Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bootleg Inc Handguard Carrier and Upper Review

Bootleg Inc Handguard Carrier and Upper Review

The industry has changed considerably over the last couple years. We have seen new companies pop up, however it is not everyday you see an existing established company open the doors to another new company seemingly competing in the same space. Enter Bootleg Inc. a sister company founded by PWS - Primary Weapons systems.

You should know PWS as a premier quality firearms manufacturers with offerings that expand from Award winning comps and brakes, Glock custom slides, to the Diablo line of 7.62x39 pistol driven AR15s, Piston AR15s, and even precision rifles. That list is certainly not complete. PWS was one of the first companies early on within the market to really offer super custom re-engineered AR15 parts. As an example their CQB brake is from my perspective the biggest upgrade anyone could add to an AR15 or AR15 pistol which might be shot indoors and delivers a huge concussion redirection away from a shooter team.

Primary Arms formed Bootleg Inc. as a sister company to PWS which is focused exclusively on gas piston AR15 platforms. Bootleg is conversely exclusively focused on direct impingement. Although most of us can clearly see that Bootleg’s product selection is poised to exponentially grow, the current product line is a small selection of well engineered components for the DI builder.

I worked up a very fun little $2900 build with my SBR registered Battle Arms Development BAD-PDW with integrated VERT stock. My plan was to include everything I could from the Bootleg line which ended up including the Bootleg Upper, Bootleg Adjustable Carrier, Bootleg Handguard, and ejection port door Upper Completion Kit. Other components used were a Sharps Reliabolt, Ballistic Advantage Premium 10.3” Hansen stainless .223 Wylde barrel with included gas block, and a Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated 1-4x 24mm BTR-1 BDC Reticle Riflescope mounted into a Burris PEPR 30mm monolithic mount. Since this is the perfect build for PWS’ CQB brake that was added as a nod to PWS.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS
First I have to note that Bootleg is not somehow the cheap end of PWS. In fact, I am seeing the same super premium quality that I have expected for years from PWS. The designs are all well thought out to integrate well with other mil-spec receivers I test fit them to. Each component has that cool PWS/Bootleg style which is pretty freaking incredible consider this upper is “not a fancy billet upper.” All around the Bootleg packaging, fit and finish are all in the premium tier of products that will pop out on the retailer shelves and on the finished gun. If you want a really nice Direct Impingement build, Bootleg’s parts deserves a hard look.
Bootleg Upper Receiver - The upper receiver is made from 7075 aluminum and is mil spec hard anodized. Overall the design has been strategically lightened which saves 1.7oz compared to a standard mil spec upper with all the hardware installed. Completely stripped the upper is just under an ounce lighter than a mil-spec receiver which is pretty impressive considering there really is not that much aluminum in an upper in the first place. The forward assist was omitted to save weight and greatly reduces the risk of snagging and a captured dust cover door pin eliminating the need for the E clip. Bootleg also increased the circumference around the barrel extension area to increase strength, support and accuracy, so this is not light and weak, but instead lighter and actually stronger.

In the realm of $200 plus billet uppers this $159 upper is not terribly expensive considering it gives a build the look of billet without the expense and significantly dresses up any standard mil spec lower. Bootleg has kept the specs within mil spec range but on the tighter side. The Ballistic Advantage barrel for example needed a couple love taps from the rubber mallet to get seated in the receiver and all the accessories and optic mounted up tight. This is exactly what you want to see during assembly.

Bootleg Adjustable Carrier - Instead of an adjustable gas block, PWS made an adjustable gas carrier which is intended for use with suppression.  The Bootleg Lightweight Adjustable Carrier is machined from S7 Tool Steel, and features a four setting vent system to relieve excess gas pressure from suppressor use. 

The carrier is Lithium Isonite coated for durability and easy maintenance. The idea of the adjustable carrier is to make it super fast and easy to swap between settings while running suppressed all without any disassembly on the rifle. The adjustment pin is easily removed for cleaning which is recommended during the standard BCG cleaning cycle. Of note this carrier is not full auto rated. A Sharps Reliabolt was added to complete the carrier.



I am famous in the industry for finding a way to break everything and for this custom build that was also the case. The challenge I experienced was not the fault of any particular component, but the interaction of a number of pickier higher spec custom components all not totally working together.

In this case, the pre-tuned gas port on the Ballistic Advantage barrel combined with the BAD-PDW compact VERT stock buffer/spring system and Bootleg Carrier created an under-gased situation. In order to reduce recoil, the BA barrel gas ports are intentionally downsized and tuned for standard AR15 buffers and standard SAAMI pressure loads and standard bolt carriers and this build had none of that. 

The VERT buffer system does need a little more power to operate and so does the Bootleg carrier which just ever so slightly reduces pressure even in the U (Unsuppressed Open) position. Once I opened up the gas port on the BA barrel just a tad, everything ran perfectly. With these custom builds you have to always expect to do some tuning. I also tested the Bootleg Carrier and upper assembly on other standard builds both suppressed and unsuppressed and had no issues, so the initial problems were directly related to not enough gas pressure and the combo of the parts. If I had not used such a high end barrel like BA, the barrel would have been naturally over-gassed (pressurized) and there would not have been any issues.

