I love a good AR-15. Accurate, manageable, reliable to all sorts of distances (depending on your setup). I love hearing the pings and twangs of hits, misses, and ricochets. Even after years, I’m still fond of the scent of spent cartridges, especially in an outdoor range and particularly in the summertime. Hold on to your hats, people, it’s our Rock River Arms review.
As you are undoubtedly aware, there are many companies competing for your attention and your hard-earned dollars. Sure, you have guys like Cimarron Firearms and others, who are so niche that they have some measure of well-earned exclusivity. Heck, Cabot Guns is selling 1911s made from a bonafide 4-billion-year-old meteorite. But when you’re talking about modern ARs, it’s really anyone’s game, and there are many options to choose from.
Whether we’re talking about a complete system, a build, or an upgrade to an existing weapon, the question is asked: should you use Rock River Arms (RRA) for your next endeavor?
Rock River Arms
A bit of history for context: this company was founded in 1996 by two brothers, Mark and Chuck Larson. As Rick and Morty would say, these two brothers… they have a strong bond.
Before they established their outfit, Mark and Chuck had been in the firearms industry for years, working with Springfield Armory and Eagle Arms, and also partnering up with Les Baer Custom, who are known for their quality 1911 pistols.
In the mid-’90s, the Larsons set up shop as Tolerance Plus in Illinois, and the business was later renamed Rock River Arms. RRA can now be found in Colona, Illinois in a state-of-the-art facility.
They primarily manufacture AR-style guns, pistols, uppers, lowers, parts and components, plus they also have some alternating specials and limited edition offers, as many companies do. They also produce 1911s. In fact, they started off as a 1911-making company in 1996, and only later did they branch out into AR territory, at the turn of the millennium.
As a company, RRA went through some controversial times, particularly in the summer of 2017 when a questionable gun law was passed in their home state. Rock River Arms took steps to distance itself from the incident, but some damage was definitely done during that time. Then again, I am aware that laws and guns are two different things, really, so I’d like to focus on their manufacturing abilities.
Generally, Rock River makes good rifles and pistols. I use the term “good” loosely because it really is subjective. They’ve been producing 5.56mm and 7.62mm models since the beginning of their AR-15 manufacturing, and that’s pretty standard. Later on, 9mm joined the party, as did 300 BLK. Recently, they introduced a pistol and rifle chambered in .22LR.
I mentioned the exclusivity of other companies, because some of them are really boldly going where no man has gone before. Rock River certainly is not doing anything too exclusive, although they do have proprietary actions and designs, and even a polymer 1911 (something which is not so common).
They manufacture quality weapons, and ultimately that’s what you want – quality you can depend on to perform. RRA’s most recent additions, which debuted at SHOT Show 2019, are the BT-9G and RBG-1S series.
Rock River AR 15
Their AR-15 line, which they named the LAR-15, is varied. There are multiple versions and configurations, but it’s pretty standard stuff when you get into the guts of it; and to be clear, that is not meant in a bad way as a put-down. I think they may go in different directions in the future, but for now, it seems they are content with using what works, and with manufacturing solid, respectable, well-put-together firearms. What more do you want from a firearms maker?
Ever since Eugene Stoner designed, released, and improved his AR system back in the mid 20th century, everyone and their mother has been using it and working off of it. It’s not by chance that the AR-15 was nicknamed “America’s Rifle”. It’s a tried, true, and tested weapons system, which is why so many companies are manufacturing them and their derivatives.
If you’re looking for a good model at a fair price, RRA is a safe bet. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be successful – you need to provide value to your consumer and stand behind your product. RRA manage to do this for sure, and compared to others at their models’ respective prices, they deliver a good rifle which stands the test of time.
Obviously, there will always be those who claim RRA are nothing but “tactical bling”. I take issue with that. It’s one thing if you say a certain model or series is just for show, but to claim the entire company makes weapons which are “tacticool” and nothing more than that – I don’t agree. I think Rock River’s weapons are much more than that.
Here are the specs for the classic LAR-15:
- Model: RRAGE LAR-15
- Caliber: 5.56mm
- Capacity: 30 Rounds (comes with a single polymer magazine)
- Action: Semi-auto, direct impingement
- Barrel Length: 16”
- Overall Length: 36”
- Weight: 5.7 lbs
- Sights: None
- MSRP: $760
It comes with a 6-position stock, A2 grip and flash hider, Picatinny rail top, and a single-stage trigger. They also have a two-stage trigger which many people are fond of, and which comes standard with some of their other models.
This base rifle is a good option for a US-made “budget” AR-15, but as always, you may be able to find cheaper versions. In fact, you can count on finding cheaper ones, but they may not afford you with the quality of Rock River Arms.
The LAR-15 has a nice and sleek monolithic look to it (although it is not monolithic), so if appearances are important to you, it is something to consider. Also, if you’re not into the “complete rifle” thing, their barrels are one piece of equipment which you should think about for your AR setup or build. Whether chrome or stainless, they are a viable option which will set you back some money, of course, but is worth the price.
Rock River Arms 1911
Ever since the mid-90s, when they first started, Rock River has been into the 1911 game. It comes as no real surprise, since they were partners with Les Baer, who make some of the best 1911 pistols around. Their 1911 models (aptly named RRA 1911) are all chambered in .45 ACP, and if I am not mistaken, they are considered to be more on the semi-custom line of the 1911 spectrum. They are more than your run-of-the-mill 1911 with drop-in-parts pistol.
There are several versions of the RRA 1911, as well as parts and components of all sorts. Their guns provide a 7+1 capacity, which is pretty standard for these types of models.
As I mentioned, there is also the polymer 1911, which some praise and others curse. There are those who feel that if Browning meant for it to be anything but steel, he would have designed it that way.
According to the company, they slowed down their production of 1911s around 2008, after they saw a significant rise in their AR sales. You gotta go with what works, you know? So they poured more focus into ARs for several years, and then reintroduced their 1911s later on, with the polymer model joining their lineup in 2014.
Here are the specs for the poly 1911:
- Model: POLY RRA 1911
- Caliber: .45 ACP
- Capacity: 7+1 Rounds (comes with 2 stainless steel magazines)
- Action: Single-action, semi-auto
- Barrel Length: 5”
- Overall Length: 8.3”
- Weight: 2.4 lbs
- Sights: White-dot, non-adjustable
- MSRP: $1,025
The frame and housing are indeed polymers, but it all rides on a stainless steel chassis. The points of locking are steel, which makes a big difference in the long run. The barrel is chrome-moly, and the grips are over-molded in rubber.
It will definitely not be everyone’s 1911 of choice, and the reasons for that are obvious, but overall this model represents an interesting take on a classic piece of American weaponry.
Rock River Arms is considered by some to be “middle of the road” and nothing more, but they do have some models which are significantly more than that. Their newer models certainly solidify what RRA fans have known for a while: that this is a company capable of making more than good AR-15 clones.
Hypothetically speaking, if I had to purchase a complete AR-15 sight unseen, I would be confident and comfortable with buying a model from RRA. They have a good reputation, many years of experience with a variety of people and companies, and also a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser. It has everything I would want or need, if I am an everyday shooter.
It comes down to the shooter, as always, and the intended use. Does it feel comfortable in your hands? Does it meet your expectations as far as ruggedness and accuracy are concerned? Are you impressed by the technical specifications, or do you find them wanting? There is so much that you can’t tell about a weapon until you physically hold it and actually fire it.