Bear Creek Arsenal BC9: Full-Length PCC with Side Charging Handle

The AR-15 rifle is by far America’s most famous rifle to ever be produced. It’s easy to maintain, modify, upgrade, and shoot. While it’s not a design flaw by any means, the rear charging handle is something that has always bugged me with AR-15s. This is just a personal preference, but I think it’s in an awkward place for a charging handle.

Bear Creek Arsenal has been making a name for itself with its patented side charging handle. And so far, I’m liking what I see. A while back, I reviewed one of their 5.56 side charging ARs, and today, we will be looking at the BC9. This is a full-size 9mm pistol caliber carbine that uses Glock mags. PCC weapons kind of sprung up out of nowhere and gained popularity at a rapid pace. At this point it’s safe to say the PCC weapon is firmly cemented in our standard lineup of weapon platforms.

Bear Creek Arsenal BC9
Bear Creek Arsenal BC9 with side charging handle. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
There are plenty of good reasons to own a PCC, some of which include over-penetration concerns and cost. In populated areas, a standard AR-15 chambered in 5.56 may not be ideal. Even in a self-defense situation, a high-powered round can travel well beyond the target and hit unintended targets. A 9mm cartridge provides reliable stopping power with a much shorter range and reduced risk of over-penetration. Another good reason is the cost to train and practice on the range.

BC9 AR-15 Carbine in 9mm With Side Charging Handle

If you like AR-15 rifles, the BC9 PCC has a lot to like. Built around the standard AR platform, it has a 16-inch Parkerized M4 barrel with a 1:10 twist. Of course, it has a blowback gas system with a reciprocating charging handle (because it’s attached to the bolt). The 15-inch hand guard has Picatinny rails on the back and front, leaving a smooth area for gripping the hand guard.

There is just enough rail on the front of the handguard for an iron sight to be mounted if desired. Both the sides and bottom of the rail also contain M-Lok slots for mounting accessories. I use QD slings on just about all my rifles, so I was also happy to see a QD mount built into the front and back of the rail. Because of the side charging handle, there is no rear charging handle, as most AR-15s have. BCA used a threaded bolt to block gas from escaping at the opening where the charging handle normally goes.

Bear Creek Arsenal BC9
The BCA side-charging 9mm PCC is a great shooting gun. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
The bolt can’t come out of the receiver without removing the charging handle. This is one disadvantage to this style of a side charging handle, but it’s not a big deal to me. To remove it, simply take out the single holding screw from the charging handle, and the bolt will slide out. A steel bolt protrudes from the charging handle and fits into a hole next to where the screw is located. This adds additional strength to the handle when racking the bolt.

On the range with the Bear Creek Arsenal BC9

This is a full-size rifle chambered in 9mm, so of course, there wasn’t really any kick at all. I took several magazines to the range to see if any fed better than the others. Starting with Glock, I used 17- and 33-round mags without any issues. I couldn’t help but try out the Magpul 50-round drum. It ate through my ammo a little too fast, but it was fun. KCI, ETS, and Magpul mags also worked just fine in the BC9.

I didn’t notice until at the range that the BC9 does not have a last-round hold open. It does have a traditional AR-15-style manual bolt lock, but it does not interact with the magazine. Having a last-round hold open would require more moving parts, so there is a trade-off either way. I don’t mind the lack of a bolt lock, except changing mags is slower without this feature.

Bear Creek Arsenal BC9
I like that the Picatinny rails are only on the front and back of the handguard. [Photo: Jason Mosher]
For optics, I mounted one of my favorite AR red dots, the Sig Sauer ROMEO7. With a 16-inch barrel, you get full power out of the 9mm cartridge and hitting targets up to 100 yards is a breeze. Again, this is a personal preference, but I like the smooth top on the handguard. This is mostly because of the way I like to grip the gun, and the smooth surface helps.

Unless I plan to mount a laser on top, I don’t need a Picatinny rail running across the entire handguard. The BC9 came with a standard mil-spec adjustable stock, but I swapped it out for a Magpul CTR stock and attached a GrovTec QD sling. Because the gun is so light, it was easy to carry and use in transition drills.

Is the side charging handle a good idea?

The “idea” of it will really depend on each person and what they like or don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with liking the rear charging handle on traditional AR-15 rifles. But there are plenty of people who will find a side charging handle helpful and easier to manipulate. I’ve always believed that it’s okay to have more than one “good thing,” and I think the side charging handle is a great idea.

Not every gun is made for the same purpose, and I like a variety of guns. This is a great gun for self-defense, fun on the range, and more. With the 4150 Chrome Moly Vanadium barrel, you will get a lot of rounds out of it without any issues. The same goes for the charging handle mounted to the bolt. As I mentioned before, I’ve had one of their 5.56 AR-15s for a while. I’ve blasted nearly 1,000 rounds through it so far, and I’ve never had any problems with it.

It only takes a couple of minutes to remove the charging handle and break it down for cleaning and lubrication. Even though the charging handle is reciprocating, I’ve never had any issues with the handle hitting on anything. It’s very short and doesn’t stick out very much, so I don’t think it will cause any issues.

Bear Creek Arsenal BC9
Removing the side charging handle only takes a few seconds when field stripping it. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

Ready for the Bear Creek Arsenal BC9 9mm carbine?

Having a side charging handle is one of the things I like about the Bear Creek Arsenal BC9. It’s an AR-15 platform, but not the same old thing I’m used to. It’s also a great quality gun for a PCC that retails for less than $600. BCA uses a billet upper receiver and E9310 on the bolt, which is a super hard alloy that will hold up over time. Out of the box, all you need is an optic or set of sights, and you’re ready to go.

Because it uses Glock mags, there are endless options for capacity, style, and cost. GunMag Warehouse has a ton of options for Glock/Glock-compatible magazines from just about every company that makes them. Ammo is not cheap compared to prices a few years ago, but 9mm is one of the cheaper rounds out there. If you’re looking for a new pistol caliber carbine, I would check out Bear Creek Arsenal and see what they have to offer.

Sheriff Jason Mosher is a law enforcement generalist instructor as well as a firearms and tactical weapons trainer. Jason graduated from the FBI-LEEDA (Law Enforcement Executive Development Association) and serves as a Sheriff for his day job. When he’s not working, he’s on the range, eating steak, or watching Yellowstone.

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