Review - Rock River Arms .308 carbine LAR-8 carbine
As soon as received it I broke the carbine down for inspection, cleaning and lubrication. Most reviewers remark on the high standard of fit & finish of Rock River Arms rifles, and mine was no exception. The matte black phosphate finish was flawless, and the upper to lower receiver fit was very tight. The trigger is outstanding, the 4 pound ultra-crisp two-stage National Match trigger Rock River is known for. This is the best trigger I have ever felt on a stock AR rifle. All parts appear very well made and function smoothly. My previous AR-15 rifle was a 20" Colt AR15A2 HBAR in .223 caliber, and the Rock River seems as well made - and better finished - than the Colt, with a superior trigger. The rifle had clearly fired a few rounds at the factory (i.e. slight brass blemish on the shell deflector). I have heard Rock River test-fires every carbine to ensure it meets the guaranteed accuracy of 1.5 MOA at 100 yards (1 MOA for the longer-barreled rifles).
I cleaned the carbine and lubricated with Lubriplate Aero white lithium grease (bolt and bolt carrier rails) and Tetra Gun lubricant (everything else).
The carbine comes from the factory with a Hogue pebble-grain rubber finger-groove pistol grip. I generally dislike finger-groove grips, but this Hogue fit my (size Large) hand pretty well, and offers excellent control of the weapon as well as good reach to the trigger, magazine release and bolt catch with the firing hand still in the firing position. I will keep it. The carbine also features an A2 closed-bottom flash hider, which I like, as the closed-bottom reduces the amount of dust kicked up when the rifle is fired from prone. Many rifles are only fired from the bench, seated or standing (off-hand) positions, so some shooters do not fully realize just how much dust and debris can be raised when firing on your stomach in the dirt. Not only is the dust annoying and possibly vision-impairing, it can even give away your position by raising a little dust cloud each time you fire. My carbine has a standard oval polymer M4 style handguard with internal stainless-steel heat shield, which offers good grip anywhere along its length and keeps the support hand cool and comfortable even after heavy firing. Rock River offers plain aluminum free-float handguards as well as two styles of railed aluminum tactical handguards for those who like them.
The carbine uses 20 round FN FAL steel magazines, either metric or inch-pattern. The carbine came with one magazine, an FN FAL military magazine. I got eight spotless unissued Israeli military FAL magazines made by IMI, which fit and functioned flawlessly with dummy rounds (I buy aluminum A-Zoom snap caps for all of my centerfire firearms for function testing and reloading drills, and recommend them highly). Though new-looking, my FN FAL magazines must be at least thirty years old, so I bought a ten-pack of FN FAL 20 round replacement magazine springs from Wolff Gunsprings and exchanged them. I also bought Magpul magazine loops/bumpers in the 7.62x51mm size.
My rifle came without sights. The receiver and gas block are milled with military standard M1913 ("Picatinny") rails so I thought long & hard about what sort of optics I wanted to mount. Low-light capability was a must, as most combat occurs in low light, so I had to have some sort of lighted dot or illuminated reticle. From the beginning, I wanted to keep my rifle’s weight down. My previous 7.62x51mm "battle rifle" was a Springfield Armory SAR-8, an HK91 rifle made under Heckler & Koch license in Greece. It was a good rifle, tough and reliable, but it had bad ergonomics (unreachable thumb safety catch, awkward charging handle, slow magazine changes), a mediocre trigger, bad balance, and - most importantly - it weighed a ton. With steel bipod, loaded HK steel 20 round magazine, steel ARMS claw mount and rings, and Leupold 2-8x36 scope, the rifle weighed over 15 pounds. I am not a small man, but I am no Schwarzenegger, either. A rifle that heavy is simply unusable for my purposes. Thus I was determined to keep this semi-auto .308 rifle light in weight, suitable for the "shoot & move" tactics I will use with this weapon.
I am a big believer in the ultra-fast, rugged, non-magnifying Swedish-made Aimpoint red dot sights, particularly the compact lightweight T1 Micro model. Aimpoints are superb combat sights from point-blank range out to about 200 yards, but I wanted an optic that could take advantage of the .308 cartridge’s greater range potential out to 500 yards. An Aimpoint T1 with a 3x magnifier in a flip-aside mount would work, but that set-up (with mounts) would cost $1300-1400, offered no bullet drop compensator or range-finder capability, and add a lot of weight, as it would not fit on my receiver rail (i.e. I would have to substitute an aluminum railed fore-end, with yet more weight above that of the sight, 3x magnifier, and their two steel mounts).
I was looking for a reliable, combat-tough, waterproof, low-light capable, low-magnification, lightweight scope with a good field of view, variable eye relief, great optical clarity, usable out to 500 yards, preferably with a bullet drop compensator, for less than $1000 (a lot less, if I was lucky).
