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Bear Creek Arsenal: 7.62x39 16” Side Charging Complete Upper (Gen 2)
By George Ross Jr. March 27, 2021

With my first AR-47 build the idea was to use the AK-47’s cartridge in the AR platform to fill the void left by the lack of .223/5.56 ammunition. That AR-47 has fulfilled that role after some teething. Though the teething process I began to want to build an AR-47 that took more design aspects from the AK-47 than than just the 7.62x39 cartridge. One of the more notable differences between the AR-15 and the AK-47 is with how they are charged. The mil-spec AR platform has a non-reciprocating rear charging handle. The AK platform uses a reciprocating side charging handle as does this upper I am reviewing today.

Packaging/Shpping

Bear Creek Arsenal ships your upper in a cardboard box lined with egg crate foam and has the packing slip, BCA sticker, and Proposition 65 warnings attached to the outside of the box. The packaging did its job for the upper I received as there were no signs of damage to the upper from the riggers of shipping with Fed-Ex.

What’s New With Gen 2

Bear Creek Arsenal have updated their side charging complete uppers with two major improvements. The first and most obvious is with the charging handle itself. The old style handle had a real problem with loosing up during use. The new handle has a dowel that keeps the handle from moving and eventually wiggling the bolt out. As of yet the charging handle on the upper being reviewed here has not loosened. Even after 200 rounds down range.

The other major improvement deals with the cuts for the ejection port on the billet upper receiver. The last gen upper had a pinch point between the charging handle and the upper receiver. This caused cutting and pinching while charging the upper if not done carefully. With the Gen 2 upper the cutout for the ejection port had been widened alleviating the pinch point. I tried charging the upper different ways and did not experience any cutting, pinching, or biting. Bear Creek even updated the the notch for the bolt catch on the side of the upper receiver to allow for extended bolt catches.

What’s Missing From Gen 2

This bit applies specifically to the 7.62x39 iteration of the Gen 2 side charging upper. The mil-spec firing pin that comes with the upper is lousy at setting off Berdan primers. The inclusion of an enhanced firing pin would be a most welcome change.

Fit and Finish

The charging handle has a little bur on it at the very tip I don’t think it was machined that way. It most have been dropped pinched or something while the upper was being built. That is not the only ding this upper has there are several dings and small scratches on the upper.

As you can see below the gas key was staked once off the mark. The bolt carrier has some machining marks as well.

The Bear Creek Arsenal side charging complete upper Gen 2 is not pristine, but it’s fit and finish are not outside of my expectations given this upper’s price point.

Test Build

This upper was coupled with the lower from my first AR-47 build for testing. The complete parts list is below.

After I had swapped out the firing pin, lubed up the bolt carrier group (since I was there), and attached some iron sights it was time to head to the range.

At The Range

After the iron sights were dialed in at 50 yards I was getting 1-1/2” three round groups using this upper. I can ring large silhouettes out to 300 yards standing up or off the bench. If I do my part the Bear Creek Arsenal side charging complete upper is a decent shooter.

I got some rapid fire time in as well. The little silhouette below measures 8” by 16” at it’s widest and tallest points. It sits out at 50 yards on the rifle range.

Reliability

I had a few hiccups with failure to feed with steel cased ammunition. While the feed ramp is not polished to a shine the failure to feed issues where most likely due to the magazine I was using. Once there was a failure to feed with brass cased ammunition. None of the reliability issues I have are the fault of the upper. The reliability issues of any AR-47 start with the 7.62x39 cartridge not being designed for the AR platform. I need to figure out which magazines run the best.

Availability

Bear Creek Arsenal is doing fantastic work in keeping up with the current demand for their wares. Things do come and go, but they are usually not out of stock of something for more than a week. Their time to ship is within a couple of days of your order. Getting your hands on one for yourself shouldn’t be difficult at all.

Conclusion

Bear Creek Arsenal has done some good things with their Gen 2 side charging complete upper. The new charging handle seems to be working out well. The only glaring problem I can see is the lack of an enhanced firing pin, but for those shooting cartridges other than 7.62x39 there is no need for the enhanced firing pin. The Bear Creek Arsenal side charging complete upper is a solid value at the current price of $329.99 as of this writing. Which is less than what I paid for mine.

If you already have a Gen 1 side charging upper Bear Creek has got a upgrade program running. For $99 they will ship your upper both ways and install the upgraded parts. Updated April 12, 2021. For $99 Bear Creek Arsenal will ship both ways your upper receiver with bolt carrier group included, but it is up to you to get the new upper receiver installed. See the video below for more information. I apologize for the misinformation this video did not come out until after this review was published.