The Model 90, Model 95 and Model 99 are the most powerful bullpups in the world.
A compact Barrett doesn't come about overnight. In fact, it takes three days. At least, that's how long it took Ronnie Barrett to personally design the Model 95's predecessor, the Model 90, in January 1990.
"A few rifles were handmade, but the design was never put into production," says a Barrett spokesperson. This statement doesn't mean word didn't get out. If you find a July 1990 copy of Guns & Ammo, you'll discover an ad for it in the front half of the magazine. "Prices start at $3,350 (Scope extra)," it reads.
The Model 90 foreshadowed the development of a bolt-action alternative to Ronnie Barrett's legendary semiautomatic Model 82A1, popularized on film and coveted during Operation Desert Storm. The rotating bolt featured the same three massive lugs that locked it directly into the long, fluted barrel.
The Model 90's receiver was made from stamped sheet steel and consisted of an upper and lower receiver secured by push pins. Unlike the Model 82A1's 10-round magazine, the Model 90 and Model 95's magazine only offers storage for five rounds.
None of Barrett's bullpups incorporates open sights. The Model 90 offered shooters a Weaver rail on a pedestal two inches above the comb. The newer Model 95 and Model 99 rifles incorporate a more universal Picatinny rail with 27 MOA drop compensation, so a scope doesn't run out of elevation adjustment at longer ranges.
With an overall length measuring just 45 inches, the Model 90 resembles its successor. This 22-pound configuration was regarded as a "modern bullpup design" that year and featured a new, highly efficient muzzlebrake that has since become a visual signature for Barrett .50s: the arrowhead.
By 1995, the Model 90 had been modified with a number of changes. The Model 95 featured a trigger group and M16A2-style pistol grip that was moved forward an inch for better clearance between the grip's backstrap and front of the magazine. Bolt handle manipulation was improved by turning it down and pulling the angle to the rear. This also reduced the chance for any binding of the bolt carrier to the carrier rails and cleared a large path for ejecting spent cases. And last, the barrel's chamber was chromed for easier extraction and corrosion resistance.
The enhanced bullpup that did make it into production was renamed the Model 95, a rifle that remains in production for various government agencies, competitive long-range shooters and big-game hunters. Currently, the Barrett Model 95 serves law enforcement agencies and militaries in Austria, Jordan, Malaysia and Spain, as well as the U.S. Like the Model 82A1 and M107, the Model 95 has a proven record of effectiveness in anti-material, explosive ordnance disposal and countersniper roles.
Just in time for Christmas 1999, Ronnie Barrett's son Chris introduced the Bar rett Model 99 he designed. This single-shot rifle is considered by many to be the most accurate Barrett because the match-tolerance barrel is hydraulically pressed and locked into the extrusion. This feature creates a solid, unitized platform on which to mount a riflescope.
The bolt is machined from a single piece of proprietary-grade steel. Fifteen lugs safely lock the bolt assembly into the machined barrel extension. The extremely low part count makes it reliable, easy to maintain and the most affordable Barrett model available.
Although called to the frontline of many critical situations by law enforcement, the Model 99's superb accuracy, dependability and match trigger have made it particularly popular for competitive shooting. In benchrest competition, the bipod is easily detached.
Arguably, what makes each model a success is the bullpup configuration. Even while maintaining a compact overall length, all rifles effectively harness the power of the .50 BMG while allowing each to be easily transported, comfortable to shoot and user-obtainable. With the only two models currently available, Barrett is the .50-caliber bullpup market.