A Schmidt & Bender 1.1-4x20mm "Short Dot" scope met my criteria, though somewhat heavy, but at $2550 it is far out of my price range. A detective in my department has a Leupold Mark AR 1.5-4x20mm scope on his AR-15 which I really like, but it lacks an illuminated reticle. A sergeant has a Millett DMS 1-4x24 scope with an illuminated reticle, a $250 scope he has been happy with. But I do not trust any Chinese-made optics for potentially life-or-death situations (nor do I have any desire to give my money to the Red Chinese). I did some research, and talked to experienced police riflemen as well as Iraq and Afghanistan military combat veterans. A consensus soon emerged: what I wanted was a Trijicon ACOG ("Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight"), standard issue to the Marines and many Army combat units who use them in firefights with excellent results.
The ACOG is a unique scope design that features a "dual illuminated" reticle - lit by fiber optics during the day, and radioactive tritium during night-time (or other no-light) conditions. ACOGs use no batteries, so there are no electronics to fail. ACOGs are ready round the clock, year in year out, no maintenance needed. ACOGs are proven to be hella rugged, tough, waterproof, and reliable under all combat scenarios and all lighting conditions. ACOGs are available with a variety of reticles that glow in three traffic-light bright colors (red, amber, or green) with reticle shapes ranging from dots, circle-dots, crosshairs,
My point of aim at 25 yards had been the top of the red-lighted post below the chevron (the 300 yard aiming point). Now, at 100 yards, my point of aim was the very tip of the brightly-glowing red chevron. Trijicon has wisely decided that most combat shooting will be from close range out to 200 yards. With this glowing red chevron reticle (and it does glow) it acts like an Aimpoint red-dot at close range, but allows for precise magnified aimed shots out to 600 yards. This is what I wanted, a scope that acted like an Aimpoint at close range but allowed for long shots, too. I was skeptical of the Trijicon "Bindon Aiming Concept," but it really does work. Watch the Bindon Aiming Concept video to understand what I mean.
There is good reason that the United States military issues Trijicon ACOG scopes to our young combat fighters. At 100 yards, I was shooting below 3 MOA with cheap American Eagle (Federal) 150 grain ball ammo. The Trijicon scope gave me very clear target image, with a useful field of view. I also had Federal Gold Medal Match rounds loaded with the 168 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints, considered one of the best .308 sniper loads (this is far and away the most popular police sniper round, commonly used by the military under the designation M852). The Federal 168 grain bullets gave me groups from 2 to 2.5 MOA at 100 yards, groups were very consistent, thanks to the carbine’s excellent two-stage National Match trigger and Wilson 1 in 10" twist barrel. With headache-inducing, muscle-cramping concentration I could get my groups below 2 MOA; I never once broke 1.5 MOA, though I got awfully close. I had the same results with Lake City 175 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints, the military’s favored M118LR sniper round. My rifle prefers the heavier 168-175 grain match grade sniper rounds, which is no news, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well my 16" carbine shot the inexpensive commercial 150 grain ball rounds. At 100 yards I was shooting average groups of 2.75" groups with the cheap M80 ball rounds and 1.75" to 2.25" groups with the expensive Federal Gold Medal Match 168 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints.
These results were shooting from the Caldwell Lead Sled rest. Firing from a picnic table using a cheap plastic folding clamp-on bipod, my groups opened up to 3 to 3.5 MOA. Some of this is due to the fact my carbine has a standard 6-position plastic telescoping M4 stock, which has a bit of wiggle and play. The Caldwell Lead Sled holds the carbine firmly, but the stock can slop around a little when I go free-style. Over all, I have to say that Rock River Arm’s claim of 1.5 MOA accuracy appears to be, well, accurate. My carbine shoots really well for a 16" barrel semi-auto .308 caliber rifle. At 100 yards I hit a gallon milk jug every time. If I want to wring the best accuracy out of this Rock River Arms carbine, it appears I will have to install a fixed butt stock.
One note on velocity: I have read from several sources that a .308 caliber semi-auto 16" carbine only loses 50 or 60 feet per second in velocity compared to a 20" barrel rifle when firing the 168 grain jacketed hollowpoint boat-tail rounds. That is an excellent trade-off, as far as I am concerned, for the greatly increased handiness of the 16" carbine. I wanted a .308 rifle that was ergodynamic, handy, and fast into action. This Rock River Arms LAR-8 carbine fits those criteria perfectly. In fact, this carbine actually improves on the already excellent ergonomics of the AR rifle, since the bolt release is an ambidextrous unit mounted at the base of the flared magazine well. This is unique to
the Rock River Arms .308, far different from the usual AR-15 bolt release lever on the left side of the magazine well. Thus the reloading drill is:
1. Bolt locks back on an empty FAL 20 round steel magazine.
2. Trigger finger depresses strong-side magazine release button. Empty magazine falls out.
3. Weak hand extracts fresh loaded magazine and shoves it into the flared magazine well.
4. Trigger finger then releases bolt (or weak hand thumb releases bolt after magazine is seated - both the magazine release and the bolt release are ambidextrous).
