If you use a public range you understand that more often than not your shooting session can turn into a “Show and Tell” exercise. Curious folks will walk over to take a gander at your hardware. When I was testing out the subject of this article I was not surprised to have shooters from the next target bay craning their necks around to see what I was working with. While I was packing up and finishing my range chores a couple of folks strolled over to see what it was all about.
During the last decade or so the AR platform pistol has kind of snuck up on the popularity scale. While they aren’t shattering sales records, the AR-style pistol has a steady and ever-increasing base of fans. There are several companies out there manufacturing dedicated AR-style pistols and Rock River Arms (RRA) builds several models. We have the LAR-15 A4 pistol chambering the 5.56mm/.223 Remington. Like all pistols of this genre, the A4 is built around the original AR design. These guns are not cut-down rifles, but they are built from the ground up as handguns.
The lower receiver has a buffer tube protruding from the rear to house the buffer and recoil spring. For all intents and purposes, the lower is your basic AR design. Manual controls, the magazine release, bolt catch and the safety lever are found in the usual locations. RRA has added their “Star” safety lever with its protruding “bump.” A very comfortable Hogue pistol grip replaces the standard plastic model.
A4 barrel lengths are offered in 7 and 10.5 inches. The pistol shown here has the 7-inch tube. To aid with recoil reduction and control, RRA has affixed a NATO-style A2 flash suppressor brake to the barrel. At the forward end of the barrel you will find a Picatinny-rail gas block.
RRA offers a number of different models or twists on this pistol design. They make an A2 model with a traditional carrying handle upper. The model A4 has a flattop upper receiver a four-way or quad accessory rail. The upper rail is ready to accept whatever optic your little heart desires. Should you prefer iron sights they can be mounted on the front and rear rails.
I decided that an electronic optic would be the way to go. Onto the flattop rail I mounted an EOTech Model 512 “Holosight.” Two AA batteries power this 1:1 red dot optic. The reticle is EOTech’s unique dot in a circle design. The center aiming dot is 1-MOA (minute of angle) and the large circle is 65-MOA. In addition to the central dot the circle also has quadrant tick marks at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock for lead and hold over/under. The reticle can be adjusted for windage or elevation at half-MOA increments.
For my range testing I would take along 20- and 30-round AR magazines, a ready supply of .223 Remington ammunition and several accessories. I wanted to test the appetite of the RRA LAR-15 A4 pistol and see if the 7-inch barrel performed better with one load or another.
In order to test out the preference of the 1:9-inch twist barrel I brought along .223 ammo of varied weights and designs. The lightest load was the 36-grain “Varmint Grenade” round from Black Hills Ammunition. The projectile is copper jackets and highly frangible.
Next up on the weight scale was the Winchester 50-grain Ballistic Silvertip load. I have years of positive experience with this round. Lastly, I would test out Federal’s Gold Medal Match 69-grain BTHP. This load has set the standard for long-range shooting in match rifles.
Chore number one was chronographing and chore number two was to zero the EOTech sight. Benching the LAR-15 pistol I decided to use the middleweight Winchester load to set the zero. As this is still a pistol and the Holosight is a 1:1 optic, I would set it up for 50 yards. Using a set of binocular to spot with, it took about nine rounds to get the pistol shooting in the “X” ring.
With the optic zeroed I decided to install a sling stud adapter on the bottom rail and attach a Harris bipod to it. I just so happened to have an adapter from Pro Mag. Using the bipod as a rest, I fired several strings with each load. Slow firing at 50 yards gave me a good feel for the trigger. While it was not a match trigger by any means, it did break cleanly and was certainly much better than your typical “Mil-Spec” trigger might be. Considering that the EOTech optic is a non-magnifying 1:1 and the aiming dot is 1-MOA I believe the resulting shot groups are pretty good.
With the slow-fire bench work thoroughly covered, it was time to move on to something a bit more dynamic. In addition to the aforementioned loads I had a can of loose .223/5.56mm ammunition. This was simply an ammo can filled with various .223 ammo left over from previous testing sessions. There was FMJ (full metal jacket) ball, BTHP (boat tail hollow point), Ballistic tip and a smattering of military surplus 5.56mm.
Stuffing several magazines full I moved down range for some close-range target engagement. If you want to find out if a semi-automatic gun is going to choke, you need to get off the bench and run that thing until it really heats up. Starting out at 20 yards I did some forward movement drills engaging a silhouette as fast as I could reacquire my sights. As you can imagine this weapon has some recoil. It’s not necessarily severe but the .223 is burning a good bit of powder.
I found the best way to control recoil and get back on target was to hold the pistol grip with my strong hand and place my support hand under the slip ring hugging the lower receiver. Others I know prefer to hold onto the fore-end.
In total I ran approximately ten magazines through the pistol during various rapid fire drills. At no time during the testing did I encounter any failures or stoppages. That of course is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter how straight a weapon shoots; if it won’t function reliably nothing else much matters.
As the LAR-15 may be used as a personal defense tool I decided to test out a tactical light with the system. Onto the left rail I mounted a Safariland RLS (Rapid Light System). The RLS combines an LED (light emitting diode) light with a quick-attach mounting bracket. The light is a standard design with a 1-inch diameter aluminum body with an output of 65 Lumens.
Instead of using one or two CR123A Lithium batteries, the Safariland light operates on three AAA batteries. The batteries are not inserted end to end but are side by side in the pack. Runtime is listed at 50 plus hours. A tailcap button allows for momentary or constant on. The light proved to be tough. I mounted it on to the A4 before I began my rapid-fire training. Even after hammering away with the pistol the light was still going strong.
AR-style pistols are unique; there is no doubt about it. Despite their distinctive nature, one of their most attractive features is the commonality they share with their larger siblings, the AR rifles and carbines. Whether you choose it for varmint hunting, target shooting or personal defense, I found the LAR-15 A4 pistol to be a well-made, accurate, extremely reliable firearm. Until the next time, keep shooting straight and shooting safe.
If you use a public range you understand that more often than not your shooting…
by Abner Miranda / Feb 20, 2009