Several years ago I happened upon a rifle that blew me away. It was at Media Day at the Range, which is the day before our annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, and I have to say, it takes a lot to blow me away. That rifle was the Noreen Arms BN36 Long Range Assassin, which you will recognize as an AR-15 pattern, in .30-06. I have always been a huge fan of that cartridge, and I always wondered if the rifle ran as well as my M1 Garands. This week I finally got a chance to put the Noreen to the test, ad I love it!
Noreen sells the guns mostly direct to consumer, and I have seen very few come up on the used market, because people keep them. The BN36 Long Range Assassin that you see here in the video is $1,999.99, and there are carbine versions for several hundred less. Available calibers are 30-06 Springfield, 270 Winchester, 25-06 Remington, 300 Winchester Mag, and 7mm Remington Mag. The magazines are proprietary, and the gun comes with one. Extra magazines are $86 and up, depending on the caliber.
The BN36 may seem like a niche product, as compared to a “regular” .308/7.62 NATO AR-15 pattern, but it is not. What most people don’t know is that all ARs that don’t take a regular .223/5.56 magazine are proprietary. These days there is at least a standard .308 magazine, but that is only a recent development when Armalite, the inventor of the original AR-10 in .308, decided to adopt the PMAG.
Many writers, even writers here at GunsAmerica, mistakenly call .308 AR-15s an AR-10, as if there were some milspec standard for that gun, but there is not. The AR-10 is a registered Armalite trademark to this day, and there has never been a “milspec” AR-15 configuration in .308. The Ruger 7.62 is no more “standard” than a DPMS or an Armalite or this Noreen. It just so happens that the Noreen is in a less popular, but far more classy caliber than any of those other guns.
The Noreen BN36 is what happens when true gun nerds get an idea, and set out to build the very best rifle they can build. The difference on the Noreen is that they have managed to keep the price down, on what is a 100% custom machined firearm. When I first saw this gun, probably 2013, I said whoa that’s nifty, but I didn’t expect that they would be around very long.
At the time I didn’t know that Peter Noreen, the founder of the company (and the guy who wouldn’t give me the time of day at SHOT back then lol), was already a world recognized gunsmith. He apparently became known for building up caliber Model 70s for dangerous game, and by 2007 was building rifles from scratch for the long range competition market. I haven’t yet seen their .338 Bad News rifle, but hopefully we’ll get to that at some point.
The BN36 was originally made for the long range competition market, and as you’ll see in the video, with casual rested shooting, I was able to shoot it easily into less than an inch of shot dispersion (sub-MOA) at 100 yards. I may buy this rifle from them because I’d like to get back into hand loading for the benefit of our readers here. So far we have only run stuff from novice reloaders here, and mostly it has been introductory. As some of you evolve into active reloaders, there is a lot you can do with a rifle like this to improve accuracy, consistent accuracy, as you step away from factory ammo.
My “secret weapon” in these accuracy tests with factory ammo has become Hornady American Whitetail. I don”t know why, but the 150 grain version of that load always seems to shoot good in every .308 I have tested it, and now this .30-06 reacted similarly. There was a very noticeable difference in hot bore vs. cold bore in the BN36. If you are a police sniper and the first shot is all that counts, I would say that this gun, cold bore first shot to cold bore first shot, is south of “ragged hole” with just about any ammo. For competition, it will take careful handloads on a sweet spot kind of load to keep the gun in MOA all afternoon, but that is true of most rifles, and for sure all semi-autos.
As you’ll see in the video, in addition to high end target and hunting ammo, I also shot a bunch of steel cased Wolf from Russia. Cold bore, it also shot fairly MOA, and even fast shooting on a really hot gun I could keep inside the accuracy potential of most out of the box tactical rifles in its price range. Steel cased ammo is really up to you. I first shot some brass ammo in the gun to see if the cases were impacting the frame anywhere, and they were not, so I felt that it was safe to shoot without worrying about damaging the alloy frame of the rifle.
That, by the way, is a sign of a well tuned semi-auto, and it is not surprising that the Noreen family are long range enthusiasts who reload. If a gun is set up right, it shouldn’t damage your brass. Some people won’t shoot steel at all in their guns, but I think of this rifle as a workingman’s gun toy, because even though it is a handmade firearm, the price isn’t in the stratosphere for what you get. Unless you handload, steel is your best bet for an afternoon of plinking on the cheap.
The .30-06 us ballistically similar to the .308, but you can squeeze a little more velocity out of the same bullet with the right powders in the .30-06. For instance, the .30-06 Hornady American Whitetail is 90 feet per second faster than the same bullet in the same ammo for .308.
The main difference is the size of the action. Historically the .30-06 is called a “long action whereas the .308 is called a “short action.” If you look at a Remington 700, they will be listed in caliber groups along those lines. There are now carbine models of this Noreen, but with a shorter barrel, there is little difference ballistically between the two calibers, and I wouldn’t call it more than a curiosity. In a 16″ barrel, I’d rather have a gun that takes a standardized, smaller, lighter magazine. Nearly all .308 AR-15s will also be slightly lighter than this 9 lb. rifle. It does weigh less than an M1 Garand though.
In my afternoon with the BN36 I had no failures, once I figured out what I was doing wrong. If you watch the video, you’ll see that I shoot on a Caldwell Lead Sled (sans the lead), and the support bar on that model is made for standard AR mags. The slot between the bars is not big enough for the beefy Noreen .30-06 mag, so the mag was pushing up, dragging the next shell on the reciprocating action. This was causing stovepipes nearly every shot. When I realized the issue and put a block under the stock, my problems vanished and never again did the gun hang up.
The directions that come with the BN36 say that you may have to tighten up the gas block when you first shoot your gun out of the box, but I did not. It shot light bullets, heavy bullets, target ammo, Hornady Superformance ammo, all without a hangup, and it didn’t seem like the action was being battered. You may need to adjust your gun and you may not, but at least be aware that an adjustment is available.
If you have question about this gun or you want it in a custom configuration, visit Noreen’s website and contact them directly. From what I can tell, they make all but the buttstocks in house, and they are even selling their own drop in triggers these days as well. Is a niche nerd gun? Is it a police sniper rifle? Is it a competition gun? My take is that at $2000 bucks, the Noreen BN36 Long Range Assassin is just a good deal on a great rifle.