Bora 99 Review #3

By Mark Sandford

First published in 2014

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I’ve now had my BR99 for about 9 months and its had 3000-3500 cartridges through it.
I’ve shot the entire UKPSA Championship with it (5 level III matches), a level II match, the F4i Ironman Challenge, all 4 of the Postal League matches, 6 level I matches and 7 practice comps at my local club. This is the most PSG matches I’ve ever shot in a single year and all of them apart from 2 (level 1’s) were with the BR99. I came second in the UKPSA Championship (damn you Roswell!) and have won the Postal League for Open division (mainly because the guy that won the Championship didn’t shoot many of the postal matches! Go attendance!!)

As with any new competition gun it has been evolving the whole time, with stuff being added to it (and very occasionally, stuff being taken off ), seemingly almost every month. Now that the Firebird Precision lower has been added and successfully field tested I consider the gun to be finished. Well, as finished as any competition gun ever is….

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The Firebird Precision lower is a nice addition to the gun, although I would say it’s not essential. Providing you spend some time and effort filing the mag well of the original lower to get the mags to drop freely, then it’s perfectly serviceable. So why spend the money (60% the cost of the original gun!) on the replacement lower? Firstly, although you can file the original receiver/mag well to get the mags to drop free, it’s a pain in the @rse. When I first got my gun you had to fight to get the magazines INTO it, let alone getting them out. Why it was built like this I have no idea, other than perhaps the 10rd mags were an afterthought as the 5rd mags do work straight away. Added to that the magazine fit differs whether the upper receiver is fitted or not (it gets tighter with the upper fitted) and you have to remove the upper in order to be able to do the work (and it is advisable to remove the magazine latch and bolt hold open mechanism too). Removing and fitting parts over and over can, and does result in wear, which on a cheap gun like this can take its toll. If you have the time and patience to do this, more power to you, I don’t and only went as far as I did because I didn’t have really a choice given that the competition season was about to kick off when I got it.

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Secondly, the replacement lower allows you to fit your own trigger group (any AR trigger group works and you can get some VERY nice AR triggers), your own pistol grip (although the original is actually quite good – for my hands at least) and most importantly of all for me, an adjustable stock*. The original stock was too long for me (14.25” LOP IIRC), added to that the extremely grippy butt pad and you’ve got a recipe for slow, snaggy mounting, which is exactly what you don’t want on a gun used for the snap shooting PSG and TSG. Once you have the lower, the world is your oyster when it comes to stocks, there are literally hundreds of options. I went for the Magpul UBR due to the unique cheek piece which gives a fixed stock cheek weld, but with the adjust-ability of a collapsible stock. It is also quite heavy and helps to bring the centre of gravity to the middle/rear of the gun.

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*I’m aware that the MKA1919 AR stock adaptors have been fitted successfully to BR99’s, however as I knew my gun would be getting a large amount of ammo through it, and I wanted to fit the UBR stock (which cannot be fitted using the adaptor), so this wasn’t an option I wanted to pursue.

I’ve only used my BR99 with the FP lower fitted three times so far, but I have to say its speeded up my reloading a LOT. When I was using my original, (and well filed) lower, there was no guarantee that during competition conditions the mag would completely clear the gun when the mag button was pressed EVERYTIME, so the drill I used was to give the mag a slight tug as I pressed the mag button, this added a second thing to do with my left hand during the reloading cycle and slowed mag changes. I’m hoping the FP lower will also be less susceptible to the magazines swelling in hot conditions and sticking like they do with the original plastic lower. This is usually the case with metal on metal, but only time will tell; roll on summer 2015!Now the downside; the FP lower is made in the USA, for the USA market. For some strange reason the 10rd BR99 magazine hasn’t been imported into the USA and the FP BR99 lowers mag well was designed around the MKA1919 10rd magazine which IS available over there. (Conversely, the MKA1919 magazines are like rocking horse doo-doo over here, and despite them only being 10rd mags, no one from the US seemed able (or possibly just willing) to export them). The MKA1919 10rd magazines are actually mod-ed 5rd magazines which have different dimensions to the BR99 10rders in that they are less deep. BR99 10rd magazines are therefore too deep to fit the FP lowers mag well!!! A caveman like solution was found which basically meant hammering the front of the BR99 mags to get them to fit into the new lower; my attempt at this failed quite miserably and resulted in making a magazine that no longer fitted EITHER lower!! So I was then stuck with a brand spanking new lower, that I could only use the two 5rd magazines that came with the gun in. Needless to say 2 x 5rd mags for PSG is about as much use as boobs on a snake.

MKA1919 10rder:

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I did fit the lower to my gun** for a TSG match in August as I knew the round count for all of the ‘standards’ (stages in PSG talk) is 6, so I could use my 5rd mags with one in the chamber, and an MKA1919 owner kindly loaned me 2 of his 10rd mags. While the gun worked with the mags, the bolt hold open lever seemed to only get a very weak purchase on the bolt and would only sporadically lock the bolt back when the magazine was empty. This isn’t really a problem for PSG, but it was a nightmare for a TSG match, especially with ‘load one, shoot one’ stages, which are bad enough with a mag fed gun, and nigh on impossible for one without a working bolt hold open!**You have to cannibalism parts from the original BR99 lower into the FP lower, so unless you can source a spare set of these parts it’s a bit of a faff on swapping them back and forth. Parts required are;Magazine release buttonMagazine catchMagazine catch springMagazine catch boltBolt release catch/lever (the lever only, not the metal housing it sits in)Bolt release springFeed rampFeed ramp leverFeed ramp detent (inc. springs)The second issue to surface was with the safety. It operates like an AR safety but instead of the detent and spring being in the pistol grip and coming up from below, they are housed in the lower receiver and engage from the top.

