Bora 99 Review #1

By Mark Sandford

First published by Mark in October 2014 and not written with a PSG readership in mind, so apologies to experienced PSG-ers

I finally got my FAC back (for less than a week before having to give it back again but that’s another story), with the variation on to buy a Barak Bora 99.

The gun was only £495 (+£10 P&P) which for a new semi-auto is pretty damn good, let alone a box magazine semi! I have previously eyed up Saiga/Vepr’s but they’ve just been too expensive (£1200 and then £££’s worth of fettling/accessories required to make them competition guns IF you can get one, plus I’m not keen on how it looks – imho the barrel looks massive as its so exposed). So when the precursor to the Bora 99 came out, the MKA1919, my interest was piqued again. As per usual other, more sensible things kept getting in the way, like houses, cars and an engagement ring and I more or less forgot about it.

Then the Bora 99 came out with a ticket price of <£500 and I started looking into a box fed shotgun again. I’m not sure how the Bora 99 came about but it’s a direct rip off, sorry descendant, of the first model MKA1919 (there is a later model MKA 1919 that addressed some of the manufacturing problems identified – cracking bolts etc). The Bora 99 has been improved from the MK1 MKA1919, not only in materials/manufacturing, but also a few features, such as the fold-down feed lips, straight stock (both versions of the MKA1919 have a slightly sloping stock) and disassembly requirements.

Having done a fair bit of research into MKA1919 Vs Bora 99, the general consensus appears to be that the Bora 99 is better out of the box and is cheaper (£250+ cheaper in the UK!), but the MKA1919 can be modified more extensively, including fitting AR-15 pistol grips and stocks. (N.B. I am aware of a UK Bora owner who has managed to fit an AR-15 stock to his, however the US companies currently making custom parts for both of these shotguns have strongly recommended against doing so because of structural differences in the guns).

As I’m a gun tart I surprised myself that I went for the Bora 99 but the cost difference to get a competent gun swayed it for me, I’d rather spend the extra money on magazines than tinkering with a gun just to get it to work/not fall apart. N.B. I have read on the Saiga12 forum that Firebird Precision may be bringing out a new aluminium lower receiver (and other parts) for the Bora 99 this summer which would allow you to fit AR stocks and pistol grips. If they do then the choice between the guns is a no brainer for me, although getting a new receiver into this country might be a bit of a task!

The gun is ‘agricultural’ in finish and mechanism, and after using a slick competition tricked Benelli M2 for 6 years it was something of an eye opener (and hand nipper)! I have to say the recoil felt slightly heavier than my M2, which was a surprise given the number of times I’ve heard people say gas guns are much softer than inertia guns, but the M2 does have an all-singing-all-dancing stock design which may explain it. (I have shot a few gas op shotguns before and they didn’t seem that different to the M2 to me).

Speaking of the stock, the Bora 99 has a straight stock, rather than the slightly sloping on the MK1919 which should improve recoil control. As I’ve only fired one box of cartridges through an MKA1919 (and that was more than a year ago), I can’t really accurately say either way, but simple physics suggests that should be the case. This does have the downside of raising your head further from the bore axis though, so sight choice is important. The stock has a slightly raised comb to compensate for this.

The Bora’s stock is finished with a thick rubber butt pad with is the grippiest thing I’ve felt in my life! Personally I prefer something smoother, for quickly mounting/dismounting the gun and I could see it being a real issue if you were wearing a baggy top, or the gun’s LOP is too long for you. I’ll be keeping an eye out for either a replacement pad or something I can slip over the butt pad to give the grip (or lack thereof) I prefer.

The trigger is heavy compared to my other shotguns, I’d guess at 7-8lbs, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing on a PSG gun. It may be more of an issue if you’re using it for TSG slug stages where more refinement is required. I know the MKA1919 trigger mech can be replaced/tuned so this may also be possible for the Bora.

I test fired my Bora 99 last weekend and used the following cartridges;

• Eley First 28g #7.5 and #8 70mm Fibre
• Lyalvale Express High Velocity Standard 28g #7.5 70mm Fibre
• Gamebore Black Gold 28g #6 67mm Fibre
• RC Sipe 32g #5 65mm Fibre
• Lyalvale Express Super Game 36g BB 70mm Plastic
• Lyalvale Express Super Game 36g SG 70mm Fibre
• Geco Coated Competition Slug 26g Slug 67.5mm Fibre

Despite the gun stating that only ‘heavy’ (which I read as 30g+) 70mm or 76mm (2¾” or 3”) should/could be used, the gun cycled flawlessly with all of the above, which was a relief as I’d recently bought a load of the RC Sipe 65mm cartridges! The gun got 200-250 cartridges through it in total.

