Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle Review

Tom reviews the brand new Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle model.

The Brownells BRN-601 is a reproduction of the Colt AR-15 601 model made from 1959 to 1963.
The Brownells BRN-601 is a reproduction of the Colt AR-15 601 model made from 1959 to 1963.

USA –-( How would you like to own an original Colt AR-15 Model 601? You know, the first ones made starting back in 1959? Yeah? Me too. Well, we can’t do that. However, one of you will become the proud parent of this Brownells Retro BRN-601 AR-15 rifle. As Elvis said in 1960, It’s Now or Never. But wait! It gets better. There will be a secret accessory if you can even call it that, and we will highlight it in next month’s newsletter. Here’s a hint. It makes a big boom. OK, one more clue. They used these in Vietnam.

The original AR-15 Model 601 dates back to December 1959 when Colt began a three-year production run of about 14,500 rifles after acquiring the rifle from Armalite. Many carried stamps of “Colt Armalite” on the receiver. Most went to the United States Air Force with about 1,000 going to the U.S. Army. Even small quantities went to the SEALS and various foreign military forces.

Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle

You can spot one of these rifles from a distance thanks to the distinctive olive-green buttstock and triangular fiberglass handguard. The slab-sided receiver is also a dead giveaway with its integrated carry handle. There are lots of other small differences between the 601 and the current crop of AR-15 rifles. Let’s take a tour of this spiffy retro rifle from Brownells.

Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle
Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle

For starters, it features a 20-inch barrel. Part of the original design goal of the AR-15 / M16 rifles was to break that 3,000-fps barrier with the small and light bullets and those extra four inches make a big difference.

I set up a Shooting Chrony 15 feet ahead of the muzzle and clocked the first ten rounds out of this rifle using American Eagle AR-223 55-grain FMJ. Interestingly, the first four shots were in the high 2,900 feet per second range, but from shot five on, the velocities always beat 3,000 feet per second. I’m guessing that those first shots smoothed out any manufacturing residue from the bore. Anyway, the average worked out to 3,106 feet per second. To put that in perspective, I’ve measured the exact same ammo in the 2,750 to 2,850 range from various 16-inch barreled AR-15 rifles. That extra four inches of length makes a noticeable difference.

The slab-sided receiver has an integrated carry handle with aperture sight.
The Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle slab-sided receiver has an integrated carry handle with aperture sight.

In a nod to modern practicality, the twist rate is 1:12. At the time, the intent was to fire lighter, and more importantly shorter, 55-grain bullets that would tumble when they hit a target, so the originals features a 1:14 rate. After a couple of years of production, the twist rate on the originals was tweaked to 1:12. Also a modern convenience, the bore is chrome-lined so maintenance will be easier and it’ll hold up over time. At the end, you’ll see a unique three-pronged flash hider. The “duckbill” shape looks like something out of old Buck Rogers films.

Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle: Note the duckbill three-prong flash hider.
Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle: Note the duckbill three-prong flash hider.

Like the original 601, this one comes with a 20-round steel magazine. So, it’s not as scary as a 30-round version, but it does have a bayonet lug! Notably absent is a forward assist. Mr. Stoner didn’t see a need for those in the original design, and it was only after the “gubermint” switched to a dirtier, non-spec powder that they were added to future versions.

The buttstock is fixed, and that keeps the overall length of this rifle at 40 inches, like it or not. I guess the military of the 60s was the same as always. “We’ll offer whatever size you need, as long as it’s this one.” Both buttstock and front handguard are olive green. If you appreciate the whole retro thing, as I do, it’s just cool. Love it.

Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle. The fixed stock, pistol grip, and handguard are all olive drab.
Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 Rifle. The fixed stock, pistol grip, and handguard are all olive drab.

Everything else should be familiar to the AR aficionado. If you’re into nit-picky details, you’ll notice that this reproduction version uses a modern safety and bolt catch lever. The charging handle looks like the original with its triangular-shaped head.

The sights are iron with a fixed front sight gas block and aperture in the rear of the carrying handle. The front adjusts for elevation and the rear moves side to side for windage adjustments.

The BRN-601 comes with a 20-round steel magazine like the original.
The BRN-601 comes with a 20-round steel magazine like the original.

The first thing you’ll notice when hefting this rifle is that its light. Really light. Maybe I’m just used to lugging around AR -15s with optics, slings, and other heavy things bolted onto them. Whatever the reason, this one is effortless to hold and maneuver. The official weight is 6 pounds, 11 ounces, but it sure feels lighter than that.

