Rock River’s LAR-47 – 7.62×39 M4 Carbine Takes AK Mags – New Gun Review

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This past week we ran a extremely popular SHOT article on the new AR pistol from MGI chambered in the 7.62×39 cartridge, which we generally think of as exclusive to the AK-47 and SKS class of rifles. Many people noted in the comments out there that there are other options for ARs that take AK mags, and it so happens that we put the Rock River LAR-47 through its paces some time ago. Since the gun is available for sale right now, this week is a good time to run it.

Why do AR makers find the cartridge so fascinating? First off it is because AK ammo can usually be found cheap, in disposable steel cases. But the other reason is that the 7.62×39 is a little more versatile than the .223/5.56 traditional AR cartridge. It is a slower, heavier, bullet that with the right bullet works great in many hunting situations. And most important, the AR platform rifles have proven that the cartridge is not inherently inaccurate when shot from a rifle built to quality specs, unlike most AKs and SKS rifles. The big deal about that MGI gun is that it takes AK mags, which as you can see from the gun under review here, is not a novel concept. As you’ll see, the LAR-47 did take some break in time, but after it got going the powerhouse rifle turned into flawless, and accurate. One criticism of AKs as a battle rifle is that shot to shot the gun rises a lot. When the same cartridge is fired in the AR platform with direct impingement, this is not an issue. Take a look at my 50 yard off hand mag dump.

I have to put this out there. Any rifle that is chambered in 7.62×39 will be compared to the entire pantheon of AK-47s, and all of its various knock-offs. The LAR-47 will be no different. This is, of course, tremendously unfair. Though I don’t think it happens often, AK-47s will fail. Their ergonomics leave a lot to be desired. Magazine changes, when compared to the AR-15, happen more slowly. The lack of a bolt hold open, and thumb-side safety make some American shooters cringe. And there are people who flat-out hate the 7.62×39.

lar47_Car15

The CAR-A4 specs.

But the rifles, more often than not, work. Even if you hate the AK-47, you have to respect it. I’ve picked up AKs that are rusted shut, hammered on the charging handle to knock things loose, chambered a round and put a 7.62 sized hole in a target. I’ve got an AK now that’s part of an absurd longevity experiment. I haven’t ever cleaned it. And I don’t intend to until it fails–I mean really fails. How many rounds does it take to get to that level? The world may never know. I expect the experiment to outlive me.

But we’re here to talk about one isolated example from a growing body of non-AK patterned 7.62x39s. While some folks are trying to modify AK mags to hold the bolts open, or drilling holes in receivers to install additional safeties, Rock River worked to adapt the round to the AR platform. The LAR-47 is an AR pattern rifle that chambers the 7.62×39 rounds and accepts (some) AK magazines.

The mag release is wide and easy to find.

The mag release is wide and easy to find.

What does the LAR-47 get absolutely perfect?

Most of the LAR-47 will be familiar territory for AR fans. The safety, grip, stock, forend–even the railed gas block, which I’m not crazy about, is typical for the platform. These are basics. For more advanced options, Rock River offers the same sort of furniture upgrades found in the rest of their guns. They’ve just announced a Tactical Comp, and two other versions: The X-1, and Coyote Carbine. With the CAR A4 and the Delta Carbine, that makes five distinct permutations on the one rifle.

The first non-AR feature worthy of mention is the magazine release paddle. It is huge, and rides inside the trigger guard. While I’m not crazy about that, it easy to actuate. The trigger guard is over-sized, which keeps you from accidentally hitting the mag release while running the trigger. The paddle is in an awkward spot for good trigger control, though, as my trigger finger rides on top of the paddle when off the trigger. That said, I never dropped a mag accidentally. And the bulk of shooting we did for this review was done in freezing weather, so we were wearing gloves. Even so–no accidental mag drops.

And the lever is great for mag changes. Your thumb hits the wide paddle when you move to grip the mag, and it strips free just exactly like it should. When you combine this with the position of the safety, and the familiar charging handle, the ergonomics of the LAR-47 are a solid improvement.

Oh, and while we’re highlighting perfection, I’d like to foreshadow the accuracy. Don’t get sidetracked by the next couple of sections and forget that this gun is capable of amazing things, even in this CAR A4 configuration.

The Thermold Magazine has a Rock River stamp, which adds some texture--one of the complaints some level against the Thermold.

The Thermold Magazine has a Rock River stamp, which adds some texture–one of the complaints some level against the Thermold.

