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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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

Special thanks to Liberty Ammunition for the 5.56 NATO ammo for this review.

Specifications:

Chamber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 16″
Capacity: Ships with 10 round magazine
MSRP: $2,109

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.

Customization: *
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.

87 Responses to Gun Review: Black Rain Ordnance NY Legal AR-15

  1. Its a good thing there isnt an aesthetics category and that you cant give negative stars in a review.

  2. Unfortunately, I found reaching the safety to be quite difficult with that stock. That actually might force shooters to disengage the safety well before it is normally appropriate, thus REDUCING safety. Thanks NY! Unintended consequences…

    • The first thing you’ll want to do to an “extreme compliance” rifle like this is upgrade to an ambidextrous safety, like the BAD-ASS. (Actual product name.) Having a fire-control switch on the starboard side of the gun makes it far easier to run safely, and in fact I’ve gotten in the habit of using the right-side lever most of the time on my conventional ARs.

      I don’t know why Black Rain used a left-side-only fire control setup, considering how important that control is. You’d think for the price tag they’d have included an ambi safety lever.

  3. The single “evil” feature that Black Rain has left on the gun is a detachable magazine …

    To be clear, a detachable magazine is not a “feature”, it is a qualifier. Under the unSAFE Act, an assault weapon must be both semi-automatic and have a detachable magazine. Then, it must have one additional feature (e.g., pistol grip, collapsible/folding stock, any muzzle device, bayo lug, etc.).

    If it only has the two qualifiers but no features (e.g., Mini-14 Ranch), you don’t have to register it.

    • Correct. The other approach to modification is a fixed mag, in which case you can have all the features you want.

      Just writing that sentence made me ill.

      • Another approach would be to disable the semi auto qualifier. Remove the gas tube and turn the gas block around to actually block the gas port.

        Or use a Solar Tactical grip wrap to remove the pistol grip feature. I doubt it is as uncomfortable as the stock pictured above. It isn’t bad at all once you get used to it. This approach will also need an ambi safety for us right handers. On my bull barrel Kaliforniastan rifles I use a target crown. Otherwise we left coasters can use any other muzzle device except that evil flash hider. I understand that flash hider can neuter any Unicorns within a 10 mile radius.

      • I built my own AR from a stripped lower. Although it is completely NY Safe Act compliant, it is NOT registered. You DO NOT have to register all semi-automatic weapons. That is just silly.

  4. It’s only a matter of time before someone goes postal with one of these. The rally-cry will be that the politicians didn’t go far enough and they will lobby for even more ineffective laws. The dis-armament script-writers probably already have their talking points written and focus-group tested.

  5. It sucks to be a gun owner in New York these days, though our neighbors in CT have it worse. The good news is many people I know are not modifying or registering their guns, or are modifying part of their collection as their “public” gun while keeping the good stuff locked up at home.

    The Thordsen FRS stock is okay, but the notion that we have to use it to escape a truly imbecilic gun ban is infuriating. As Nick points out, changing out the pistol grip for an FRS stock does nothing to alter the function of the gun. Yet our benevolent leaders will never go back on the law they changed because that would demonstrate their foolishness in passing it in the first place.

    All in all, I welcome the Black Rain NY Compliant AR, as well as the Ares SCR, Ruger Mini 14 and 30, Saiga Sporter, Kel-Tec SU16CA all of which are legal under current New York law. The availability of these firearms shows just how stupid the SAFE Act truly is. Which is massively, massively stupid.

    I guess that’s what you get when you let the gun ignoramuses of MAIG write your bill then pass it with only 20 minutes of review.

  6. Speaking of reconverting the rifle back to a standard AR.
    Is it legal to have the non-compliant parts cohabitate in the same residence with the compliant rifle.
    Is the “thingy that goes up” actually legal to possess at all in NY?

    • Yes. And this comes from a criminal lawyer who specializes in 2nd Amendment issues. (I consulted with him before building my first NY Compliant AR last fall.) If the part is not on the firearm, it’s just a part.

