When it comes to direct impingement 5.56mm AR15 rifles, it takes something fairly special to stand out in today’s crowd. The current market is saturated with black rifles from giant manufacturers all the way down to the smallest custom boutique shops. Triggers, rail systems, and precision machining tops the list of what most knowledgeable consumers focus on when buying a modern sporting rifle. And more advanced shooters will opt to build their own guns with custom criteria that fits their needs. But one specification is often over looked (or ignored) – weight. The wizards at 2A Armament have refined the second generation of their Balios Lite AR15. A rifle so impressively light that it has to be held to be truly appreciated.
For those who balk at an ultra light rifle, using commentary like “lift more”, I understand your hesitation. What’s a few pounds between friends, right? But believe me when I tell you that this rifle is actually incredible; I have held nerf guns that weigh more than the Balios. The 2A crew have taken weight savings to the extreme. With hollowed out titanium takedown pins, recessed surfaces and skeletonized parts, this rifle defines the term ‘feather-light’.
But does it perform like a defensive rifle should – reliable, accurate and with all the features of a modern AR15? I’ll be honest, I carried the Balios much more than I shot it, trekking through the woods and around the farm, and it is noticeably light weight. And with some special tricks and treats, the Balios is a soft and flat shooter that just feels great. But for a variety of logistical reasons, I did not torture test the Balios looking for failures. Either way, I loved this rifle.
Let’s take a look.
First, the specifications.
- 2A BALIOS LITE GEN 2 LOWER RECEIVER – CNC machined 7075-T6 billet with flared mag-well, hard coat type-III anodized, rear tensioning screw, rear takedown spring retainer, screw in bolt catch pin.
- 2A BALIOS LITE GEN 2 UPPER RECEIVER – CNC machined 7075-T6 billet “slick side” mil-spec port door, retained port door rod, M-4 feed ramps, machined indexing marks.
- 2A BOLT AND FULL MASS CARRIER – 8620 machined body with QPQ process, 9310 machined bolt, cryogenically treated , MPT, QPQ process
- 2A BARREL – 16″ Pencil profile, 416-R stainless steel, mid-length gas system, 5.56 NATO spec chamber, 1 in 8 twist, 1/2×28 thread, QPQ process, titanium gas block.
- 2A RECEIVER EXTENSION – 2A Armament buffer tube and 2A latch plate, standard H-Buffer.
- 2A HANDGUARD – 2A Armament 15″ 6061 extruded BL G2-RAIL, M-LOK, or KeyMod, titanium barrel nut.
- 2A MUZZLE DEVICE – 2A Titanium T3 compensator.
- CHARGING HANDLE: BCM-mod4
- STOCK/GRIP – MAGPUL MIAD Grip, Mission First minimalist stock.
- LOWER PARTS – 2A magazine catch, 2A through drilled titanium takedown pins, Mil-spec safety and bolt catch.
- TRIGGER – ALG-ACT trigger group with optional light or heavy hammer spring.
- WEIGHT – 5.0 pounds based on options.
- Ships with one MAGPUL P-MAG and die cut foam box
- MSRP: $2,299.00
Aesthetically, if that sort of thing matters to you, this rifle is is beautiful – curves in the right places, lines that connect between sections and skeletonizing that doesn’t look like an afterthought. My one minor comment here is the Mission First minimalist stock – it functions perfectly fine, but it’s just not my style.
Standby, I forgot to add my standard disclaimer: I am not a gunfighter, gamer or a self-professed AR15 expert. Nor do I have the budget to feed thousands of rounds into the Balios. I was given the opportunity to carry and shoot this 2A Armament rifle for several months in an attempt to get a feel for quality and capabilities. Finally, as always, please follow all safety rules when handling any firearm.
Ah, gas regulation – one of the mainstays of proper AR15 functioning, especially when adding a silencer to the system. The gas block is machined titanium, focusing on weight savings with a hollowed out barrel mating/clamping surface. But it is not adjustable for gas flow…
Fortunately, 2A Armament was nice enough to let me borrow a pre-production version of their titanium regulated bolt carrier alongside a near-zero weight buffer and buffer spring. One huge advantage of this BCG is the ability to adjust the gas regulation without any disassembly of the weapon. It can also be used in most manufacturers AR15 rifles (check the specification for any limitations prior to ordering).
The Titanium Regulated Bolt Carrier (RBC) is an ultra lightweight carrier with a gas regulating gate built into the carrier itself. This provides a drop in, extremely lightweight solution for those looking to tune your AR-15’s gas system and minimize felt recoil. It eliminates the need for adjustable gas blocks, and allows the firearm to be restored to a factory full weight system by simply swapping your full-mass carrier back into your firearm. The RBC has infinite adjustment from fully open, to fully closed on the regulating gate. The RBC can be tuned to most combinations of buffers, springs, suppressors, and barrel lengths. The RBC Is fully adjustable through the port door, and does not require the firearm to be broken down for adjustment.
