by NRA Staff - Monday, March 18, 2013
In the world of .308 Win. AR-10-style rifles, the Rock River Arms LAR-8 stands alone. It retains the original direct-gas-operating system, as well as the multi-lug rotating bolt and cylindrical bolt carrier of the original design, but the gun’s internal and external contours and dimensions have been extensively modified to accept FN-FAL-pattern magazines. The LAR-8 Standard Operator, reviewed here, also incorporates a number of ergonomic improvements, including an ambidextrous bolt stop and magazine release.
Rock River Arms originally designed and patented the system back in 2005. At the time, both AR-10 and SR-25 magazines were scarce and expensive, so Rock River designed its own AR-10-style rifle around a more abundant and affordable magazine. For that purpose, it chose the 20-round box magazine used in the FN-FAL, which was readily available and priced as low as $5 each. The design was licensed to Bushmaster, and during the course of about three years, the company built and sold several thousand rifles.
Although inexpensive and reliable, the FAL magazine presented a number of design challenges, such as dimensions and feed angles that differ from AR-style magazines. Less obvious and more vexing, the FAL won’t work with an AR-10-style bolt stop. The FAL’s feed lips are built into the receiver rather than the magazine itself—a feature that, in theory, should offer more reliable feeding. On the other hand, they add a pair of critical dimensions to the receiver in an already crowded area just below the barrel extension. Rock River’s manufacturing experience, however, made that a non-issue.
With the LAR-8, the choice of the FN-FAL magazine created the opportunity for a pair of significant ergonomic improvements. First, is an ambidextrous magazine release consisting of two fenced buttons mirrored on both sides of the lower receiver. Second is the bolt stop lever located between the magazine well and the trigger guard. It is ambidextrous as well and can be activated with the trigger finger. The safety lever, on the other hand, while not ambidextrous, has a raised dome on the tail that makes it easier to manipulate. In the time since it reacquired the rights to the BAR-10/LAR-8, Rock River replaced the original charging handle with a more common design and refined the extractor for better performance.
The LAR-8 will accept metric- or inch-pattern magazines as well as current-production Rock River magazines. Although it appears to be just an AR clone, few parts are interchangeable. The adjustable buttstock will interchange, as will the trigger and safety mechanisms, but that is about it. The dimensions of the barrel extension are different, and the bolt carrier and charging handle are both longer.
The Standard Operator has a 20-inch, cryo-treated chrome-moly barrel. The 1:10-inch twist rate will stabilize both the 168- and 175-grain bullets used in long-range loads. A four-pronged Smith Enterprise Vortex flash suppressor is threaded to the muzzle. The Rock River Arms Advanced Half Quad fore-end leaves the barrel free-floating for improved accuracy. The rear half of the fore-end is rounded and smooth for a comfortable hold, while the front half has four rails that provide plenty of space for mounting accessories. The top rail runs the full-length of the fore-end and mates with the flat-top upper receiver.
The gas block has a folding front sight assembly that can be locked down when not in use and three hinged sling loops, one on the bottom and one on each side. The bottom of the gas block has a short length of Picatinny rail for attaching a bipod.
The pistol grip is a Hogue rubber unit and the synthetic buttstock is a fixed Rock River Arms Operator A2 stock. A pair of horizontally opposed internal tunnels for holding spare batteries creates a full contour buttstock that is compatible with a solid cheek weld. Users can access the storage compartment by depressing a button recessed into the ribbed rubber buttpad that slides it down and out of the way. The stock also has flush cups compatible with quick-release sling swivels, including one at the wrist and one at the toe.
One 20-round-capacity magazine was included, but Rock River offers three-, five- and 10-round magazines in steel, as well as its new polymer 20-round magazine.
For testing, we fitted the rifle with a Leupold 1.1-8X 24 mm CQBSS using steel 34 mm rings. Accuracy with the rifle was commendable. Rock River Arms guarantees one-m.o.a. accuracy in the Standard Operator, and our testing, at least with match ammunition, was consistent with that claim. Federal Gold Medal Match delivered the best group, which measured 0.81 inches. Using several surplus FN-FAL magazines as well as the one provided with the rifle, there were no failures to feed. The trigger is an RRA two-stage unit that was very crisp and predictable. It broke cleanly at 4 pounds, 4 ounces and exhibited no creep or stacking.
The LAR-8 Standard Operator is reliable and accurate, and its fine trigger makes it easy to shoot well. The choice of the FN-FAL magazine offers some nice ergonomic touches, such as the ambidextrous bolt stop and magazine release, but it also makes for a significantly longer, bulkier and heavier .308 Win. rifle. That said, if you don’t have to lug it very far, it has a lot of unique features that make it enjoyable to shoot.
Manufacturer: Rock River Arms; (866) 980-7625; www.rockriverarms.com
Caliber: .308 Win.
Mechanism Type: direct-gas-impingement-operated semi-automatic, center-fire rifle
Receiver: 7075-T6 forged matte-black aluminum alloy
Barrel: 20" matte-black steel
Rifling: six-groove, 1:10" RH twist
Magazine: one 20-round FN-FAL-type detachable box, compatible with both inch and metric pattern FN-FAL magazines; Rock River Arms polymer 20-round magazines available as aftermarket accessories.
Sights: folding front post attached to the gas block, Picatinny rail for attaching optics
Trigger: two-stage; 4-lb., 4-oz. pull
Stock: black synthetic fixed Rock River Arms A2 Operator; length of pull, 14"; drop at heel, 1/2"; drop at comb, 1/2"
Overall Length: 42¼"
Weight: 10 lbs., 3 ozs.
Accessories: owner’s manual, one 20-round magazine
Suggested Retail Price: $1,720
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