5. Trigger finger then engages trigger (if firing should continue).
This makes for fast - I mean fast - magazine changes. I practiced at home using the .308 A-Zoom snap caps, spreading a comforter on the floor to cushion the dropped magazines. At the range I was pleased to discover my speed reloads went just as well firing live ammunition as they did using dummy rounds.
I am a big believer in repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat practice, as I will do under stress what I have trained to do. Buy A-Zoom snap caps and practice reloading at home - that is my advice to you.
My Rock River Arms carbine was 100% reliable with no jams or stoppages of any kind. The bolt locked back on empty magazines without fail. I shot over 250 rounds of American Eagle 150 grain ball, Federal Gold Medal Match 168 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints, Lake City 175 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints, Ultramax commercially reloaded 168 grain Sierra Match King boat-tail jacketed hollowpoints, Sellier & Bellot 150 grain ball, and even two full magazines (40 rounds) of Russian-made Wolf Performance Ammunition polymer-coated steel-cased 150 grain ball (brought by my shooting partner). My Rock River Arms LAR-8 carbine fired all these rounds with no problems at all, which impressed me, as it is brand new, and many quality semi-auto rifles jam with Wolf steel-cased ammo. I have heard that Rock River Arms rifles are highly reliable - that is why they won the DEA contract - but it is reassuring to experience this reliability for myself. I tried to make the carbine jam by holding it away from my shoulder, then firing from the waist - it never jammed. The rifle was not cleaned or lubricated during the shooting session, though I had cleaned and lubricated it beforehand (I absolutely have confidence in the AR15 and AR10 rifles, but they must be cleaned and lubricated properly. If you are a lazy slob who cannot be bothered to spend an hour cleaning and lubricating your rifle after each firing, go buy a Kalashnikov. They were designed for people like you).
In sum: if you are looking for fast-handling lightweight .308 semi-auto rifle that is good from two feet to 600 yards, the Rock River Arms LAR-8 16" carbine is the one for you. I have tested the Springfield Armory SOCOM 16, the Springfield Armory 18" Scout Rifle, the Saiga 16" .308 rifle, and the DPMS .308. The Springfield Armory M14-pattern rifles were comparable in accuracy, but heavier, clumsier, tougher to mount optics properly, and even more expensive than my (admittedly not cheap) Rock River carbine. The Saiga 16" barrel .308 rifle will, true to Kalashnikov form, eat any ammo, firing reliably under any and all conditions with even the cheapest Russian steel-cased ammunition. But the only factory magazines available hold only 8 rounds, cost $45 each, and are hard to find, scopes must be awkwardly mounted high over the bore on the standard AK rail, and accuracy? Well, my friend who own a Saiga is happy to get 6" groups at 100 yards. While I admire the reliability of the Saiga, it is a heavy, clumsy, not ergodynamic rifle, lacking the quick-into-action handling and accuracy I desired. As for my two friends’ DPMS (Panther Arms) rifles, and those provided to my department armorer for test & evaluation, DPMS rifles have too many failures and breakages for me to consider the brand.
As for the very expensive AR-10 rifles like the LWRCI Rapid Engagement Precision Rifle, Lewis Machine & Tool L129A1 (LW308MWS), Knight Armament SR25 (M110), Heckler & Koch 417, FN SCAR .308 - I cannot comment on them, as I have never seen any of them, nor do I know anyone who owns one. They might be fine weapons, but I limited my choices to .308 caliber 16" barrel rifles affordable on my government salary.
For my purposes, I wanted a very reliable, lightweight .308 battle rifle with high practical accuracy, fast handling, proven combat optics, and reliable, affordable 20 round magazines. I have found the best choice, the Rock River Arms LAR-8 mid-length 16" carbine. It carries easily, hits .308 hard, and has the real-world accuracy and combat reliability I demand. Reliable FN FAL steel military magazines are widely available for $15 each, as are MOLLE vest pouches sized for the military 20 round 7.62x51 magazines (I built a complete MOLLE vest with US military components - no Chinese airsoft crap! - for about $55). I have three slings for my LAR-8, a plain cotton US military “silent sling,” a long M60 machinegun padded sling, and a versatile Sling Systems three-point sling with slider and Fastex buckle. I have been using the silent sling, as I like its light weight and simplicity. For field use, I will probably go with the M60 sling for its increased comfort. I have not used the complex three-point “tactical” sling enough to become accustomed to it. For now, I will stick with what I know.
