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Ok if you have read the 50 BMG Ammo page, we can begin to talk about rifles. I will offer short descriptions of rifles and then discuss opinions of them. These opinions are based on mix of problems I have read about, small/limited personal exposures to these rifles, tests I have read about, and manufacturer information I have read.

You will hear me mention the FCSA. The FCSA is the sanctioning body for 1000 yard competition shooting of 50 BMG rifles. The Fifty Caliber Shooters Association also has a legislative arm known as the FCI or “Fifty Caliber Institute” which is basically what the NRA is for regular gun owners. They lobby and educate to help stop restrictive “feel good” legislation having to do with 50 BMG ownership and shooting.

Rifle History:

Let us begin with a little conversation of the history of the 50 BMG rifle. It is commonly believed by non 50 BMG aficionados that the first 50 BMG rifle was built by Ronnie Barrett, this is incorrect. The first rifles were made years earlier by Gale McMillan. Gale did this while he was shooting for the US Army long range competition team. On a whim and out of curiosity, he built a scaled up bolt action rifle to fire 50 BMG cartridges. Ronnie Barrett didn't start making his rifles until the late 80's.

Gale basically did this just for fun as it wasn't really something he could use in competition at that time. So this was mainly done for fun. Later he eventually made this rifle for a few other recreational shooters, and helped some others make similar rifles. So here you have it, the history of 50 BMG rifles wasn't for military or police use, but for plain old “I got the biggest rifle” rock busting fun and curiosity. Remember that next time you hear people like VPC piping off about military rifles in public hands.

Rifle variants:

Generally you will see large scaled up versions of the standard bolt action rifles you may already be familiar with. Most 50 BMG rifles are single shot. There are fewer repeater 50 BMG rifles than single shots. There are even fewer semi-automatic rifles.

Of the bolt action types there are either captive bolt rifles, and non-captive bolt rifles. Having a non-captive or “removable” bolt rifle means that you basically load the round of ammo onto the bolt and then chamber it. These were popular because there is no extractor or ejector on the bolt which can “blow out” in the event of a case or pressure related failure. I don't think it is unreasonable for people to have a fear of having their face that close to a piece of ordnance this size when firing it off. Even Gale must have had some reservations about firing his rifle that first time.

Captive bolt rifles having large extractors and ejectors which can handle a case failure are becoming more common as the knowledge base of 50 BMG ammo and the nature of failures has become larger.

The kinds of rifles you will see are anywhere from dedicated “heavy” bench guns to bipod equipped lighter “tactical” rifles. This can be a bit misleading because a typical “tactical” 50 BMG rifle weighs anywhere from 30 pounds (13.6 Kg) to 39 pounds (17.7 Kg). The heavy rifles go 50 pounds up! The lightest of all 50 BMG rifles are generally those which are a 50 BMG bolt action upper placed onto a AR15 lower. My personal “bench” removable bolt gun is 30 pounds with scope. My other rifle, an AR upper 50 BMG non removable bolt on my A2 lower is 20 pounds.

The AR15 upper rifle is becoming more and more popular. Not only because they are light and portable, but since the law looks at the AR lower you already own as the actual “gun”, you just can mail order yourself a 50 BMG upper. This is also one of the lowest cost options for getting into a 50 BMG. Options for these uppers are the same as most custom 50 BMG complete rifles. You can get match chambers on custom match barrels to have a rifle you could compete with.

50 BMG's have generally 3 chambers, the “match” chamber, the “standard” chamber, and a hybrid of the two. This has to do with the internal dimension of the chamber not its strength. The match chamber is made for hand loaded match ammunition and some will not even chamber some of the surplus 50 BMG rounds you can find. It is a compromise of chamber size for maximum accuracy. A standard chamber will swallow about any 50 BMG ammo from match to surplus. It is a compromise of accuracy for the sake of not having problems feeding any ammo you can get your hands on.

Muzzle brakes found on 50 BMG rifles vary as much as the rifle configurations themselves. There are round “shark gill” types where a piece of round metal is broached directionally. Another kind is a 4 vent. These are flatter squarer brakes either welded or bolted together. There are a few other lesser variants, but all manufacturers aim for a 60% reduction in kick. From one end of the spectrum to the other they likely only vary by a few percentage points. Silencers for 50 BMG's exist also. I have read and through a scientific explanation, that by virtue of design not only do they reduce sound, they also reduce kick by operating as a sort of muzzle brake.

Optics quality for the 50 BMG are a must, but not for the reasons you might think. My first impressions of scope shopping for a 50 BMG was “holy shit its huge, it will destroy scopes!” Size is not really the reason why 50 BMG kills scopes. If you put similar muzzle braking systems on any other high power rifles, you would see the same sort of scope destructive nature.

