The Blackwater Custom AR

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Thread: The Blackwater Custom AR

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    The Blackwater Custom AR

    The Blackwater Custom AR
    February 18, 2009
    Tactical Life | by Eric Poole

    It was only natural that the most renowned private security company develop its own rifle. Two factors stand behind this statement. Service and support to the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, as well as other numerous hotspots, has given this organization a unique insight into what works in combat.

    Secondly, as a company composed of highly trained and experienced law enforcement and military veterans, the men behind the new Blackwater automatic rifle stand as a testament to reliability and dependability.

    But it's Blackwater's reputation for being adaptable in a fluid battlefield that's most evident in their new BW15 AR. Call it the ultimate custom carbine.

    The BW15 was a concept developed by Blackwater's highly-trained armory staff and is "built to meet the demands of the consumer," says Blackwater's armory chief Bill Kirkland. "If you look at the BW15's receiver, you will see that no specific caliber is stamped under the manufacturer's mark. This is because the consumer determines the caliber and what goes on it."

    Blackwater unveiled six prototype BW15s at a 2007 trade show, one of which sported a coyote tan finish, a tan SureFire 900 light/vertical foregrip and magazine.

    But a closer look revealed the BW15 was chambered in 7.62x39mm. With the popularity of new automatic rifles in .308cal, 6.5mm and 6.8mm, it begs the question: Why 7.62x39mm?

    Reverting back to Blackwater's experience overseas, it made sense to make a desert tan-colored rifle in 7.62x39mm. In a part of the world where Russian and Chinese weaponry remains prevalent, there's plenty of 7.62 ammo floating around.

    Bashers of the 5.56mm round might applaud Blackwater for building a rifle with a larger caliber. And, when talking about the other cartridges, the bottom line is the round that powers the AK may likely be all that is available for resupply during a firefight.

    Work in Iraq has demonstrated that an "accurized" AR that could extend the effective range of the 5.56mm NATO round beyond military specifications. So Blackwater's armorers began working on such a rifle by evaluating a wide-selection of barrels while shooting standard lots of ammunition, with the thought that match ammunition might not be available in a combat zone.

    The first two models of the so-called "designated marksman" rifle utilized a standard A2-style stock to ensure a consistent length of pull and a repeatable cheek weld. A collapsible stock may be adaptable to a wider array of shooters but Blackwater wanted rigidity without risking a poor fit. This problem was resolved with the introduction of Magpul's PRS stock that can be tuned and set to the operator's physical stature.

    Barrel harmonics are optimized with the use of a PRI GEN-III free-floating forend. Each Wilson Combat barrel is carefully inspected with a Hawkeye borescope.

    Blackwater's armorers replace as many as 20 barrels on ARs each month. The borescope reveals that most barrels go bad due to erosion leading up to the gas port. With a new barrel, they look for flaws such as chrome flaking around the gas hole in the bore as well as chrome-covered pitting near the muzzle (many barrel makers suggest that a barrel's accuracy is determined by the quality of the bore in the last 1.5-inch before a bullet leaves a barrel).

    Atop the lower of the DM rifle is a carefully chosen upper, either right- or left-hand oriented. Blackwater armorers frequently look to Leupold's Mark 4 2.5-8x36mm MR/T tactical scope for quality glass secured to the rail by way of two quick-release flip rings from ARMS.

    As new ARs appear, each seems to feature some system or improvement that makes one question how the operator ever lived without their product. So it might be refreshing to know that Blackwater starts the BW15 Carbine with just the basics.

    "With every shooter, unit and agency we work with, we find that each have a different idea as to what they need to accomplish their mission," Kirkland said. "We don't want to limit the client to a specific set of options. If they have to work within a budget, we can build the best solution to accomplish their mission."

    From this point you select what you want. Need left-handed controls? Blackwater will configure the basic carbine for a left-handed shooter with an ambidextrous selector, magazine release and even upper. With the BW15, everything is optional.

    Shooting Impressions

    When visiting Blackwater, you are greeted with a sign that says, "Welcome to the World's Finest Firearms Training Facility." Once you've gone through security and toured the 7,000 acres and more than 40 firing ranges, it's hard not to be impressed. Driving up to the 1,200 yard known distance (KD) range, it can be awe-inspiring to know that people train to shoot this far. This would be the range where I would get to evaluate the BW15 DM, one of two 1,000-yard ranges at Blackwater. This range has 20 lanes.

    We ran down to the pits to put up paper bull's-eyes and drove back to 100 yards.

    Using the Leupold Mark 4 MR/T is simple and I easily keep five groups of three shots within 1 to 1.5 inches on this fair North Carolina morning. Even though this rifle weighs just 12 pounds, recoil is negligible. I attribute this to the Levang muzzle brake and noted that I never lost sight of the target as I leaned into the optional Harris bipod. With point-of-aim and point-of-impact confirmed, I found it was time to move back.

    I took the time to set in at the 200-, 300-, 500- and 700-yard lines. With the help of a configured Magpul PRS stock, I noticed how easy it was to repeat each position when I set in. I always settle in by closing my eyes and relaxing before opening them again. My hope is to see a clear picture through the objective and I wasn't disappointed here.

    Each pull of the trigger was pleasant and the result showed downrange. My extreme group stretched just over 9 inches at 700 yards with my average five-shot group hovering around 7.4 inches. It would have been interesting to see the performance of this rifle at longer ranges but I simply ran out of ammunition for testing.

    I also got a chance to shoot the 7.62x39mm carbine, affectionately nicknamed the "BW30" by the armory.

    Moving to one of the smaller 100 yards ranges, we opened a few boxes of American Eagle ammunition and charged the magazines. Felt recoil was comparable to the M4 and much smoother than the AK, even without any type of muzzle brake.

    I didn't get to evaluate the accuracy potential of this rifle but did run a few magazines on 12x12-inch and 12x18-inch steel swingers. Situated with an Aimpoint CompM4, this rifle hammered each swinger with greater impact than those hits experienced with the basic carbine chambered for 5.56mm NATO.

    Since there are no standard models for Blackwater's custom carbine, the only way to get a BW15 is to call the Blackwater armory and spec it out. But the deal is that you'll place your order with the actual armorers who will build the rifle.

    And, most importantly, you'll get nothing less than what you pay for.
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    I'll admit, I'm curious. I'll be more than curious if it is A) competitively priced, and B) a quality fighting rifle.

    I wonder if it's possible to modify their 7.62x39 model ARs' mag catch system to utilize AK magazines... I wish I had an AK to tear it apart and look. (Like I need another excuse to get an AK, sheesh).


    -B
    RIP, Jeff Dorr: 1964 - July 17, 2009. You will be missed.


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