by Adam Heggenstaller - Thursday, October 28, 2010
There are two schools of thought when it comes to buying an AR-15. The home armorers among us will readily purchase a base-model AR and gleefully spend weeks or months replacing parts and adding accessories to make it just right. These are guys with a lot of time on their hands and nice shop in the basement. Then there are the want-it-all-now types, who may not have the time, tools or patience to rebuild an AR. They like a tricked-out carbine as much as the armorers, but they'd rather be shooting than tweaking.
The ready-to-go crowd will find much to appreciate in the new LAR-15 Elite Comp from Rock River Arms. To use a term my executive director and publisher disdains, the Elite Comp is "pimped" to the max. Its spec sheet reads like a page out of a Brownells catalog. You won't find many mil-standard parts here; the Elite Comp is more like a custom AR than a production carbine.
The upper and lower receivers are forged and milled from 7075 T6 aluminum alloy, polished to remove surface blemishes and then hard anodized. While their basic configurations are mil-spec, both the upper and the lower come with features that set the Elite Comp apart from other M4-style carbines.
In place of the standard polymer pistol grip, the Elite Comp has a Falcon Industries ERGO SureGrip. Its overmolded rubber surface is slightly tacky to prevent slippage. The curve on the back of the grip, along with the smoothly contoured finger grooves, makes it feel downright delightful in the hand. Flipping open the bottom plug reveals a compartment for storing small items like batteries. You can order the Elite Comp with a black or green, ambidextrous SureGrip or with a right-hand version of the grip that has a thumb shelf. The carbine is also available with a Hogue grip in black or green. Take your pick and let Rock River worry about installing it.
Another modification to the lower is the selector switch, which follows what Rock River calls the "star" design. Instead of an oval-shaped protuberance, the switch has a more rounded knob with serrations that apparently look like a starburst to the manufacturer. Star analogy aside, I did find the switch easier to operate with my thumb, probably because it sticks out from the receiver a little further than the standard. Pony up an additional $25, and Rock River will fit the Elite Comp with an ambidextrous safety. For another $88, you'll get an ambidextrous magazine release.
Rock River lists the Elite Comp as having an oversized, "winter" trigger guard, but the sample I received for testing came with a plain ol' flat-bottomed bow. I'm not in the habit of wearing heavy gloves when I shoot, but the winters aren't very cold in Virginia. If I lived in Vermont or regularly donned padded operator's gloves, I'd probably appreciate this feature more.
The A4-style upper includes a length of Picatinny rail with numbered slots, and Rock River ships the Elite Comp with a PADS flip-up rear sight. Complementing the aperture is a flip-up, post-style front sight integral with the gas block. Although the system is intended for backup and co-witnesses perfectly with a variety of red-dot and holographic optics, it wouldn't be bad as the primary means of aiming. The PADS aperture is adjustable for not only windage, but also elevation in 100-yard increments to 600 yards.
Perhaps the most striking component of the Elite Comp is its handguard. We all love the options that quad-rail handguards present, but they aren't exactly easy on the hand during extended shooting sessions. The free-floated aluminum handguard on the Elite Comp is free from the sharp angles of rail along its rear half. You can hang plenty of lights and lasers on the front of the handguard and still have a nice place to grip the carbine forward of the receiver. Plus, it just looks cool.
The mid-length handguard houses a 16-inch, chrome-lined, button-rifled barrel from Wilson Arms. Chambered in 5.56x45 mm, the chrome-molybdenum steel barrel has a 1:9-inch twist. It ends in Rock River's Tactical Muzzle Brake. Along with the flip-up front sight, the gas block also includes three sling swivels and a short section of rail beneath the barrel. If you must have a bayonet, this would be the place to put it.
At the other end of the carbine, Rock River gives the Elite Comp a Magpul CTR collapsible buttstock. In my opinion, this is one of the most functional, and comfortable, M4-style buttstocks on the market. The CTR utilizes a chrome-silicon spring to provide solid locking, along with an additional friction lock to reduce wobble. Its comb is sloped to ensure positive cheekweld, and a 1/2-inch thick, removable rubber buttpad completes the setup.
Rock River says the Elite Comp will shoot 1.5 minute of angle, so I headed to the range with about 300 rounds of ammo to test this claim. I wasn't disappointed. Hornady Match 53-grain hollow-point wadcutter loads and Remington Premier 55-grain Accutip-V boattail rounds both turned in groups better than 1 1/2 inches at 100 yards. The best accuracy was with Hornady TAP 60-grain ammo, which averaged slightly more than 1 minute of angle. Throughout testing, the Elite Comp had no malfunctions.
Yes, it's fun to accessorize an AR to your specs. But if you want a jazzed-up carbine that shoots as good as it looks right now, the Rock River LAR-15 Elite Comp won't disappoint.
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