Battle Rifle Company BR4, Product Review
By Daryl Parker
So, you’re in the market for an AR/M-16 platform rifle, and you’re wondering which one to pick? There are so many brands to choose from, and perhaps you’re not an “expert” at weapon construction. How can you be confident you’re making the right choice about where to spend your hard-earned money? It can be confusing, especially with every company saying they have the best product out there, and a whole host of bloggers either agreeing with them, or deriding it as the worst gun on the market. The problem I have with that approach is that most of the people writing gun reviews have never fired the weapon. I realize for convenience/logistics sake that may be the reality of gun reviews, but for me, I don’t write product reviews unless I have at least given the weapon a decent chance to impress or fail with a substantive field-testing. With that being said, the BR-4, made by Battle Rifle Company (BRC) is now my favorite AR, and here’s why:
The BR-4 looks like a typical AR, with a few exceptions. First, it’s put together well; that is, the assembly of parts is tight and smooth enough that when I shake the rifle, it doesn’t sound like it’s a cheap piece of crap. Sounds rather un-scientific, I know, but that’s just one initial indicator of a rifle’s quality. After I broke the weapon down for cleaning, the entire upper receiver (chambered in 5.56 mm NATO) with bolt carrier group and lower receiver with trigger assembly were well fitted and polished to reduce the gritty, metal-on-metal friction you could expect from a lower quality gun. The bolt action was smooth and solid, with no sticking points. BRC also offers a nickel-boron carrier as an upgrade. With an AR, it’s preferable to run the gun “dry,” meaning to use as little lubrication as possible to avoid gumming up the function with a sludge of carbon, dust and cartridge shavings. This is one of the prime benefits of the polished carrier and chamber. In the past year, I have put approximately 4,000 rounds through the BR-4. I have fired it in the Texas triple-digit heat, bone-chilling cold, in the rain, and in the dust and mud. Not once did the weapon jam or malfunction, and THAT is what I need from my rifles.
Part of the credit for the smooth function goes to the expanded gas chamber. There are several schools of thought on this issue; too little gas is not enough to drive dependable function and contributes to misfeeds, too much gas is harder on the weapon and exposes it to greater pressures. I think BRC has made the proper adjustment to the gas chamber, increasing it from the standard .067 to .07. Anyone who has significant experience with a standard M-16 or AR model can testify that misfeeds are likely, especially in rapid fire, so I really expected the same with the BR-4. I was happily surprised though, at the solid, dependable hammering of the weapon, round after round, including during rapid fire. Four thousand rounds without a single misfeed? That is fantastic. Yes, I had good magazines, but the robust cycling action of the weapon was the primary reason. Again, dependability is what’s important here.
The barrel (standard 1:7 twist, but you can get it in 1:8 or 1:9) of the BR-4 is cryo-treated, with means the metal is exposed to extremely low temperatures, causing the molecules to line up better, and therefore makes the metal stronger. This is the process aerospace industries use to reinforce their metal materials, but in gun manufacturing, most manufacturers take the position that for the rated life of their barrels, cryo-treatment is unnecessary. They may be right for a barrel that is only rated for 20,000 rounds, but according to BRC, cryo-treatment will make their barrels last two to three times longer than the standard barrel. That’s something like 50,000 rounds, and I’m a long way from that, but given the extended life expectancy and the gas pressure adjustment, this seems a wise, quality-based decision.
BRC claims they individually work each trigger, achieving an average pull of approximately 4 pounds, and I’m very happy with the trigger assembly that came standard on my BR-4. The trigger has a reasonable travel, a nice, even squeeze with no creep, and a crisp, light breaking point. For the kind of precision shooting I like to do, it is perfect. It’s not competition grade, but as a standard feature, I was very impressed. You can spend money on a separate trigger system if you want to, but unless you’re a professional or competitive shooter, I think you’d be wasting your money.
One proprietary modification on this weapon is the flash suppressor. BRC has put a ¼” right-twist in the suppressor ports. The effect of this that it traps the majority of still-burning powder leaving the end of the barrel, which thereby significantly reduces the muzzle flash, and BRC has some impressive video to back up their claim. That’s pretty damn cool, but I’m going to go out on a limb here, and based on my experience with the weapon, I suggest there may be another unintended benefit of their suppressor. A standard suppressor blasts gasses out of the ports at right angles in 360 degrees. Given that rifles are generally supported from underneath when firing, the recoil, which includes the force of the expelled gasses downward against that support, causes the rifle muzzle to jump upwards. I suspect that BRC’s suppressor, by channeling gasses and embers for a millisecond longer, then dissipating those gasses outward in a shallower, spiraling angle, reduces recoil, and improves the shooter’s ability to stay on target. This, with the expanded gas chamber, is why the BR-4 cycles like a larger caliber rifle, but recoils like a smaller one. I can’t prove this scientifically, but I am deadly with this rifle, even in unsupported off-hand (standing) positions, and I think the flash suppressor is a contributing factor.
Ok, I’ve covered reliability and accuracy, which are the two most important traits in my humble opinion, but the BR-4 also has a good adjustable stock, a comfortable Ergo pistol-grip with sealed compartment, and a quality rail system. This is a great AR rifle that comes with the above features standard. I recommend it as the best value in an AR on the market. You can buy an AR cheaper, but you can’t get a better AR for the same money.
BRC also offers customized etching and colored markings, which to purists can be cheesy, but let’s face it, some people prefer a little bling on their guns. The good thing about BRC is that they are a small enough company that you can get just about anything on the gun customized.
Another thing I really like about BRC was that they operate with integrity. During the “black gun” buying craze a year ago, when the lowest-quality AR was going for almost $2,000, BRC never changed their prices, and I thought that was pretty admirable. I met the owner, Chris Kurdzakowski at Shot Show 2012, and he challenged me to put his rifle to the test. I warned him that I would be tough to get an endorsement from, but he told me to do my worst. You can see where that has led, and I am now conducting field-testing on BRC’s new .308 model, the “War Hammer.”
Daryl Parker is a retired twenty-one year Marine Corps combat veteran, former member of the Marine Corps Rifle/Pistol Team, SWAT officer, and Season Two Top Shot competitor.