X Marks The Spot

Scott Lambin Featured Articles, Magnified, Rifles 0 Comments

Rock River Arms; a small company who got their start well before the explosion of the AR platform of 2008 when Obama and company took office. A company that was founded by a couple brothers from the middle of nowhere Illinois. The company started in a small garage in Colona, Illinois some 21 years ago with two guys who had a passion for firearms and a vision to make them better.  Today the company has grown into a business who employs close to 100 people.

The Larson brothers [Chuck and the late Mark] have been in the industry long before their initial business venture. Starting with Springfield Armory and some other big name firearm manufacturers in their native are, but no matter who they worked for, neither Chuck or Mark would settle for anything less than perfect. They recognized the short fall of products and the manufacturing behind them and put nose to the grindstone by saving their money and purchased the machinery and equipment needed to bring their visions to life.  After winning multiple federal law enforcement contracts with their Law Enforcement line of black guns, the small job shop in Cleveland, Illinois exploded onto the national stage as one of the original “post ban” AR manufacturers, which was the cause for the move to the booming metropolis of Colona!

Staying Home

Regardless of political haymakers, and the onslaught of social media crusades launched at Rock River, Colona is home, and that is where the X is marked. As of recently, anyone who is remotely plugged into the social world saw at one point, memes and other ill-informed articles about Springfield Armory, and subsequently Rock River Arms. We will not get into either but for those who have bought or are still buying the half-assed information, there is more to follow!

Albeit, this is not about Rock River Arms [entirely] and the recent articles published about them, but about one of their products. Regardless of opinion of the company, nobody can refute the fact that RRA products are some of the most reasonably priced black guns on the market. Sure, there are ARs on the market that are less expensive, but do not possess the same quality control, and reliability of anything coming out of Colona!

Are we saying that Rock River’s guns are the tightest shooting guns on the market, are we saying that there are no products out there that can [and ultimately will] outperform? Nope! In fact, we can provide examples to the contrary of both, what we are saying is that there are not many companies out there that stand behind their products like Rock River. Through private or Government sales, if there are problems, they will be fixed, either by one of the many technical specialists or by Chuck himself.

We got to sit down with Chuck recently to chop it up. Once we got past the pleasantries, and typical banter, we needed to get down to business; specifically, with the LAR 8’s and Rock Rivers line of 308’s new and old. What was evident, he never takes all of the credit…hell, he rarely takes any…We asked about the .308s and he always referenced to the products as “we” when speaking about design and actually producing them. Though he and Mark may have been the brain children behind many of the initial projects, Chuck is VERY quick to give credit where it is due.

 

Once we worked the bugs out of the .223 models, we knew that it was time to start on the larger caliber black guns.

 

In ’2004 when the ban was lifted, he and Mark knew that there would be an instant demand for the AR. It was about this time when one of the machinists and lead designers for RRA brought a prototype in to get Chuck’s opinion on some tolerance and what he would do.  This was a true testament that the quality control of RRA was nothing that I have ever seen in the gun world before now! When a company that started with 2 people and no known product; to one of the leaders in the production AR market, it’s not very often that the owner is involved with the day to day stuff…Chuck and Mark [until his passing] is involved 7 days a week if needed.

 

In my typical ADD fashion, I quickly switched gears and asked if it was a mandate to get his approval on designs before tool gets put to aluminum.

 

Hell no, we have a production meeting regularly and I give my vision or throw an idea out and these guys and gals make it happen, Yes, I like things done my way, but a lot of the time my way is not the only way.

Chuck went on to tell me that they [RRA] continue to further a lot of Marks ideas with product development.

 Long Range Versatility

The LAR 8 was the initial roll out to the AR10 platform of RRA product line. The company took what worked with their contract winning AR15 platforms, and applied it to the .308. Free floated tubes, match triggers and ergonomic controls topped the list of “need to haves” when bringing it to market.

We all know that the more options we add, the heavier and more cumbersome firearms become. The objective with the LAR8 was to keep as much weight shed as possible so the gun can adapt to virtually any reasonable mission profile and not be relegated to just long range or prone shooting.

We provided accuracy data from industry standard “long” range with the LAR 8. It is equally easy to mount a combat optic to the top and replace bipods with a fore grip option and a flashlight to quickly transform a precision gas gun into a room clearing or conventional warfare jack hammer!

Between the 10-meter parallax range and versatile controls of the LAR-8, the system is an efficient system for quick target acquisition from any position

X

What sets production RRA products from “custom” products? The X series. The X is commonly used as a variable in algebraic equations; Rock River also uses the X for a variable. These rifles come standard with a slick aluminum handguard and two rail sections. Held in place by two Torx screws, we mounted bipods for long range and quickly replaced them with an angled for end grip for close engagements. Part of what makes the gun so adaptable is the multiple points where rail sections can be mounted and moved.

Between the CAR stock and 18″ barrel, the LAR-8 is easily transported by standard drag bags

As part of the X Series package, RRA outfits each product with their national match fire control group. If we’re being honest, the FCGs of late, outperform RRA’s trigger groups of old. In this rifle, we tested the trigger pull which broke at a consistent 4lbs. Prior to each shot breaking Chuck and his guys took about 60% of the creep out of the pull and virtually reduced the reset to nothing more than necessary.

Disclaimer: This is a 2 stage trigger, do not confuse the initial stage of the pull as creep, everything past is what was reduced!

 Putting rounds down range with Rock Rivers fluted 18” barrel was efficient. Whether shooting at 1” squares for accuracy or an 18” IPSC steel target, RRA’s cryogenically treated barrels seemed to be a large part of the ½ inch group average. The 1:10 RH twist lands kept the 168 grain Hornady TAP rounds consistently stable. Because we are suppressor snobs and refuse to shoot unsuppressed at all costs, we removed the included “Beast” (aka face raker) muzzle device and capped off the LAR 8 Advanced Armaments 90T Brake Out device to quickly accommodate the SR-7 suppressor. The Barrel is threaded with 5/8×24 pitch to accommodate most [all] .308 suppressor accommodating muzzle devices.

Advanced Armament Corporation is a leader in the suppressor market, delivering cans from civilian use to government contracts, the unsurpassed quality and reliability of the SR-7 made our choice for this review easy

Speaking of quiet, Rock River Arms has not fully committed to the adjustable gas blocks and the rest of the fancy equipment associated with suppression…yet. Though Rock River stands behind their products unconditionally, if you play stupid games, you will ultimately win stupid prizes [don’t try to suppress a 7.5 inch PDW and expect it to function flawlessly out of the box].  Before we suppressed the LAR 8 we got Chuck’s opinion on the matter and he was fully confident in its performance. We managed to get about 60 rounds through the gun before we experienced any abnormalities. We expected a failure to function, originating in the gas system, but once we made the gun safe, we made the determination that one of the magazines [with the last round], was the issue; failing to eject and ultimately binding the face of the bolt up with the follower.  Once we removed the SR-7 the issue was immediately rectified…the other magazine did not have the same issue…suppressor, or magazine issue?!  Should you be hinging on the fact that the LAR 8 does not have an adjustable gas system for suppressors, this gun functions just fine with the suppressor we tested attached. Now comes the question of accuracy while shooting suppressed…this typically is a suppressor and ammo issue, not necessarily the gun, but since we’re on the topic; there was an average of a 4-inch point of impact shift [low] while shooting suppressed.

 

Part of versatility means controls conducive to smoking bad guys in the face. Whether you’re lying on your belly in a hide, or closing distance throwing failure drills, efficient mag changes, and bolt manipulation are among the most important [in our opinion]. The LAR 8 comes with both ambidextrous bolt release and outfitted with a PRI “Gas Buster” charging handle.

The fully ambi bolt controls allow for quick mag changes and malfunction clearing

The Bolt catch/release is not located in the “typical” spot as most other AR platforms. If we’re being honest, we mistook it for a magazine release at first. Positioned directly in front of the trigger guard (on the back side of the mag well) the catch/release can be manipulated with one finger. It took us a grand total of about 5 minutes to familiarize, beyond that, we were off to the races. Paired up with the Gas Buster handle the ambi bolt controls proved to be both efficient and effective throughout our testing process.

ARs have been called everything from death machines to legos for adults [and everything in-between]. This platform really is no different. There are more underappreciated features that typically does not matter to the general consumer. With the LAR 8 set screws to take the place of roll pins and the 6 position CAR style stock with dual QD mounts replaces the fixed A2 or “mil-spec” stock, for added comfort and ease of use. Throughout out stationary or dynamic testing procedures, the stock proved to be effective for what we needed it for. If ordering from the factory, the consumer has a choice of what stock comes with their LAR 8.

 

Not Just For Civilians?!

Yes, the .308 has been used for Designated Marksman or Sniper applications for a long time, and from a military perspective, .308 has always been the caliber of choice until the discovery of the 300 WinMag and .338. Up until now, the powers that be have finally figured out that the 5.56/.223 round is virtually getting its ass kicked by… well, everything else. Warfighters and Law Enforcement professionals need a platform that delivers more of a punch at greater distances, the days of “poke and pray” for both types have come to an end. Yes, shot placement is everything, and fundamentals drive that train, but at the end of the day, when our boys are getting ambushed with .30 caliber rounds from ridiculous distances, we need t to increase survivability. In doing so, the .308 or 7.62x51mm round is about as versatile as they come from a general issue perspective! The X Series LAR8, with some mods, fit the bill to a T.

The original LAR 8 was designed to take the FAL style magazines. Now before anyone gets their panties bunched up; this was a decision that was made to benefit the end user. AT THE TIME of manufacture, Knights Armament had the original SR style magazines and Armalite had theirs on the market, both came with a hefty price tag and limited availability. Chuck and Mark wanted to make the feeding device more accommodating to what was already on the open market, and not break the bank of their customers by monetary means and lead times.

