After I fired my second shot, I looked through my spotting scope and muttered to myself, “Damn, there’s no way I could have missed that target.” After firing three more rounds, we walked up to check the target and found one of the bullet holes had an oval shape, indicating I had put my first two rounds through the same hole. I turned to my wife, Becky, and exclaimed, “This thing sure is accurate!” The “thing” under discussion was Black Dawn Armory’s BDR-10 rifle.
What I am about to say will come as no surprise to most of our readers: The semi-automatic AR is the most popular long arm on the American market today. Known as “black rifles” or—more recently and somewhat euphemistically—“modern sporting rifles,” they are seeing ever-wider use by law enforcement agencies, target shooters, competitors and hunters. While they are available in an assortment of other calibers, the vast majority of these rifles are chambered for the .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO.
First used by the U.S. military beginning in 1963, the 5.56mm was adopted as the standard rifle cartridge in 1969, and thanks to U.S. influence, most NATO armies began transitioning to it beginning in the 1980s. Advances in propellants and bullet design led to improved performance, and the 5.56mm has proven to be a very adequate military cartridge—which leads us to a conundrum.
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There is an influential clique of military and law enforcement personnel, ballisticians and shooters who from the very beginning felt that the 5.56mm NATO was a poor choice for a military cartridge. They showed no hesitancy whatsoever in claiming that its on-target performance and long-range accuracy were lacking, and that one took one’s life in their hands by going into combat with a rifle whose bore diameter did not approach 0.3 inches. Many called for the 5.56mm to be discarded and replaced with AR-platform rifles firing the .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO cartridge.
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While this “bigger bullets are better bullets” controversy is ongoing, there appears to be little likelihood of NATO backtracking when it comes to its choice of rifle cartridge. But there can be no doubt that the performance of the 7.62mm trumps the 5.56mm, which led to numbers of potential customers clamoring for AR-style rifles firing the larger cartridge. Several forward-looking entrepreneurs took note, and it wasn’t too long before they began offering what the market was demanding: AR-platform rifles chambered for the 7.62mm NATO/.308 Winchester. One of these is Black Dawn Armory’s BDR-10 rifle.
Black Dawn Armory has been building 5.56mm and 300 Blackout ARs for customers (many of whom are law enforcement agencies) since 2008. Recently, the company began receiving requests for a 7.62mm AR, and, as behooves a company that wishes to make a profit in a capitalistic economy, Black Dawn Armory set about satisfying that demand.
Black Dawn Armory BDR-10
The BDR-10 apes the general appearance of the AR family with a few exceptions. First of all, it’s quite a bit larger so as to handle the 7.62mm cartridge. In common with the breed, the upper and lower receivers and buffer tube are made from aluminum alloy while the barrel, handguard, bolt, bolt carrier and other internal components are crafted from steel.
The flattop receiver has a full-length Picatinny rail for mounting sights and/or backup iron sights (BUIS). The handguard also has a full-length rail on top in addition to KeyMod slots along the sides and bottom. Short rail sections are conveniently located near the muzzle end of the handguard for mounting lights, lasers, bipods and other tactical accessories.
The rifle operates via the traditional direct- impingement system. A nice touch is an adjustable gas block, which provides optimum reliability with a wide variety of ammunition or when the rifle is dirty. The bolt carrier group features a nickel-boron finish for reliable functioning while providing resistance to fouling and corrosion.
All of the controls are located in the standard AR positions, so the manual of arms will be second nature to those already well versed in the mysteries of the AR platform. The lower receiver also sports an enlarged triggerguard to allow easy access to the trigger when wearing gloves. Black Dawn’s billet charging handle comes with an oversized latch that allows for fast and smooth operation when loading or unloading the rifle.
The rifle is fitted with an Ergo pistol grip that is, well, very ergonomic, which permits the shooter to maintain a proper grip for extended periods of time without tiring or cramping the hand or wrist. And, unlike most tactical ARs today, the BDR-10 is fitted with a fixed, one-piece Magpul MOE buttstock made from high-impact polymer. This feature gets my wholehearted approval because I have lost count as to how many times my beard has become entangled (ouch!) in an adjustable M4-style buttstock. The buttplate also folds open, providing access to a storage compartment within the stock.
The rifle comes with one polymer Magpul PMAG that holds 20 rounds of 7.62mm ammo and is fitted with a cover so as to keep out debris when not in use. The BDR-10 I received for testing was an impressive. While it’s no lightweight at 10.3 pounds, it was nicely balanced for fast, natural handling. It came standard with an ALG QMS trigger that had a very short take-up before breaking crisply with a mere 4.25 pounds of pressure according to my trigger pull gauge.
To see what kind of accuracy I could wring out of the BDR-10, I mounted a Leupold 6-18x40mm VX-2 scope on the rifle using a set of rings provided by the manufacturer.
I tested the rifle at my shooting club’s 100-yard range. To help tame the beast, I brought along my Caldwell Lead Sled Solo shooting rest, which was designed specifically for AR-type rifles.
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It took about a dozen rounds to zero in the scope, and then I began shooting for score. The crystal-clear view through the Leupold scope, combined with the light, crisp let-off provided by the ALG QMS trigger, made it almost too easy to fire a series of very pleasing groups with five brands of ammo, most of which hovered around 1 inch in size while several measured less than that. Was I impressed? Hell yes!
I find shooting little groups on bullseye targets—well, let’s just say I don’t find it very exciting. So, just to be a bit different and have a little fun in the process, I placed a USPSA target out on the 200-yard backstop and sent 20 rounds in its direction by firing the rifle from the Lead Sled as quickly as I could obtain a good sight picture. Once again, the BDR-10 performed about as well as one could have hoped, forming sub-3-inch groups in the A-zone of the target.
Since reflex sights are considered de rigueur on AR-type rifles today, I removed the Leupold scope and mounted an Aimpoint Micro T-2 red-dot sight on the rifle and zeroed it in at 100 yards. Despite its small size, the Micro T-2 provided a good field of view which, combined with its bright reticle, enabled me to quickly acquire and transition between targets. Firing across the Lead Sled, I was able to produce sub-3-inch, 20-shot groups on a pair of combat targets.
Of the 350-plus rounds I fired in two hours, I experienced a single malfunction: a failure to completely eject a Federal 165-grain Fusion round. Other than that, regardless of bullet weight, profile or velocity, the Black Dawn rifle ran with metronome-like regularity.
I found Black Dawn Armory’s BDR-10 to be a fast-handling, accurate, reliable and easy-to-use rifle If you need—or just want—a large-caliber AR-type rifle for 3-Gun competition, big-game hunting or law enforcement service, you won’t go wrong with this offering.
For more information, visit blackdawnguns.com or call 660-851-0907.
This article was originally published in “Tactical Weapons” February/March 2017. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.