Review: RISE Armament Watchman

posted on April 21, 2020

RISE Manufacturing had already built a solid reputation in the aerospace, gas and defense industries when it introduced the RA-535 performance trigger for AR-pattern rifles in 2014, under the RISE Armament name.

Building on the success of this single-stage trigger, RISE began producing its own complete rifles chambered for 5.56x45 mm NATO/.223 Rem., as well as .308 Win. and 6.5 mm Creedmoor, with nearly every part—from the billet receivers and free-floating handguards to the bolt carrier groups and the triggers—designed and built in house.

In 2019, RISE Armament started making the Watchman, an AR-style .223 Rem. carbine designed for law enforcement work and priced to make it attractive to agencies. Without compromising quality, RISE made some changes that lowered its production costs, allowing the manufacturer to offer the Watchman at a more affordable price. New for 2020, the company is making that same Watchman available for civilian consumption. 

RISE Armament’s first rifles were built using receivers machined from billet aluminum. This process obviously required quite a bit of machine time. The Watchman’s receivers are 7075 aluminum forgings that require less machining time yet are every bit as serviceable as the billet receivers. Both the upper and lower receivers are hard-coat-anodized after machining.

rise armament watchman break down
The Watchman has a mid-length gas system, and the bolt and bolt carrier are both Melonite-treated. The slim, 13.5"-long fore-end is of 6061 aluminum.

The Watchman wears a 13.5" free-floating handguard machined from 6061 aluminum that has been skeletonized for weight reduction. It features a slim profile for user comfort, and has a Picatinny rail at its top for attaching optics and iron sights. There are M-Lok-compatible slots at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock for attaching other accessories. RISE Armament designed the handguard with six quick-detach cups to accommodate just about any style of sling.

With a well-earned reputation for accuracy, RISE was determined to build the Watchman with sub-m.o.a. capability. Using a 16.1" 416R stainless steel, air-gauged, button-rifled barrel with a 1:7" twist, the company uses proprietary external fluting to lower its weight while maintaining rigidity.

The muzzle is threaded at 1/2x28 TPI, and RISE outfits the rifle with its new Veil flash hider. Designed with input from law enforcement professionals, the Veil was engineered to eliminate the “pinging” often associated with this style of flash hider. A mid-length gas system is used to lower port pressure and to increase service life. RISE cuts the Watchman’s chamber to Wylde dimensions, so the rifle can be fired with either .223 Rem. or 5.56 mm NATO without fear of developing excessive pressures.

Pica tinny rail, Veil flash hider
(l.) The forged 7075 upper receiver has M1913 Picatinny rail along its top. The extended charging handle is of RISE’s own design. (r.) The button-rifled barrel is of 416R stainless and is air-gauged. It is topped with the company’s new Veil flash hider.

RISE Armament manufactures its own bolts and bolt carriers, and a Melonite treatment increases their lubricity and hardness, while providing corrosion resistance; this process makes them easier to clean and increases the parts’ durability. Bilateral, short-throw safety selectors are also included on the Watchman, and the gun uses a Magpul MOE pistol grip, Magpul winter trigger guard and a six-position MOE SL buttstock.

The company uses a single-stage trigger on the Watchman. Our test sample broke at a very crisp and sensible 3 lbs., 9 ozs., with a firm reset. RISE also applies the Melonite treatment to the trigger’s parts, as well as other internal components. 

To test the Watchman for accuracy at 100 yds., we mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 2.5-12.5X 42 mm scope using Trijicon rings, and fired all of our five-shot groups with the scope’s magnification set on 8X. All groups were fired from a DOA Tactical shooting bench and utilized a Caldwell rifle rest.

Each of the three ammunitions tested produced at least one sub-m.o.a. group, with the Federal Gold Medal Match 69-gr. Sierra MatchKing BTHP rounds producing the best accuracy. In fact, four of the five groups shot with this ammunition measured less than 1", with the groups being nice and round without stringing. The Watchman’s trigger breaks cleanly, and that made it easy to keep the scope’s aiming point centered while breaking the shot. 

rise armament watchman shooting results

The Watchman also performed well during our function testing, and we found that the trigger’s distinct reset made it possible to shoot quickly and accurately. Throughout our 300-round evaluation there were no stoppages or failures of any sort.

Weighing a trim 6 lbs., 7 ozs., the Watchman is a handy patrol rifle for a lawman and makes for a good home-defense gun or general-purpose carbine for responsible civilians. It possesses the accuracy and reliability needed for serious work, and those same qualities will also make it attractive to those looking for a competition rifle.

Priced at an MSRP of $1,299, the Watchman is shipped in a TSA-approved, foam-lined, polymer hard case, and is backed by a limited lifetime warranty. 

rise armament watchman side view
The Watchman was designed as a lower-cost patrol rifle, and its upper and lower receivers are of forged 7075 aluminum.
rise armament watchman specs


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