Since writing this initial report I have taken my Rock River Arms carbine shooting twice more, and it has performed exactly the same, that is to say: superbly. I am slowly creeping up on that elusive sub-1.5" group at 100 yards. Wish me luck.
For as long as I can remember reading survivalist dogma well over fifty years for this author, one the central themes has always been how best to arm the fort for the onslaught of bad guys and the unprepared looking to steal your food and loot. Today they are called Zombies. Whatever!
Truth is we don’t have to wait for the SHTF to occur, because the fort is being breached every day in America. My generation just calls them plain old thugs or criminals. At deer camp they are trespassers and poachers. The solution is either to call the proper law enforcement assistance, or deal with it. I advise the former unless there is an imminent bodily threat.
But trust us on this one, nobody really wants to engage in an armed confrontation, though at some point it may be necessary or unavoidable. In these cases then, why not have the very best to deal with the issue. Thus we put forward this review of a battle rifle suitable to defend the gates, dispatch an unwanted varmint regardless of the foot count, or to take meat for the pole. This tool is definitely up to the task of any mission.
Big Medicine for SHTF
The Rock River Arms LAR-8 Elite Operator is an AR-15 platform rifle on steroids. Fresh from the factory this 7.62 semi-auto working tool is ready to take on any game that the traditional .308 Winchester can handle. The .308 is highly popular for deer hunting and is the big stick for wild hogs, other game and defensive measures. We’re not discussing ballistics here, but trust me as any experienced game hunter or military sniper knows the .308 can assuredly handle these tasks with extreme prejudice.
The RRA-LAR comes in several different model configurations, but I opted for the Elite Operator for a variety of reasons. This model offers a 16-inch chrome moly barrel with a 1:10 twist. The muzzle is capped with a Smith Vortex flash hider.
The buttstock is their Operator CAR collapsible stock with six positions, integral ribbed rubber buttpad, watertight battery storage and multiple sling mounts. The top of the action and barrel is a flat ladder rail from stem to stern forward to the flip front sight gas block. The handguard section is RRA’s half quad with three ladder rail covers. This model does not come with a rear BUIS (back up iron sight), but RRA offers them as an accessory as does many other aftermarket sources. The grip is a good feeling soft Hogue pistol grip.
The rifle is 38 inches in length and weighs 9.1 pounds with a 1.5 MOA at 100 yards accuracy rating. It comes from the factory with a hard plastic case and one 20-round magazine. Five and ten round factory mags are also available to comply with hunting regulations in various states. In Mississippi the 20-rounder is OK for hunting, but a 10-round is easier to handle.
Practical Range Work
Now realize if you study the RRA catalog or their www.rockriverarms.com web site the factory recommendations for use of the Elite Operator LAR-8 model is for law enforcement and home defense, not hunting or target work. However, obviously that does not mean that the rifle configuration cannot be used for hunting. I suspect it is more in the personal preferences and choices hunters make in the type of firearm they want to use. In every way, I see no reason the Elite Operator should not be used for hunting in addition to any home defense calling.
Given this rifle was selected for pig hunting in particular the ammo choices needed to match the task at hand as well. With hunting ammo on sale after the deer season was over, I picked up boxes of both Remington and Winchester basic .308 hunting rounds with 150 grain soft point bullets.
My local commercial 50-yard indoor range can handle heavy rifle calibers, so out of pure convenience I elected to sight in the RRA-LAR there instead of driving over an hour to a 100-yard outdoor range. I mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 1x4x24mm scope with a German #4 crosshair and green dot with factory tactical type rail ring-mounts. This is a 30mm tube scope so illumination is exceptional in this ambient light powered scope. I anticipate that hogs will be encountered at relatively close ranges, so this scope should prove perfect.
I ran a scope collimator on this set up to get the rifle dialed in on target paper. The first three round trial was several inches low and wide, but the group was ¾ inch. Yeah, I was impressed. Subsequent groups were just as good well under 1.5 inches several under one-inch with the Remington ammo slightly outperforming the Winchester loads. Basically it was a toss up. Glad I bought plenty of both.
Proof in the Pudding?
Well, I’d love to say I could report this rig has proven successful afield, but alas my first trip to hunt hogs came up with a donut hole. So, to date, no hog kills. We have scheduled another hunt this fall after deer plots are planted.
I feel certain my Rock River Arms Elite Operator 308 will get its day in court as it were. I have no doubt it is up to the task and will perform as designed so long as I do not panic at the sight of black bodies in the shadows.
