Spotter up. Steel silhouette at 1,075 yards. Half-value wind, hold right edge. Send it. The shooter presses the trigger, and the shot rings out. About 1.9 seconds later, the round impacts the steel, and a faint sound echoes through the canyon back to the shooter. A quick cycle of the bolt and the shooter is back on target ready to send another one. This scenario was played out countless times recently during an introduction to precision rifle class I ran in Idaho. The class also gave me some trigger time with the Rock River Arms RBG-1S.
The Rock River Arms RBG-1S
These were mostly new shooters interested in learning more about the art of long-range shooting. There was a variety of rifles ranging from simple to custom. I had been preparing for the class when I received a very special package from Rock River Arms. I had received their new RBG-1S bolt rifle and thought the class would be a great place to put it through its paces.
Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie!
I have been waiting a while for this rifle to land on my doorstep. Rock River has been working on this rifle for several years to perfect it. I shot a prototype of this rifle in 2019 during a media event and made a mental note to keep an eye on its development. While Rock River Arms is obviously well known in the AR realm, they have made a serious move into the bolt gun market with the RBG-1S.
The rifle is available in a few configurations. You can get it in .308 Win./7.62x51mm and 6.5 Creedmoor, along with a 20-, 22- or 24-inch barrel. You also have stock color options including black, green, or tan. Rock River Arms sent me a .308 RBG-1S with a tan stock and 24-inch barrel for testing. This rifle is fed by a 10-round AICS-pattern detachable box magazine.
Rock River took their time to build a gun that is more than an “and also” in the bolt gun world. The rifle is serious business and is composed of exceptional parts. The stainless-steel barrels come from Wilson Combat and are air-gauged for precision.
The Wilson barrels are cryo-treated which is a process that brings the temperature of the steel to minus 300 degrees via liquid nitrogen and is kept there for 24 hours. This process reduces inherent stresses in the barrel steel, and testing shows it increases the accuracy of the barrel.
Rock River is fanatical about the fit on this gun and does the final chambering and finish work in-house. The barrel has a 1:8 twist and is threaded at the muzzle 5/8×24. The thread protector extends a bit beyond the barrel to help protect the crown.
The rifle’s action is a butter-smooth TL3 from Bighorn Arms. It is a 416 stainless steel design with a spiral-fluted bolt body, floating bolt head, and hearty fixed ejector. It has a threaded bolt handle allowing you to add a custom handle should you choose. I found the one on the rifle fit me well and worked perfectly. As I said, the action is very smooth and is also free of bolt chatter because it fits so nicely in the action.
The rifle’s receiver includes a 20-MOA aluminum Picatinny rail. The rifle also has standard scope base holes drilled into the receiver should you choose to run conventional ring mounts. The rifle is mounted in a Kinetic Research Group Whiskey-3 Chassis.
The W3C combines precise aluminum bedding with tool-less adjustments, durability, and excellent ergonomics. It is a solid choice for this rifle and has an adjustable length-of-pull and cheek riser as well as height adjustable butt pad.
The pistol grip is composed of polymer halves screwed onto the aluminum chassis. Supplied with the rifle is a second pistol grip that is both thicker and longer front to back than the factory-installed grip, which allows you to customize this part of the rifle.
The rifle is built to accept Accuracy International-patterned magazines. This includes obviously the AI mags themselves, but there are others such as Magpul, which allow us to save a little money.
Lastly, is the trigger. Rock River chose to use the popular TriggerTech adjustable trigger for this gun. On my rifle, it broke just under three pounds and had almost no take-up at all.
Designed For Accuracy
Even with all these quality components, the gun is more than the sum of its parts. When I spoke to Rock River about this gun, the term accuracy kept coming up. This is understandable in that it is a precision bolt rifle after all. What I did not appreciate, however, was just how much accuracy they were shooting for with this gun. When I received my rifle, it included a test target as many high-end guns do. This one though was a three-shot group that measured an incredible .230 inches. That only served to make me wonder what I would be able to do with this rifle. With that, I packed it up and headed to Idaho.
