Best AR-15 Upper 2019: Brownells BRN-180 & BRN-180S

Brownells BRN 180
Brownells BRN-180 Upper Receiver on the Aero Precision M4E lower

U.S.A. –-(  Brownells has done gun owner’s a service with the Retro line of guns and has taken that a step further with the BRN-180 upper receiver. The BRN-180 (16″ & 18″ uppers) and the BRN-180S (10.5″ version) are both the first installments to the Retro line of firearms that are upgrades for an AR-upper that is fully compatible with any standard mil-spec AR-15 lower receiver. Unlike any other AR-upper, the BRN-180 relies on a different operating system with a design that reaches back to the original improvements made to the M16 platform.

Brownells BRN-180 Upper Receiver

Designed in conjunction with PWS & FM Products, the Brownell’s BRN-180 Complete Upper Receiver is inspired by the Armalite AR-180 of the 1960s. Developed as a successor to the original AR-15, the AR-180 was a civilianized version of the AR-18, itself an upgrade on the M16 platform. The BRN-180 incorporates many of the AR-18/AR-180 improvements – including its robust and reliable gas piston operating system. (Yes, the originators of the AR-15 / M16 eventually embraced a piston!)

Like the original, the BRN-180 bolt carrier rides smoothly on a PAIR of guide rods. The carrier is buffered at the rear by a built-in polymer buffer with a molded-in steel plate that captures the guide rods. The bolt replicates the original AR-180 bolt design, right down to its use of a standard AR-15 extractor.

Yes, the BRN-180 upper receiver is fully compatible with any standard, mil-spec AR-15 lower receiver.

  • Ultra-reliable AR-180 piston operating system
  • Compatible with current mil-spec AR-15 lowers
  • Machined 7075 T6 aluminum receiver & handguard – hardcoat anodized finish
  • 16″ barrel with matte black Nitride finish
  • .223 Wylde chamber
  • Button rifled bore; 1-8″ twist
  • ½”-28 threaded muzzle
  • Replica 3-prong AR-180 flash suppressor
  • Molded polymer ejection port cover
  • Total weight: 4.65 lbs

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@brownellsinc BRN180 Retro Rifle #ammoland #556 #retro #ar15 #shooting #pewpew #tactical #selfdefense #usa #bureauofpropaganda

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Some common Questions on Brownell’s website regarding the BRN 180:

  • Can the BRN-180 and BRN-180s use a folding stock/brace, like the SIG MCX skeleton stock? YES
  • Will these uppers fit any AR15 lower and use any AR15 trigger? YES

About Duncan Johnson:Duncan Johnson

Duncan is a firm believer in the Second Amendment and that “shall not be infringed”, means exactly that. A life-long firearms enthusiast and a graduate of George Mason University, now competing regularly in 3 gun competitions, Duncan is always looking to improve his shooting skills. Duncan is a regular contributor to AmmoLand and assists in the everyday gun-news publishing as an assistant editor.

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Unlicensed Bozo

ARGH! I want the short barrel version in 300 BLK out. Come to Poppa


and Green Mtn Boy. Some of the literature I read said it WILL fire .300 blk out, but recommends the use of .223 cal/5.56mm in the BRN AR15 upper. So until someone from Brownells or other authority can specify any further it APPEARS to be possible- since they do not see it will either void any warranties or present any danger to the shooter.

Green Mtn. Boy

BRN 180 S in 300 Blk. ,now that is something I’d take a close look at.


Wow! I haven’t heard or read much about the AR180 since I was kid reading gun values books to learn about guns in general. This upper really does look pretty cool. The folder potential looks promising. I’d love to have something that folds up and fits in my saddle bags. My current “sbr” AR still must be broken down in order to fit.


The article says it will fit any AR15 lower & use any AR15 trigger, but will it also fit any M16/M16A1/M4 Lower receiver- meaning I know if may fit, but will a one of these Uppers’ Bolt Carrier Groups fire on full-auto, 3-round burst, etc.? Curious since I haven’t seen bolt carriers for this upper for sale which specify semi-auto or full auto as in other AR15 bolt carrier groups. Thanks in advance!


From what I’ve seen it’s a proprietary bolt carrier and I don’t believe these will work with anything other than semi. I’ve been looking into a binary for it and looks like maybe franklins stuff might work

Deplorable Bill

A VERY GOOD TOOL but so over priced that I can’t afford it. How do I get on a “go fund me” thing?

Arm up, carry on.