Rock River Fred Eichler AR-15 Sub-MOA Hunter – New Rifle Review

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http://www.rockriverarms.com/
http://www.leupold.com/
http://www.gorillaammo.com/223-Rem–55-gr-Sierra-Blitzking–20-Round-Box_p_1.html

I’m not sure how I’d feel about having Fred Eichler’s name emblazoned on my rifle. Yet it is a brand, and that’s part of what will help this gun hold value as it ages.

I’m not sure how I’d feel about having Fred Eichler’s name emblazoned on my rifle. Yet it is a brand, and that’s part of what will help this gun hold value as it ages.

http://kissimmeeriverhuntandfish.com/

Signature models rifle don’t come along a lot in the gun industry, and it is a little strange that Rock River Arms would put famous bow hunter Fred Eichler’s name on one of their highly regarded LAR-15 guns. An AR-15 is an AR-15 right? Wrong! Fred of course does also hunt with modern sporting rifles, and specifically this one built to his specifications. The point of this Eichler gun is hunting, and primarily hunting varmints, or pest animals, as evidenced by the coyote prints on the special Fred Eichler floating handguard. Is it cute? Well, is it possible for an AR-15 that shoots under .75 MOA at 100 yards to be cute? Then yea, it’s cute. But after hog hunting this gun for a day, shooting it at the range with a group of friends, and driving tacks with it, this bad boy is a predator killing machine, a gun that is so reliable, dependable, accurate and intuitive to shoot that a missed shot is obviously user error.  The Fred Eichler Series LAR-15 is a gun that dominates the nightmares of coyotes, hogs, and prairie dogs. If you think the puppy prints are silly, move on. RR makes the same gun, with the .223 Wylde chamber, meant for both .223 and 5.56, without the extra Fred stuff. But if you think the gun is cool, pull the trigger.  I haven’t met anyone who has fired the Eichler who isn’t impressed.  And at a direct Rock River and store price of $1500, it is an impressive specialty hunting rifle that isn’t going to break the bank.

Let’s break this beast down. The Fred Eichler Series LAR-15 from Rock River Arms (RRA) represents a collaboration between the renowned bow hunter and personality Fred Eichler and the Colona Illinois based Rock River Arms. Eichler, who regularly hunts big game with a comparatively primitive recurve bow, has brought his aesthetic and specifications to one of the staples of the Rock River line.  The result is a ridiculously accurate AR that is ready to roll just as soon as put an optic on it. And it is designed to hunt.
The Fred Eichler LAR-15 from Rock River Arms

The ported muzzle brake keeps the rifle level, but it doesn’t do anything to mitigate the crack of a .223. This thing is loud.

The ported muzzle brake keeps the rifle level, but it doesn’t do anything to mitigate the crack of a .223. This thing is loud.

The 16-inch barrel isn’t long by AR standards. The weight, like many guns in this class, is light enough to carry all day: 7.6 pounds.  With the A2 fixed stock, the rifle comes in at 36 inches. The collapsible stock knocks 2 inches off of that. Either way, it is short enough to be maneuverable in the brush (which may explain why the barrel isn’t even longer).

The upper receiver and lower receiver are both forged aluminum. The barrel is cryogenically treated stainless, with a 1:8 twist, and is bead blasted. The RRA Chrome two-stage trigger is solid, and breaks clean at 3.5 pounds. It is vastly superior to the typical stock AR trigger, and you can see how well it works when you shoot for accuracy. The trigger guard is oversized to allow the use of sizable gloves.

The grip is made by Hogue and is exceptionally comfortable. I’ve always liked the softer feel of rubber, and there are finger notches that widen the grip ever so slightly, which is a good thing for those of us with larger hands.

The rail sections line up neatly, though you can’t make use of the actual join between the two.

The rail sections line up neatly, though you can’t make use of the actual join between the two.

The flat top rail continues all the way down the handguard, which means you can set up optics however you’d like.  If you want a scout scope forward on the rail, it will easily fit. It is an AR, so there are way too many ways to set it up. We topped it with a gem from Leupold. The magnification of the scope and the clarity of the glass helped with the accuracy testing. This is something that some folks overlook. If you are saving up to buy a rifle like this, you might be tempted to top it with a budget scope, but you’ll be doing the rifle a disservice. Save up for good glass, too.

At first glance, the Eichler Rock River looks like a souped-up AR. The hand guard is free floated and extends out over the low-profile gas block. The handguard is long enough to get a good solid forward grip, but not long enough that it risks putting your hand in the way of the muzzle break. It is branded as the RRA Fred Eichler Series Free Float Handguard. And it is decorated with puppy dog paw prints. Or maybe those are coyote prints. Perhaps this is akin to the tall-tales I used to hear about native hunters decorating their bows with images of the animals they wanted to kill in an attempt to channel some animalistic spirit power. If that’s the case, the Eichler will rain hell on coyotes.

What’s your take on the paw prints? They seem to be the polarizing design feature that separates those who love and respect the gun from those who just respect it.

