Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Browning Lever Action Rifle (BLR), By - Bruce Hamlin


The Browning Lever Action Rifle  (BLR)
By:  Bruce Hamlin

The Browning BLR did not really grab my attention until a few years ago.  I knew about it and had handled a few, but I was more into the Winchester lever action collecting/shooting phase.  One day (actually a little more), I woke up to find that the Winchester Model 94 was going out of  production.  I had been a loyal 94 follower and had tried most of the calibers and variations.  Something struck me wrong about the closing of the plant and I was soon out of the Winchester ownership program.  Not a problem I thought, there are some good Marlin’s out there and I have not really gave them their chance.  I dove into the Marlin lever action collection/shooting phase and had a year or two of fun.  One day I heard about the new .308 Marlin cartridge/rifle combination coming to the market soon and I had to have one - or two as it turned out.  I was soon the owner of both a blued and a stainless steel model of the new rifle/round.  Upon firing both, I found the chambers to be to rough and actually had fired rounds (brass) seize up in the chambers.  Both had to have the chamber polished out!  I did a little research and found others who had the same problem.  I then began to notice some quality issues with the newer LA Marlins on my main dealers rack and thought to myself - it is happening again.  I am sorry to see that it has now happened and the Marlin 336  production has stopped for the moment.

I have actually gotten a little ahead of myself.  While going through my different lever action phases, I always found myself wanting something else.  I wanted different calibers, different stocks, different and more easily adjustable sights.  I sometimes think I tried them all - calibers, stocks, sights, barrel lengths.  I labeled myself a lever gun junky.  I thought of my habit as an exploration through the different makers - but underlying all of this, I had a few wants/needs that had yet to be addressed.

I was raised in the south (north Florida) where hunting and fishing is more than a tradition.  It is a way of life and all social things seem to relate to it.  Go to an annual festival and there is game meat and/or fish to eat.   If you have a political event, the same applies.  If there is talk about someone special, it is usually the hunter who bagged the biggest buck, the old wise gobbler or the one who catches the largest catfish, bass or the most bream.  We don’t talk about movie stars and glamor, although there is a tradition towards certain ball games.

Now let’s get back to guns.  Our history here relates to some lever guns and quite a bit to double barreled shotguns.  To be honest, these woods and hammocks are so thick that the shotgun truly has earned its reputation as the all around hunting weapon.  I have bird hunted and squirrel hunted a little with the shotgun, but I never liked them.  I have thought a lot about my preferences and have come to accept that I feel the shotgun allows me to be less precise in my aiming and I can not accept that.  I want and need precision, reliability and one shot performance.  My preference for squirrels and turkeys has always been the .22 LR and I can attest to the effectiveness of the .22 magnum on other (larger) game.   If I had to choose one rifle caliber to survive, it would be the .22 magnum, closely followed by the LR round.  I have killed many hogs with both and have a confidence that I can get by with either.  I have had a BL-22 for awhile and it is not going anywhere.  It is accurate and how can anyone not enjoy that short throw lever.

Now, let’s get back to that need for precision, reliability and one shot performance.  We had a family/friend tradition concerning the night before hunting season opened.  Everyone would come to my parent’s home and there would be a lot of story telling, a good meal and if the truth must be told a few cold ones.  It was something to be involved in and I only wish that I had the magic to make it happen again.  It was an exciting event.  On the opening night (before) in 1973, a friend of my family who happened to own a hardware store/gun shop showed up as usual.  His name was Ronnie and I could write a book on Ronnie and his hunting adventures.  One thing Ronnie definitely had was class and respect.  My family was very poor and we did not own much, but we were always well fed and the coffee was always on.  That night Ronnie brought my father a NIB Browning BAR in 30-06 caliber and gave it to him.  I have been told it was from the last days of Belgium production and my research supports that.  It had a Weaver 4X Wideview scope and it was magnificent. 

My father was a dog hunter who was well known all over the south.  He cared more about the dogs than ever killing a deer.  He was not a marksman and he favored the shotgun over a rifle.  Let’s just skip many years and say that he killed some deer with that BAR and I killed a lot with it.  My first deer fell to that rifle in 1973.  It was one shot, running at well over 100 yards away from me.  Through the back of the head and out the nose.  That started my obsession with accuracy and performance and leads us to the purpose of this article.  BTW, I am a retired Game Warden (LT. Colonel) and have heard it all when it comes to hunting and fishing.  Let me safely state that this BAR has resulted in the harvesting of  a few hundred deer and quite a few hogs.  This particular rifle has a reputation of never needing over one shot to harvest any game animal.  My father passed away in January 2009 and I inherited that BAR rifle.  It was a sign of change to come.

Now to the future.  When all this stuff was happening with Winchester and Marlin, I got to seriously thinking about my needs and preferences.  It all came down to the acceptance that I was looking for something that was right in front of me.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any model or caliber of those rifles previously mentioned, but what I was looking for was already there.  I trusted the 30-06, it was a good caliber for anything I would ever need and most of all, it was available anywhere.  My daddy always said that you should pick something (caliber) that was available at any store.  The 30-06 sure fits that criteria.

