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Old May 5th, 2019, 01:09 AM #1
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: PG County, MD
Posts: 375
KYFHO KYFHO is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: PG County, MD
Posts: 375
BRN16A1 with CMMG conversion kit review

Not sure if this belongs in the centerfire or rimfire section, but since I have it set up as a rimfire right now, I will put it here.

Having bought all of my lowers before 2013, I have been able to try out a variety of uppers on my ARs that are denied to a lot of folks. I have a couple of recce set ups that are my go-to uppers for precision shooting, a couple of lightweight carbines, etc. Sorry 13’ers…is that still a thing in 2019?

But I had one odd-ball lower – a New Frontier Armory polymer lower with a fixed A2 stock. The original plan was to pair it with a government profile 20” A4 upper, and I bought one from Palmetto. But I was really never enamored with it – the lightweight polymer lower wasn’t balanced with that upper (super front heavy). I didn’t enjoy shooting it so it sat in the back of the safe.

Odd-ball Lower Seeks Lightweight Mate



When Brownell’s came out with their retro rifle line, I got inspired – maybe an M16A1 upper (their BRN16A1 model) with its lightweight barrel would balance better. Plus I am more into shooting with iron sights than I used to be – they make for a more challenging Appleseed for sure and I have plenty of rifles with optics. And while many of my rifles have versatile 1:7/9 twist barrels, I end up taking standard 55gr FMJ to the indoor range more often than anything else. So why not go with the original 1:12 twist rate optimized for that for one upper? I waited for a sale on the uppers, an additional site-wide sale, and used some gift cards. We’re denied buying a whole retro rifle in Maryland because the fixed stock A1 is far more deadly than an HBAR. I guess I am lucky to be able to buy one at all…

I am not a retro rifle fanatic so I am not trying for a perfect retro A1 – the polymer lower ruins that from the start and I am not sure I can switch out the A2 stock for an A1 stock with the lower. I replaced the A2 grip with a repro A1. Also replaced the New Frontier trigger with a LaRue MBT, which required replacing the polymer safety as well - big improvement. I took it out for the first time, got it sighted in, and shot well with it. The triangle handguards are comfortable, although I was not used to the seam running down the bottom and top. And it heated up a bit after a few mags – didn’t melt the handguards (Brownells says they are using improved polymers to prevent that) but it was very hot near the front sight tower and without heat shields it was pretty hot through the front of the handguard as well. Still, very lightweight and reliable for a shorter target session and looked as good as it shot.

Then I got another moment of inspiration. I shoot 22LR more than anything else – it is cheap, accurate at the ranges I typically shoot (25 yards most often), and fun! I own a couple of dedicated 22LR AR-style rifles (an M&P15-22 and a Tippmann M4-22) but I had never used a conversion kit. I have seen them on the line at Appleseeds and folks tend to have issues with them over the course of a day – either they start to malfunction or aren’t particularly accurate unless you have a dedicated upper. After all, 1:7 isn’t an ideal twist rate for 22LR which tends to be 1:16. On those dedicated uppers they can be magnificent, so it isn’t a judgment. I just fine accurate rifles more interesting.

But would the 1:12 twist rate stabilize 22LR well? The Internet said it would work well enough. And when has the Internet ever been wrong? So one CMMG kit and five Black Dog Machine 10-round magazines (that look like the old straight wall 20-rounders) later, I was ready to test the theory.

Obligatory Picture with Toes



The first time I took it to the range to sight in and shoot targets I was immediately impressed. No recoil at all, no heating, just a lightweight and fun 22LR shooting machine. On the first practice AQT I shot with it using the conversion kit I delivered a Rifleman score. Ok, now we are talking!

It is not simple to get a qualifying score with the rifle in a timed course of fire – iron sights are challenging for my older eyes; the magazines hold the bolt open, but close it as soon as you drop the magazine (only sorta helpful); and it takes a wiggle to drop the mag. Lose concentration, lose front sight focus, lose a couple shots with not having the exact sling tension (not a free floated barrel), or head position and you drop out of Expert real quick. I have certainly had those targets with this rifle. But when you put it all together, this thing can deliver!

Today was both of those days – I got a 25-yard lane at Elite Shooting Sports in Manassas and did two timed courses of fire complete with transitions and required mag changes.

My first target was going really well and then I dropped several shots in the white in the slow-fire prone section which are worth double – 202, boo.

I tightened up for a second target, really focusing on the front sight and testing my NPOA on each shot. This time I pulled off a 230, which would just be distinguished at an Appleseed for iron sights.

Pencil Barrel Goodness!



I have seen High Power competitors knock out scores in the high 240s with irons at our events, so this isn’t amazing or anything. But it is a testament to the rifle – even with a conversion kit this Brownells upper is kicking butt!

If you have a pre-13 lower, I highly recommend it if you are interested in a cool retro upper.
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