Barrett is a single name that’s synonymous with large caliber rifles and being the self-proclaimed leader in long-range. Since the company was born, they’ve resided in a small factory roughly an hour south of Nashville, TN. The name might be known the world over, but the story comes from humble beginnings. Recently I had a chance to attend Barrett’s M82/M017A1 armorers course and was allowed to see behind the scenes. Here’s what I found inside the headquarters of Barrett Firearms MFG.
Long Range Dreams: An Inside Look at Barrett Firearms
From Steel to Real
While I can only give you a glimpse of their manufacturing process, I can assure you that even as a self-proclaimed Barrett fan what I found was truly remarkable. To start, let’s take a closer look at the Model 82A1 and M107A1 pattern rifles and how each is built.
In regards to the receiver, the Model 82A1 uses a steel upper receiver, while the M107A1 uses an aluminum upper. However, to those looking for something extra rare, there are M107A1-S rifles out there made with a steel upper receiver due to Aluminum shortages during COVID. Each one of these uppers is welded by hand. Seeing them before they’re painted provides a profound appreciation for the attention to detail surrounding each rifle.
While Barrett purchases their barrel blanks from outside manufacturers, from there they crown, chamber, and profile in the factory. They take care to check each rifle’s headspace, overall fitment, and tolerances before each rifle is test-fired with the same magazine it ships with.
Mission Specific Design
We’re often familiar with places like the “Grey Room” where companies tuck away early production rifles to keep them away from prying eyes. Here it’s just the opposite. Rifles that shaped history sit just adjacent to the front atrium. A subtle reminder of how big ideas can often come from the places you’d least expect them.
These walls paint a history of just how far Barrett has come in the pursuit of innovation over the past 40 years, no matter how outlandish the end result.
A key example of this is the Model 82A2. A bullpup version of the Model 82A1, it’s designed to be shoulder-fired and features a backward A2-style pistol grip near the end of the receiver. While it’s certainly not the most comfortable rifle to transport, it strangely feels comfortable to shoulder in a way I’ll never fully understand.
Other items like this IDF Model 82A1 are on loan from foreign militaries and give these walls the look and feel of being inside both a practical and functional museum.
Dear Mr. James,
This letter is to certify that Barrett M82A1 serial number 5789, one of the Israeli contract IDF Sniper combat rifles LMO brought back from the Middle East as part of our training programs, is on loan to the museam working reference collection at Barrett Firearms. I hope it has a place of honor as one of the early guns, that truly made a difference in the fight for freedom.
E. Daniel Shea
Rifles on these walls show where the idea started and how it was developed and redeveloped along the way. From an early short action version of the Barrett MRAD to different variants of their bullpup Model 99 and Model 95 pattern rifles.
Rifles like the “Shark Fin” Model 95 (pictured top left in the above photo) are rarely if ever seen. Built with an extended monolithic rail section, the Shark Fin added the ability to add a forward-mounted night vision to the compact magazine-fed Model 95. A feature that is and was far ahead of its time in that regard.
While known for its long-range rifles, Barrett has delved into quite a few different facets of the firearm industry over the years: from shotguns and hunting rifles to belt-feds and AR-15s, and everything in between is on display.
Nothing is off limits, and my favorite outlandish idea is the XM107 Anti-Materiel Payload Rifle or AMPR. An upper receiver that allows the M107A1 to be converted to shoot 25mm grenades.
A Closer Look…
Few, if any, ideas are more outlandish than converting a large caliber rifle to shoot grenades. Of course, being Barrett there’s no way this idea could be halfway executed.
Using the existing steel M107A1 receiver, the front pin was cut slightly to accommodate the 25mm barrel diameter. If you look at the front hinge pin on any Barrett M107A1 you’ll notice this cut, and while the military didn’t pay for the rifle, that didn’t stop Barrett from making sure all new M107A1s were 25mm grenade-ready.
It’s as simple as a magazine and upper receiver swap and you’re ready to rock. Wild to think that something built to launch .50BMG scaled so easily to shoot 25mm grenades.
Another rarity I was able to photograph was the seldom-seen Bullpup XM500 chambered in .50 BMG
This piston-driven design has a very Barrett feel, but certain features like the dual almost G3-esque forward charging handles feel very different.
Rather than a paddle magazine release, the XM500 uses a push-button magazine release just behind the magazine on the right-hand side of the rifle. Very much AR inspired, I like how when allowed to reinvent the wheel Mr. Barrett himself opted to use an already readily available part instead.
Yes, this is serial number 1 for the XM500, and even the armorers admitted they hadn’t had a chance to take it apart. It certainly was eye-opening for me to see that even with a very functional lineup, Barrett has always been innovating in the 50BMG (and larger) space. It’s a tad bit crazy, but then again, it’s Barrett we’re talking about.
Awards, Stories, and Accolades
While one wall houses weapons history, the other pays homage to the soldiers, designers, and operators who carried these rifles downrange. Of all the stories I found adorning these walls, this particular one was my favorite.
This letter with a photo included detailed the use of a Barrett rifle while downrange in Nassiriya Iraq.
Dear Mr. Barrett,
I wanted to send a letter of thanks to you for saving our asses in Nassiriya Iraq. We fired the M-82A3 18 times at enemy vehicles and personnel using the Raofuss rounds with explosive tips. Needless to say the Barrett performed flawlessly.
United States Marine Corps
2/8 Wpns Co. SS Plt.
Camp Lejeune NC 28542
While attending the M82/107A1 armorers course, I used every 10-minute break to poke around the facilities. I always find it interesting to see what the offices look and feel like at every gun company. Barret had an entirely different feel. It just felt like home. No matter where I went, I was met with a polite smile and it became quite clear that those who worked there wanted to work there.
For over 40 years, Barrett has been a family-run business. When word got out of the acquisition many thought this was the beginning of the end. I’m proud to say that it’s just the opposite. The money Nioa is pumping into Barrett will allow them to expand production in Teneseee and bring back rifles from their old lineup without sacrificing the quality that they’re known for. Ronnie couldn’t carry the torch forever, but he made sure it was in more than capable hands before he left.
I’m honored to have had a behind-the-scenes look at Barrett Firearms MFG. Now when I see a Model 82A1 or M107A1 in a store or on a range, I have even more appreciation and admiration for what it took to build that all-American rifle.
Thanks for reading.
Read the full article here