I woke up one morning feeling pretty sad over my father’s passing and thought about my inheritance of the BAR.  I then remembered everything I have already expressed and  I thought,  I already have the start.  I have the BAR and the Browning BLR’s have quite a few options.  I quickly acquired a BLR 30-06 takedown, a Stainless BLR takedown in 450 Marlin, a 270 Win. BLR, a A-Bolt in 30-06, a early steel .308 BLR and two BPR’s (Pump Rifle) in 30-06.  I got rid of everything that was not a Browning.  I hunted with most of them this past hunting season and made the final decision that I would go a little further and totally switch to the 30-06 only, other than my trusted BL-22 for small game.  As I write this article, I have converted my entire rifle collection to only 30-06 rifles.  I do have an early model Belgium Sweet Sixteen shotgun that I had bought for my father and I do have a mint condition original Smith Corona 03-A3.  I have ended up with the BAR, the BPR’s and BLR’s.  I think I may have settled into my secure spot.

What About the BLR

The BLR is a lot like many bolt action rifles because multiple locking lugs on the head of the bolt rotate into the breech end of the receiver/ barrel to create a very strong action. On the first models, the bolt lugs locked into grooves in the receiver, but the later grooves are part of the barrel.  More on that later.  It also has a very smooth short throw lever which incorporates the trigger system into the lever assembly, thereby eliminating finger jams.  I must admit I have never had a problem with finger jams when working a lever action , but it must exist for some.  The BLR also has a unique rack and pinion lever system for actuating and moving the bolt and completing the loading/unloading and cocking cycle.  If there is a draw back to the BLR, it is this system, which requires extreme knowledge to remove, replace and time for safe and proper performance.  It can be done at home, but I do not recommend it for the faint at heart.   I will get into this issue later, but I encourage you not to do it.

The receiver on earlier models is steel and on later models is a light weight alloy.  For the sake of easy writing, let’s call it an aluminum alloy receiver.  The early steel version is drilled and tapped for scope mounts and the later version has steel inserts press installed for the same purpose.  The early models have an exposed bolt head, the later an enclosed bolt head.  The later models also have a folding hammer system which could act as a backup safety system.  The trigger system has sometimes been criticized as being to heavy, but I must admit that I have not encountered one that I can not adjust to.

The BLR has been made in many configurations including straight stock and pistol gripped models.  There is one feature however that distinguishes it from most lever actions and that is it’s detachable magazine.  Most lever guns have a tubular magazine. For many years we only had short action caliber choices, but since 1991, we have had long action caliber choices.

The Browning BLR is a very dependable, accurate and easy to operate lever action rifle. If there is a second draw back, it is the availability of early BLR magazines and the cost associated with any extra BLR magazine.  I am very surprised that no outside company has picked up on producing the early model magazines (pre-81).  If you have a pre-81 BLR, start gathering a few extra magazines.  If you have a BLR 81 or later model, get at least one extra for the comfort.  On the plus side, the detachable magazine feature does allow for pointed bullets and some impressive calibers.


History

Production of the BLR as we know it, which had the magazine that extended below receiver, began in 1970.  Now I know this will raise some questions and retribution from some who have researched Browning BLR’s, but I challenge you to show me a pre-70 Belgium BLR.  I will change my article and give you credit if you can.  Almost everything that you read/research states they started the production in 1969, but there are no BLR’s from that year that I can find and/or verify.  I will also note that all of my research shows that “all official” references for determining “early 69-75” Browning BLR years of production using the serial numbers are also somewhat wrong. Go to the Serial Number portion of this article to see what I am writing about.

The original BLR’s receiver were made of steel and they had an extended magazine.  The first two calibers were .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester.  They were straight stocked and as best as I can tell, all the Belgium produced models all had oiled finished stocks.

Next came the move to have all of the BLR’s produced by Miroku in Japan.  This change was needed because of production costs.  Again, my research has found that “official records” are probably wrong.  Almost all references state that the “Japan” produced BLR’s began in 1971/72.  I can absolutely show you “Belgium” marked BLR’s from 1973 and I have some very good backup sources that will support me in this statement.
I should also note very early on in this article that the Japanese made BLR’s are every bit as good as any earlier produced FN Browning BLR.  Miroku produced BLR’s have a polyurethane type finish to the stock and forearm.

The BLR 81 started in 1981 with some minor changes including a flush magazine. The long action calibers came on the scene in 1991 and this is when the fluted bolt and fluted receivers started. There was also a change to the lever mechanism during this change over.  There was additionally a recall associated with the long action calibers of 1991, which was apparently the rifle could fire from a half cock position.   It may also have something to do with dissimilar metals in the lever system which can expand/not expand in very cold weather causing parts to bind.  The Lightning BLR (aluminum receiver) came on the scene in 1996 and the Lightweight Model 81 came on the scene in  2003.  The Lightning started out with a pistol gripped stock w/ a rounded knob and had a flat knob w/grip cap variation.  The BLR 81 Lightweight started the trend back to a straight stock and lately we have options of either the straight stock or pistol gripped models including a takedown version which began in 2007.  The last 2 models had the nose of the hammer that pivoted adding a safety feature.   The latest versions also offer stainless steel variations and laminated stocks.  There have been some Commemorative Models and some special factory issues that we will cover later.

