Regular readers of AmmoLand News have seen us highlighting good prices on this kit over the years, so it is about time we produced a proper range review of the CMMG Bravo 22 LR AR Conversion Kit.
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- As you may have guessed from the title, I haven’t had a great deal of success with 22 LR conversion kits other than the CMMG Bravo. I’m sure that someone in the comments will tell me I’m a fool, or that their off-brand 22 conversion ran flawlessly for 10,000 rounds. But realistically, they’re either lying, or they managed to get the world’s finest example combined with immaculately clean rimfire ammunition.
Whatever the case, most 22 conversions are just fancy, over-priced paperweights. So what makes the CMMG Bravo 22lr AR15 Conversion Kit unique? Let’s take a closer look, and find out.
It would be easy enough to simply summarize this article in four words: “The CMMG Bravo works.”
And while that would be a fully accurate statement, there’s more to the story than that – especially for shooters who’ve been on the fence about investing in a .22 conversion kit for their favorite black rifle. So first I’ll explain how the conversion works, then go into its strengths and limitations.
Under The Hood
Like nearly every self-loading rimfire conversion, the CMMG Bravo is a direct blowback-operated system. Meaning, the bolt never locks into battery, but simply rests there under the pressure of the recoil spring. This is because while affordable and accurate, .22lr is relatively low pressure and thus the action of the firearm doesn’t need to be locked during detonation to ensure the shooter’s safety.
But wait, you might be thinking, how can the Bravo just drop in and change the caliber of the host gun without changing the barrel?
Well, the diameter of most 40gr .22lr rounds is .224in – the same as .223 rounds (confusing, I know). So as long as the conversion properly aligns the round in the chamber, it’s good to go. So how does it accomplish this? By replicating the dimensions of an AR-15’s bolt carrier group in a self-contained unit.
Basically, the CMMG Bravo is a bolt, recoil-spring, and chamber all in one. The chamber itself is shaped like a .223 cartridge to allow it to sit perfectly in the host gun’s chamber.
Why does that matter? For our purposes, the importance of this fact lies in its simplicity, ease of installation, and reliability. Because only the spring’s tension and the bolt’s weight need to be properly tuned for reliable operation, there are fewer things to foul up and break. Plus, the whole unit can be installed in seconds by removing the BCG and replacing it with the Bravo – simplicity itself.
Yet, the majority of these guns aren’t very reliable – why is that? Well, I’ve heard a number of reasons ranging from ammunition quality to magazine design, but none of them seem to be either as reliable or as accurate as a dedicated .22lr firearm.
But here’s a question I haven’t seen asked – Does it need to be?
Bravo Conversion Kit Accuracy
Here’s the thing, .22 conversion kits for centerfire rifles aren’t meant to perfectly replicate the entire shooting experience. Rather, they’re designed to allow shooters to build fundamental shooting skills like sight picture, trigger control, and proper breathing without sending pricey rounds downrange. Plus, given the relatively limited range of .22lr, shooters shouldn’t expect their conversion to group sub-MOA
Does this mean the Bravo isn’t very accurate?
In fact, during testing the Bravo achieved groups hovering around 1.6 inches at 50 yards, making it more than accurate enough for practical training, plinking targets, and even hunting small game. So while it might not be the best configuration to have at the Alamo, an AR with the CMMG Bravo installed could definitely serve as a survival gun in a pinch.
CMMG Bravo Reliability
The main event! This category is what separates the rockstars from the groupies. Multiple companies have built similar calibers conversions in the past, but none of them can hold a candle to the Bravo’s reliability. And while the importance of a firearm’s reliability is pretty obvious, it’s also crucial for training as well. One of the biggest hurdles for new shooters is motivation. Especially for those working 60+ hour work-weeks, finding the time to drive to the gun range and train can be very difficult.
The best way to encourage return trips and dedication to training is to see both successes and not having to constantly struggle with malfunctions. Because we’ve all been there before – starting something new without someone there to guide you, it’s easy to make mountains out of molehills. A great example: the first time a kid swings a bat and they either keep missing entirely or swinging under the ball. Anyone who has played little league knows that the solution is simple. Either the batter needs to keep his eye on the ball, and/or keep his shoulder up, but that’s not immediately apparent to someone brand new to the sport. This is a long-winded tangential explanation, but the point is reliable is crucial for training.
So how did the CMMG Bravo perform?
In a word: Flawlessly.
The Bravo was installed in three different firearms: a PSA 10.5in barrel pistol, a LaRue Tactical 14.5in (with muzzle device pinned and welded) Ultimate Upper Kit build carbine, and a Bravo Company Machine 20in rifle. Each gun was fed 200 rounds from the 25-round magazine, filled to capacity. A .22lr sound suppressed was installed on the PSA pistol and a SilencerCo Saker 762 on the LaRue, and across these 600 rounds, the gun encountered zero malfunctions.
This was with Winchester WildCat, CCI Standard Velocity, and old Federal military contract CMP ammo. The only cleaning procedure observed was so wipe down the Bravo at the end of each shooting session, and after replacing the Bravo with the original BCG, fire a single .223 round from the gun.
Pros and Cons of the Conversion Kit
Which brings us to the first thing shooters should note before using the conversion. After each shooting session, it’s recommended that shooters replace the Bravo with the original BCG and fire a full-powered round through the gun. This has the effect of clearing the gas tube of excess carbon and lead fouling that results from firing .22lr ammo. It’s not a big deal at all, but something to keep in mind to make sure you don’t totally clog up the gas tube after a thousand or so rounds.
Another issue with the Bravo and all .22 conversions is recoil or lack thereof. Because your AR-15 was designed to fire the more potent, higher velocity .223/5.56mm cartridge, it has laughably little felt recoil with the Bravo installed. This is great for younger or brand new shooters as it helps acclimate them to the noise and kick of firearms before going all in. But it also has the strange effect of making full-powered rounds seem momentarily overly loud and powerful when switching back. For some shooters this might cause them to flinch – especially at indoor ranges where the 5.56 cartridge may as well be a flashbang, it’s so damn loud.
Unfortunately, this is unavoidable, since there’s no easy way to replicate the recoil of a full-powered cartridge in a .22lr carbine. Colt managed to do a decent job replicating some recoil with their Colt 1911 Ace and it’s floating chamber, but nothing similar to my knowledge exists.
But what about the Bravo’s benefits?
The cost of ammo is the biggest one, but the cons listed above are also boons. Without a loud report or intense recoil impulse, the smallest and most recoil-shy shooters can easily handle an AR with the Bravo installed. Sure, it won’t teach them how to properly manage recoil, but they’ll get a solid understanding of sight alignment, trigger control, and how to properly use the gun without dropping $100 plus each range trip.
CMMG’s Bravo .22 LR conversion kit isn’t revolutionary because it reinvents the wheel or is available in some super cool finish or is endorsed by door-kicking pipe-hitters. It’s revolutionary because it just plain works and fulfills the original intent of the design – allowing shooters to hone their shooting skills without breaking the bank.
The CMMG Bravo 22 LR AR Conversion Kit is available at several well known online gun retailers. Also, check our daily deal link at the top of this page for tips on how you can save $$.
About Jim Grant
Jim is one of the elite editors for AmmoLand.com, who in addition to his mastery of prose, can wield a camera with expert finesse. He loves anything and everything guns but holds firearms from the Cold War in a special place in his heart.
When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.