Just wanted to post some pics of a new toy I got the other day. This has been about a year in the works. Many of you know I have been in the 50 BMG crowd for a long time and have owned MANY single shot 50 BMG rifles and built many more precision single shot rifles in my 510 Allen Magnum wildcat based on the Armalite AR-50 platform.
Still, I have always wanted a high quality, semi-auto 50 BMG rifle. For many years the Barrett M82A1 was about the only game in town. This is a great rifle for what it is, utterly reliable in all conditions but while some claim it to be a long range precision rifle, it hardly fits that bill. Most of the time, about the best accuracy you will get at 1K will be around 2 moa and usually its not that good unless your using the best ammo possible.
This is because of the barrels recoil operated system and its floating barrel design, its barrel is always moving back and forth and getting long range precision from that is hard to do. Again, for what its designed to do, it works great and in all conditions.
Being an accuracy minded firearm manufacturer, I just had a very hard time spending +$10,000 on a 2 moa rifle when I could always build myself a full blown APS AR-50 in 510 AM and get 1/2 moa for half that cost.
Well, a few years ago, I contacted Mark Serbu who was advertising his new BFG-50A rifle which was a fixed barrel, semi-auto 50 BMG rifle claiming that it would blow the doors off the Barrett in accuracy. At that time, my research showed that production was non existant and this was more a prototype rifle design.
I kept track of the rifles development with the normal issues that come with a new rifle design of this type and around the later part of 2012, I called Mark up and placed an order for one of his BFG-50A rifles.
Well, it arrived last week. I have been able to take it out twice to the range when testing customer rifles and put a few rounds through the little beast. Here are some pics.
The rifle is not perfect and in researching the BFG-50A rifle, the main complaints are misfires caused by an off centered firing pin in the bolt and the rifle short stroking and not picking up and chambering the next round when firing.
Mark had assured me the off center firing pin issue had been resolved and it was simply a bad batch of bolts. He said the short stroking of the action was simply due to guys shooting cheap, poor quality surplus ammo in their rifles and that high quality match ammo would function perfectly well. He did not recommend handloads as all of these manufacturers will not recommend just because of the nature of being sued today. For me however, there would never be a factory loaded round go through this rifle and he knew that.
So, Just to get things started I took 100 rounds of virgin Win 08 50 BMG brass, threw in 225 gr WC872 surplus powder with a CCI-35 primer and topped everything off with a reasonably priced 650 gr Win M33 ball projo. Chrono'ed velocity was just a hair under 2850 fps out of the 26" barrel length. Thought that was damn respectable for this barrel length
The rifle has a very nice short throat length as its designed for use with ball ammo. The neck is also very quality only 4 thou over loaded neck diameter. Now, by our precision standards, this is pretty loose, but by most 50 BMG factory rifle standards, this could be considered MATCH!!!! Chamber is also min spec. I had to FL size the virgin Win 08 brass of some of them were a bit tight chambering. Very impressed with this.
The first range session was a learning experience. I had fired many Barrett M82A1 rifles and was impressed with their recoil levels as being very comfortable. Different then the AR-50 with its amazing muzzle brake but very comfortable none the less. The Serbu BFG-50A on the other hand has the least amount of recoil I have felt in any portable 50 BMG class weapon system. MUCH more comfortable then the Barrett even though its 10 lbs lighter in weight. The lower rifle weight simply allows the muzzle brake to be more effective at controlling felt recoil. It is a VERY comfortable rifle, recoil is on part with one of my lightweight XHS rifles chambered in 375 Allen Magnum.
The action works very slowly as well. The big cases are lazily lobbed out the right side of the rifle. In fact they come out so slow, for the first several shots fired, I thought, there is NO WAY that that bolt traveled back far enough to pick up another round but I was wrong MOST OF THE TIME.
On the first outing I did have two short stroke failures to feed. The problem however I found out was my shooting position more then anything else. I was sitting on my shooting bench seat and these rifles are long enough that they do not allow you to "LEAN" into the rifle off the bench seat, as such, the rifle was basically free recoiling. Now even though these rifles are gas operated, they need some resistance on the stock to function properly.