For now, lets go to the design and early production attempts with the BLR.  Some sources give the credit of the BLR design to Karl R. Lewis  (http://rareguncollection.com/), and some to Bruce Browning, the grandson of John Browning.  I think it was probably a combination of both, including a few design and production engineers.  For a complete review, I recommend you acquire and read an article published in the 1992 46th Annual Gun Digest Book, titled “The U.S.-Made Browning That Almost Was”, authored by William G. Fohrman.

The basics of my research and the related articles that I have found indicate that Browning wanted to get into the center fire lever action market and they found Mr. Lewis and were interested in his design capabilities.  They also entered into a partnership with TRW (Thompson Ramo Woolridge) to finalize the design and produce the BLR sometime around 1966.  The partnership with both produced some interesting designs and prototypes, but both failed to come to a happy ending and the partnerships concluded around 1968.

It has been speculated that around 250 TRW prototypes were completed and parts for more produced, but the relationship between Browning and TRW never resulted in a partnership which produced marketable rifles.  This adventure between the two corporations can be a complete article by itself and I recommend the previously mentioned Gun Digest article if you are seriously considering collecting TRW produced BLR’s.  There are fakes and lunch box produced “American Made” TRW versions out there and the buyer must be informed and beware.

From my research, Browning had FN (Fabrique Nationale of Belgium) start producing the BLR in 1970.  For those who are not informed, Browning firearms have for the most part always been produced by FN.  Supposedly, FN produced around 27,000 BLR’s and then production was transferred to Japan (Miroku) in 1971/72.  I have a slight problem with this information, as I have uncovered Belgium marked BLR’s over the serial number of  30,000, which is supposedly the first Japanese made (serial numbered)  BLR in .358 Winchester.  As I stated previously, I can show you a 1973 Belgium marked BLR (Browning Model BLR 308 Win Ser.#390xxK73) and it has a serial number above the 30,000 range.  You can be the Judge, but I think the “official time-lines and serial number ranges” are not correct.

Serial Numbers

You can visit Browning's website - to determine the year of production of your rifle.


I can tell you that the website is absolutely wrong with the early (pre-1975) serial numbers, as far as the order goes.

The website states:

In 1969 Browning started using two digits for the date of manufacture:
K=BLR Lever Action Rifle
This was then followed by the serial number beginning with 1000.
Example: 69M1000 = A 1969 BAR High Power rifle with a serial number of 1000.

Actually, it is the reverse:

A true example is: 1001K70= A 1970 BLR with a serial number of 1001

The serial number comes first, followed by the model designator, then the year.  After that (1975),  they get it right.  This one mistake has caused some buyers/sellers/ collectors a little problem, but you can trust me - they (Browning) have it wrong on their website!

Just for your information, I have seen references that state that Browning started each year’s serial number sequence at the number 1000 for all models.  I think that information is correct, and if so, the above BLR serial number would indicate that it was actually the first BLR produced in 1970.

Models

From my research, the main versions of the BLR's are:

A)  The BLR, mfg. 1970 to 1981.  (70-73 in Belgium) - had the extended magazine.

B)  The BLR 81 Short Action, mfg. 1981-1995 (the flush magazine came in 1981)

C) The BLR-81 Long Action, mfg. 1991-1995.

(1991 saw the change in the new fluted bolt/receiver, a change in the lever/cam/pinion system and the folding hammer).

D) The New Model Lightning BLR, mfg. 1995-2002.  Alloy receiver.

E) The BLR Lightweight 81, mfg. 2003- present.

F) The BLR Lightweight Takedown, mfg. 2007- present.

(Note - the difference between a Lightweight and a Lightweight 81 is the LW is a pistol gripped stock and the 81 is a straight gripped stock).

G) The BLR Lt Wt Stainless and Stainless Takedown, mfg. 2008 - present.

The DOB can be determined from the two numbers following the letter code (K) in 1975 and earlier models.  The DOB can be determined on post 1975 models by the two letter code (ex. RT which is 1976) which are right before the last three numbers, which indicate the BLR type (LA, SA etc..)

1991 also saw the introduction of the firing pin inertia system.

All Browning BLR rifles produced between 1970 and 1980 are correctly referred to as Browning BLR’s.  All Browning BLR Rifles produced between 1981 and 1994 are correctly referred to as Browning BLR Model 81’s and could be purchased in either short action, or long action after 1991.  All BLR Rifles produced from 1995 through 2002 are correctly referred to as the Browning BLR Lightning Model (Alloy receiver).   All Browning BLR models produced after 2003 are correctly referred to as Browning BLR Model 81 Lightweights or BLR Lightweights.

Keep in mind that the Browning BLR made changes on the receiver tops in 1995/96. The older receiver tops on pre-1996 BLR rifles were flat. The new BLR's made from 1995/96 on, have a semi-round top receiver. So make sure when your BLR was made. Older pre-1996 mounts from any other manufacturer can't be used on the newer BLR's either.

