This may come as news to some readers, but not all AR-15-style firearms are equal. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that, the brand-new Gee-Whiz AR you just bought, brand-new in the box, for $500 is the equal to the Wow AR that was next to it for $1,200. It just ain’t true – and I don’t care what the guy standing behind the gun counter might tell you. Don’t be taken in by their sales pitch. I actually own a couple of lower-end (in price) ARs and they are good performers, and would probably last for the the rest of my life. But they aren’t ones I’d want to take into combat with me. Oh sure, they’ll make do, for most survival situations, and perhaps even for real-life combat. But I’d make sure I had plenty of spare parts on-hand.
Many AR makers claim that their ARs are made with mil-spec parts, and they are either lying or don’t know the difference between mil-spec and civilian AR gun parts – simple as that. If they were using all or mostly all mil-spec parts in manufacturing their ARs, then they couldn’t sell them as inexpensively as they do. And, lets be clear on this, I don’t know of any – not any – maker of ARs, that manufactures every single part that goes into producing their ARs. It makes no sense to set-up machining to make the little springs and pins that go in to an AR – when they can have them made to their specs, by an outside vendor – that is, assuming, you can actually get the parts made to your specifications. The US military is very particular, into what goes into making our M16 Rifles and M4 Carbines. Every single part must be to mil-spec – period! We don’t want parts failing in the hands of our troops, because some company produced sub-standard parts, and looking to save a few cents. No sir. We want the best for our troops.
Today we’re checking out an AR-style carbine from Rock River Arms (RRA).They make a huge variety of AR-styles of rifles and carbine – probably one of the best selections or styles you’ll find. And, right off the bat, I’ll tell you this, they have some of the absolute best triggers on all their firearms, right out of the box. They also produce some models in a left handed version – you won’t find many other makers doing this.
I’m old – hate to admit it, I really do…my mind tells me I’m 27, my body tells me…well, let’s just say, it tells me, on some days, that I’m actually much older than I really am. With age, comes old school thinking – at least for me. I cut my teeth on military web gear from the 1960s, and it is called A.L.I.C.E. gear (All-purpose Load-bearing Individual Carrying Equipment) and I still believe it is better suited than much of the military combat gear that is issued today. It is sure more durable, too. But that’s another story.
The current rages in ARs are either for a complete flat top upper receiver, with which you can mount whatever you want on it, or a partial flat top upper – with a fixed front sight. I can live with a partial flat top receiver with a fixed front sight, and I often install a detachable A2 rear sight on those guns. However, as I said, I’m old school. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, as they say. The Rock River Arms AR that I’m covering today has a fixed front sight, and a fixed A2 rear sight – it can’t be removed which means less chance of it getting broken. RRA is one of the few makers these days offering a CAR-15 (M4gery) with this old school design feature.
RRA designates all of their AR rifles/carbines LAR-15, and this model has added that it is their CAR-A2 model – hard to tell the players without a score card because they make so many different models of ARs. So, we’ll just call it the CAR-A2. This gun is chambered in 5.56mm NATO/.223 – and it is not the same caliber – if a gun is chambered in 5.56mm you can safely fire .223 Rem ammo through it – but not the other way around. Oh sure, I’ve done it – not on purpose, but for experimentation – and there was no damage to the .223 Rem chambered gun – that I fired 5.56mm through – but just don’t do it – sooner or later, you’ll have a problem. So, it is great that RRA chambers this model in 5.56mm NATO.
RRA Design Features
The upper and lower receivers are forged, not cast – this makes them stronger. The barrel is 16-inches chrome-moly plated – with a 1:9 twist – the most common twist on civilian ARs – you just can’t shoot some of the heavier bullets with any degree of accuracy – most of us either use ammo with 55-gr or 62 gr bullets anyway – so no problems there. There is a standard A2 flash suppressor. And, the already mentioned trigger – it is a two stage trigger – one of the sweetest trigger pulls you’ll get out of the box. The handguard is the oval R4 type, and it has a typical 6-position adjustable buttstock. Their are marked with the Rock River name. The supplied Hogue finger-grooved pistol grip is very nice. The gun weighs in a 7.5-lbs – a bit heavier than some lower quality ARs, but not as heavy as some others. RRA says the gun is capable of 1 MOA at 100-yards. More about this, later.
I purchased this RRA CAR-15 used, from my local gun shop, that is also a pawn shop, and I believe this one was in pawn, and the owner never paid-off his pawn and lost the gun. The gun was filthy. It looked like it had never been cleaned – inside or out. It took me several hours to clean this gun. I also found that the gas rings were worn out. It was easy enough to replace those, and I always keep some of those those on-hand. The gun might have functioned with the old bolt gas rings, but it only took a few minutes to replace the gas rings, and they are quite inexpensive – so stock-up on those parts. The extractor – I thought it was “iffy” and replaced that – another inexpensive spare part – as well as the extractor spring and rubber buffer. Once again, inexpensive spare parts to keep on hand. The gun was now like-new, at least on the inside, the outside had seen better days – it wasn’t all that bad looking but you could tell it had been around the block a few times.
Target Shooting Tests
I had a great selection of .223 Rem ammo from Black Hills Ammunition for testing in this RRA CAR-15 – the nice folks at Black Hills have been supplying my ammo needs since I first started writing about firearms, back in 1993. I had their 55 grain FMJ – Factory Seconds, this is new ammo, but it has some cosmetic flaws, mostly itty-bitty dings in the brass or tarnished brass – but it is still brand-new ammo, I also had their 52 grain Match Hollow Point, 55 grain FMJ, 60-gr Soft Point, 55-gr Barnes TSX, 68-gr Heavy Match Hollow Point, and their 69 grain Sierra Matchking. This was quite a selection to run through this AR.
I placed my target stand out to 50 yards, a fair enough distance, for the open sights, and I didn’t want to keep marching back and forth at 100 yards to change targets. The gun was rested over a padded rest, on top of a big rock for my accuracy testing. At 50 yards, even with a wide variety of ammunition, the best group I could get was right at 1-inch, so this equates to roughly 2 inches at 100-yards. So much for the RRA mention of 1-inch MOA at 100-yards. I might have done better with a scope mounted on this gun, but I don’t care for any scopes mounted on top of a carry handle. With those, I just can’t get good cheek placement on the telescoping stock.
Best accuracy, that gave me that 1-inch group at 50 yards was with the 68-gr Heavy Match Hollow Point. Hot on its heels was the Black Hills 60-gr Soft Point – always a good performer for me, followed by everything else, and they were still well under two inches – well under that. So, not too bad. I can’t complain at all, with this accuracy – might get better if I went prone, but in my old age, its too darn hard to get back up!
This gun won’t be used for hunting. It will be a plinker – a fun gun to shoot – killing rocks and punching paper. And, of course, it would certainly make a great End Of The World firearm, as well. I don’t plan on going out on any recon missions, or facing down a platoon of enemy troops – so this gun will make due. It can be issued to a trusted partner, if it comes down to it. I only paid $490 for this gun, and they are selling retail brand-new in the box, for about a grand.
RRA doesn’t sell low-end, low quality ARs. Rather, they are about in the middle of the road. In all my testing, I fired 400 rounds through this gun. I’m thinking that, if I scrub out the barrel, I mean, really scrub it out, I might get better accuracy from this piece – who knows? I’m still satisfied with this gun, even though it won’t give me one inch groups at 100-yards, at present.
By the way, don’t be afraid to ask the guy behind the gun counter for a better price, if you find a used and slightly abused AR that is filthy and needing a little TLC. They should come off the asking price for you – or clean the gun up and replace some well used parts for you. It doesn’t hurt to ask.