Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)
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When the dust settled on the Remington Outdoors breakup last year, Franklin Armory came out of the scrap heap holding one of the gems, Bushmaster Firearms. Franklin Armory didn’t go out on any limbs with the first guns being offered by the company, and that’s a good thing.

With the Bravo Zulu line, Franklin has stayed true to Bushmaster’s roots, stepping back out into the market with a reasonably priced carbine that sports good performance and great reliability.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The Bravo Zulu is Bushmaster’s modern basic blaster. It’s an overall solid gun, with a forged 7075 hardcoat anodized receiver set that includes a forward assist. Inside, the Bravo Zulu follows the tried and true XM15 line. You’ll find a salt bath nitrite finished bolt carrier group and M4 feed ramps.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The bolt itself is shot peened 158 Carpenter, and the carrier appears to be the mil-spec M16 cut. The gas-key is staked in well. There’s absolutely nothing special about this recipe, and the boring features inside the gun ensure the rifle will outlast all but the most dedicated shooting enthusiasts. Bushmaster’s new slogan is “PROVEN“, and that’s exactly what this combo is.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The 16″ midweight barrel features a mid-length gas system and a 1:8 twist. The barrel ends in Bushmaster’s Snake Charmer muzzle brake. I hate all muzzle brakes on anything but the lightest weight magnums, and I hate all lightweight magnums. Still, if you’re looking to reduce recoil by converting it into muzzle blast and noise, the Snake Charmer does a great job. An even better job would be to swap it out for the silencer of your choice.

This rifle features a full furniture kit from Thril, to include the buttstock, pistol grip, and magazine.

The buttstock is familiar, with six positions and a single release/lock lever. There’s no less than five different places to mount a sling (three slots and two QD cups), and the rear features a grippy rubber recoil pad. Like most of these types of stocks, this one wobbles a little bit at every position. If you’re looking for a staked castle nut, and I’m certainly not, you won’t find one on the Bravo Zulu.

Whereas the stock doesn’t stand out much, the pistol grip does. I wish it included a storage compartment instead of just an open void, but the shape and texturing of the grip provide a great surface for both rapid and careful controlled fire.

With a full wraparound gorilla-grip on the gun, the arched rear and oblong shape gives the shooter a lot of surface area to hold should you need to move the gun quickly and keep it tight to the body. On the other hand, the lack of any finger grooves and, again, that texturing, allows you to use nothing but the fingertips to pull straight back on the gun for precision shooting.

The rifle comes with a single 30-round 5.56mm Thril magazine. It functions just fine and has the added features of a soft textured pad at the bottom which matches the texture of the buttpad. That may add a bit of protection from falls, but it also helps provide a bit of soft squish when shooting off the magazine from the prone. The bright red follower is also a nice touch, as it’s super obvious when the gun is empty.

Bushmaster includes a 14″ M-LOK free floating rail with the Bravo Zulu. This is a fairly slimline style, and I can wrap my size large hand all the way around it until my thumb touches my index finger. There’s still enough clearance to mount accessories on the rail, in every position except the bottom under the gas block.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The Bravo Zulu includes Bushmaster’s new DM2S Dedicated Marksman 2 Stage Trigger.  It’s a good one, and if you’re thinking it’s a heavy and squishy “mil-spec” trigger you’re going to be very pleasantly surprised. After shooting, this one broke at an extremely consistent 4 lbs, exactly like the one I reviewed last year.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

At the bench, the Bravo Zulu is a decent performer, with the right round. The best shooting round was IMI’s 55gr M193 FMJ, printing 1.2″ five round groups averaged over four-shot strings. The rifle very much preferred the lighter weight bullets, shooting similar groups with Wolf’s dirt-cheap 55gr ammunition as well.

Federal Premium’s 73gr OTM Berger-topped ammunition scored 1.6″ groups. Winchester’s Super-X 64gr soft point ammunition scored the worst, averaging just barely under 2″ groups.

The Winchester commercial round is rarely the most accurate in any gun, but is my go-to round for close range culling of our little Hill Country white tail does every year, simply because of the terminal result. All groups were shot from a bench with a Caldwell Stinger shooting rest and bags, untimed, at 100 yards with a 10X US Optics scope.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

Bushmaster didn’t take any risks making this rifle and the proven components yielded predictable results. I shot 500 rounds through the gun over three outings with a variety of 55gr FMJ rounds, as well as M855 green tip, 75 and 77gr OTM, and soft point rounds as well. I used the supplied magazine, as well as a standard metal GI magazine and 30-round PMAGs. I sprayed some CLP into the gun prior to firing, and never cleaned it again…or so much as opened it up until the review was complete. The gun ran perfectly, with zero issues of any kind.

