Bear Creek Arsenal SIDE CHARGING 7.62×39 Rifle, One Handy Rifle!


Bear Creek Arsenal Right Side Charging 7.62x39 Rifle
Bear Creek Arsenal Side Charging 7.62×39 Rifle

I have hunted deer here in central Indiana off and on for about 40 years. I’ve had varied success… some years were better than others. I predominantly hunt with handguns, but about three seasons ago, I took a long gun to the hunt… Bear Creek Arsenal’s 7.62×39 AR.

I wondered about how efficient the “.30 Russian Short” would be on deer; I needn’t have wondered.  At a measured 149 yards, I took a doe, and she fell about 4 steps later. I was using surplus steel-cased 123-gr. JSP ammo, nothing fancy.

So… did I learn anything from that? It told me that this caliber is effective on deer-size critters out past a hundred yards. Some of my preconceived notions about this cartridge went up in smoke. Plus, the rifle is a great performer. Let’s see where this cartridge came from, then we’ll take a look at the rifle.

Bear Creek Arsenal SIDE CHARGING 7.62×39 Rifle

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The 7.62×39

Popularized after WWII by the AK-47, the cartridge had its origin in July 1943 when the Soviets wanted to come up with an intermediate cartridge that could be fired in different types of weapons, including semi- and fully automatic ones. This idea seemed to catch on, as this was around the time that Germany developed the world’s very first assault rifle, the StG 44, with its mid-range 7.92x33mm Kurtz round, a similar concept.

The Russians considered 314 designs before narrowing it down to 8. An early (December 1943) version had a case length of 41mm and was selected for further development. Testing continued until, in 1947, the Ulyanovsk Machine Building Plant developed a cartridge that used a lead-wrapped steel-core bullet, unlike the original which was pure lead. That improved penetration. They also lengthened the bullet a bit to improve ballistics. To keep the cartridge O.A.L. where it was, the longer bullet required a shorter case. So, this is where we get the “39” part of 7.62×39. They shortened the case by two millimeters.

7.62×39

In the early ’60s, a “lacquered” steel case took the place of the previous copper-and-steel one. We still have a lot of that Berdan-primed steel-cased ammo in the U.S., where 7.62×39 sells with regularity for about .50/round in bulk. (Technical note: The “7.62” part of the cartridge name designation is not entirely accurate. 7.62 is technically .308″ in diameter, and the Russian Short is .312″. It should, therefore, be “7.92x39,” but it isn’t).

This is enough of a dive into history, but I think it’s interesting to see where cartridges and guns came from. You can read a more detailed history of this round here. 

A Side Charging AR Rifle

I have contributed to the Bear Creek Arsenal (BCA) blog now for a few years, and having done so, I have had access to several of their rifles and other items that they sell. So, it was with great expectations that I awaited the arrival of the 7.62×39 BC-15 AR they wanted me to review. When it came in, I was impressed with it. BCA is located in Sanford, North Carolina, and is one of the largest providers of AR-pattern uppers and lowers in the industry, according to my sources. 

It came with a silver inlay. Even given my habit of decorating my guns, I didn't do that!It came with a silver inlay. Even given my habit of decorating my guns, I didn't do that!
It came with a silver inlay. Even given my habit of decorating my guns, I didn’t do that!

This AR variation has one major difference from your average black rifle — it’s a side-charger. Notice the “plug” where a charging handle would normally be and the side-mounted charging handle.

I own different ARs, and I have to admit I like this arrangement. You can mount a scope without it interfering with charging the gun. This 1-8×24 Vortex Strike Eagle rifle scope fits perfectly and is just right for hunting Hoosier woods and fields. It’s one of my favorites, and I couldn’t have mounted it if the charging handle was up top.

Bear Creek Arsenal Right Side Charging 7.62x39 RifleBear Creek Arsenal Right Side Charging 7.62x39 Rifle
Bear Creek Arsenal Right Side Charging 7.62×39 Rifle

Before we get into things, here’s a quick run-down of the specs…

Bear Creek Arsenal’s 7.62×39 AR Specs

  • Platform: AR-15
  • Model:  BC-15
  • Weight: 6 lbs.
  • Barrel Length: 16 inches, heavy barrel; 1:10 twist
  • Finish: Parkerized
  • Material: 4150 chrome moly vanadium
  • Thread Pitch: 5/8 x 24
  • Caliber: 7.62×39 
  • Rail: 15.25-inch M-LOK
  • Feed Ramp: M4
  • Gas System Length: Carbine
  • Gas Block System:  0.750
  • Gas Hole Diameter: 0.093
  • Charging Style: Right Side Charging
  • Dimpled: Yes
  • Sights: None Included
  • Magazine Capacity: None Included                                                                                           
  • MSRP: $356.03

Features

One feature I like was mentioned above. Side charging, for me at least, is easier to do than standard top-rear AR charging. I came to the AR party a bit late and had to get used to “pulling the ears back” on my rifles, which I did. But I still prefer side charging.

Another thing I like about this rifle is the six-position butt stock. I know that this isn’t exactly earth-shaking and that most ARs come with something similar… it just makes the rifle easy to manage for this older shooter. 