I was quick to share the rifle at the precision rifle course, and soon there were several shooters in line to test the RBG-1S. It was a popular rifle and became the center of a couple of serious discussions about how much accuracy we can expect from a rifle. This also provided a teachable moment for the class. In short, I listed off several tips to keep in mind for precision shooting.
Tips for Precision Shooting
The first is to invest in a serious rifle. The RBG-1S fits the bill on this pretty easily. What you save by buying a cheap rifle will come back and haunt you later as your skills exceed the rifle’s capabilities.
The second is to take the time to fit the gun around you. This includes everything from the length of pull to where you set your scope. I always lay people down behind their guns and then begin the fitting process. The biggest mistake most people make is in scope placement. If it is not set at the right spot, you will fight the “black donut” forever.
The third thing is something I honestly did not appreciate until I tried it. Standard ear pro tends to move as we get our cheek weld. If an air pocket opens, then you will know quickly when the rifle fires. I have started using amplified earbuds and now swear by them.
More specifically I use the Walker Silencer 2.0 earbuds. They do not interfere with my cheek weld and provide solid ear protection. They also provide amplified ambient sound which makes it easier to visit and teach without taking them out.
Number four is to always use quality ammunition and, in fact, find the ammo that your gun shoots best. I have had people come to class with high-end rifles but then drag out Walmart ammo. Cheap ammo will break your heart simply because it is not designed for precision work. Your high-end rifle will end up shooting a two-inch group if you feed it junk.
Lastly is to buy good glass. I am a believer in the adage, “buy once, cry once.” Like a cheap rifle, you will quickly out-skill your cheap glass.
Sending Rounds Downrange
With my speech concluded, we took to shooting. Performance-wise, the gun did not disappoint. The trigger proved to be fantastic and broke very cleanly. The gun comes in at just over 10 pounds before glass and ammo. This has enough mass to make recoil management a breeze. The smooth action of the bolt made us grin as it easily cycled.
While we focused on steel during the class, I took the rifle to my range here in Arizona once I returned. This trip was all about groups. I set up with the goal of seeing if I could replicate the target Rock River had sent with the rifle.
Now I have to say that, yes, I know the group was probably shot from a ransom rest in perfect conditions. I would set up with a bipod and my trusty homemade rear bag.
Performance of the RBG-1S
Glass for the test would be the Tract Optics TORIC 4.5-30X56mm MRAD ELR scope. This scope has served me well on other rifles, and I knew it would be a good fit for the RBG-1S.
Ammo-wise, I brought three flavors for the day: Federal 168-grain Gold Medal Match, Hornady 168-grain ELD Match, and the last of my Black Hills 168-grain Match HPBT. All are solid performers, but I wanted to see which one the rifle performed the best.
The weather was beautiful, with no wind at all. A quick setup and zero took little time, and we were soon at it. I took my time to keep the barrel from getting too hot and ensure the best groups possible. In the end, we broke out calipers to see what I could do. While I could not replicate the target Rock River sent, I did get three very nice targets.
All three brands performed well, but the Hornady ELD seemed to fit the gun the best. It gave me a very nice .35-inch group, which is impressive. I am uncomfortable in listing these rounds in order of group size because they all performed very well. I was not remotely happy about packing the rifle up and heading off the range. When you get a gun like that, you want to shoot it all day.
The Rock River RBG-1S is a high-performance blaster that will certainly be showing up in the hands of serious shooters around the country. If you are looking for a turnkey, out-of-the-box rifle that will give you sub-½ MOA performance, then you need to take a long hard look at Rock River Arms.
For more information, please visit RockRiverArms.com.
Rock River Arms RBG-1S Specs
Caliber: .308 Win
Barrel: 24 inches
Overall Length: 43.5 inches
Weight: 10.5 pounds (empty)
Chassis: KRG Whiskey-3, fully adjustable, tan
Sights: None; MOA rail; receiver drilled and tapped\
Capacity: 10; accepts AICS-pattern magazines
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