The 308 That Handles Like a 223: Ruger SFAR Review
Ruger announced its new Small-Frame Autoloading Rifle, or SFAR earlier this year and we have spent the past few months kicking the proverbial tires on this 308 Winchester-chambered AR. We were surprised at its performance.
Ruger's last .308 semi-auto, the SR-762 carbine was a two-stage piston-driven gun with a 16.1-inch barrel that hit the scales, unloaded and sans optics, at a beefy 8.6 pounds. It was discontinued in 2018. It is safe to say that the sub-7-pound SFAR is a different beast altogether. Using a barrel and bolt that are roughly the same size overall as the company's AR-556 series and using standard AR-15 trigger groups, receiver end plates, charging handles, pistol grips, and adjustable stocks, the SFAR is about as AR15 as it gets without being chambered in 5.56.
Ruger has hit the ground running with the new rifle available in both a 16-inch (6.8 pounds) and 20-inch (7.3 pounds) format.
Both variants of the SFAR use CNC-machined 7075-T6 receivers and come standard with cold-hammer-forged barrels with 5R rifling and 5/8-24 TPI muzzle threads. Other standard features are a four-position regulated gas block, a two-port Boomer muzzle brake, and a free-floated handguard with M-LOK slots. They also come standard with Ruger's Elite 452 trigger advertised with a crisp 4.5-pound two-stage pull.
Both accept SR-25 pattern mags and ship with a 20-round Magpul PMAG while a Magpul MOE SL stock and MOE grip are installed.
Specs (16-inch variant, via Ruger)
Barrel Length: 16.1 inches
Overall Length: 34-to-37.25 inches depending on stock position
Length of pull: 11-to-14.25 inches
Height: 7.2 inches from grip bottom to upper receiver top
Weight: 6.8 pounds (unloaded, sans optics or accessories)
Key to the marketing of the SFAR is that it is a .308-caliber AR that isn't the size of an AR10, SR-25, or AR-308. In its weight class-- 6.8 pounds unloaded in the shorter 16-inch model-- there isn't a lot of competition out there, especially at the price point Ruger is advertising for these. For instance, the POF Rogue, specifically designed from the company's Revolution platform to be the lightest .308 semi-auto rifle available, is similar in weight but has a significantly higher (starting at $1,899) asking price. In another example, Dark Storm Industries has been hyping their new lightweight DS-25 platform, billed at 6.7 pounds, as perhaps the lightest .308 carbine on the market with an MSRP of $1,495.
A lot of the secret to the size of the SFAR is in the bolt carrier group. Ruger explains that the rifle's bolt and barrel extensions are CNC-machined from a "high-strength super alloy steel that outperforms traditional C158 bolts." The lugs have a tapered geometry that the company stresses "further strengthens the breech to support larger short-action cartridges." When it comes to the carrier group itself, the SFAR uses a chrome-lined 8620 steel bolt carrier and nitride-processed gas key staked in place. It also has a DLC-coated titanium firing pin. Meanwhile, the bolt uses dual ejectors and an optimized extractor.
You can drop this weight down even further with a lighter stock and rail. One of our customers said he got his SFAR down under 6.5 pounds by swapping out the standard furniture for a Midwest Industries Combat Rail M-LOK handguard and changing the stock to the CAR15 Ultralight. Something to consider.
To help tame the felt recoil of the lightweight .308, Ruger has outfitted the SFAR with a two-port "Boomer" muzzle brake to help redirect gas. It does that in spades. Note this video of us on the range, paying close attention to the spotting scope bag to the left of the brake. It is a thumper for sure.
Shooting & Accuracy
We went to the range with a variety of Federal and Speer factory 7.62 NATO and .308 loads to both zero the MBUS3 and Eotech, and evaluate the rifle for accuracy and dependability, tapping in assorted PMAG and Duramag SR-25 magazines as well. In all, we have fired some 400 rounds so far through the SFAR, with no issues when it came to reliability.
When it comes to accuracy, the SFAR surprised. The combination of the heavy profile 1:10 cold-hammer-forged barrel and Ruger's 452 series two-stage trigger (which we found to break at around 3.5 pounds) proved a winner, especially when firing from the bench on bags against no wind.
We were able to run the SFAR on a 10-inch steel gong at 200 yards from the bench and, more often than not, were greeted with a "ping." The misses at that range were more likely due to the shooter than the rifle.
We plan to add a suppressor and some glass with a bit of magnification to it, then stretch the legs on the SFAR to 500 yards to see how that accuracy holds up at range. Likewise, with those higher round counts, we will be able to speak to wear and tear in future updates.
Pros & Cons
AR10 performance in an AR15 package
Available in 16 and 20-inch barrel formats
Suppressor ready with an adjustable gas block and threaded muzzle in common pitch
Decent factory trigger
Excellent value when compared to contemporaries
Short Pic rail on top of the handguard
No 6.5CM options, at least yet
Still over $1K
Heats up fast in extended use
In a small framed .308 that feels like a light AR15, you must expect the gun to be rowdy and, to a degree, it was. However, the felt recoil was less than what you typically get with most AR10s and felt more akin to, say a 7.62x39 platform of equivalent size. You may be able further dial the recoil down with a different buffer-- although Ruger says they are proprietary they look the same as an AR carbine buffer.
When it came to performance, the SFAR showed up for work, at least at the ranges we had available, and proved both accurate and dependable. Ruger clearly intends the rifle to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts, with lots of accessory slots, easy compatibility when it comes to upgrading furniture and triggers, a threaded muzzle in a common pitch, QD sling points galore, and a usable top rail-- albeit one that does not run the entire length of the barrel.
Obvious uses would be for hunting, competition, and personal protection, offering that satisfying .308 ballistic advantage while keeping inside an AR-15-sized box. About the only rocks we can throw at it is that Ruger currently doesn't offer it in 6.5CM or .243 and the combination of a heavy profile barrel and thin handguard on a .308 means that it can get uncomfortable to the touch when shooting extended sessions with a hand-forward grip. Also, the $1200~ asking price, while good for what it is, is still a little rich for a lot of folks. Still, I am not sure you can beat that and still get a well-performing and accurate .308 in the same weight.