In today’s world we have every option out there to customize our personal rifle. From different manufacturers of receivers to the wide range of accessories available to the civilian market, the options are endless.
What I’m going to specifically talk about is the mid-length gas system and the experience I’ve had with mine manufactured by Bravo Company USA. The history of the mid-length is derived from a man by the name of Mark Westrom who was a former United States Army Ordnance Officer. He was the inventor of a 7.62 NATO sniper rifle based on the design concepts of the infamous Eugene Stoner. Westrom would later go on to buy the Armalite rand name and logo in 1996. From there he helped develop the mid-length gas system of rifles that is in use today.
Background of Other Gas Systems:
Now before anyone starts arguing over who developed it or what gas system is better. I’ll give you a little background of myself and to what has drawn me to be a huge proponent of the “mid-length movement.” I served in the United States Marine Corps for four years as an Infantry Rifleman (0311) in Lima Co. of 3rd Battalion/2nd Marines out of Camp Lejeune, NC. During those four years I served a deployment overseas in the northwestern part of Iraq and then being part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) as the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) in the Mediterranean Sea. My time spent in 3/2 comprised of me being a Squad Automatic Rifleman (SAW) Gunner with the M249 SAW, Pointman and eventually Team Leader. Seeing how the Marine Corps works, the only people I witnessed carry an M-4 Carbine were Squad Leaders, Plt Sgts./Commanders and the “higher ups” who in my opinion didn’t actually “need” it seeing they were the ones behind the wire. Either way, everyone else were issued the famous M-16A4 which, as everyone knows, has a “rifle-length” 20 inch barrel and fixed buttstock. For long-range engagements, this weapons system is a joy to have, but for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) situations, not so much. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to clear rooms out while deployed and having to “short stock” (putting the actual butt stock over the top of my shoulder) my rifle while issued the M-16A4 because have proper contact with the stock would not have been efficient for the given situation. Basically, clearing out small rooms with a 20 inch barrel is not easy and especially not safe. I can tell you though, other than those situations the weapon system performed flawlessly and I had no problems with the actual operation of firing it.
This is where the Carbine Gas System of the M-4 comes in. Aforementioned earlier in the article, I made reference to how only specific people in my unit were issued this weapon system. There was a much higher gain of ease in CQB operations while using this, mostly to its size having a 14.5 inch barrel and telescoping butt stock. This made the M-4 a lot easier to be employed in tighter areas as well as an overall lighter rifle. The only downside to this specific weapon was the fact of the shorter gas system and the lack of “real estate” on the given picatinny rails that were provided. Compared to the spacious M-16A4 a lot of our lasers/electronics were a lot more “bunched” together on the cramped rails of the M-4. Seeing that the gas system is shorter than that of a “rifle-length” gas system of the A4, there is more of a chance for the bolt to not operate correctly as well as have a sharper recoil impulse. A 16 inch barrel carbine-gas system (which is a 14.5 inch just with a muzzle break attached) has a dwell time that is 1.5 inches longer than that of a rifle-length. (Dwell time is the distance from the gas hole to the end of the barrel.) Thus, it’s pumping more gas into the bolt carrier key and forcing it back harder. In the end it’s harder on parts over a long term. Once again making reference of my time spent in the military, I saw multiple M-4’s fail due to the actual bolt not cycling correctly as well as more broken internal parts versus that of its bigger brother, the M-16A4.
Finally, in comes the Mid-Length Gas System and my personal use of it. After leaving the military, I wanted a rifle that mimicked mine that I had while I was in. I did just that by building up a Stag Model 3 with all the accessories. This specific model was a Carbine Gas System with a 16 inch barrel. I’ve shot it over time and have had fun with it but honestly wanted something a little different. This is where I did a little research and found out about the Mid-Length Gas System offered by Bravo Company USA. (BCM) I ordered their 14.5 inch upper (pinned & welded break) with the traditional A2 style front sight. I added all Magpul brand accessories to it and there I had my new, lightweight, “fighting” rifle. I took this to a three day carbine course offered by Kyle Lamb of Viking Tactics and let me tell you what an honest difference I could feel. To start off with, I personally use the “thumb-over-bore” method of gripping the gun so the extended length of the handguards greatly improved my handling of the rifle as well as greater accuracy. During the three days we shot over 1,800 rounds as well as shot from a variation of unorthodox positions. The “flatter shooting” performance was definitely felt over these three days and I wish I transferred over sooner to this efficient gas system. As mentioned previously the gas system
is extended allowing for more “off gas” which keeps the gun flat and on target during whatever situations you may encounter. I never once encountered any malfunctions to my rifle and I wouldn’t honestly expect any coming from a company such as BCM. If you’re looking for a new rifle to build or maybe even just a new upper, try out a mid-length from BCM I know you won’t be disappointed.