I did all my first range visit shooting with American Eagle’s AR 223 ammo. Among all the specialty .223 ammo I had lying around, this seemed to be the most true-to-original. I didn’t want to test this rifle with heavier match loads given the 1:12 twist rate.

I tested the Brownells BRN-601 with 55-grain American Eagle FMJ ammo.
I tested the Brownells BRN-601 with 55-grain American Eagle FMJ ammo.

I set up mini-silhouette targets at 50 yards and fired a couple of quick five-shot groups to see how the irons were adjusted. Both groups were a few inches low and left, so I made two different adjustments. On this 601, there’s a dial on the right side of the carry handle which moves the rear aperture sight left and right. It’s checked by a spring-loaded pin, so once you set it, the sight won’t drift on you. I moved about four clicks right, meaning I moved the impact point to the right. For elevation, I used a front sight tool to rotate the front sight blade clockwise. It’s also locked in place with a spring-loaded pin. The tool presses that pin down which allows you to rotate the sight blade itself, moving it up or down as required. Since my shots were hitting low, I turned the front sight down to move the group up.

Even with my bad eyes, it shot just fine.
Even with my bad eyes, it shot just fine.

Once I had the sights reasonably well adjusted, I fired a couple of quick five-shot groups from 50 yards. Considering that my eyesight on open sights stinks these days and I had a somewhat blurry iron sight picture, I still measured 1.01 and 1.67-inch groups for the first two I tried. Not too shabby at all and if you can see better than I can, I suspect you can improve on those numbers.

The Brownells BRN-601 AR-15 carries an MSRP of $1,299.99, but that won’t matter to one of you as AmmoLand News is giving this rifle away. Be sure to enter; you just might win this one. Next time we’ll have it, let’s say, somewhat reconfigured with more goodies. If you win, you’ll get those too.


Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, Ammoland will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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Not a bad group for irons FMJ at 50 yards. I’m betting it can shoot that well at 100 with light projectiles. If the barrel is chrome lined, it can probably do very well out to 500 yards beyond that who knows with /12″ twist and lightweight projectiles.

T Robinson

Very nice reproduction of the original

Gregory Brown


Lonnie Phillips

Love the platform my son in law’s are to heavy but he built it for him he’s 20 I’m 50 l need a lighter one


Former USMC & Retired Police Sgt. No need for anyone else to enter contest. i will win AR ! LOL Good luck to all…….. This is a fantastic prise Item.

Robert Schroeder

Had to use an M 1 to qualify in basic and until 66when I qualified at Fort Sill. I barely qualified with that pos. At Fort Sill I saw my first m 16. I missed expert by one round because I lost a complete firing order because I loaded that 16 like an M 1. Qualified as expert until I retired after that. Currently have an Armalite 15. Fires beautifully!!!

johnnie davis

Very nice

Adam Webb

I would love to have one.


Entered service in 1963, issued the M30A1 Carbine, 3 weeks in got the M14, and 3 weeks later received the Mi16 to complete Basic, then AIT at Ft.Jackson, SC, then off to Ft Benning, Ga and the ABN School and Air Assault with the 11th Air Assault.
Great weapon, have to admit I loved the M14 as well.

Eric Page II

Haven’t held one of these since boot camp back in 1989 excellent weapon

Millard E Stone Jr

I have my gun permit. It’s called the second amendment. It is the only damned permit I need.


AMEN to that.

Derek Huck

Btw thanks to everyone in here who served thank you for your service me and my boys are very greatful and glad you came home

Derek Huck

Love good guns and country


Lovey guns working on my collection when ever I can and let’s face it free chance to add one more to my collection I’m in who could argue with that am I right lol


Any red blooded American needs one! Against foreign and domestic!!!

Ed stopko

Luv it! I must have it in my truck.

Randy Shimp

Carried the M16 with the Air Force for just over 31 years

Bruce Andrews

Thank you for your service and for helping to keep The United States of America FREE! Go, Air Force! Once a military person always a military person. When I was medically retired from the U. S. Air Force in 1971. I have looked and nowhere does it say “You are now free from your oath”. I am still bound by that oath. Along with the oaths I took for the various Law Enforcing agencies that I served and The oath I took when I became a Colorado Certified Law Enforcement officer. I still serve as a Cold Case Investigations officer.

Scot Morrison

Bruce. Beautiful attitude and perspective.

It may be routine now – still even if that is, it is a good thing. But I want to say in all seriousness and gratitude to you: thank you to you and all your brothers in arms that served (and serve) with you.
One thankful American patriot to another.