In the field this rifle with a scope and a loaded 20-round magazine is heavy, probably over ten pounds. I installed a Vero Vellini wide type neoprene sling and the “stretch give” compensation for the rifle’s weight at every step proved the perfect choice. There was little felt recoil at the shooting bench. I wore ear muffs, but certainly expect muzzle blast and decibels in the field, though then the shooter never notices such things.
The operator controls for then enlarged AR are quite ergonomic. I was pleasantly surprised how easy the safety was to reach with the thumb. The magazine catch and release button work in order. The Picatinny rail edges like all I have encountered are sharp. Be sure to cover those not used with rail guards. I installed the ladder covers up forward one notch out to reduce friction abrasion with the sling material.
In all the field work I have done so far, I have experienced two hang ups. After dropping the magazine into the sand, apparently trying to blow out the grit was not enough. I had a failure to chamber, and a failure to manually extract. I took all the ammo out of the magazine, cleaned each round off, and the guts of the magazine. I sprayed some Liquid Wrenchin the chamber and wiped down the bolt. No more failures to date.
If you are a seriously minded SHTF scenario prepper, then the Rock River Arms-LAR-8 is worthy of consideration. They also make a cousin in .223. At the retail hit of $1670 I still say this is a serious, well made product for the price. Prudent shopping will bring this price down no doubt. The .308 cal is a formidable cartridge in this duty built package. It should serve all well.
Dr. John J. Woods
Rock River Arms
Written by John J. Woods
John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of John J.'s articles.
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X-Series X-1 Rifle LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
Mid-Length A4 LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
Standard A4 LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
Varmint A4 LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
Predator HP Mid-Length LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
Predator HP LAR-8 .308
.308/7.62x51mm NATO ChamberLearn More
There are a wide range of human threats that today’s police officer faces. In many of these cases, the quickest way to stop the violence once it has begun is by putting a rifle into the hands of a well-trained officer. Many departments recognize this and have added AR-15 rifles to the squad car.
Sometimes, there is a need for officers to have a larger-caliber weapon. The 7.62mm NATO round has proven its worth time and time again. From defeating intermediate barriers to excellent long-range accuracy, the round offers a specific set of benefits that are sometimes needed in law enforcement.
Rock River Arms (RRA) is building a rifle that might make sense for departments that have a need for a .30-caliber rifle that retains the features and feel of an AR-style rifle. The LAR-8 X-1 is a semi-automatic rifle chambered for the 7.62mm NATO. Other rifles in the X-Series share a similar feature set and are chambered in 5.56mm NATO, 6.8 SPC and .458 SOCOM.
The LAR-8 X-1 is built for accuracy, and it comes with a target that shows the gun has fired a test group with at least a 1-MOA accuracy at 100 yards. The rifle I received for testing arrived with a target showing a sub-1-inch, three-shot group.
The LAR-8 X-1 rifle features an 18-inch, fluted, stainless steel barrel with a 1-in-10-inch twist rate. The barrels are cryogenically treated. There is some debate on the usefulness of cryogenically treated barrels, but I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that the process harms the barrel’s accuracy or longevity.
This specific rifle came with a RRA Beast muzzle brake on the end of the barrel. A series of oblong and crescent cuts in the top half of the brake redirect gases to reduce felt recoil. The forward face of the brake is tipped with 10 spikes that would likely serve a clear “get off me” message to a suspect rushing at the officer deploying the rifle.
The rifle is equipped with the company’s free-floating TRO handguard. It is octagonal in shape and has a Picatinny rail in the 12 o’clock position. Additional accessory rails can be added to the handguard if desired. Without additional rails, the handguard feels very comfortable in the support hand and offers a lot of ventilation.
The gun is heavier than a number of 7.62mm AR rifles I have shot. At 9.5 pounds unloaded, this is probably not a rifle you would want to carry for long periods of time, especially when you add the weight of a high-power scope. However, the rifle is still relatively easy to move with, and that weight feels good when you pull it in tight while sitting at a bench. Shooting off-hand is definitely doable.
The lower receiver is equipped with a two-stage trigger. Part of the standard package is the company’s Winter triggerguard, an oversized triggerguard that allows operators to use the rifle with gloves.
“The vast majority of law enforcement shootings occur within 100 yards. A moderately skilled officer with this rifle and the proper optic could easily neutralize a threat at those distances.”
The LAR-8 X-1 also comes with a single 20-round polymer magazine. It is based on the inch-pattern FAL magazine. Other inch-pattern FAL magazines should work in the gun, though RRA is careful to note on the company website that some magazines may not drop free or may require filing on the spacing tab to work properly. The push-button magazine release is ambidextrous.