So the gun works well and the recoil is manageable, the next thing that you need to use a shotgun for PSG is its reloading capabilities. A box mag fed gun simply can’t be beat for speed of reload (assuming you want to FULLY reload it of course, but more on that in a moment), so this is an area of interest for me. First of all I have to say the magazines for this gun are HUGE, the 5rd mags are bigger than a SLR/G3 magazine and the 10rd mags are more than double the size of that! The mag springs are a good 2-3mm thick and it takes a fair bit of effort to load them, especially if your cartridges have thick brass. They do appear to be of better quality (and appearance imo) than the MKA 1919 magazines.

Unfortunately when I first got the gun neither the 5 or 10rd magazines would fall free of the mag well when the magazine release button is pressed no matter whether they were loaded or unloaded, or whether the bolt was closed or open. The 5rders are much looser than the 10rders and after taking some basic measurements, both mags show similar thickness and depth, therefore I have to assume that it’s the extra curvature of the 10rders that causes them to be tighter (to both insert and remove). Given the criticality of fast magazine loading for PSG, and going against my principle of never permanently altering a gun still in warranty, I took to the mag well with a flat hobby file. I’ve only removed a small amount of material so far and now the 5rders will fall free on a closed bolt, either empty or with cartridges in, and the 10rders will fall free only on a closed bolt with cartridges in (this is due to the magazine pushing itself out against the bottom of the bolt, whereas when the bolt is open there is nothing to push against).

In order to maximise the reloading speed potential of the gun, both size magazines must be able to fall free from the gun even if the bolt is open. Now here’s the problem; the bolt hold open device is triggered by a tab which protrudes from the back of the magazines follower which only appears once the mag is empty.

Therefore, when the tab actives the bolt hold open device, locking the bolt open, not only does the magazine not have the bottom of the bolt to push against, but it also has to over come the friction force of the bolt hold open tab of the magazine. The only way of ‘fixing’ this I can think of is to cut a channel down the back of the magazine well where this tab could slip into. For me this is a pretty extreme measure as it may affect the structural integrity of the mag well. Its unlikely, but still possible. If anyone can offer some advice on this I’d be grateful. Until I decide whether or not to cut the channel I’m just going to stick to filing the mag well until the 10rders will also drop free on a closed bolt with no cartridges in.

Regarding loading speed: reloading a full magazine in a box mag fed gun over a tube fed gun is obviously quicker, however if you just need to put a couple of rounds in it could be a lot more close, and when it comes to Load-1-Shoot-1 stages the tube gun is going to win. You don’t have to perform a magazine change for every single round, you can leave a magazine in there and just put one round on top of the mag follower, but you just can’t throw them in the ejection port like you can with a regular tube gun, the cartridge must be (reasonably) carefully placed.

‘Field’ disassembly of the gun is pretty straight forward and similar to most semi-auto shotguns out there, you simply unscrew the barrel retention nut, slip off the foreguard and then remove the barrel.

To get the bolt out you also have to drop the feed lips and remove the bolt handle. To drop the feed lips simply pull the bolt back a short way and use the lever on the left side of the gun at the top of the lower receiver.

To remove the bolt handle you have to push the bolt ¾ of the way back (using the action bars) until the slot on the bolt matches the slot on the bolt handle. You can then remove the action bars, bolt and return spring. This is as far as you need to go to clean the gun.

If you want to split the receivers, unfortunately its not the same as an AR with two nice pins. First remove the butt pad by taking the screw out of the bottom of the stock next to the pad (And on that note; I removed the sling mount as it digs in your ribs if you put the stock under your arm to wrench a mag out/slam one in). You can then see a large Allen-head bolt which you need a long hex-bit driver to reach. I couldn’t source a long shank t-bar type so I just bought a longer shank adaptor which I can use with the short t-bar handle I already had.

The official method of separating the two receivers has me perplexed as you’re supposed to unscrew the Allen bolt 4 turns, then smack the hex driver with a hammer until the two halves begin to separate, I wouldn’t like to be doing this too many times as I can see the threads of the bolt/nut becoming damaged over time. Once the halves are about 1cm apart you can them pull them completely apart with your hands. Likewise when you put the 2 halves back together you have to hit the front of the upper receiver with a hammer to close them back up – I’ve used a rubber mallet for this to avoid damaging the paint work.

