All the Operator series come with a 5.56 chamber, a forged A4 upper, a 16-inch chrome-moly steel barrel, chrome plated, with a twist of 1:9. The barrel is capped with an RRA tactical muzzle brake, an item I find useful on a competition range but much less so for defensive use. Especially in any kind of teamwork, a muzzle brake makes your shooting easier by dumping hot gases to the side, where your teammate may well be. But muzzle devices are easy enough to change, and if I don’t get too many complaints from the guys on the line at the next LEO class, I might leave it on for a while.
They also all come with the RRA Star safety, an ambi safety that has a raised, acorn-shaped knob on it. I’m going to have to take the grinder to the right-side acorn, as it rides right underneath my trigger finger. Now, this is not just a personal matter, but a very peculiar quirk of my shooting style. I choke up with my shooting hand very high on a pistol grip. So high that my trigger finger is actually coming down to the trigger on an AR. As a result, I find most ambi safeties on an AR, regardless of the design, to be problematic. This is no slam against Rock River, and in fact their design is less objectionable to my hand than many others. You may not have a problem, and in fact, a lot of the officers in our classes really, really like the Rock River design.
Inside the Operator series is the Rock River two-stage trigger. As a competition trigger, it is great. As a duty trigger, especially if your sidearm happens to have a heavier, longer trigger pull, then the mis-match can be a source of friction. As I spend a lot of time with heavier, mil-spec triggers, I’ll probably get inside and actually increase the trigger pull of the operator, just so it is more like the sidearm I’ll have on.
Last up, but very important, they all have the current USGI front sidemount sling swivel, attached between the legs of the front sight assembly. All three have a fixed, normal front sight tower.
They all come in a case, with two magazines, manual, and warranty.
The Elite Operator differs from the other two in having a special handguard; the Entry and Tactical have M4-type plastic handguards. (The Entry and Tactical differ from each other in the barrel; the Entry has an M4-style profile, while the tactical has a lighter barrel, shaving a bit over half a pound from the full-up weight.) The Elite handguard is a free-floated aluminum handguard with rails on the cardinal points, but rails that are only half the length of the handguard. Most users don’t need rails that go all the way back, so why make them that way?
This article is an excerpt from The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vol. III.
About the Author: Patrick Sweeney is the author of many of Gun Digest books' best-selling titles, including Gun Digest Book of the 1911, Vols. I & II; Gun Digest Big Fat Book of the .45 ACP, Gun Digest Book of the AR-15, Gun Digest Book of the AK and SKS, Gun Digest Book of the Glock and Gunsmithing: Pistols and Revolvers, among other titles. A master gunsmith, Patrick is also Handguns Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine.
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