In recent years, 9mm carbines have been hitting the market in various styles, and the Side Charge, Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9 Carbine, is a unique offering in its own right. The BC-9 is based around the AR-15 style platform and accepts Glock pattern magazines, but as the title implies, the action is operated by a lever on the side of the gun, rather than the traditional AR charging handle at the top rear of the receiver. Let’s take a look at how this design stacks up as I put the Side Charge BC9 through its paces.
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bear creek arsenal BC-9 REVIEW: INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & SPECS
The BCA BC-9 comes in several different barrel lengths, but I opted for the 16-inch rifle version since I wanted to be able to put a regular stock on it. This was even before the ATF came out with the hardline stance on the pistol brace issue when we arranged the review. The Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9 comes sans stock or (gasp) pistol brace, which I think is a good move since there are enough stock options on the market for people to have a preference on what they like. The rear of the BC-9 has a Picatinny rail for mounting stocks or braces.
Looking at all the options out there, I’ve found that I am picky, so I scoured the used stock market and found that of them all, I liked the older SIG MCX/MPX folding stock. SIG still stocks these, but I found mine for around $100 used.
The BC-9 charging handle is on the left side of the gun, while the brass ejects to the right. Personally, I don’t have a huge preference as to which side the charging handle is on, but from a competitive and defensive standpoint, the left-side charging handle makes sense for right handers to maintain a positive firing grip while the support hand can manipulate the bolt.
The free float handguard is covered with seven rows of M-LOK slots at 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11 o’clock positions, while the top features an interrupted 1913 Picatinny rail. The overall fit and finish on all the components are good, but one complaint I have is that the edges of the M-LOK slots feel a bit sharp.
SPECIFICATIONS FROM BEAR CREEK ARSENAL
This BCA AR-15 complete bufferless 9MM pistol length bufferless (Patent Pending) Rifle has a 16″ M4 barrel with a parkerized finish, and features a 1:10 twist rate, with a blow back gas system. It includes a 15″ MLOK rail, an M4 flat-top billet upper receiver, a BCA bolt carrier group, a flash hider, and Gen 2 (patent pending) Left Side Charging handle(left side charging, right ejecting), and the BCA mil-spec AR-9 lower. Compatible with Glock style magazines
Bear Creek Arsenal manufactures all AR-15 rifles, complete upper assemblies, barrels, bolt carrier groups (bcg), and components in-house here in Sanford, NC. Choose an American-made AR-15 complete upper assembly from Bear Creek Arsenal, designed for high accuracy and backed by a lifetime warranty.
bear creek arsenal bc-9 DISASSEMBLY PROCESS
Despite being based on the AR-15, the Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9 uses a bufferless recoil system which is why it’s able to accept folding stocks. Thus, the recoil spring rides above the bolt, creating a different method of field stripping, however, it’s quite simple, and only requires a 5/32 Allen wrench to remove the charging handle from the bolt.
After double-checking that there’s no ammunition in the BC 9, push out the receiver pins one at a time, then slowly move the upper receiver straight forward and up off of the lower receiver, this way you don’t kink the recoil spring. You can then pull the recoil spring out of the back of the bolt. The spring guide in the latest generation BC 9 is fixed to the bolt, whereas the first iteration’s recoil spring guide was a separate piece. Next, grab the Allen wrench and remove the charging handle’s retaining screw. The bolt can then be slid out the back of the upper receiver.
RANGE TIME WITH THE BEAR CREEK ARSENAL BC-9
My choice of configuration for the Bear Creek Arsenal Side Charge BC-9 was slightly unconventional with the 1-4x LVPO scope but seemed like a good blend between having a 1x pseudo red dot and a bit more magnification for a homestead defense rifle. I’m usually not a big fan of the A2 grip that comes supplied with the Side Charge BC-9, but it didn’t bother me, maybe it’s growing on me. The recoil impulse was soft and the action was buttery smooth.
One aspect of the side charging feature is that you can glance down at the charging handle to confirm it’s in the battery without having to move the rifle.
I really liked the SIG folding stock on this rifle version of the BC-9. Bear Creek Arsenal did their homework on the placement of the charging handle because with the stock folded, the buttpad fit right behind the charging handle. Although, with the stock oriented to fold to the left side of the gun, it meant that it wouldn’t be ideal to fire it with the folded stock. I tried this anyway and the charging handle just moved the stock out of the way.
I used three types of magazines in reviewing the Side Charge BC 9, a 17-round factory Glock magazine, a 17-round ETS magazine, and a 27-round Magpul PMAG 27 GL9. On occasion, I had a failure to feed the first round. I hadn’t oiled the BC 9 since I’d received it, so I slathered the bolt with oil and never had any more feeding issues. One of the downsides to the BC-9 is that there’s no last round bolt hold-open feature.
Just as I was wrapping up my evaluation of the Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9 rifle, a Viridian RFX-35 red dot optic showed up for another review. The RFX-35 comes with a low Picatinny rail mount, so I moved the folding stock to a lower position on the rear rail, which worked perfectly for quick sight acquisition, and didn’t require me to force my head down to see through the optic.
BEAR CREEK ARSENAL BC-9 ACCURACY
While I don’t consider 9mm Luger to be a precision round, I love shooting it at 100 yards or more for the fun of it for years out of pistols. I was curious to see what kind of accuracy I could get from the BC9, especially with the S2 Delta 1-4x LVPO mounted. Despite my semi-supported position with the magazine resting on the hood of my SUV and using my support hand to steady the handguard, I was able to get about 4 MOA at 100 yards, which I thought was satisfactory. I didn’t have any trouble hitting my MK Machining steel Covid target offhand at 100 yards either.
The trigger was mostly comparable to a mil-spec trigger but had a bit of a slap to it, but it took a lot of shots for my finger to go numb. A little break to load magazines was enough to get back on the trigger for some more plinking though. However, one of the advantages of having a Bear Creek BC9 is that most of the components are swappable with other AR15 parts, including the trigger if users have a preference.
I had a great time with the Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9. It was well-built, and very reliable as long as the bolt was oiled. If you’ve been looking for a pistol caliber carbine, the BC-9 is competitively priced against other options on the market, while keeping some parts compatibility and functionality of an AR-15, without having to be married to a buffer tube. You can find the Bear Creek Arsenal BC-9’s product page HERE, in which it’s currently listed for $639.99, or you can check out BearCreekArsenal.com to view their other products.
What do you think about the BCA BC-9 9mm carbine? How would you outfit yours? If you’ve already bought a side-charging BC-9, let us know how your experience has been.
- Competitively priced
- Lots of room for customization
- Takes Glock magazines
- Some trigger slap (in review copy)
- Sharp edges on handguard