Saturday, December 4, 2010

REVIEW: Barrett 82A1 .50 Cal.

You've seen them on TV, online, in magazines and in the movies. One of the most recent as of the writing of this article is the sniper shots taken in the Hurt Locker which won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture (I didn't think it deserved it but that's another story). But most people haven't actually pulled the trigger of any Barrett .50 cal. model.

This summer, my wife and I had the good fortune to shoot a Barrett 82A1. This isn't a technical review of the rifle but rather a commentary on what it's like to shoot a rifle that, in less than 20 years, has become a legend. Not a legend like the Winchester .30-30 but a a legend in it's unique power and range.

Some quick specs. The 82A1 is manufactured in the Murfreesboro, TN. It's 57" in overall length and weighs 31 lbs. with a 29" barrel (a 20" is optional) and without accessories or scope. There are two caliber options, .416 Barrett and .50 BMG (tested). It has a semi-automatic action with a 10-round magazine that's the size of a small cigar humidor. The base price is $9,345 MSRP (another "Holy Cow"). Add some options like an accessory rail and high powered scope and you're paying as much for a gun as you would for a low-mileage, two-year old, fully-loaded Honda Civic. Street prices at your local shop can be $800 lower but the demand for these rifles is keeping prices pretty high.

If you think it might be fun to shoot a .50 cal, you'd be right. When you see the size of the rounds, you can't help but feel a little nervous excitement. And you can't help thinking, "Holy Cow." The second "Holy Cow" comes when you find out that rounds cost $5 each unless you find a good online supplier of military surplus, then they can be a slow as $2.75 a piece. Holy cow!

.50 BMG on the far left

We pulled a fast one on my wife and sat her down behind Barrett with zero briefing on it's recoil. She's shot a lot of pistols and rifles so she knew that a rifle of that size would pack some punch, but as you can see in the video, she had no idea it'd kick as hard as it did.

We would have had a lot less recoil shooting prone, but the ground was wet from rain the previous day so we shot off of a makeshift table. The wooden slats weren't bolted down so they moved a bit adding to the backward shift in momentum. When you are about to pull the trigger for the first time, you keep thinking to yourself, "relax, squeeze easy, relax, exhale" knowing there's going to be a big bang after a millimeter of finger travel. BANG!

So how bad was the recoil? Actually not too bad. Lift a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun to your shoulder and pull the trigger and you'll feel more pain than the Barrett dishes out. The recoil system in the 82A1 cushions the blow so it's not like taking a whack from a wooden baseball bat (like a pump 12-guage). Rather it's like a an offensive lineman giving you forceful shoulder push. It doesn't hurt but it's hard to stop yourself from moving backward. As you can see in the video, us heavier guys aren't as displaced as my light-weight wife (sell love that I called her light weight) but we still get pushed back quite a bit.
We were shooting at about 80 yards - way too close for that rifle. Shooting a Barrett 82A1 at 80-yards is like shooting a .38 Special at 80-yards. Neither were made for that distance. While we were blowing the heck out of the small barrel we were shooting at, we didn't do any real accuracy tests except one. But most shots were pretty close to where we were aiming. The owner of the rifle did shoot a golf ball off of a golf tee, but again we were only at 80-yards. It was a direct hit first try.
If you get the chance to shoot a Barrett 82A1 or any Barrett model, jump at the opportunity! Shoot as many rounds as you can afford. I say "afford" because at $3-5 a round, do the kind thing and offer to pay for the ammo you shoot. At least offer. Then brace yourself a thrill and make sure someone is shooting some video with your digital camera.