Scot Morrison

Robin Marchmonte

I carried that style in early 80’s always shot expert marksman, I loved it!

Zachary Cavanaugh

I hope I win

Zachary Cavanaugh

I would enjoy this rifle, hope I win

Art Devaul

Shot the 16 in the Marine Corp. Qualified expert. 500 meters all in the black. Love the rifle.

Linda Polinskey

Hope I win this !!

William Quinn

I would proudly show it off if I won it!!!

John M.

I owned a vintage AR-15, marked Colt in 1980. It was one of the first 15s with chrome plated barrel & chamber – used but not used up. It had a rather small exterior diameter and shot groups opened up quite a bit when hot. It was stolen by an unscrupulous dealer. It was left on consignment to sell with four other weapons. He will remain nameless, but he “reported” a burglary, and never paid me the value from his insurance, then quickly declared bankruptcy. I’d love a more modern take on the platform so I entered. I hope to… Read more »

Frances O'Rourke

Would love to own it and I’m a woman


can i own that too? im a police officer from philippines.

SSG George L Ford USA Ret

Trained with some worn-out AR-15’s in basic; still, maintaing good sight picture & taking time to SQUEEZE off each round qualified EXPERT..38 out of 40. The replacement M-16A1 & A2 had solved a lot of the problems with rounds “cooking off”; although, the problems with jamming when dirty still presisted. I’m LEFT EYE dominant & have ALWAYS fired left-handed..REALLY ANNOYING to have hot brass flip past your right ear & DOWN your neck in BDU’s even AFTER the A2’s had supposedly built-in lip to “aid brass deflection issues”.. My unscientific guess with the EXTRA 4 inches of barrel length has… Read more »

Tom Allen

Beautiful gun…… would love to own one both for the history and accuracy

Walter Wielkiewicz


Adam Ashcraft


Norman Dvorak

This rifle looks exactly like the rifle I was issued when I arrived in Vietnam for my tour of duty. It shot fantastic once I sighted it in. It was a tack driver from short distances to way out across a valley where my Platoon had a heavy fire fight that lasted for about 6 hours. I don’t think I missed even once during that fire fight. I would love to own one of these rifles.


All the M16A1s I saw in Vietnam had black stocks and birdcage rather than the 3pronged flash suppressor. Didn’t look like this one.


All the M16A1s I saw in Vietnam had black stocks and birdcage rather than the 3pronged flash suppressor. Didn’t look like this one.

Ronald Whiting


Dexter Winslett

The only thing illegal is our corrupt government. STAND! Shall not be infringed.

Bob Garrett

You got that right Brother!

John Cipollone

These guns might be illegal soon. I couldn’t purchase one because of the high price. But I would accept one as a prize giveaway.




I would like to own one to target practice at my favorite range.

Renata Entley


Kevin Isenberg

Can it have a scope added .

Siera tango

You have to get an adapter that fits the little hole in the carry handle… It sets the optic a little too high for me…

Johnny lowe

I trained with the Ar 15 loved it then love it now.

Johnny lowe

I trai

Ervin Hawley.

Just like my original

Laura Swafford

Would enjoy kicking around a few rounds through this retro!

Cliff Hermann

Would love it…


Love it! Brownells is the best!

Anthony Flannery

Would love to add this rifle to my collection, It wouldn’t be my first time carrying one of these M-16’s, Served in the early 70’s, nice rifle and I’m sure after all these years it has become a better rifle than then, Thanks Brownell’s and Ammoland for the opportunity to win!

Neil Foster

While the M-16 wasn’t the best weapon out there, the original version was beautifully balanced and very accurate. As far as “tools” to adjust the sights, we used the tip of a bullet. During training, I heard one numbskull ask “What if you don’t have any bullets?” My response was “Well, then there is not need to adjust your sights. That’s why you are issued a bayonet!”


Ain’t that the truth! I think just about every regular unit in the military has one of those. I asked the one in ours if he had ever been hunting or had even done any target shooting before, he said no I said ” Oh Ok” always kept an eye on that one lol

Richard Blaha

Nice looking rifle would love to own it

C. Uhl

A part of history some would like to forget a part of history some will never forget .



Neil Foster

First of all, it was an M-16, not an M-15. Second, most of the jams were caused by the wrong powder being used in the early cartridges. That powder fouled the bolt carrier group. Another problem was the military told soldiers that this weapon was “self cleaning” and did not even issue cleaning kits!

While it’s far from perfect, some of the problems were not the fault of the weapon itself.

Gerald Sonnier

Great looking rifle! I can’t wait to have it!