I am a barrel snob. There, I admitted it. Not once have I ever wanted a cheap barrel, ever. When Carlos would tell me he had a new batch of "budget" barrels coming in I ignored it. In my mind there is no way on Gods green Earth an 80$ barrel could hit the moon at 100 yards.
I could only imagine the time wasting with 2 foot groups I was about to do when Carlos sent me 3 Bear Creek Arsenal barrels to check out. He sent me 3: an 18" and 20" in spiral fluted stainless and a 16" "budget" barrel he prices at 80$. All are 1 in 8 twist. When I unboxed them I was pleasantly surprised. The finish and machining are top notch, no doubt about it. No chatter marks, no swirls, no scratches. When I compared the BCA barrels next to my Rock River Arms 16" Stainless Varmint barrel I was even more impressed. I was not expecting the quality of these 150ish dollar barrels to embarrass a 300$ barrel from a "top name" company. Not to mention the feed ramps machined into the barrel lined up perfectly, no extra work required...... where my Rock River and Spikes upper required a touch of the Dremel to blend 100%.
After unboxing and checking them out they were assembled using parts to keep in the "budget minded" theme. No billet uppers, no expensive adjustable gas blocks and Noveske rails. I used the basic milspec uppers and budget gas blocks Bayou Gun Runner sells. I noticed that using the gas block roll pins that Carlos sells separately they went in with much less fuss. The few extra cents they cost to keep my cool during assembly is money well spent in my book.
They each used a NiBx BCG from Fail Zero or Spikes (also NiBx) in a Spikes lower, with a Rock River Arms 2 Stage trigger with a JP Spring set. I must say that for roughly 120 bucks you would be hard pressed to beat this trigger set-up. Nice pull and clean break. The optic of choice is a Vortex Diamondback HP 4x16x42 which I have come to adore for the price. Something I noted when cleaning after my range trip: while the Spikes and Fail Zero NiBx BCG's appear to have the same NiBx coating, the Spikes required more scrubbing to clean than the Fail Zero BCG. The carbon fouling caked on and held tighter, even though I had roughly 400 more rounds on the Fail Zero unit than the Spikes.
Above is the complete rifle with the 80 dollar "budget" barrel from Bear Creek. Yes, in my haste and excitement over the stainless barrels I didn't get one single picture of the naked budget barrel. My apologies. Finish and maching are very well executed on this one as well. I used a 13" UTG Slim Line rail in FDE with a standard bird cage flash hider. While not my first UTG product I am impressed with the fit and finish of this rail. Lined up good, held tight and I love the way the slimmer profile feels while shooting. I have always been a fan of the Odin Works rails because they are very slim, but, I think if you are looking for a cheaper option you won't beat this UTG for anywhere near the price point.
20" Spiral Fluted with a 15" Samson rail, capped off with a Lantac Dragon flash hider. I would not consider the recoil of a 5.56/.223 to be substantial, but the Lantac does a good job of taming it down. A word of advice, your shooting partner sitting next to you at the range will likely scoff at the report. This baby is loud! While not budget minded, I have been wanting to try one out. Thanks to The Bearded One for turning me on to Lantac! This is the first time I have used a Samson rail, and I have no complaints. While this is not a rail Bayou Gun Runner stocks (I picked it up on a trade deal) I have nothing bad to say about it. While it is not near as slim (or cheap) as the UTG it is sturdy and well made.
18" Spiral Fluted with a knock off Yankee Hill Machine flash hider and "tube style" free float rail. After I had a minor "incident" with a fairly sharp and pointed Yankee Hill Machine Annihilator flash hider I pretty much swore off any type of aggressive muzzle device. While not as sharp or pointed, don't drop it on a bare foot.....not that I condone shooting while shoeless, but that's another story for another day. Carlos, Clay, you can stop laughing now. Thanks. Recoil feels the same as a standard bird cage, maybe with a touch less muzzle rise. The "tube style" rail attaches with it's own barrel nut and fits great.
I have decided to post up the best groups at 50 and 100 yards with the tightest grouping ammo for each barrel. The "break in" for each barrel was 20 rounds of bulk Federal to ensure the rifle was on paper with each upper. I have learned that identical barrels often times will group better with different ammo, so it requires a little money and time to figure out which ammo your set-up prefers.
I did my testing at Texas City Municipal Shooting Range. This is my local, outdoor 100 yard range run by the city. It is a nice, clean, well maintained and run range.
I must say that I am by no means a world class marksman. I am still learning and quite intrigued by long range shooting, and I get better every time out. Although shooting off sand bags, I am shooting along the coast with an almost never ending 15MPH "breeze".
This day the wind was slightly easy, and blowing in from behind. Already having went a few days before and leaving due to wind, I figured today was the best conditions I would get. For grouping, I will state the group minus the flyer, if present. I feel the 1 flyer in each batch is my own error.
20" @ 100 yards, Hornady 75 Grain BTHP, 3/4" group.
20" @ 50 yards, Hornady 75 Grain BTHP, 1" group throwing out the flyer.
18" @ 100 yards, Remington Hog Hammer 62 Grain, 1" throwing out the flyer
18" @ 50 yards, Fusion 62 Grain, 1 1/4"
The surprise of this test to me! The freckin 80 dollar budget barrel, that I swore would not group worth a damn!
16" @ 100 yards, shooting Fusion 62 grain grouped 3/4 tossing the flyer
16" @ 50 yards shooting the same 62 grain Fusion ammo 1/2" minus flyer.
Keep in mind, these are golf ball sized groups! My 11 year old son had no problems hitting golf balls @ 100 yards the rest of the day with these uppers.
Prior to this, as I have said numerous times, I did not expect good results. While I am not a world class shooter, nor are these world class set-ups, these extremely affordable and very nice barrels performed very well to me. No reason for anyone to scoff at the quality and accuracy for the price. If you want a 300 + dollar barrel or a sub MOA guarantee, these might not be your cup of tea. In my opinion this is for your weekend shooter, who wants a beautiful barrel that performs well for an affordable price. I see no reason 99% of us would not smile every time we pulled the trigger behind ANY Bear Creek Arsenal barrels. I know I will be!