The primary difference between the original BLR and the '81 BLR is in the receiver shape and, consequently, the magazine. The original BLR (1970 - 1980) has a concave-shaped receiver - it is wider at both ends (flared out), where it attached to the stocks, than it is in the middle. Consequently the magazine is narrower and thus had to be made longer in order to hold an adequate number of shells. The 81 BLR's receiver is straight-sided, which allows a wider and thus shorter magazine which is, more or less flush with the bottom of the receiver. The Lightning has a flare in at the front of the receiver. The Model 81 Lightweight has flare in at the front and rear of the receiver.  The Lightweight Takedown has a flare in at the rear of the receiver.

Having owned both, I have not developed a preference over the extended or flush magazine.  Some people dislike the extended magazine, but I remain neutral on the issue. The only advantage is that the flush magazines are readily available, and they are the same and interchangeable between model changes since the Model 81’s became available.

Another difference I can mention is that original BLRs have a front sight hood, while '81 BLRs do not.   I think they were removed/deleted around 1980. 

Most BLR’s have been produced with a walnut stock, but lately some stainless models have a Dura Touch (Mossy Oak Brush) camo pattern stock, some have a regular walnut stock and some have a gray laminated stock. (pistol gripped or straight stocked).  Some stainless models have a fluorescent front sight.

Early BLR models have the serial number on the bottom of the receiver, behind the magazine.  Model 81’s and newer models have the serial number on the right side/rear of the receiver.

The White Gold Medallion has a black/white/black butt plate and a black over white pistol grip cap.  It has a dark brown w/ white spacer fore end cap (Schnabel type).  It is engraved w/ upgraded wood.  It was made in 2009.

Lightning’s are marked on the right side of the barrel.  “Lightning BLR Caliber 270 Win. Only”.

Model 81’ are marked on the right side of the barrel. “ Model 81 BLR Caliber 270 Win.”. ONLY also.

Lightweights are marked on the right side of the barrel.. “ BLT LT WT 81 Caliber .270 Win Only or BLR LT WT Caliber .270 Only”  Stainless models have “Stainless Steel” marked on the right side of the barrel near the receiver.

Model 81’s had the exposed bolt head (two sets of four bolt lugs - opposing at 90 degrees and locked up in the top and side of the receiver) until the Long Action was introduced in 1991.  In 1991, they got the new type of bolt (current one - 6 lug which locks up inside the barrel), changes to the lever (bolt assist) and a cam spring on the lever gear.

BLR’s and early Model 81’s had the steel receiver.  Lightning’s (1995/96) started the alloy receiver.

Metal receiver models have pins for retaining the lever etc..  Alloy receiver models have screws.

Alloy receivers have steel inserts for the four scope base screws.

Some Lightning models have a pistol gripped stock w/ a squared grip cap w/ a black grip cap.  Most have a rounded knob type of pistol gripped stock.

Early BLR’s had an oiled stock - at least by 1974 (Japanese models) they had a polyurethane type finished stock.

The gold trigger shows as early as 1978 - It was not on 1976 models and no 1977 have been found with it.

Timelines

May, 1969
BL-22 Lever Action 22 rifle introduced.

1970
BLR Lever Action high-power rifle introduced in .243 Winchester and .308 Winchester.

1976
B-78 in 45-70 and 7mm, and BLR 358 introduced.

1981
Model 81 BLR lever rifle introduced with the flush magazine.

1982
The .22-250 was introduced into the BLR calibers.

1983
The .257 Roberts and 7mm-08 were introduced as BLR calibers.

1985
The .222Rem and the .223Rem were added for a total of 8 different BLR calibers.

1989
The .284 Winchester was added to the BLR calibers.  It only lasted a short time.

1990
The BLR caliber .222-Rem was dropped.

1991
The BLR long action calibers were introduced (30-06, 7mm Rem Mag and .270 Win.).

1993
The .257 Roberts and the .358 were dropped from BLR production

1995/96
BLR Lightning (pistol gripped stock) with fold-down hammer introduced and the .284 Win. BLR caliber was discontinued.  M-1885 BPCR in 45-70 and 40-65 calibers introduced.

1997
BPR (Browning Pump Rifle) in long and short action. Six calibers in long action 270, 30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag., 300 Win. Mag. and short action in 243 and 308. M-1885 Traditional Hunter in 30-30, 38-55 and 45-70 calibers introduced.

2003
The BLR 81 comes back out in a new straight-grip style stock.

2005
The BLR 81 is now available in a new Lightweight, short-action, long action pistol grip model.  The BL-22 rifle has a new caliber: the 17 Mach 2. Called the new BL-17, it has new looks and an octagon barrel as an option. The 325 WSM  caliber is added.

2007
The BLR 81 is offered in two takedown models, one with a pistol grip and one with a straight grip.  New WSM calibers added.
Calibers

The BLR is or has been available in the following calibers:

222 Remington
223 Remington
22-250 Remington
243 Winchester
25-06 Winchester
257 Roberts
284 Winchester
7mm-08 Remington
308 Winchester
358 Winchester
270 Winchester
30-06 Springfield
7mm Remington Magnum
300 Winchester Magnum
300 WSM
270 WSM
7mm WSM
450 Marlin
325 WSM
Standards

As a standard, the short action BLR’s have 20” barrels, the long actions have a 22” barrel and the magnums have a 24” barrel.  The WSM calibers have a 22” barrel.  There have been some exceptions and special runs.

