Known as much for their apocalyptic imagery as their bulletproof performance, the AR-15-style rifles built by Black Rain Ordnance (BRO) have developed a passionate following among those who compete in 3-gun, a very demanding shooting sport that takes a toll on its participants and their equipment. Misses and jams cut into your score, so it goes without saying that 3-gun rifles have to be accurate and reliable. Last year BRO turned its attention to developing left-handed upper receivers and bolt assemblies to expand its popular and proven 5.56mm NATO Fallout 15 series of rifles.
Founded in January 2008 by a group of businessmen with a big passion for guns and a background in retail management, BRO is relatively new to the scene, but it has come a long way in a short period of time. The men are certainly ambitious—their long-term goal is to build the best ARs in world. Recognizing that was going to be a long and difficult road, they wisely started out small by building precision billet upper and lower receivers for AR-15s, dubbed “Fallout15” receivers, and then transitioned to building complete Fallout 15 rifles. BRO hopes to eventually manufacture all its rifle parts on site, but in the meantime, it makes every effort to ensure that parts sourced from outside suppliers are of the best possible quality and made in the U.S.
Among the Fallout 15 LH’s in-house components are a lower receiver and flattop upper receiver machined from billets of aircraft-grade 7075-T6 aluminum. The receivers are paired up at the beginning of the build and kept together from start to finish. A Picatinny rail runs across the full length of the flattop upper, and a shell deflector and a forward-assist plunger are located behind the ejection port, on the left-hand side of the upper receiver. The Fallout 15 LH uses a standard AR-15-style ejection-port cover, but when the bolt is retracted, the cover flips upward rather than downward, like those on standard right-hand-ejection AR-15-style rifles. This keeps the cover from interfering with the manipulation of the bolt-stop paddle. The layout of the lower receiver’s controls is in the conventional AR-15 style. The magazine release button is on the right-hand side of the receiver, above the triggerguard, while the bolt-stop paddle and a safety lever with a 90-degree throw are on the left side. Other controls include a charging handle with an extended latch of BRO’s design. The magazine release button and safety lever are standard in size and shape, neither of them raised nor extended.
The absence of forging in the production process allows for a number of custom touches, including a bowed triggerguard, which is integral to the lower receiver. The raised exterior contours on the upper and lower receivers, such as the tunnel for the bolt, the well for the bolt cam and the fences for the magazine release button, all have a beveled rather than rounded contour. The fences are relatively tall, and for a right-handed shooter, they are a real boon in that they help funnel your trigger finger right where it needs to be for a fast magazine change. A left-handed shooter, however, may find him- or herself fishing around for it with the thumb of the support hand. The heavily flared magazine well helps suck in a fresh magazine.
Fixed to the front of the upper is a 7075-T6 aluminum tube that leaves the barrel entirely free-floating. The tube is roughly 9.25 inches long and 1.8 inches in diameter. Apart from the integral full-length rail that runs along the top of the tube and gentle flats at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions, the contour of the tube is generally round. Two rows of 28 triangular slots are cut into the spaces between the flats. These slots reduce weight and aid in exhausting barrel heat. The flats are drilled with five circular slots to accommodate the mounting of rails or other attachment points. Compared to a quad-rail forend, this arrangement allows a wider degree of customization by the shooter and reduces weight and bulk, but most importantly, it ensures much happier support hands with fewer bruises and abrasions. It is also well suited to the extended support-arm grip that is gaining favor among 3-Gun competitors, as well as military and law enforcement operators. The hold can be more fatiguing when you have to clear a lot of rooms, but it makes for faster transitions and more precise follow-up shots.
BRO makes a wide variety of barrels, including .223 with a Wylde chamber, 6.5mm, and 6.8 SPC II. Barrels are available in lengths from 7.5 to 24 inches. The barrel of my test gun was 18 inches long with a medium-contour 0.73-inch exterior diameter, while the bore had a 1-in-8-inch twist rate, which will stabilize the heaviest bullets available in .223. Forward of the gas block, six longitudinal flutes are cut into the barrel. All BRO barrels are made of ordnance-grade 416R stainless steel. The muzzle was fitted with a hexagonal muzzle brake.
The Fallout 15 LH’s gas block assembly is a three-piece affair that is split horizontally and held together by four Allen-head machine screws. It is clamped to the barrel just in front of the forend. BRO makes extensive use of corrosion-resistant materials and finishes for enhanced durability and reliability. The gas tube is stainless steel, and the bolt is Carpenter steel. Although my test gun is all black, BRO offers a variety of unique graphic designs. A nickel-boron finish is also an option. The Fallout 15 LH comes standard with a collapsible Magpul UBR (Utility/Battle Rifle) stock, which offers excellent stability and a firm cheekweld, especially when used with an optic sight. Seven length-of-pull settings allow the stock to be adjusted to best suit the user’s physique, equipment load and shooting position. An integral preset system allows ready access to the user’s preferred setting. The UBR also provides extra counterbalance weight to improve handling on full-length rifles and on weapons with muzzle-heavy accessories or bull barrels. My test gun came with a BRO match trigger, which was light, crisp and consistent. KNS anti-rotation pins keep trigger assembly pins from drifting or rotating, thus extending the life of the lower receiver. Customers can choose a standard trigger or an aftermarket upgrade of their choice.
For accuracy testing, I fitted the Fallout 15 LH with a 1-9x28mm Leupold CQBSS riflescope. Accuracy was, in a word, impressive. The 68-grain Gold Medal Match load from Federal produced my best five-shot group at 100 yards, which measured 0.42 inches. I tested the Fallout 15 LH with commercial ammunition from Winchester, Federal and Hornady as well as some NATO surplus rounds made in Germany. There were no malfunctions of any kind—all fed, fired and ejected without hitch.
The muzzle brake was effective. And even with its full-length barrel, the Fallout 15 LH is relatively light and very well balanced. The extra length of the handguard and its rail-free construction were compatible with a variety of holds. Repeat shots and transitions between targets came naturally. As a left-handed shooter, I must confess that I am comfortable with most right-hand-ejecting semi-auto rifles, almost to the point that, if I don’t feel brass whizzing past my ear or landing in my elbow (I always shoot with long sleeves), I am ready to start an immediate action drill. But I really shouldn’t be that complacent, because right-hand ejection creates a number of other safety issues that no amount of training can address.
One significant, albeit less dangerous, consideration is suppressors. Suppressors blow back a lot more gas and heat through the chamber and out the ejection port, which magnifies shooting discomfort for left-handed shooters. There are other compelling reasons for even the most accomplished southpaw shooter to pick up a left-ejecting semi-automatic rifle. My test gun, however, lacked many of the left-handed features that I consider essential, particularly a left-handed safety lever and magazine release. When I asked BRO about these issues, its representatives explained that they are testing the waters right now. The left-handed upper and bolt are available right now, but market response will determine whether or not they will offer a complete left-handed rifle with all of the bells and whistles.
Black Rain Ordnance is to be commended for offering a left-handed upper receiver and bolt-assembly, especially one with the kind of quality and performance found in my test gun. The Fallout 15 LH has a lot to offer. It looks, handles and performs like a well-tuned racecar.
BRO delivers flawless reliability that’s been vetted in demanding 3-Gun competitions. The company has a lot to offer any demanding shooter looking for accuracy, reliability and durability, and here, that excellent offering is in the form of the Fallout 15 LH. For more information, visit blackrainordnance.com or call 888-836-2620.
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