AR-15 Review: Rock River Arms Elite Operator

The Elite Operator forearm, an aluminum tube with integral rails on the front portion.

The Elite Operator forearm, an aluminum tube with integral rails on the front portion.

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.

The Operators come with mil-spec side sling mounts, a very useful thing to have.

The Operators come with mil-spec side sling mounts, a very useful thing to have.

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.

The muzzle brake, something I will test but probably swap out. I’ve found that shooters on the line with you really dislike being pummeled by your muzzle blast.

The muzzle brake, something I will test but probably swap out. I’ve found that shooters on the line with you really dislike being pummeled by your muzzle blast.

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.

3 thoughts on “AR-15 Review: Rock River Arms Elite Operator

  1. Dix

    I just bought this same rifle, but didn’t care for the stock so I replaced it with the Ace Skeleton Stock and then traded the original stock for a Remington 597 .22 Rifle straight up. The Ace stock makes it lighter and it looks a lot meaner.

  2. Observer82AB

    I had traded for one of these but let it get away from me before I had the opportunity to shoot it. It was hefty for certain, which I liked. I did trade it for a Colt H-bar Competition Target so I do not feel as bad. I would like to have another one some day though. I just preferred the longer rifle to the M4 if I were only allotted one. I have since acquired a Bushmaster Varmint with the 24″ fluted barrel as a companion piece. Oh well….

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