Below is an example of one BLR specification for the current 30-06:

Specifications and features:
Browning BLR take-down lever-action rifle
.30-06 Springfield caliber
22" button-rifled barrel
1:10" twist
4 Round detachable box magazine
Long, lever-action
Hammer block safety
Fold-down, 4-position hammer
Full-cock, half-cock, folded & dropped & fired
Multiple-lug breech bolt
Recessed bolt face
Rotating bolt
Side ejection
Gold bead raised ramp front sight
Low profile adjustable square notch rear sight
Lightweight aluminum receiver
Gray Laminated stock
Schnabel forearm
Crowned muzzle
Flush-mounted, detachable box magazine
Recoil pad
4-1/2 lbs. trigger pull
14-1/4" length of pull
19-3/4" sight radius
7/8" drop at comb
15/16" drop at heel
43" overall length
7 lbs. 4 oz.

Early BLRs had a straight stock, front sight hood and sling swivels. Red ventilated recoil pad w/ black and a white spacer.  Stock and forearm were checkered and they had an extended magazine.

BLR 81s have a black recoil pad and sling swivels and a flush magazine.

The difference in receiver length between short actions and long actions is ¾” (6 ¾ vs. 7 ½).

Repairs

I can not verify this, but my research shows that Browning depends on a natural product called Kanabe to coat its stocks.  Citristrip has been reported as one of the better ways to remove the Browning epoxy type finish.  For minor repairs on the polyurethane finished Browning stocks, try Lemon Pledge or something similar.   The only source of aftermarket stocks that I have found for the BLR’s is MPI http://www.mpistocks.com.

If you ever have the stock and forearm off, I highly recommend that you apply a good coat of wood oil to the interior of both.  There is no finish on the inside.  If you want to strip and refinish the stock, here is a link to a process that results in a beautiful finish.  http://www.24hourcampfire.com/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=2702095.  It is the third post down and make sure you take heed of the checkered area warnings.

Additional information has been found that will give hope to those who would like a lighter, cleaner trigger - if their BLR needs one.  Sources state that gunsmith Neil Jones (http://www.neiljones.com/) can do an excellent trigger job on them.


Besides the information on Browning’s website concerning repairs and parts, I have found that Midwest Gun Works seems to be the best source for getting what you need.
http://www.midwestgunworks.com.  They also have a good selection of parts diagrams and some repair manuals.  Brownells has a good schematic and some parts also.  WWW.Brownells.com.  There is a link on MGW;  http://www.midwestgunworks.com/field_service_manual/browning_blr_pre_81_field_service_manual),  that allows you to review the Field Service Manual for the BLR.  If you choose to take one apart, at least review this manual first.  Another source for the disassembly/reassembly of the BLR 81 is the Gun Digest Book of Firearms Assembly/Disassembly - Part IV: Centerfire Rifles (2nd Addition) by J.B Wood.  This one is an absolute must read for working on the BLR.

I do not recommend that the average homemade gun repair specialist attempt to take apart and reassemble the BLR.  There are some timing issues involved with the lever, gears and the bolt that can cause potentially hazardous headspace problems if they are not reassembled correctly.  There are also quite a few gun smiths that can not do it correctly.

JFYI

The following has been found on forums on the internet:  It is just additional information and is not intended to be a guide to reassembly.

Some of the older models repair information states that when the action is properly timed, cocking the hammer will allow the breech bolt slide to move to the rear a maximum of .015.

Headspace trick - It has a bull pinion that the large gear meshes with the bolt and the small gear meshes with the gear segment in the lever.  It has fewer teeth than the big gear. Don't put your pins (screws on some models) in tight until you get the timing set correctly. First close the bolt making sure the bolt carrier is all the way forward and the bolt head turned and locked. Now take a piece of duct tape and tape the rear of the bolt where the hammer strikes the firing pin so it can't move out of the receiver. What you are going to do now is strictly trial and error.  Fit the bull pinion in and out until the lever is all the way closed and the large gear is meshed with the rack gear in the bottom of the bolt carrier and the hole in the center of the gear is in line with the hole in the receiver. I don't remember how many teeth are in the small gear but that is how many chances you have of getting it right. One gear has a even number of teeth and the other gear has an odd number of teeth and that gives it the option of being adjustable.

Recall

There is documentation of a model recall of the 1991 Browning BLR’s in long action calibers only.  I have not been able to factually verify what the issue was/is, but it did happen.  Some sources state that the rifle could fire from a half cock position.

After much research, I have heard that some earlier models of the BLR (maybe the 1991 LAs) had some particular components (gears/pinions) that were made of a different metals and their rate of expansion during extreme cold temperatures was considerably greater than that of their surrounding metals, causing them to bind.

