Gun Test: Browning BAR MK 3 DBM Rifle
The iconic autoloader gets a tactical makeover including a detachable box magazine.
Browning might not make ARs, but the company has a history with autoloading rifles that dates to the earliest days of the 20th century, long before the first AR was conceived. Given Browning’s seniority in this arena, the latest iteration of the iconic BAR is sort of a finger in the chest of AR makers to remind them who came first.
The original Browning BAR was the M1918, a fully automatic light machine gun in .30/06 that was developed during World War I for trench warfare but didn’t see extensive use by the U.S. military until World War II. It also served in Korea and Vietnam before being phased out.
In 1967, Browning introduced the next BAR, a semi-automatic sporting rifle for hunters—and that rifle is the direct forefather of this new BAR MK 3 DBM. The 1967 BAR was gas-operated, had a seven-lug rotating bolt head, a removable box magazine that was attached to—and concealed by—a trap-door-type hinged floor plate, and a light and handy geometry that allowed it to be pointed and shot fast. As a rifle for thick timber and brush, it had few equals, especially since it was offered in several magnum calibers, like 7mm Rem Mag., .300 Win. Mag., and .338 Win Mag. in addition to standard long- and short-action cartridges.
BAR MK 3 DBM Rifle SPECS
|Weight:||7 lbs. 6 oz.|
|Trigger Pull:||3 lbs. 8 oz.|
|Overall Length:||39 ³⁄₈”|
The MK 3 DBM shares many of the qualities of the original sporting BARs and the BAR Mk II series that followed. But in this era of all things tactical, Browning has decided to give the MK 3 DBM a harder look.
The DBM has a high-capacity detachable box magazine (hence, DBM) that fits into the magazine well and doesn’t attach to a floor plate. The steel magazine is a solid piece of work and takes 10 rounds of .308. The rifle has magazine releases on both sides of the bottom metal for ambidextrous operation.
The rifle’s barrel is 18 inches long with a 1:12-inch twist. That short barrel makes this BAR especially compact and handy. Combined with its magazine capacity, it was a natural choice for a cross-country boar hunt that OL editor-in-chief Andrew McKean embarked on last year. He topped the rifle with a 1–4X Leupold scope with a Pig Plex reticle and came away from the hunt impressed with the rig.
“It handled almost like a shotgun, pointing pretty instinctively,” McKean says. “For me, it’s a great alternative to an AR. I think it has better weight and balance than an AR, and I’m able to deploy it faster, probably because its lines and operation are so familiar to me as a shotgunner.”
McKean’s longest shot was 220 yards across a wide pasture. Based on both his and my experience with the gun, that’s probably a reasonable limit for the gun’s hunting range.
Quick on Target
I put a variety of hunting and target loads through the rifle, recording five-shot groups at 100 yards. Since the 1–4X scope is such an ideal optic for the rifle—though you can make a pretty good case for a red-dot sight, too—I left it on for the accuracy testing. Group sizes were consistently around 2 inches, no matter the bullet style or weight. Had I mounted a high-magnification scope on it, it probably would have turned in better accuracy scores, but these results reflect the real-world capabilities of the rifle in the field.
One drill the BAR excelled at was making quick shots on steel plates at 100 yards from a low-ready carry position. The shotgun-like pointing qualities McKean talked about are evident with this exercise.
It also does a bang-up job with quick follow-up shots. The rifle’s recoil impulse is very gentle, and it is easy to keep the crosshairs on target.
The crossbolt safety at the rear of the trigger guard is not the most ergonomic position for a safety, but right-handed shooters can manipulate it fairly quickly.
Ugly, But Effective
From an aesthetic standpoint, the black synthetic stock won’t win any beauty contests, but I give it high marks for its trim lines and overmolded grip panels. I also think the QD flush cups for mounting a sling—one at the tip of the forend, the other on the bottom of the buttstock—are a smart feature. In terms of the stock’s functionality, I wouldn’t change a thing.
The BAR’s trigger has a shotgun-like quality to it, meaning it is a bit creepy, though it broke at a perfectly reasonable 3 ½ pounds. The trigger group can be removed from the rifle for cleaning by drifting out the three retaining pins found along the bottom of the aluminum receiver.
To gain access to the action bars, gas piston, and recoil spring assembly, you have to unscrew both the hex-head fastener located in the front QD flush cup, and the front swivel stud, which—other than holding the forend on—doesn’t really perform a useful role on this rifle unless you plan to mount a bipod, which would be an odd addition to this carbine. Since there’s no easy way to clean the BAR’s barrel from the breech end, you’re going to want to use a muzzle protector before running a cleaning rod down the bore.
If your heart is set on getting a semi-auto hunting rifle for any type of close-in game, but you find the bulk of AR-10s a turnoff, the BAR is a rifle worth considering. The big-game hunting rifle that ARs strive to be is something the BAR accomplished long ago.
BAR MK 3 DBM Stats: