It isn’t often we get a semi-auto rifle design that is wildly different, but not often also doesn’t mean never. And this week we got our hands on one that is way outside of current norms for a battle rifle. New, from CZ, the evolution of the Bren family of rifles. The Bren 2 MS!
I will also be upfront with you guys, I’m not a closet Bren collector. Up until this review, the most familiarity I had with a Bren gun is the scene featuring one from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The Bren 2 is obviously a follow-up to a Bren 1 (CZ 805 or 807 if you want to get technical), which is in use in some military circles. Notably the Czech Army, Slovak Army, and Mexican Federal Police. While the Bren 1 had a long and arguably murky development, its roots are deep. The Czech Republic has always taken weapons development seriously, and in fact, was the only Warsaw Pact Army not to field a rifle based on the AK-47. It could reasonably be argued that the Bren 805 has a heritage all the way back to the Czech vz 58.
Relevant to our Bren 2 is the Bren 805 (ie Bren 1) is the fielding by the Czech army in 2011. It quickly gained a reputation for reliability and toughness but came at the price of being heavy. Almost immediately engineers went back to the table and introduced the Bren 2 in 2015 for the European market. With 1.1 pounds shaved off and some improved ergonomics, it soon found a following. It is today in the hands of the French Special Forces unit GIGN in 7.62×39, along with several others including the Egyptian Airborne and Hungarian Defense Force.
Given the look of the platform, we Americans are immediately going to want a comparison to our AR-15’s. And that is a little bit of a tall order. The Bren 2 most resembles next-gen military rifle contenders, such as the Remington ACR and FNH SCAR, regardless of how those have caught on in civilian circles. One thing you must notice about military procurement outside of the United States. It is almost universally written to favor short-stroke piston operated rifles. And while we might be the big dog in dollar terms of military spending, we are also notoriously bad at small arms procurement. Maybe we should be paying attention.
The Bren 2 is obviously then a short-stroke gas piston. The gas block has 3 settings, which require no tools to change, which lets us know this baby was built to be suppressed. The handguard is a bit taller than an AR-15 and feels more like an MPX. This is to be expected with a piston gun and is slim enough to feel good in the hand. The rifle is a side charger, and very pleasingly, features a non-reciprocating charging handle. (If you have ever wondered why that isn’t so on the FNH SCAR, it is because the DOD insisted. See again, notoriously bad at procurement.)
And this is really where things go off the rails for comparison at least. Everything else about the Bren 2 shows uniqueness in a way that makes it entirely different. The lower is all one piece, with the pistol grip molded in. The grip does feature interchangeable backstraps and a storage compartment, but it is part of the gun. The magwell you will immediately notice looks a bit oversized for a 556 magazine. It is. Now the 556 version accepts standard STANAG/ M16 magazines. You aren’t fielding this baby in NATO otherwise. But the Bren 2 was built from the ground up to accept bigger bullets. So the magazine well actually has a removable sleeve to make it small enough for our poodle shooter 223’s. Not only is the Bren 2 available in 7.62×39, but in the next phase, CZ will be selling conversion kits.
The controls are brilliantly thought out, and show again the Czech dedication to the craft of weaponry. The safety lever is ambi, and a 45 degree throw. Why that hasn’t become standard on AR-15’s, I have no idea. But the tech has existed for a decade or more, we should be past the 90 degree Stoner original. The magazine release is also Ambi, and instinctive with either hand. But my favorite part is the bolt release. It does have a left side paddle control, perhaps a nod to soldiers familiar with the Stoner design. But it also features a bolt lock/release built into the front of the trigger guard, an excellent idea. As well as the trigger guard is bigger than that of an AR-15, which eliminates accidental bolt releases with workarounds such as the BAD lever.
How about that trigger, the measure of a rifle? Once again, don’t look at this and think you are going to drop an AR Gold in it. While it might look similar in the outside dimension, the guts are nothing like an AR/M-16. The Bren 2 factory trigger is remarkable for a battle rifle, if lacking compared to a custom AR trigger. It is two-stage, with a very light take up. Our test model breaks at about 3.5 pounds, which is something I think we all can live with.
Accuracy was excellent, in fact, better than I anticipated. I had heard from some other sources to expect a 1.5 to 2 MOA rifle. Our test model blew the doors off of that. With a .75 MOA 5 round group, the Bren 2 outperforms most things. Combined with the reliability of a piston system, that makes this one very hard to beat.
Folding stock? You betcha. It’s 2021, which is pretty much a must-have on a new blaster. The Bren stock locks up like a bank vault and features an adjustable length of pull. The factory removable riser on the stock offers excellent cheek stock weld and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.