The author working with the Tactilite T-1 .50 BMG rifle…

The author working with the Tactilite T-1 .50 BMG rifle package.

One of the big attractions of the AR platform is the fact that it is so modular. Simply push out the take-down and pivot pins and you can drop in a number of upper receivers. For instance, the .204 Ruger and 6.8 mm SPC are very popular caliber conversions for those that own stock .223 ARs. There are a number of drop-in .22 LR conversion kits that take only a minute or two to convert a 5.56mm rifle into a .22 rimfire money saver.

I recently mentioned to a friend that there was a new company making caliber conversion uppers for the AR. His response was, “.22 LR?” I had to chuckle a bit. Nope a little bigger, .50 BMG. Zel Custom Manufacturing of Odessa, Florida is now in full production of the Tactilite T-1 AR conversion uppers.

T-1 .50 BMG

With the AR platform rifle so plentiful in the U.S. nearly every firearm and accessories manufacturer has parts for it. Numerous machine and tool companies that heretofore only made components are now making complete upper receivers that drop on to any AR lower.

Mike Brendzel has taken this trend a giant leap forward with the introduction of the T-1 .50 BMG upper receiver. As we should all realize, the lower receiver on an AR, the part with the serial number engraved, is the actual firearm. Everything else is merely a “part” or “component.”

Note the single-shot, bolt action of the UltraLite .50.

Specifically, the T-1 upper receiver is a single-shot, bolt-action design. The upper receiver unit will fit on to any mil-spec, AR-style lower receiver. In order to ensure ignition of the large, hard primers on the .50 BMG cartridge, the end user needs to replace the stock hammer and spring of their AR lower with a heavy-duty hammer and spring from Zel Custom. Also, to make room for the massive bolt the buffer and buffer spring must be removed from the lower. The bolt slides back into the buffer tube when cycled.

Regarding manufacturer’s specs, the gun sent to me for testing was a package deal representative of the work that Zel Custom can do. The T-1 upper receiver was their UltraLite model with a 29-inch Mossberg barrel with 1:15-inch twist rifling. The chrome-moly barrel was button rifled and made of 4140 steel. Lothar-Walter barrels are available as an option but are naturally more expensive.

The handguard surrounding the barrel is free-floated. In order to address some of the shock or torque that the barrel must undergo they have installed what they are calling a “Bang Bushing” around the front. This offers a shock-absorber without putting pressure on the barrel.

On the business end of the barrel is a massive muzzle brake. When it comes to .50 BMG shoulder-fired rifles, the brake is not just a convenient accessory, it’s an absolute must. Firing a big .50 without a muzzle-brake is an invitation to a shattered clavicle.

A massive muzzle brake is required to tame the beast

Overall length for the upper receiver is 43 inches and the weight of the unit without optics is 13.95 pounds. Zel Custom assembled the rifle with a Bushmaster XM-15 lower receiver. The stock is an Ace aluminum skelotonized version with a large Pachmayr butt-pad. There is a Picatinny scope rail riser directly above the action and a rail out front on the handguard and one below.

Additionally, the rifle arrived with a Bushnell 6500 scope and Harris bipod. Both the scope and bipod were affixed to the rifle with LaRue mounts. The entire package was coated with a CeraKote desert pattern finish prior to shipping.

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