With as much as I like to head out to the range I knew that there was one of two things that I could do to ease the pain of ammo prices. The first was get back into reloading and get setup to load .223, and the second was to get a conversion kit to shoot .22LR out of my AR-15. Since I already have a Dillon Square Deal B for reloading 9mm getting a setup to do .223 would have required a completely new press and that is a pretty generous setup cost to get started. The choice was very clear which route I needed to head, so I started looking to see what conversion kits were actually in stock and available.
The two that I was able to find were the CMMG Alpha and the CMMG Bravo both had pretty decent reviews on the forums that I was able to find, and I already had experience with the Alpha kit from a prior build that I had done using it. When I had the Alpha kit I put around 450-500 rounds through it and saw a fair share of failure to feed and failure to ejects from it, and I also had to sand down the side of the mag to get it to work correctly with the lower. Needless to say those two things were a problem in my book, the feeding and ejection issues more than the mag of course.
So I went with the CMMG Bravo Stainless Steel kit, at the price point of $229 having the bolt group be stainless is a big plus, much smoother finish and a lot easier to clean. The conversion kit comes with 1- 25 round magazine (if you are in a state that limits CMMG does offer other magazine size choices) and the Stainless Bolt Group.
When the kit arrived I opened it up and checked everything out like I do with all new parts that I order. I was immediately impressed with how much better the stainless steel felt and looked compared to the Phosphated bolt I had with the Alpha kit. It doesn't feel slick like Nickel Boron, but it does allow you to slide your finger across the surface without feeling like it's gritty. The magazine was the same type as what I had received with the Alpha kit, but surprisingly this time it fit perfect into the magazine well without having to sand it down, so I was pretty happy about that.
First time I dropped the kit in at the range, everything fit perfectly and my Geissele trigger even functioned with the kit installed. During that trip to the range I had put about 3 magazines worth through it just to test it out and make sure that everything was functioning as advertised. During those 75 rounds I did not have a single failure to feed or failure to eject, The one issue I did have with this trip was the fact that the CMMG brand magazine is a bit finnicky and the rounds sit kind of loose when loaded into it. This did not affect the function of the kit whatsoever but it was just a bit of a gripe that I have with it. After this trip I decided that with as dirty as .22LR is I wanted to see just how many rounds could be run through the kit before it started having any malfunctions.
Today I went out to the range and used the kit, this was the fourth trip out and I had a box of CCI AR Tactical .22 and 3 magazines worth of just random .22 that I had sitting in a box from a previous trip to the range to make a grand total of 450 rounds that I planned to send down range. The bolt group still had not been cleaned and the other three trips to the range I fired 3-4 mags worth each time so I knew that this trip would be pushing the bolt group close to 800 rounds without cleaning it. My buddy Joe went with me and we took turns loading the mags and emptying them shooting at the big hunk of metal the local range has setup at 100 yards (and surprisingly hitting it a lot more times than expected with the wind blowing). We rapid fired through mags and would put another one in right after and rapid fire again, and the bolt group just kept eating all of the ammo we were feeding it. Finally after about 8 mags worth we experienced one failure to feed, I am willing to say that it was not the conversion kit that caused the problem but the CMMG magazine. Once that malfunction was cleared we ran the rest of the ammo through it and there was not a single malfunction after that.
When I removed the bolt group from the upper receiver it was really dirty and was a bit stubborn to get out, but it was still functioning perfectly and still eating what ever brand ammo we were feeding it. It seems that the stainless steel does a much better job of self cleaning than the phosphate bolt group did, it also had a much smoother charge than the bolt group from the Alpha kit, even after 750-800 rounds being put through without cleaning.
When comparing notes on the two different kits there is no doubt in my mind that I would make the choice to pay a little more for the Bravo kit, it is overall a much better bolt group and for only $30 more it works much better than the Alpha kit. The greatest part of either kit is the fact that you can still get out to the range and enjoy shooting your AR, but for a lot less cash spent on ammo. Also with the market being like it is currently I know that I am glad to have stocked up on a lot of .22LR beforehand because with this kit I am able to conserve the small amount of .223 I was able to get before it was all sold out.