Bear Creek Arsenal 300 Blackout Upper Review
Part 3 - Detailed Features
February 2, 2024

Bear Creek Arsenal 300 Blackout Upper Reciever Assembly Review

In this part of the review I'm going to try to cover in detail all the features of the Bear Creek Arsenal 300 Backup Upper Assembly.  To do this I will show some overall photos and then dig into the individual components which I may rely on BCA's website for some help if they sell these individual components seperately.


To start, below are some overall views of the upper assembly.  You can also see the details at the BCA website located here.  BCA advertises this as the "BC-15 | .300 Blackout Right Side Charging Upper | 16" 416R SS Heavy Barrel | 1:8 Twist | Carbine Length Gas System | 15" MLOK" upper assembly with a SKU# of 196N-UASCH300CHB1618SS-15M3.  In theory, the upper assembly comes fully assembled and the only thing required is to attach it to your lower receiver, add an optic, lubricate the bolt carrier group, and head to the range.

Figure 1 - Top View

Figure 2 - Right View

Figure 3 - Bottom View

Figure 4 - Left View

The upper assembly weighed in at 5 pounds and 0.5 ounces which is essentially 5.03 pounds.  It was advertised as being 5.75 pounds, so this reduction in weight is a good thing.  It seems odd the difference is so great (~13%), but this may just be an advertising error.

Figure 5 - Upper Assembly Weight

This next photos shows and I list below all the components that come with this upper assembly along with providing links to the BCA website and prices as of 1/2/24.  Purchasing these components separately from BCA comes to a total of $393.94 compared to their complete upper regular price of $272.02.  In Part 1 of this review I mentioned I got it as a Black Friday sale for $209.99 and honestly I don't understand how they made any money on that deal.

  1. BCA Spiral Style Flash Hider 5/8-24 Thread .300 Blackout (and other calibers) $24.99
  2. BC-15 .300 Blackout 16" 416R SS heavy Barrel 1:8 Twist with Carbine Length Gas System $100.99
  3. BCA .750 Gas Block - Parkerized $32.95
  4. BC-15 Carbine Length Gas Tube $19.99
  5. BCA 15" Free Float MLOK Handguard with Barrel Nut, Shims & Screws $114.99 (this link is to the "New Rail Design" and the one shown in this review appears to be the "Old" rail design)
  6. BC-15 300 Blackout Right Side Charging Gen 2 Upper Receiver & Bolt Carrier Group Combo $99.99

As I was researching how items are listed at the BCA website, I noticed that you cannot purchase this particular upper reciever directly from the site.  A similar upper but with dual charging (right and standard) sells for $128.74 and the same bolt carrier group sells for $74.99.  This totals $203.73 which reinforces the idea that if you plan to purchase items from BCA, then go ahead and purchase combined components because in this case there is a 50% savings.

Figure 6 - Detailed Components

The primary unique feature of this upper receiver and bolt carrier design is that BCA has incorporated a "right side charging" system and eliminated the rear charging handle feature.  The process of pulling the bolt carrier to the rear is done by pulling the "side charging handle" which is similar to most non-AR styled traditional semi-auto rifles or shotguns.

Figure 7

The upper receiver has a slot milled into the right side to allow the side charging handle to be pulled fully to the rear. 

Figure 8

This next photo shows the bolt carrier in its fully rearward position which I believe is no different from that of a standard rear charging handle configuration. 

Figure 9

The side charging handle and screw are shown below.  This view is actually looking at the lower side for a "right side" installation, but the other side looks the same with BCA engraved on both sides.  This has both a pin and screw arrangement which allows the pin to take all the shear forces and the screw threads just hold the handle in place.  The pin appears to be integral to the handle and both made from aluminum (non-magnetic).  The BCA website does not state the required torque for the screw so I suggest getting it snug and checking it on a regular basis.  A reviewer at their website commented that he torques to 35 in-lbs which seems reasonable.  I did the same on mine and feel that was sufficient.  I do not recommend any Loctite because you must remove this handle to remove the bolt carrier group from the upper assembly for cleaning.