BROWNING
MODEL BLR, LONG ACTION, RIFLES

RECALL: Browning has identified a potential safety hazard on its BLR Long Action, and is recalling all of these rifles for repair. This recall does not include the Short Action BLR Rifle.
Long Action BLR owners should NOT load or shoot their rifles until they have been returned to Browning and the problem has been corrected. The problem is easily corrected but the affected rifles must be sent to Browning for the correction to be made.

The rifles in question have the following inscription on the right side of the barrel: Model 81L BLR followed by one of these calibers: CALIBER 270 WIN., 30-06, or 7MM REM. MAG.
To arrange shipping and service, call Browning’s service facility at (800) 727-4312. Browning pays the freight and provides the container.

Source:
·       Shooting Industry, July 1991; page 1
·       Shooting Times, August 1991; page 8
·       Shooting Times, October 1991; page 106
·       AFTE Journal, July 1991; Volume 23, Number 3:802
·       American Rifleman, July 1991; page?


Commemoratives - Specials

This is going to surprise some Browning collectors, but there are some fairly rare and special BLR’s out in the market just waiting for you to purchase them.  Here are a few and if you know of more I would like to have the information about them.

For starters, there is the M.D.H.A (Minnesota Deer Hunters Association) Habitat Commemorative BLR Takedown in.  There were reportedly 50 made.

Next is the BLR Lightweight 81 Browning Canada 50TH Anniversary Commemorative in 308.  There were reportedly 100 made.

There is also the BLR Canadian Company President issue.  I have seen pictures of one, but do not know how many were made.

There is currently a 24” barreled 25-06 being produced for Kones Korner.  They report that only 150 will be made.

My internet research has found a 308 Browning factory prototype (custom) with a  24” barrel.  It has a factory letter.

I have also found the Browning BLR Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 2002 Banquet Edition, in 7MM limited rifle.  There were 500 reportedly made.  These specials have an octagon barrel.

Also, don’t forget about the TRW prototype BLR’s, but be aware of fakes.

Caliber Interchangeable Magazines

JFYI many of the BLR magazines (model specific and action “long vs. short” specific) are interchangeable.  Many are marked as being multiple caliber.

Another early BLR magazine note was provided by forum member Tycer on the Lever guns (www.lever guns.com) site.  Apparently the early Belgium magazines have a slightly different follower that the Miroku BLR magazine and feeding problems can be encountered if they are interchanged.  Here is a link to the information.  http://www.levergunscommunity.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=27486&start=0

BPR

Well, I  am going to go out on a small limb here and make a big statement.  I like BLR’s - a lot.  But I really like the Browning Pump Rifles (BPR’s) in the center fire calibers, especially the 30-06.  I did not get into the BPR’s until recently, but I plan to acquire every BPR in 30-06 that I come across.  Reasonably priced of course.

The BPR Pump Rifle was introduced in 1997 and they were produced through 2001.

1997
BPR (Browning Pump Rifle) in long and short action. Four calibers in long action .270, 30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag., 300 Win. Mag., and two in short action in 243 and 308.  The two regular long action and two short action barrels are 22” long.  The magnum barrels are 24” long.  BPR barrels are free floated and the rifles weigh around 7 ½ pounds.

The BPR uses the same scope mounts as BAR II’s and later BLR’s.  The BPR uses the same magazines as BAR II’s.  The BPR’s magazine capacity is four rounds for standard calibers and three rounds for magnum calibers.  The safety on the BPR is reversible for left hand operation.

The BPR was dropped from the line only 5 years (2001) of production.   As previously written in the BLR section, Browning has the serial number sequence wrong (backwards) on their website.

The Browning Rimfire BPR was produced from 1977-1982.
Browning Dualis

This is basically a European BPR variation . The mechanism, manual safety, and magazine catch are all identical except for some cosmetic differences. The operation is also identical, including the unusual pump action pattern. The standard barrel is 20 inches, but the same barrel is used for magnum rounds and is therefore shorter than the barrel used on magnum BPR rifles. The Dualis has a Express type sighting rib that also has a folding leaf sight; this rib can be removed, revealing drilling and tapping for a telescopic sight. The front sight has a bead with fluorescent plastic. The receiver housing is made from light alloy, but other metal parts are of high-strength steel. The stock and fore-end are of walnut; the pistol grip of the stock is unusually deep and is checkered. There are reports that the Dualis only has a magazine capacity of two rounds to satisfy European requirements, but I have seen videos of the Dualis being shot and they all appear to have the same magazine capacity as USA model BPR’s.  The Dualis was introduced in Europe is 2001, but was not sold in North America until 2003.  Note: I have not found the Dualis was ever available in the United States.  If you find one in 30-06,  in the U.S I would greatly appreciate the information.


BL-22

The BL-22 was introduced in 1969 and continues in production.



JBMR

The following information was found on the internet concerning the Jonathan Browning Mountain Rifle.  It is included in this article for informational interest.  I have not verified any of this information.