Thermold Magazines

Thermold is a hometown industry here in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve toured their factory and torture tested their mags. They have a couple of strong selling points: Thermolds are plentiful and cheap. And the quality is up to par with most polymer magazines. In the world of polymer AK mags, I’d put them on the same level as Tapco, a short step below the Magpuls, and two or three steps down from the US Palm. Why so much emphasis on the Thermold? It is the mag Rock River ships with the gun.

The Thermold is also the only polymer magazine I could get to chamber rounds in the LAR-47. The Magpul wouldn’t work at all. It presented the rounds higher in the receiver and the bolt caught on top one. Even under-loaded, I couldn’t get it to run. The US Palm wouldn’t fit in the mag well. The Thermold is thinner, more like a steel magazine, and it rocked into the mag well perfectly.

Steel magazines work fine. I’m not willing to write off the LAR-47 because it won’t chamber a PMag. I will say that there are several other historical examples of rifles chambered in 7.62×39 that don’t take AK mags. Ruger’s Mini-30 keeps chugging along. For me, though, I’ve got this nagging survivalist voice in the back of my head. The AK’s appeal (or one of the many) is that it will take any magazine and shoot any 7.62×39 round. If I were to build a 7.62×39 from the ground up, I would build that feature into the gun.

5 rounds from 100 yards on what was a pasted Shoot-N-C spot.

5 rounds from 100 yards on what was a pasted Shoot-N-C spot.

Shooting

Who am I kidding? If I could build a 7.62×39, I wouldn’t be sitting here at the computer, waxing poetic. And Rock River has built a solid rifle. As you can see in the photos below, this gun shoots straight. When I think of the strengths of the AK, I don’t often list MOA accuracy. Speed, yes. Accuracy, only in the best of the platform.

The ROck River is rewarding to shoot. We put everything we can find through the LAR-47. There was no ammo that it wouldn’t shoot. Extraction was solid and energetic. We saw similar accuracy results from steel cased Tula, Hornady, and Winchester.

Recoil is minimal, which makes rapid shots very consistent. Ran the LAR-47 on our typical course of short range accuracy, 100 yard bench shots, 200 and 300 yards. Past 100 yards, we were shooting steel, so I don’t have the measured accuracy. But the LAR-47 shoots straight enough to pop a 10 inch plate at 300 yards. A torso sized target at 100 is nothing.

The BCG can drag on rounds that are presented too high within the receiver.

The BCG can drag on rounds that are presented too high within the receiver.

Preparing to shoot

Let’s go back a minute and talk more about the magazine issue. AK magazines present rounds into a system with some very loose tolerances. The bolt picks up rounds and hammers them home with little difficulty. No difficulty.

The AR platform has much tighter tolerances. The case size of the 7.62×39 is wider than the .223. There’s less room inside the receiver, and the bolt has to pass over a round during extraction, then pick the same round up on the way back. On the way back, the bolt muscles the round down (thus out of the way). As it returns, it catches the rim and forces the round off the stack and into the chamber.

You see where I’m going with this, right? This motion is a sticking point for the AR patterned 7.62x39s. When we unboxed the LAR-47, it wouldn’t perform this function. Even when it picked up a round from the Thermold mag, the BCG would hang up on the round below the round it was trying to chamber. The steel BCG on the steel cased ammo was sticking. We had to make use of the forward assist, and sometimes the charging handle (in a slingshot motion), just to get rounds to chamber.

Low recoil makes shooting fast much more consistent. This is a mag dump from 50 yards.

Low recoil makes shooting fast much more consistent. This is a mag dump from 50 yards.

It was so bad that I almost sent the rifle back. There are two reasons why I didn’t. 1. I was shooting the LAR-47 at an isolated range where I was camping out. I couldn’t ship it back easily. 2. More importantly–as I was shooting mostly junk 7.62×39, I wasn’t wasting expensive ammo trying to get the gun to work. Because I was camping and had ammo to blow, I blew it. And I cussed. A lot.

And it did loosen up. When we first unboxed the gun, we were lucky to get 2-3 rounds to fire in succession (without the use of the forward assist). By the end of the 10th magazine, or thereabouts, the gun was running smoothly. Is this a classic case of a gun requiring a “break-in period?” Undoubtedly. And yet. When it runs well, this is one hell-of-a-rifle.

I’m inclined to be forgiving here. I’ve come out against break-in periods in the past. If you’re talking about a defensive handgun, one that is punishing on the hand, I think a break-in period is dangerous. I don’t have confidence that shooters will shoot the 500 rounds needed to break a gun in. So why am I backpedaling on an AR? It is easier to break in, and you’ll really want to do it. And because I’m fickle like that.