        • Ct. is different. They haven’t yet acknowledged the legality of modified rifles.

      • Then why does ATF claim “constructive possession” in similar cases involving SBRs? Is it due to the difference of NY law compared to federal law, or is there something else at play?

  7. Funny thing is, the NY compliant stock would make it easier to fire from the hip. Which is what they claim the pistol grip allows. Stupidity all the way to 11.

    • So conventional rifle grips make firing from the hip (which itself is also something I have never understood the anti’s getting bent out-of-shape-over) easier?

      • Yep.

        Relax your arm at your side. Your fingers are pointing down and in. If you hold, say, a pipe, that pipe would be more or less horizontal.

        Holding that pipe vertical, however, would require bending your wrist forward by about 90 degrees. Which is right at or beyond the limit of most people’s wrists.

        So if you want to hold a rifle, at your hip, pointed horizobtally, a conventional rifle grip is easier to usevs a pistol grip, because less wrist bending is required. Just the way a pistol grip minimizes wrist bending when you fire from the shoulder, vs a conventional grip.

    • I’d say this would be the price point you could cry profiteering. That eyesore should cost less than a bare bones AR-15.

    • Black Rain rifles all start in that price range then go much higher.

      You don’t need to buy a NY compliant rifle, you can build your own. I built my own Stag 6H, NY legal, for under $1,000.00 last fall. Someone building a carbine could go even cheaper. The only FFL item on a build is the stripped lower. As long as your upper is NY compliant, you have no other banned features and you use the Thordsen, Exile or AR-Spur instead of a pistol grip, you’re good to go and for a lot less money. It won’t be a Black Rain, but it will be an AR-15.

    • There is no increase in price when ordering a BRO NY version of the rifle. BRO turns 95% of the material on the rifle in house and build a quality product. The stock and buffer can be directly changed out to a normal stock and grip. Price is on point for what you are buying, and thats a great rifle

    • Dark storm industries makes the,same,setup but with better parts and models $895-1200 tops.

      Black rain is a rip off

  8. Can you attach an adjustable cheek rest to the buffer tube? Looks like you might. Then you could cover up some of that ugly & have an actual shoulder thingy that goes up.

  9. It is interesting to note that when everyone knows that by using the feature/qualifier count as a loophole to defeat the 2A, legislators have banned a gun without banning the gun. They will turn right around and denounce BRO for using loopholes to produce this legal rifle and accusing them of bringing evil to the streets.
    Curses, foiled again.

    • Though they may also breathe a sigh of relief, as this gives them an out on the lack of registration compliance. They can just tell themselves that everyone in the state with an AR removed all the banned features so the problem has been solved. Evil features have been defeated and the world is once again safe for democracy.

      And forget the Black Rain, what about the Mini 14, Mini 30, Saiga Sporter, Keltec SU16CA? All mag fed semi-auto rifles none of which are covered by the “assault weapons” ban.

      If only someone would work on a cure for stupid. We could run clinical trials on the NY Legislature.

  10. I would buy one just because of the cool sci-fi look. Just put in a Beta-C double drum and change out the handguard for something more sci-fi (maybe add the carry handle too?). Add a cool black-n-white color scheme and you got a badass hero gun.

    It would probably be bad from a tactical perspective but it would be really cool.

    In case you don’t know “hero gun” means a gun used by the hero in a film or play.

  11. So it’s ugly and the ergos are fubar. On the other hand, it’s pretty accurate and Cuomussolini will hate it. I say buy two, New Yorkers. Buy two.

    • Yup, I’m personally not all that gone on ARs to start with, and this one obviously wouldn’t change my mind. But I think it’s a hoot, a nice thumb in Cuomo’s eye.

  12. For me, that MSRP of $2,109 will be going towards something even more useful:

    A U-Haul rental.

    • If you live in NY, a u-haul rental is probably the second best thing (Penske is better) you can buy to make your shooting experience become better.