Bushmaster Bravo Zulu AR-15 Rifle review
Image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com.

The Bravo Zulu is a good-enough gun at a reasonable price in the current market. It features a good trigger, solid internals, and good, basic furniture at a street price of around a grand. If you’d like to step it up a bit, you can purchase the exact same rifle with the Franklin Armory binary trigger for a couple more Benjamins.

This is, of course, the big change for Bushmaster under Franklin Armory. With this acquisition, Franklin Armory can put their famous binary trigger right into their own guns, and guns with a name everybody already knows. It was a smart business move for the company, and everybody wins.

Specifications: Bushmaster Bravo Zulu Rifle

Caliber: 5.56 NATO (450 Bushmaster available)
Barrel: 16″ with a 1:8 Twist Rate
Length: 33.5-36.5″
Weight: 6.21 LBS w/o Magazine
Rail:  BFI 14″ Free Float
BCG: Salt Bath Nitride Bolt Carrier Group, MPI Tested Bolt
Muzzle Brake: – Snake Charmer
Trigger: DM2S 2 Stage
Magazine: Thril Polymer 30 Round Mag
Gas system: MidD Length
Stock: Thril Combat Competition 6 position
Grip:- Thril
Sights: none,  Optics Ready
MSRP: $1,159.99 (about $970 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * *
Nothing special, nothing wrong.

Customization * * * *
It’s an AR with an MLOK rail. You can do anything you want. Nothing ambi.

Reliability * * * * *
Perfect reliability.

Accuracy * * *
Nothing reached the Minute of Angle mark, but nothing went quite to the 2 MOA mark either.

Overall * * *
The Bravo Zulu is a job well done. If this were five years ago, it would be a bit overpriced.  That was then, and the reality now is this is what we should expect of a solid, but basic modern carbine with a good trigger from a recognized brand. It’s good to see that Franklin Armory didn’t do anything dramatic with the brand. They’re focusing on getting the basics right, and providing the option of a binary trigger right out of the box.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Three stars?!?!? Where were stars taken away for? For being a perfect 2nd tier rifle out of the box? The accuracy is spot on for that price point, features it comes with are generous, the workmanship is there. What’s the fuss about three stars? Not saying it’s the best thing ever but it fits it’s roll and niche in the market, what more could you ask for?

    • 3 stars is meh — nothing great, nothing terrible. It’s a bog-standard AR-15 clone, just like the other 10,000 alternatives. Slightly better quality, with a higher than average price.

    • Anymouse’s reply nails it.

      That said, I hate the star rating system. It pigeon holes the writer and I think encourages poor writing. But there are a whole lot of readers over the years that have said that this is the only section of the reviews they read, and it’s one of the things that sets TTAG apart from its competition. And it’s TTAG’s format, the “house rules.” I still hate it.

    • Accuracy is the proximity of measurement results to the true value.

      Precision is the degree to which repeated (or reproducible) measurements under unchanged conditions show the same results.

      Its difficult to determine accuracy or precision between the “55gr FMJ rounds, as well as M855 green tip, 75 and 77gr OTM, and soft point rounds as well” because the condition of ammo ballistics changed and an average was used.

      But the authors explanation for the three star ratings was “Nothing reached the Minute of Angle mark, but nothing went quite to the 2 MOA mark either.” So he set his ‘standard’ (‘true value’) as ‘Minute of Angle mark’ – 1 MOA at 100 yards is 1 inch (1.047 inch), 2 MOA at 100 yards is 2 inches (2.094 inch). But the author also says “55gr M193 FMJ, printing 1.2” inch which would seem to indicate less than 2MOA groups but the author also says that was “five round groups averaged over four-shot strings” for which an average destroys the usability for a determination of accuracy or precision. If it had been 1.2″ groups for each shot string (and not averaged) with 55gr M193 FMJ (or the groups with the other ammo not averaged) there would have been accuracy and precision measurement. But with the average thing its impossible to determine accuracy or precision in terms of all the ammo fired, or for individual ammo, because in relation to the authors standard of ‘Minute of Angle mark’ instead of specific precise measurements an average was used across shot groups (and can’t estimate from the article because we don’t know all the specific individual groups measurements).