An ambidextrous bolt release, just forward of the triggerguard, is installed instead of the typical paddle-style AR unit that is often located on the left side of the receiver. The shooter simply presses up to lock the bolt back and down to release it.
These rifles feature matte black receivers, and the furniture can be either black or tan. They come with a black rubber Hogue pistol grip that feels very good in the hand. A collapsible RRA Operator CAR buttstock shipped on my test gun. The Operator CAR stock offers six different length-of-pull positions to allow officers to easily adjust the length depending on the gear worn. The company also offers a fixed-length RRA Operator A2 stock.
Sights are not part of the standard package. Since most people will want to add a quality piece of glass to the gun, iron sights are not something that would be missed by many people. Even so, adding a quality set of backup sights is a good idea.
For this evaluation, I mounted a reliable 4-20x50mm Burris XTR II scope to the gun using the Burris AR-PEPR mount. Burris XTR scopes are designed for tactical and competitive applications. The XTR line is designed to be absolutely shockproof and vibration resistant to withstand both heavy recoil and the constant vibrations from riding in a patrol car all day. The scope gave me a very clear sight picture with plenty of light even when zoomed in tight during the late afternoon twilight. Once mounted and sighted in, the scope did not move or loosen throughout the entire evaluation period.
For this range evaluation, I met up with two other shooters to put this rifle through its paces. One of the shooters is a full-time firearms instructor and competitor with extensive training in long-range shooting. The other shooter is a former military sniper and currently a sniper with his police department’s tactical team. We took turns shooting the rifle, and let the gun cool between shooters.
We started on a 50-yard range to get a feel for the gun and test it with a variety of ammunition. The LAR-8 X-1 was completely reliable with a variety of Federal, Winchester and Remington ammunition. The only trouble we ran into was with Magtech Ammunition’s 168-grain HPBT. The first round fired failed to extract because the rifle’s extractor had ripped off the case rim. When the second Magtech round had the same problem, I boxed up that ammunition, put it away and did not use it again.
Confident the gun was running well, we moved to the 100-yard range. The day was cool with a variable breeze across the range.
When shooting for accuracy, it is always important to find the loads that the gun likes. A load may work great in one gun but give poor performance in another. For example, Federal’s Gold Medal 168-grain Match ammunition is widely regarded as one of the most accurate commercially produced loads for the 7.62mm. Yet, this gun cut the five-shot group size nearly in half by moving to the company’s 175-grain Gold Medal load: 2 inches for the 168-grain load and 1.25 inches for the 175-grain load.
It also pays to carefully check the ammunition before loading. When we were on the range, I discovered that one box of Remington Premier Match ammunition had loaded cartridges that used at least two different kinds of primers. Normally, I’ve gotten very good service from the Premier Match line, but this box turned in wildly varying velocities between 2,017 fps and 2,446 fps. Even with the inconsistent velocities, the Remington ammo still managed a 1.5-inch, five-shot group.
I found the trigger had a small amount of take-up and a light, crisp break. The reset was quick and positive. There was no grittiness in the trigger pull at all. The bolt release worked easily both to lock the action open and to release the bolt after inserting a loaded magazine.
The recoil was mild for a 7.62mm gun. A semi-automatic gun will generally soak up some of the recoil energy through the action. I also believe the RRA muzzle brake did a fine job at reducing muzzle jump. Overall, the gun was easy to shoot and offered no unpleasant surprises.
The Rock River Arms LAR-8 X-1 is a potent rifle that makes a credible contender for any department needing to deploy a .30-caliber rifle in a patrol setting. Compared to 5.56mm NATO cartridges, the 7.62mm NATO offers better barrier penetration and is well respected for its ability to put an armed aggressor down.
Finding the right ammunition for this gun could make it eligible for a higher-precision role. However, based on the respected commercial loads we shot, I would hesitate to recommend this gun out of the box as a sniper weapon. However, as a .30-caliber patrol rifle I think most officers and departments would be satisfied.
The vast majority of law enforcement shootings occur within 100 yards. A moderately skilled officer with this rifle and the proper optic could easily neutralize a threat at those distances. If your department has need of a 7.62mm rifle, the LAR-8 X-1 is worth taking a look at.
For more information, visit rockriverarms.com or call 866-980-7625.
Arms 308 reviews rock river
The first thing you notice about the Rock River Arms LAR-8 Elite Operator is that you have a stout yet maneuverable rifle in your hands. True it is heavier than a .223 version, but it is well-balanced and easy to handle.
When people start splitting hairs as to what really constitutes a “battle rifle” often times the discussion comes back around to caliber. Was the AR-15 really designed as a battle rifle? Or, by virtue of its smaller cartridge, was the AR-15 some other sort of weapon? Is the AR-15 designed for uses similar to the M-1 Carbine or the German STG-43 than to the M-14 or M-1 Garand?
