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A lever-action MSR: Browning's BLR Black Label Takedown rifle in .308 is eminently suitable as a self-defense or home-defense gun.

It's probably safe to say that the most popular rifle in America today is what we call the "Modern Sporting Rifle," MSR for short. Traditionally, these arms are based on the AR platform, and they have become immensely popular for self-defense, home defense, competition, hunting, and plain old plinking fun. ARs are easy to make and customize; they're accurate and versatile; and they are available in a host of standard calibers and an ever-increasing number of specialty rounds, including wildcats.

But this popularity is not without controversy. We all know there are misguided individuals who simply dislike guns. Then there are the obsessed, single-minded miscreants who really hate guns. These uninformed folks view any semiautomatic gun--but especially the AR--as a "machine gun," an "automatic," or that most evil of all manmade objects, an "assault rifle." In this climate of media bias and misinformation, there are jurisdictions that prohibit ARs and similar rifles.

Browning is now offering an alternative in the form of the new BLR Black Label Takedown rifle. It is based on the popular and elegantly designed lever-action rifle that has been offered by Browning since 1969, and it has been modified to accept a variety of accoutrements that make it eminently suitable as a self-defense or home-defense gun or as a truck gun.

For anyone who doesn't already know it, Browning's popular Black Label line includes guns and gear that are designed for defense, ranging from knives, tomahawks, lights, and gun safes through clothing, eye and ear protection, and tactical bags to Model 1911 pistols.

The BLR has been a top-notch hunting rifle for decades and is offered in four sub-models chambered for 13 cartridges--from rodent rounds to the short, fat magnums, as well as the popular belted magnums. Both short- and long-action versions are made that are appropriate to the individual rounds, and there are also takedown versions. There are lightweight versions. There are stainless-steel versions. There's even a high-grade version.

A Striking Concept

As its name implies, the BLR Black Label Takedown is based on the BLR Takedown action and is offered in the two most popular MSRcartridges: the .223 Rem. and the .308 Win. Some of the unique features of the BLR Black Label Takedown are striking. First, the barrel is an abbreviated 16 inches--legal, says Browning, in all states. (This I take to mean for hunting, not necessarily to comply with every arcane antigun regulation extant.) It also offers a tough laminated stock and forearm. The buttstock has a straight grip and a generous recoil pad that is sufficiently squishy to actually work. The aluminum-alloy receiver has a deep jet black finish, and the barrel is polished and nicely blued.

The heart of this rifle is the action, and the BLR Black Label Takedown has an elegantly designed rack-and-pinion lever system that flicks the bolt back and forth with authority. The trigger moves with the lever, so you don't get your finger pinched when working the action. The breechbolt has a recessed face similar to many bolt-action guns, and as the bolt glides forward, it strips a cartridge from the magazine, and six sturdy bolt lugs rotate into their recesses in the barrel extension as the lever is raised, locking the round in the chamber.

The hammer can be fully forward (fired position); half-cock; or fullcock, ready to fire. At halfcock, the hammernose can be folded forward into an ultrasafe condition in which the hammer cannot contact the firing pin if struck. This is the preferred way to carry the rifle with a loaded chamber.

The slickest aspect, in my opinion, is the takedown feature. The rifle can be separated into two short pieces in a flash and reassembled just as quickly. First, open the action and remove the magazine; this will clear any cartridges that may have been in the gun. (Note: The bolt lugs lock into the barrel, so you can't take the rifle apart unless you open the action first.)

On the bottom of the forearm is a lever. Pull this lever down and back toward the receiver. Voila! The barrel and forearm slip out of the receiver with ease.

Reassembly is in the reverse and is just as quick and easy. This separation doesn't affect strength, as the six lugs on the rotating bolt head lock securely into recesses in the barrel extension and not the receiver proper. This arrangement is similar to millions of shotguns in service today. On the BLR Black Label Takedown, a previously determined point of impact is not affected as the scope is attached to the barrel, not the receiver. The bolt head holds a sliding extractor and plunger ejector.

