Having had the opportunity to test many rifles in the AR platform, it is nice to see something a bit different. The Rock River Arms LAR-8 is just different enough to pique my interest. It maintains the overall AR ergonomics while using the FAL magazine pattern. This provides for some differences that are pretty interesting.
In my experience at least, .308 rifles in the AR platform tend to be more individualistic than the 5.56mm versions. Impingement rifles generally work pretty well. Seldom has an impingement .308 failed to work in my hands. Although the
accuracy varies, they generally work with barrels measuring 16 inches or longer. Piston guns in this caliber seem to be a bit more hit and miss, with the exception of short-barreled rifles. The piston guns tend to work much more reliably with the 13-inch barrel for which so many military units are clamoring. Given their cost, however, they tend to be less than the norm. The most popular setup is a 16- to 20-inch barrel with a direct gas impingement system. The longer barrels are well suited to the DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle), while the 16-inch barrel is perfect for a patrol rifle.
This system crossed my path around 2005 in the form of the BAR-10. Rock River Arms designed and patented this system and licensed it to Bushmaster. At the time, Rock River really was not in a position to pursue it, as they were still catching up with the popularity of their DEA model and several government contracts. For about 3 years or so, several thousand rifles were built and sold by Bushmaster.
At the time, both the AR-10 and SR-25 magazines were either problematic or incredibly expensive. Polymer magazines were still unproven and you could pay well over a hundred dollars for an SR-25 magazine. Magazines for the AR-10 platform were either expensive or simply did not work. You could convert M1A magazines, but having done that to dozens of them, it was a pain and often not all that effective. What was needed was a system designed around a more prolific and affordable magazine. The decision was made to design a rifle around the FAL magazine. Around this time, FAL magazines could be purchased by the dozen for as little as $5 a magazine. They were proven magazines with decades of combat experience all over
the world. This new system was pretty revolutionary at the time and it was met with reasonable success. The initial rifles had some issues as many new systems do, but for the most part they worked pretty well and the kinks were ironed out in the long run. However, as with most .308 rifles in the platform at the time, sales numbers were not expansive, and the design eventually reverted back to Rock River Arms.
I came across one of these rifles when it came in as a trade while working at a retail gun store. It was taken to the range and put through its paces. This particular rifle was flawless and the ergonomics truly suited me. The item most appreciated was the bolt release under the magazine well, which was ambidextrous and lent itself to fast magazine changes without shifting position. It was accurate and reliable. That rifle sold very quickly and always remained in my memory. So, when a tour of the Rock River Arms facility put its successor in my hands, I arranged for a test and waited anxiously.
Rock River spent a couple of years working out any of the minor issues that arose in the BAR-10. The LAR-8’s two major changes are the charging handle and the bolt carrier group. The original design’s spring-loaded detent would on occasion release with higher-pressure loads. That was replaced with a more common design. The bolt carrier group is completely different, revolving around a change in the extractor. As is often the case, little changes require more down the road and this resulted in a much better design. It retains the ambidextrous magazine and bolt release as well as the other differences. The LAR-8 will accept metric or inch magazines as well as current production Rock River mags.
Although it appears to be just an AR clone, few parts are interchangeable. Things like the adjustable buttstock will interchange, as well as trigger and safety mechanisms, but that is about it. The barrel attachment system is different, and the bolt carrier and charging handle are both longer.
The release is located on the bottom of the magazine well and presses down. It is easily accessible with the control hand, or can be accessed by the off-hand on magazine changes. The magazine release is ambidextrous as well and is in the same spot on opposing sides. Given the way the FAL magazine locks in place, it makes for a very simple and robust mechanism. The upper and lower are both forged.