The heavy recoil being suddenly stopped in its tracks has a sort of “crack the whip” effect on scopes. Most scopes even the cheap ones, have their innards braced to withstand heavy repeated recoil in the one “regular” direction. The kind of scope you need must be braced in both directions. This is found generally only quality scopes.

As I mentioned in the ammo article, many of these rifles are offered in the California legal and 50 BMG comparative 510 DTC Europ chambering.

A Few Rifles:


Anyhow building those rifles and others in smaller calibers became a business for Gale. Today the Mcmillan family carries on that tradition building the action found on most of the champion's 50 BMG bench rifles under the “McBros” and “McMillan Bros” name. They also build complete bad ass rifles. The “McMillan” name is also used for the separate company that builds kickass custom stocks.. There is also a McMillan optics company related to them, but I know basically nothing about them.

Opinions: This bolt action rifle is built by a company that builds rifles that you could probably take out of the box and compete with some of the big boys at a FCSA event. Or you could haul it into the mountains of Afghanistan to try to beat Rob Furlongs record 2,430 meter kill record. This is the rifle, not the M82 as is commonly mistaken that Rob Furlong used that day.


Well Gale may have been the first and started it, but the man who made the 50 BMG market what it is today Is Ronnie Barrett. The ubiquitous M82A1 is nearly synonymous with 50 BMG rifle. Just about any 50 BMG rifle you buy people will come up and say “wow a Barrett”. To them any rifle that shoots 50 BMG is a Barrett. I bet Ronnie is pretty proud of this. Everyone from kids who play video games to gun owners that have never had any interest in them know exactly what a Barrett is.

The flagship of the line is the M82. 10 round magazine and semi-automatic fire make this rifle compact portable long range firepower that has the military buying them as fast as the company can make them.

Other models include the M90 and M95 5 round detachable bolt action models, and the “magless” single shot M99 bolt action.

Opinions: I have never met anyone who was dissatisfied with their ownership of a Barrett. Generally the only people I have seen who outgrew, traded off, or sold their Barrett was either because they needed the money, or they wanted to buy/build something more competitive. People have won or placed in FCSA competitions with Barretts, but they have a standard chamber as offered. Lilja offers a “drop in” match barrel for the M82 rifles that you can install in a minute during the normal teardown. Watch this video to see more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlAW2zvf29c


The next most popular 50 BMG rifle is the Armalite AR-50. This is a massive and heavy aluminum stocked rifle. There is not much to say that cannot be seen in the picture.

Opinions: Reasonably priced and known for decent accuracy, these single shot rifles are becoming a common sight on ranges that allow 50 BMG's. If I had been smart, this is likely the rifle I had bought as my first rifle as it was available during the time I bought my crappy heavy rifle. This is also as far as I know the only 50 BMG bolt action offered in a lefty. I have read that the muzzle brake used on this AR-50 is arguably the most recoil reducing design so far on any 50 BMG rifle. Armalite offers a shrunken version of this rifle, a small copy right down to the muzzle brake in 300 Win Mag, 7.62mm and .338 Lapua.

Noreen ULR (Ultra-Long Range)

Simplicity is the key here. All the emphasis is on practicality and accuracy. If you want a rifle with asthetics, find something with wood on it.

Opinions: Reasonably priced at $$2500, this rifle would make a nice first rifle for many shooters. It is of the removable bolt style where the round is loaded onto the bolt and then inserted. This removes the chance of broken or blown out extractors, ejectors. This bolt type also aids in case extraction when a hot round "locks" the bolt as is common with 50 BMGrifles. Available in 50 BMG and also 408 Cheytac, 416 BArrett, and .338 Lapua.


Bushmaster just came out with a rifle, the BA-50. This rifle was formerly produced by Cobb manufacturing, and still may be with a few changes.

Opinions: The Cobb rifle is not that new on the scene, I don't know if bushmaster is just making the rifle Cobb used to make or if Cobb is still making it. It is my understanding that Cobb was bought by Ceberus when they bought Bushmaster. Cobb sold this rifle under the name “fast action rifle”. It had a novel lever pull “sling shot” kind of action. It appears to me this rifle might of originally been intended to be a semi-automatic. It seems that Cobb decided to make it into a sort of “hand action” for whatever reason. This rifle in the Bushmaster version uses a bolt action on the left side and ejects on the right side. I have no personal experience with this rifle.

Bluegrass Armory

A single shot rifle called the Viper XL 50. A bullpup design uses an integrated full length rail and AR15 grip that makes it look like a sort of a Barrett knock off.

