Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire firearm world and its various guns, ammunition, gear, and sports! 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (.22WMR) is a very popular cartridge although maybe not quite as popular as its tiny little sibling the much-venerated .22LR. While .22WMR is great for things like extended range rimfire target shooting or varmint hunting, the cartridge has seen very little attention in the way of semi-automatic firearms outside of a few notable examples like the English-made Guncraft AR-15 or the Savage A22 Magnum rifles. A couple of weeks back Bear Creek Arsenal announced the introduction of their own offering to the field in the way of a complete .22WMR upper for the AR-15 platform. I was fortunate to receive a copy of it for testing and evaluation purposes and today on The Rimfire Report we’ll be running my copy of the BCA 22WMR upper through a series of tests to determine how well it performs as configured out of the box.
Rimfire Firearms @ TFB:
- The Rimfire Report: Maven CRS.1 – Best Mid-Range Rimfire Scope?
- The Rimfire Report: The Budget-Friendly MDT Oryx Chassis for Ruger 10/22
- The New Bear Creek Arsenal .22WMR AR-15 Upper is Here!
The Rimfire Report: Testing The New BCA 22WMR Upper
The $349.99 side charging complete upper from Bear Creek quickly turned into a backorder situation as so many people were after the platform. According to the website at the time of writing, all orders and pricing will be honored but everything is currently on backorder and isn’t expected to ship until the middle of May. Even so, it’s kind of disappointing right out of the gate as Bear Creek has also stated that only a limited quantity of 2500 units of these uppers will be manufactured.
Aside from that bit of disappointing news, the rest of the build looks to be pretty decent although I think some improvements or variations could be made to provide users with perhaps a more versatile or comfortable platform to shoot from. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. What are the facts when it comes to the BCA 22WMR upper?
Specifications BCA 22 WMR AR-15 Upper
- Weght: 5 lbs
- Magazine Capacity: 1 10-round Black Dog 22 WMR magazine included
- Barrel: 16″ Inch Heavy Profile 1:16 twis Chorme Moly Vanadium with Parkeized finish
- Threaded 1/2×28 with included flash hider
- Caliber: 22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (22 WMR/22 Magnum)
- Feed Ramp: Single Feed Ramp
- Gas System: Blow-Back
- Charging Style: Right Side Charging
- Price: $349.99
I was excited to hear about this new addition to the rimfire community, however, a bit trepidatious as finding a .22WMR firearm of the semi-automatic variant is quite rare in the grand scheme of things and I was mostly concerned with the reliability of the platform. However, my initial impressions of the upper quickly alleviated most of my concerns even before heading to the range.
The upper came shipped in a foam padded cardboard box along with a single Black Dog 22 WMR AR-15 Magazine, as well as a dedicated buffer and spring. The single included Black Dog 10-round magazine is made from plastic and is more or less just a sleeve surrounding a much smaller actual magazine body quite similar to AICS pattern magazines that run 22LR in them. Black Dog also makes these same magazines in a 14-round configuration but I was unable to procure one prior to this review to test with the BCA 22WMR upper. However, if you end up with one of these uppers and want more magazines, they cost between $24 and $27 depending on capacity.
The upper itself came with the bolt carrier, charging handle and muzzle device already secured in place and everything seemed to be assembled correctly from the factory. One interesting note about the upper is that it uses a specialized bolt carrier similar to a centerfire AR-15 but with the gas key reversed and no cam pin. The firing pin is spring-loaded and held in place by a cotter pin. Since this is a blowback gun, the gas key instead serves to help guide the bolt as it travels rearward and also keeps it from falling out of the back after the charging handle has been removed.
As far as fit and finish go, I think there is really nothing I can legitimately complain about. Unfortunately, there is no left-handed version yet. The bolt certainly has enough space on it for there to be a left-side charging handle and making a left-ejecting left-hand charging version of this gun seems like a logical next step for Bear Creek if they are really interested in making this appealing to a wide variety of customers. In any case, I hope Bear Creek does this in the future but it really isn’t a knock against the platform at all – just an observation. Let’s move on to the actual performance!
