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Bravo Company M4A1 EAG Tactical Review

by James Tarr   |  March 19th, 2013 0

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I first came across Bravo Company USA several years ago when I was upgrading one of my M4s, and it quickly became my go-to source for all things AR-15. Its selection of quality products was as good as anybody’s in the business, and its prices were better. Soon the company was offering barrels and upper receiver assemblies built by its own in-house division, Bravo Company Manufacturing. It wasn’t until later that I became aware of the impetus that resulted in the formation of BCM.

Bravo Company Manufacturing was founded in 2005 to meet the demands of the private security market. While private security contractors have been around for centuries under various names, the modern business seemed to operate quiet and unnoticed until 2003. While contractors were performing missions similar to or in support of the military, they were not in the military’s supply chain. Early on, security contractors needed a commercial alternative to the M4 that they could depend on, and they turned to BCM. Bravo’s product line was built with this end-user’s needs in mind, following the philosophy of “no shortcuts.”

Since its introduction, the BCM line has proven highly popular among knowledgeable shooters. Bravo Company is best known for offering quality components that meet or exceed MIL-SPEC. While BCM has been selling upper and lower receivers for a while, it didn’t offer a complete gun. That has now changed, and with its EAG Tactical Carbine, BCM has stepped up its game to an entirely different level.

E.A.G. Tactical was incorporated in 1992 by Pat Rogers, a retired chief warrant officer of Marines and retired NYPD sergeant with a wide and varied background in the counterterrorism community. For almost 20 years, E.A.G. Tactical has been teaching military, police and civilians how to win the fight. Pat and his instructors are no strangers to BCM rifles, and a few years ago Paul Buffoni, owner of Bravo Company, sent Pat some carbines with mid-length gas systems to test.

Pat admitted that he didn’t have much experience with mid-length gas systems, and while he’d heard that they were softer-shooting and more reliable, he said, “I’m very skeptical of what I read and hear.”

The proof is in the doing, and one of those 16-inch-barreled guns is still in the rack at E.A.G. Tactical, about to cross the 40,000-round mark with only minimal cleaning. The bolt has been replaced once, and the extractor and extractor spring have been replaced three times, but the rifle has never seen a bore brush.

“While the mid-length gas system certainly shoots softer, it appears that wear on parts may be reduced as well,” Pat observed. This, in fact, is the reason mid-length gas systems were introduced, as they reduce the gas impulse and the pressure on the bolt before it unlocks. The unintended result is a softer-shooting gun.

When it came time to collaborate on an “everything you need and nothing you don’t” rifle, Pat went with equipment that he knew worked.

“While there’s not much of an actual difference between a 16-inch barrel and a 14½-inch barrel with a permanently attached flash hider, there is a big perceived difference in how it feels in the hands, which is why we went with the shorter barrel in the EAG Tactical Carbine,” Pat remarked. “The loss of velocity isn’t really a factor.”

The EAG carbine models get special serial numbers and logo etchings on the front of the magwell and upper receiver, but otherwise they are identical to the quality receivers BCM mounts on all its guns. The barrel is BCM’s government-profile, 1:7-inch twist, 14½-inch, cold-hammer-forged barrel with a permanently attached extended A2-style flash hider for a total length of 16.1 inches. The barrel is chrome lined, and it and the receiver sport M4 cuts for increased reliability.

The carbine comes with nine-inch tactical free-float handguards from LaRue Tactical. “Most people don’t need rails,” Rogers admitted, “but we’re not selling this gun to ‘most people,’ but to the people who will use them.” A lot of the students as E.A.G. Tactical are police and military who have to mount not just flashlights on their rifles but IR modules, NV optics, etc. “It also provides enhanced cooling over a standard handguard,” Rogers stated.

To complement the rails, the EAG package comes complete with three TangoDown SCAR rail covers and TangoDown’s short, quick-release vertical grip (the QD-K). “Ten years ago everybody was using the vertical grip as a vertical grip, but not anymore,” Rogers said when asked why he chose TangoDown’s short version. “I just use it as a hand stop.”

For the rear sling mount, the carbine has a TangoDown PR #4 sling mount. This installs on any carbine’s receiver extension with no tools other than an Allen wrench. While over-torquing mounts such as this can crimp the buffer tube and possibly affect reliability, they are the only type of mounts allowed by a number of alphabet-soup agencies whose employees are prohibited from any permanent firearm modifications.

The BCM carrier group is MPI (Magnetic Particle Inspected) and HPT (High Pressure Tested). The carrier’s key is chrome lined, heat treated and properly staked per MIL-SPEC. The bolt assembly is machined from MIL-SPEC Carpenter No. 158 steel and shot peened for increased strength. The EAG is also supplied with the proper heavy carbine buffer.

The EAG comes with one of BCM’s Gunfighter charging handles made by Vltor, in this case its Mod 3 (large latch). This superbly redesigned handle is not only much tougher than the original, whose roll pin tended to fail, it also enables the user to operate the handle while keeping the firing hand on his pistol grip.

