Brownells BRN-Proto Takes On The Earliest AR-15

Brownells BRN-Proto Takes On The Earliest AR-15

Based on the AR-15 Serial Number One, Brownells BRN-Proto throws the rifle back to its earliest roots.

How the BRN-Proto recreates the early AR-15:

  • Utilizes AR-10 sized handguard.
  • Trigger-like charging handle situated at the top of the receiver.
  • Slick-side upper receiver.
  • Duckbill flash suppressor.
  • Brown polymer furniture replicates original's fiberglass.
  • Matte gray anodizing give spot-on coloration.
  • A1-profile barrel.
  • 25-round steel bodied magazine.

If you haven’t heard, new-retro is sweeping the AR world. It sounds a little convoluted at first. After all, if you want a vintage specimen of Eugene Stoner’s masterpiece, why not invest the time and money to track one down? Sounds simple enough, but there are a few hitches to going this route.

BRN-Proto 1

This system only works with the variations that made the transition to the civilian market. If, on the other hand, it remained strictly a select-fire affair, then it’s a no-go. Not to mention, even without this hurdle, some would still remain out-and-out impossible to procure.

Brownells tackled both of these in its eighth addition to its Retro line of AR rifles. A step back to the earliest days of the AR-15, the BRN-Proto is a faithful and functional replica of the first prototype of the rifle — an adaptation of Stoner’s AR-10 by L. James Sullivan. And Brownells really drilled down into the minutia to pull off the primitive beauty, based on the 1959 AR-15 Serial Number One.

More AR-15 Articles:

  • AR Essentials: Vintage And Retro ARs
  • How To Extend The Life Of Your AR
  • How To: Creating A DIY AR Paint Job
  • How To Choose The Right Tactical Rifle Sling

The most striking and notable feature of the BRN-Proto — like the No. 1 — is its handguard. If it looks oversized, that’s because it is. The original prototype used an AR-10 handguard; similarly, the BRN-Proto is outfitted with the BRN-10’s handguard — Brownells' throwback of the larger-caliber rifle. Furthermore, the handguard, stock and pistol grip are made of a brown polymer that does a pretty good job of mimicking the No. 1’s fiberglass furniture. As Brownells puts it, the polymer “replicates the look — but not the weaknesses.”

BRN-Proto 3

Brownell’s stayed true to a number of other aspects of the No. 1, including a “slick-side” upper receiver, skinny A1-profile barrel, top trigger-like charging handle, “duckbill” flash suppressor and a front sight that mirrors the original’s. All that and the throwback AR is built to chew through 5.56 NATO with the precision of a modern rifle.

The BRN-Proto is still presently on pre-order, due out later this year. And the rifle comes to market with an MSRP of $1,500. It’s certainly not the original — what is? But for serious AR-15 fans, the BRN-Proto is a must have for a collection.

BRN-Proto Specs

Action Type: Direct Impingement
Barrel Length: 20″
Capacity: 25+1-Round
Cartridge: 5.56 mm NATO
Finish: Brown
Front Sight: A1
Length: 40″
Magazine Included: 1 x 25-Round
Magazine Type: Removable
Muzzle: Flash Hider
Rear Sight: A1
Stock Material: Polymer
Weight: 7.5 lbs
MSRP: $1,500

For more information on Brownell’s BRN-Proto, please visit


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


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