Bear Creek Arsenal Review – Gear Report Road Trip Factory Tour

Bear Creek Arsenal Review – Gear Report Road Trip Factory Tour It started with an email to Jason, the resident FFL and AR specialist at Gear Report. A couple of […]
Bear Creek Arsenal visit - black logo

Bear Creek Arsenal visit – black logo

Bear Creek Arsenal Review – Gear Report Road Trip Factory Tour

It started with an email to Jason, the resident FFL and AR specialist at Gear Report.
A couple of Silencer manufacturers committed to send cans for review. Each was rated for up to .300 AAC Blackout… but Gear Report didn’t have any guns chambered in .300 blackout.
I asked Jason who he recommended for quality, but budget friendly AR15 rifle and pistol uppers in .300 AAC. Since Jason builds a LOT of ARs for Law Enforcement Agencies in the region, he often has the challenge of finding the best value in ARs that can be depended on in deadly situations. He gave me only 3 names, and one was followed by… “oh, and they are just down the road in Sanford, NC”.

That was Bear Creek Arsenal.

*Update: While we still like BCA, we have found  that we like AeroPrecision‘s overall product offerings a bit better. Click here to check them out.

Bear Creek Arsenal visit - no cameras

Bear Creek Arsenal visit – no cameras allowed

Who?

I checked out their website and found that they really do offer pretty good prices. However, I had never heard of them and wanted to see for myself what kind of commitment to quality they have. My undergraduate degree is in Industrial Technology and I created an ISO-9000 quality program for a manufacturer back in the day… So, I have enough formal training to recognize a well run shop with a focus on quality… or the lack of quality focus. Bear Creek Arsenal was kind enough to agree to let the Gear Report team crash their facility on a Friday afternoon. So, Jeff, Josejuan and Chris from Three Pillars Shooting piled in the luxury battlewagon and blew off “work” for a Road Trip! While our brief visit did not afford us a thorough review of their production and quality control systems, the gun room, where barrels were being inspected, bore snaked, oiled, and sleeved in protective wrap for storage until final assembly, appeared clean and well organized… both good signs.

Size matters…

I had heard that Bear Creek is a “small shop”. Um… what?! The main shop floor by the office isn’t massive, but it is just one of several expansive buildings filled with a mix of large CNC machines of various sorts and bins upon bins of raw materials and machined parts for cars and guns. And yes, I said car parts. Bear Creek Arsenal is owned by Moore’s Machine Company and resides on their site in Sanford, NC. While Bear Creek Arsenal may be a family owned business, it is certainly not a little Mom and Pop shop. The elephant in the room, as I found out while doing research for this post, might just be the rough start that MMC got off to when they started making AR15 pattern rifles. While I have no experience with any MMC branded rifles, the internet has a long memory and some reviews of their early products are rather brutal. This might be the reason that such an effort was made to impress upon us their intense focus on improving their product quality. The reality is that all I can really report on is what I see and experience, and so far I have seen nothing to worry me. In fact, left the facility rather impressed. The proof, they say, is in the pudding… or in this case, the barrels, as we have a few barrels that were pulled from their production stock and sent with us for testing and reviews. I am told that a complete upper will ship soon with a black spiral fluted 24″ heavy barrel with .223 Wylde chamber. Unfortunately, we had to leave before it was ready. Can’t wait to see how the Bear Creek Arsenal products perform.

Bear Creek Arsenal visit - upper

Bear Creek Arsenal visit – upper

Pics or it didn’t happen!

I apologize that we were not able to take any pictures or video in their production facility, but also appreciate that they described a big, ongoing investment in improving the quality of their products. It makes sense that BCA would want to protect their processes and products from the prying eyes of the brands they have in their sights. We were allowed to take a few pictures on the workbench in the gun room of select parts and assemblies. It is a real shame that we can’t share with you any info on the prototypes in various stages of production that we were shown. Some were awesome… one of the uppers that is in pre-production quite literally made the hair stand up on my arms. It was stunning. And then there was that one… doh! Almost slipped up and spilled the beans.

Barrels as works of art?

What do you do when you are a manufacturer who makes your own barrels, but can’t decide which new models would be best received by consumers?

Bear Creek Arsenal visit - Which barrel do you like best

Bear Creek Arsenal visit – Which barrel do you like best

Easy, let Gear Report line up a bunch of options and take pictures, then wait for the Gear Heads to let you know what they like. In this set you see 8 different barrels, from top to bottom. Please leave a comment stating which you like best.

  1. 16″ parkerized contour barrel
  2. 16″ stainless contour barrel
  3. 16″ diamond fluted parkerized heavy barrel
  4. 16″ diamond fluted stainless heavy barrel
  5. 18″ Bear Claw spiral fluted Melonite stainless barrel
  6. 10.5″ Heavy 1:8 .300 AAC Blackout Parkerized barrel
  7. 18″ (I think) stainless spiral fluted
  8. 16″ M4 1:9 coyote tan Cerakote

Sadly, the coolest barrel I have ever seen was sitting just 10 feet away and we were not able to take a picture of it. Lets just say that you will want to check the BCA website and FaceBook pages periodically to see if they release it. You will know it when you see it. 🙂 Seriously… the only thing that troubles me about this mystery barrel is that the typical lightweight AR handguard would still cover up quite a bit of the barrel.

Bear Creek Arsenal visit - 80% lower

Bear Creek Arsenal visit – unfinished 80% lower

NC born ARs

While they do source some raw parts, like upper and lower forgings, from elsewhere, most big parts are machined in-house. Bear Creek Arsenal drills, reams, rifles, turns, and if applicable, flutes barrels on their CNC Machines. They said that the quality of their barrels is beyond what even they expected and is leading the charge to higher quality. While our best interrogation techniques were not sufficient to pry out of them the brand names, I hear that BCA supplies OEM barrels to a variety of big name brands. Another, non-Bear Creek source told us a couple of brand names and, indeed, they were well known brands. Bear Creek Arsenal makes their own A2 bird cage muzzle devices, gas blocks and A2 front sights, as well as machining to complete  the forged uppers and lowers. They have other parts in the works that will be made in house soon. If you have followed the Bear Creek Arsenal brand, you might have noticed that the branding has changed. Gone is the bear with a swiping paw, replaced with a circle with an angry bear head. I was told that the transition to the new branding is in the works and being done in conjunction with improved quality measures.

More to come…

This was our first trip to Bear Creek Arsenal and, as with any new relationship that we care about, we are taking things slow. We saw a few prototypes that aren’t yet ready to fire, and heard about a few other cool things in development. We expect to visit BCA again when these new products, with a few innovations that I pinky swore not to reveal yet, are ready. With any luck, we will be cleared to take some pictures and maybe even video from the shop floor (not allowed on the shop floor this time) and will have more time to explore more products in more detail. In the mean time, look for the reviews on the barrels we received for testing as soon as we track down some uppers to build them on.

 

 

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.