Shiny new lightweight guns are all the rage, and I can appreciate that. The Rock River Arms LAR-15 – and specifically my used law enforcement trade-in rifle – is none of those things. But for the last several months, it has been my favorite AR-15 to shoot.

You have to set aside a little bit of snobbery to really appreciate this used gun. It has some cosmetic nicks and dings, but the gun itself has been a tank for me personally. More than that, it has a ton of extra features that make it a great value if you actually intend to shoot it like it was meant to be used. 

The rubberized ergo grip is positive and comfortable, even during long days shooting hundreds of rounds on the range in the peak of the summer heat. The fact that this particular one came with an extended charging handle, raised safety, and an integral flip-up front sight are all nice touches. So is the RRA Tactical Muzzle Brake. 

Frankly, it was built to be a fighting rifle, and I haven’t found any reason to believe it wouldn’t excel at that role. Heck, even the muzzle brake is beefy and textured at the front like a battering ram. But the real value is how it runs.

Specs and Shooting

This AR is a very flat shooter that absolutely eats recoil and feels like a .22 LR plinker. That’s in part due to one of my favorite features, a Daniel Defense Picatinny quad rail that gives you 12 inches for mounting any grips, lights, sights, or sling attachments. It also adds some weight to the gun, but that translates into very comfortable and accurate shooting. That rail is worth several hundred dollars on its own. Yet the used LAR-15s we have in the warehouse arestill solid budget guns. 

Rock River LAR-15 on a work bench
There's a generous Picatinny quad rail, backup iron sights, and an extended charging handle. (Photo: Paul Peterson/


scratches on the side of a rifle
This used LAR-15 does have some cosmetic wear, but it functions perfectly well. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

I’ve done a previous review comparing my LAR to other budget-friendly AR options that I bought with my own money. From my experiences, this is about as close as I’ve gotten to picking up a military service AR in years. Hence, I’m adding it to my own safe, and I’ve recommended it to personal friends. It just checks a ton of boxes for me on the range, and the standard M4-style stock is a big part of that. Between the stock and the rail, this gun shoulders well and offers excellent controllability.

There are a few downsides that I would be remiss to overlook. The muzzle brake/compensator, while effective, makes the gun quite loud. It wasn’t an issue for me as a shooter particularly. Just don’t assume you’re going to go unnoticed at the range. It’s also heavy at 7.5 pounds on my scale. That weight is something you can grow comfortable with fairly quickly, but I wouldn’t call this a light gun if you have to haul it over long distances.

I’ve listed some other specs below that compare this used LAR to my Del-Ton Echo 316:

Del-Ton vs. Lar-15 specification sheet

The previous owner of this particular rifle added a single-point sling attachment, which I find can be abrasive for the knuckle of your pointer finger if you shoot a lot in a single outing. I personally run the gun with a Vickers Blue Force Gear two-point sling instead. I’m happy with that setup. Gloves or a simple wrap are easy solutions for any abrasiveness.

Reliability and Testing

You don’t have to baby this rifle. For one thing, mine already has some of the common wear marks that you get on a service gun that has been carried a fair bit. The wear marks on the sling attachment point are evidence enough that it spent a decent amount of time in the hands of law enforcement. I’m a fan of a service rifle with some history and character. I doubt, however, that it was shot very much during its service life for anything more than occasional training purposes. Internal wear was almost unnoticeable even though the bolt runs buttery smooth.

Most of my shooting was done with the iron sights, and we also ran a Vortex Strikefire for some drills on steel targets. The LAR-15 was an overall pleasure to shoot. Of the four AR-15s I brought to the range for testing this summer, it was my go-to gun for extra shooting opportunities. 


Most of our shooting was done with a mix of 62-grain Aguila, 55-grain PMC, steel-cased Wolf, and 55-grain Fiocchi. For added fun, I’ve also been running a CMMG .22 LR conversion bolt and bulk Federal Black Pack ammo to extend my range time for most visits. The rifle feeds reliably with all of it, and I didn’t notice any issues with the assortment of magazines we used.

LAR-15 rifle on a metal tractor step
The LAR has been a solid workhorse. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
AR-15 magazines on a table
It has not been picky about mags either. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Character is More Than Skin Deep

If you want a relatively budget-friendly AR that is unfired and in pristine condition, you could always snag a new ZRO Delta, Diamondback DB15, or Ruger AR-556. Or go ahead and jump on a more expensive Daniel Defense or Noveske. The world of AR-style rifles is your oyster these days. But there’s tons of value – not to mention well-thought-out functionality – in used but effective guns like this old LEO LAR-15 just sitting in racks and waiting to be discovered.

If it helps get you off the fence, it’s also worth noting that guns like this have a tendency to disappear once the surplus well runs dry. As a surplus fan, I still kick myself for many of the guns I let vanish over the years. The rifle is no cherry safe queen, and it begs to hit the range whenever you do.

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revolver barrel loading graphic