Figure 10

The picture below is what BCA calls a "side charging threaded receiver plug".  It seems to be made from aluminum and has a flat area such that when installed sits on top of the rear portion of the lower receiver.  The O-ring keeps the plug rattle free when in this fixed position.  The O-ring also helps to reduce some of the freeplay between the upper and lower receivers.

Figure 11                               Figure 12       

The upper receiver is their right side charging model and comes with a very nice anodized finish.  I was actually impressed with this finish and it appears to be on par with other higher end receivers and also compares nicely to my Spike's Tactical lower that it is paired with for this review.  The ejection port and charging handle slot reminds me of the typical semi-auto style found on many hunting firearms.  The upper receiver also has "BEAR CREEK ARSENAL" engraved above the ejection port.

Figure 13 - Right View

Although it does not say specifically, other upper receivers listed at their website indicate the upper is made from billet 7075 aircraft aluminum.  I work in the aerospace industry and this is a commonly used alloy.  When you look at the overall finish and detail in the machining, it is clear that this is machined from a billet of alluminum and not forged.

Figure 14 - Bottom View

The left side is very simple with a large machined slot for the bolt release lever.

Figure 15 - Left View

The top comes with a 10-slot Picatinny rail for the full length.  I had no issue attaching clamp style mounts to this rail, but my Burris Signature Rings were very snug when sliding them in place.

Figure 16 - Top View

The back has a threaded portion for the receiver plug.  The cutout for the plug is required to allow the gas block to slide rearward on the bolt when removing the bolt.  Without the plug, potentially hot gasses could escape into your face.

Figure 17 - Back View                 Figure 18 - Front View

Since initially starting this review, it seems that BCA no longer carries this particular barrel which is probably why I got such a good deal on Black Friday.  The barrel is 16", made from 416R Stainless Steel and comes with a 1:8 twist and comes with the barrel extension installed.  This is a heavy barrel profile and I agree it is heavy.  Unfortunately I didn't get a weight and the link at their website no longer works, but I believe the weight is about 2.15 pounds which is advertised on their Parkerized version.

Figure 19

The barrel extension is made from some other steel alloy and they advertise it as having 300 Blackout feed ramps.  The end of the barrel is threaded with a 5/8x24 thread has a tapered crown.

Figure 20                                                            Figure 21

The muzzle is stamped ".300 BLACKOUT 1:8 SS".

Figure 22                                     Figure 23                                      Figure 24

The barrel is configured with a carbine length gas system and takes a 0.75" gas block.  It is hard to tell in this photo below, but the portion of the barrel forward of the gas block is slightly undersize from the the 0.75" section to allow easily sliding the gas block rearward and also helps prevent scratching of the barrel finish.  There is also an under cut and radiused relief where the barrel transitions to the larger profile.

Figure 25

On the opposite side of the barrel from the gas port is a recessed area to allow one of the gas block screws to tighten against to prevent potential sliding or rotating of the gas block.  The other mark to the right of this area is where the second gas block screw contacts the barrel and causes this type of marking.

Figure 26

I couldn't find this exact gas block at their website, but all their others listed come Parkerized and I feel this is the finish here also.

Figure 27                                    Figure 28               

In my mind, there is nothing fancy on this flash hider.  I found it odd that this flash hider looks like the one they advertise for the .450 / .458 calibers, not the one they advertise for a .300 Blackout caliber.  Either way, it is no big deal in my case because I removed it to install my suppressor.  They state that this is also made from 416R Stainless Steel.

Figure 29                                                 Figure 30                                                 Figure 31

Most likely the barrel nut comes with a  Parkerized finish, and has a shape to match  the handguard.  BCA says to "tighten barrel nut 60 to 80-foot pounds".  When I disassembled mine, it was nowhere near this and probably less than 10 ft-lbs (more on this later).

Figure 32                                       Figure 33                                       Figure 34

The handguard is their BCA 15" Free Float MLOK Handguard.  The link I provide is to their "new rail design" and the one received with my upper assembly is their "old" design (most likely because there are clearly visible differences between the two).  This phasing out of older designs is potentially a good reason for a Black Friday deal.  The obvious difference is they dropped the rear sling swivel stud hole and put 7 MLOK slots down each side and bottom surface.  Also, it looks like the new handguard also has 8 rail slots on the top front instead of the 5 shown on mine.  Another difference is they put a lower chamfer (angel) on the bottom front of the handguard.  I'm sure there are other differences, but if you are considering purchasing a new upper, then focus your attention on their new hand guard configuration, or be aware you might be getting an old style depending on how they advertise their deal.

