Not surprisingly, the DEA rifle is supplied with the EOTech Model 552 HOLOgraphic weapon sight system. This nifty sight features the same technology Bushnell uses in its famous HOLOsight. Parallax-free, the EOTech delivers true "heads-up display" and can be (should be) used with both eyes open. Even if the display glass is shattered, if there is any portion still useable, the aiming point will be visible and functional. The EOTech also delivers night-vision capability. This is all pretty revolutionary technology and if you love optics on your battle rifle, this is the rig for you.
Still, as a backup, the DEA rifle mounts the GG&G A2 style BUIS (Back Up Iron Sight) with its folding rear aperture. The unique thing about this whole rig (EOTech and BUIS) is the fact when everything is dialed in correctly, the red dot of the holographic sight rests just on top of the front iron sight, right where it belongs. So, even if you destroy your optics, you can still hopefully go to iron and stay in the fight.
The front end of the DEA rifle has the ubiquitous Picatinny rail-mount feature. Only this one, supplied by SureFire, has the rails mounted about everywhere and allows positioning of the light and other goodies anywhere the user might want them. Called the M73 Rail Mount Assembly, the hard-anodized unit is machine tooled, and this precision allows for "repeat zero" when remounting any accessories made to mil-spec quality control limits. SureFire also supplies the M951XM05 Tactical light with M49 mount as part of the package.
Basic finish on the DEA appears to be standard phosphate with anodizing on the aluminum bits. The rifle says "DEA" on it (which, we assume, makes it even cooler?) and can be had with special serial numbers, but we're not privy to what they might be. There's a forward bolt assist lurking on the starboard side of the receiver and the bolt is not hard-chromed, although the bore is.
The trigger is very good and is a two-stage military one, but that's where all resemblance to anything military makes an abrupt departure. Our test rifle had a very nice four-pound, seven-ounce pull, which matches the advertised "four-and-a-half-pound" weight nicely. It was crisp, repeatable, and, frankly, a very handsomely functional trigger.
The testing team measured groups at 50 yards since, honestly, the vast majority of fights with this rifle will take place at that range or closer, usually very much closer. Using Federal Tactical .223 we averaged around .6 inches for five shots, give or take a bit. We also shot a bit of everything we had laying around (Black Hills, PMC, Winchester, etc.) and the average with all of them was about 1 inch at 50.
Rock River says the DEA should do an inch at 100 yards, and we imagine it will with the right ammo and trigger finger. On a standard silhouette at 100 yards, head shots were a piece of cake, easily done off-hand. This is an honest 300-yard rifle. If you were ever called upon to solve some problem "way out there" some day, the DEA Tactical Carbine could do it.
The rifle ran just fine with no jams noted of any sort. However, as is the case with any AR platform, as the ranges get close (like 10 yards close) you've got to remember to take into consideration the sight offset or you may miss what you're aiming at. At the least, embarrassing and at worst, a potential tragedy.
On a personal note, I like my ARs to have a fixed stock, iron sights, and, OK, I'll compromise with tradition and put a light on the front. But being a semi-old guy, I confess I'm still leery of widgets. Heck, I like a fixed-sight, big-bore S&W revolver.
But all those fancy optics: red dot thingies, magic night vision scopes, and more seem to be taking over these days so I'd better get used to them. You should, too. Besides, I'm sure you noticed all the optics on the rifles in Iraq, so there must be something to it. Still, those steel GG&G sights are comforting, just in case the battery gremlins strike at an awkward moment.
The Rock River Arms DEA model is a nice rifle and a far cry from the average AR you find on the dealer's shelf. It's well worth a look if your agency needs such a thing.
Rock River Arms
DEA Tactical Carbine
Caliber: .223 (5.56 mm)
Barrel Length: 16 inches as tested (14.5 inches on law enforcement model)
Overall Length: 36 inches as tested
Weight: 8.4 pounds (depending upon accessories)
Stock: Synthetic collapsible rear
Forend: Machined aluminum w/Picatinny rails
Mags: Supplied with six 30-round mags
Sling: Nylon, with ambi feature on rifle
Action: Semi-auto only
Accuracy: Guaranteed 1 inch at 100 yards
Trigger: Two-stage match
Cost: Around $2,000 for tested model
Roy Huntington is editor of American Handgunner magazine and a member of the Police Advisory Board.