What’s your take on the paw prints? They seem to be the polarizing design feature that separates those who love and respect the gun from those who just respect it.

As much I am ambivalent about the paw prints on the handguard, I’m inclined to like the way they feel. The tube is round, and the cutouts offer a nice subtle grip. They’re not too abrasive, and not so large that they’ll let in too much dirt and debris. The top of the tube is one long continuous strip of rail, and there are smaller rail sections near the muzzle end for attaching sling mounts and lights, or even a very far forward vertical grip.

Look closely at the chambering and you’ll see it isn’t 5.56 or .223, exactly, but .223 Wylde.  This chambering will allow for a wide selection of ammo usage.  5.56 and .223 will both work well, and there is enough chamber space to make use of the longer 80 grain match bullets.

The muzzle break is extremely effective at cutting down the muzzle rise. It is much more enclosed than a typical flash hider. It is short, but drilled in such a way that it channels the gas up, and out. I can’t speak to any appreciable reduction in flash, but I can attest to how well it holds the gun down. There is very little rise. This may be the flattest-shooting AR I’ve come across yet. And that has a certain appeal to varmint hunters. If you miss, you won’t be wasting much time getting the rifle back on target.  If there are multiple targets, you’ll have an easier time moving from one to another. Yet they’re going to hear you.  This is one of the loudest ARs I’ve shot. It is loud for the shooter. If you happen to be taking pictures of the gun when your assistant pulls the trigger, and you’re not expecting it, you may need a minute to compose yourself. It is loud.

The texture on the selector switch allows for easy manipulation, and the safety can be engaged or disengaged silently.

The texture on the selector switch allows for easy manipulation, and the safety can be engaged or disengaged silently.

Odds are, though, the varmint in your sights won’t hear the shot. That’s what the Eichler Rock River is meant for. This is a varmint gun. The 1:8 twist in the barrel is versatile, and will allow for stabilization of lighter bullets over longer distances. In the south, where I am, I can’t find much open land to hunt that extends beyond the 300 yard range. I lived out on the plains of New Mexico for a while, right against the eastern slope of the Rockies, where the distances and prairie dogs were unlimited. This would have been an ideal rifle to have on hand there.

The Fred Eichler Series LAR-15 really epitomizes the modern sporting rifle. Even the color scheme and the paw prints help to distance the AR at its core from the all-too-terrifying tactical rifles in its family tree. And while this is meaningless to those of us who don’t judge rifles by the color of their skins, it may help establish the MSR as an actual thing. If anyone ever says to me that ARs aren’t meant for hunting, I will simply show them this one.

How does the Fred Eichler RRA LAR-15 work in the field? Ask that first sow. She’ll tell you.

How does the Fred Eichler RRA LAR-15 work in the field? Ask that first sow. She’ll tell you.

Speaking of hunting . . ..There are those who want to argue the relative merits of the .223 for hunting hogs. Hogwash. I haven’t met a pig yet that couldn’t be dispatched with an appropriately placed .55 grain bullet. There are certainly merits to larger rounds. If I were hunting from a helicopter, say, where precision accuracy might be sacrificed by movement, I might want a round that could dump more energy in a feral hog. Yet the Eichler boasts .75 MOA accuracy. If you have a chance to hold on a boar, even briefly, you can take him down. You may miss, but it won’t be the rifle’s fault.

This may all sound a bit hyperbolic. It isn’t. I unboxed the Eichler on a weekend when I had a fair number of guns that needed to be worked out. My initial reaction to the puppy dog prints wasn’t exactly positive. And I’ve never really been a fan of two-tone guns, especially when the tones aren’t balanced. When I was giving the rifle the once over, I couldn’t stop wondering why they hadn’t painted the forend to match the stock and grip. Sure, it was an AR, but it was an odd combination.

This is our sight-in target. With eight shots from 50 yards, we were well within the range needed for knocking over pigs.

This is our sight-in target. With eight shots from 50 yards, we were well within the range needed for knocking over pigs.

Then I fired it. We sighted the rifle in at 50 yards. We were shooting Gorilla Ammo.  .223, 55 grain Sierra Blitzking bullets.  At about $1.20 a shot, the Gorilla is a great choice for hunting hogs. Working from a rest, I pulled the trigger. The gun kicked, but not so much that I lost my sight picture through the scope. I checked the target, aimed, and fired again. That second shot was more problematic. It punched in through the same hole as the first round. If I looked carefully, I could see the ragged edge of the first hole had grown slightly, but I really needed the help of a spotting scope to pick up the detail.  We walked it up and in and shot some more ragged holes. From 100 yards, we had no difficulty producing the .75 MOA groups. Most came in under that mark. At 50 yards, the gun shot one clean hole.

