The concept of a small, rifle caliber, pistol that could accomadate all the accesories and sighting systems of a full size AR-15 has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, as many of you know, all the previous attempts to make a functional/reliable AR-15 pistol have been hampered by technical difficulties and poor design choices.
I always thought the most promising design was the Professional Ordinance Carbon-15 series and was truly excited to see that Bushmaster had bought their assets and planned to re-introduce a revised and functional AR-15 pistol to live up to their level of quality and reliability. So I used my contacts at various shops in my area to ensure that when the first Bushmaster revised P97 became available, I would get it:)
A few days after bushmaster anounced on their site the new Carbon based firearms were available, I had one P97 in hand. The construction of the firearm is dead on. Everything is tight, the upper and lower are well fit even if they are held together by two very small takedown pins. The top of the upper features a flat surface tapped toward the front
for an optional pic. rail now shown on their website which will allow the mounting of various optics (Including my reflex II which while not the best optic I own will be ideal for this little gun when it works but I get ahead of myself.)The top of the reciever is plastic and threaded tap looks a little flimsy for the job it is intended for but the upper also has rails on each side which I believe are there to stabilize the mount further.
The recoil compensator attached at the end of the barrel is held on by a unique and well thought out three ball-bearing system held in place by tension created by a spring loaded ring. Just as in the photographs of the P97 on the BFI site, there is no dust cover, but the bolt carrier and various assemblies within are well made and offer a chromed finish.
The P97 comes in a white box (not a small black bushmaster box) and the instructions cover the field stripping of the Carbon-15 Rifles but surprisingly not the pistol!!!
I finally had an opportunity to take it to the range yesterday and here were my results:
The P97 was tested using the 10 round post-clinton bushmaster magazing provided with the P97 and two Colt Manufactured 20 round LEO magazines and an LEO Beta c-mag. Rounds used were Winchester 55 grain and IMI M193. The rounds used came from the same lots used to test my Colt LE6920 which performed flawlessly with the same magazines sans the BFI 10 round that came with the P97.
Prior to firing at the range, the P97 was disassembled and cleaned. The P97 was lubricated using tetra-gun. All failures of the P97 :( were cleared by removing magazine and manipulating the bolt, some required the seperation of the lower reciever from the upper to dislodge spent casings :(.
First I fired Winchester 55 grain from the BFI 10 round magazine:
2: Failure to Extract
3: Failure to Extract, Bolt Locked
5: Failure to Extract, next round wedged with spent casing in the feed ramp into the barrel extention
6: Failure to Extract, spent casing wedged in the ejection port actually embedded in the plastic upper!!
At this point I discontinued firing and changed a few things. I changed my handgrip to ensure I wasn't limp wristing the P97 (though I have never had that problem with other guns AND the gas system in the weapon should prevent that regardless). I also changed magazines to the Colt LEO 20 Round. I did not change ammunition.
1: Failure to extract, spent casing wedged into the inside of the upper reciever, the lip of the spent casing was actually molded around the GAS TUBE inside the Upper and required the disassembly of the upper to remove!!! :(
4: Failure to extract, spent casing and next round wedged in feed ramp to barrel extension.
At this point I decided to try the IMI M193, hoping, though pretty sure it wasn't the problem, that the ammunition was the problem.
Further I left the live range and removed the lubricant from the bolt carrier group, to try firing the weapon essentially dry.
1: Failure to extract/feed BOLT CARRIER LOCKED IN PLACE BY SPENT SHELL CASING!!
3: Failure to extract, failure to feed,
I stopped at that point and rechecked everything I had done. I was not holding the P97 by the magazine as many do so I know that the problems were not caused by the magazine feeding incorrectly due to pressure. Further, I had fired the weapon both lubed and dry, with different ammunition, and different magazines.
I went back and tried feeding from a beta c-mag and had the same results wet and dry, with both ammunition types.
At that point the range people were looking at the P97 which their shop had brought in for me. They saw how frustrated I was and decided not to charge me for my use of their range that day. I can only assume (g-d help us, I am making an assumption) that the problem lies with the extractor/extractor spring or the ejector/ejector spring. Regardless of the cause, my P97 works only as a single shot firearm and will only do that if you are willing to roll it to the side after every shot to "roll" the spent casing out of the upper reciever.
I have contacted Bushmaster's Technical support yesterday and I am awaiting a reply. Historically, Bushmaster has had great customer service and I am sure they will stand by this product as well, but for right now I have spent $900 including tax and shipping on a firearm that should have never made it out of the manufacturing facility after being test fired. I look forward to posting about how Bushmaster fixes my P97. Feel free to post questions about the P97, I am still enthusiastic about the potential it has, but I am currently very frustrated as well.