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Obvinityel
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Posted: 7/24/2010 10:29:42 PM
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.

http://www.rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=410&CFID=86928993&CFTOKEN=28435674&jsessionid=f030926d3ef0c3330218

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.

http://www.trijicon.com/aiming.html

http://www.trijicon.com/pdfs/BINDEN.swf

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.
BFGJoe
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Posted: 7/25/2010 2:22:29 PM
Great write-up. This should prove to be very useful to the folks who are researching their next .308 AR purchase. Would love to see some pics.

Which model of ACOG did you end up getting? I'm still on the fence as to which one I will run on my .308 AR's.

Thanks!
- Joe
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Posted: 7/25/2010 4:54:19 PM
Nice write up. I'm glad yours functions so well, mine doesn't. It won't feed ANY ammo reliably, even with the original mag. The rifle is incredibly accurate and very well made. I'm taking it to Camp Perry to let them look at it. I hope it's fixable, because I love the rifle. The visual quality and price led me to the purchase.

Noob
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Posted: 7/25/2010 9:44:25 PM
I put a TA11E on mine and it works great.
cbp33
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Posted: 7/26/2010 6:58:57 PM
I took my RRA LAR-8 out today primarily for functionality test. Utilized FNM ammunition. Weapon operated exceptionally. I have owned M1A, FAL and DPMS 308. The RRA does not seem to have the muzzle climb the other rifles had making it easier for rapid fire followup and the recoil does not appear to be as harsh. The only problem was with the Yankee Hill flip sights I purchased. I did not do enough research prior to purchasing sights. The front gas block picatinny rail is lower than the upper recvr rail thus obvious issue with elevation. I will be purchasing a half quad rail forearm so the front of the forearm upper rail should suffice instead of purchasing a new gas block or front sight. Plan on buying optics so iron sights will only be backup. Overall was extremely pleased and glad I did not trade it as originally planned.
BFGJoe
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Posted: 7/26/2010 9:19:52 PM
Originally Posted By Obvinityel:
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.


Do you have any details on the types of failures and breakage that these folks experienced?

Would also still like to hear about your optics choice and see some pics.

Thanks!
- Joe

NoGood
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Posted: 8/6/2010 3:04:02 PM
Originally Posted By cbp33:
I took my RRA LAR-8 out today primarily for functionality test. Utilized FNM ammunition. Weapon operated exceptionally. I have owned M1A, FAL and DPMS 308. The RRA does not seem to have the muzzle climb the other rifles had making it easier for rapid fire followup and the recoil does not appear to be as harsh. The only problem was with the Yankee Hill flip sights I purchased. I did not do enough research prior to purchasing sights. The front gas block picatinny rail is lower than the upper recvr rail thus obvious issue with elevation. I will be purchasing a half quad rail forearm so the front of the forearm upper rail should suffice instead of purchasing a new gas block or front sight. Plan on buying optics so iron sights will only be backup. Overall was extremely pleased and glad I did not trade it as originally planned.
I didn't know that the gas block was lower too and had bought MI buis sight and could not sight it in till I put a scope a scope on her. With rem core lock I got 1" group at 100yds. No match or reload yet.

DontShootMyDog
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Posted: 8/6/2010 4:37:33 PM
You may want to look grabbing a spare Bushmaster bolt.

Apparently there's something about designing an AR around FAL mags that does terrible things to the bolts.

Busmaster



Question / Issue
I just purchased a Bushmaster 308, #BAR 002236 that appears to have been used very little. I would like to get all the Tech Spec's on this model i.e. Chrome lined barrel, etc... and would like to know if the muzzle brake is pinned & welded and the history of and how many of the BAR 308's were made before you discontinued the model? I would also like to know if you still have any spare parts like Bolts, Carriers, springs etc....and if not who would have the parts? This one appears almost new and I would guess less than 50 rounds have been fired by the looks of the bolt etc... I have heard the rumors of bolts breaking and other problems with feeding, how true are any of these? Thanks for any and all help with this information and your time. Robert

