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TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

Last year, Brownells dropped their new Gen 2 version of the BRN-180 upper receiver onto the market. They came out with both shorter barrel variants as well as an option for .300 Blackout. Every time I saw the new BRN-180 Gen 2 upper, it piqued my curiosity and after a while, I decided to pick up one and put it through its paces. I’ve had the BRN-180 for a couple months now and put a decent amount of ammo through it, even with this crazy ammo crunch. Let’s dive deeper into Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper Receiver.

Brownells BRN-180 @ TFB:

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 UpperSpecs

When ordering the upper receiver from Brownells, they had a few different options but the stock was low so my two choices for uppers were the 16″ model in 5.56 or a 10.5″ upper chambered in .300 Blackout. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love .300 Blackout and its capabilities, but for the review, I really wanted 5.56 since it’s a bit cheaper to shoot right now. My 16″ upper receiver came with a 1/8 twist barrel that has a retro-looking three-prong flash hider. The big party piece of the BRN-180 is having a short-stroke piston system as well as the recoil system incorporated into the upper receiver.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

The really unique part of this rifle is the ability to throw a side folding stock on it which can really give you a different look from a standard AR-15 type rifle. Towards the end of testing, I put on a different muzzle device to use a suppressor. The BRN-180 Gen 2 upper is a perfect suppressor host with a short-stroke piston as well as an adjustable gas block. For my rifle, I ended up using a standard AR lower with a Lage MFG folding stock that was designed for an MPX. The stock didn’t fit the adapter I used right out of the gate but with a little love, it fits great now. The BRN-180 Upper Receiver’s price is $899.99 and can be purchased at Brownells.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

Range Time

I’ve taken my BRN-180 rifle out a total of about 7 range trips all ranging from snow, freezing rain, to hot sunny days. For my testing, I decided to put a Vortex Optics Razor Gen II 1-6×24 with a Scalarworks Leap mount. I also put a SureFire M300 light on it and called it good just to keep things simple and lightweight. In my first couple range sessions, I wanted to see how accurate the BRN-180 was at 100 yards, after 3 different 5-shot groups, I had an average of 1.25 MOA sized groups with the largest groups being 1.75 MOA using Wolf Gold 55gr ammo. I will be honest, at the beginning of testing, I was almost sure there would be more felt recoil with the dual springs being smaller and not as long as a traditional buffer system.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

Luckily, I was immediately proven wrong and this has to be one of the smoothest shooting rifles I have shot lately. Combine that with the Lage MFG folding stock I modified and this is a very sturdy rifle that runs like a well-oiled machine. I really like that I can throw a suppressor on the end and adjust the gas block easily as well. One thing I was curious about was the added width on the upper receiver to accommodate the dual spring system, but after a few range sessions, I didn’t notice the width at all. This system feels very familiar with the AR15 lower and takes little to no work converting from shooting a standard AR. In total, I put roughly 2,400 rounds through the gun without a single malfunction.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

A Hidden Gem

People talk about the MCX as being a revolutionary design, but lately, the MCX platform has been extremely difficult to get ahold of with demand skyrocketing and it’s substantially more expensive than the BRN-180. If you set it up a certain way, it can almost start to look like a modern variation of the FN FNC for a fraction of the price. I think we can all agree the AR market is fully saturated and it’s really a welcomed change to have something similar but very different on its own.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

A close up of the bolt carrier group in the BRN-180

Overall Thoughts

If you’re looking to spend $1,300-1,500 for a new rifle that is something different from an AR, I would really take a look at the BRN-180 Gen 2 upper receivers. It’s hard to beat the price for a short-stroke piston gun that’s begging to be suppressed and dressed up. I haven’t been impressed with a gun like this BRN-180 in a very long time and it was well worth the price I paid from Brownells to have a smooth shooting rifle. So after a few months of testing and a couple thousand rounds, I am happy to say this is one of the smoothest rifles I have built for myself.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

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What do you guys think about the BRN-180 and its modernized return from the pages of history? Let me know in the comments below and if you have one I would love to hear what you think about it. If you guys have any questions on the BRN-180 or firearms in general, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask on my Instagram @fridgeoperator. Stay safe out there.

TFB Review: Brownells BRN-180 Gen 2 Upper

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