There are other advantages of this modern design. Lever actions of old are still dear to the hearts of serious riflemen everywhere, but they have limitations. Foremost is the risk of a pointed bullet setting off the primer of the cartridge ahead of it in a tubular magazine. The BLR Black Label Takedown has a detachable box magazine that holds four rounds (three in magnum calibers). This allows the use of sleek, pointed bullets without the risk of a round going off in the magazine.

Another issue is strength. While the older designs are perfectly suitable for rounds in the .30-30 class, they aren't built for more modern high-pressure rounds. The strong action of the BLR handles such cartridges without a whimper. Need a lever gun in any of the four WSM calibers, the 7mm Remington Magnum, or .300 Winchester Magnum? No problem. The BLR can handle them all.

Last, top-ejecting lever guns make scope mounting problematic. Side mounts work, but they are less than optimal. The BLR Black Label Takedown ejects cartridges straight out to the right, thereby allowing scope mounting low and right over the bore.

The BLR Black Label Takedown's 16-inch barrel comes with a Seekins flashhider installed. The threads are termed "suppressor ready" by Browning, and the addition of a suppressor, where legal, is a capital idea for a rifle of this configuration.

Versatile & Accurate

I received one of the very first BLR Black Label Takedown preproduction rifles for testing, and I have to say, it is definitely a unique lever action, what with the flashhider and Picatinny rails on the receiver, barrel, and sides of the forearm. I installed a nifty Burris 2-7X Scout scope on the new BLR, and with acres of eye relief, it was just right for the new-configuration rifle. With a magnification range of 2-7X, it pretty much covers the ranges appropriate for either the .308 or .223. A short red-dot sight would also be appropriate here. (Be aware that this rail and the one on the receiver can be removed and regular scope bases can be installed on the receiver and a traditional short-eye relief hunting-type scope can be mounted if the user is so inclined.)

A big advantage of a scout-style scope on a takedown rifle like this one is the scope stays with the barrel so that when the rifle is separated and the parts are rejoined, zero is not affected. But finding the optimal location for the scope might take some trial and error. I found that mounting the scout scope with its ocular lens 8 inches from my eye was perfect and allowed me to achieve a full field of view.

All cartridges need some barrel length to burn powder, so I expected the velocities to be a bit lower from the 16-inch barrel than those from a longer-barreled sporter, and they were. To check this, I fired four typical loads tested in the Black Label Takedown out of my 22-inch-barreled Ruger Model 77R. The results are listed in the chart, but briefly, the velocities from the 16-inch barrel averaged 163 fps less than those from the 22-inch barrel. That's a velocity loss of about 27 fps per inch.

Overall, the BLR Black Label Takedown was reasonably accurate, averaging 1.36 inches for the 15 loads tested. It obviously liked some loads better than others. The ammo from HPR shot well, averaging a hair under an inch for its four loads. Hornady's Full Boar ammo with the 165-grain GMX bullet averaged 1.14 inches at a velocity of 2,409 fps. The Federal Premium Vital-Shok with the 165-grain Sierra GameKing clocked 2,441 fps and averaged 1.38 inches. Winchester's Deer Season 150-grain Extreme Point ammo registered 2,522 fps and grouped into 1.14 inches. Any of these loads would be perfect for hunting hogs or deer, and with careful testing, the BLR Black Label Takedown owner could pick a good load for just about any shooting situation for which the .308 Win. is suitable.

The magazine is said to hold four rounds. It does, but putting four rounds in the magazine sometimes made insertion into the receiver a little difficult. Also, with four rounds in the magazine, the top round sometimes would not feed unless the bullet had a really sharp point. Except for this minor annoyance, the BLR Black Label Takedown functioned fine. Browning lists the trigger pull on production BLRs at around 4 pounds, but the pull on this preproduction rifle was a half-ounce under 7 pounds and had considerable creep.