This is the debate. Sure the AR-15 functions, but with its little bullet, it can’t really be called a battle rifle, can it?
Well, there are lots of rifle makers these days taking caliber out of the debate by building AR-style rifles in .308. This, of course, starts another debate. The .308 AR-rifle is what Eugene Stoner envisioned from the start. So, are we moving ahead with a .308 AR or are we going back to the starting point?
Perhaps these are questions too big for this article, but luckily we don’t have to answer them. Rock River Arms stepped up and gave the world a .308 caliber AR rifle that hits with the power of a battle rifle, but carries like an AR-15. The LAR-8 Elite Operator won’t stop the debate, but will certainly provide the power, accuracy and versatility modern shooters really want.
Out of the Box
The first thing you notice upon assembly is that you have a stout yet maneuverable rifle in your hands. True it is heavier than a .223 version, but it is well balanced and easy to handle. Adjust the buttstock to your liking and the rifle comes up naturally and easily. An especially nice touch is the “half-quad” handguard. Sure, when you say “half-quad” you might think of just two rails, but don’t worry, it has all four.
But the rails simply run half the length of the handguard; from the gas block back. From the magazine well forward the handguard is just that, a handguard… with a knurled aluminum free-float tube that is both comfortable and easy to grip. You don’t often mount accessories that close to the magazine well anyway. That’s where you want to hold when you fire so this half-quad only makes sense.
The flip-up front sight is a well-built unit with stout ears protecting the adjustable front post. Designed and built by RRA, this sight is an example of the great ideas and sound execution in the manufacturing processes. The gas block front sight also serves as the anchor for three different sling attachment points. There is one on each side of the barrel and one below allowing you to mount any sort of sling system you would like.
Beneath the sight is a one-inch section of picatinny rail in case you need it. We mounted a Command Arms bipod on the lower portion of the quad rail and that worked slick. That bipod can stow with the legs pointing forward or aft for even more versatility. I would have liked to see a rear sight on this rifle, but that’s an option, not factory standard. I guess the folks at RRA want to let you choose your own rear sight, but I would prefer to see this rifle ready to rock right out of the box.
And speaking of which… the Rock River hard case is solid, well built and easily identifiable as the container of an RRA product. It is also specifically not what I would like in a hard case. You must disassemble the rifle to place it in the case and you can’t put an upper with optics into the blue box. The good news is that’s the only part of this rifle I could complain about. Meaning this is an outstanding rifle.
Just How Good?
I think it was Ben Franklin who said “The proof of the pudding is determined by how many 165-grain bullets you’re able to put into a bad guy in five seconds.” In this case, let’s say five would be the minimum.
If you have ever handled an AR-style rifle, the controls on the LAR 8 will be almost second nature. I say almost, because there are two small changes on this rifle. The magazine release button is now ambidextrous and can be activated from either side of the rifle and the bolt release is located at the bottom rear of the magazine well. It is an ambidextrous lever you push straight down, with your trigger finger if you like. Gone are the days of slamming a magazine home and slapping the left side of the receiver with your left hand to run the bolt forward. While we are on the topic of magazines, the Elite Operator used FAL metric and L1A1 inch magazines. So there should be no trouble finding 20-round boxes for your reloads.
Now, on to the shooting. For the day’s festivities I quickly mounted a Trijicon Reflex on top of the Elite Operator. Quickly, as in, I set the sight on the top rail, flipped the ARMS locks and started shooting. It was dead on. I started plinking at 25 yards. Then still shooting offhand, I engaged the targets at 50 and 75 yards. Finally, I braced the rifle on the post and started dropping rounds on the 100-yard target. Combat accuracy was outstanding, scoring minute-of-bad guy hits on everything I pointed at.
This prompted me to drop a few sandbags on the bench and drop some rounds downrange in an effort to see where they would fall if I was really trying to shoot a nice group. With the zero-power magnification Reflex sight aligned on the dead of the Dirty Bird target I rolled through the trigger press, firing as quickly as I could get the dot back on the group. On a grid target, accuracy lives up to the Rock River Arms’ claim of 1.5 MOA at 100 yards. The two-stage trigger allows for perfect control and a clean break.
The Smith flash hider worked very well and the 1:10 twist ratio seemed perfect for the 165-grain Hornady TAP ammo. Another feature I really liked was the sealed battery storage area behind the rubber buttplate. Push the button on the left side of the buttplate and it slides down exposing a storage area for several of the CR123 batteries. Each battery tube is also spring-loaded to make sure your batteries come out as easy as they go in.
