Brownells has been dipping their toe into the complete-rifle market for a while now, despite being better known as a supplier for parts, tools and accessories. Their new “Retro Rifles” line is an interesting mix ofboth recreated historical guns from the development of the AR-10 andAR-15, and a few alternate-timeline models that evoke what could have been.
The most interesting member of this family doesn’t even carry BrownellsRetro Rifle branding, as it’s a modern rendition of the lesser knownAR-18/AR-180. The BRN-180 is a modern design with a full-length railextending from the receiver to the end of the 15-inch M-Lok hand guard. It’s immediately obvious that this isn’t an ordinary complete AR upper receiver, because a reciprocating charging handle protrudes from thedust-port area on the right side of the receiver.
The BRN-180 has dual internal rod-guide buffer springs riding above thebolt carrier, completely eliminating the need for a rear buffer tube. This makes it possible to do things that are normally impossible with aconventional AR, such as mounting a collapsible wire paratrooper-typestock, or shooting it with a buffer-mounted stock folded to the side.
The other area where the BRN-180 deviates from AR orthodoxy, while stillremaining historically accurate, is the use of a gas piston operatingsystem in place of the now-common direct impingement system. The AR-18rifle built for the military, but never accepted into common use, wasequipped with a similar gas-piston system that was the cause of muchcontroversy at the time of its introduction.
The BRN-180 complete upper is chambered in .223 Wylde, enabling it tosafely fire both .223 Rem. and higher-pressure 5.56 NATO ammo. The BRN-180complete upper with 16-inch barrel is currently available for pre-orderfor $799, and Brownells is considering development of a short-barreledversion of the BRN-180, depending on interest levels.