Answer / Solution
I really don't know exactly how many were made. I think we only offered them for a couple of years before we discontinued them. These .308s were made for us by Rock River and that relationship didn't last very long. I think the .308 they offer now is most likely very similar if not the same exact thing.
Some of the brakes were welded and some were not. I think this gun came out right around the time the assault rifle ban was set to expire so all of the first ones made were all of the "post ban" configuration with welded on brakes. You can usually tell by looking at the brake that is on it. You will see a pretty obvious discoloration where the weld is.
These barrels were not chrome lined but they were made by Wilson and the accuracy is usually pretty decent.
We do still carry some parts in inventory for this gun. If there is anything you require you can call 1-800-883-6229 and inquire about availability of parts.
The old style bolts were prone to breakage. If there is a little groove around the tail of the bolt it is one of the old style. These are prone to breaking at that groove. We still replace these bolts under warrantee. We replace them with the bolt we use in our current .308. We recommend that these be fitted here at the factory however so the headspace can be checked.


dc4e
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Posted: 8/6/2010 7:11:19 PM
[Last Edit: 8/6/2010 7:14:54 PM by dc4e]
Originally Posted By DontShootMyDog:
You may want to look grabbing a spare Bushmaster bolt.

Apparently there's something about designing an AR around FAL mags that does terrible things to the bolts.



Why? The BMs are the fragile ones. The issue was with the hardening process. That issues was addressed when RRA took back the design. They revised the hardening process and beefed up the bolt at the same time.

In fact, the BM bolts are not compatible with the RRA BCGs or vice-versa.

http://www.ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=2&f=38&t=185186
Obvinityel
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Posted: 8/23/2010 11:57:52 PM
Hello, Joe. I chose a Trijicon ACOG 3x model with the red chevron 600 yard bullet drop compensator, range-finder recticle, the TA33R-9. Here is the link, so you can see the ACOG and its clever recticle (you may need to cut and paste the link):

http://www.trijicon.com/user/parts/products1.cfm?PartID=559&back_row=2&categoryID=3

I discussed why I chose a Trijicon ACOG in my post - I chose this particular 3 power ACOG model for a number of reasons.

1. The red chevron really stands out to my eye (I am somewhat colorblind, so the amber and green choices could wash out).
2. The scope has a useful field of view - the 3.5x and 4x power ACOGs were getting too narrow for my purposes
3. Ample eye relief for various shooting positions (prone, standing, seated, scrunched up awkwardly)
4. The .308 bullet-drop compensator recticle with 600 yard range-finding capability (as far as I would ever shoot)

I have been happy with my ACOG, and my experienced rifleman friends have said the Rock River LAR-8 16" carbine and 3x Trijicon ACOG is an excellent carbine/scope combination. Trijicon makes a lot of ACOG models, however, with a variety of magnifications and recticles, so you should do the research to find out which ACOG is right for your eyes and your intended uses.

After I bought my .308 carbine and ACOG and fired it quite a bit, I discovered an interesting fact. Major Sam Pikula, in his book "The ArmaLite AR-10" (Regnum Fund Press, 1998, ISBN 9986494389), describes how Portugese Army Caçadores Pára-quedista ("Hunter Paratrooper") units fighting in the 1960 Mozambique & Angola wars used .308 caliber AR-10 rifles fitted with 3x telescopic sights with great success.

So I guess my .308 caliber AR-10-pattern carbine with a 3x scope is state-of-the-art..... as of 50 years ago.

Here is my first ever attempt to post a digital photograph taken with my Blackberry:

BFGJoe
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Posted: 8/24/2010 10:20:44 PM
Thanks for providing the model number of ACOG you chose. I have been researching them qute a bit and was curious what other people are using any why. The combination of reticle, body style, illumination, and magnification that I would like to have does not exist so I am struggling in my decision. Someday I may end up with the the same model you have chosen. I appreciate the info and hope you can get the pic posting worked out (shoot me an IM if you need any help).

BTW...did you have any more to add on the DPMS failures that you mentioned in your earlier post? Again, just curious.

Thanks!
- Joe