Opinions: This is an awesome rifle. They offer match grade versions. It was tested to insane levels to assure safety and the tests were watched and covered in the FCSA magazine. Tests included setting off a round with a threaded plug installed in the barrel and firing it with an overloaded round of ammo without failure. Video of that test is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ7hseThuu0

Serbu Firearms

The BFG-50 single shot. A single shot bolt action gun of tubular steel construction.

Opinions: If I had know about this gun when I ordered my first 50 BMG I would have bought it instead of my nightmare. I found out about it after I had ordered. These guns are lightwieght and Mark Serbu is a really cool guy in the firearms industry. There are also a few AR uppers made by Mark floating around from group buys he has done. His rifles are offered with awesome options you can add on, you may be familiar with this one:

Safety Harbor Firearms

makes two different guns:

The SHF-50 which is a side magazine (3 or 5 shot) fed rifle. It is very similar to the serbu rifles in design and build.

The Ultramag 50 which is a side mag fed AR upper (3 or 5 shot).

Opinions: Safety harbor guns seem to be mildy popular but I have no experience with them.

State Arms / East Ridge Guns

A variety of models and rifles, more models and variations than any other 50 BMG company. Here are just a couple:

Opinions: Do not mistake this for the Hesse/Vulcan (shown at bottom of page) because it has a similar appearance. The similarity ends where Hesse/Vulcan tried to copy the aesthetics. These are totally different animals build by a 50 BMG rifle company that has been around a long time using quality parts.

Spider Firearms

Spider makes the single shot Ferret-50, a AR upper style gun.

Opinions: hot looking guns, other than that no experience

Advanced Long Range Systems

ALS-50 single shot 50 BMG AR single shot upper

Opinions: these guys love the FCSA competitions. They build rifles and compete, their customers compete. As well.

Iver Johnson AMAC-1500

This rifle is available a few places. It is an older production 50 BMG rifle and I am not sure it is even still available

Opinions: This rifle has always been around, its expensive, and supposedly the “baddest ass” rifle around if you believe the people trying to sell them.

Accuracy International

They make two rifles, one which is very popularized in video games.

The AW-50 Bolt action

The AS-50 Semi-Auto

Opinions: two huge heavy very accurate and twice as expensive pieces of hardware with limited availability.

Action Gun Works / Dierks Industry

The Dierks are a family well known as record holders in the FCSA. They offer bench guns for the light and heavy gun classes in the FCSA.

Opinions: His records and shooters records of people using his guns speak for themselves. He is part of a small group of shooters and champions in the FCSA that also build rifles and parts for other competitors.

EDM Windrunner Arms

They make two models

Takedown bolt action

New Semi-auto model

Opinions: Expensive and good, this is the only impression I am given about these rifles by others. The bolt action has seen some action in the FCSA competition. No personal experience.


FAR-50 AR upper. The newest version is known as the Mk3, a Mk1 is pictured below.

Opinions: I bought a Mk1, I haven't fired it yet. But I like the way it is built so far. I will let you know how it goes.


M2HB/M3 semi auto "rifle"

Opinions: Yes you can own this! It will swallow about any 50 BMG ammo. There are crank style triggers for rapid firing too → http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A0C5ab8ywU

LAR Manufacturing

Grizzly Big Boar. This is a single shot removable bolt bullpup design based on the original Maadi Griffin design for removable bolt 50 BMG weapons.

Opinions: This rifle, because it is still one of the smallest, and actually has been around a long time, is popular with people who hunt with the 50 BMG.


HS-50 is a bullpup design single shot

Opinions: that muzzle brake looks very AR-50


Ultralight UL-50 upper

Opinions: very affordable

Jard Inc.

Jard J50

Opinions: very new


50 BMG rifles. A single shot removable bolt style rifle. May or may not have the ventilation holes in the stock.
(click to view)

Opinions: Plenty, while maybe not wholly unsafe rifles, but in the sub $2000 range you are way getting what you paid for. I bough my rifle for about $1300 originally from Joeken of all places around 1999-2001 range and then spent another $1500 in gunsmithing fees to get it safely corrected and having it's components metallurgically inspected. Avoid these at all costs. With the proliferation of decent 50 BMG AR uppers, it would be silly to buy one of these today. It is easier for me to take any ridicule for being one of the first people in the country to get one of these rifles than to let any of you make the mistake I did. Avoid Vulcan at all costs. Avoid Hesse stuff at all costs, avoid Joeken anything at all costs. Let my mistakes and those of the many many others after me to serve you in your decisions. Just do a search of "hesse", "Vulcan", or "joeken" to see the many many others after me who made the same mistake.

There are a few other companies, but I figured this was huge enough already. I found this article from ARFCOM listing EVEN MORE manufacturers, updated pricing, and availability information:

I hope this has been helpful.

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