After more than a full spam can, this rifle runs like a finely tuned AR. Throw in the Thermold and go for it. Dump 30 rounds into a a hole the size of a coffee cup. Hold firm and tag a bag-guy plate on a hostage target at 100 yards. Drop to a knee and ring steel at 200, or go prone and reach out farther. There isn’t anything the rifle can’t do when it’s running right.

The price for the CAR A4 is on par with what you’d expect from a well made AK–$1,2700.

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Winchester’s PDX 7.62×39. While the accuracy wasn’t noticeably improved, these rounds would provide much better terminal ballistics.

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The muzzle end is familiar to AR shooters, too.

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The trigger breaks at 5 pounds. Stock triggers are solid from Rock River.

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From 100 yards, standing. The orange dot is 1″ wide.

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The stock is basic, but adjustable. It feels antiquated with its fixed strap loop.

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The gas block is railed for addition of an iron sight, if you want one.

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We ran a Burris XTRII on the LAR, and it worked very well.

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The Rock River furniture is a solid starting point.

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Despite the peculiarities, I have an abiding respect for rifles that can do this on command.

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In this accidental image, you can see the BCG hung up on a round. Adam doesn’t know it yet, though, and is diligently working the trigger.

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It is hard to see, but the mag catch is still outside of the mag well. This US Palm won’t fit.

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The Thermold (and steel mags, too) work great in the LAR-47.

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The Thermold lacks the ribs of the US Palm.

Rock River LAR47 1133

Note the AK serial #.

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Simple March 22, 2015, 1:28 am

    Just bought one and I’m happy with it…not kidding put a no brand $8 scope I picked up at a garage sale on this puppy and zero’ed it at 100 yards…I come from a land that was once occupied by the enemy and would use this gun to defend her if I had to. God Bless America!

  • BJ February 4, 2015, 12:18 pm

    Paid $529.00 for 7.62X39 complete upper with 5X30 round mags at North River Distributors. Upper works great but mags fit way too tight for combat, which I don’t do. Added small parts and accessories to all my uppers from of all places, Amazon!
    Extended charging handles, front grips, small parts kits, buffers, stocks, oversized bolt releases, etc, and even a 15″ long AR replica that’s actually a butane lighter.

  • Bond, James Bond February 4, 2015, 9:49 am

    This is by far the worst article that I have ever had the discomfort of reading. I have literally seen 5th grade children write material that was far more superior. It is sad, because there is someone out there that is actually very well qualified for this position, both in writing and gun knowledge, yet we are left with this extreme disappointment. Sadly, the issue present highlights a big problem in America.

  • encarta February 3, 2015, 4:10 pm

    “And most important, the AR platform rifles have proven that the cartridge is not inherently inaccurate when shot from a rifle built to quality specs, unlike most AKs and SKS rifles.”

    That sentence makes no sense, at all. Not a single part of it has anything to do with any kind of reasonable reality. M43 cartridge was not designed for accuracy, nor was it designed to be “inherently” inaccurate. It designed to reliably engage targets at 300 meters, as a military intermediate cartridge should. AKs and SKS are built to military specs, as specified by requirement of war. One can only wonder what are the “quality” specs that are supposed to make a 7.62X239 into a sniper-hunter round when fired from a AR platform. What a bunch of nonsense.

    • John DeGroff August 17, 2015, 11:39 am

      Encarta, that sentence makes perfect sense. I do not know why you don’t understand it. And I don’t know how you read into it that the cartridge was made to be inherently inaccurate. The author is just stating that most people consider it to be inherently inaccurate. Folks the rest of the article is just fine. The guy was rushing to get an article out. And most of you that are bitching about his writing can’t write worth a darn yourselves. I just think the LAR because it’s been finicky with different mags makes it a deal breaker for survival or fighting.

  • Docrodney February 3, 2015, 1:57 am

    I have the Gen 2 Sig 556R. This thing shoots amazing. Has a Aimpoint Pro red dot and shoots without any problems. They also will take any AK mag.

  • Troop Emonds February 3, 2015, 12:54 am

    I really am a fan of the 6.5 x 55 Swedish. And used this rifle for everything in Alaska.