Another issue with these guns is the fit/finish. Having read extensively online about them, no two guns are exactly the same, to the extent that parts from one gun, may not fit on another without ‘fettling’. Now this is reflected in the price of the gun so I can’t complain too much but its still disappointing in a modern gun. I’ve experienced this as a ‘drop in’ modification part (enlarged mag release button) required me to enlarge the hole which the bolt fits through to attach it to the gun.

The Bora 99 comes with M-16 style carry handle/front post sights, however they are utter junk, you’d be ashamed to see plastic of that quality on an Airsoft gun let alone a firearm so they were binned straight away. As mentioned above, due to the straight stock you can’t get you head down over the barrel like you can with a normal shotgun so sight(s) choice is important. I’ve added a Sightmark Ultrashot QD (not the sight shown in top picture) to my Bora and put some Magpul MBUS ‘iron’ sights on, more for window dressing than anything else. Given the length of the Picatinny rail you could pretty much put any configuration of sights you could imagine on there.

With PSG you shoot a variety of ammunition so I had a choice to make as to whether to set the red-dot up so that it was bang on with slug and hope the bird/buckshot goes in the right place, or vice versa. I chose the former and was pleased with the performance of the gun with slug at 30m (clovers/same hole using the cylinder choke). After zeroing for slug I then tested the sight at various distances with birdshot on 15×15cm metal plates from 5-15m away (typical PSG distances), and I’m happy to report that they all went down, time after time. I did mean to pattern the gun/cartridges in relation to sight picture but we were a bit pressed for time. I think the reticle I use on the Ultrashot (it has 4 different ones) also helped as it has a 1MOA dot for precise/slug work, and a 65MOA circle for faster/birdshot shooting.

Another consideration for a PSG gun is how you’re going to carry additional ammunition. Fortunately with box mag guns this is much less critical, there are fewer options to befuddle you than with a tube fed gun and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to put something together. The 2 competition methods seem to be; some sort of pouch or large spring clips on the side of the magazine that slip over a belt. If its an informal/practice shoot you could get away with just having a couple wedged in you back pockets!

As I couldn’t source any of the purpose made clips (although they’re easy enough to make with the appropriate tools), I went for pouches. Normal sized magazine pouches won’t cut it due to the beastly size of the Bora’s mags (AR/AK pouches aren’t wide enough and SLR/G3 pouches aren’t deep enough – for the 10rders anyway). After doing some research I’ve found the PRC 148 MBITR Radio Pouch is the ideal size for the 10rd magazines. They offer enough support and grip on the magazines for ‘normal’ competition conditions, but if you’re doing something more energetic they also have elasticated cords with fast clips to keep the mag firmly in place. You can get these on Ebay for nothing (£3.70-£6.50 depending on how many you order at a time). Don’t be put off buying ‘Airsoft’ pouches, most are massively over-engineered for what they were meant for and can easily cope with firearm/competition use.

The next ‘problem’ to solve was how to attach the pouches to me – IPSC have banned carrying ammunition at chest level, therefore a chest rig was out. I’ve opted for a heavy duty Viper modular MOLLE belt that you can attach pouches to (About £15). The combination of the pouches and belt allow for a fair few variations on how you can have your magazines to hand, but I’ve opted for 3 pouches from my left hip for reloading during a stage, and 1 on my right hip for the initial load of the gun before the stage starts. Obviously depending on the number of targets and what option start the stage is will dictate how many magazines I have and where they would be placed. Each magazine weighs approx 1kg loaded so if its an 8 target stage its unlikely I’d have more than 2 magazines on me.

So far the modifications I’ve done to the gun;

• Added an enlarged magazine release button
• Added a Magpul BAD lever bolt release
• Added a Tooth&Nail ‘breacher’ choke (this is a functional Modified choke)
• Filed the magazine well to allow the magazines to come out/go in easier

More stuff to do;

• Add a Tooth&Nail side charging handle fore-guard
• File the mag well down more
• Cut a channel for the bolt hold open tab to fit into?

In conclusion; this is a cheap, fun gun that works. Its rough around the edges but gets you playing with the box-mag shotgun boys for a third of the cost. Realistically, it’s a PSG/TSG or plinking gun only; taking this to a clay ground is going to get you some funny looks at best, chucked out at worst, definitely not a gun for the walnut brigade! The longevity of the gun remains an unknown quantity but for the money I’m willing to take a punt. I’ve got a practice shoot at the end of the month and a Level 1 comp the week after and I plan to use the Bora for those so I’ll let you know how it/I get on under ‘stress’ conditions

Mark

Parts 2 and 3 to follow soon – Ed

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