JBMR - Weighing in at 9.6 pounds, the rifle has a trigger reach of 13-3/4". They were made from 1977-1981 and offered in .45, 50, and .54 caliber. The .45 was recommended for deer, the .50 elk, and the .54 for moose. The percussion lock has a crisp action, and strong mainspring, for fast lock time and sure-fire reliability. This lock has a fly detent, allowing the use of the single set trigger. The trigger may be latched, or the hammer cocked, in any sequence. The single trigger has a unique hidden set trigger feature. Press the trigger forward to latch the trigger over-center, under the cam roller spring. A tiny adjustment screw controls the hair-light trigger release when set. The hooked breech has the traditional snail bolster, except this breech is decorated with an embossed ram's horn, in an attractive curl.

The .54 saw the least production and are very hard to find, so I'd say hang on to the one you have. The .54 had a 1 in 66 twist and was recommended for patched round balls only
Browning no longer has parts or services these guns, although owners manuals are still available. Deer Creek Products in Waldron, Indiana 765-525-6181 has all available replacement parts except for stocks. They even have different barrels (in the white) so you can change calibers if you like.

They were made by Mark Cheney under contract to Browning in the late 1970's  and the early 1980's.

Conclusion

I will conclude this article by saying that the past years research into the BLR has been very challenging.  I hope I got everything right and I really strove to verify any information that has been presented.

I would ask that if you find any new information or conflicting information, that you contact me through the Leverguns site and let me have an opportunity to review your sources and make additions or corrections as needed.



Links:
- The Browning Lever Action Rifle (BLR) By: Bruce Hamlin on Paco Kelly's Leverguns Forum

25 comments:

Craig said...

Thank you for that wonderful pre-81 clarification.. I am working on my third Belgium BLR..

MojoSlim said...

Bruce - Thanks for making this information available to BLR owners and curious parties. I just got a used BLR Lightning in 30-06 this week and can't wait to get it out to the range. Researching BLRs on the internet has been a challenge, but your article seems to have it all in one easy to find place.

Doug said...

Awesome info.. thanks for the research...is there any known models lower than 1001...like in the 300's..example 331K69

Bruce said...

Fellas, thanks for the kind comments. I actually enjoyed the research even though it was sometimes confusing and time consuming.

Doug,

I have not encountered any 69 year model BLR's and have not seen or found any documentation of any w/ a s/n below 1000. If you have a lead on one that does show these, I would appreciate the information. I can not state one way or the other if any of the TRW produced prototypes may have been numbered in the manner you show.

Bruce

marine11 said...

Great article and information since I am new to the pre-81 BLR. I just bought a 1976 model in .358 for my son but the seller did not offer the magazine. As you can imagine I was shocked when I tried to find one. Where can I get a magazine for this weapon? It is virtually useless without one.

Serial # 312249RT127
Patent #3377731

Bruce said...

marine11,

You have come upon the great mystery. I don't have a clue why so many early BLR's show up w/o a magazine, but they do. There is no reason they should be lost any easier than any other, but there may be a gremlin out there who is hoarding them. That is the worst bad news. The better bad news is that no one currently makes a replacement "early" BLR magazine. The getting better news (but not best) is that they routinely show up on internet gun sites, especially www.gunbroker.com, gun shows and as used extras at the occasional gun dealer. The can bring $200 plus on the internet.

The only good news is that for the pre-81 models, the magazines are all caliber interchangable. All the early mag's will work for .243, 308and 358. There is some slight follower difference between Belgium and Japanese made (early) magazines, but not too much to be concerned with.

Hope this helps.

Bruce

Joseph said...

Hello,
I have kind of a sad story regarding the RMEF Browning BLR Banqet Edition limited rifle. My father purchased this rifle for me as a gift when I graduated from West Point. I was actually able to carry it twice before I was deployed twice to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. When I got back I got out of the Army and went to work on the Gulf Oil Spill as an Engineer, during this time my family farm was broken into in Idaho and several guns were stolen out of our safe, including 410 shot guns we use for killing snakes, pistols, and my graduation gift. As it was there was a Leupold scope on it. I have scorged the internet and gone to gun shows but can not find another one. If you have any ideas where I can get one please let me know. As of right now my father doesn't know it is gone. I am pretty devestated, and I know he would take it even worse. Thanks for your.
Joe

Bruce said...

Joe,

Thanks for your service. I have seen the RMEF Edition for sale on the internet a few times this year. I will have to go back and do a little searching to see what I can do to help you find another. You can also go to www.Leverguns.com and post a help wanted type add in the sale/trade section. The members there are great and will do their best to find one. You can also reach me through www.pumprifle.org.

Bruce

Bruce said...

Joseph,

The rifle you are looking for is on Gunbroker right now (August 13, 2011). I wish I knew how to contact you. Here is a link.

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=246205075

joseph said...

Bruce,
Thank you so much for the information! I was not able to purchase that rifle because I have been offshore working since the beginning of this month and I just got in last night...so I regretfully missed the relisting of that auction by 37 min. I couldn't believe it. That said if anyone does come across another one my email is jforsman@cteh.com and I will make sure to check back on this blog again soon. Again thank you so much for your thoughts and I am very greatful there are people like you out there...and if you hunt the season is right around the corner so good luck.

Bruce said...

Joseph,

That rifle is back on Gun Broker.

http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/ViewItem.aspx?Item=250078053

Bruce

GoQuickly said...

