October 28, 2019
Most of us travel with a pistol. Hitting the road and heading into unfamiliar environments, combined with the occasional late-night fill up, is a great way to discover uncomfortable places and situations. Possession of a good pistol is always wise. However, all pistols are not created equally.
The diminutive 9mm stuffed into a waistband holster is definitely better than nothing, but an AR pistol could be a more effective problem solver. Granted, it is harder to hide, but just as is a pistol, carry laws protect an AR pistol the same as a subcompact 9mm. In many jurisdictions, an AR pistol concealed in a backpack or a vehicle is just as legal as carrying any other pistol, only the AR pistol offers better range and terminal effect.
The Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) M-Lok Compatible Modular Rail (MCMR) has all the right features, making it one of the best AR pistols I’ve seen and tested. BCM has a reputation for building professional-grade quality products with thoughtful design improvements in an ideal component, like the newest MCMR pistol.
The Science of Short
Shortening the barrel on an AR-15 was not as simple as lopping off a few inches and expecting the rifle to perform. When I met with Jim Sullivan, designer of the original AR-15, he said that the AR-15 was designed around a 20-inch barrel with 50,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) of chamber pressure in a rifle-length gas system. Those specs do not represent the majority of AR-15s in use today.
During the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Special Forces fielded a rifle with an 11½-inch barrel complete with an integral sound moderator. In 1966, the Army expressed interest in a 10-inch short-barreled prototype, but testing showed that a 11½-inch barrel was a better solution, so that’s what the Special Forces fielded. Support for the program died in late 1968 with only a limited number of rifles seeing service.
Although it was bastardized with the rise of the M4 in the mid-1990s, one enduring benefit of the Vietnam-era program was the establishment of the carbine-length gas system. Knowing it was designed to work best with an 11½-inch barrel, Colt kept the gas system at this length, but to increase muzzle velocity while retaining the gas system’s carbine properties, they stretched the barrel to 14½- inches. When the military wanted to shorten the barrel, Colt cut it back to 10.3 inches. While the cut yielded a very short rifle, the Army failed to think through the second- and third-order effects of cutting an M4 barrel that short.
Designing the M4 barrel to work at 10.3 inches required opening the gas port up from .062 inch to .070 inch. This step was necessary for allowing the carbine to get a big enough gulp of gas so to reliably cycle the action. A big port was also mandatory because there isn’t much barrel in front of the gas port when a barrel measures 10.3 inches long.
The problem with having a big gas port is that the bolt cycles faster. That speed is hard on the extractor and bolt, shortening the life of both. Throw a suppressor on the 10.3-inch barrel and you’re in for a maintenance nightmare. If the U.S. Army had stretched the barrel to 11½-inches and kept the gas port at .062 inch, they could have prevented all their modification heartaches. That’s exactly what Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) has done with the Recce-11 MCMR AR pistol.
Not content to just throw any 11½-inch barrel on their gun, BCM had a very unique set of specifications for the MCMR. The contour was designed to retain accuracy even when hot while also eliminating as much weight as possible. BCM calls this their “enhanced light-weight” barrel.
Just in front of the chamber, the BCM barrel starts out at .710 inch and tapers down to .605 inch just in front of the gas block. The gas block steps up to .625 inch, and the barrel measures .580 inch forward to the muzzle. This contour puts mass where it’s most needed (around the chamber and throat) while eliminating weight everywhere else. The result is an extremely light and handy AR pistol.
Upper Receiver, Mk2
The forged AR-15 upper receiver has remained largely unchanged since its inception. Uppers made from billet have much more variation because the manufacturer has the ability to carve whatever shapes it wants from of a block of aluminum. Forged upper receivers offer more rigidity when compared pound for pound against billet receivers. However, forged receivers are limited to the shape of the forging.
One advantage of the forged receiver is that it doesn’t take a lot of machine time to make. Since the overall shape is already there, knocking off the high spots and cutting out the internals is about all that’s necessary. The upper receiver on the MCMR is an entirely new forging and funded by BCM. They say that it took a lot of time and effort to develop, and they had good reason to do it.
A friend of mine was doing some accuracy testing with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to determine which AR-pattern rifle would be fielded next as that unit’s semiautomatic sniper rifle. He shoots a lot and knows it’s not always possible to have equal forward-pressure on both bipod legs. (A technique called “loading the bipod” and is useful for managing recoil for faster follow-up shots.) The typical AR-pattern rifle will have a significant point-of-impact shift when only loaded on one bipod leg. If you push a bipod forward and only one leg catches support, the bullet’s point of impact will move in the same direction. SOCOM’s testing proved this repeatedly, and the same results occurred when a shooter placed lots of tension on a sling. The rifle they adopted had a very thick upper receiver with negligible shift when only one leg was loaded.