The carbine features upgraded accessories when compared with a MIL-SPEC rifle, including a Magpul MOE stock and TangoDown Battle Grip. “The M4 stock is serviceable,” Rogers admitted, “but the Magpul MOE is an improved, economical, minimalist design. It’s not a Mercedes-Benz. We put the best possible stuff we could get on the gun while keeping it functional, useful and affordable.”

EAG carbines can be had with either black or flat dark earth furniture. A BCM/Troy Industries Rear Battle Sight comes standard on the carbine, although Rogers stated that almost everybody he trains uses a red dot sight on his rifle. “Ninety-five percent of the red dots we see are EOTechs or Aimpoints,” he said. He prefers the Aimpoint because of its battery life.

To round out the package, the EAG carbine comes with a padded Viking Tactics (VTAC) sling and light mount for the provided SureFire G2 LED flashlight. This is a polymer mount designed for rails, which means the user can position it anywhere on the fore-end.

Prior to field-testing the carbine, I was worried that the rails might make it a bit heavy. I was wrong. Unloaded and without a sling, with all the other accessories installed, the EAG carbine weighs seven pounds, 10 ounces. Once you throw on an optic of your choice and insert a loaded magazine, that weight is going to be well over nine pounds, but the EAG feels lighter than that because of very good weight distribution. It is as short as legally possible and balances over the barrel nut. I have shot lighter guns that felt much heavier due to all their weight being out near the handguards.

All of the internal parts on the carbine are MIL-SPEC, including the trigger components. This means it has a standard GI trigger—gritty and heavy. The pull on the test sample measured six pounds, and it was far from crisp. Even with the less than ideal trigger pull, I was able to stage it enough to shoot up to the carbine’s potential, which was amazing indeed.

Between BCM’s quality control and the carbine’s free-floated barrel, I was expecting better-than-average accuracy out of the EAG, and I was not disappointed. Even with a 14½-inch barrel, the carbine was capable of MOA or near-MOA accuracy with a number of types of ammo. This is phenomenal.

My sample carbine, to my surprise, did not like heavy bullets. The 55-, 60- and even 69-grain projectiles went downrange into small groups with boring regularity, but when I tried 75- and 77-grain bullets the groups opened up to nearly double. Now, “nearly double” in this instance means two-inch groups, which in a MIL-SPEC carbine is pretty damn good accuracy anyway, but I found this to be so unusual that I double-checked with the owner of Bravo Company that the EAG in fact came with a 1:7-twist barrel. I even checked the twist rate on the barrel myself and verified that it was a 1:7. Slower-twist barrels with 1:9 twist rates sometimes do not stabilize heavy bullets. I talked to a writer who was testing another EAG carbine at about the same time as I was, and he said his sample preferred heavier bullets (I heard the same thing from the owner of Bravo Co.), so apparently my rifle was just quirky.

Owning a guitar does not make you a musician any more than simply owning a rifle makes you proficient in its use. To that end, each EAG Tactical Carbine includes a $200 discount certificate to put toward carbine training with E.A.G. Tactical. This training is available to military personnel, law enforcement agents and vetted civilians. The user must run the BCM EAG carbine in the class, and the certificate is good for two years. There are other restrictions, so check with E.A.G. Tactical to make sure that you qualify.

“The majority of the carbine training we do is 50 yards and in,” Rogers stated. “This is for several reasons. One, it’s hard to find a range much longer than 50 yards nowadays, although occasionally I train military out to 300 yards. Second, whether you’re police or civilian, you’d be hard-pressed to justify a defensive shooting farther away than that. Most of the police we see are using their carbines at pistol distances.”

My experience with mid-length gas sytems in AR-15s is minimal, and I wanted to see if they really produced a noticeably softer recoil impulse as advertised. The H-marked heavy buffer should also reduce the recoil impulse, so for testing I shot the EAG side-by-side with one of my personal M4s. My M4 weighed the same and was virtually the same length as the EAG, but it had a standard carbine-length gas system and standard buffer. Felt recoil between the two guns was noticeably different. My M4 had a sharp, abrupt recoil, whereas the EAG had a decidedly gentler nudge. Now, a .223 doesn’t recoil that much to begin with, but the less recoil there is, the quicker the user can get follow-up shots on target.

At 50 yards shooting offhand from a good, stable stance, the EAG’s front sight did not move off a man-size silhouette. The front sight did move, but it wanted to torque right more than move up. If I was on the rifle properly during firing, the front sight moved back into position on the target before I was ready to pull the trigger again. The lack of muzzle rise meant that the target stayed in my line of sight during the entire recoil impulse, which is a very good thing.

I also ran several hundred rounds of steel-cased Wolf .223 through the EAG as fast as I could load magazines and pull the trigger, and I experienced zero malfunctions. The accuracy portion of my testing was likewise problem-free.

There is no such thing as “one size fits all,” especially when it comes to firearms, but E.A.G. and BCM have done their best to make the EAG Tactical Carbine meet all the needs of the average operator or civilian user. It’s a good package deal. If I were putting together a rifle for my personal use, I would choose a few different accessories, but then I would have to buy a rifle, then track down the parts I wanted, which would take more time and perhaps cost more money than just ordering the EAG Tactical Carbine as-is.

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