      So technically, based upon the article, neither ‘accuracy’ or ‘precision’ was tested because you can not determine these with averages or (for overall) involving changing conditions (the ammo ballistics between the different ammo) in relation to a true value – both ‘accuracy’ or ‘precision’ require specific measurement under the same conditions to determine ‘accuracy’ or ‘precision’ which did not happen here according to information in the article (and the ‘Minute of Angle mark’ standard set by the author became arbitrary and overall useless because the ‘measurements’ in relation to the standard were an average over the shot strings and each group was not held to measurement in relation to the authors true value standard of ”Minute of Angle mark’).

      In terms of actual use firing and the ammo there was no true ‘accuracy’ (or ‘precision’) testing and determination. So overall there should have been no rating at all given for ‘accuracy’ and it designated ‘not tested’. So the three star rating is arbitrary and anecdotal at best influenced by personal perception or bias. In short, it doesn’t mean anything.

      • note: From the pics it seems the author is counting outliers as an indication of lack of accuracy for the rifle in his average. For example, in the second pic for the Federal ammo its marked 1.6″ for (what appears to be) a 3 shot group but two rounds are outside that three round 1.6″ group (if they are the same ammo for the same shooting round) and that could simply be the shooter and not the rifle. This seems to hint, along with the first pic, the rifle was accurate (in relation to the authors ‘Minute of Angle mark’ standard) for sub 2 MOA. This class of rifle is on average expected ~ 3 MOA performance (though many will do sometimes over or under) so sub 2 MOA is really good and very accurate in terms of a 1 MOA standard. But the author used an average for his overall rating and article for ‘accuracy’ so its impossible to determine based upon the article information.

      • Accuracy even from a bench rest can have as much to do with the ability of the shooter, as it does with the quality of the rifle or ammunition.

  2. Well one minus star was maybe for the unnecessary muzzle break and the other minus star for a wobbling stock. And If it were me another minus star for the closed winter trigger receiver imitation.
    Still not a bad deal with the nice sounding trigger, barrel twist, slick BCG and a BushMaster name to display. For me I have never purchased an assembled AR and never will, all begin with stripped receivers.

    • 5 years is a long time in AR pricing or haven’t you noticed. What do you think they would have wanted for this 5 years ago?A new Ruger is basically the same price as this rifle. So no better I guess.

      • Actually not true if you’re talking street prices a comparable Ruger MPR will be $150 to $200 less than the Bravo Zulu.

    • 2017 was buyers markers for AR’s. The Gun Makers thought Clinton was a shoo-in and stocked the stores for the “Get’Em While You Can” rush that never happened, courtesy of The Don.

      I remember standing in a LGS listening to a worker tell some guy, as diplomatically as he could, that he wasn’t interested in buying the guy’s used AR, he was totally stocked and couldn’t offer him anything that wouldn’t insult the guy. He was standing in front of a full rack of AR’s.

      A different world back then, ah the memories.

  3. ” If you’re looking for a staked castle nut, and I’m certainly not, you won’t find one on the Bravo Zulu.”

    why wouldnt you want a staked castle nut? This would make me question the QC of the rifle if they were to lazy to stake a castle nut.

  4. Emphatic request to TTaG on firearm reviews:

    Please add one additional category to the summary (with stars) at the end of reviews: TRIGGER.

    At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, every firearm has a trigger and trigger function, quality, and feel varies significantly in any given platform. Equally and blatantly obvious: trigger function, feel, and quality has a huge impact on a firearm’s feel, performance, accuracy, and even “fun factor”. It would be immensely informative and helpful to rate the trigger with a sentence or two describing the trigger and/or why the trigger received the number of stars that it did.

    • Perhaps related to an immensely informative/helpful new “TRIGGER” category at the end/summary of firearm reviews, a possible additional category would be “ACTION” where the reviewer rates how the action feels/functions.

      For example a manufacturer could make an otherwise outstanding bolt-action rifle with five stars on every category–and yet cycling the bolt could be atrocious. It could have a horrible bolt shape, be very difficult to lift up, be very difficult, gritty, or sloppy pulling back, and/or even difficult to push forward. And it would be very helpful to know how easy it is to remove the bolt for cleaning. Once again, as with the trigger, how the action functions impacts overall usability/joy in a huge way.

      If adding a new “TRIGGER” category and a new “ACTION” category is too much, then a single new category which encompasses both the trigger and the action would be immensely helpful. That new combined category could simply be “TRIGGER and ACTION”.

  5. It is, after all, a “new”, post-sale Bushie. Not an “original” pre-sale Bushie. Plenty of new AR’s out there nowadays. Long-term performance and a side by side-torn down comparison with other used AR’s might tell more. I’d like to see a pre-sale Bushmaster compared to this brand after some use- a few thousand rounds, say..

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