BCM’s new Mk2 upper receiver takes an innovative measure in preventing point-of-impact shifts from occurring by strengthening the upper receiver. BCM removed material from around the forward assist, where it does nothing but house the rarely-used device, and left additional material on the receiver’s left side, just behind the tenon. There was no net increase in weight.
As part of this review I shot the new receiver against the standard AR-15 upper-receiver assembly. The test was pretty simple: I attached a bipod to the test rifle and put an obstacle in front of the left leg only. I then pushed the rifle firmly forward to minimize reticle movement from recoil. The standard upper had a point-of-impact shift that moved 4 inches down and 3 inches to the left. The BCM Mk2 upper, under identical conditions, moved about three-quarters of an inch to the left. Both rifles had barrels and handguards that were within 1 inch of each other.
The Mk2 upper receiver will shoot like any standard upper-receiver about 95 percent of the time. For the remaining 5 percent, when the shooter puts an asymmetric load on the bipod or slings up tightly, the Mk2 will continue to hit the point of aim when others will not.
Among BCM’s recent news, BCM now offers handguards featuring M-Lok attachment points. Many of today’s popular AR handguards slip over the barrel nut and have a couple of screws that pinch the handguard at the bottom. It’s this pinching action of the two screws that anchors the handguard in place and prevents it from slipping.
There is one particular design flaw with these types of handguards: The barrel nut near the chamber gets hot very quickly — especially when it’s aluminum, like most are. When the barrel is hot, heat transfers to the barrel nut and handguard, causing both parts to expand rapidly.
At the top of just about every handguard are a couple of 90-degree angles and a row of Picatinny rail. They run the length of the handguard to match up with the rail on top of the upper receiver. When the pinching force on the handguard is at the bottom, the top of the handguard (where those 90-degree angle’s sit) relaxes enough when hot that it allows some movement. This isn’t a big deal as long as there isn’t a laser mounted to the forend. If there is a laser up front, this phenomenon can lead to a wandering zero.
BCM’s fix to the heat problem was to use a steel barrel-nut that could better resist thermal expansion and control the clamping force. They added two steel crossbolts to the top of the AR handguard to reinforce the pistol, and to prevent any loosening or deformation coming from the top of the handguard. I don’t think it’s possible to get the BCM handguard hot enough to move around.
In the last 10 years, AR-15s have moved from forend’s with four Picatinny rail to forend’s with KeyMod. Now those handguards use M-Lok. Far from being the flavor of the day, M-Lok offers better comfort than a handful of Picatinny rails, and superior pull-though strength over KeyMod (also demonstrated through testing by SOCOM). M-Lok is also easier to manufacture.
While the BCM pistol has a lot of solid components, it’s the range that determines ultimate performance. As seen in the load table below, BCM’s MCMR pistol shot surprisingly well for such a short package. A high-quality, button-cut, chrome-lined barrel should average 1.2 minute of angle (MOA) across three loads. The MCMR did significantly better than that on all three loads tested.
The MCMR pistol has a ton of BCM accessories, including a polished-nickel-teflon (PNT) trigger assembly and BCM’s Gunfighter charging handle. The trigger had some creep, but also had a smooth and consistent let-off after an average of 5½ pounds of pull weight. The Gunfighter charging handle has a large lever on the left side of the pistol, which makes manipulation easy, even with the support hand and a magnified optic attached.
BCM’s Recce-11 MCMR pistol has the ideal short-barrel length for any 5.56 NATO-chambered AR-15, and it wears a handguard that offers lots of flexibility. It also comes with BCM’s reputation for building professional-grade products. The MCMR pistol is for anyone in the market for a highly portable, self-defense pistol.
BCM Recce- 11 MCMR Pistol
- Type: Direct impingement, semiautomatic
- Cartridge: 5.56 NATO
- Capacity: 20, 30 rds.
- Barrel: 11.5 in.; 1:7-in. twist
- Overall Length: 27.25 in. (collapsed), 30.25 in. (extended)
- Weight: 5 lbs., 1 oz.
- Stock: SB Tactical SBA3
- Grip: BCM Gunfighter
- Length of Pull: 10.1 in. (collapsed), 13.1 in. (extended)
- Finish: Type III, Class 2, hardcoat anodized
- Sights: None
- Trigger: BCM PNT; 5 lbs., 8 oz.
- Safety: Two-position selector
- MSRP: $1,400
- Manufacturer: Bravo Company Mfg., 877-272-8626, bravocompanymfg.com
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