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For some reason during the match my safety jammed solid (fortunately in the Safe position), and I had to completely disassemble the gun to get at the detent and spring! Once I had access I couldn’t see anything obvious, however when I tried it again it locked again so I shot the rest of the match with the whole safety assembly removed from the gun, something you couldn’t do in a rated PSG match, and the only reason I got away with it in a TSG match was because I’ve been shooting with the RO’s for the match for years and they know I’m a safe gun. At home I had another look and assumed that the lip of the detent hole was just too high and was binding with the detent ball bearing. I filed and smoothed the lip and that seemed to have done the trick….

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So apart from that outing, for the past 3 months my new lower had sat at the back of my cabinet annoying me every time I went in there! I was waiting while I made enquiries about getting MKA1919 10rd magazines out of the USA, despite them apparently being inferior to the BR99 mags, and the obvious extra cost involved in re-buying 5-6 mags. The wait came to a head when I found out that despite me having had friends bring dozens of magazines back from the US in the past, this might have actually been a questionable practice…. That was pre-Obummer days though before the US went into full hysteria mode about exporting stuff to the terrorist hotbed that is the UK….. I decided it was better for me to chance getting the lower modified to fit BR99 mags, than my mates getting quizzed by the ATF at the airport – cos I’m nice like that(!) I took the lower and a 5rd and 10rd mag to my local gunsmith, showed him the problem and left him to it. As per usual Dave at Bowtec delivered and he simply measured the two different mags and took the corresponding difference in measurement off the front wall of the mag well. Simples.

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I then shot the first half of the UKPSA Winter 100 comp the other weekend with the new receiver attached, using BR99 10rd mags. The problem with the bolt hold open (BHO) disappeared completely and the gun now locks back as reliably as it did with the original receiver – I assume the BR99 magazines are presenting at the correct angle and therefore the tab on the back of them that actuates the BHO is just more pronounced than when I was using MKA1919 mags. Mag changes were effortless and reasonably smooth when I did my part.

Unfortunately the safety catch issue reared its head again (although only once), however this time using brute force it did shift, so I presume the lip just needs more filing. I’m hesitant to go too far though as I think a strong positive detent is essential, particularly on a gun with an ambidextrous safety as you can accidentally knock the safety on if the lever touches the firing hand (see pic below). I’ve now filed the detent hole again so fingers crossed I’ve taken enough off now. This is my only real criticism of the FP lower, however it should be mentioned that I don’t think they actually make the safety mechanism, its just sourced from another company.

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N.B. I have now shot another practice match and the safety issue seems to have been addressed.Although I’ve still got a few fun matches to shoot this year, I’m really looking forward to the 2015 season, not least because there are going to be a load of new BR99 shooters next year!!

OTHER ISSUES

Although one/two of these issues seems to have been addressed at the factory in the BR99, the first two are both worth mentioning, especially for MKA1919 owners. The MKA1919 drive block is prone to cracking across the top where the action bars sit. The BR99 drive block addresses this by simply reaming this out. You can do this yourself with MKA1919 drive blocks and it prevents it from happening. N.B. If you get a side-charging for-end from Tooth and Nail Armoury it will be supplied with the MKA1919 type drive block. I’ve got one and mine did crack, however not only did T&N send TWO free replacements, but simply cutting out the cracked area on my original has stopped any further cracking, and I now have 2 spares – one of which I have already reamed out and carry as a spare.

Drive blocks left to right: BR99 original, T&N side charger replacement that has been reamed, T&N original:

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The next issue concerns cracking in the bolt carrier, where the bolt lock hinge rotates. I didn’t find out about this for a while so I don’t know if my bolt carrier cracked, or like the drive block, it was purposely cut like this at the factory. It does look clean and perfectly vertical so I presume it was actually cut like this – if you have a new BR99 please have a look to see if yours has this cut and let me know.

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Neither of these issues appears to be fatal to the gun but it is something worth monitoring. I’ve put 3000+ cartridges through my gun so far without them becoming a problem.The last issue I’ve come across was completely of my own doing. There is a bolt that connects the magazine release button to the catch that holds the magazine in the mag well. Before I’d filed my mag well out properly I discovered magazines would more freely fall from the gun if you didn’t fasten this bolt all the way up, like this;

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This was actually a symptom of the extended magazine release button I added not fitting properly (it has to be reamed out a bit so the bolt sits at the correct depth – don’t go too far though!!)As the mag catch bolt wasn’t sitting squarely in the hole on the mag catch there was room for it to wiggle and after 9 months of use/abuse the bolt had opened up the threaded hole on the catch to the point that it had about 5 degrees of movement in any direction, which in turn meant the mag catch could move to the point it would no longer properly engage magazines. So my advice is; if you’ve fitted an after-market mag release button, make sure after you’ve reamed it enough to allow the bolt to fit properly!!! Fortunately the very kind people at The Shooting Shed supplied me with a replacement which has saved my bacon, and I’m still waiting for the bill!

Make sure the bolt is fully seated, like THIS!

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