Review: Blackwood Arms Side Charging Ambidextrous AR15 Upper

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Blackwood Arms is a small company and the owner Andrew B. BeGole wouldn’t change it. Andrew is dedicated to quality above all else and making small quantities allows him to keep a close eye on the products and ensure he turns out the best product he possibly can using the best materials. Over his many years of machining parts his company has made major parts for some of the very best high dollar AR’s. I can’t really say who they are because of contract restrictions but all of you are familiar with those companies.

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Andrew contacted me about his side charger reciprocating AR upper combination. The upper itself is made from virgin 7075 T6 Billet Aluminum.The finish is hard anodized with a Teflon finish. The tolerances are very close giving the user a snug fit between the upper and lower receiver. There are no sharp edges, the finish is perfect as is the overall fit. The bolt carrier is machined from 8620 cold rolled steel with a nickel boron finish. The bolt itself is MPI inspected. In the photos you’ll also notice the upper is a bit thicker and stronger than the usual AR upper.

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The quality is very obvious the first time you get you rifle built and rack the bolt. You can feel how close the tolerances are as well as how smooth the BCG moves in the upper. Another feature is the charging handles are ambidextrous. Now that doesn’t mean you have to keep both charging handles on. The user can install one on the side of choice or use both. I found myself preferring to use both handles.
I know some people have issues with the reciprocating handles but I can assure you unless you use an unorthodox grip of some sort you won’t have a problem with the charging handles striking your hand.

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This video shows the machining process:

Blackwood Arm’s Billet Side-Charging Ambidextrous Upper is hands down the best upper on the market . It’s versatility and precision engineering means it’s not only highly function but also adaptable. It’s designed for ambidextrous use which has a wide range of benefits such as; ease of manipulation for 3 Gun & competition shooters, versatility as a left, right or ambi system, reduced number of moving parts compared to a standard AR 15 Upper receiver. Increased tolerances for a tight and secure connection to your lower receiver.

What’s in the box !?:
7075 T6 Billet Precision Machined Upper Hard Coat Anodized Upper Black Teflon Finish.
Bolt Carrier Precision Machined from 8620 Cold Rolled Steel with Nitride
5.56 Bolt
7075 T6 Charging Handles with Hard Coat and Black Teflon Finish
Cam
Firing Pin
Modified Bolt Release
Instructions

The bolt carrier is precision machined from 8620 Cold Roll Steel The Blackwood Billet Side-Charging Ambidextrous Upper is machined from a solid chunk of the highest quality billet 7075 T6 aluminum. Engineered with the strictest of standards and is the most versatile upper receiver on the market

An additional feature many people talk about in the negative is blowback from gas expelled from the receiver. This can’t happen with the Blackwood upper. A screw is installed in the gap a regular charging handle would occupy. This screw keeps the BCG from falling out when the upper and lower are separated. The shooter just turns the screw counterclockwise, remove it and the BCG drops right out into your hand.

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With the nickel boron finish the bolt and carrier are very easy to clean. In fact you can take a cloth and wipe most of the carbon off without using any solvent. I actually did two builds with this upper one of which is pictured as a regular carbine. I also built another which was an AR pistol. Both of these rifles were very reliable and functioned perfectly through the many hundreds of rounds I’ve put through both guns.In fact if you look at the bolt carrier in the photos all I did was wipe it down and this is what you get after several hundred rounds. It really surprised me honestly since I’m used to a regular black finish on my BCGs.

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This is really a good option for an AR build. You can operate the bolt without breaking your cheek weld or moving your head at all. If you happen to be a lefty even better.I’d never thought much about side charging uppers but it a nice option and one you might check into if you can get a chance to shoot an AR configured this way. The MSRP is $495.00. With the exceptional quality it’s worth the cost to me.

Blackwood Arms



Phil White

Retired police officer with 30 years of service. Firearms instructor and SRU team member. I still instruct with local agencies. My daily carry pistol is the tried and true 1911. I’m the Associate Editor and moderator at TFB. I really enjoy answering readers questions and comments. We can all learn from each other about our favorite hobby!


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  • Vhyrus

    Looks remarkably like my Bear Creek side charging upper, minus the left side charging. If you’re left handed or don’t care for left side charging you can get a BCA for about $200 right now.

    • ZachAnderson

      I can personally attest that these are far superior than any other side charger of this style on the market today. The fit and finish is second to none and the tolerances are about 1/3-1/2 of milspec. Find another manufacturer who can claim the same and I’ll sell you some swamp land in Arizona.

