Bradley Arms BAR15/22
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- Last updated: 27/01/2017
The loss of self-loading centrefire rifles back in 1988 was a severe blow to me; as I just loved those military guns. In fact having to go back to a bolt-action took the shine off Practical Rifle (PR) and it was not until the appearance of the straight-pull AR15s that I bothered to look at the discipline again.
In the end I settled on an SGC Speedmaster (great rifle) and some of the fun of the event returned, but even then having to yank that handle for every shot was not 100% satisfying; but beggars can’t be choosers… However, there was and is a way to own a self-loader of this type and that’s as a 22 rimfire and these days there are a plethora of guns to satisfy what seems to becoming an ever growing demand.
The original idea was a drop-in blow back kit that replaced the 223 bolt with a chamber insert system and dedicated magazine; best typified by the Atchison and Ceiner conversion kits. Good idea but not really that reliable as I was to discover. Next came dedicated 22 uppers that used a proper 22 LR barrel with the back half of the rimfire kit, which worked much better. Which by and large is what we have today in various shapes and forms.
For me a 22 semi has to offer two things, which are of equal importance – accuracy and reliability, as one is useless without the other. This is why I no longer hunt rabbits with a semi as I do not find them reliable enough. Likewise over the years I have tested many 22, military-style self loaders and none have come fully up to my expectations. They all seem to start off OK then after 200-300-rounds get problematic; if not down right jam-a-matic. So when I am offered one of this marque to test I tend to approach it with deal of scepticism.
With that in mind let’s turn our attention to Mark Bradley (Bradley Arms). Mark is an expierenced and long term PR, Service and High Power shooter. However, a few years ago he decided to get into gunsmithing, initially concentrating on AR15s then branching out into anything and everything. I have tested samples of his work and have no complaints, so when he asked me if I would like to look at a dedicated 22 AR I was intrigued.
1000 and Counting
The BAR 15/22 is very much a movable feast as are all AR15s no matter the calibre, as there are so many accessories available you can have what you like – CAR15, M4, A2 full length military, iron or optically sighted. The basic rifle Mark offers shows a 16”, stainless Douglas XX tube with match chamber, M16 flash hider, 4-Way, Free-float forend with standard furniture and flat top action. He now has his own upper and lower receivers made, so it is pretty autonomous.
The test gun also showed a Magpul pistol grip and telescopic stock and fold-down iron sights – all very nice! Though he can offer any barrel length you like Mark reckons that 16” is about right for most needs and I would have to agree.
I picked up the rifle along with 4 x 24-round Black dog magazines and felt that old and familiar AR15 thrill, as there’s no doubt it’s a good looking piece… All Mark said was that he had put 1000-rounds through it with no real problems and to have fun. Well I was hoping for the latter but not sure if the former round count would allow it!
First job was finding the right ammo, as 22 semis can be fussy. I dug out a cross section of SK, Lapua, Winchester and Remington subsonics, standard and high velocity. To my pleasure they all worked, cycling the action easily. The only thing it did not like was some ultra HV Viper. Getting critical I found the SK, High Velocity hollow point to be the most accurate, cutting an easy ½” @ 50-yards.
Reliability testing was done with Lapua Magazine 22, as I had a lot of that ‘ammo in a tin’ on hand. Loading the Black Dog mags to 24-rounds I just kept running them through the gun re-filling and it kept shooting. I reckon I put over 700-rounds through the 15/22 in the course of my testing. In that time I only had one stoppage and that was an under powered round that ejected, re-chambered the next one but failed to cock the hammer. Also pleasing was at no time did I get a firing out of battery (round goes off before the bolt is fully closed) that I have come to associate with 22 AR semis.
So well did the SK HV shoot that at 100-yards it was holding an inch, which is not far off what my 17HMR Ruger M77/17 can do. OK it did not shoot as flat as it dropped 3 ½”, or one Mil-Dot, but it was spot on and pretty consistent too. Which as we shall see led me on to other experimentation!
Know Your Way Around
In terms of layout the 15/22 is pure AR with all the features; T-handle, forward assist, case deflector, ejection port cover. Typical of this build the blow back bolt assembly does not allow the use of the forward assist plunger nor the auto bolt hold open/release catch. However, the Black Dog magazines do incorporate a primitive hold open function as when empty the extended follower protrudes into the bolt way and stops it closing. Better than nothing…
The trigger was typical AR being firm but reasonably crisp, so good enough for most uses, but if you want more then it can be added to the spec. For me as a fun gun the 15/22 came over as reliable and very accurate and I had a lot of fun just turning live into empty on small, frangible targets. Without doubt this rifle would satisfy my needs for a military, look-a-like self loader and Action rifle; but there’s more.
My initial outing so impressed me with the gun’s ability that I decided to take it rabbiting. OK hold on, many of you know my views on military-type rifles out in the field as to the look of the thing and the potential PR problems they might cause. But I just had to see what it could do on live targets, plus my shooting area is all private land and I picked a spot well off the beaten track. Call me a hypocrite and I accept that; but the BAR 15/22 was just begging to bash some bunnies.
I fitted it up with a Night Force 2.5-10x24 with illuminated Mil-Dot reticule and up front went an Ase Utra Jet-Z CQB 223 moddy. The reason I used this was simple - the rifle comes threaded 1/2x28” UNEF for the flash hider, so none of my 1/2x20” UNF rimfire cans would fit. For a gun lamp I used a Sure Fire M16 pistol grip light that clamped under the forend. Zeroed at 60-yards fall of shot at 100-yards was 3.5” or one Mil-Dot near as to make no difference, this I set as my maximum range. You can if you like ask for the UNF thread to be cut instead of the finer one. For me I’d keep it 1/2x28 as Jager Sporting Arms offer their new 17/22 Switch rimfire can in this thread form, which is a neat, little reflex-type option.
The evening went very well as I rolled over two rabbits and three hares; all head shots with the best being a big hare at 89-yards – not bad for a 22 rimfire! As a confirmed bolt gunner the reliability of the 15/22 and its self-loading mech was a revelation for me and also a pleasure. For this use I have one niggle and that’s the 24-shot mag, as it’s too long and tends to bash on the door of the truck and requires more clearance underneath if shooting off a rest. Mark told me he has sourced a 15-shot unit that is the length of the old, 223, 20-rounder.
At the end of the day this is one great little rifle that combines it all, if you like that sort of thing – fun, accuracy, reliability, hi-capacity and that all important AR15 look. I am definitely getting one when finances allow. Prices vary given your build requirements, but the basic rifle starts around £1150, this particular example would cost £1500.
• Very reliable 22 semi-auto
• Highly accurate
• Great fun, great shooter