    • Not everyone has the ability to just move. Some are bound to the industry they work in, and people also have families. This gives you a option if you truely want a AR15. The rifle is built completely under 1 roof with the highest of QC. Live time warranty with top of the line parts and a beautiful trigger. If you do move out of state, a normal Stock and pistol grip can always be changed out and added.

  13. I, for one, LOVE it simply because “Fuck You NY.” I suspect these are going to be highly collectible one day in the future.

  14. One thing, but this rifle is not **officially** NY legal. It is believed to be, but nothing has been officially approved by the NY state government like for example the bullet button in California, and no one has been arrested with such a rifle yet and then proven to be the first test case. Same with the MR2 magazine release lock. So owning any such AR-15 is a risk right now.

    Even if arrested and legally in the right, you may have to spend a lot of money to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. So everyone be careful.

    • The New York AG;s office has released a memo acknowledging that these rifles are legal under the SAFE Act. What’s more, before building my own SAFE Act compliant rifle last September, I consulted with a criminal lawyer who specializes in 2A issues. He assured me the rifles are 100% legal.

      Back in September, only one gun shop within 70 miles of my house has the balls to transfer a stripped lower to me. Now all of them are selling lowers and compliant rifles. They wouldn’t be if there was a shred of doubt.

      • Do you have a link to that memo? I’ve heard rumblings, but haven’t been able to find anything in writing from the state or the courts confirming.

      • My understanding is that there is nothing official from Albany thus far. Do you have a link to that memo?

        • My mistake. Not a memo. A verbal agreement. Even so, we’re at a point now where hundreds of legal experts now agree that there is nothing in the law banning modified weapons.

          Here’s a press release on the subject:

          For Immediate Release

          James D. Tresmond, Esq. of Tresmond Law, a Western New York based firearms litigation practice, announced this morning that negotiations with the New York State Division Police has resulted in the once prohibited-for-sale AR-15 rifle re-entering the New York market. Representing several firearms parts manufacturers and dealers, Mr. Tresmond stated “As the result of ongoing discussion with counsel for the New York State Division of Police, the AR-15 and similar rifles may now be sold and transferred within the state if they meet certain requirements., such as having a non-pistol grip stock affixed to the receiver that cannot be removed with the push of a button. Because such rifles were originally outlawed by NY SAFE, this marks a significant step towards restoration of the rights of New York’s residents.”

          For further information, please contact James Tresmond at (716) 548.3398

          From the Thordsen site:

          As witnessed by legal counsel retained by Thordsen Customs LLC and in cooperation with legal counsel representing The Gun Shop at McGregor’s in Lake Luzerne, New York. Authorities representing the New York State Police Division Counsel’s office and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York have verbally stated that the FRS-15 Rifle Stock, when installed on a semiautomatic center fire rifle with NO OTHER RESTRICTED FEATURES listed in the New York Safe Act, DOES NOT meet the definition of an “assault weapon” and therefore DOES NOT require mandatory registration.

          Or this:

          http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Gun-design-legal-deadly-4549130.php

          Even the despicable Journal News acknowledges the legality of modification:

          http://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/albany-watch/2014/04/13/safe-act-deadline-leaves-gun-owners-choice/7663475/

          Finally, let’s have a look at the Governor’s own website. If you use the interactive “is my gun an assault weapon?” feature you will see that their own site says a featureless rifle is not an assault rifle.

          http://www.governor.ny.gov/nysafeact/registration-questionnaire

          Gun dealers all over the state are selling modified weapons and stripped lowers, when few of them would do so as recently as last September. This means that they, like me, have it on the advice of their lawyer that it is legal.

          In other words, the cat is out of the bag.

        • I see; all of that is great and makes me more comfortable, however, regarding the governor’s website, I am still a bit wheezy, because the law says about if the rifle has a “protruding pistol grip.” The thing is, what exactly constitutes a pistol grip? That is arbitrary and some prosecutor might try claiming that the FRS stock is a form of pistol grip. Now if only they would approve the MR2 mag lock.

