The 5.56 NATO ammunition for this review was provided by Liberty Ammunition.
My native state of New York is a beautiful place. I spent my summers in the Adirondack mountains during my high school years working as a counselor at a summer camp, and the beaches on Long Island are pretty nice too. But the politics and the politicians are ugly as sin. Not satisfied with their existing “assault weapons” ban they decided to take it up to 11, mandating that any semi-automatic firearm with more than one “evil” feature are now illegal. Black Rain Ordnance took that as a challenge, and has successfully neutered an AR-15 rifle to the point where it is still 100% legal for sale in the Empire State. They call it the BRO-PG5-NY. But the question is whether the result is still a usable rifle . . .
The single “evil” feature that Black Rain has left on the gun is a detachable magazine — a 10-round Magpul PMAG in this case. Everything else about the gun has been gelded in order to allow that one feature to remain. The barrel, for example, has neither a bayonet mount (which I never understood the necessity for in the first place) nor can the muzzle device be changed. BRO uses the same threaded barrel that it uses on its other guns, but instead of their standard evil pineapple flash hider there’s a simple thread protector that’s pinned and welded in place. Twice.
The most annoying part of the gun has to be the stock. Since a “pistol grip” is right out of the question, the BRO boys had to use a FRS-15 rifle stock like those commonly used in California. The stock itself isn’t that bad, but as someone who’s used to the comfort and adjustability of a standard AR-15 stock it leaves a lot to be desired. The length of pull is fixed, so you can’t adjust it for different sized shooters. The grip is a traditional style, and while you can get your thumb around the back it’s not terribly comfortable. Thanks to those forced ergonomics, the trigger a whole heck of a lot further away than with a standard grip. Those with big hands won’t mind, but everyone else very well might.
Despite those gripes, though, it still works.
What politicians don’t seem to understand about the AR-15 rifle is that the individual features don’t matter. You can remove the pistol grip and the bayonet lug, but at its heart the firearm is every bit as accurate and effective as any standard configuration AR-15. It fires the exact same round at the exact same velocity and the exact same rate of fire. It’s just less comfortable to do so. I’ve got a test coming up where we’re pitting this rifle against a “standard” AR-15 to see if there are any actual differences in accuracy or rate of fire. I’m going to guess “no,” but stay tuned.
The good news is that behind all the toned down features, it’s still a Black Rain gun. It has the same awesomely accurate barrel that we saw in the PG11-18, as well as the same extremely nice trigger. Just because the gun is heading behind enemy lines doesn’t mean that it gets substandard parts.
The BRO-PG5-NY isn’t the greatest AR-15 ever made, but for the New York market it might just be the top of the mark at the moment. Given the arbitrary constraints of the law, it’s the best you can get with a standard AR-15 — and there are some pros and cons to that.
At its heart this gun is still a bog standard AR-15, so if the law changes (or if you move) you can crank off the NY-compliant parts and get yourself a proper grip and stock for the rifle with very little muss and fuss. If you’ll be staying behind enemy lines, however, a dumbed down AR-15 might not always be the best solution. Other more dedicated “compliant” rifles like the Ares Defense SCR are starting to show up that will offer better ergonomics and a sleeker profile, but those guns can’t be readily converted back to the AR-15 that we know and love if you should move (or the law changes).
It all boils down to what you want as a shooter. If you’re an Empire Stater who wants an AR-15 then the Black Rain is the rifle for you. But if you don’t intend to move and want some better ergonomics, you may want to wait for the SCR.
Chamber: 5.56 NATO
Capacity: Ships with 10 round magazine
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category. Overall rating is not mathematically derived from the previous component ratings and encompasses all aspects of the firearm including those not discussed.
Accuracy: * * * *
Pretty darned good. I was getting 1 MoA groups with Hornady ammunition, but the lack of a muzzle brake and the strange stock make it more awkward to shoot.
Ergonomics: * * *
For a NY legal AR-15 its as good as you’re going to get in an AR.
Reliability: * * * * *
No malfunctions whatsoever.
You can’t really do anything to the gun and maintain the NY legal status. Changing the trigger or getting a new optic is possible, but everything else is pretty much out the window thanks to .
Overall Rating: * * * 1/2
The final rating for the gun assumes you live under the constraints of New York law. If you live anywhere else, this gun sucks just based on its forced ergonomics, features that no one would intentionally build into a gun otherwise. But if you’re a New York resident, the gun rocks because it’s an AR you can still buy it legally. In the end, I’m giving it a 3.5 — slightly above average.