The Noreen Firearms ULR .50 BMG

By Christopher R. Bartocci

With the introduction of the M82 semiautomatic anti-material rifle by Ronny Barrett, a new firearms hobby sprouted. Commercial customers wanted to get in on ultra long range shooting. The .50 BMG round has a maximum effective range of nearly 2,000 yards, a true and legitimate challenge for a marksman. There were a couple of major roadblocks getting into this sport. One was the cost of a Barrett M82A1rifle, which is around $10,000 after purchasing the scope. The next was the cost and availability of ammunition. Many small arms manufacturers saw the potential in the .50 BMG rifle market and addressed this cost issue with developing single shot versions of the rifle, which considerably lowered the cost. Companies such as Anzio Ironworks, McMillan, Thor, Barrett, Armalite, LAR Grizzly, Safety Harbor Firearms, East Ridge Gun Company and Kings Arsenal, just to name, are a few companies who sold .50 cal. BMG rifles to the market.

In 2007, another entry came into the .50 BMG market: Noreen Firearms. Opened by Peter Noreen, it had the mandate of building affordable single shot .50 BMG Ultra Long Range (ULR) rifles. For two years, Peter built the rifles alone. Coming from a machine shop background, Peter already had the machinery and the talent to build nearly every component needed for the rifle. In 2009, his son Phil joined the company to help his overwhelmed father. Between 2009 and 2013 the company grew from 2 to 14 people.

All components of the ULR are made in-house with the exception of the pistol grip and trigger group. The ULR has a proprietary 6061 T6 aluminum chassis designed by Peter and Phil Noreen. Part of the chassis is a stock assembly, which has shock absorbing springs on it that will decrease felt recoil. The stock has an oversized Kickeze recoil pad. With a cartridge as big as the .50 BMG this is a great benefit. The pistol grip is a standard M16A2-style grip. The trigger guard is part of the chassis. The trigger installed at the factory is the Timney adjustable trigger giving the shooter a choice between 2 to 4 pounds of trigger pull.

The barrel is manufactured at Noreen Firearms. The 18 pound barrel is manufactured from 4140 Chromoly steel. The barrel is then cut with 6 lands and grooves and a 1 turn in 15 inches right hand twist. This barrel is mounted directly into the chassis allowing the barrel to be fully free floated. The barrel life is expected to be between 2-3,000 rounds. This of course depends on the type of ammunition used as well as how the barrel is maintained. Using steel jacketed rounds will prematurely wear the barrel as well as the use of ammunition with corrosive primers/propellants.

Attached to the end of the barrel is a proprietary muzzle brake manufactured by Noreen Firearms and is also sold on the commercial market as an upgrade part. The muzzle brake is designed to redirect the gasses 30° rearward. What this does is shift the recoil forward instead of rearward causing less felt recoil. This brake does do an excellent job. However, be sure there is not another person standing to your right or left. The muzzle blast in extremely loud and the concussion is enough to knock a rifle off the bench next to you. The shooter does not really notice this; it is those standing around him who do.

On top of the receiver is a removable Mil-Std 1913 scope base that is cut with no taper. Available are two other scope bases – one has a 25 MOA slope and the other has a 35 MOA slope.

The way the rifle is loaded is the bolt handle is lifted to the unlocked position and removed from the chassis. The bolt face/extractor has 270° of engagement to the cartridge base. This ensures extraction will happen; no matter what. The .50 BMG cartridge is then loaded onto the breech face. The rim slides into a shell holder centering the cartridge base with the firing pin hole. The round and bolt are inserted into the receiver, pushed all the way forward and the bolt is rotated into the locked position. There is no manual safety. Once the rifle is fired, the bolt is lifted to the unlocked position and pulled rearward until the bolt/cartridge case clear the rifle. Then the cartridge case is lifted out of the slot on the bolt and removed. Now you can load another or not. The bolt is manufactured from the same 4140 Chromoly steel as the barrel.

The ULR comes with a heavy duty bipod that is designed and manufactured by Noreen Firearms. The bipod can cant to level the rifle on uneven ground. The bipod is attached to the lower forearm rod and the lower forearm rod can be used as a carrying handle upside down.

There is another rifle in the Noreen Firearms lineup. This is called the ULR Extreme. This is the same barrel and bolt but the rifle is built on the XLR Industries chassis. This is different from the ULR in several ways. The stock folds to the side and is fully adjustable for both cheek weld and length. There is no recoil reduction mechanism on the ULR Extreme. The chassis is manufactured from 6061 T6 billet action block and Type 2 Class anodized black. The pistol grip is an Ergo Grip overmold tactical AR grip. Built on is a ventilated handguard that is set up for removable rail sections of Mil-Std 1913 rail. The MSRP for the ULR Extreme is $3,500.

Both the ULR and ULR Extreme weigh in at 32 pounds and have a 34-inch barrel. Both rifles come with Timney adjustable triggers and the proprietary Noreen Firearms muzzle brake. The stock on the ULE is both collapsible as well as having a spring loaded recoil reduction mechanism. The ULR Extreme has a side folding adjustable stock. Both use the same bolt. According to Phil Noreen, the standard ULR is the company’s top seller.

The test rifle was equipped with a Nightforce NXS 12-42 scope. The .50 BMG ammunition was all manufactured by HSM (Hunting Shack Ammunition) .50 BMG 750 grain A-Max projectiles. The rifle was also equipped with a Silencer Tech sound suppressor, which made a great difference in sound reduction of this beastly caliber. The rifle was shot at pie plate size gongs at 430 yards. Once Phil Noreen had the Dope set, you could not miss these small targets. Unfortunately due to severe flooding in this valley of Montana, we could not access the thousand yard range. According to Phil Noreen, in his experience the best results for accuracy come from the Hornady A-Max projectile. This is the most widely used projectile in long range competition with the .50 BMG round. This is a 750 grain match projectile propelled from a 24 inch barrel at 2,820 feet per second. The factory Hornady ammunition was specially selected for optimal consistent performance. Practice and plinking ammunition is available from companies such as Federal American Eagle, Barrett, PMC, CBC and HSM –to name a few. These are standard 660 grain full metal jacketed projectiles.

Due to legislation is some places, the .50 BMG has been made illegal for citizens to purchase – not that anyone has ever committed a crime with a 32 pound .50 cal. rifle. Noreen Firearms did not forget those customers so they started offering the ULR in other calibers such as .416 Barrett, .408 Chey Tac as well as .338 Lapua. Of the total number of ULR produced, 70% of them are .50 BMG and 10% .416 Barrett, 10% .408 Chey Tac and 10% .338 Lapua.

The cost of rifles that shoot the .50 BMG can range from $200 right on up to $10,000 easily. The Noreen ULR is very reasonably priced with a MSRP $3,000, which is about 15% less than their nearest competitor. For the tactical user who would prefer a more compact version, the ULR Extreme will fit the bill with an MSRP of $3,500. Both the ULR and the ULR Extreme come with a waterproof all-weather case that has wheels to make transportation much easier for the end user.

Long range shooting is a very challenging task. These rifles are capable of reaching out to nearly 3,000 yards if the shooter knows what he is doing. Learning to determine distance without a laser range finder, adjusting for wind as well as cross winds not to mention your fundamentals of rifle marksmanship make this a real art. There is another challenge, finding a range that lets you shoot at 1,000 plus yards. Depending where you are in the country this can be challenging as well. You just don’t shoot these rifles at 100 yards. That is like test driving a Maserati on a college race track. You just don’t do it justice.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N3 (April 2015)
and was posted online on February 20, 2015


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