I got into the 5.45 arena a few months before the ATF reclassified 7N6 as armor piercing and never got to fully appreciate the “poison bullet.” At the time, military surplus 5.45 7N6 ammo could be had for just slightly more than .22LR, unless you were willing to do the Neckbeard thing and wait at Walmart every morning at 6am. Paying less than 2 cents per round more than .22LR for regularly available ammo that was an actual centerfire rifle round seemed like an obvious good idea at the time.
The ATF’s reclassification of 7N6 as armor prevented further importation of that ammo into the U.S.
Although in August a judge ruled in the ATF’s favor during a court challenge to the 7N6 reclassification and subsequent importation ban, the inevitable changes that will take place in the upper levels at the Department of Justice and ATF after January 20th make it possible that 7N6’s designation of armor piercing could be changed. If that does happen, I will be shooting 5.45 again.
Enough bullshit. Let’s get the the item at hand.
Like any good consumer, I started out my researching my options. I read several positive reviews about the now discontinued Smith & Wesson 5.45 upper receiver, but after seeing that those were no longer being made I started looking for other options. One name continued to pop up when I was researching 5.45 ARs- Ballistic Advantage. BA made Spikes Tactical’s 5.45 parts which was another very positively reviewed 5.45 offering. I stumbled upon Ballistic Advantage’s website and saw they were selling complete upper receiver groups. I quickly purchased one remembering the few threads I had read where 5.45 uppers had sold pretty quickly.
Shipping and processing was fast and my Ballistic Advantage URG arrived last week. I ended up getting a stripper lower from Aim Surplus and a lower build kit from PSA.
Specs from Ballistic Advantage
Upper Receiver Group:
– BA 5.45×39 BCG (FailZero Coated)
– M4 Feed Ramp Flat Top Receiver
– 7075 Aircraft Aluminum
– Type III Class 2 Hardcoat Anodized Finish
– QPQ Coated Gas Tube
– MOE Handguards
– Charging Handle
– 5.45x39mm 16″ Mid Gov profile
– 4150 CrMoV (Chrome Moly Vanadium per MIL-B-11595E)
– 1/8 Twist Four Groove
– 1/2-28 Threaded Muzzle with A2 Flash Hider
– Taper Pinned .750″ FSB, “F” Marked
– Midlength Gas System
– QPQ Corrosion Resistant Finish
– FailZero NiB Coated Extended M4 Feed Ramp Extension
It also included a heavier spring for the FCG. It is heavy and the stock PSA trigger doesn’t help. I have an extra Geissele SSA-E that I may drop into my night vision gun so I’d have an extra SSA that I would put into the 5.45 gun. Also, DPMS is selling Geissele G2S triggers for $109.99 right now.
Overall Pros and Cons
– Finish. The finish is awesome on the outside of the upper. I was planning on doing an NTC OPFOR Vehicle style of rattle can pain job to help differentiate it from my 5.56 ARs, but after seeing the finish and handling the upper I reconsidered it.
– QPQ and NiB coating on critical parts. I bought this upper so I could shoot corrosive milsurp. Obviously these treatments on critical parts will extend the life of the upper.
– Weight. It appears to be a very light weight upper receiver group (at least the best I could tell via the bathroom scale method).
– No MPI/HPT. The barrel and bolt are not MPI or HPT. The bolt and barrel could be HPT/MPI but if they are it is not marked on the pieces or said on the BA website. There was carbon on the bolt so the gun was test fired.
– No 5.45 marking on end of barrel. It may be redundant, but I’d like that marked on the front, uncovered part of the barrel just to help prevent a 5.56 in a 5.45 KABOOM
– No Carpenter 158 steel on bolt. As with the MPI/HPT, if the bolt is 158 steel, it is not said on BA’s website.
– No 5.45 marking on upper receiver. Instead of the BA marking on the left side, I’d rather have a 5.45 marking on the side like the Spikes 5.45, but this is obviously a minor thing that a paint pen or sharpie can fix. (After I posted this on AR15.com, Ballistic Advantage contacted me and said that their later upper receivers were being engraved with a 5.45 annotation. They offered for me to send it back to them for that marking to be added but I declined.
Many of my negatives are me applying 5.56 AR standards to a 5.45×39 gun. Do those same standards need to be in place for 5.45? I am not an expert and would be open to hearing arguments for and arguments against particular expectations for 5.45.
I’ve since traded out the A2 FH for a melonited Daniel Defense muzzle device and moved the Aimpoint Micro to a different gun while I am taking a 5.45 shooting hiatus.
7N6 is not target ammo. It would be the Warsaw Pact equivalent of M193. It would be unfair to judge a barrel’s performance only using 7N6 and the trigger that is currently in my 5.45 gun. It was hard to find accuracy data that wasn’t anecdotal on 7N6 because of the fact it was used as a budget friendly alternative for training purposes in ARs or primarily used in AKs which are inherently less accurate than an AR. The chart below is from wikipedia, and was the closest thing I could find to a good spec on 7N6.
Whaaaaatttt?????? 7N6 is a sub 1 MOA round? No, not quite.
The R50 at 300 meters (328 yards) means the closest 50 percent of the shot group will all be within a circle of the mentioned diameter at 300 meters (328 yards). If you have read any of Science of the Gun, you know that R50 accuracy doesn’t measure up to their standards for accuracy measurement. Like I wrote earlier, 7N6 is not a target round.
I was able to get groups measuring 1.75-2.3 MOA with 7N6 in my Ballistic Advantage 5.45 gun. All things considered (shitty trigger, shitty ammo, Aimpoint 2 MOA red dot), that isn’t bad. That is what is expected considering the limitations of the equipment (ammo and optic). I’d love to drop a different trigger in, get a scope, and see what it can really do with 7N6 and even with the more accurate 5.45 ammo like Hornady VMAX.
Tying into the small wars aspect of this blog, would the ATF reversing it’s decision of 7N6 being armor piercing open up the floodgates again? I don’t know. So much of the 7N6 was coming from Ukrainian stockpiles that by now have probably been allotted for use in the conflict in Donbass and for Ukraine to develop and arm Territorial Defence Battalions and Ukrainian National Guard forces.
Even if the 7N6 classification were reversed, the days of .22LR like pricing on 5.45×39 are likely over.
With that said, the benefits 7N6 offered were positive things for shooters, especially in the .22LR scarcity. Considering the availability of Wolf Gold .223 and other inexpensive brass cased 5.56/.223 offerings, it would take a price difference of 5 CPR or greater compared to steel cased .223 for me to get back into 5.45.
If that were to occur, the Ballistic Advantage 5.45 upper is a fantastic tool to take advantage of that inexpensive ammo.