  15. Also just nitpicking, but the antis don’t refer to them as “evil” features anymore. They realized how stupid that sounds and now use the term “military-style feature,” which is still BS because:

    1) They get to decide whether something is a so-called “military-style” feature, and

    2) The Second Amendment protects the right of the citizens to possess military guns. That’s the whole point of the amendment in the first place being there.

  16. A slip-on recoil pad would solve too-short LOP. For that matter, you could probably duct-tape a squirrel to it without ruining the lines….

  17. I think I’d prefer to shoot the ARES SCR rather than this. I’m sure the geometry of that stock is ok, but it just looks awkward to hold.

    • It’s a bit of a pain. The wrist has to twist at an unnatural angle. I am very much looking forward to the Ares.

    • I have a bullet buttoned AR and i’m still hoping that Ares offers just the SCR and a bolt carrier. Also I’m hoping those are the only things that differentiate the SCR from a normal AR.

  18. I just can’t wait for the first newspaper article screaming about how this circumvents the spirit of the law..

  19. Why thread the muzzle if it’s just going to have a protector pinned/welded in place? Makes no sense and wastes $$.

    • Yeah, but not officially legal though. You run a risk if you get caught by a cop with that thing.

    • The ARMR2 is NOT legal unless you permanently attach the magazine in the rifle. Simply preventing the ability to release the magazine unless the rifle is open does NOT qualify in NY as it does in California. NY’s law is written differently. NY law states “capable of accepting a detachable mag.” The MR2 still allows the rifle to “accept” a detachable mag. Hundreds of them even.

      The Prince50 maglock button is what we are using for those that want the features and don’t mind top loading their rifles. One of my customers modified a spoon for the stripper clips to work on the mag while it’s in the rifle and we use that as a pattern to build one for each customer permanently attaching a mag in their rifle.

      Stag has been offering 3/4’s of their rifles in a NY configuration now and Windham Weaponry started shipping the end of April. I’ve been modifying them since July ever since I got the first shipment of FRS-15 stocks.

      Rich
      The Gun Shop at MacGregor’s, LLC

    • We are also doing .308’s on a case-by-case basis. So far I’ve done Ruger SR556’s, SR762’s, Windham Weaponry’s new .308, DPMS, Rock River LAR-8’s, and an S&W 308 among others.

      I’m currently working on a Colt LE901-16S which is proving interesting considering the oddball shape of the rear, lower portion of the lower receiver behind the grip which is vastly different than everyone else’s. I think I have it licked though, I should be finishing it up today.

      In answer to the threaded barrels, not every barrel manufacture makes an M-4 style barrel with no threads, they have been special order so far. They are now readily available and I get most of mine from Windham Weaponry, which are Green Mountain barrels.

      For the collectible rifles like the older Colt’s we’ve been either installing a target crowned barrel or locking the mags in the rifle to prevent permanent alterations to the original equipment. Depends on the owner.

      Rich

  20. Regarding the bayonet lug, I have to stick this in. While an original “evil feature” even back in ’94, the only way to mount a bayonet was on a 20″ barrel or a 14.5″ barrel, ie, SBR. WITH an original birdcage flash hider. (No evil flash hider, bayonet lug unimportant.) This while everybody was selling 16″ barrels, but then had to file off the bayonet lug, never mind that it was useless. I, for example, currently have 4 barrels, all with bayonet lugs, but only one which my bayonet will mount on, a 20″ flattop with 3X9 scope I visualized as a long distance gun, bayonet doesn’t seem likely. Where I WOULD like a bayonet is on a carbine length (14.5″) for use as a pig gun. Thing jams, that bayonet could save your bacon, if ya know what I mean. But that, of course, is an NFA rifle, mucho more problem than concerns over evil features.

    • A bayonet will mount just fine on a 14.5″ with an extended pinned flash hider that makes it non-SBR.

  21. I live in NY and I’ve converted my AR to the FRS stock. Its not pretty, but two things I decided: I’m not registering and I’m not going to jail for not registering. this was the best compromise I could find.

  22. It’s an ugly beast, but it works, and if I had to live in NY, I’d buy it.

    Shout out to our fellow gun owners there… keep fighting!

