by Christopher R. Bartocci - Monday, July 25, 2016
Long-range rifles have come a long way. Traditionally, such implements simply had to be bolt-action. As time passed, the long-range shooter came to appreciate the advantages of the semi-automatic precision rifle. Outside of .50 BMG, the cartridge most capable of precision accuracy at extreme range is the .338 Lapua Mag. The first to produce an AR-style rifle in this caliber is Belgrade, MT-based Noreen Firearms.
The rifle is named Bad News. Why? Well, because it’s “bad news” for anything within 2,000 yards of its muzzle. When you first look at this large rifle, it appears to be an AR-10 on steroids, but it is its own animal. The 13-pound longarm is indeed based on the AR platform, but made significantly larger to accommodate the much longer, more powerful .338 Lapua Mag. cartridge. Operation is semi-automatic and the rifle is magazine-fed, sporting a 26-inch barrel with a proprietary Noreen Firearms muzzle brake.
The rifle employs a hybrid gas system, part of which directs the gas and part of which actuates the piston. Testing by Noreen Firearms indicated that due to the amount of propellant in the .338 Lapua Mag. cartridge, fouling was excessive and rapid, causing reliability problems in the bolt mechanism. By the same token, the folks at Noreen wanted the accuracy improvements that the direct-gas-impingement system offered over the traditional piston system due to the negative impact on barrel harmonics caused by the piston/gas block. By avoiding reinvention of the operating system, Noreen opted for the best of both worlds. Attached to the gas block is a standard direct-gas-system gas tube. Inside the upper receiver, the tip of the gas tube directs the gas into a gas cylinder made up of an endcap, cylinder and short piston with three gas rings. When the cylinder is filled with expanding gas, the piston is driven to the rear to strike the raised area of the bolt carrier, sending the bolt carrier rearward—thus not introducing hot gasses to the inside of the bolt carrier. This keeps the bolt carrier clean and the rifle reliable.
The upper receiver is manufactured from a solid billet of 6061 T6 aluminum. The receiver is slab-slide, with neither a forward-assist, a cartridge-case deflector or an ejection-port dust cover. The bolt carrier and bolt are manufactured from 9310 steel, which is significantly stronger than the mil-spec Carpenter 158. The bolt carrier is left in its raw state. The barrel begins as 4140 Chromoly steel and is cut to 26 inches. The bore and chamber are drilled with a 1:10-inch six lands and grooves with a right-hand twist. According to Noreen Firearms, the match-grade barrel has a service life from 2,000 to 3,000 rounds. The barrel is threaded and comes from the factory with a proprietary muzzle brake that redirects gases 30 degrees rearward, changing the felt recoil from pushing rearward into the shooter’s shoulder to pushing the muzzle forward— decreasing felt recoil.
On the gas block is a setscrew that adjusts the gas flow using a hex wrench to increase or decrease the gas flow as needed. You only want enough to properly cycle the rifle. This decreases recoil and wear and tear on the parts by not overworking them. The handguard that comes standard on the Bad News is manufactured from an extrusion of 6061 T6 aluminum and offers a continuous top Mil-Std 1913 rail. There are also removable Mil-Std 1913 rail panels.
The lower receiver is also manufactured from a billet of 6061 T6 aluminum. While the magazine well looks very narrow, the magazine is single stack, which drastically decreases the width of the magazine well. The trigger guard is part of the lower receiver and is oversize. The trigger group that comes from the factory is a 2- to 4-pound Timney adjustable variant. Bad News comes standard with a standard A2 pistol grip, and is fitted with a Magpul PRS (Precision Rifle Stock). Its magazines are made from billet aluminum with a polymer follower, which does not actuate the bolt catch. Each magazine is made in-house and has a capacity of 10 rounds.
The test rifle was fitted with a U.S. Optic ER-25MPR 5-25X scope and a Silencer Tech sound suppressor. Recoil was not much more than that of an AR-10. The sound suppressor made a great deal of difference on this rifle. There were no malfunctions with the 75 rounds test fired. With three rounds, the rifle shot a .344-MOA group at 420 yards.
The Noreen Firearms Bad News is unique in the industry. It is one of a few of semi-auto .338 Lapua Magnum-caliber rifles in the available. It has been tested by the U.S. Military, as well as the British Ministry of Defense and has been a proven quantity for nearly four years.
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