Rock River LAR47 Carbine
Oleg Volk 07.13.15
The first attempts to make AR15 work with 7.62×39 cartridge failed, mainly because AR-style magazines worked poorly, but also because most of the available ammunition was of indifferent quality. We have now seen a second round of 7.62×39 carbines from several companies, this time made to fit AK magazines. While the availability of surplus magazines and ammunition has much declined, domestic and non-surplus imported production has risen to fill the demand. Since long-range defense is a non-issue for civilian users, the superiority of expanding 300 Blackout and 7.62×39 bullets over .223 for penetration and terminal effect at close range drives the interest. While .30 ammunition is heavier, few non-military users have to carry multiple spare magazines over any substantial distance, again biasing the choice towards the larger bore.
I tried LAR47 because it was the lightest of the mainstream AR carbines in 7.62. It comes with a regular, non-railed forend and folding iron sights. The rifle arrived with Thermold plastic magazines, which worked perfectly. I also tried it with two types of Magpul 30-rounders, and both worked fine.
The ambidextrous mag release paddle can be used in two ways. The conventional weak-hand release allows retention of the empty or partially empty magazine. Strong hand release drops the magazine with a slight push against any available surface, such at the shooter’s hip. There no automatic or manual bolt hold-open, but the difference in bolt motion on an empty chamber is perceptible.
A direct impingement design like the .223 AR, LAR47 proved reliable and fairly clean even with the steel-cased Brown Bear ammunition. It also reliably fed PPU round-nose soft points, which didn’t work in CZ527 bolt action. Felt recoil was minimal, on par with .223 and less abrupt.
Accuracy testing was done with a 2.5-8x scope, which I consider excessive for actual field use. 4x illuminated prismatic with BDC reticle specifically for 7.62×39 seems more appropriate for the intended ranges up to 300 yards. Primary Arms testers have used that same scope out to 500 yards, but that’s beyond my competency level. With the rifle rested on a sandbag, I was surprised to find that even steel cased surplus grouped at 3MOA. Winchester “white box” ball. S&B and PPU soft points all shot 2-2.25MOA. Federal Fusion soft point was the best at 1.75MOA. All of these rounds had a very similar point of impact, which is helpful. As the barrel heated up, I saw no substantial change in accuracy (better groups were achieved later in the shoot), nor was there much heat transfer to the supporting hand.
Backup iron sights definitely improve on the AK, but do not have range adjustment built in. The gain is better sight picture, the loss is having to guess where the beaten zone lands past point blank range of about 250 yards. Fortunately, the irons are for backup only. Ideally, offset irons should be used to allow unmagnified aiming around the scope. A good trigger made accurate shooting easier.
The only complaint I had was the difficulty of firing off the bench. The long, curved magazine didn’t allow resting of the forend on the sandbag. Shooting was done with the barrel directly on the sand bag, which probably made little difference as it’s not free-floated anyway. However, the forward sling swivel is kept rigidly upright by the forward forend retention ring and the gas block, making it impossible to rest the barrel near it. The support point had to be closer to the muzzle. A bipod or a short forward grip might have helped, though the location and size of the grip is restricted by the space required for inserting rock and lock style AK magazine.
Overall, it was one of the most pleasant rifles I’ve shot in a while. We had no malfunctions in 250 rounds of assorted ammunition, and all shooters reported the handling as comfortable. Accuracy is definitely ahead of AK pattern rifles, while the manual of arms is more familiar to American users. I would definitely recommend it as a defensive or recreational carbine if 7.62×39 cartridge appeals to you.