Needless to say, such results can be heady. After a few rounds with the Eichler, I was beginning to think I was a much better shot than I actually am. It is precisely this confidence that makes a rifle like this empowering. I won’t pull the trigger on an animal unless I think I’m going to make a clean kill. It doesn’t always happen the way I would like, but I have to have that gut level confidence.  When I’m hunting with a rifle that would put a hole through a quarter at 100 yards, I simply feel more confident.

vHow’s this for a five round group? While I’d hoped to have that ragged hole right in the orange dot, this type of reliability is admirable from a stock AR. There are a lot of ARs, many of which are much more expensive, that won’t shoot half this well.

How’s this for a five round group? While I’d hoped to have that ragged hole right in the orange dot, this type of reliability is admirable from a stock AR. There are a lot of ARs, many of which are much more expensive, that won’t shoot half this well.

And everything else about the gun worked just as well. Magazines drop free. The mid-length gas tube brought enough pressure back to kick out brass, consistently, and every time. We had no failures to feed or eject. There were no operational issues with the LAR-15. When I think if that necessary confidence I was writing about earlier, this certainly plays into it. The gun shoots straight and it has yet to falter.

The Eichler series ARs aren’t cheap. The MSRP on this one is $1,510. Considering the accuracy we witnessed out of the box, I can’t complain about the price. When I shoot most stock AR-15s, I find myself wanting to make changes. The trigger is always the first thing to get attention. Then I look at the gas block and forend. I wouldn’t change either of these on the Eichler gun. Even with the puppy dog prints.

The Eichler Series LAR-15s aren’t for everyone. Yet if you’re looking for a dedicated gun for knocking down the vermin, this would be a good choice. We took it out hog hunting with Kissimee River Hunt and Fish and put it to the test. It worked. When you draw down on a pig’s ear, it doesn’t stand a chance. One shot. That’s all it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 8 comments }

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • old eagle April 21, 2014, 8:45 am

    All that sounds great but my Remington 700 in .243 and Browning A-bolt in 30-06 will do the Robin Hood split the arrow trick for this and the total for both with Burris optics comes in for less. Yes they are old school but they get the job done. Having attained sharpshooter status in the US Army helps but I do not need 30 rounds for hunting. For the house in case of dire times yes I do and that can be done for a lot less than $1500. As a matter of fact my wife and I both can have one for about that price. Probably a great gun but just how much do you need to spend to meet NEEDS not egos.

    • Rome April 21, 2014, 11:00 am

      Old Eagle. I understand your point, but you just said you spent the same $1500 on two hunting rifles and another $1500 on 2 ARs for defense. Sounds like you spent $2250 for two hunting rifles and your AR and take 3 slots up in your safe instead of $1500 on one gun that hunts and defends. There is merit in both paths, but calling one “need” and the opposing one “ego” seems like an intentional insult where one isn’t warranted. Not everyone’s needs are the same, and thankfully we still live in a place where we don’t have to base all of our hunting/hobby/defense purchases on NEED alone.

      I, personally, hate the paw prints. They put the paw prints in the logo on the magwell, that was enough to make their point.

      • Muhjesbude April 22, 2014, 9:16 am

        ‘Someone’ didn’t allow my other post for ‘some’ reason. Maybe they didn’t like me implying that this thing a rip off. And a stupid looking one at that.

        Anyway, if truth be told anymore on gun blogs, the fact is that ARs like this are Still just like AR’s and you can build one as good, or maybe better, depending upon looks and bells and whistles perspective,
        for considerably less.

        When I come back later to see, and if he ‘allows’ this post, I’ll tell a lot of you who would be interested where to get the parts to put together a nice MOA 16 inch carbine with a free floating quad rail, upgraded telescoping stock and grip, quad gas block, compensated brake, all for under 700 bucks.

        The only Caveat is that it might not kill as many hogs as this ‘signature’ model. Because I’m sure most of the hogs will ‘Die Laughing’ as soon as they see it.
        sub MOA

  • Sam April 21, 2014, 9:54 am

    Typo, I believe: …”meant for both .223 and .556,”… Should read 5.56 not.556.

    • joe April 22, 2014, 12:56 am

      And it’s muzzle brake, not muzzle break.

      • Joe April 22, 2014, 11:45 am

        Sadly, the correct word is used in the caption of one of the photos, and the incorrect one in the article.

  • Jim Beck April 21, 2014, 11:51 am

    ” All-too-terrifying tactical rifle” And,paw prints in the foreguard ! I got nothing else to say.

    Sorry, I’ll stick with the “terrifying” look.

  • James E. Bankston April 21, 2014, 4:22 pm

    It seems all AR- 15 @ AR- 10 rifles I have shot will shoot one half inches at 100 meters and under one and on half inches or less at 200 meters with Winchester, Federal, Remington hunting loads and my reloads. My SP-1 with an old discontinued 4 power Tasco scope with German post and red dot center will shoot consistently one ragged hole at 100 meters for the last 25 years. But the rifle here tested is very attractive and apparently accurate but the basic AR platform is inherently accurate. The trigger pull on AR rifles is the greatest detriment to improving accuracy and some U.S. military loads and most imported military loads.
    JEB

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