I must admit that I was very happy to be present when the new Brownells BRN-180 was introduced yesterday. There isn’t much out there as far as info, but luckily, you have your friend Josh to tell you all about it.
Author’s Note: The BRN-180 is sold as an upper receiver only. My observations here describe how it feels on various lowers with different types of stocks. My originally published article erroneously described the BRN-180 as a complete rifle or series of rifles. The new Retro line rifle is a complete gun. This article was lightly edited to reflect this to avoid confusion.
As far as my initial impressions go, I’m quite taken with the concept. The first and most critical thing to me was the weight distribution and general handling characteristics of the BRN-180. Despite the fact that it was tethered to the wall, I was able to manipulate it easily and all variants present shouldered nicely.
The most obvious visual difference over an AR-15 is that it has a dramatic, upwards-facing side charging handle. While it may appear a bit clumsy and narrow, it’s just the opposite. The charging handle is extremely easy to use and the bolt is slick as an anthropomorphic Krag action that sells used cars.
Many companies have delivered on the self-contained upper receiver concept, but virtually all the ones I’ve seen and handled are overbuilt and heavy as a result. The BRN-180 is very svelte and handy. The lower mass of the internal moving parts aid in keeping the overall weight down.
The BRN-180 should be available soon. The upper receiver is able to fit on a standard AR-15 lower, which is a great capability. The self-contained action parts and bolt allow the use of folding stock mechanisms, which is a huge plus. The receiver features twin guide rods, a polymer dust cover, is chambered in .223 Wylde, and has a 1:8″ twist.
My first impressions of this upper are overwhelmingly positive. As far as this reporter can tell, Brownells executed this the right way. At the time of this writing, I am working on receiving either an upper for evaluation. I will be sure to keep you posted when that happens.