I can’t believe it took me this long to get my hands on the BC-22 rimfire upper from Bear Creek Arsenal. My first centerfire rifle was a modern sporting rifle, and when I got it about 16 years ago, I was fortunate enough to get some pointers from our local SWAT trainer. We ran through several drills, and I became pretty proficient over the years. I’m sure I don’t need to explain how ammo prices have affected my practice over the last decade or so though. Yet I still want to maintain some of that muscle memory, while having fun plinking steel too. So it was time for me to combine the low cost of .22 LR with the AR platform. Turns out that the BC-22 is perfect for both.
Bear Creek Arsenal BC-22 Right Side Charging Upper specs and details
For the most part, this upper is pretty standard AR and rimfire spec. The heavy barrel has a 1:16 twist for stabilizing the lighter .22 LR rounds. It’s constructed of 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium, with a Parkerized finish. This is the same steel used in 5.56 caliber barrels, so it should hold up well to a lifetime of rimfire shooting. At the business end, it’s threaded 1/2 x 28, but that’s more for muzzle devices than a suppressor, in my experience. It does come with a nice flash hider installed.
The billet receiver includes a right-side charging handle, and a fifteen-inch M-LOK handguard, for an overall weight of 5.25 pounds. That side-charging option has a lot of fans, as it resolves one of the downsides of the traditional AR platform’s rear charger.Â Users can chamber a round or clear a jam much easier with the side charger. In my short time with the BC-22, I really came to enjoy this feature. Other than that, it appears to be a typical hardcoat anodized finish, and if not for the “.22 LR” boldly engraved behind the ejection port, it doesn’t look too different than any other rifle in this format.
Fit and finish
With its current retail price of $274.11, I’m not expecting a flawless finish. Especially since I view this platform as more of a tool than something like a nice walnut-stocked rifle. That said, there were no concerns. No sharp edges, no loose hardware. When installed, it doesn’t rattle any more or less than any other upper. About the only thing I could find to nit-pick was the finish. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the receiver and handguard are ever so slightly different. The handguard matches my Spike’s lower, while the receiver may have a marginally smoother finish, which results in a slightly shinier matte black. Not an issue, just an observation.
Rather than the AR’s gas impingement, the BC-22 uses a basic blow-back system. One advantage of this is that it ditches the need for the typical bolt buffer. I left mine installed in the lower, but it’s not necessary. The entire bolt and recoil assembly are contained within the upper, which really does make it plug-and-play with any mil-spec lower you might have on hand. A closer look reveals that the extractor, plunger, and spring are all common parts compatible with Ruger’s 10/22. While there’s no reason to expect any issues with the extractor, replacement is easy and inexpensive.
Since I hadn’t yet completed the dedicated lower I was piecing together for this, I used one that was less than ideal for the first outing. But other than making sure that the little gas plug on the top of the receiver was in the correct position, the upper installs like any other AR upper. Drop it down, push in the pins, and you’re pretty much ready to rock and roll.Â I also had to improvise with a cheap Picatinny QR riser to bring the Vortex Venom up a bit. And I added a little foregrip which it probably didn’t need, but wanted to try out.
Bear Creek Arsenal was kind enough to include a couple of 25-round Black Dog Machine magazines for this review. After loading them up with both Federal and Winchester bulk, I had a few disappointments. Most of the time it went bang, but a few times it didn’t, and it wasn’t because of the upper. The firing pin has a large surface area, and the strikes were clear. We had some issues with the same ammo in a few other rifles and pistols, so I’m certain it was the ammo. But clearing jams was not the kind of drill I was looking forward to, even if the side charging handle made it easy. Checking the Bear Creek Arsenal website, I saw that they recommend CCI ammo. Next outing, I handed the rifle to my nephews with a brick of CCI, and let them run as many magazines as they could through it. Over several hundred rounds, it ran without any hiccups.
With the ammo issue fully sorted out, I made yet another range trip. This time, we brought along a bunch of steel targets, from one-inch spinners to bigger four-inch gongs. Those smaller targets are set up around 20-30 yards, and the largest between about 60-70 yards. For unsupported shooting with a 3 MOA dot and fairly inexpensive ammo, my hit ratio was more than acceptable. More importantly, I could practice engaging multiple targets at different distances without spending fifty cents for each pull of the trigger. Again, no issues – it went bang every time, and spit out empties as fast as I could pull the trigger.
As much as I’d like to do a full accuracy test and see how it groups, it already meets my needs for practical shooting. Once I get the round count over 1k, I’ll probably scope it and shoot it off a bench. Meanwhile, it checks all the boxes for me. With the exception of the side-charging, it handles just like my other rifle. As long as it’s being fed CCI, it’s reliable and accurate. The Black Dog Machine magazines gave me no trouble either. During my time with it, it was as dependable as any other quality semi-auto rimfire rifle. Maybe a bit more fun to shoot though.
One area where I did feel a bit let down was when I added my suppressor. After shooting a lot of subsonic .22 LR out of suppressed bolt action rifles, I have forgotten how loud the action of a semi-auto can be. Sure, the suppressor made it a bit quieter at the muzzle, but it just highlighted the mechanical noise. Again, this is not a reflection of the quality or function of the BC-22. I’ve just been spoiled by all that “quiet time”. But it did run with the suppressor, so I’m sure it was quieter for those around me.
There are pros and cons in the debate between .22 LR conversion kits and complete uppers or rifles. Personally, I don’t like the idea of fouling my AR with rimfire ammo, so it’s an easy choice for me. I had a rimfire version of a popular AR, but the polymer upper and lower made it feel more like a toy than a trainer for my centerfire rifle. Bear Creek Arsenal’s BC-22 gives you the option to use the same lower you would normally use, if you want. Or have another dedicated lower, as I did. It mimics the weight and feel of a 5.56 rifle, except for the ammo, of course. But at today’s prices, I can shoot about 5 rounds of .22 LR for each round of 5.56 ammo. Money well spent.
Note that Bear Creek Arsenal also offers rimfire uppers in .22 WMR and .17 HMR as well. While I appreciate those options, my inner penny-pincher is sticking with the least expensive ammo here. If you’d like to get your own, or just want to see all the other excellent options that they offer, head over to the Bear Creek Arsenal website.
As always, I’d like to thank the folks at Bear Creek Arsenal for providing their BC-22 .22 LR upper for my testing and evaluation. I really enjoy testing out different gear and sharing it with our readers. If you have questions or comments, please share them below.
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