If there is one thing to note about the .308 caliber AR-style rifles on the market, it is that parts are not universally interchangeable. Where as most AR-15 rifle parts from most makers will drop in and function, the same is not true of the bigger guns. Each maker has apparently come up with what they consider to be the best idea for some part or another. As stated on the RRA website, the LAR-8 uses a unique receiver thread and barrel nut.
No barrel nut (either separate or as part of a tubular handguard or quad rail handguard) except those made specifically for the RRA LAR-8 should ever be used on an RRA LAR-8 or upper half. Although some other barrel nuts may thread onto the LAR-8 upper receiver, the depth of thread is incorrect. Use of incorrect parts may cause injury or death. So, now you know that. The parts don’t interchange with other .308 AR parts out there. Don’t try it.
The Rock River Arms LAR-8 Elite Operator gives you a rifle and a platform that offers power and versatility. In a law enforcement capacity you will get greater range if you need it and more penetration around buildings and vehicles. If you want to use this as a Modern Sporting Rifle, the Elite Operator will have no trouble taking deer-sized game at any range you feel comfortable shooting. With the Elite Operator you can hit hard and fast with no debate.
This article appeared in the January 3, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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Elfster? He's the guy to talk to about RRA. He's had great results with 'em, it's hard to knock 'em with him around.
Now the use of FAL mags in an AR is, uh, a no-go IMHO. For one, those magazines are now expensive and hard to find if you want good, quality Austrian, IMI or FN mags (I don't know how well the new DSA mags work or what tooling they were made on). Not all FAL mags are the same, Austrian and IMI are the best with the blued FN mags being good but more of a collector item than something to use.
Ten years ago I bought up all my Austrian and IMI mags and got four modified 30rd Bren mags too. Now the Bren mags are over $100 IF you can find one for sale, and the quality Austrian and IMI mags will surely be going for more than the ~$20ea. I paid for 'em.
I've heard problems with feeding in those rifles, if you can imagine that. Now as to whether the mag has lips that feed the rifle or not, I say they do, though the process is a bit different that AR's.
KAC mags are cheap (about $60 ea.) IF you have a military account with them and place a big enough order. I got killer deals on my gear that way. I got an SR25 and let me tell you, it's well worth saving for that bad boy, you won't be sorry. Buy once, cry once. I love mine. And save for a can too, the can that goes with that rifle is really nice and they make a few including a new precision rifle can. They're super simple and all ratchet on/off one hand and index TDC each time. If you get the MAMS brake, that's just the titties and there's nothing like it, it really works.
The FN Mk20 is another good deal to save for and people have been claiming groups as good as and some better than the SR25. But it's hard on scopes I hear. It uses it's own FN mags, going for about $4000, so a little less than the SR25 (unless you get a deal).
Both of those rifles will retain their resale value and there was a guy recently that instead of selling his SR25, he parted the whole thing out here in the PX for MORE than it was worth new! Because of the proprietary parts, parts like that are rare to come by and they don't sell large frame lowers, period. So he made a killing on that! Made me want to order another and part mine out!
Then there are plethora of options for built to builds. Personally I went with the SR25 for two reasons, one I always wanted an SR25 and two, I wanted a quality large frame I didn't have to build since nothing is standardized. SR25 is mostly proprietary but it doesn't matter for me, it's the only big frame I have; the proprietary parts also serve a purpose, they improve on older ideas. And it's a good one, only part I changed was the grip to a MIAD. Fully ambi, all built in, 20" heavy cut rifled Krieger barrel (they have two 16" too, one chrome lined and lightweight, both cut rifled).
Or you can get the DPMS pattern and use the Magpul mags which are surely the second best option for AR mags, only I think the KAC mags allow a longer seating depth. Still, for the price you can't go wrong. Then there are a host of high end, decent or cheap large frames to choose from. If you build, LMT sells large frame lowers now, the best lower you can start with that I know of, or IMO anyway. Noveske makes a rifle now too.
Good luck either way you go but stay away from FAL mags in a large frame AR. Just a bad idea all around. Mags are actually very precise and it's difficult to design double stack mags that are reliable like that, and while they may work a little, I sure as shit wouldn't bet my life on it. And do you really want a rifle like that anyway? Nah, you can do better and you can do a LOT better if you save up and look for sales. Trust me, it's worth it. Even if you don't get a KAC, do right by yourself and get something decent.
Also, Smith and Wesson M&P 10 has a lot of proprietary parts I understand so you can't upgrade much, but if you're not interested in that or sub-MOA precision and want a little more a lighter fighting type rifle, these will at least use Magpul mags I believe and as far as I know, they go bang when you pull the trigger and some are actually good for ~1MOA with FGMM. This will probably be the cheapest "decent" AR10 you can buy. Provided everyone still says they're reliable rifles, and they can be had for less than $1000, even less than $800 when they go on sale.
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