It isn’t often that you see a new firearms manufacturer come into the scene and even rarer that they start with the kind of bang that Black Rain Ordnance has been enjoying. Going from an unknown manufacturer to being a featured firearm in Cheaper Than Dirt’s catalog in less than four years is an accomplishment, but that speed also means that there haven’t been many opportunities to review their guns. We asked BRO to provide a rifle to test at the SHOT Show… back in 2012. And we asked yet again in 2013. But it was only when I was squadded with one of their guys at the Fallen Brethren match that they finally shipped us out a rifle. And man, was it ever worth the wait . . .
There are a TON of AR-15 “manufacturers,” but not many of them actually, well, manufacture. Take Bushmaster, for example. All the parts for their guns are made elsewhere and they are simply assembled and branded with the Bushmaster accoutrements at their factory before being sold. It means that while you’re buying a Bushmaster, the exact same parts probably went into a Windham Weaponry AR-15 as well.
While other manufacturers might be content with buying their parts and assembling their rifles, Black Rain had other ideas. From the barrel down to the forward assist, every single part is manufactured by Black Rain. Well, except the obvious (stock, magazine and grip). According to Jared Moser (one of their managers that was squadded with me), the reason behind manufacturing everything from scratch is that it’s the only way to maintain the level of quality they wanted to give their firearms.
While Black Rain might be serious about the quality of their parts, they don’t let that get in the way of having a little fun along the way. One of the first products I noticed of theirs was a spiked muzzle brake that looked like a metallic pineapple, a design that had no purpose other than looking bad-ass. The same goes from the “LET IT RAIN!” dust cover. There are design options incorporated into their stuff that seems like their sole purpose is to make the gun look nifty or just to inject a little humor. I almost expected to see something in their catalog marketed as the “COME AT ME BRO,” but alas nothing yet.
Speaking of quality, the fit and finish on this rifle is simply amazing. The receiver is coated in a NORGUARD nickel finish which gives it a gleamingly shiny appearance and a satin-smooth feel, and contrasts nicely with the black furniture. The edges are perfectly rounded with not a single rough spot to be found, even on the trigger. It gives an excellent first impression, given the attention to detail that was put in the finish alone.
While the rifle looks amazing, there are some technical differences between the standard AR-15 design and this rifle that I want to highlight.
Like I said, Black Rain makes everything on this gun — and that includes the charging handle. I HATE the standard charging handle on the AR-15, so much so that whenever I buy a new upper receiver I immediately order a replacement BCM Gunfighter charging handle as well. While the BCM Gunfighter has served me well, I think that Black Rain’s design is better in every way possible.
The latch on the handle feels much better to the touch, the mechanism operates extremely smoothly, and it looks aesthetically pleasing. I’m actually considering asking Jared really, really nicely for a discount so that I can buy one of these for every rifle and dump the BCM Gunfighter. And yes, they do sell the charging handle as a separate part.
Next up on the list of nifty features is the free floating rail. While a full length rail is nice if you’re putting optics on your gun, the reality is that most people don’t need all that rail space. All you really need is some rail at the end of the tube for iron sights or a flashlight, and then provide mounting points on the tube for add-on rails should the need arise.
Black rain’s rail goes one step further. Not only do they give you rails where you need them and flat metal where you don’t, they recess the metal on the top of the rail as well. This allows the shooter to mount optics with a large objective lens much closer to the bore, which is very much appreciated by us long range shooters. Larger objective lenses means a clearer picture, and keeping the bell of those objectives from impacting the rail is required for accurate long range shooting. Good to see BRO thinking about these things in their design.
The last thing I want to point out is the trigger. There are companies out there that have made triggers for years, yet failed to produce an actually “good” trigger. Black Rain, on the other hand, hit the nail on the head. Not only is the design aesthetically interesting, but the feel of the trigger is perfect. The trigger blade itself feels smooth against my finger, and the break is light and crisp as I would expect from an excellent competition rifle. It’s just everything that a trigger should be, and even gives the likes of Geiselle and Timney a run for their money.
Add up all of the components and what you have here is, on spec, an excellent competition rifle. It has an eye-catching design that is sure to make the other competitors jealous, so it checks the “pretty” box pretty hard. The 18″ barrel and long handguards give enough leverage to manhandle the thing around a course of fire, and the lightweight barrel design (with a fluted barrel and compensator) make the gun nimble and make recoil mitigation extremely easy. And add in the trigger for the complete package. Assuming the thing worked on the range, this would be my new default recommendation for the perfect 3-gun rifle.
At this point, I was convinced that there had to be a catch. A brand new company starts making everything from scratch, BARREL included, and hits the nail on the head right out of the gate? No way! And yet…
That one high and left flier? Yep, totally my fault. Ignoring that called shot, that’s a 4 round group that is decidedly within a 1 inch circle at 100 yards. In other words, sub-MoA accuracy.
Considering that the first place I saw a Black Rain Ordnance rifle was a Cheaper Than Dirt catalog, I was expecting a mediocre firearm at best. Instead, what we have here is one of the finest 3-gun rifles available for purchase form any vendor. It compares favorably with Colt Competition’s CRP-18, out-performs anything Bushmaster has to offer, and even gives Noveske (my favorite AR-15 maker) a run for their money. And that’s where we run head-first into the issue: dollars. This rifle is on par with the very best out there, but it’s still a good $700 more than the competition as well. I consider JP enterprises’ JP-15 to be the gold standard when it comes to competition AR-15 rifles, and even that clocks in at only $1,999 compared to the $2,700+ for this rifle.
That said, it may just be worth the price. . .
Black Rain Ordnance BRO-PG11-18NORG
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel: 18 inches
Size: 35.5 inches
Weight: 7.1 lbs empty
Capacity: Standard AR Mags
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category.
Accuracy: * * * * *
Sub-MoA is the gold standard for competition rifles, and it meets if not exceeds that standard.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Absolutely outstanding. It points well, handles like a champ, and is extremely comfortable to shoot.
Ergonomics Firing: * * * * *
Recoil is light and easily mitigated, and the trigger is amazing.
Customization: * * * * *
Change whatever you want — it’s an AR-15.
Overall Rating: * * * * 1/2
The perfect competition rifle. And I mean perfect. I had to knock off a half a star for the pricing though.