It’s become quite difficult in the last couple of months to find in-stock firearms parts and sometimes even accessories. One company that I have noticed that has kept up with the high demand is Bear Creek Arsenal. Bear Creek makes everything from stripped firearms components all the way up to completed rifles for almost every AR caliber imaginable. Bear Creek sent me out one of their 16-inch 5.56 upper receivers to put it through some testing and evaluation so today we’ll look into how well this upper receiver did in a few “average joe” tests.
TFB Review: Bear Creek Arsenal 16-inch Complete Upper Receiver
First, let’s get the specifications out of the way. For all intents and purposes, the upper I was sent is as close to a “standard” 16″ upper as you can find. There are no weird features or proprietary technologies that are going to drive up the price of this upper. The price online for this specific upper is $369.99 as configured below:
- SKU 617-UA556CM41618P-15M3
- Weight: 5.3 lbs
- Length: 16″
- Barrel Profile: M4 Contour
- Twist: 1:8
- Finish: Parkerized
- Material: 4150 Chrom Moly Vanadium
- Thread Pitch: 12/28
- Caliber: 5.56 NATO
- Feed Ramp: M4
- Flutes: N/A
- Gas System: Carbine
- Gas Block: 0.750
- Gas Hole: 0.070
- Charing Style: Rear Charging
- Color: Black
- Dimpled: Yes
Most of you who are looking for a completed upper aren’t looking to fiddle with the product much. If you’re like me, you expect to order the upper, open up the box, maybe put a little bit of gun oil on it and then slap that thing right on the nearest available lower receiver. This means you don’t want to be messing around with detents, or Torx screws, or gas systems to make sure everything is good to go before you take it to the range.
As soon as the upper arrived I gave it a good once over to check for any obvious defects – there were none. Everything seemed tightened down correctly and the gas block looked like it was put in the proper place and screwed down nice and tight. Finally, the flash hider was timed correctly with the crush washer installed in the correct direction.
To make sure the handguard stayed in place throughout testing, I went ahead and placed some witness marks along the handguard and the Torx screws to make sure nothing would rattle loose throughout firing, handling, and some light physical abuse. The only minor issue I had was perhaps some minor fitment issues with one of the lower receivers I tried to pair it with.
This could be more of an issue with tolerance stacking but I had very strongly wanted to place this Bear Creek Arsenal upper on my newly acquired KP-15 Lower. In the end, I was able to get the two receivers together but it did take a bit of finagling to get them to mate up and the fitment is very tight.
This could be a plus or a minus in your book but I thought it was worth mentioning as some of the other lower receivers I tried to pair it with (Aero, Cobalt Kinetics, PSA, etc.) fit with no problem. Either way, the dimensions of the upper receiver takedown holes seemed to be within spec so you shouldn’t have any fitment issues regardless of your lower-receiver selection.
I’ll put this out there once again and say that I am by no means a precision rifle shooter nor am I the best shot even within my own zip code. I took the upper receiver to the range in tandem with the KP-15 lower to test that out a bit and also topped the rifle off with a nice SIG Sauer TANGO6T 1-6x24mm LPVO.
I did a quick boresight of the rifle in at 50 yards and then gradually stepped it out to 200 yards. Since I wanted to get just a general accuracy-test done, I shot only at steel targets at the range I had access to. I was able to reliably make hits at 50, 100, 150, and 200 yards on a 12×12 inch square steel plate using that particular setup. I’d say that’s some reasonable accuracy for an out-of-the-box AR.
On the Bear Creek Arsenal website, they had indicated that they recommend a few different things as far as magazines and ammo go. I only had one of those things on hand. First, they recommended Tapco magazines – I don’t own any Tapco magazines but I tested the rig with a few different magazines including some OG Colt 20 round magazines, BCM Aluminum Teflon Coated magazines, and some PMAG Gen 2 magazines – all of them worked just fine despite the specific recommendation.
Finally, all of the ammunition I put through it which included the recommended 75-grain boat-tail worked just fine. Most of the distanced shooting I did was done with standard 55 grain 5.56 NATO and aside from my jittery caffeine-fueled inaccuracy, I’d say the barrel did a great job stabilizing all the projectiles. The 1:8 twist can stabilize just about anything you can find on the shelf, so I think it’s a great place to start if you’re not entirely certain what type of ammo you’ll have access to on a given day.
Bear Creek isn’t the cheapest nor is it the most expensive option when it comes to upper receivers and it is also one of the newest brands of upper receivers I’ve had the pleasure of trying in recent memory. I’m pleased to say that my first and only experience so far with a Bear Creek Arsenal upper has been a great one and I’d safely recommend one of their receivers to someone who is looking for a more budget-friendly upper receiver option without sacrificing build quality.
Thanks again to Bear Creek Arsenal for sending out the upper for testing and evaluation! If you’re interested in assembling an AR-15 in any caliber from 5.56 all the way up to .458 SOCOM, Bear Creek Arsenal has AR-15 components in stock now and available for purchase! Go ahead and check out their current inventory at https://www.bearcreekarsenal.com.