Designing their own magazine would have driven the cost of each rifle up significantly so they made the decision to go with a magazine that was about $3.00 a piece and could literally be found anywhere in free America. Today, you can find either standard or metric FAL magazines [LAR 8 will accommodate both] for about $5.00-$20.00 a piece. With an eye on government contract prizes, the FAL magazine can also be found readily available on the market in virtually every shit hole country!

 

The BrassTacs

We are in the midst of finishing up our AR10 roundup. Though the LAR 8 is not one of the contenders simply because it has been out for a long time and we are sticking to the most modern platforms. Rock River Arms does have one of their newest models in the roundup, and that is all we are eluding to!

Because the LAR 8 is not brand new, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve to be run through its paces and written about. Our initial outing with this gun was great. It didn’t beat the hell out of us like other AR10s. Its accuracy exceeded what we expected and its function while suppressed was about as flawless [once we changed the magazine] we could get. Whether the consideration for gas blowback was in account while being build was taken, the LAR 8 can be suppressed and shot without getting gassed or having remnants of gas on your face after shooting it.

With the help of Nightforce Optics 7-35 ATACR scope to the top to get accurate data on 1-inch targets at 100 yards. The Tremor 3 reticle has changed our lives regarding precision targets at virtually any distance. The glass we looked through for this review was as clear as you can get, even at a close distance [within 50] a quick push of a button illuminates the reticle and we immediately went from aiming small and missing small to quick target acquisition and engagement.

Horus’ Tremor 3 reticle is a true show stopper and has literally changed our precision shooting lives! It appears to have a lot going on but if you can divide by 2 and make proper wind calls…you’re golden

Prior to shooting and moving, we mounted the GG&G XDS-2 bipods to the adaptive rail section and they stayed locked in place just as we expected them to. We have counted on GG&G for our entire adult lives to supply quality hardware. Whether it be in the form of back up irons to sling adapters we have yet to experience failure with any product. The bipods in this instance are no different. The XDS-2’s have both panning and canting capabilities with a 4-8-inch height adjustment range. GG&G manufactures most of their products to be installed absent tools to make it easier for the end user to mount and detach in the least amount of time as possible and we took advantage of this feature during our run-down course of fire. Once we made the prone shots needed, we removed the bipods and moved to the 50-yard line where our next iteration of fire took place kneeling.

 

Everyone has their preference of glass, bipods, and other equipment. Regardless of what they are, the LAR 8 will accept them and prove to be a reliable .308 for your end user needs. If you are into collecting, competitive shooting, a continuation of training for when North Korea decides to get froggy here in the states…or all the above; the LAR 8 is a platform for you to consider. Compared to most AR10s this base model comes in at about $1000 less than other manufacturers. For less than 2K, you will get Rock River Arms quality with above average accuracy!

 

LAR 8 Vital Data

Type Direct Impingement – Semi-Automatic
Caliber .308/7.62x51mm NATO
Receivers Forged Aluminum
Barrel Length 18 Inches
Barrel Specs Stainless, HBAR, Cryo Treated, 1:10 RH Twist
Trigger RRA 2-Stage National Match (Reworked)
Trigger Pull 4lb (Tested)
Safety RRA Star grip (strong side)
Pistol Grip RRA Ergo (Rubber Molded)
Stock 6 Position CAR Collapsible
Handguard Free Floated TRO Standard
Weight 9.5lbs
Length 39 Inches
MSRP $1845.00
Manufacturer Rock River Arms

 

NightForce Optics ATACR (Advanced Tactical Riflescope)  

Type Variable Magnification RifleScope
Magnification Range 7-35x
Objective Lens Diameter 56mm
Tube Diameter 34mm/1.34 Inches
Focal Plane 1st
Reticles TREMOR3, MIL-R, MOAR
Adjustment Range (MOA) Elevation:100 Windage:60
Click value Elevation: .250 Windage: .1 MIL-RAD
Parallax 10m-infanite
Eye Relief 3.26-3.58 inches
Field Of View (100 Yards) 3.44-14.97 Feet
Overall Length 16”
Weight 39 oz.
Illumination Yes (digillum)
Elevation Stop ZeroStop technology
MSRP $4,000
Manufacturer NightForce Optics

 

LAR 8 Accuracy Data

Load Grain Best (Inches) Worst (Inches) Avg (Inches)
Hornady American Gunner 155gr .38 1.16 .69
Hornady TAP 168gr .32 1.02 .53
Hornady r Match BTHP 178g 1.23 2.02 1.36

 

LAR 8 Ballistic Data

Load Lo High Avg ES SD
Hornady American Gunner 155gr BTHP 2471 2561 5256 90 23
Hornady TAP 168gr ELD 2451 2508 2480 57 15
Hornady 178gr Match BTHP 2643 2679 2661 36 13

*Ballistic Data collected using My LabRadar Doppler chronograph from 100 yards


About This Author

Scott Lambin

Scott is the founder of The BrassTacs digital publications. He is a veteran of the US Marines and has numerous deployments in support of the GWOT. Scott brings 17 years of experience to the publication. Focusing on practical application with all firearms. Scott focuses on hard end use, training and pistol and carbine perspective content.



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