Figure 35 - "New Rail Design"

The handguard is made of anodized aluminum and most likely an extrusion.  They did a nice finish on the handguard similar to that of the upper receiver.  The top has an integral 5-slot Picatinny rail section at the front and rear along with 8 short MLOK slots.

Figure 36 - Top View

The sides come with push-button sling swivel stud holes.  The rear hole is located such that a heavy barrel profile will not allow the push-button stud to push in far enough to lock in place.  The front worked OK.  I installed a short section of MLOK rail in a lower slot with no issues.  Each side has 6 MLOK slots with 5 each on the 45 degree surfaces.

Figure 37 - Right View

The bottom has 5 MLOK slots and no other significant features.  The handguard is attached to the barrel nut with 8 mounting screws.  BCA states these screws should be torqued to 35 in-lbs.  Mine were less than 10 in-lbs, so make sure you check these before heading to the range.

Figure 38 - Bottom View

The left side is a mirror image of the right.

Figure 39 - Left View

The octagon shaped handguard measured 1.57" wide and 2.00" tall.  The inside between the left and right side measured about 1.35".  I would consider this profile to be a "slim profile" and them dropping the full length upper Picatinny rail gives the handguard a good smooth feel.

Figure 40 - Front View

The bolt carrier group (BCG) is shown in these next photos and I believe it is the same as that shown at this link to the BCA website.  Note that in these photos I have removed the side charging handle because it must be removed from the bolt to remove the BCG from the receiver.  BCA states this is made from 9310 Steel and comes with a Black Nitride finish.  They also state the gas key is "staked from the side to increase longevity".  In my opinion, they did a poor job with the staking and the torque on the fasteners was minimal (less than 10 in-lbs).

Figure 41

The bolt carrier has a M16 style profile and a shrouded firing pin.  The right side features are different to allow the charging handle.

Figure 42

Figure 43

Figure 44

      Figure 45                                             Figure 46

I went ahead and disassembled the bolt carrier group into it's main components shown below.  I was not able to remove the rear fastener from the gas key due to the staking, but I could easily turn the fastener to loosen it.  BCA states the bolt has had a magnetic particle inspection (MPI) and the bolt actually has "MPI" stamped on top.

Figure 47

When I checked the torque on the barrel nut, it essentially had nearly no torque.  The photo below shows where I was able to hand tighten the barrel nut.  The black ink mark in front of the gas tube hole is one I put there showing the "as received" condition.

Figure 48

When properly torqued, that black dot is now shifted significantly to the right in the photo below.  In this position the handguard did not line up properly on the rifle which means shimming is required.  I sent BCA technical support an email describing the problem and the next morning one of their support staff called me to discuss the path forward.  They have a "limited lifetime warranty" and were eager to resolve.  I could have either sent the upper assembly back to them or have them ship me barrel nut shims.  I chose to shim myself to expedite the process.  They sent me three 0.015 shims and after putting two in place I was able to properly torque the nut and also achieve the correct clocking to install the handguard.  I wish they had expedited shipping on the shims, but they got to me eventually.

Figure 49



Overall I'm very pleased with the components, their finish and workmanship.  They appear to be made from materials consistent with the market and it is hard to beat their price.  I do have issue that EVERYTHING I checked WAS NOT torqued correctly.  For a consumer who may not have the tools or understanding of what to do, slapping this upper assembly on a lower assembly and going to the range would have been a very bad experience at some point.  A lose handguard would be annoying and if you were counting on a front sight it would have been frustrating to say the least.  The barrel nut would have eventually loosened which would allow the handguard to rotate and  have accuracy issues.  If the gas key loosened, then eventually there would be gas leaks and the rifle would not cycle.  If you consider this fully assembled upper as a kit and are willing to check everything (which you should anyway), then based on what I see so far, you should be pleased with the purchase.

For more detailed photos and commentary, make sure you check out the other parts of this review and feel free to leave comments below.  The following links are provided to help you see other parts of this review. 

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