Interview: Ballistic Advantage

Ballistic Advantage claims to offer a better barrel for less money. We dig deep in an interview with President Adam Wainio.

Interview: Ballistic Advantage

Ballistic Advantage has made a big name for itself quickly in the AR1-5 barrel business with custom quality at an affordable price. We had an opportunity to talk with Adam Wainio, President of Ballistic Advantage, about the company, its history, and their current direction.


Archer - What should dealers know about Ballistic Advantage?

Wainio - Our focus is high production precision barrels that are made with the care seen in custom barrels. Dealers can rely on us for a range of precision barrels that can be stocked regularly at a price customers can afford with availability directly, through Aero Precision or distribution channels. I originally founded the company about 12 years ago when the DIY builder and AR upgrading market was surging quickly and had significant growth ever since. A few years ago, we became a part of the Aero Precision family when they purchased a controlling interest in the company. It has been a fantastic partnership with another company that shares our quality philosophy while spurring our next tier of growth. Ballistic Advantage continues as an independently operated business from Aero Precision, but we do share some administration and joint resources, such as dealer sales.


Archer - How was the company originally founded?

Wainio - Ballistic Advantage started in my garage with a lathe and precision machining very high-end one-off match-grade barrels for customers. I was a machine service tech supporting a lot of the big names in the firearms industry. I picked up a lot of tricks along the way and was using that knowledge to improve my processes with each barrel.

When I started Ballistic Advantage, there were two types of barrel manufacturers, one with old-school processes and old-school Whitney machines. At a complete contrast, there were very high-tech machine shops with sophisticated CNC machines and manufacturing cubes. The old-school manufacturers lacked the precision and speed of the new machining but understood the essence of what it took to make a well-made barrel without stressing the steel. The high-tech shops had the tech but did not get the essence of barrel making to get the most from the barrel, so they usually just defaulted to the highest volume possible without taking into account stress on the steel and blanks. The result was that many of the old-school barrels were actually more accurate than the modern machined barrels, despite the technical machining advantages.

I wanted to combine that old-world barrel-making knowledge and craftsmanship with modern machining precision and capabilities and increased production speed. I found what were the critical points of making a really great barrel and then figured out how to carry over those critical manufacturing points at scale to modern machining. My perspective is that you start with the beautiful piece of steel, and as a manufacturer, it is our obligation to protect the integrity of the steel through the barrel-making process. Too fast or the wrong manufacturing process and the steel stresses, which impacts performance, longevity, accuracy and the aesthetics of the steel.

It was never about making the faster production barrel process, but making the best and most precise barrel at scale. There were certainly people out there making really expensive and amazing $500 barrels that only a few people could afford. We wanted a $200 barrel that anyone could afford that would deliver the performance on par with those expensive barrels.


Archer - How did the company progress?

Wainio - We planned on just doing custom barrels and short production runs of oddball caliber barrels. We thought it would be unique and would really show off what our barrels could deliver in those calibers, like our 5.45x39 barrels, which were phenomenally accurate. The oddball calibers was not something we could scale and really not what customers and other manufacturers were wanting in volumes. We did a lot of OEM work, and from that, we created our own take on a basic set of AR barrels launched as the entry-level Modern Series.

We now offer three levels: Our entry Modern Series is QPQ coated; our upgraded Performance series has QPQ coating, NiBo extensions, and target crowns; and our premium-level stainless Premium series has optimized Hanson profiles, NiBo extensions, target crowns and match .223 Wylde chambers. Currently, all barrels are 4150 chromoly or 416 stainless for the Premium series. Essentially, all our barrels are manufactured the same with the same quality, but the upgrades increase reliability, durability and accuracy.

We are getting behind the 6mm ARC from Hornady with some new barrels. We really have been cautious of new calibers due to the investment in tooling and design, however, with the support from big ammo companies such as Hornady, we believe the 6mm ARC will be a hit to really push longer-range accuracy out of the AR-15 platform.


