Rock River Arms Elite Comp

Every once in a while I run across a weapon that just seems perfect for its intended purpose. The new Rock River Arms Elite Comp seems as though it was designed from the ground up as a patrol carbine, with each of its features created to meet the needs of that mission.

Mike Detty Headshot

Every once in a while I run across a weapon that just seems perfect for its intended purpose. The new Rock River Arms Elite Comp seems as though it was designed from the ground up as a patrol carbine, with each of its features created to meet the needs of that mission.

Steve Mayer, new product development coordinator for Rock River Arms, agrees with me. "More than anything it was a showcase for a lot of our new products that were coming in line," he says. "It has our new Half-Quadrail, which we debuted at the SHOT Show in 2008."

The rifle also features Rock River's Tactical Muzzle Brake, folding front and rear sights, ambidextrous side sling swivels, and a MagPul CTR collapsing stock. It also possesses Rock River's tremendously crisp two-stage trigger and a midlength gas system. Every part on this rifle seems to make perfect sense for its use as a tactical rifle.

On Rails

The most readily identifiable feature of the Elite Comp carbine is its free floating Half-Quad rail system. Rock River developed and manufactures the aluminum handguard in house. It has four rails for attaching desired accessories, yet the area closest to the receiver is without rails, allowing you to use a more traditional firing grip without cutting your hand. Mayer points out that more of the 16-inch barrel is covered with the midlength handguard and there is less of a chance that a hot barrel will burn a hand or car seat or whatever the carbine is laid on.

Rock River places a piece of Picatinny rail in the spot where you'd usually find a bayonet mount, and I would imagine that the rail would be much more useful to a law enforcement officer. There are three sling swivels on it to maximize the number of slinging options. You can also place a sling adapter on one of the rails so that the sling tension is on the free-floated handguard instead of the barrel.

Midlength Gas System

The midlength gas system is an important feature of the Elite Comp. Although the barrel is 16 inches long, the gas block and gas tube are about two inches longer with the midlength system. This creates less pressure because there is more area for the same amount of gas to expand. The result is less wear and tear on the bolt carrier's key and rings. Even the bolt's lugs and the barrel extension experience less wear because they're under less pressure when the lugs unlock from the extension.

One other advantage to this system is that the farther forward location of the gas block adds another two inches to the carbine's sight radius.


Rock River's gas block also possesses an integral folding front sight that can be folded out of the sight picture when using a reflex sight. Once deployed, it locks solidly into position and the user must purposefully depress a spring-loaded button to fold it into its down position. Like other AR sights, the front sight post can be screwed down or up for elevation adjustment.

Rock River's catalog lists the Elite Comp as coming with the popular PADS flip rear sight. However, these days it's not unusual for AR accessories to be in short supply, and such is the case with the PADS. Instead, I had Rock River outfit my test sample with an ARMS 40L low-profile, folding rear sight.

While discussing this issue, Rock River's Mayer mentioned that the company is working with PADS to develop a CQB version of its flip sight. "The current sight was made primarily for the military and its first distance was 200 yards," Mayer says. "We needed something for relatively short CQB distances out to maybe 250 yards." If everything goes well the CQB sight should be available sometime soon.

Shooting the Elite Comp

The Elite Comp proved a more than capable weapon on the range. Its 16-inch chrome-lined barrel has a 1:9 inch twist. On hand I had a supply of quality ammunition from Black Hills Ammunition. I knew that this particular twist would stabilize everything from 50- to 80-grain bullets, but was interested in seeing exactly which bullet weight it preferred. Rock River guarantees accuracy of 1.5 MOA with this rifle and I had no doubts, based on previous experience with their other guns, that it would do this easily.

What I did not expect was that it was capable of 1/2 MOA.

I mounted a Trijicon AccuPoint 3-9X scope on the Elite Comp for the accuracy portion of my evaluation. Its clear bright optics make it a favorite of mine when I'm trying to squeeze every bit of accuracy out of a test gun.

Rock River's excellent two-stage trigger also aided considerably in my ability to shoot such tiny groups. My sample possessed a crisp 3.5-pound trigger pull without any overtravel. Rock River's trigger is not adjustable for engagement or overtravel and it is for this reason that I consider it perfect for tactical use. There are no adjustment screws that can back out and render the gun inoperable.

Shooting with a Laser

For the field portion of my evaluation I mounted an Insight Tech-Gear ISM-V. A couple years ago Insight Tech-Gear invited me and several other gunwriters to the company's headquarters in New Hampshire to unveil the new ISM-IR, a red dot sight and laser that also possesses an infrared illuminator and IR laser designator. At the time I asked if there would ever be a commercial or civilian legal version that would possess the red dot and visible laser. The ISM-V was the answer to my question.