Installing both a YHM Phantom and Asymmetric Lynx .308 suppressors allowed me to test the other settings. Having that ability to tune the gas pressure right at the bolt really reduced the gas blowback with a suppressor attached. If you plan on running combo of suppressed and unsuppressed, this seems to be one of the more easy and logical solutions to swapping gas settings back and forth depending on whether a suppressor is attached. All you need to do to change setting is just use a screwdriver (or a Swiss Army knife) to click over the the appropriate setting and with the detent feel, this could even be done in the dark if necessary. Excellent idea and execution.
Bootleg 9.4” Handguard - The Bootleg handguards are extruded 6061 aluminum with Mil Spec hard anodizing and feature full length picatinny top rails and integrated PicMod accessory mounting technology.  The design is extremely light at only 7 oz without mounting hardware.

This is a narrow and skinny handguard and is intended for 10”+ barrel lengths. The interior dimension is 1.08” with the overall size at 1.675” wide x 2.05” Tall x 9.4” Long. For a PDW, SBR or AR15 pistol builds I love the small skinny rail which equates to a smaller more compact overall firearm. From a fitment perspective this handguard is a tight fitting handguard which does not just slip on. You have to work it on and once the interlocking cross bolts are in place that handguard feel like a monolith versus an attached handguard. The Bootleg Handguard is an extremely stable handguard platform.

Other Components - The Ballistic Advantage Premium Hansen barrel (once specifically tuned for this build) was a very accurate barrel delivering accuracy beyond the typical expectations of a short 10” barrel build. With the Bushnell 1-4 BTR 1 I was able to easily keep the little SBR delivering 1”-1.25” 100- yard groups with match Hornady ammo and with the PWS CQB comp it was extremely pleasant to shoot outside. 

ETS Group smoked magazines were used as a AR15 magazine option that looks a bit cooler while still delivering reliable function. One of the cooler magazines from ETS features an integrated coupler.

The Sharps Relia-Bolt continue to impress me with the quality and functionality - considering the very affordable price these premium bolts are well worth the cash even if you are not springing for a premium Bootleg Carrier.  The feature loaded all billet BAD-PDW with collapsible VERT stock is without question the top and of SBR lowers. In my case I literally was filling out my ATF eForm request the day I picked up this lower. Thankfully the approval and SBR tax stamp came quick.  The Bushnell 1-4 is an actual First Focal Plane scope at only $250. This allows the BDR reticle to be effective at any magnification and provides basically a circle-dot reticle at 1x magnification for really fast shooting. Another often un-noticed part is the Phase 5 Tactical charging handle which adds a boatload of style plus ambi functionality.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Everything from Bootleg delivered a standout quality and I would love to use any of these products on future builds. The upper is stunning, the handguard is really the perfect AR15 pistol handguard, but they need to offer a shorter 7” version. The carrier is the really interesting product of the three. Testing this carrier on other builds made me want to buy a few more for those builds which swap between being between unsuppressed and suppressed.
I call this the “Smile a Mile Wide” build because everyone who shoots this loves this little SBR rifle suppressed or unsuppressed. At a total build cost of just under $2900 it should put a smile or two on people's faces.  It is stunning to look at all the details but once you start to shoot it and then shoot it fast working that great Geissele 2-stage Super Dynamic Enhanced Trigger, everyone starts grinning.  There is something special about SBRs and this upper which would be just at home on an AR15 pistol was premium tier quality, unique, cool and functional thanks to Bootleg Inc. Expect more product to come from this sister company to PWS. After all PWS has always been full of surprises and Bootleg will be no exception.

SPECS
Bootleg Inc Upper Receiver - $160
Bootleg Inc Adjustable Carrier - $250
Bootleg Inc 9.3” Handguard - $156
Bootleg Completion Kit - $10
PWS CQB Comp - $150
Sharps Relia-Bolt - $90
Ballistic Advantage Premium Hansen 10.3” .223 Wylde Stainless match Barrel - $225
Battle Arms Development - BAD-PDW with VERT collasible stock - $899
ATF SBR Tax Stamp $200
Geissele 2-stage Super Dynamic Enhanced Trigger - $250
Bushnell Optics FFP Illuminated 1-4x 24mm BTR-1 BDC Reticle Riflescope - $250
Phase 5 Tactical Charging Handle - $80
Burris PEPR 30mm Mount $150
Total Price - $2880 - But how can you put a price on happiness?

SOURCES
Bootleg Inc. - https://bootleginc.com
Primary Weapons Systems PWS - https://primaryweapons.com/
Ballistic Advantage - http://ballisticadvantage.com
Battle Arms Development - http://www.battlearmsdevelopment.com
Phase 5 Tactical - http://phase5wsi.com

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