Magnum Research Inc. Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50 Action Express

Magnum Research Inc. Desert Eagle Mark XIX .50 Action Express
The Desert Eagle’s been a firearms icon for more than 25 years and has more acting credits than most Hollywood celebrities, yet despite its price tag, people continues to purchase them. I don’t feel this is because the Desert Eagle gives you the versatility to fire three calibers from the same frame. It’s because you can own a piece of movie history and being able to fire the most powerful semi-automatic cartridge in the world doesn’t hurt either. But it does offer you the versatility to fire the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .50 Action Express with a change of a few parts. If you purchase the .357 Magnum, upgrading to .44 or .50AE just requires a bolt and caliber specific barrels and magazines. However you feel about the Desert Eagle, it’s here to stay and will remain a legend, Icon and highly desirable.

Mossberg 510 Mini Turkey THUGS

Mossberg 510 Mini Turkey THUGS
Kids shouldn’t be focusing on how heavy and long the shotgun their hunting with is, they should be building memories of a lifetime. Mossberg has put that issue to rest with their 510 Mini Turkey THUGS and 510 All-Purpose pump shotguns. Designed from the ground up as a youth model shotgun, it grows with your son or daughter and allows them to focus on the hunt. Available in 20 gauge and the light recoiling .410 gauge, they will beg you to go shooting. Click on the picture to go strait to the Mossberg 510 page.

The 2014 SHOT Show will unveil new products.

The start of the 2014 SHOT Show and Conference on January 14th will signal the unveiling of the newest outdoor products for the coming year. Everything from firearms to hunting gear will be highlighted and released to the public in this grand event. For me this means new firearms and products to test and review. I look forward to sharing a small sampling of these items with you on my Blog and through the magazines and websites I write for. SHOT reports that this is the largest trade show of its kind in the world and the fifth largest trade show in Las Vegas, the SHOT Show features more than 1,600 exhibitors filling booth space covering 630,000 net square feet. The show, which is a trade-only event, attracts more than 62,000 industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries. The Monday before the show starts I will attend “Media Day at the Range.” The firearms industry event allows me and over 1000 members of the shooting press to examine and shoot the latest and greatest products the firearms industry has to offer. Until then look for posts on gear and gadgets I am using in my work and thanks for stopping by and reading my Blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rock River Arms LAR-8 "Pulling Double Duty"

Setup to hunt with Aimpoint's H34L Hunter series

For tactical use try EOTech's Holographic sight and 3x magnifier
 In 1996 two brothers Mark and Chuck Larson started a shop in Colona, Illinois that would bring their 40 years of firearms experience to bear on what would eventually become Rock River Arms. Although, since its inception the little black rifle has been praised and denounced. But with shooters welcoming it with open arms it is flourishing in ways its inventers never dreamed possible. When George Sullivan and Jacques Michault brought the idea for a futuristic rifle to Richard S. Boutelle of Fairchild Engine and Airplane in 1954, none of these 3 men knew that they were creating an icon that would be around for five decades. Early models of the black rifles were plagued with problems, but with the work of Robert Fremont, L. James Sullivan and Eugene Stoner and others on the ArmaLite team; it soon became a viable rifle. As time moved forward many problems were ironed out and with advancements in technology the AR or ArmaLite Rifle has become a leader in the free world arms market only eclipsed by the venerable AK-47.

The crown is recessed to protect it from damage
Currently within the United States there has been an explosion of owners of the civilian version of the military’s M-16 rifle. Now imagine an AR-15 on steroids and you have the Rock River Arms LAR-8. The two major differences is the size and it is chambered in .308 Springfield / 7.62x51mm NATO basically making it an upscale version of its smaller brother. On the business end; RRA starts with a 20 inch stainless steel heavy barrel with a bead blasted finish and recessed crown. It is then cryogenically tempered to relieve stress in the barrel to prevent it from bending and warping when heated due to extended firing sessions. The rifling is a 1:10 twist rate to give positive stabilization to bullets of 220 grains and lower.