What an amazing gun. Keep up the good work. Let me know if this is going to be relisted for sale.

Isaac B.
Security Safes

Rich Saylor said...

Very informative article, which I read carefully before deciding to purchase a Browning BLR Model 81 in .223, which I did. I bought it because I wanted to have something to plink away with that had a bit more punch than my .22 LR Model 121 (pump action) Remington, but used noticably less expensive ammo than my 1921 vintage Winchester .30-30. Pumps and bolt-action rifles are good, and for some uses better than lever guns, but nevertheless I've gotten to really like lever guns!
After taking posssession of my "new" rifle, I again re-read your article, and I did notice one small discrepancy in your article, on page 9: you stated that "older receiver tops on pre-1996 rifles were flat", however my BLR- date-code NM, made in 1990- has a semi-rounded receiver top, not a flat one. The top of the receiver has long, shallow parallel grooves along the top, and is also drilled for mounts, to which Weaver-style mounts are attached (which permitted me to easily fit a new red-dot sight on the rear mount, very tidy!).
Getting accurate, detailed information on these somewhat older guns must have been a bit of a pain, so it must have been a labor of love. I hope this small bit of additional info is helpful. As for myself, it is a beautifully made rifle; I can't wait to be able to use it, after a bit of needed gunsmithing.

My thanks again,

Rich Saylor, Monterey, CA

Bruce said...

Isaac,

Joseph sent me an email statintg that he did buy that rifle. I doubt it will ever be sold by him.

Rich,

The great thing about research is you always find something new, especially w/ firearms. From your description, it almost sounds like the receiver is grooved on top like a rimfire rifle - for rimfire mounts - in addition to the regular four screw holes. Is this correct? If so, I have never seen that combination on a BLR centerfire. If you get a chance drop by www.leverguns.com or www.pumprifle.org and post pictures.

ABtMS said...

I'm just looking into getting one of these in .30-06, and this is bar none the best source of info I've found on the web. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

E watts said...

I just purchased a 1971 308 BLR made in Belgium. The gun looks to be in great condition. The man I bought it from bought I new and said he only shot it a hand full of times. The only concern I have is it's kind of hard to pull the lever down from it's locked position. But when it starts to come down it is fairly easy to operate. I was wondering if this was normal and if not is there anything I can do to make it easier. I haven't got to shoot it yet so I hope this is not a big problem. Thanks

Lyle said...

I found your artical very educational. I was very confused with the Browing website for dating a BLR my father passed to me.
I do have a question.
The serial # on the BLR I have is 547k69, there is not a "1" befor the "5" have you seen this befor? As you state in the artical the numbers are suposidly to start with 1....
Any areas?

Anonymous said...

Very good article and info on the Browning rifles. I only have one BLR lever action 308 and on the bottom of reciever is stamped 7K69. I has gold trigger and in excelent condition. Got it as payment for working on friends car who said his dad bought it in about 1970. Only problem is there is no magazine for it as it was lost while hunting. Can not locate replacement. I there any other mazazine that could be modified to fit?

Brian Krumm said...

I recently picked up a blr lightning 300 win mag from a local gun dealer near Mpls, Mn. It has never been shot or had a scope mounted on it. The rifle is in mint condition and as far as I knew it was a new model. So after reading your BLR article I come to find out that the rifle I purchased was a NIB rifle made in 1998. Truly amazing. Thanks for the great information on this beautiful gun.

Anonymous said...

The link to manual is missing the ".pdf" part at the end.

The correct link is as follows:

http://www.midwestgunworks.com/field_service_manual/browning_blr_pre_81_field_service_manual.pdf

Thanks for the useful article.
Another Kiwi

Anonymous said...

Website for verifying serial number/model/year:

http://www.browning.com/customerservice/dategun/detail.asp?id=22

Kiwi

Logan Elkins said...

I just bought a 308 Belgium made BLR with a serial number on the bottom of the receiver that is 347K69, I went to Browning's home page and was confused as you described earlier, is this the 347th 308 BLR made in 1969? You did state that you were not able to find any BLR's manufactured in 1969. Please contact me at loganelkins@hotmail.com, I have pictures

Goof Troop said...

I just inherited a BLR belgium 308 from my dad. He passed about 10 years ago. It was a gun I have always admired on his rifle rack since I was a little kid. I finally got the nerve to ask my mom for it (she never lets go of anything). I really didn't know exactly what I was getting. I appreciated this rifle before because it was my dads and thanks to your article I appreciate it because of its history. Thank you very much for all the research you have done and thd the time you put in to this article.

Anonymous said...

I have a new BLR light weight take down. I want to purchase an extra mag (308). CTD has these mags listed as 81's. Will this mag fit my post 2005 BLR? Thanks in advance, Jungle Jim.

Joe Wilk said...

In July of 2013, I picked up an M.D.H.A. BLR 81 308 rifle. It is numbered 8 of 50. It has wonder gold engraving on both sides of the receiver. Haven't shot it yet, but I can't wait to take a good size buck this year here in North Carolina....
Joe W. Salisbury, NC