Brownells AR-180
Lower Receivers

Cutting Edge Retro Design

Last year, Brownells introduced a modernized AR-180 inspired complete upper assembly designed to mount on conventional mil-spec AR-15 lowers. It offered enthusiasts the functionality of the AR-180 in a form that was readily customized with contemporary accessories at a price point significantly lower (from $799 to $829) than the SIG SAUER MPX — which is a refined update of the AR-180 concept that just happens to look like a typical AR-style rifle.

The Uppers

The BRN-180 uppers sport a 10.5- or 16-inch barrel with 1:8 twist, .223 Wylde chamber and nitride finish surrounded by an aluminum, free-float handguard with M-LOK slots. Both attach to the aluminum upper receiver, topped with a run of Picatinny rail.

Though Brownells didn’t duplicate the distinctive sheet metal stamping construction of the original, 1960s vintage AR-180, they kept the heart of the design: a reliable, compact, gas-piston driven operating system that permits the use of folding buttstocks. Immediately recognizable in the new upper is the side cocking handle and bolt carrier, driven by dual springs on dual guide rods. Brownells also kept the AR-180’s three-pronged flash hider but used a standard 1/2 -28 muzzle thread so users could adapt it as they saw fit. 

The Brownells uppers were also designed to be suppressed and have a means to dial back the gas flow to slow down the cycling of the action. The carbine-length upper uses an alternate piston cup while the pistol adjusts at the gas block — an easy operation as it’s exposed near the muzzle.

The Lowers

After waiting a year for the other shoe to drop, Brownells announced at the 2020 SHOT Show that they are now offering two aluminum lower receivers to go along with their uppers.  The first — BRN-180M — closely resembles a mil-spec AR lower but with a vertical section of integral Picatinny rail where the buffer tube would normally be. This permits the user to take full advantage of a wide variety of folding stock and pistol brace options. These lower receivers are machined from billet stock and retail for $149.99.

The second lower — BRN-180F — was inspired by the unique geometry of the original AR-180 lower and is machined from an aluminum forging. Likewise, these have a short section of rail at the butt and will also accept most modern mil-spec components. They’ll retail for $129.99.

As of this release, only the billet receivers are in stock and ready to ship. The forged lowers are expected early this year.

Introducing a modernized AR-180 one piece at a time, Brownells says they have no plans to build complete rifles.

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