Another thing that helps make this rifle a reliable shooter is the staked gas key. Many manufacturers are doing this nowadays, but I remember when that wasn’t the case. Things tend to be held where they should be on this rifle. 

Here’s something that I’m going to call a feature — the price. This gun lists for under $400. That’s a steal! If you want to branch out from .223 to a cheap, easy-to-feed .30-cal rifle, here’s your huckleberry. You can buy the whole rifle for not much more than an upper by itself. 

The last thing I’ll mention that I like is the 15-plus-inch rail. That gives you plenty of room to mount a scope, red dot, or whatever Pic-rail accessory you want to put on it. When I first got the rifle, I put a red dot on just to shoot it and that worked, but to take advantage of the (longer than I expected) range of the .30 Russian Short, a scope is indicated. (I admit I was impressed when I laser-ranged the 149-yard shot I took after that hunt… the bullet hit almost exactly where the reticle was. I was truly impressed!). 

Non-Features

I guess I should’ve called these last two sections “pros and cons.” The gun is not perfect. There are two basic flaws with it that I see.

First, there is no magazine included. BCA does this with many of their rifles for some reason. I’ve never asked my BCA contact why they don’t ship a mag with a rifle. They have two brands that they recommend — ASC and DHT — but none are included with the rifle.

Second is something else that many manufacturers do that I don’t like, including BCA. No sights are included. I understand that sights are like cars… every shooter has their favorite. But, even many lower-end ARs include at least a set of rudimentary irons. I’m not sure why BCA doesn’t do this. After all, they sell a front/rear iron sight set for forty bucks on the site. 

Anyway, I’m done. Overall, the rifle works just fine, is affordable, and is enjoyable to shoot. It’s just that it would be good to go right out of the box if these two issues were addressed without the shooter having to buy extra items. 

How Does It Shoot?

I told you above how I waylaid a deer at about 150 yards with no visible bullet impact deviation from the 100-yard-zeroed reticle placement on the target. I consider that, in itself, to be a result of the accuracy of both the ammo and the rifle. But, paper targets are informative, as they prove very quickly if you have an accurate rifle or not, with proper ammo. As Col. Townsend Whelen said, “Only accurate rifles are interesting”. This rifle seems to be interesting, according to that saying. I decided that, once the snow that is falling today will allow, I will set up a target or two as close to my 100-yard marker as I can. So, long story short — that’s what I did. 

I shot a few targets of what 7.62×39 ammo I had on hand — the old surplus steel-cased FMJ 123-grain. Of course, you can buy “modern” brass-cased, Boxer-primed ammo — being an unreformed reloader, I appreciate that — but I think it’s fun to see what the older stuff can do since there is a ton of it out there for fairly cheap. (I know, not as cheap as it used to be, but it’s still not bad). Here are a couple of representative targets, 5-shot groups…

The groups are almost identical. It’s not quite MOA, but not too far off. This kind of accuracy from old, military surplus steel-cased ammo is eye-opening. 

Please understand… the “.30 Russian Short” caliber is NOT going to be a tack driver with most of the guns chambered for it. But, as an intermediate midrange cartridge, it gets the job done if you’re not expecting sub-MOA groups at 100 yards. It’s plenty accurate for what many shooters call “minute-of-deer”, as I found out during that hunt.  As I said, my eyes were opened to its potential and these targets reinforce that.

To Sum Up

Are you looking for an AR in something more than .223 but less than .308? The 7.62×39 compares very favorably with the time-honored .30-30 and the newer .300 BLK. Ballistics are similar for all three.

The Russian Thirty’s advantage lies in the availability of surplus ammo. You’re looking at about 50 – 55 cents per round (in bulk) with Russian-made 7.62×39 as opposed to 65 – 70 cents per round for .300 BLK or $1.00 per round for .30-30.

So… if you want great performance on deer- or hog-sized critters out to 200 yards or so and want to buy ammo pretty cheaply, the old Russian Thirty works. I once owned an SKS. Interesting story about it — the local Marine Corps League swapped mine for one they bought, since mine was period-correct, to use in their display. I did lots of informal shooting with it — mud puddles, etc. –but I never once thought about hunting with it. That rifle probably wouldn’t have worked very well for deer, but this modern AR from BCA fits very well in a hunting stand or ground blind. It’s accurate and reliable, it features AR modularity, and you can mount whatever optic you want easily.

Why not give one a try? For around $400 (even buying a mag and sights), you can take advantage of some fairly cheap ammo and have a lot of fun!  


About Mike Hardesty

With experience spanning over 45 years, Mike Hardesty has long enjoyed shooting and reloading. An inveterate reloader, he casts bullets and reloads for a diverse array of firearms, each handled with long-practiced precision. Living in rural Indiana, his homestead boasts a personal 100-yard range where he shares his love for guns to his four sons, their wives, and eleven grandchildren. As a recognized author, his writings have been featured in notable platforms like Sniper Country, Bear Creek Arsenal Blog, Pew Pew Tactical, TTAG, Dillon Precision’s Blue Press, and Gun Made, revealing his ongoing passion for firearms at the age of 72.

Mike HardestyMike Hardesty

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