This new version of the BLR is sure to stir debate from all corners. Of course, the antigunners won't like it; they don't like any gun. And traditionalists may sniff at the rails, short barrel, and flashhider. But a large contingent of shooters will see this new lever gun for just what it is: a handy and powerful modern design that will earn its keep in a variety of situations. It's a versatile addition to the shooting scene.

RELATED ARTICLE: Shooting lever actions for accuracy.

SHOOTING LEVER-ACTION RIFLES FROM A BENCH rest is a lot different than with bolt guns, and this can make load testing and getting the rifle zeroed really frustrating. A uniform hold is important, established by the interface of the rifle with the rest. The procedure I use has been described numerous times by friend Brian Pearce, and it works well, although it takes practice. I summarize it here, with full credit to Brian.

First, use just one sandbag. Place the bag near the front of the forearm, grasp the tip of the forearm with the left hand, and then rest the hand on the bag. Pull the butt back snugly into your shoulder. Don't use a rear bag at all, as this will affect accuracy. Such a hold will usually produce a similar point of impact from field positions when hunting.

Some guns are sensitive to barrel temperature, the number of rounds in the magazine, and perhaps other factors, but uniformly resting and holding a lever gun as described will go a long way toward shooting groups that actually assess the rifle's capability and establish a working zero for hunting.

--Steve Gash


MANUFACTURER        Browning

TYPE                Lever action

CALIBER             .308 Win. (as tested), .223 Rem.


BARREL              16 in.

OVERALL LENGTH      34 in.

WEIGHT, EMPTY       7 lbs., 5 oz.

STOCK               Laminated wood

LENGTH OF PULL      13.75 in.

FINISH              Matte blue barrel, black anodized
                    receiver, polished bolt, gold-
                    plated trigger, satin wood

SIGHTS              None. Receiver drilled and tapped
                    for standard and Picatinny bases

TRIGGER             6.97-lb. pull (as tested)

MSRP                $1,599.99


                                         VEL.    S.D.     ACC.
AMMUNITION                               (FPS)   (FPS)    (IN.)

.308 Winchester

Hornady Custom Lite 125-gr. SST          2328     89      2.36
Hornady 150-gr. SST                      2653     18      1.34
HPR 150-gr. SP                           2486     21      0.92
HPR 150-gr. BTSP                         2562     19      0.94
HPR 150-gr. TTSX                         2615     32      1.02
Winchester Deer Season 150-gr. E-P       2522     34      1.14
Winchester Razor Back XT 150-gr. PTP     2577     30      2.36
Federal Premium 165-gr. Trophy Copper    2483     10      1.67
Federal Vital-Shok 165-gr. GameKing      2441     16      1.38
Hornady Full Boar 165-gr. GMX            2409     14      1.14
HPR 168-gr. HPBT                         2456     22      1.00
Nosier Custom Competition 168-gr. HPBT   2562      4      1.06
Barnes Precision Match 175-gr. OTM       2400     21      1.48
Hornady 178-gr. BTHP                     2408     12      1.30
Hornady Superformance 178-gr. BTHP       2591     15      1.34

NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired
from a sandbag benchrest. Velocity is the average of five rounds
measured 10 feet from the gun's muzzle. Range temperature was 68
to 73 degrees F.


                              16-IN.       22-IN.
                              BARREL       BARREL     DIFFERENCE
AMMUNITION                  VEL. (FPS)   VEL. (FPS)     (FPS)

.308 Winchester

Winchester Razor Back XT       2577         2745         168
  150-gr. PHP
Federal Premium 165-gr.        2483         2635         152
  Trophy Copper
Nosier Custom Competition      2562         2733         171
  168-gr. HPBT
Hornady Superformance          2591         2753         162
  178-gr. BTHP

NOTES: The 16-inch barrel figures are the average of five rounds
fired through the Browning BLR Black Label Takedown. The 22-inch
barrel figures are the average of five rounds fired through a
Ruger Model 77. Velocities were measured 10 feet from the guns'
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Article Details
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Author:Gash, Steve
Publication:Shooting Times
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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