Insight Tech-Gear's ISM-V has a red dot and a visible laser that are coaxially aligned. The shooter has the ability to use either the red dot or the laser individually or together. I like the unit because its dot size, just 2 MOA, is small enough to allow precision shooting. I attached the ISM-V directly to the Elite Comp's railed receiver and found it to be nearly perfect in height; I didn't feel the need to add any sort of riser.

Like other reflex sights, the ISM-V allows the user to co-witness his iron sights through the unit. Weighing just nine ounces, the sight is light enough that it doesn't significantly change the weapon's balance. Insight Tech-Gear claims that a single three-volt lithium battery will provide a runtime of more than 1,500 hours.

I set up my MGM steel targets at 25 and 50 yards. It was a bright day, but I was able to bump up the red dot on the ISM-V so that it was easily visible. I made quick decisive shots on both targets and target-to-target transitions were extremely fast. Firing controlled pairs was an easy matter with the Elite Comp. Its Tactical Muzzle Brake reduces muzzle flip and the red dot didn't seem to come off the target when I fired. According to Rock River's Mayer, the new muzzle brake was designed using NASA-engineered thruster technology.

"The shaping and contours are designed to keep the muzzle down during rapid fire," says Mayer. "The four larger cuts on the end of the brake are actually wire cutters. Placing the muzzle over a piece of wire will self-center the brake and allow the shooter to cleanly cut through wire. We're also told by 'people in the know' that the saw tooth edge of the Tactical Muzzle Brake is a great motivational or compliance device."

Bang for Your Buck

Rock River's new Elite Comp is destined to become a favorite with law officers looking for a quality patrol carbine or perimeter weapon. Assembled from top-quality parts, the new rifle possesses everything that I would want for a working carbine and nothing that I wouldn't want.

You could probably build a gun that possesses all of the features of the new Elite Comp. You could also build a pickup truck from parts. In both cases you'll spend way more money than just buying exactly what you need and want straight from the factory. "Over the long haul you're saving yourself quite a bit of money in parts, shipping, gunsmith fees or tools, not to mention time and aggravation," says Mayer.

Mike Detty is an NRA-certified rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor. A certified rangemaster and competition shooter, Detty served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a degree in criminal justice from the University of Arizona.


For More Information

Rock River Arms

Black Hills Ammunition

Insight Tech-Gear

MGM Targets

Trijicon, Inc.


Hard Use MGM Targets

Shooting on steel targets gives shooters immediate feedback as to whether they have hit the target or not. For this reason they are invaluable tools when practicing practical rifle shooting, as long as they hold up to repeated abuse.

Years ago, I bought a couple of targets at a local gunshow that the vendors claimed would stand up to a .308 round. They were right: The heavy steel plate has held up well to anything I have shot it with. The problem is that the bracket that holds the target on its upright is welded to the back of the target.

I can shoot the target and not have any problems with .45 ACP rounds, but as soon as I switch to .223 rifle the welds holding the mounting bracket crack and fail in short order. I've lost count of the number of times that I've had to take the targets to someone and have the mounting brackets welded back on.

This year at the SHOT Show in Orlando I found exactly what I needed at MGM Targets. Mike Gibson, owner and CEO, listened patiently as I explained the problems that I'd been having with another manufacturer's product. "You're not the first to experience that problem, Mike," he told me. "That's why we developed this target."

Gibson pointed me to an IPSC steel target that, for all intents and purposes, looked very much like the steel targets I already owned. But when he turned the target around I could see what makes this target so different.

Bolted, not welded, to the back of the target is a hinge mechanism that helps dissipate the impact of high-energy rounds. The mechanism also angles the target face down for relatively close range practice, although Gibson recommends that no steel target be shot at a range closer than 15 yards. And, of course, always wear eye protection.

My old targets use mild steel angle-iron for uprights. Nothing wrong with that except that they are heavy and difficult to replace.

MGM's new target uses common two-by-four-inch studs that you can purchase at any hardware store. I think that I paid less than $3 for 92 inches. Uprights can be cut in any length to match your training needs and stand up to thousands of rounds before becoming shredded so badly by bullet fragments that they need to be replaced. The MGM targets are easy to assemble and disassemble for transport and storage.

I've had several months to work with the new steel targets and have fired a couple thousand rounds of .223 ammo at them, and other than needing a fresh coat of paint they look great. There are no deep pockmarks or dimples, and the hinge mechanism shows no sign of wear or stress. The targets are robustly made from quality materials with an innovative design, all with the goal of providing years of hard use.

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