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Rock River Arms Carbine

Fortunately for law enforcement, the use of patrol carbines in 5.56mm NATO has caught on. In light of the recent attack at Fort Hood, TX, and with assaults on law enforcement by well-armed suspects seemingly increasing, having the right tool for the job only makes sense. The 5.56 carbine increases hit potential and ballistic impact on target. Due to the four points of contact with your body (shoulder, cheek, strong hand, support hand) and the longer sight radius, the carbine is more accurate and has a range of distance that is just not probable with a handgun.

As sales of law enforcement carbines have increased, so too have manufacturers. Yet not all are created equal. I have run a class of shooters in carbine instructor or operator courses where students with cheap carbines found themselves using duct tape to hold their rifles together, had to call to get replacement guns to the range, or had to spend an inordinate amount of time working on their long guns. Not so with the Rock River Arms line of 5.56 carbines.

Founded in Illinois in 1996 by brothers Mark and Chuck Larson, Rock River Arms (RRA) began by manufacturing 1911 pistols. They soon turned their focus to refining and improving AR platform rifles, and business took off. After extensive testing and evaluations, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the FBI both selected Rock River Arms as their primary rifle supplier for a five-year contract.

Pro-Series Government Model

The civilian model of the carbine selected by the DEA is the Pro-Series Government. Based on the Rock River Arms LAR-15™, model number GOVT1001 comes from the factory with many of the options that are currently in vogue with law enforcement officers and tactical operators.

From back to front, the rifle includes: six position adjustable stock; Hogue rubber grip; RRA two-stage trigger; back-up/flip-up rear iron sight; EOTech 552 holographic sight; Surefire M73 quad rail forearm; Surefire M951 weapon light; side-mount front sling swivel; chrome-lined 16-inch barrel with 1:9 twist; and complete VTAC sling, cleaning kit and Eagle padded rifle case.

Rock River Arms sent a carbine that has the options a patrol officer or SWAT operator might want in an RRA carbine, i.e., most of the options listed above. The RRA carbine has the same buttstock, barrel, forearm and lower receiver that the Government Model has, but it additionally sports an RRA Dominator2 EOTech Mount, which affixes to the Picatinny rail atop the receiver to elevate the EOTech slightly. This permits a co-witnessing of the iron sights (the rear sight is fixed in place on the mount and adjusts for both windage and elevation).

RRA also installed a CAR Stock Receiver End Plate that allows a single point sling attachment. Although not included in the package, I installed an excellent BlackHawk Storm™ single point sling. The carbine has a Surefire M600 LED Scout Light instead of the incandescent M951. I have been using a vertical foregrip for some time, and Command Arms Accessories (CAA) provided a Front Arm Short Vertical Grip for testing. Although I don’t grip it, I use it as a reference point to get my hand in front of it on the forearm in the same position each time.

Shooting Impressions

I ran the Rock River Arms LAR-15 carbine through drill after drill during the testing period. Not one hiccup or malfunction—not one. In fact, I think I might have only lubed it once during my testing. I have had a lot of experience behind an EOTech (I’ve been running one for several years on my primary teaching carbine), so I used the RRA carbine as the test rifle to mount various optics from other manufacturers.

Because some other optics are higher than the EOTech, I was unable to co-witness the iron sights with some other collimator sights. This is not a flaw in any way with the RRA design, but it should be factored in when purchasing the Dominator2 mount. All that would be required is the removal of the Dominator2 and installation of a flip-up rear back-up iron sight.

Some discussion has taken place about the RRA two-stage trigger. My Lyman® Trigger Pull Gauge recorded trigger pulls of a little over 5 pounds. Considering that a couple other AR style carbines I tested recorded weights of just over 7 and 8 pounds respectively, I wonder whether the RRA two-stage is too light for duty work? Is the two-stage trigger for you and the street? I have not heard negative feedback from the DEA or FBI, but it requires some thought.

Overall Assessment

One thing’s for sure—if you take a Rock River carbine to a class for serious work, you won’t have to hold it together with duct tape. It will, based on my and other instructors’ experiences, continue to run, and run well. I don’t know what trials Rock River Arms had to go through to win the DEA five-year contract, but I’m sure they were more rigorous than what I put the carbine through.

I shoot my guns a lot, don’t clean them as well as I should, and generally treat them like a working cop would. The Rock River Arms Carbine took all of that and delivered quality, accurate fire continually. It’s a safe bet that, should the need arise, you could put this Rock between you and a hard place.

Kevin R. Davis is a full-time police officer with 27 years of experience and is assigned to the training bureau. He is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency’s SWAT team. He welcomes your comments at or visit his Web site at

Published in Law and Order, Jan 2010

Rating : 8.0

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