      • ostiariusalpha

        I was going to say that the LAR Grizzly OPS-4 ambidextrous upper receiver was excellent workmanship, but since LAR stopped manufacturing them, your statement gets to stand.

        • DIR911911 .

          wow , without the names those look almost identical. sweet.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I didn’t want to just say that the Blackwood receiver is simply a copy of the LAR, but I can’t really see where there might be any difference in their geometry at all.

          • Anonymoose

            If you look at American Spirit, X-Products, and Gibbz their uppers are all pretty much identical to each other too. If LAR isn’t making uppers anymore (didn’t they go out of business or get bought out by Remington?), maybe the patent was bought by Blackwood, similar to how GWACS makes the Cav Arms polymer lowers now.

          • Yes Remington bought them.

          • There is a small difference improvements but as I said Andrew made them for LAR

          • Texas-Roll-Over

            HAHA you got that one backwards…

          • Blackwood made these uppers for LAR so they are the same basically

        • Guess who made the LAR upper—- Blackwood!

          • ostiariusalpha

            I seriously doubt that, Phil. Larisch, Augat, and Robinson (LAR) was a primary supplier to many other manufacturers (Ameetech, CMMG, Double Star, Fulton, Spike’s Tactical, Noveske, and more importantly, Bushmaster) by machining the raw forged receivers. Since they were a high volume machining shop, they thought they could make some more money on the side selling receivers that they had machined under their own name. When Cerberus/Freedom acquired Bushmaster, they decided to consolidate the supply chain, and bought LAR as well in 2012. I’m fairly certain that Blackwood is a low volume, small batch shop that wasn’t doing any production back before 2012.

          • Anonymoose

            Maybe you’re both right. Maybe Blackwood has some relation to LAR the same way Windham is made up of old Bushmaster employees laid off by Cerberus.

          • That’s what Andrew passed along.

      • RSG

        Just to be clear, are you saying that bear creek is far more superior than the Blackwood? Or are you saying the Blackwood is the best? I’m interested in a side charger. Want the best quality for the best price. Thanks!!

  • Kelly Jackson

    How durable are these side cockers? I always heard they had issues with the bolt carrier camming inside the housing since it was never designed to operate without the support of the rest of the receiver.

    • ostiariusalpha

      I have a Mega Arms right hand side-charger receiver, which makes full contact with the bolt carrier rails. There’s no abnormal wear marks to speak of after more than a thousand rounds, much less anything caused by serious carrier tilt. Of course, it helps that the Mega receiver’s walls are about 10x as thick as a standard forged receiver to maintain structural integrity despite the charging handle gap.

    • No problems with this one at all

  • Badwolf

    Wow! It’s so American that even the aluminum is American.

  • CommonSense23

    Lets ruin one of the best parts of the AR15 design! Genius. If you are having to actually run the charging handle enough to warrant this upgrade you need to find out what’s wrong with your gun.

    • DIR911911 .

      huh? best part? I’ve always thought of the ar charging handle as the worst part. even the sound it makes . . . scraping along makes me wish for a way to change it.

      • nadnerbus

        Definitely not as low a profile as the standard T handle. Probably has some advantage in a malfunction clearance, but not sure that warrants creating two big holes in the receiver for debris to ingress.

      • CommonSense23

        So you rather have something that is more likely to interfere with your ability to shoot than something that makes a annoying sound?

      • n0truscotsman

        IMO, the extractor and extractor spring were the *worst* parts, but thats pretty much a non issue now. Or maybe the magazines. Cant decide which.

        The standard charging handle has issues with prolonged use, something that has already been solved by other companies (like BCM).

    • Kelly Jackson

      The cocking of the AR15 was an after thought because the Army didn’t like the one fingered cocking of the AR10. They had enough of that with the M3A1.

  • DIR911911 .

    that is a very nice set up , but $495 pricetag will have me hoping they have a “coupon day” 🙂

    • Anonymoose

      It includes the fancy proprietary BCG. Most side-chargers don’t come with a BCG, just a special cam pin.

  • John Daniels

    Looks a lot like the uppers Crosshill Tech makes.

  • Norm Glitz

    Like many gun writers, you’re confusing the word tolerances with clearances. Tighter tolerances won’t make parts fit closer together, they will assure that all parts fit the same. Tighter clearances, i.e. larger dimensioned parts, will make them fit closer.