  23. I am looking forward to the Ares SCR, but first I’ll have to see the price. If out of my price range, I’ll go for a Kel-Tec SU-16 or an AR build with this stock. However, if decently-priced, I’ll buy an SCR instead.

  24. I suggested the name “F. U. Cuomo 2014” model but I guess they already had a name. It will no doubt be banned because it looks even more evil than a standard evil black rifle. If I were a subject I would buy one. Just until I could fight my way out of that state.

    • I named my three legal guns Bite Me, Andy and Mike. Just got a Saiga Sporter which I’ll probably call Shannon.

  25. Criminals won’t bother with these. Full-auto AKMs & Uzis will come into port hidden in boxes of televisions from mainland China, and some customs agent will take bribes to look the other way while the contraband gets loaded into black SUVs and disappear, destination wherever. I would not waste a fleeting glance at one of those bastardized versions. In a place like NYC, you can’t stop the black market. The more pressure you put on it, the more it will prevail.

  26. At least you guys in NY can get this, in CT were stuck with nothing more modern than a mini 14.

    • Ares Defense SCR riding to the rescue. You can also get a Saiga Sporter, which is a sporting version of an AK-100 or a Keltec SU-16CA.

      I have a Mini-14 in addition to my ARs. Like it just fine.

      • While the SCR and the standard SU-16 are legal, I do not know if a Saiga Sporter is legal, because the language of the Connecticut law states, paraphrasing, that any AK-47 type rifle or any variant of an AK-47 rifle is outlawed. It states the same about the AR-15, which is why the AR-15 with the FRS-15 stock is outlawed there.

  27. Most of us in NY are saying fuck it and just building AR’s the way they were meant to be. Perhaps I have an AR with all it’s evil features and keeping it incase the SHTF and then have something like this so we can still shoot an AR at the range. Many people decided to go the fixed mag route or installed the AR-MR2.

    • You can change the Stock.. I did.. I put on a MAGPUL CTR retractable stock and had it pined in the forward position.. They have a small 2 Finger grip that’s NY Compliant..

  28. guess the pic says a 1000 words,,,,wish mine had 3 round burst in ny…..safe /fire….is all that is allowed….no 3 round burst,,,,

  29. The Saiga has always been NY proof and Clinton proof. It is an AK-47 in civilian clothing with the bayonet lug, extended pistol grip and flash hider removed. The Saiga is chambered for the .308, 5.56 and 7.62×39 Russian. It cost a fraction of the so-called NY safe compliant and a lot more reliable. The Russians were ahead of the game when it come to making Liberal anti gun politicians, the ATF and civilian police here in the USA look like idiots. Also, it is furnished in a synthetic sporting stock and will drive nails in the 20 inch barrel. Barrel lengths come in 16 and 20 inches. It takes a side mount that a scope, laser and tactical flash light can be easily affixed. Be smart, save money and get the Saiga.

  30. Look people, it will not stop here. The main objective of the gun haters is an outright ban of all firearms. This is the progressive baby step that ends up being a leap in the end. I can hear it now “it doesn’t affect my hunting rifle so why should I care”? Trust me, it will affect all guns in the end. If you do and say nothing then keep your mouth shut when they are knocking on your door to confiscate your hunting rifle.

  31. Has anyone tried to register one of these in NY yet? In the 5 boro’s you HAVE to register it and possess a rifle / shotgun permit. I’m wondering if this gun has actually been registered successfully. I’d hate to spend $2,000 only to have NYPD show up at my door to take possession of my gun.

    • When you Purchased that Weapon if it’s NY Compliant after the NY safe act was put into place the weapon is already Registered

  32. Leaving NY won’t solve the problem, that’s not fighting the problem, it’s retreating from it! Registering your guns isn’t helping either, that dignifies the law. I’ve said from the beginning we get the government we deserve, even if just the people licensed to hunt in NY bothered to vote cuomo out we’d be rid of this bullshit, but sadly even losing our 2A rights wasn’t enough motivation to get people out to vote.

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