks cool, however I would rather
have a brake on this 308.
In most cases, the undersized ejection port and over-powered ejector cause most of the issues in the early DPMS GI rifle designs. Black Rain took forever to come out with their tweaked, tuned, and upgraded BRO-PG13 308 Rifle version of the DPMS format. The main reason for the delay was that they really wanted to assure reliability, versus just getting a rifle out there. That was a hard financial decision considering that .308 rifles at that time were being scalped on auction sites for two-three times their suggested retail prices. After only a couple hundred rounds behind this BRO-308, I knew that they had sorted out the problematic issues to deliver a reliable and enjoyable .308 AR format out of the box.

It should be no secret by now that I know the Black Rain crew very well. I was one of the first to review their original Fallout-15 AR-15 format rifles and we are working together on a charity rifle to raise money for the Mercury One Foundation. They have been generous with their time, quietly support charities I believe in, and took a chance on me and trusted me early on as a writer.  I think highly of them, however I still do not cut them any slack when it comes to review time.

Black Rain was founded in January 2008 by two gun enthusiast with retail management backgrounds. They were frustrated by the lack of quality and options in AR15 firearms.

Their original goal was to offer the finest custom billet upper receivers for AR-15.  They then expanded to custom billet lower receiver models called “Fallout15”, then complete Fallout15 rifles, and currently their rifles are known by their BRO-PG series. Black Rain is manufacturing each part of their rifles parts on site with the exception of a few components like spring and stocks. It should go without saying that each Black Rain Ordnance rifle is 100% American made, however at a time when we are seeing a flood of import AR parts, it is a point worth noting. As of late 2012, Black Rain expanded its line to .308 SR-25/DPMS-308 variant big bore rifles and as of 2014 they have added AR15 pistols and are working on the release of a bolt action sniper rifle.
Aqua Transfer looks great and adds
a huge amount of durability with the Ceramic

Beyond their custom 7075-T6 machined billet uppers and lowers, Black Rain Ordnance is the only manufacturer who offers a full range of ceramic coated aqua transfer patterns on production rifles at this time.  This ceramic durability upgrade coating also adds a stunning level of bling and head snapping looks at the range. They are also the only AR15 company to offer stainless custom fluted .223 Wylde, .308 match chambered match grade barrels standard in all their production rifles, extras and custom parts I will get into later which improve performance and reliability are all standard in their builds... it all adds up to one hell of a reliable and beautifully made three-gun competition level AR without so much as touch a tool for upgrades.  

 NiBo bolt and carrier &
Black Rain's own DIT Match trigger.
Black Rain’s offerings are a lot like buying the luxury line of a car such as Nissan’s Infiniti or Toyota’s Lexus where leather seats, upgraded stereo and power sunroof are included, if you get the idea. Like many Semi-Custom 1911 pistol manufacturers have done with standard production models, Black Rain is working through a growing number of “stock/standard” models to offer custom production AR rifles, however you can also build your own personalized AR based on Black Rain’s components. Black Rain provides your choice of standard direct impingement or upgrades to Piston driven models. There are some great rifles on the market with similar performance, however Black Rain stands alone with these feature packed rifles and now pistols. It is the BWM 7 Series of the gun world with a level of custom luxury that just blows people's minds when they see them. No one in the industry is delivering this level of performance and “wow factor” custom rifle off the shelf.

Magpul UBR Stock is a nice
touch to this high end rifle.
My first review was published way back in October 2011 as the first review Black Rain Ordnance had ever had by any writer... anywhere and they were just starting an insane growth path.  Three years later, they have grown and grown with models stocked across a huge dealer network nationwide and in August 2013 were even featured on Glenn Beck's The Blaze. I cannot take credit for discovering Black Rain Ordnance, but I can take credit for being the first guy to say "Ohh yeah, I need to tell everyone about my Fallout15".

Where many DPMS GI and new GII format rifles usually need some "tuning" to get them humming along, the Black Rain BRO-PG13 308 Rifle just freaking works. Even the typically problematic inexpensive steel cased .308 ammo runs without problems.

I credit this reliability to several design updates and features. On many models, Black Rain Ordnance offers a hydrographic dipping which is then coated with ceramic for durability. My rifle has a skull pattern, however Black Rain offers a huge variety of patterns. From a style perspective, this adds a huge magnitude of style to the already cool billet upper and lower receiver set, however the ceramic topcoat delivers a super slick and extremely hard surface internally and externally which slicks everything up from a cycling perspective. Add in the slick NiBo coated Bolt Carrier group and you have one extremely slippery running setup.  My experience is that nearly every AR format .308 rifle I have shot and owned has been more reliable when run wet with plenty of lubrication. It is logical to reason that the slick cycling of this BRO-PG13 enhances reliability greatly even when not run wet with lube.

Another design decision enhancing reliability was to enlarge the ejection port to reduce failures to eject. In most cases, folks believe that if rounds continue to not fully eject that the ejector spring on the bolt must be under powered. When it comes to the .308 AR format, it is usually that the ejector spring is so overpowered that it fumbles the round after extraction or because the brass is not making it out the narrow ejection port. Black Rain enlarged the ejection port for reliability and stayed with a standard power ejector spring on their bolts. This prevents the vast majority of ejection problems and also saves you from having to walk half way across the range just to retrieve your spent brass.