The gas block's picatinny rail is ready for iron sights
 The gas block (the device that taps gas from the barrel during firing to make the action cycle) is fitted with a 1 3/8” section of rail for mounting a front sight of your choice as sights are not provided and the receiver rail provides 7 inches of mounting space for your optics or iron sights. The aluminum, free floated tube that covers the barrel is a slightly fluted on the surface and a diamond pattern is cut in for a positive grip while having wet hands or wearing gloves. It is attached to the upper receiver via a special receiver thread and barrel nut that has holes for ventilation during firing. It is thick enough to be very stable and should resist some of the abuse the rifle could see during hunting or tactical use. It also sports a sling stud for attaching your favorite sling.

The hand guard is well ventilated for rapid cooling over the barrel
 The upper receiver is a standard A4 flat top with a mil spec 1913 or Picatinny rail (the name comes from the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey where it was invented) for mounting optics or iron sights and it runs in line with its smaller mil spec brother as far as having the standard dust cover, brass deflector, forward assist and charging handle. The lower receiver also follows along the same lines as the AR-15 lower with a few exceptions. The ambidextrous bolt and magazine release is in-between the magazine well and trigger guard and is accessible with your trigger finger for either left or right shooters. I like this idea as it saves valuable time with fast reloads, simply drop the empty magazine, insert a full one, push down on the magazine release with your trigger finger, you’re loaded. When locking the bolt to the rear, just push upwards while pulling back on the charging handle. These two features make using the rifle simple, effective and fast.

Rock River Arms is American made in Colona, Illinois
 The winter trigger guard is curved for use in cold climates while shooting with gloves, and while it can be opened and moved against the grip to allow access with mittens style gloves, it will not lay flat against the grip. RRA used a Hogue rubber pistol grip in place of the standard A2 style grip. I feel this is a vast improvement over the standard A2 type as the Hogue gives very positive control and fits well to your hand, but can hang on cloths as it is non slip. The butt stock is a standard A2 style with the trap door for storing cleaning supplies, spare parts, skittles in hot climates and M&M’s in cold or some beef jerky strips. A great feature of the LAR-8 is that it uses standard FN-FAL metric pattern magazines and L1-A1 inch pattern as well. These magazines are easy to find and plentiful from any number of shooting equipment suppliers both on line and around your local shooting supply retailers. You may custom order your RRA from the factory with other types of hand guards, gas blocks, charging handles, grips and safety selectors, to make it personal or fit your specific mission or hunting needs.

Your trigger finger releases the bolt and drops the magazine
The rifle weights in at around 9 lbs unloaded with a 20 round magazine and 10.5 lbs with a loaded 20 round magazine. The weight with a loaded 20 round magazine and sights is about 12.5 lbs, a little on the heavy side but you must remember you are carrying a .308 caliber rifle. Trigger is a two stage type and broke at around 6 lbs evenly and is very smooth. Overall length is 40 inches and it comes in a well made and lockable case with 1, 20 round magazine, instructions manual and warranty card. Two things I like the most is that it is made in the U.S.A and it carries a lifetime warranty. That is confidence in your product and that has always been a determining factor in my choice of whether or not to buy a product especially a firearm. Another is customer service, and the folks at RRA are a great bunch of people. When I spoke to the rep at the SHOT Show for a sample rifle they came through very quickly and were very pleasant to work with.

The trigger guard was designed with gloves in mind
 I used two sets of optics in this evaluation, the first was provided by EOTech and the second was supplied by Aimpoint. The EOTech model EXPS2-0 Holographic Weapon Sights along with the G23.FTS 3x magnifier provides a viable tactical and hunting combination. Not only is this combination being used by our armed forces on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan and by Police SWAT teams, it works amazingly well in hunting applications. With the LAR-8’s integrated rail they are quickly and easily attached or remove and the aesthetics of rifle and sights look great. You can use the main sight for close up game because you scan with both eyes open and the 65 MOA (Minute of Angle) reticule uses a 1 MOA aiming dot that is adjustable for multiple brightness levels. If you need magnification for a longer shot, then you need only flip the magnifier into place from its resting place alongside the rifle using the Flip-To-Side mount. This gives you incredible versatility in short to medium ranges and a battle proven sight that can handle any hunting or tactical condition you may encounter.