As .22WMR is most often used as a varmint slaying cartridge, I was really interested to see how practically accurate the upper could be. You all already know that .22WMR is extremely expensive these days even when compared to centerfire cartridges, so I want to take a moment here to thank Bear Creek Arsenal for sending along 500-rounds of CCI 22WMR Maxi-Mags so that I could not only test the accuracy of the platform but also attempt to suss out if there were any functionality issues inherent to the design.
Along with the 40-grain JHP CCI Maxi-Mags, I was also able to test out some Armscor 40-gr JHPs, 50-rounds of CCI 30-grain V-MAX polymer tipped ammo, and some 30-grain V-Max Hornady 22 Magnum ammunition. Out of the three of them, I found the 30-grain Hornady ammunition to be the most accurate with the CCI 30-grainers also getting similar results. However, a broad analysis of the groups I was able to shoot over three days indicates to me that almost any of these ammunition offerings would be suitable for shooting a coyote-sized target out to about 150-yards and in.
All of the groups I shot were about 2-3-inches except for one ten-round group I shot that appeared to be just a hair under 1 MOA in size. This group was accomplished shooting from a supported position using the Hornady 30-grain V-MAX ammunition. Overall, I was satisfied that the rifle was at least capable of producing reasonably accurate groups at a distance of 100-yards which is the distance that every group except for the initial zeroing was shot at.
As always, any accuracy testing comes with the caveat that I am not an expert-tier shooter nor do I pretend to play one on TV. Feel free to roast my groups down in the comments.
Whenever a new offering comes to market, people will always want to know how much reliability they can get out of it. So in addition to not cleaning or lubing the upper before taking it to the range for the first time, I also never cleaned it for the entire duration of my review process. On the 4th day of testing, I took the dirtied upper to the range for its final reliability test. The upper at this point had 250-rounds of Maxi-Mags shot through it as well as 100-rounds of Armscor, and a single 50-round box of Hornady 22 Magnum. Aside from a single stovepipe with the Hornady V-MAX during the first 50-rounds, I experienced no other malfunctions of any type.
For the final test, I decided that I would rapid-fire the remainder of the 250-rounds Bear Creek had sent me in an effort to induce any sort of consistent or observable malfunctions or wear to the upper. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the upper just kept chugging along despite my efforts and I was able to run through the remaining 250-rounds in short order without a single malfunction.
So is the BCA 22WMR upper reliable? Yes! 650 rounds is hardly an endurance test but given that .22WMR is absurdly expensive right now and also hard to find, I feel like the round count is a good enough test of the reliability of the upper for hunting and some occasional backyard pinking. As seen in the picture below, the bolt and breech faces were both thoroughly caked in residue but this did not affect the reliability of the upper in the least.
I like the BCA 22WMR upper. Not only is it a unique addition to the rimfire firearms world, but it’s also reliable, built well, and is reasonably accurate. While I think a left-handed option would be great to have down the road, getting something like that off the ground while simultaneously making it profitable enough to keep on the shelves would be a difficult task. In that same vein, I am very disappointed that it appears BCA will only be manufacturing 2500 copies of this upper. As a final gripe, I also wish that a lighter profile barrel would have been used over the heavy profile one.
I had initially paired my BCA 22WMR upper with one of my KP-15 lowers as you can see from some of the pictures but this turned out to be kind of awkward to hold as the upper was so much heavier than the lower and this made the entire configuration absurdly front heavy – if you’re going to pair this with one of your existing lowers, it’s probably best to stick to something that’s closer to an off the shelf mil-spec AR-15 lower.
Other than those few desires for the platform, I think I can safely recommend the BCA 22WMR upper. The rifle could prove to be quite handy for a rancher, farmer, or recreational varmint hunter as it allows you to make use of already existing AR-15 parts, lowers, and muzzle devices, and it’s quite reliable as you’ve seen here today. As always, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this upper. Based on what you’ve seen do you think that this is a worthy entry into the rimfire scene? Thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report! We’ll see you next time!
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