    I secured a Thompson Center 24″ barrel in 6.5 TCU, which is a .223 necked up to 6.5 from its original .223 bore diameter.
    Have never understood why the 6.5 TCU never became the best choice for “THE” greatest choice for our military cartridge for the AR platform, and the best all around hunting cartridge for deer sized game.
    My background has been a government hunter in New Zealand where I used a .222 and a British Enfoeld .303.
    Later I served as a Marine Infantry Office in Vietnam for three years with M-16 as my weapon. So I ended up with rather stong belief behind why the 6.5 TCU ought to be looked into.

    • Keith February 3, 2015, 12:16 pm

      Most rifle rounds are more effective than the 5.56 x 45. 5.56 NATO was a rifle round designed to wound. I would take 7.62 x 51, .300 BlackOut or 7.62 x 39 semi-automatic rifles over the 5.56 x 45.

  • J February 2, 2015, 8:29 pm

    How about the PWS MK116 in 7.62×39? It’s a piston system designed after the AK action. They quite making them due to a lack of reliable 7.62×39 AR mags, but they just did a special run of 250, and they have been selling. Appearantly C-Products have a newish mag that I is a reliable feeder of 7.62×39 in the AR platform. Does anyone have experience with either? The PWS in x39 is the route I’m gonna go, and the Sig 556R would be my second choice. Why are manufacturers still building DI uppers? I don’t get it! Piston ARs are more reliable and run cleaner and cooler.

  • guido February 2, 2015, 5:50 pm

    Hello
    I’ve built a couple AR-47’s using “the best” components available (LMT bolts, ASC mag’s, etc.) and never attained the reliability I found with my SIG 556R. No break-in, no mag fussiness, and an absolute tack-driver, even with cheap steel cased stuff, although I generally run handloads through it. Word is SIG has come out with a new and improved version of the “R”.
    I think once it becomes available I’m gonna be a customer. Nothing against the RRA, I just don’t think the gas piston SIG can be touched in this competition. And BTW, the 7.62×39 is one helluva pig round.
    JMHO……

  • Big Joe February 2, 2015, 2:00 pm

    First I wanted to say THANK YOU for writing this article. Have been in the firearms Ind for 35+ years and always enjoy learning through others experiences.

    9 out of 10 shooters have talked down the reliability of the AR platform in 7.62×39. ASC mags seem to work best but still have feeding problems of some kind??

    Love the idea of the caliber and platform together but until I can hear enough shooters say it runs without failure I’m still on the back burner.

    For those that are whining about his grammar etc ? Really ? Give it a rest.
    Id take a street smart shooter over a book smart shooter any day 🙂

  • Frank February 2, 2015, 9:32 am

    You don’t have to dance around the subject: a rifle in 2015 that can only use one type of mag and needs a half a case to “break it in” is a hunk of crap.

  • Alan1018 February 2, 2015, 7:55 am

    The problem with 7.63X39 in the AR has always been feeding. It seems the 7.63 requires the extreme “Banana” curve of the magazine, and you couldn’t get a magazine with that curve in the AR mag well. Once someone figured out you could shorten the mag well without reducing the strength of the receiver the problem was licked.

    • dave February 2, 2015, 10:10 am

      7.62×39

  • Joe February 2, 2015, 7:35 am

    Isn’t the AR problematic round feed with the 7.62 x 39 MM round the reason the .300 Blackout round was developed for the AR platform ?
    After all the discussions with some AK fanatics on the last blog all I can say is my $125.00 SKS rocks and I rewarded it with a Monti Carlo stock and box mag feed system and gave it a place in my safe along side my other favorite toys of which I limit myself to ten because I don’t want to buy another safe and become a hoarder.
    My AK was gifted out years ago and I don’t miss it…. bloomberg be dammed…

    • Administrator February 2, 2015, 7:39 am

      .300BK was designed primarily as a subsonic for use with silencers.

      • Joe February 2, 2015, 8:49 am

        So everything iv’e read about the case dimension and the mild taper of the bullet being advantageous over the 7.62 x 39 mm round feeding better in the AR chamber is just an added benefit to the supposed accuracy and silencing advertised benefit I suppose.
        Any thanks for the heads up.

        • steve February 2, 2015, 11:46 am

          ( respectfully ) I disagree based on my personal experience .
          I now have about 2000 round through my Olympic Arms factory AR47.

          It is 100% reliable with ALL ammunition, Ruski or US made does not matter.

          It is sub 1 MOA accurate with TulAmmo and clover leaf accurate with my hand loads.

          It does not and cannot use use AK mags , it uses 30 round specialty mag’s made by ASC = Ammunition Storage Components.