The safety selector lever is easy to work in all conditions
If you are going to use the LAR-8 in a more traditional hunting role I would suggest Aimpoint’s Hunter Series like the H34L rifle scope. This optic offers the hunter an unmagnified 2 MOA dot housed in a 34mm tube for fast target acquisition in the field. Aimpoint is very well known in military circles as battlefield ready optics and delivers no less in their hunting optics with features incorporated from years of experience on the battle field. Features like multi-coated 39 mm objective lens, 50,000 hours run time on one CR-2032 battery, 12 intensity settings, waterproof, and all zeroing adjustment are done with the turret caps so no tools are needed, and the scope is provided with a pair of low mount 34 mm Weaver-style rings. The Aimpoint is manufactured by our friends in Sweden and is backed by Aimpoint’s 10 year warranty so your investment will go a long way in the field.

Hogue's pistol grip adds a great degree of control
I can sit here and spout nomenclature and specifications all day long and I am 100% positive you the consumer will research your choices wisely. That being said, your choice of Aimpoint or EOTech will depend on how you plan on using your LAR-8 and a little on how old fashioned you are. Either one is ideal for the field but if you flow along the traditional lines you will choose the Aimpoint. As a bonus you will be thrust into the electronic age with an LED dot instead of a crosshair. With EOTech you venture into Holographic weapon sights where the reticule is projected onto the glass commonly known as HUD or “Heads up Display.” Whatever the choice and for whatever reason you make that choice either is top notch and right in line with what our age is coming to, the age of high tech optics. Just remember to always carry a spare battery, but don’t worry, I’m sure rechargeable optics are coming very soon.

All the LAR-8 controls are easy to reach and user friendly
After initial inspection and lubrication it was time for the firing line. My friend Mike at McNett’s Doubletap Ammunition sent us some of their high quality American made .308 caliber Springfield ammunition in 150gr. Barnes TTSX, 180gr. Nosler Accubond and 200gr. Nosler Accubond. And along with a few hand loads we ran the LAR-8 through its paces for both functionality and accuracy and I’m glad to report I was not disappointed. Accuracy was great, the Doubletap grouped well at 100 yards giving consistent 1.5 inch groups but as all rifles are different, and your results will vary. Here are the results.

Factory Loads:

Make                          weight / bullet                              Velocity            Notes

Doubletap                    150 grain Barnes TTSX                  2875                consistent
Doubletap                    180 grain Nosler Accubond            2588                good load
Doubletap                    200 grain Nosler Accubond            2443                average
Federal factory            165 grain BTSP                              2731                 consistent

Best performer out of this rifle was the Hornady's 150gr SST
 I didn’t get a chance to test a lot of hand loads and as most of you know, not all rifle barrels are the same even if they are made on the same day and your chronograph results will show this. But this load had really low extreme spread and standard deviation, the down side was it was FMJ and nothing that could be used for hunting, but on the tactical side it was a tack driver delivering groups under one inch at 100 yards.

Doubletap's 180gr Nosler Accubond did well at 100 yards
Hand load:

Charge          Powder         Bullet                Velocity       Notes
45 Gr             4320              150 grain mil      2882             very impressive load

In the Tactical market, paired with a precision hand load or tactical ammunition such a Hornady TAP, the LAR-8 will give you a rock solid platform to conduct Military or Police operations. This is where the weights of the rifle play a role in stabilization for a steady shot and successive follow up shots. The .308 is a very viable and flexible cartridge and is easily found in any store or gun shop as well as worldwide. In the field as a hunting platform the LAR-8 is a great all around deer rifle and despite the weight will handle most of your hunting needs. With the choice of optics and accessories on today’s market you can customize your LAR-8 to go from tactical to hunter in minutes. This is why the LAR-8 appeals to me as a complete rifle system; I have always liked having one rifle that wears many hats.

My conclusion on the Rock River Arms LAR-8 is it is a rock solid, well built rifle with some good innovations and I would recommend it or anyone who wants a very versatile .308 caliber rifle. With an MSRP of about $1,535.00 it will remove a few bills from your wallet, but you get a solid return for your investment. Remember the old adage, “you get what you pay for,” and quality is not cheap. There are many companies who can provide you with accessories to make your rifle perform even better like Elite Tactical Components in Arizona. They carry iron sights like Troy as well as EOTech holographic weapon sights like the ones in this article. If you get a chance to take one for a test fire I highly recommend it and for those who shoot that smaller AR caliber, all I can say is hold on tight, you’re in for a exciting ride.


Rock River Arms
EOTech -
Aimpoint -
Doubletap -
Hornady -
Elite Tactical Components -

Norman Gray © 2011

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