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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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 * * * * *
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.