Well, I had been considering the LAR-8 Predator HP as the leading candidate among the different, affordable .308 AR10 style rifles ever since I read the review in the August 2011 edition of Shooting Times. This particular variation on the .308 AR-10 type rifle addressed some of the characteristics of their design that agreed with what I'd like to see done to them. The fact that RRA had already released some alternate calibers that shared the .308 parent case was a nice touch, but not unique to this product. The biggest feature, that I perceived from the article, possibly erroneously in retrospect, was that it allowed loading rounds longer than the typical 2.80 inches. From the article:
:"...the Fal magazine is slightly longer. This gave handloaders a little room to increase overall cartridge length..."
Not having a FAL magazine to actually stick some .308 rounds into, I assumed it would be significant enough to perhaps load high BC, long bullets without either giving up precious powder capacity, nor placing the ogive below the case mouth. It also said, "...it made the LAR-8's receiver almost a half inch longer than standard AR-10s."
I mistakenly took this as COLs up to a half beyond 2.80. Upon loading the FAL magazine that came with my unit, that "increased overall length" is on the order of .055 inches, or 2%. Heck my AR15 magazines allow an extra 2% COL. That worth of that increase, along with $1.59 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So, needless to say, unless RRA comes out with their own magazine that offers a COL increase that's actually significant, then the main reason I bought this model, seems like a mistake. I could have just bought a regular LAR-8. The rifle still brings some nice features to the table but IMHO, not worth sacrificing the ability to interchange aftermarket parts made from companies outside RRA like you can with the AR-10 or LR-308 and possibly other brand .308s.
Looking beyond that disappointing revelation, which I made as I sat at the shooting position at the local range, putting rounds in the magazine, I proceeded to do some shoot and clean, like I do with all my new guns, whether the practice is justified or not. It's just what I do. I ran through that regimen using some 2005 Lake City XM80 ammunition I had squirreled away, right next to where my G3 used to stand. It's reliable ammunition, but not on the same accuracy plane as quality manufactured ammunition, nor quality handloads like I churn out in the name of accuracy. For the task at hand, it was just fine. Here is an image of the target I used to foul after cleanings:
Perfectly acceptable from a freshly cleaned and lubed barrel using XM80s, before dialing in the scope. I then shot some 3-shot strings from the barrel, it having been fouled and they were probably the best groups I've gotten from XM80s out of any of my .308 rifles, let alone an autoloader. The grid and bull in this 100 yard target are 1/2 inch:
I can only imagine how well it will shoot reloads, though unless some miracle happens they won't be loads that use high BC bullets or bullets loaded to the lands, should I choose to do so. I have the blessing of a fairly well appointed workshop that I spend lots of time in and I'm no stranger to modding magazines. One of my favorite mods for single stacked caliber AR15 variants is the one associated with c_bass16. If you're unfamiliar with his mod, it cuts a slot down the front that allows the bullet tips to stick through and into the groove that runs along the inside of the mag well front wall. With it, I can load AR15 rounds up to 2.40 COL, or plus 6% to get bullets of the right profile into the lands if I choose. Unfortunately, we do not have that lattitude with FAL mags due to the catch in the front that is necessary for it to stay in the mag well. The rear however has what looks like a spacer placed inside it that may be able to be removed or relieved. Time will tell.
There were zero FTFs or FTEs. Since I use a brass catcher, I do not know where the rifle places spent brass when it ejects them, but given the strength of the ejector spring, I have no doubt it throws them quite a ways away. That leads to the only objectionable behavior observed in the rifle's performance. Despite shooting modest military surplus loads (2650fps average), I got ejector marks on every round. I did not lubricate the rounds before shooting them, nor the chamber, so I'm going to guess that the ejector simply has sharp edges that cause these swipes:
I will remove the ejector plunger and stone, then polish the edge to a less sharp profile and fully expect that to rectify that minor issue. It is an issue because ejector wipes are a useful troubleshooting indicator of loads that are a little too stiff, along with extractor imprinting and case head expansion, to name a few. The tend to happen in degrees, long before the primers start flattening.
So, I look forward to many range visits as I work through different loads, hopefully cataloging some that produce excellent accuracy along the way. It's not long before our 6 months of winter sets in upon us, so there will be a gap in range reports eventually, until our 2 weeks of spring returns next May.
John "Hoot" Hill
PS can anyone recommend a forum dedicated to .308 AR variant experimentation?