It’s the sad truth that many designers never live to see the full potential of their creations. General John T. Thompson built the Thompson submachine gun, arguably one of the greatest firearms of its kind. What many folks don’t realize is that the original Thompson gun was not welcomed with open arms by the US Military. Quite the contrary, during the period after World War I, Auto Ordnance had a difficult time convincing military and law enforcement agencies to purchase the gun.
The Thompson or “Tommy Gun” became a most favored firearm and legitimately earned a tremendous reputation as a weapon of freedom during World War II. Sadly, John Thompson passed away in 1940 before the gun he designed was given the full credit it so deserved.
When Eugene Stoner passed in 1997 his most famous design, the AR-15 rifle, was being vilified by certain politicians. While he could be proud that the M16 service rifle was still the choice of the US military, I don’t now if Gene could have envisioned where his rifle would be today.
Black rifles built around the original AR-15 patent are more prevalent today than at any time in history. Dozens of manufacturers, large and small, are making copies of Stoner’s design. Variants of the AR are simply too numerous to mention in one article.
Rock River Arms has just released yet another version of the black rifle with their own unique modifications. The rifle is billed as the “Elite Comp” and it is built upon RRA’s LAR-15 lower receiver. Chambering the 5.56mm/.223, the Elite Comp is a semi-automatic, gas-operated rifle. A standard gas-impingement design is used for operation.
Internally, RRA included a factory-tuned trigger. While not as light as your favorite match-grade bolt gun, the Elite Comp trigger is significantly lighter and has a much better feel than your normal Colt M4 or similar stock rifle. This really did not surprise me, as RRA seldom disappoints when it comes to the trigger mechanism. An extra touch to the lower receiver is an oversized winter triggerguard. This protects the trigger and gives ample room for a shooter wearing gloves.
Manual controls include the bolt-catch, magazine release button, charging handle and selector switch. The safety lever is RRA’s Star design. This component offers a more positive feel than the standard model.
The upper receiver has a numbered flat-top rail. Onto the rear of the rail RRA mounted a ARMS #40L flip-up rear sight. The rear sight has windage adjustments and offers multiple apertures including large peep, small peep, and notch. An RRA flip-up front sight is attached to the gas block assembly and is quarter-click adjustable for elevation like most modern AR’s.
If the action is the heart of a rifle, the barrel is surely its soul. The soul of this rifle is a 16-inch Wilson chrome-lined barrel with a 1-in-9-inch twist. Out at the muzzle RRA mounted a unique compensator. This muzzle device vents propellant gases out the sides while directing them forward at an angle. This pushes the rifle straight back into the shooter’s shoulder.
The excellent barrel is surrounded by one of the most distinctive features of this rifle: RRA has installed a “Half Quad Free Float Mid-Length” handguard to the Elite Comp rifle. This forend is machined aluminum and has four accessory rails up front and a smooth grip area to the rear.
The stock is a MagPul CTR retractable model with a rubber butt pad. Completing the rifle furniture list we have black “ERGO SureGrip pistol grip.
When you order the Elite Comp from RRA there are a number of options available to you. For instance you can order a standard or ambidextrous safety lever. If you so desire you can order either or both of these in OD green. The larger Badger and “Gas Buster” charging handle latches are available as options.
In addition to the iron sights I felt that a unique rifle such as this warranted a high quality optical sight. It just so happened that I had such an optic in the form of Trijicon’s new model TA31RCO-M150CP. What do all those numbers and letters translate to?
This ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) unit is a 4x with a 32mm objective lens. Trijicon offers numerous reticle designs for their sights; the RCO mode uses an illuminated red chevron with hold-over lines. Fiber optics and tritium are used to power the illumination. Elevation and windage are half-MOA click adjustments.
The honeycombed KillFLASH device comes with the unit to prevent sun glare from giving away your position. Front and rear flip-up lens covers are also provided. Trijicon also includes a thumbscrew mount for a flat-top M4 rail.
As ACOG sights are in use by the most powerful military in the world and that force used the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, it only makes sense that the hold-over reticle on the sight is calibrated for the 5.56mm. Trijicon includes a tough case for the ACOG with MOLLE (MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) straps.
The ACOG arrived with a perfectly functional Picatinny base. As a personal preference I like the ability to rapidly detach or attach optics on an M4. I swapped the factory base for a new LaRue QD (quick-detach) LT-100 mount.
Let There Be Lights
Coinciding with the arrival of the Elite Comp rifle, I received a medium-sized box from SIG SAUER. Inside I found their new STL-300J STOPLITE. The STOPLITE is a combination vertical foregrip and tactical light. The unit uses a white LED light that can be set for momentary, continuous or strobe mode.
In addition to the white light SIG SAUER offers a visible red laser as an option. The laser unit mounts to the left side of the STOPLITE and is activated by a pushbutton switch just as is the 300 lumen LED light. The unit is powered by four CR123 lithium batteries.
For my range time I would test out numerous loads of .223 and 5.56mm ammunition. Among these would be samples from Black Hills, CorBon, Federal, Hornady as well as a 62-grain 5.56mm surplus load.
Right off the bat I chronographed each brand of ammunition and then sat down to tune the iron sights. Using 100 yards as a benchmark, I sighted in on a Dirty Bird bull’s-eye target from Birchwood Casey. The shot holes really stand out, especially when using spotting scope or binoculars.
It took about nine or ten rounds to zero the front and rear sights. With the iron sights set I had no trouble keeping rounds in the 10-ring from the bench. Shooting a semi-automatic rifle is as much about reliability as it is accuracy. My next chore was to load up several magazines and get down to some serious shooting business.
From 50 yards to contact distance I engaged silhouette targets rapidly. The closer I moved, the faster I worked the trigger. Loading magazine after magazine I ran the Elite Comp hard. When the bolt locked the rear on the sixth empty magazine the gun was literally smoking. The lubricant oil on the action and barrel was hot enough to produce a light gray smoke.
With nearly two hundred pieces of empty brass littering the ground around me, the Elite Comp never missed a beat. I had zero failures to feed, fire, extract or eject. The gun was running like a champ.
On my second outing to the range I mounted and zeroed the ACOG sight at 100 yards. Again, I ran the weapon through numerous shooting drills only this time using the high-end optic for sighting. I was most pleased with the results.
The only issue I found was that the aluminum forend did indeed heat up considerably when I did my rapid fire reliability testing. My hands were protected by BlackHawk Kevlar gloves so the heat wasn’t a big deal for me, but it is something to bear in mind.
Overall, I found the Rock River Arms Elite Comp to be an extremely well put together gun. It has a lot of high-end features that customers have been demanding and many options for you to customize it to your needs. Until next time, keep shooting straight and shooting safe.