There are lots of great companies competing for a slice of the AR-15 market, but it’s sometimes hard to find a rifle that is different. Enter Rock River Arms. I was torn between two rifles: the LAR-15 QMC and the BTB Carbine. I couldn’t decide between which one to test, so Rock Rivers graciously sent both.
Now full disclosure, these are a loan — they both will be returned or a check will be supplied in their stead. I also have some history in that I have recommended Rock River rifles to some of the organizations that I train (I don’t sell guns but I will recommend if asked). So, I have some experience with this brand and have been pleased with their quality, accuracy and reliability.
By the today’s standards, Rock River Arms is a senior member of the AR-15 manufacturing family. Brothers, Mark and Chuck Larson, began in 1981 at Springfield Armory. In 1991, their path led them to work for Les Baer again focusing on the 1911 pistol. In 1993, they began building AR-15 pattern rifles for Eagle Arms. Then in 1996, the brothers founded Rock River Arms in a 1,800-square foot facility in Cleveland, Illinois. From this small beginning, they forged the reputation as one of the finest hand-fitted custom 1911 pistols. They also used their manufacturing expertise from custom 1911s to begin producing and building custom .223 AR-15 style rifles.Today they operate out of a 50,000-foot facility based in Colona, Illinois and have continued to grow.
In 2003, Rock River proved their stuff by beating out ten other manufacturers in abuse trials. Based on their stellar performance, Rock River Arms was awarded the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration contract for a minimum of 5,000 LAR-15 rifles. Other federal agencies, like the FBI and U.S. Marshals service buying on the same contract. This was to be the first of many.
The first thing you will notice if you order a rifle from Rock River is the case in which they ship the gun. It is not some flimsily blow molded case with eggshell foam shoved in followed by a rifle and some kit dumped and taped shut. This is a real case with metal latches that will carry and protect for the year of service. The LAR-15 QMC Rifle is an AR-15 style rifle with a forged upper and lower receiver, 16-inch HBAR barrel. This is all dressed up with a two-stage trigger, Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM) Charging handle, Beast muzzle brake, Hogue pistol grip, free-floated metal handguard and an adjustable buttstock that stores an extra magazine.
The BTB carbine has the same forged upper and lower receiver, 16-inch HBAR barrel. The six-position stock is a standard M4 style. The flip up front and rear sight are made by Rock River along with the front hand guard. This is high-quality rifle, not an entry level but not sporting the more expensive accessories. I will note that the flip up sights function fine but lack the spring loaded flip activation that others offer.
Both guns come with the 1 MOA accuracy claim and a limited lifetime warranty.
I decided that each of these rifles should be equipped for the range based on how they probably would be used by the intended purchaser. The QMC was equipped with a Burris Veracity 5-25X scope along with Burris 30mm rings that attached directly to the accessory rail on the top of the upper receiver. I also added a Command Arms EMA Picatinny Rail AR15 Bipod that adjusts from 6 inches to 8 inches. I attached it to the lower accessory rail on the front free-floated handguard. This would allow me to have a stable shooting platform to utilize the magnification of the scope.
The BTB Carbine was fitted with a Trijicon MRO – 2.0 MOA red dot with lower 1/3 Co-witness Mount. This mount allowed me to attach the optic to the upper receiver’s accessory rail and to co-witness it with the included front and rear flip-up sights.
I selected three different types of ammunition the SIG Sauer 77-grain, Aguila 62-grain and Hornady American Gunner 55-grain. I felt that these three choices spread the bullet weights and brands out enough that it would give a true picture of the minute of angle accuracy claim from Rock River.
On the Range
As fate would have it, the first rifle out of the bag was the rifle QMC. I extended the legs on the bipod and took aim at my target 40 yards downrange. The first three-shot group was low and right but left a single ragged hole. Following some adjustment on the scope, I move the target out to 100 yards and began to put the QMC through its paces. The rifle began delivering groups that were impressive, especially considering I was using a bipod on a picnic table. A 1-inch group was achievable and exceeded with all the ammunition I had on hand. I made a point to run all three loads out of the Rock River magazines that were supplied with both rifles. All the mags and rounds performed flawlessly. I will note that I attempted to insert one of the 30-round magazines into the buttstock to make a tripod and this was a futile effort. The height of the magazine, bipod, and target could never be reconciled in such a way that I could assure shot placement on the target. However, I will note that the short magazine was able to fit in the buttstock without affecting the bipod use. The two-stage trigger worked well in both performance and consistency. I will confess though that I am not a fan of a two-stage trigger and I found it to actually be quite distracting when I was shooting bench accuracy work. As I picked the rifle up and began shooting offhanded with it the irritation seems to diminish significantly. I acknowledge that this is my preference and your preferences may vary.
Keep in mind that I had equipped the LAR-15 BTB Carbine with a Trijicon MRO. I point this out not as an excuse for my poor shooting but rather that the dot is bigger than the target and it is possible to not have the dot centered over the actual spot on the target. The rifle delivered one of the three groups that was slightly over 1 inch at 100 yards. I believe that the mechanical accuracy of this rifle is every bit as good as the claim of 1 minute of angle.
Both rifles performed 100 percent as I would have expected with all three of the supplied magazines, the three different brands, and weights of ammunition. The function and reliability were excellent as frankly, most people expect from a modern sporting rifle in 2017.
The Bottom Line
These two guns from Rock River are bookends in terms of price and accessories. However, they both come with an accuracy guarantee, quality parts in a company that will stand behind them. I’m confident that you can find a way to save some money over the MSRP on these guns. The value that Rock River Arms is able to provide by being a prime manufacturer of all the components gives you features of the latest brand name accessories at a value price. I have recommended Rock River guns in the past and will continue to do so. Those who have taken my recommendation have never expressed any disappointment in their choice.
For more information about Rock River Arms, click here.
For more information about Burris optics, click here.
For more information about Trijicon red dots, click here.
To purchase a Rock River rifle on GunsAmerica, click here.