Black Rain includes a VERY nice
soft sized case with each rifle plus
a single point sling.
Black Rain Ordnance is also now including their own adjustable gas blocks on all their rifles including this BRO-PG13 308 Rifle. I often note that an adjustable gas block is one of the single biggest upgrades you can include on any AR format rifle. Beyond delivering a significantly lighter shooting rifle, an adjustable gas block allows the shooter to tune the gas pressure to their particular rifle and ammo. In doing so, there is less hot gas blasting back into the receiver which in turn delivers less component wear, a cooler running rifle, more consistent/reliable cycling, and I believe improved accuracy due to longer and slower un-lock times. The result is that the BRO-PG13 308 Rifle is very enjoyable to shoot for extended periods.

On top of a fit and finish which would make high end BMW owners happy, Black Rain also includes a ton of upgrades and standard equipment such as NiBo bolt carrier group, high end Magpul grip and stock, anti-rotate pins, and Black Hole's own barrel. Like the 5.56 models, the BRO-PG13 barrels are made from premium match grade blanks from Shilen, Lothar, Black Hole Weaponry, and others. Due to the still insane demand for barrel blanks, you cannot request a specific blank. In reality, all the top tier barrel blanks all perform about the same unless you are insanely talented behind the trigger, but if you are that picky you are probably building your own rifle anyway.  I highly doubt you will see better accuracy.

Black Rain's spiky pineapple flash hider is cool and does the job of reducing flash while offering a little brake effect, however this is the one part which I will likely replace with a recoil reduction brake. The spiky flash hider does not increase concussion back to the shooter like a brake would, so if you want it for hunting, I would stick with the flash hider model. Most of their rifles are available with a choice of a standard brake or pineapple flash hider.

As noted, the BRO-PG13 .308 rifle are not pledged with the reliability issues of the early DPMS .308 format rifles. Based on the 500+ rounds of various rounds pushed through my rifle, I have not experienced any feeding or ejection issues or ignition problems, so basically I feel I have AR15 reliability is an out of the box .308 AR platform. Of note, I am using a variety of PMAG LR-20 mags which I have found to be the single biggest reliability improvement for DPMS format rifles. Black Rain includes one of the Magpul LR20 mags in the included custom soft sided case to assure you get started off right.

To test accuracy, I strapped on Burris 4.5-14 Fullfield tactical scope with Precision Reflex Gatorgrip mount to the BRO-PG13 308 Rifle. This is a typical scope magnification setup for snipers and hunters, however some will want to boost up the magnification to maximize accuracy at longer distances.

Turning to my usual ammunition suspects which includes Hornady Tap, Match, and Custom .308 rounds, set out to the range. I also pulled a selection of standard military ball ammo and steel cased rounds.  The results were nothing but impressive. Of course the steel cased rounds were a bit sporadic from an accuracy perspective with groups just under 1.25" at 100-yards, the ball ammo still delivered a couple decent looking 5-round sub-MOA groups if I take out a flyer here and there. Once I filled a magazine with the Hornady rounds, the groups dropped to consistent 1/2 MOA 100-yard groups. One rather impressive five shot group was a very tight .247" with 168gr Hornady Match rounds - I will take that any day from an autoloading semi-auto rifle.

Part of that out of the box accuracy is a great higher power optic, a stable rest, and the barrel, however Black Rain's DIT - Drop In Trigger was a significant contribution to the accuracy. The trigger is a drop is cartridge style similar to Timney's. In talking with Black Rain, they began making them in house after the availability of match triggers became a stumbling block which delayed orders being fulfilled. Like almost every top end trigger Black Rain Ordnance is using a billet cartridge chassis with a precision EDM cut hammer and sear. The result is one of the single best factory included triggers I have tested. There are lighter triggers out there for sure, however this is about as light as I would want in a hunting and potentially defensive rifle.

So what do we have here in the Black Rain Ordnance BRO-PG13 308 Rifle is a ½ MOA tack driver which operates better than any out of the box .308 DPMS format rifle I have tested or owned, with the looks of a custom look beyond the imagination of most builders.

Now the $3000 price. Yeah its up there, however Black Rain cannot keep them in stock. Maybe knowing that a basic DPMS .308 will set you back $1200 and that this tricked out rig delivers looks, features, performance, and accuracy far beyond a rack grade DPMS .308 may ease your mind a bit about the price tag. This rifle is not for everyone and nor should it be. This rifle delivers accuracy which will outshoot most factory bolt guns at a rate which will create 4 5-shot groups in the time the guy with the bolt gun shoots one. I would venture to say that most people who buy this rifle will strive for years to finally train themselves to use the full accuracy potential of this rifle. I consider myself a pretty decent shot, however I know in the right hands with the right ammo, the BRO-PG13 308 Rifle could deliver consistent ¼ MOA groups continuously. The price is worth every penny considering “match grade” upgraded Remington 700 bolt guns are easily selling for $3000-$5000.

If I would were to recommend only four rifles for the rest of my life based on the information I have currently today, Black Rain’s rifles would be on the top of my list if price was not a deciding factor. They deliver all the little bit, pieces, upgrades, and features in a factory backed warrantied rifle that you can just walk in and buy all in a package that delivers downrange. I believe the folks at Black Rain Ordnance have again hit their original goal of custom quality with the BRO-PG13 308 Rifle.

CALIBER: .308/7.62 NATO
WEIGHT: 9 lbs. 8oz.
MSRP: $3049

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