After these two short stroke failures, I set up the rifle on the ground so I could get behind the rifle for a solid shoulder support and never had another failure to feed.
Again, the rifle as it comes from Serbu is not perfect. There are things that will be changed and already have parts on order to correct.
1. LOP Is only 13.0". VERY short for a 50 BMG class weapon system. I am 6'3" and will be adding 1" to the LOP. This is not overly difficult for me to do as a firearm manufacturer but would be more difficult for a general customer.
2. The scope rail base, while very long(GOOD DESIGN) is very low for the receiver design. As such, it will need higher then normal rings for proper eye position to the scope. In the pics, I have two sets of 1.000" high NF Ultralight Tactical rings on the 5.5-22x 50mm NXS NF scope and while its shootabe, the scope is around 3/8" to low for really comfortable shooting. I have two sets of extra high NF tactical steel rings already headed my way to correct this. I do not like mounting a scope high on a 50 BMG class weapon as its very hard on the scope, that is why I am going with my standard 4 ring set up to control recoil energy(2 rings), Negative G forces generated by the muzzle brake(2 rings) and also just give the scope body more support with the 4 rings.
3. The bipod SUCKS!!! Now, it is what it is and its designed for to be a simple, rugged bipod for field use and for that purpose, it works just fine. Still, its very tall and has no control of the cant system. It just rocks back and forth very easily with no resistance. A new bipiod is already on order that will greatly solve this problem!!!
Those are the bad aspects of the rifle that I have found so far. There is a lot more good to be had.
1. Very light rifle design at 23 lbs and very well balanced.
2. VERY comfortable from recoil stand point and muzzle brake is not all that bad as far as muzzle blast is concerned. The AR-50 muzzle brake feels like someone is slapping you in the forhead, this rifle is nothing like that which kind of surprised me with the relatively short barrel length. Very impressed.
3. Trigger is very, VERY good for a production 50 BMG. I have never shot a Barrett M82A1 that did not have a creepy trigger. The trigger on this rifle is right at 3 lbs and breaks like glass, extremely impressed with this.
4. Very simple design. Rifle breaks down in about 2 minutes and you only need the point of a 50 BMG bullet to do complete disassembly.
5. Very high quality starlight hard gun case included in package.
6. Very impressed with its accuracy so far.
I set the rifle up at 500 yards to get scope dialed in as this range was a more protected shooting range in case the first shots went somewhere I was not expecting them to, BAD THING with a 50 BMG. That did not happen though and rifle shot very well at 500 yards just making a big crater in the dirt after reducing the 2 moa sized target rock to pretty much dust. Then moved out to 1000 yards and the rifle easily held 1.5 moa. I was impressed with this, especially since I was shooting mil spec M33 ball projos.
On the second outing, I shot some of the Lehigh 650 solid Ball match bullets. Had to drop my load to 220 grains of WC860 on this load and velocity was right at 2800 fps but accuracy improved noticeably and was consistently shooting 1 moa class groups with some a bit less but honestly, the rifle was shooting around 1 moa at 1000 yards. For a semi-auto 50 BMG, this is GREAT accuracy. I have never seen a Barrett M82A1 shoot to this level of consistency.
I also have some Barnes 647 gr TSX that I want to try. I am sure these will allow a bit more speed then the Lehigh solids and will be a better terminal performing bullet if I ever decide to use the rifle in the field which at 23 lbs is certainly possible. This is the only 50 BMG rifle I have owned that I could shoot off hand. Not easy but its certainly possible.
So from my early testing, the rifle is much lighter then the Barret, noticeably more accurate, more comfortable to shoot and several thousand $$ cheaper in price.
So far could not be happier. Now if only someone would make a semi-auto 50 BMG with a mag length long enough to use the 750 gr A-Max bullet, we would really have it made!!! Course, that's what the precision single shots are for!!!