          I paid about half the $ of the RRA in the article.

          Everyone who owns an Oly AR47 real likes them based on my membership to the Olympic Arms forum.

          Now days it has all sorts of upgrades and is a true “go to war” or serious 3gun weapon.

          cheers

  • Bill February 2, 2015, 7:05 am

    Please proof read. It’s embarrassing at this point. This was my favorite blog a year ago. Instead of publishing for the sake of publishing, please take the time to check what you write.

    • Dakota February 2, 2015, 8:51 am

      Agree with Bill, get a junior high schooler to proof read you articles, as your Grammer, spelling and just simple things make your articles hard to read. The real downer is that what could have been an excellent article, these failures in editing, lead to me wondering if the article represents the subject correctly? Does author evaluate the firearm with equal carelessness?

      • Bruce February 2, 2015, 4:36 pm

        You bash the author about spelling and grammar but yet in your own post you have the same problems. “Agree with Bill, get a junior high schooler to proof read you articles, as your Grammer” blah, blah, blah…
        For starters “to proof read YOU articles?” How about YOUR articles. Second, “Grammer” is spelled with an “ar” not “er” ending: Grammar…smh, (that’s “shaking my head” if you didn’t know)…..

      • EJH February 2, 2015, 4:49 pm

        Says the guy who mis-spells “grammar”.

    • shootbrownelk February 3, 2015, 7:15 pm

      What the heck, are you a retired English teacher? The article was informative, I knew what he was talking about. I overlook slight spelling errors when reading a gun article that interests me. I guess I’m not as nit-picky and anal retentive as some folks.
      Go grade a junior high assignment paper why don’t you. Good grief.

  • Mark February 2, 2015, 7:00 am

    $12700!!!! Oh my!

  • jweisse February 2, 2015, 5:42 am

    I built an AR-15 upper a few months ago, using a Stoner Barrel and Bolt AR-15 7.62x39mm Russian 1 in 10″ Twist 16″ Medium Contour 5/8″-24 Muzzle Stainless Steel from Midway.
    I purchased three brands of metal magazines for the 7.62×39 Pro Mag, AR-Stoner (the follower says ASC) and ASC, they are 30-rounders and have more of a bow shape to them than a stock 30-round AR magazine.
    The rest of the build used Nickel Boron BCG, extend length firing pin, to work better with Russian steel cased ammo, a mid-length gas tube and a low profile gas block, the rest of the build I used normal AR parts I had on hand.
    Having run into problems with other builds I ran about 200 rounds of brass cased Prvi Partizan, Sellier & Bellot, and my own reloads the rifle was ready to use Steel cased ammo, I had a few problems with Brown Bear but found that MFS Zink Coated Steel cased ammo worked fine.
    I did mark the dust cover with the 7.62 X 39 to not mix it up with my 556 and 300 ACC uppers.
    When I took all three out last week my adult son and his friend tried to cut down a 4″ tree fist using the 556 with about 100 rounds, hits but still standing, then they switched to the 300 ACC (147 Gr) and 7.62 x 39 (123 Gr) and in less than one magazine in each the tree was down.
    Hope this helps your readers that are thinking of getting a 7.62 x 39 or a 300 ACC upper for their AR. Of course the 300 ACC uses the same BCG and Bolt as the 556.

    • Elmer Fudd February 2, 2015, 10:57 am

      Nice, informative article…..too bad some of your readers took time off from flogging their wanks to trash you on a typo error.

    • Daniel Lee Bonzar February 2, 2015, 11:10 am

      Cost on rifle & extra mags for rifle ? TY

      Cost ??

      /

    • Dan February 3, 2015, 10:41 am

      Sure made a lot of excuses for the rifles short comings. Rifle seems very finicky. The CMMG mutant is a better option and works with all AK mags.

      • Jess February 14, 2015, 7:02 pm

        Comparing apples to apples, the RRA LAR-47 Coyote Carbine being the most similar to the Mutant, and having handle both, I would have to concur. It also helps that the base Mutant is almost $300 cheaper than the RRA.

    • Joseph April 7, 2015, 10:43 pm

      I remember reading about this rifle in a magazine a couple of years ago. I was so excited to read more reviews but it seemed to disappear for a while. Thank you for providing a detailed article with great pictures. I am curious as to why some authors (not you, obviously) feel the need to only use the typical cheap ammunition in their testing of AKs or other platforms such as the presented above. I have found the Hornady SST ammunition to be very accurate in the 7.62x39mm caliber as well as their Z-max line.

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