Archer - Owning many Ballistic Advantage and the upgraded Hanson barrels, the Hansons are incredibly accurate and soft-recoiling, and they feel light.

Wainio - They really are an amazing tuning design, with many consumers reporting half-MOA or better groups with match ammo. The tapered Hanson barrel profile and design was the brainchild of Clint Hanson. His goal was simply to create a lightweight feel without lightweight limitations. His perspective was that a straight or stepped barrel design was not the optimal barrel profile and that each caliber and barrel length had different optimal profile and gas port requirements. Every barrel contour, gas port, and gas length in the BA Hanson Series was designed specifically to each length and caliber to yield the best results, with every aspect taken into consideration.

Clint sent over specs and I ran a few designs, and it confirmed the profiles were a more efficient way to harness a bullet’s energy while limiting felt recoil considerably. It sounds a little crazy to say that it feels more organic, however, once you shoot the rifle, the balance, feel and recoil all feel better.  We also looked at optimized barrel lengths, which also broke some standards. In .223 Wylde, we found that the 10.3, 14.5, and 17.7 lengths were some really optimal lengths to maximize performance in sport shooting-style barrels.

We were really excited that the Hanson design concept worked and actually delivered tangible benefits in accuracy, weight balance, and overall performance and delivered something new and exciting to the barrel market. We now have around 20 variants in .223 Wylde, 300 Blackout, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308, and 6.5 Grendel in all calibers, including the Hanson profiles, plus now 9mm for PCCs.


Archer - ...and now Ballistic Advantage has a line of PCC barrels and builder receiver kits.

Wainio - Through our Aero family, we have the 5.56 and .308 receiver sets. Our newest addition is the Glock magazine-fed PCC receivers, kits and our barrels. We will offer two different BA branded platforms; one from Angstadt Arms and then Aero Precision’s once released. We have loved working with the very proven PCC Angstadt Arms format with so much time as a highly proven, integrated product in the market. The Aero is a different design with an integrated last round bolt hold open in the upper, so even PCC lowers without that feature will still deliver the bolt hold-open feature. Definitely customers for both options, and we can bundle them into builder kits for dealers with our barrels.


Archer - How will you continue to work with dealers?

Wainio - We work dealer-direct for those dealers that want to take advantage of large volume discounts on mixed product orders and also through distribution with RSR, and Sports South, and Primary Arms. Dealers that take advantage of all the discounts can almost double their money on barrels. We have also teamed up with the Aero sales team for sales for dealers that are putting together kits. We saw that strong online dealers are doing really well selling barrels, and we are working with Aero to help support dealers who are not online with materials, graphics and builder kit programs. We offer more than 140 barrels, so if they have a market for DIY builders, we have the barrels.


Archer - What is next for Ballistic Advantage?

Wainio – Well, a lot of plans were a bit derailed this year with COVID for the move to our new facilities. We have really attempted to aggressively build our capabilities, blanking, profiling, finishing, improved processes, but some of that expansion has to wait.

We have been in multiple facilities over the years, and we were really looking forward to getting under one roof. 


Archer - How has COVID19 impacted production?

Wainio -  It is going to get really interesting. The question is how many orders have we pulled forward with this big sales rush that is larger than any of the Sandy Hook and the 2014 jumps. Some of our dealers are saying they are seeing a lot of typically non-gun people and first-time gun buyers of handguns and AR-15s. Our big question is how long will this COVID19 thing keep things shut down and what is the recovery cycle, but hoping there may be a positive byproduct with maybe less disdain of the AR platform in the public and at a political level.





The BA-BPC $735 MSRPBA Glock 9mm magazine compatible Pistol Caliber Carbine kit includes the upper and lower receivers, buffer/spring and bolt. Builders can select their barrel length of choice, handguard and other accessories to complete the build. This build features a Aero Atlas handguard, 11-inch BA 9mm barrel, MFT grip and stabilizer brace, and Burris Fast Fire 3 red-dot.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.