- Carrier: Grade 5, 6AL-4V Titanium available in ion bond black, or bead blast matte finish
- Bolt: 9310 steel, heat treated, MP, Cryo’d, QPQ Nitride
- Rear body: 7075-T6, hard anodized clear
- Extractor: machined, heat treated, QPQ Nitride
- Carrier key: machined, heat treated, QPQ Nitride, staked screws
- Regulating gate: machined from 6AL-4V Titanium
- Weight: 5.95 oz fully assembled carrier group
- T-6 Torx tool supplied for adjustments
- MSRP: $439.00
Above, the 2A regulated bolt carrier group (middle) with the zero-weight buffer and spring alongside the 2A standard bolt carrier group and buffer/spring combination (bottom right). Initially, I had some difficulty adjusting the regulation gate, which I admit was 95% user error. As it turns out, I didn’t fully understand the location of the opening in the gate. Luckily for me, the BCG I received from 2A was preproduction with an unstaked gas key. After removing the key, I noticed the slot to adjust the gas correlated with the leading edge of the opening.
Gas gate fully open:
Gas gate fully closed:
Below, the gas gate adjustment and the tension screw. In this position the gate is closed.
Gas gate adjustment.
Overall, I was really impressed with the 2A Regulated BCG. Once I got the hang of adjusting the gate to lock the bolt open on the last round, the rifle ran smoothly without excessive ejection port or charging handle gas blowback. And remember, no rifle disassembly required.
I ran three types of ammunition through the 2A Balios Lite:
- Hornady 75gr TAP BTHP
- Federal Fusion 62gr SP
- Aguila 62gr FMJ
The regulated BCG needed little adjustment between ammunition types. The TAP rounds held a ~1.5MOA groups at 100 yards from a prone supported position – a value that I’m sure could be halved with a capable precision shooter behind the trigger.
The near-zero weight buffer and spring combination was a surprise and a delight. The rifle functioned and felt almost as if it were a rimfire platform – with a low reciprocating mass, the recoil faded away. And even though I’m not a competitive shooter, I could appreciate the smooth recoil and how it allowed for fast follow up shots and hammer pairs.
The Balios Lite is probably the nicest feeling and handling AR15 I have ever has the opportunity to shoot. Primarily due to its weight, the 16 inch barrel handles and swings like a 10.5 inch barrel.
Every edge of the receiver is smooth and refined. 2A Armament designed the Balios to be lightweight yet still retain comfortable ergonomics.
Purists may balk at the design, but I would guess that the minute they actually held the Balios, their tune would change. I ended up loving it, even though I usually prefer more traditional styles.
The Balios Lite comes standard with an industry leading BCM Gunfighter charging handle and a fully capable ALG trigger. Both performed as expected.
Suppressing the Balios Lite:
In the time that I was reviewing the 2A flagship rifle, I was lucky enough to have my Delta P Design Brevis II Ultra Silencer clear ATF NFA purgatory. If you remember from last year, we reviewed the six ounce, 3D printed titanium rifle silencer – an impressive example of engineering. Being the lightest 5.56mm silencer on the market, it was a match made in heaven for the Balios Lite.
In a testament to the Brevis and/or the Balios, the gas regulator gate needed very little adjustment after adding the silencer into the system. I’m not certain about the exact weight of the included muzzle device, but adding the Brevis did not change the handling characteristics in any noticeable fashion.
Suppression levels were normal for a non-SBR 5.56mm rifle: One shot either hunting or on the range and it would be slightly uncomfortable. Repeat or rapid fire requires hearing protection to prevent pain and hearing damage.
I used Okay Industries Surefeed Magazines exclusively for the Balios review. After using polymer magazines for years, I had forgotten how much I appreciated the reduced weight and bulk of the classic aluminum magazines. Needless to say, I did not experience a malfunction or magazine related issue during my time with the Balios. One neat feature is that Okay Industries offers customized engraving services.
The second generation of the 2A Armament Balios Lite is an impressive rifle. On weight alone the Balios sets itself apart from anything else in today’s market. In both function and form, it performs as designed – an enjoyable rifle capable of range, competition or defensive uses.
- Price/Personal Budget
- Mission First stock – Not my style, but it functions 100%
- Extremely well made
- Ultra light weight
- Smooth/flat shooting
2A Armament has refreshed it’s flagship Balios Lite BLR-16 with it a Gen 2 revision incorporating enhancements to our receiver set, hand guards and adding new 2A components further improving our firearm. At 2A we set out to deliver a reliable, lightweight rifle with our own innovative components to provide our customers with the best possible shooting experience. Each component of our rifle is hand finished, assembled when ordered, test fired, and backed by our great support staff. We encourage you to read through the features below and also the individual product offerings to understand the 2A Armament difference.